On running and pacesetting

 

Cds 2016 10 31 17 24 20

A year ago I started paceseting for races in Cape Town. My first race was the UCT 10k. I drove a (somewhat empty) 60 minute bus, and arrived in 59:10. Over the past year I have been a pacesetter for 20 races with a total distance of 704km (ok so I love numbers; I freely admit it). Even though it has only been a year, pacesetting has taught me both about running in a bus, and about running in general, and now my busses are a lot more full. Here are a few tips. I hope they help.

When running in a bus

Know the plan

Most pacesetters post their race plan on the WP pacesetters group a day or two before the race. If you are planning on running in a bus look out for their plan, or ask the pacesetter when you see him or her on the run. Most pacesetters have a different strategy for the race. For example for a longer race I like to do a run/walk strategy right from the start, but some pacesetters prefer to run the first half and then follow a run/walk strategy. Both are valid, just different. If they approach a race different to your style, join a different bus or do you own thing. And if you’re on a bus and it’s not workout out for you, rather leave the bus.

Don’t stick too close to the pacesetter

Yes I know you want to run with the pacesetter and you don’t want to get left behind, but please not too close. I have almost been tripped by people running directly behind me. I have had people rubbing shoulders with me for long stretches (literally rubbing shoulders). Just a little breathing room makes it a little easier.

Offer to help

When you pass a water table (especially in a big bus), grab a few waters and pass them to the people on the inside. If the bus drives asks for water, offer to grab it.

Pacesetters are human

None of us get paid to be a pacesetter. We do it for the love of the sport and to give something back. Sometimes we mess up, and somethings things just happen. Some examples:

  • On Cape Town marathon without any warning I cramped at the 40k mark, so I limped in to the finish, but thankfully my co-driver Buks brought the bus in spot on time (the only time I have missed my target).
  • I’ve had a marshal on a 15km race send the runners on the wrong route. This made the course about 1k too long with a 2km uphill to the finish that was meant to be a 2km downhill to the finish.
  • I’ve had a 10km race that was only 9km. On that one my 60min bus came in at 53 minutes which (relatively speaking) was spot on time. If we mess up, move along and enjoy the next race. We are doing our best.

Have fun

The bus is a little running community. Have fun. If you bus is singing songs, sing along. If they’re chatting, join in. The camaraderie is what makes the miles go by so fast when you’re on a bus.

On running

Here are some things that I focus on as a pacesetter, but they also help me when I’m running for my own goals.

Have a plan

Screen Shot 2017 05 04 at 10 05 41 PM The first time I was a pacesetter my plan was to just run and come in on time (in short I was winging it). I did, but as I mentioned above, with a mostly empty bus. That is because the UCT route is quite hilly, and winging it wasn’t good enough. Some things to think about in your plan are going slower on the uphill, speeding up on the downhill (how much?), taking into account that you will be more tired towards the end, noting that your GPS watch won’t match exactly to the km boards and making provision for walk breaks. A pacing chart makes a huge difference (now whenever I race I have a chart of my planned splits per km). In Cape Town we are lucky, because one of the pacesetters, Rassie, is a wizard at creating excellent pace charts. On the right is an example of one of his charts (he usually posts charts for the bigger races in the WP pacesetters group).

Now I always run with a pacing chart, even when I am not formally pacesetting. But you still need to work hard on the day to stay on track.

But be flexible

At the Milkwood 21k, the wind was howling. There was a long 5k uphill into the wind in the second half. So I had to on the fly consider how I was going to account for that while keeping the folk in my 2 hour bus on time. My solution was to push a little harder in the first half to get some extra time for more walk breaks into that wind. The bus came in spot on time. If you’re running behind how are you going to catch up? If you’ ahead are you going too fast, or are you ok to bank that for slightly longer walk breaks later on? Is the wind howling in one direction?

Make time to walk

I am convinced that plenty of walk breaks makes for a faster run. Both my marathon and 2 Oceans Ultra marathon personal best were achieved with plenty of walk breaks (starting at the first water table).

Know the route

If you know the route, you know the scary steep hills, the long downhills, and great smooth sections where you can cruise. That makes it easier to both plan your walks on the steep bits (you loose less time), and it helps to know what’s coming up. On West Coast Marathon there is a really steep hill just before the end, but it helps hugely to know that it is only 600m long! Ideally you will have at least driven the route, but if you can’t (I’m running Athens in Greece in November and I won’t have a car), you can still study the route, and look at Strava profiles from other athletes’ previous runs.

(and again) have fun

Yes we love to chase our own goals and to get a PB. But ultimately we are there to enjoy the atmosphere on the route, to experience the camaraderie of our fellow runners, and the amazing crowd support. But if you’re not having fun, you are missing out.

And finally thanks to everybody that runs with me, without you I wouldn’t have a bus, and a huge thanks to Paul and the amazing guys in WP Pacesetters that have taught me so much about running and pacesetting!

See you on the road. My next races are Slave Route, and CT12 – look out for my flag there!

Servant leadership in a restaurant

An example of servant leadership happened in a restaurant last night.

My wife and I were enjoying a meal in a local restaurant. We were not enjoying our drinks, because even though we had repeatedly asked for them, the drinks failed to arrive. A waitress, Jade, who was working another table saw that we were having a problem. When we told her she went off to the bar, spoke to the barman and came back immediately with our drinks.

Later when we wanted to pay we could not find out waitress – the same waitress that never managed to find our drinks. So Jade once again came to the rescue and sorted out our bill. At her own initiative she took the drinks off the bill because (as she put it) we shouldn’t have to pay for drinks that took so long to arrive.

Remember that Jade was not our waitress, and was not even working our table. She saw and solved a problem in her workplace. She made a very grumpy customer a lot happier, and she possibly made the difference in us going back there. I asked for her name because we want to make sure that she serves us next time we eat there. Jade was an ambassador and she will go far.

This is a fairly trivial example, but how often does it happen? When last did it happened to you, and what did you do? How did you action impact your business, or the people around you?

Tips from “The Positive Guy”

Andre

I hard Andre du Toit speak “The Positive Guy” this evening, and he left us with a few valuable tips about public speaking. Here they are. I hope they are useful!

Some tips

  • It’s all about personal brand – you and not your company are the brand
  • Small audience – content; large audience – a show
  • You have to want to be a better teacher
  • PowerPoint is used for training – not for speaking

Companies hire you to:

  • Make more money
  • Save money
  • To make a huge difference to their staff

And finally…it is all about referrals.

What I talk about when I talk about running

ImagesHaruki Murakami is best known as the author of “Norwegian Wood”, and the “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” – and many other books. If you haven’t read his books I highly recommend you check them out. But recently I discovered that he is a long-distance runner as well and has written about his running.

I have just finished “What I talk about when I talk about running”, and It is excellent. As a runner I related completely to his journey, his challenges and successes, his apprehension and self-doubt before races, and the acceptance of the unpredictability of marathon-length races.

The philosophy he bring to running – that you need to be as healthy as possible to be effective at what you do, and how maintaining health (in his case by running and doing triathlons), needs to be balanced with what you do. To be mentally sharp and focused requires a healthy body.

He says:

To deal with something unhealthy, a person needs to be as healthy as possible. That’s my motto. In other words, an unhealthy soul requires a healthy body. This might sound paradoxical, but it’s something I’ve felt very keenly ever since I became a professional writer. The healthy and the unhealthy are not necessarily at opposite ends of the spectrum. They don’t stand in opposition to each other, but rather complement each other, and in some cases even band together. Sure, many people who are on a healthy track in life think only of good health, while those who are getting unhealthy think only of that. But if you follow this sort of one-sided view, your life won’t be fruitful.
Almost everything he had to share could have been written by me, or for me. Although I am convinced that any long-distance runner would feel exactly the same.

It is a short and easy read, but a book to be dipped into, reread and digested over time. To get full enjoyment from the book you probably have to enjoy running, but there is plenty to learn regardless of what get you up in the morning.

A thought on pseudoscience…

Cds 2016 04 16 22 49 31Would you use a soap containing drain cleaner as a key ingredient?

If you won’t, then you probably won’t use any soap. One of the best drain cleaners is sodium hydroxide. The reason it is so good at cleaning drains is that it dissolves fat. But what happens when the fat dissolves? It turns into soap!

Sodium hydroxide (also known as lye), is traditionally made by boiling wood ash with water, the resulting compound was added to animal fat to make soap (any fat will work – olive oil, coconut oil etc).

The point is not to tell you how to make soap, but rather to take a critical look at ingredients before you discount them as scary because you don’t understand what the ingredients are.

BTW the photo is of some some that I made using orange essential oil, a dash of orange colouring, coconut oil and…sodium hydroxide

Lessons from David Grier

David footer

A few days ago, I listened to David Grier giving a speech. David does crazy runs that make my marathons look like a walk around the block. He ran across the entire Great Wall of China (4200km), across Cuba (1800km), and a bunch of other crazy runs.

He is one of the authors of the Real Meal Revolution!

He is a wonderful man with some great advise. Here are some lessons that I learned from him:

  • You need the self-belief to dig deep
  • No man achieves anything on his own
  • I’m the one that has to change
  • The sun will set in the evening, and rise the next morning, regardless of what you do
  • Its usually not the big things that get you down – it’s an accumulation of little things
  • Nearly everything is not impossible…if you want it enough dig deep enough
  • It’s when you say that you can’t that you can
  • You learn the most when you are struggling
  • Have honesty and appreciation, understanding and acceptance
  • Nobody is going to run your life for you
  • If you can find reason for why you are suffering, you are no longer suffering
  • Where do you fit into your dream?
  • Nobody will effect change for you
  • We need to be the change we want to see
  • We cannot change on our own
  • The ability to change on the way is key to finish a journey.

And finally for race fuel, he recommended Cabanossi sausages from Pick n Pay,, and squashed pork belly (put the fat runoff in a ziplock to suck on, and slice the port to eat)!

Hope that helps – it certainly gives me some perspective!

(photo from David’s website)

Day One review

Dayone2 logo

If you use a Mac and keep any sort of journal this is an app to look at. If you are a Windows user this is one more reason to make the switch.

I have been a user of Day One version 1 for several months, and it is an excellent tool for journaling. They pay attention to detail in both the design and the features. It has a clean and beautiful interface, and it’s super-easy to use. The MAC and IOS apps play nicely together, and sync is easy to setup and just works!

Day One recently released a new version with the somewhat confusing name of Day One 2.0. I have been using this version for about 2 weeks now. Here’s my review.

What’s new?Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 11.51.19 AM

There are two big new features:

  • Firstly support for multiple journals. This is perfect for me because I can now store my personal and work entries in the same place, but in separate journals.
  • Secondly, in the previous version you could only have a single photo per entry. Now you can have multiple photos. At first I wasn’t really interest in this feature, but I find that I am using it more and more – especially for documenting my travels.

Should you upgrade?

Well that depends on your needs? To upgrade both the Mac and IOS versions will set you back $49.98 (at the moment you can grab the Mac app for $29.99 and the IOS app for $4.99). If you do a lot of journaling, want multiple photos per entry and support for multiple journals then yes it is an excellent application and worth the price.

But if you are happy with a single journal, then aside from a mildly slicker interface you are not going to gain too much additional value.

Of course if you are not yet a user and are looking for a journaling app, this is one to check out.

Wishlist

While the app is great, there are a few things that I think would make it amazing:

  • Basic customisation of the styling in the posts using my choice of fonts and colours
  • Ability to export entries for a date range, and for the PDF export to show the images full-width, and to be able to select the fonts and colours
  • Applescript support would be amazing

But it’s a great app. It is easy to use, and makes keeping an electronic journal really easy.

You can find out more and get App Store links from their website.

Disclaimer: I was given a complimentary review copy from Day One

Why Toastmasters

Cds 2009 08 15 17 48 13 Canon Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XT

I was asked to write a short piece as to why I have been a member of Toastmasters for over 15 years. I have shared it below.

My intention when I joined Toastmasters was to be a member for a few months – just long enough to improve my business speaking skills. More than 15 years later I am still a member, and I am asked why? Here is the answer. Toastmasters has not just improved my business speaking skills, it has played a major role in my career, from being more confident at work to being called upon to deliver presentations to fellow staff members, customers and suppliers.

I regularly chair meetings and design sessions, helping teams develop software applications for some of the largest companies in South Africa.

Without the communication and leadership skills I have developed from Toastmasters I would not be in same position as I am.

I have met some amazing people and make some great friends, not just at home in Cape Town, but quite literally all over the world. I have Toastmasters friends in every continent that I can call and say hi to.

It truly is an organization where leaders are made, and more importantly where friendships are made.

Pic: Congratulating the 2009 World Champ of Public Speaking, Mark Hunter at the Toastmasters International Convention

Free resources from Udemy

The folk at Udemy have put together good collection of youtube videos focusing on public speaking. The videos are short, and give good examples and advice on become a better speaker.

Udemy also has a several online public speaking courses for sale. But like many learning sites you may have to look around to find the one that best suits you (hint: click on the courses and check out the table of contents).

They gave me a enrollment of one of the courses, and I got video, downloadable PDF supplementary material and external links.

Personally I think that nothing can compare to getting up and giving a speech in a safe environment (such as at a Toastmasters meeting), but if you are looking for some fast-track information or want to supplement your training,  there is some good stuff to be found.

On a side note I have used Udemy for technical training as well, and they have lots of very good courses on a variety of topics. They are worth checking out.

On goal setting and running

Gun Run 2014Here is a thought about running and goal setting. It is very seldom that I don’t have a big race coming up in the future, hence a lot of my runs are training runs for that race.

There are broadly two ways in which I often run: either just going out and enjoying the run, or by watching my watch all the time – checking my pace, heart rate etc.

But while I am almost always working towards a goal, I still want to enjoy the experience of the actual run, and to just be in the running moment. And I often find that when I am not really focusing on pace, heart rate etc and just enjoying the run (this happens mostly when I am having a slow cool-down run) I get a personal best (PB) on a segment of a route.

This week when I was running back home from St James I got a PB on the St James – Muizenberg segment, but it was meant to be a chilled and slow run after a hard race on Saturday. I have run that segment (quite literally) hundreds of times, but the time when I was just being present and not worrying about pace or goals is when I ran fastest. And at the time I genuinely thought that I was running slowly.

On Wednesday I went for an evening run up the mountain. But it was extremely hot (over 30 deg C). The uphill run was tough. I was sweating, out of breath and taking strain up the steep sections. But I was not particularly concerned because I knew the heat would play a big role in my performance. But when I analysed my data afterwards I realised that I had missed a PB on the green-belt climb by 2 seconds. Now 2 seconds is easy to catch up. In the hottest weather I have ever done that route, when I was not expecting to have a particularly good run, and I was not paying much attention I almost had my best time ever!

This happens a lot on races when I don’t have a particular target time in mind and I just go to see how the run goes. I have got a few PB’s from there. In particular the Gun Run 21k (1h53) and Hohenort 15km (1h17) come to mind.

What is the lesson here? I think that if you purely focus on your goals, and you only work towards achieving them you won’t enjoy the journey, and it may even slow you down. If you train, work hard and most importantly enjoy the experience you don’t need to worry about the goals; they will just happen.