Training

Run the Berg Training – June/July

On the 28th to 29th September 2019, I will be taking part in an epic adventure, Runtheberg – a 2-stage trail race in the Drakensberg Mountains, Africa’s majestic mountain range and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The race event has two options, the Challenge Race, +-15km per day and the Extreme Race, +-25km per day. I have very wisely chosen the Challenge Race meaning I will cover over 30km in two days with a net ascent of approx. 1,140 metres. The race website describes the 30km route as “exclusively single-track, foot-path or mountain-running; moderately technical; some climbing / descent; boulders & rivers; lots of good running” and adds that there are “panoramic views, spectacular scenery and the best that the Montusi Valley has to offer”. The footage I have seen is indeed breathtaking!

Why Run The Berg? 

My cousin Tapiwa has twice run the Berg and she wrote a blog for me after her second one. Both times I sat in awe at the tales she told of her Berg adventure. It was then that I started stalking the Runtheberg website and Facebook page; I took several peeks at their race videos but each time I resisted the temptation to take it any further, knowing full well that this was not something I could do. In a moment of weakness though, it made its way onto my 2018 Race Goals but by the end of that January, I had scrapped it off my list. But I still kept coming back to it and slowly, perhaps foolishly, I started to convince myself that this was doable. I finally signed up in February 2019 and it was not a decision I took lightly. I know my weaknesses – I don’t like going out of my comfort zone, I haven’t had much exposure to mountain climbing or trail running, I’m very quickly intimidated by obstacles like rocks, boulders or streams, and my training ground is a very flat city with little to mimic the reality of the Drakensberg.

But I am also very aware of my strengths – I may not like going outside my comfort zone, but I do it time and time again in both work and social settings. I’m no mountain goat but I have run over 30 races in the last 2.5 years including 4 Half Marathons in the last year alone. I know how to plan. I work very hard. I am extremely consistent. And I know how to finish what I start. Those strengths will get me over that Berg, if not my wobbly legs and clumsiness!

My Training

One of the first things I did after signing up was to contact Coach Nicola who I have worked with time and again on my running journey. I am not sure what she makes of my crazy challenges, but she completely gets me and always makes a training plan that suits my needs and goals. We started work in June with the first 6 weeks dedicated to building strength and endurance. I run about 4 times a week, a combination of Easy Runs, Speed Endurance Training, Hill Repeats and Long Runs. My short easy runs have mostly been solo affairs but it was really fun to do our local 5km “parkrun” twice with friends visiting from out of town.

Speedwork has involved mile time trials, tempo interval runs, and out and back pace work, with some strength training thrown in like the Oregon Circuit on the track (200m sprints with strength exercises in between).

There have been hill repeats on the treadmill as well as easy long runs. More recently we have added back-to-back Long Runs to get me prepared for the 2-day format of the race. So far I’ve felt quite comfortable running on tired legs.

I’ve also ventured onto the trail for a few of my runs, three of them in the Mokolodi Nature Reserve to get a better feel of trail running. The longest distance I’ve covered in the park is 15km. I’ve had one major fall but since then I’ve managed to stay vertical with only a few minor stumbles! Mokolodi is always exciting to run in and we’ve spotted several animals, warthogs, waterbuck, ostrich, cheetah and of course the ever-present impala.

Whilst exciting, it is also really peaceful and calm. The air is fresh and seems to cleanse the airways. My favourite part of the run is the path alongside the dam – we get there about 3km into our run when the morning sun is glistening beautifully over the water.

I’ve also done weekly strength work and although not consistent, I’ve had a few pilates classes as well. This though is definitely an area I need to work more on.

My Gear

I really am such a novice when it comes to trail running. I’m used to grabbing my shoes, simple outfit and cap! So this is a new arena. The first thing I did was to buy a pair of Salomon trail shoes. They were on sale but what I loved was how comfortable they felt when I slipped them on. So far they have felt quite good on the run and aside from two blisters when I was breaking them in, I’ve been happy. They don’t have a soft or plush feel, but they are certainly very sturdy and safe when I am running on rocks and sand. I’ve also recently purchased a Camelbak hydration pack online as well as a space blanket. But there are a lot of other things I still need to get: the most significant being the waterproof jacket, thermal base layer, lightweight fleece top and gloves. I’ve never run in any of these so that will be interesting.

Highlights

In the first month of training, I set a new mile record of 09:22 min (from 09:45). My goal for the year was to do it in 09:30 min so I was really pleased to have achieved this so early on and I’m confident I will be even faster by the end of the year. I also set a new 11 sec. 10km PB, 1:09:42 while doing an Easy Run in Central Gaborone.

In June, I did the 12km FNB Magalies Trail Run in South Africa. It was a great experience and also a reminder of how different trail running is!

In July, I attended a presentation by Mark Wolff who is a nutrition and physiology expert as well as an endurance lifestyle mentor.  Mark discussed the basics of an endurance lifestyle and how to make sure an endurance athlete keeps healthy through effective training, nutrition and recovery. I also attended the Gauteng Trail Clinic organised by Trail Magazine South Africa and I came away with such a wealth of knowledge about trail running as well as some increased confidence. I’ll be sure to blog about both events as I took so much away from them.

What’s On My Mind?

I’ve been extremely consistent and have only missed one run. I can do better with strength training though and I think I will need to ramp up my hill work and hiking sessions over the next two months to have any chance of getting up and down the Berg. I also have to finish purchasing gear plus practising with it! Accommodation is booked, but we still have to sort out flights and a car rental service. In terms of emotions, there are so many, but the two predominant ones are definitely excitement and nervousness. I hope you’ve enjoyed my summary – I haven’t been very good at blogging recently but at least you can see the work is getting done! For more regular updates, be sure to follow me on Facebook too!

[Run The Berg Training Cycle:  215.2 km| 2019 Mileage: 767.86 km]

Have you done a similar race to the Berg? Do you have any tips to share on either training, gear or fuelling for the race? What’s your current goal race? What race took you out of your comfort zone? Let me know in the comments!

I’m joining two fabulous runners, Kim from Running on the Fly and Deborah from Confessions from a Mother Runner for their “Weekly Run Down” link up. I’ve been away for a while so it’s a little bit more than a week’s run down!

36 thoughts on “Run the Berg Training – June/July

  1. Run the Berg sounds like a really cool race! I wish I could get into doing more trail running but I’m so scared that I’m going to fall. I can barely stay upright on paved roads, lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. First, I thought what could be different about trail running. Running is running, right? But I was so wrong. It actually feels like a different sport altogether. And the Berg looks like a lot of hiking too. I’m growing to enjoy trail running but I must admit I still love the predictability of good ol’ tarmac!

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  2. This is quite the adventure you are undertaking, and I’m SO EXCITED for you!!! The biggest comfort zone violation I’ve done (thus far LOL) was the 12-hour overnight ultra (July 2016). Running (and some power walking, let’s be honest) for 12 continuous hours was daunting, and the fact that it started at 11:00 p.m. was crazy 😉 I had done the 6-hour overnight ultra the year prior, so I knew the atmosphere was one of awesome support and there was ample food/fuel/hydration the entire time we were in motion. YOU got this!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Good luck! Consistency is the key to pretty much anything in life. I tackled my first trail half without a whole lot of trail running prior to it (well, obviously I did run some trails while training for it) — I know you can do it!

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  4. Wow that trail race sounds really exciting. I cannot wait to see all the photos. I am kind of afraid of trail runs bc I have fallen a few times. So much more scenic though! Thanks for linking up this week

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The only thing I have done even remotely close is a Ragnar race (team of 12 runners covering 200 miles over about 24 hours. I enjoyed reading about your coach’s plan for you- and awesome work so far sticking with it, very impressive dedication!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! That Ragnar Race sounds amazing and tough!! I was also thinking your Antarctica Marathon could be included in that it was so different from other marathons/races, even just in terms of logistics and having to pack slightly differently for the conditions!

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  6. Run the Berg sounds like a challenge, but so much fun! Your training sounds intense. I will be looking forward to reading a race report after the race! 🙂 Congratulations on your new PB in the mile!

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  7. You’re training so well and I want to remind you here that I was strictly a road runner and I managed my trail ultra, overcoming my fears on that horrible trail race I did before the ultra- and if I can do it, you can certainly do it!

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  8. I’m really in awe of your courage to sign up and do everything necessary to ensure your success! I 100% believe in you!! I have never done anything like the berg race and I’m not certain I could. I am a little bit trail-shy because my balance isn’t that great and I’m afraid I’m going to fall and break my ankle and then not be able to run. But you are definitely inspiring me… not to say I’ll be signing up for anything like that anytime soon!!

    I did once run the viaduct bridge in France (the longest and highest suspension bridge in the world) – at the time it was the longest distance I’d ever run and the elevation was insane! It was mostly road but there were parts that were on only trail, then the bridge itself which I thought would be easy once I finally arrived… only for it to be all uphill until the end of the bridge! So that’s about as courageous as I get off-road!

    if you are not committed to the camelback I can really recommend the salomon hydration vest. it’s much more comfortable and handier than the camelback. Just mentioning it in case 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Love this message! We are the same – I’m such a fish out of water when it comes to trail running. Where I feel steady on the road, I feel so clumsy on trail! So if I live to tell the tale of the Berg, I know you would be able to do it for sure! That Bridge race sounds tough!!

      I’ve already committed to the Camelbak! Wished I had checked what people thought before I got it! We have someone coming from the US on Wednesday so quickly ordered it online for them to bring back with them. Thanks for mentioning it though – if it doesn’t work out well, I will check out the Saloman hydration vest for sure.

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  9. That sounds like it will be a super fun event! And it sounds like you have a good training plan in place. My first “serious” trail shoes were Salomon and I liked them a lot – they have good grip and feel safe, like you said. Gaiters are nice to have if you will be doing a lot of running in sand or loose dirt – they help keep it out of your shoes.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Wow! this is so exciting. I was going to do my first trail race, but it fell on a weekend with a severe heat wave. That’s probably a lame excuse to you with all the heat you have. It sounds like you are covering all the angles in your training. The hiking is a great idea.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I am so excited for you and look forward to reading more about your training!!! And of course how this race goes for you. You are doing so well with your training and using your gear.

    I am a big fan of Smartwool socks and wear them every single day whether I am running or not. As for fueling, have you tried UCAN or Tailwind?

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I loved reading your recap on what you’re doing to plan for your race. It sounds like you covering all the bases and will be well trained come September. The pictures on the Runtheberg website you linked to certainly make it look challenging and I’m a little envious (I love trail running)! Good luck and have fun!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Wow, this sounds like a great challenge!! You had me at the first sentence – “epic adventure”! You sound very well prepared (if not fully trained yet) for this race. Being an organized planner goes very far in this sport. As you know, you have to be committed to your goal! I look forward to seeing your journey.

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  14. I know I commented when y ou posted this to FB – but forgot this: a book you might enjoy is Susan Lacke’s Running Outside the Comfort Zone

    You’re going to kick ass

    Like

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