For all the Suzies

A couple of weeks ago Suzie’s life ended. Her life as it had been. A freak accident left her paralysed from the chest down. Wheelchair bound. Dependent. We all know a Suzie. Maybe not directly. But we all have a friend of friend, a distant relative, a connection with a Suzie story. Being part of a Suzie story compels one to do a stocktake. A gratitude check. A quiet “thank heavens that wasn’t me” – but it could have been. What does being the lead role of a Suzie story do for Suzie? No gratitude checks here. Maybe a “why me”?

A couple of years ago, if asked, I would have replied, “Shoot me please if I come away from an accident unwhole”. But over the last few years, perhaps being part of, and meeting a few Suzies, I have had a mind change. Now I say, “Keep me in the game”. If I am breathing I am still in the running. Perhaps not in the same race. I’d like to think that once the denial, anger, grief, more anger, more grief have passed that I’ll have the courage to exit the change room saying, “I’m here to play, put me back in the game”. I wish for the strength to be able to see the things that are still beautiful. To be able to take stock. A gratitude check. A quiet “thank you; I am still here”. If it is only my eyelid that I can move, then I wish for the courage and patience and strength to become the best damn eyeblinker in the world. Leave me in the game until my final whistle blows.

Thanks to the Suzies who have led me to slowly change my thinking and attempt to embrace “what is”.

Below is the video “The Runners”. Not necessarily linked to Suzie, but linked to life and the variety of others.

Anyone can run

This 21km programme was put together for me by a good friend (and biokinetisist by profession) Heath Keyser. He also happens to be an uber-athlete. This is where my running started……it got me going and has kept me going!

I used this programme over and over again and will still default to it. And remain injury free. I started by walking the time and did that for the first six weeks, and then started at week 1 again, but this time incorporated running. It’s an awesome framework to make work for you and where you are in your running life. It’s a great place to start if you want to run but don’t know where or how to start.

I also earned the title of “bossy boots” when I started my 50 year old colleague (and dear friend) running using this programme. He ran his first half marathon six months later and is still running.

Key things that work for me and have allowed me to make sense of my running and enjoy it:

– Never underestimate the power of walking. If you don’t have the legs, mind or “krag” to run……then walk
– Sleep enough, rest enough
– Respect the easy days and take them easy
– Keep it fun
– Less is more
– Focus on form

So here it is: 21km Running Programme

The approximate distances each week are based on running at 6 min/km. So if you run 30 min at 6 min/km that equates to 5km. If you run faster, that is fine, but rather run for time as the program states.

Hills means choose a hilly route. Don’t avoid hills; seek them out. Once a week, pick a hilly route. If there is only one significant hill in your area, run it from each direction. Climbing builds strength in your quads and gets the heart rate up.

Easy is used as a recovery run or for your long run on the weekend.

Fast is pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and this improves your fitness.

Running for time also helps you to run an out-and-back course. For example, if your running time is 24min, run out for 13 min and back in 11 min. You usually run the second half faster because just like a racehorse sniffing the home straight, you tend to pin your ears back and go faster.

Training is built around a paradox—you don’t get fitter when you’re training. You improve when you’re resting. That’s when your body rebuilds from hard sessions. Rest means no running that day. However, it is active rest, so you can do gym, cycle, swim, stretch or just put your feet up!

Run 21km

Important parts of your program to remember:

• Drink water – the most important nutrient you put in your body! At least 6-8 glasses per day. It contributes more than half of your body weight, plays an important role in physical performance. It’s an easy thing to do.
• Get good shoes.
• Don’t worry how far you are running. Rather than set a distance goal, set a time goal. Increase the time gradually (10% increase a week) to avoid over extending yourself.
• Stretch – this is a personal choice. You may choose something like yoga over an intensive stretch session.

Tips for Successful Running

1. Structure your Sessions
The best way to become an accomplished runner is to get on a regular training program. A good program tells you what to do each day, and it is organised around sound training principles. You will make more progress if you understand how the programs are structured.

2. Build Gradually
It has been found that the body can handle gradual increases in distance very well and is less likely to get injured. The general rule is to increase mileage no more than 10% a week. This is especially important in running where the impact stresses are much greater than in cycling or swimming.

3. Vary the Pace
The most common mistake of novice runners is to plod along day after day at the same moderate pace. They always train at a jog and then when they want to actually run, their body doesn’t respond. Top runners, on the other hand, know how to alternate fast intervals on the track with leisurely runs in the forest. Fast runs/intervals provide the chance for improvement while slow runs allow the body to recover and get stronger. The big mistake is going the same speed day after day. If you always run at a moderate pace, your body won’t know that you want it to adapt and get faster.

4. Vary the Volume
Just as you vary the pace, you should also run different distances during the week. By gradually increasing the distance on your weekend run, your body adapts quickly to the increased workload.

5. Keep It Fun
Training should never be a noose around your neck. You are running for fun, relaxation and to improve your fitness. Explore different routes, alternate runs on pavements and contour paths, run alone and then in a group, try to break your personal record for the local time trial, sign up for a low-key race. Boredom should never be an option.


my coach said

My Challenge

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAIt all started a few years ago with open water swimming. A few Robben Island crossings under the belt and I asked myself “What next?”. So I bought some running shoes and ran a half marathon. Great – “What now?” So I bought a bike and did the Argus. Happy that I had reached the end of the “What the..?” questions, I went to PE to watch Ironman. And my world fell silent. My definition of “triathlete” changed forever. They were there – the lean, mean, colour-coordinated racing machines! But so were hundreds of others. The people like me. And they were doing it. The support, the vibe, the dedication, determination – everything visible. The switch inside me went on.

And so I started the metamorphosis. I bought a wetsuit (sacrilege for an open water swimmer), I got tri bars and entered my first triathlon. And fell in love. At the beginning of this year I found myself at the start of 70.3. I had a wonderful race and my only disappointment is that it was over too soon! So when the Iron-distance triathlon was announced for Cape Town, I did not even hesitate. I compete to train, I don’t train to compete. This event was the perfect goal on which to plan an enormous block of base training. Although a bit early in my triathlon career, my coach Ian Waddell agreed that it could be done. Ian has been very much part of my journey as he has planned very individualised programs for me, working very holistically and challenging every muscle fibre! For six months I trained and loved it. I had the support of Leo, my boyfriend (now husband) and close friends Herda and Adrian. Triathlon is a team sport: 1 athlete = many supporters. So when, two weeks from race day, the event was cancelled, I was (like everyone else) stranded. When beginning with the training, it was all about the training. But as I trained, I got stronger, fitter, more confident and more comfortable with my now good friend, fatigue. And so the race took more importance and my goals came into focus. It had become all about the race.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAWhy had I entered? What did I want from the event? The medal? The recognition? The t-shirt? The tattoo? I just wanted to do it. I wanted to put my training to the test. I wanted the cherry on the top. I wanted to validate the sacrifice – mine and that of those closest to me. The event was cancelled but the route was there for the doing. So armed with my “A-Team” I got going. 152 lengths at SACS High school pool (I chose a pool swim so that I could get going at 5am and the sea aspect of the swim was not the issue for me); 180km bike – out along the Atlantic Seaboard, two loops around Cape Point and back along the Atlantic Seaboard (Suikerbossie at 160km is rather special!); 44km run (yes our measurements were a bit off!) – from Greenpoint, through the Waterfront, up through town and straight up Kloof Nek (another special part of the day!), down Camps Bay Drive, out along the coast with the turnaround at the Twelve Apostle’s Hotel, another loop into the Waterfront with the final loop back along the Promenade.

Run with AdrianI tried to keep the route as close to the that specified by the cancelled event – but the distance was the priority. I had to do an Iron-distance day!

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERACoach, boyfriend, best friend, an uber-ironman, many friends and fifteen and a half hours later, I crossed my finish line.

What I missed in race vibe and spectator support I gained in the closeness of great friends. Adrian (uber-ironman) was by my side from beginning to end. To draw off his confidence, experience and patience all day was an experience gained. To have my seconds (they should be called “firsts”) – Leo and Herda – follow me around the Peninsula with drinks, food, support and entertainment was an experience gained. For Adrian to have “raced” for fifteen and half hours off his pace is a truly remarkable feat and just highlights the true essence friendship, the same for Herda and Leo. The amount of time they spent in the car chasing me, they could have had a leisurely drive to Jo’burg!

Pure joyThe day was amazing – many highs and many lows, but always fantastic. The fact that it was shared so closely with so many others – the people who have been next to me through my training – adds something special. Through this experience I have learnt a few things: Triathlon is a team sport; the events are magic but the training is better; we play in the most amazing training ground – use it; share your journey – people are interested; enjoy the lows – they will pass, as do the highs; know why you do it.

Finish with LeoI will always be training, it has become part of me. My next big one will be Ironman 2013. I look forward to the next eighteen months of planning, training, strengthening and putting what I’ve learnt over the last six months into practice.

Try it, do it, love it!

(Article originally published in 2012 Ironman 70.3 Mag by Electric Ink Media – thanks Paul Ingpen)

Also see related post by Leo Rust