Two Oceans Ultra Marathon Tips 10/12 – Taper Time

CoachKat1Congratulations, the hard work is done! We have now entered the easiest training phase, but the most important preparation phase of your Two Oceans journey. This is the phase where all your hard work can be converted into a great race or completely undone. It is a bit like baking a cake, this is the point where you need to put the batter in the oven and just leave it alone to rise. Training now is just gentle ticking over with a few short sharp sessions to keep to the fires burning.

Remember: We want to get to the start line healthy, strong and injury free!

(A word of caution: If you have missed a significant portion of the past 3 weeks training or are currently struggling with illness or injury then it is wise to get professional advice from a coach, doctor or physiotherapist on whether it is advisable for you to still run.) 

As you start to cut back on the training and your body starts to relax, your immune system will also let down the guard a bit. It is therefore important in this time to get in plenty of good nutrition and sleep and to minimize other potential stressors as far as possible. If you do pick up a head cold or the flu, allow enough time to get completely well. You are going to make no gains by trying to keep training.

This is also not the time to try anything new!

In the last 3 weeks reduce your mileage while maintaining the frequency (this is very important to prevent feeling sluggish on race day!)  of training. ie. if you were training 4 days a week, continue to train 4 days but cut back the mileage. A good general guideline is as follows –

With 3 weeks to go – do 75% of your usual weekly mileage, with 2 weeks to go – do 50% of your usual mileage, in the last week follow a schedule of short runs with a few acceleration runs.

3 Weeks before should be your last very long LSD and should be at the most 32 km. If you did a big one with 4 weeks to go, only do a 20 km. A long run of 40 km or more takes at least 4 weeks to recover from! 2 Weeks to go, only do 90 min- 2 hours or 18-20 kilometers.

If you were doing strength work in the gym – cut back to light bodyweight exercises in the 3rd week before the race and in the last 2 weeks use your gym time to focus on activities that aid recuperation such as foam rolling and gentle stretching (Or just chill out in the coffee bar!).

Below is a sample schedule for the last week before race day:

Sunday: Easy 30-40 minute run

Monday: REST

Tuesday: 5km at an easy pace. End of with a few short acceleration runs over 50-100m.

(If you are going for a massage before the race, it should be no later than the Tuesday, closer to the race and it can leave you feeling flat and sluggish)

Wednesday: 4km at an easy pace. End of with a few short acceleration runs over 50-100m.

Thursday: REST REST REST!!! This is the most important rest day. Feet up! If you must go to the expo then walk around as little as possible. Thursday is also the most important day to do most of your carboloading and to get to bed very very early.

Friday: 3km at an easy pace. End of with a few short acceleration runs over 50-100m.

Saturday: GO TIME!

Coming next week…

This phase is the time where you are probably going to have the most doubts about whether you will be able to achieve your goal and you might start feeling some panic set in. Next week I will be discussing strategies to stay calm in the final build up.

Keep running, laughing and living TO THE MAX!

Coach Kathleen


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Two Oceans Ultra Marathon Tips 9/12 – Maintain

construction-703807_640With just under 4 weeks to go until race day, you have just entered a bit of a no man’s land period of your preparation. The big training is done, but it is not time to taper just yet.

This week feels to me a bit like the stretch between the half marathon mark and the 32 kilometer mark in a marathon race. You need to stay focused on the basics, keep it steady, take careful note of your hydration and fuel status and then just ride out the kilometers before that final 10 kilometer push.

The same goes for this upcoming week, it is all about maintaining your body by keeping on doing what you have been doing and paying close attention to your health, allowing space for the body to heal from the hammering it has been taking.

  • Don’t try anything new in training. Keep it steady and take time out if experiencing any overtraining warning signs.
  • Pay extra attention to your nutrition. Your body is likely to be quite depleted at this point. Make an effort to get in regular sit down balanced plates of whole food and top up with some veggie juices and nutrient dense smoothies. Think immunity and fuel.
  • Listen to what your body is telling you. Get any nagging aches and pains seen to by a running specialist physio. This is probably the best time to take a few days off if that is what is needed.
  • If you are feeling any cold or flu symptoms or just sleep deprived, take a mini break!
  • Replace one of your weekly runs with a TLC session for your body. Some ideas: Go for a massage or do some self-massage, give your feet an epsom salt soak, do an hour of foam rolling, mobility and stretching.
  • Replace your shoes if they are needing replacement.
  • Give your mind a break by doing some watch free runs!

Onwards and upwards!

Coach Kathleen


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Two Oceans Ultra Marathon Tips 8/12 – Time to Knuckle Down


Race day is so close now you can smell the sweet scent of taper. Just two more weeks of digging deep! Keep moving!

At this stage of your preparation there are two dangers:

Firstly – Losing momentum:

You might find yourself struggling to motivate yourself to get up for those early morning runs and weekend long runs loom like mountains before you, especially if you had your qualifying marathon as a motivation deadline and that is now ticked.

Should you be feeling a little over it, first step is to take two or three days completely away from running. You won’t loose any fitness and the breathing space to sleep in or just play with the kids after work will do you good. Next, you need to remind yourself why you started the journey in the first place, pat yourself on the back for of all the hard yards you have covered up to now and then knuckle down!

Some tips to help keep you motivated around the final bend:

  • Run with a group as often as you are able
  • If you don’t feel like running, commit to just heading out, even if just to go once around the block. You will very likely find yourself feeling great once you have just taken that first step out the door.
  • Do a couple of runs without a watch. Just run. As fast as you feel like. As far as you feeling like. Stop to enjoy the view and chat to people without worrying about needing to press pause!
  • Reward yourself with some new gear.
  • Run somewhere new
  • Set yourself some mini challenges on your run
  • and finally, tell someone why you run! Amazing what a little reminder can do for your motivation!

Then, the second danger – Overcooking your training:

Watch out for these signs of overtraining and back off the training for a while –

  • Higher than normal heart rate while resting and sleeping that seems to be a trend
  • Moodiness
  • Continuous bouts of colds and flu
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Struggling to complete regular workouts
  • Heavy legs
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Continuous muscle aches even when at rest
  • Ongoing niggly injuries (get them seen to by a physio!)

Take it easy out there!

Coach Kathleen

Driven by passion, pursuing excellence.

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Two Oceans Ultra Marathon Tips 7/12 – The Final Long Runs

As we enter the final 6 weeks of preparation, the question many are asking is, when must my last big long run be, and how far?


Firstly, if you are doing one of the final qualifying races this upcoming weekend 24/25 February, then that will be your last run over 40 km. You will then take an easy weekend and do a long run of 28-30 km to end  your long training.

If you have already qualified, take this weekend easy then do 2 more long weekends, one over 4 hours and one around 3 hours.

Below I give a suggested breakdown:

Date Qualified Still to qualify
24/25 Feb 8-10 km Qualifier 42.2 km
3/4 Mar 40-46 km or 4-6 hours 8-10 km
10/11 Mar 28-30 km or 3 hours 28-30 km or 3 hours
17/18 Mar 16-20 km 16-20 km
24/25 Mar 8-10 km 8-10 km

What if you are pressed for time and cannot get in a 4-6 hour run? Do 2-3 consecutive long runs over a 24-36 hour period. eg. Saturday 3 hours/Sunday 2 hours OR Friday evening 90 min/Saturday 2 hours/Sunday 90 min.

Most importantly, you need to start cutting back as you get closer to race day. Remember:

Your primary goal for success is still to arrive at the start line healthy, strong and injury free.

Almost there! Keep running, laughing and living to the max!

Coach Kathleen


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Two Oceans Ultra Marathon Tips 6/12 – Cruise the Hills Like a Kenyan

road-1209369_640The “H” word is one word that you will hear repeatedly muttered (often preceded with adjectives that are not appropriate for a family friendly blog), by every runner preparing for Two Oceans Ultra Marathon, whether back, middle or front of the pack. And for good reason. If Chapmans Peak and Constantia Nek are not tough enough, just when you start enjoying going down, along comes the “little” bumps near Cecelia forest, aptly named, Bugger 1 and Bugger 2. You are not out of the woods yet, just when you can see the finish line  flags waving (I think they are actually laughing!) at you in the distance, you are faced with the Everest of all climbs on the day, Chet’s hill!

That said, here are a few tips to have you cruising the hills like a Kenyan:

  • Slow and steady gets the job done, don’t look at your watch pace, focus on a controlled steady even effort. Listen to your breathing and go at a pace that your breathing is controlled, focusing on breathing with your belly.
  • Run tall. I often see runners bent over at the waist, shoulders hunched forward. Think Superman, chest out, shoulders open and relaxed, hips tall and belt buckle moving forward.
  • Use your arms to drive the legs. Focus on driving the elbows backwards while keeping the shoulders loose and relaxed.
  • Keep your eyes focused straight ahead. This will ensure your head stays level and posture tall.
  • If you walk on the hills, walk tall and with purpose.
  • Always run over the top of the hill.

Finally, when hitting the much anticipated down, ease into it, get your breathing under control, relax into the descent and then allow gravity to gently take you down at a comfortable rhythm (avoid excessive braking). Resist the panic to try make up time on the downhills, especially down Chapman’s Peak, it is still early days and you will pay heavily later on.

I hope these tips help put the Happy in your hills. Pop me an email if you have any other questions about your preparation.

Coach Kathleen



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Two Oceans Ultra Tips 5/12 – Small Things

Your training should be in full swing by now and with only 8 weeks to go until race day this is not the time for making big changes to your training, running style or gear. The most important now is to keep moving, one training run at a time.

This is the time though to do those little things that will add the edge to your training. Here is a list of ten little things you can do to maximize your training:

  1. After your run, soak your feet in warm water mixed with epsom salts for 10 minutes and give each foot a good massage.
  2. Minimize non running fatigue – stay off your feet as much as possible when not training.
  3. Follow the 3 R’s of recovery
  4. Spend 10 minutes on mobility and core exercises each day
  5. Have those niggles seen to before they become full blown injuries
  6. Rehearse what you will be wearing, eating, drinking in the race. Also try to simulate the race route profile on your long runs.
  7. Eat well! Up your daily nutrition a notch, especially get in extra immune boosting foods.
  8. Create an environment and pre-bed routine for quality sleep. Aim to get as close to 8 hours a night as is realistic.
  9. Spoil yourself to a massage.
  10. Stop regularly to enjoy the view!

Train hard, be nice to people and remember to laugh (a lot!!).

Coach Kathleen


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Two Oceans Ultra Marathon Tips 4/12 – Because You Can

With the weekly mileage piling on thick now, while at the same time work and family commitments are not becoming any less, it is easy to get so weighed down by pressure of needing to train for an event that we can easily lose track of why we became runners in the first place.IMG-20150419-WA0012

Whatever our reason for starting, we all eventually got captivated by the  simplicity, the freedom, the challenge, the endorphines, the sweat, the burn, the camaraderie … that simple joy of “Hey, I can”. And so we run, because, “we can”, and it is awesome. This is our joy.

So if you find yourself dragging your feet through the streets just getting the kilometers ticked for Strava, stop a moment and celebrate the that are running today because, well,  “YOU CAN”.

Keep moving!

Coach Kathleen


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Two Oceans Ultra Marathon Tips 3/12 – Post Long Run Recovery

A workout is only as good as your recovery. 

mattress-2489612_640With only 10 weeks to go runners will be getting into those long long weekend runs. Ensuring you follow a good recovery plan post workout is essential for maximum endurance gains and for minimizing illness and injury. If you are recovering optimally, you will be feeling stronger and stronger, not more and more tired and sore.

Your recovery can be summed up in the 3 R’ -, Refuel, Re-hydrate and Repair.

  1. Refuel

It is important to as quickly as possible replenish your glycogen stores, which would have been depleted during a run lasting 90 minutes or longer. Immediately after completing your long run, either drink a carbohydrate drink or eat a high GI carbohydrate snack such as banana or dried fruit. Fruit juice, smoothies and milk are also winners. Keep this on hand in your car ready to grab straight away. My personal favorite is to buy a liter of milk, pop a straw in and drink on the way home. The goal is quick absorbing carbohydrate.

Then, aim to have a more substantial meal with approximately a 3:1 Carbohydrate to Protein ratio within the next hour. If you struggle with appetite after a long run, keep snacking on smaller high carbohydrate snacks over several hours.

Replenishing your glycogen stores timeously not only speeds up muscle repair,but also helps keep your your immune system strong.

  1. Rehydrate

For those training in the Southern hemisphere you will be doing a lot of your long runs in high temperatures.  Not only will you lose a lot of water during the run, but also electrolytes (sodium, potassium, magnesium) which play an important role in the healthy functioning of your muscles, nerves, heart and overall energy system. It is therefore important that you ensure these electrolytes are replaced along with fluids.

  1. Repair

Rest is best. Feet up! Sleep is paramount for muscle repair as we release the important hormones for rebuilding the muscles during sleep. So be sure to be getting both enough and good quality sleep during your peak training.

Going for a gentle walk in the late afternoon also helps with the recovery. Make sure that the day following your long run is either a complete day off or a very easy jog.  Take note – cross training is training not rest!

Some gentle massage and mobility work will also help speed up repair. Resist taking anti-inflammatories, it has been shown that the inflammation is an important part of the repair process and while they reduce pain, they also reduce gains from the training session.

Enjoy the journey!

Coach Kathleen


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Two Oceans Ultra Marathon Tips 2/12 – Train Your Race Nutrition


A Ferrari and a Beetle both run out of fuel halfway through a race, which one is going to win?

From the best athletes in the world to back of the packers, probably the worst thing that can go wrong in an endurance race, apart from breaking a leg, is to suffer from gut trouble. Apart from dealing with the pain and discomfort, you will also be struggling to take in nutrition which will create further challenges. I have always found that as long as my body is has sufficient fuel and hydration, I can still push through the muscle pains and fatigue.

Fortunately sports science has been able to take most of the guess work out by providing us with very accurate guidelines on the whats, hows and whens of re-fueling and re-hydrating during endurance events. However, each of our bodies remains unique and it is therefore important for you to discover and refine your own personal nutrition strategy.  This takes some experimentation and rehearsal so don’t wait until the week before the race!

Start now already to practice what you will be doing nutrition wise on race day. Practice during your training sessions and build up races. This is what I call “Training your gut”.  Experiment under different conditions, different effort levels, weather conditions etc. as these will affect your intake requirements. Getting used to a pattern in training will also make it easier for you to remember what to do on race day. Your instincts will be sharp!

The other important exercise you need to do is to spend time going through what to do if things do go wrong. Maybe you miss an aid station, or your stomach reacts differently to normal or it is hotter than normal. Have a plan in place to overcome different scenarios so that when they do occur, you are able to recover and conquer.

Good luck with the week’s training!

Coach Kathleen


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Two Oceans Ultra Marathon Tips – 1/12 Avoiding the Cramming Fallout

Training Capacity

Packing for a long road trip is a bit like playing Tetris with suitcases. Even though we always determine to only take what we will actually use, somehow the   luggage volume versus actual car interior volume don’t make a perfect sum. Maybe if all suitcases were perfectly square it would, but that ain’t the real world. Somehow though, with smart planning, we are able to get it all in without squashing the bread or having a suitcases land on our lap if we brake too sharply.

Preparing all but the elite runners for an ultra marathon is often a similar annual experience. I encounter a lot of runners, mostly novices and those that had too good a holiday, who have entered an ultra marathon, but did not fully take into account the extent of the preparation required and, having left things a bit late, now want to try jump into the middle of a training plan and cram in a training load that their body does not quite yet have the capacity for. The end result being injury, illness and a lot of frustration.

However, all is not lost, if you are in a fair state of fitness and injury free, then, with a smart progressive and realistic approach, you can be ready come race day. Remember always:

Your primary goal for success is to arrive at the start line healthy, strong and injury free.

Here are some tips to help you ease into that training plan:

Ask yourself –

  1. What is my current training volume per week versus that of the plan?
  2. How far was my longest long run over the past 4 weeks?
  3. How many training hours/days can my life commitments realistically accommodate?

Now go to the current week on the plan and do the following:

  • Reduce the number of days to what you are currently managing by crossing out the shortest days. If you have capacity to train more days then add one day a week until you are doing the same as the training plan prescribes.
  • Now, reduce the total volume of the week to your current average (over the last 3 weeks) + 10%. Do this by reducing each day (except long run day) by a few kilometers. Don’t completely remove a day. Gradually build from here by doing the same for all weeks.
  • Finally, if the weekly long run (Your most important session) is way more than you have been doing, then divide it into 2 longish runs back to back on Saturday/Sunday. For example: If you have only been doing 15k and the plan says 30k, then split it 18/12. Gradually increase the longer run until you are on par with the plan.
  • If the training plan has quality training sessions (hills, fartlek etc.) and you have not been doing any of these, then: Either go back to the first time it appears on the plan and replace the day with that first session, then build from there (plans usually build these progressively) or still do the same mileage for the day, but just run. Not worth risking injury at this stage of the preparation.

If still unsure, pop me an email with your questions.

Good luck and please post comments over the next 12 weeks to let me know how you are getting along!

Coach Kathleen


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