Second Table Mountain run for the week!

I took another trip up Table Mountain to make the most of the trails on our trip to Cape Town. With this run it made for three times up the mountain in three days. Trail running doesn't get much better than that!

Dam at the top of the mountain.

Enjoying the sunshine on top.

Unreal beach between Skeleton Gorge and the dam on top.

I love this beach. It's so weird and feels like it doesn't belong, but I stop here every time I'm on the mountain.

My descent on Skeleton Gorge down to Kirstenbosch.


Today I ran with Ryan Sandes. I got to ask a few questions about his races from this year and about his experience at the Atacama Crossing. Along with some great advice I also enjoyed an amazing run along Chapman's peak and met some other keen trail runners from Cape Town.

Hout Bay view from Chapman's Peak.

The 4Deserts champ.

Beautiful view from Chappies.

Keen runners joining the Ryans2Run.

Ryan taking photos for twitter.

Thanks to Vida e Cafe for the free coffee at the end.

Awesome day on Table Mountain

Today I ran up Table Mountain, then down the other side, then along the contour path to Devil's Peak, then back up, and then back down. It was a monster 6 hours in the mountains and I loved every minute of it!

Climbing up from Constantia.

Beautiful dam on top of the mountain.

The wall that holds the dam on the mountain top.

Amazing view over the mountain to the Atlantic.

There is a series of boardwalks and chain ladders to climb on to the Table top.

The easy way up!

View over the harbour and signal hill.

View of Lion's peak from the Devil's Peak contour path.

The contour path was some of the only flat running of the day.

I love Cape Town!

Cerro Pochoco

Today I ran up Cerro Pochoco with the RunningChile team. It was great to run this peak that I'd hiked with V and Fede a few weeks ago. I thought that it was much longer after the hike, but actually it's a short distance with a lot of altitude gain that makes it a fun and tough run. The views of Santiago are spectacular as they are from a different place and greater altitude to my usual view from Cerro Carbon.

Half way up.

Still a lot of work to do from Pochoco-chico.

800m of altitude gain.

It was a great run and fun peak to work up at a hard pace.

Cerro Provincia

I really like the range of mountains around Santiago and I know Cerro Carbon and Cerro Manquehue well, but I'm not that familiar with a lot of other peaks around here. Fortunately my RunningChile team mates Francisco and Alejandro know them really well and are always excited to show me a new peak.

For this run we went just half an hour outside of Santiago to run Cerro Provincia. It's a tough climb with a break in the middle where it's easier to run and roll through a few smaller hills. We reached the summit in a little over two hours and appreciated the unbelievable views of the Andes with many of the summits covered in snow.

Alejandro working the last section to the summit.

Alejandro, Francisco and me.

Summit of Cerro Provincia.

A little after the summit there's a geodesic dome where we stopped for a break and to get out of the wind. It would be a great place to stop overnight and enjoy staying up in the mountains.

Taking a break in the dome.

About to tackle the run back down.

Getting some sunlight on the way back down.

Corpbanca 5km race in Las Condes

Today I ran a 5km race with Vanessa that started in the park a block away from our house. It was really well organized and plenty of people turned up for the race. We had a great run and enjoyed doing a new route with the lanes closed so close to our apartment!

V in action and going strong!

First medal for a race in Chile.

Happy after a great race together.

V really enjoyed the run and ran very well. I'm sure there'll be a few more races for her on the roads and trails of Santiago in 2012.

Atacama crossing #3

Weekly test of my training progress for the 4Deserts Atacama Crossing.

10 mins with 8kg pack at race pace on the treadmill:

  • Date: Friday 11 November 2011
  • Average Heart Rate: 138
  • Perceived Exertion: 7

Slowly getting used to the pack.

Wednesday weekend

Wednesday is always my favorite run of the working week. When I trained for triathlon we came up with "Wednesday weekend" because that was always a low intensity day and sort of like taking a mid-week break even though there were still two or three training sessions. Now Wednesday weekend is my hill running day and a chance to explore outside the city- almost a mini adventure to keep my running spirits high.

Somehow the dark of late night feels different to the dark of early morning.

Santiago is always beautiful from Cerro Carbon, it doesn't matter which was you look.

I never see any one on the mountain when I do this run, but I feel like I'm at least an intimidating cyclops to the spring hares!

Running the water canal

Today's schedule called for 2 hours running without any definition to pace, place or objective of the run. It's only three weeks after all my trouble with ITBS during UMA and a lot of my training is still done on feel and testing if there is any pain in my knee. 

I wanted to go and do a run off the roads and headed towards my reliable route along Cerro Carbon and Manquehue. I didn't want to push too hard in the climbs or come bombing down any descents so I ran along the contour trail that formed part of the UMA route. 

Left along the contour path, right across the bridge to start climbing.

To make it a little more specific I went out at 1pm in the heat of the day to test how I would handle the heat and to start acclimatising for the desert. It felt brutally hot and I now know that I've got a lot of work to do to prepare for up to 50C in March.

Dry, dusty trail next to irrigation water.

I don't think that I drank enough water in the first hour and a half and could feel the effects slowing me down. I know how much water I will receive during the race, so now I need to get used to rationing it and drinking at a race pace.

Feeling dry-mouthed and hot!

Bridge to no-where.

Atacama progress #2

Weekly test of my training progress for the 4Deserts Atacama Crossing.

10 mins with 8kg pack at race pace on the treadmill:

  • Date: Friday 4 November 2011
  • Average Heart Rate: 141
  • Perceived Exertion: 8

Running with a pack is still really tough.

Atacama progress #1

Weekly test of my training progress for the 4Deserts Atacama Crossing.

10 mins with 8kg pack at race pace on the treadmill:

  • Date: Friday 28 October 2011
  • Average Heart Rate: 140
  • Perceived Exertion: 8

Running with a heavy pack is hard work.

Launch of RunningChile

Tonight was the re-launch of RunningChile. A fantastic initiative to bring a team atmosphere and professional services to the running population of Chile.

RunningChile overview.

Large gathering of support for the launch.

Amongst the many new ideas and projects from Matias and Cristian are:
  1. multiple training platforms and schedules
  2. management and planning of races (K42 Chile and 4deserts Atacama Crossing)
  3. training camps and technical talks
  4. charity "expeditions" such as Matias' 15 marathons in 15 days in 15 regions
  5. a Chilean specific running magazine

They have built a team including kinesiologists, sports scientists and experienced runners that should deliver fantastic advice to anyone interested in running in Chile. With large sponsors such as VW and Aguas Andinas there is now an amazing vehicle for development of running in Chile.

Matias describing some of the team features.

I'm proud to be a part of the RunningChile team and look forward to seeing the growth and development of running in Chile.

Happy to be a part of this great team.

Mucho éxito, RunningChile!!


I had been looking forward to the Ultramaraton de Los Andes since I got to Chile six months ago. It is one of the biggest races in the country and North Face brings out some of its athletes and the winners of other races in the series here to compete (Hal and Sebastien last year, Ian, Tracy, Tim and Ellie this year). It is also held on the mountain I can see from my house, Manquehue, which is where I train three or four times a week. All of these factors along with a good tune-up race a few weeks ago should have put me in a great place to race well.

Looking forward to my local trails.

The race started great. I went in a reasonable pace knowing what was coming ahead and working towards a plan that would have me competing at the end. The first climb I know like the back of my hand which helped me to keep on schedule with my pacing plan with knowledge of where the grade let up and where it would be too tough to run. At the first checkpoint I was running easy, pleased with the time and looking forward to a great day as we had already summited one of the two large climbs.

A fast start!

The next stretch was a lot of downhill and a few smaller climbs twisting around the back of the mountain. It was still dark and the trail markings were not great, but there were already spectacular views of the city bowl and it was starting to get lighter. I enjoyed this section a great deal and settled into a pace that felt comfortable and where I wanted to be for a long day on the trails. At checkpoint two I was still on track.

Cerro Carbon to the left and Cerro Manquehue to the right.

After the second checkpoint I went off course with about five other runners and lost a few minutes running around searching for route markings with my headlamp. It wasn't a big deal, but it was frustrating that we had just left a checkpoint and no one told us to expect a turn off the trail into a field! This section was between Manquehue and Chicureo in some very muddy fields that left everyone with "bricks" on the bottom of their shoes. At this point I started to feel a slight aggravation in my left ITB, a problem I thought I had resolved. It might have been the uneven footing from an extra inch of mud on the bottom of my shoes or any of a number of factors. Unfortunately it just wouldn't ease up and get any better. I had to walk at somewhere between 25 and 27km and although I was three hours in the prognosis wasn't good.

I walked to the third checkpoint hoping the pain would ease and I could return to running. However, the pain just got worse and worse. I decided to make a final decision at 40km where I was expecting to see Vanessa and Matias and as I got closer to that point I was in a lot of pain and reached the conclusion that I wasn't going to finish. I was limping up the hills, walking the flats and in excruciating pain while limping the downhills. However, I never saw them as the route had been changed in the morning and there was no longer any access from the road.

I struggled on for a long 5 hours walking everything and trying to minimize the damage I was causing my ITB. It felt like there wasn't any other choice and that I had to keep going until I arrived in the city and could stop the madness of limping and hobbling along my favorite trails. I had a tough time and struggled through all sorts of thoughts about why I was out there and what I was doing. I also desperately wanted to stop and couldn't and I also couldn't stop thinking about AJW's views on DNFs and the recent remarks about the DNFs at UTMB. I did have a long time to think about it and finally came to the conclusion that I run for joy and the smile it puts on my face. As I was very far from a smile or enjoying myself and at the same time aggravating an injury that would put a delay to that in the future, it made the most sense to me to stop at 61km.

On the way home - unfortunately I was walking by now.

It was a sad end to a long and hard day, but I took away a number of valuable lessons from the experience:

  1. Pacing - the early pace for the race leaders was much faster than the final overall pace so during the day the running speed declined significantly. I started on a pace that I thought would be sustainable, but in hindsight was also too fast. Two people who started out at a more realistic speed, Ellie who finished third overall and my friend Francisco who finished in the top ten, held on and made huge gains later in the day. 
  2. Strength - I saw some of the front runners working hard and maintaining strong fast strides through even the largest climbs. Their power hike speed was impressive and sustained, but I think more of an attitude about attacking the climbs rather than power leagues ahead of the other racers. Having an attitude of strength in the mountains is vital to perform well on the trails.
  3. Injury - a lesson that I would rather have not learnt, but a valuable one nonetheless. Injuries need to be handled proactively, consistently and at the first sign of any problem. I think that I could have avoided some of the issues I had in this race if I'd dealt with small, seemingly insignificant niggles earlier in my preparation.
  4. Chilean running - I haven't been here very long, but I already have a number of friends who are looking out for me and who looked after me on a tough day. Mauricio, Daniel and Matias all called and gave me advice and their support and helped me to refocus on the next goal. There is an amazing community here and I'm proud to be a part of it.

Cerro Carbon trail.