My top tips on preparing for an endurance race

Cape Town hosts various thrilling long-distance trail races, Rosie Carey, female record holder of the 108 kilometre Outeniqua Quest, shares her tips on getting set.

I think that the biggest challenge of an endurance race is the mental challenge. You can go into an ultra trail run a little physically underprepared — and that’s sometimes better than being over-trained — but if your mind isn’t properly prepared, you’re setting yourself up for disaster. I really believe that anything over 50 kilometres is a battle of willpower; a mind game far more than just a running race.

It becomes a case of your mind willing your body to keep going, to push beyond the ache in your legs and the burning in your lungs. You need to train your mind to ignore the negative thoughts. Replace them with positives. It helps to have memorised a few simple, punchy motivational phrases to throw at any negative thoughts.

I use a strategy of breaking the race down into smaller, doable pieces. It’s far less daunting to think of doing 10 sets of 10-kilometre stretches than one set of 100 kilometres. At the beginning, I divide the race up into 10 kilometre segments. Towards the end of the race, when I’m becoming more tired, I count down smaller distances: five kilometres and then eventually one-kilometre intervals.

One of the best pieces of advice I got for pacing myself in long races was to divide the race into three segments. For the first half of the race, run well within yourself. If you are feeling good at the half-way point, increase your pace a bit for the third quarter of the race. If you hit three quarters of the way through and you’re still feeling good, give everything you’ve got to the last quarter. That works for me.

People tend to think that training for an ultra is just about doing endless miles of running. It’s so much more than that. It’s about getting your race nutrition and hydration strategy right long before race day; it’s about testing and retesting all your gear in different conditions, and finding the gear that works for you; and it’s about learning to love spending hours in your own company. It’s about never — not even for a moment — entertaining the thought that it’s not possible.

Why I’ll always return to the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon

Few races show off Cape Town in all its glory better than the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon. Not only do you get to see some pretty spectacular views, you also get to experience just how welcoming and supportive locals can be.

At 30 kilometres, around about the time I reached the top of what my mind had construed to be The Longest Hill in the World, my left calf scrunched itself up into an angry little bundle of protest. Every few steps, it would remind me that it was not happy. At 46 kilometres, with another 10 kilometres to go, the nausea hit me. Wave after wave reduced me to a cautious hobble, raising the spectre of Not Finishing.

But I did. Somehow, thanks in part to the amazing support all the way along the route, I managed to cross the finish line of the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon. The experience was simultaneously glorious and awful. But you soon forget about the awful. You forget about wanting to swear and cry and quit. You forget about the cramps and the vomiting. But that warm glow that comes with achieving something you once thought impossible persists. Before you know it, you’re training for your next race.

Arguably one of the most beautiful races in the world, the Two Oceans Marathon is the biggest race on the Cape Town running calendar, with the half-marathon attracting 16 000 runners and the ultra marathon another 11 000.  In addition to the 21-kilometre half marathon and the 56-kilometre ultra marathon, runners can also enter trail runs that take place over the same weekend.

While the congestion caused by so many runners can be a little difficult to navigate, the spirit and camaraderie that come with so many participants more than makes up for it. Every year — even in the pouring rain — Cape Town locals do the city proud by coming out to enthusiastically support the runners all the way along the route. When your spirits are flagging, little kids with trays of oranges or energetic brass bands are there to pick them up.

Whether or not you regard yourself as a runner this race, which always takes place over the Easter weekend, should be on your Cape Town to-do list. Entries get snapped up really quickly, so make sure that you keep an eye on entry dates. And be warned: once you’ve done it, you’re going to want to do it again!

Your Cape Town Weekend: 26 – 29 February 2016

Cape Town art turns rebellious, a world-famous dance party hits the city and there’s a fun run for pros and newbies… Take your pick and plan Your Cape Town Weekend.

Art and design: Mutiny

Art gets rebellious this weekend with Mutiny, an exhibition of illustrations making strong statements about fighting back and upholding respect. Anja Venter, Maaike Bakker and Jean de Wet present comics, landscapes and surrealist shapes in this off-the-wall, colourful collection that’s sure to be grunge and hipster heaven! Read more

Festivals: Ultra Music Festival

Ultra, in case you didn’t know already, is one of the globe’s biggest electronic dance music (EDM) festivals. And it’s in Cape Town this weekend! Featuring the electro DJs ruling the planet right now – Skrillex, Zedd, Afrojack, Tiesto – this is a major highlight of Cape Town’s summer music festival calendar. Read more

Sport and adventure: Lourensford Market Trail Run

Beginners and pros alike will love this little adventure run past rolling hills and friendly cows, ending with the sweet reward of farm-fresh foods at the Lourensford market. If you do this one spur of the moment, make sure to get there between 06h00 and 07h00 to buy your pass. Read more

Live music: Afro Fiesta at The Crypt

Here’s a voice expressing such emotion it’s impossible not to be moved. This reggae, Makossa, Latino and Afro-jazz band plays all over the world for Play for Change, a movement created to inspire and connect the world through music. Soak in the rich textures of Afro Fiesta’s harmonies at one of the coolest jazz spots in Cape Town before they head off on tour again. Read more 

Theatre: Azishe! 

Meaning “Let it burn” in Zulu, this new show is all about passionate contemporary dance with a blazing variety of moves, styles and cultures. The performers come from a collection of dance schools curated by Jazzart, an NGO and dance company with a history of creating spectacular art for the stage. Ashize! opens Friday. Read more

Food and Beverage: D’Aria Feast of the Grape

Drink in dreamy views along with award-winning wine at D’Aria Winery, where 12 vineyards from the Durbanville wine valley will celebrate the end of harvest with a day packed with family fun (and vino!). Read more

Nightlife: Touchbass yacht and rooftop party

Cruise around the gorgeous V&A Waterfront to bouncing electronic beats and then take the party up a level to a glamorous rooftop venue. Hurry, tickets are selling fast… Read more