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  • Going the distance. Fun runs to Ultra Marathons in 12 Months by Bernadette da Silva
    May 8, 2018

    A lot can happen in a year. Just twelve months ago, I was a normal person. 2016 had been a year of transformation for me, as I transitioned from being an overweight, once-a-month-fun-run-mom, to a “real” runner.

    I am not the fastest runner by any means, but completing my first half Marathon in 2:48 in January 2017 was a stupendous achievement at the time. Running that race was also a learning experience and I realized I had a lot of work to do if I ever wanted to improve. I set myself a goal for my next half marathon and by February, had made the decision to invest in myself and find a proper running coach.

    All I wanted was an expert to give me some tips and advice, so that I could improve and eventually run a 2:30 half marathon, under the parameters of a fixed program that would suit my lifestyle, but motivate me too.

    Come March, I was following my first running program consistently, under the guidance of (SAM @ MPG). It wasn’t easy, but my program was structured to accommodate my work and family life. After a few weeks of training, I lined up with my friends at the start of another half marathon. Any time closer to my 2:30 goal would be an achievement, and so, ran through the finish line in 2:31, I felt like I had won Gold! I was on top of the world and my excitement for running only grew.

    It was a no-brainer that I would stick to the program and set new goals as one was achieved, I set another. My race calendar was jam packed with 21Km races, I was out running every weekend and besides my pace improving, I was running PB’s. I couldn’t have been happier with how everything was working out.

    A few months later, one of my running friends had the crazy notion that we could run further than 21km and as a group we decided to enter a 32Km race. So with minimal time to improve my endurance, I continued training and completed The Cradle, in freezing cold conditions. I realized that the higher mileage was a larger-than-life leap and a mental battle of head versus heart out on that long road.

    My medal collection was growing quickly and while running was never supposed to be more than recreational, it became an important part of my life.

    I don’t even remember whose insane idea it was but when I read the words “lets enter a marathon”, but I was petrified. My first thoughts were to leave the Whatsapp Group as my running buddies had all gone mad. We decided to head to Cape Town in September for what we had heard was a fairly “easy” marathon.

    In order to change things up a bit, Sam added cycling into my weekly schedule to improve my fitness. Duathlon training was my new staple. I was focused and determined to stick to the program every week –  run…cycle…gym, repeat. The weeks were flying by and I reached my peak mileage at 25km before I started to taper down. Silent panic set in, as I couldn’t comprehend how far 42,2km was going to be and I didn’t think I was ready for the long day that lay ahead of me.

    I decided to face my marathon by just running and having fun. Besides, it would be a PB as it was going to be my very first marathon ever.

    September 17th, I had the most incredible experience, as I took to the streets of Cape Town steadily, without looking at my watch pretty much most of the way. I promised not to take photos with my phone as I needed to give this my all. It was indeed time to run a marathon. The kilometers seemed to be dropping fast and before I knew it, I had passed the 32km mark, feeling strong. The only thing going through my head was “WOW Bernie, this is the furthest you have ever run”.

    So, I smiled to myself and just kept running. The Sub-5 Hour bus had been just in front of me at least half of the race and I wondered if I could catch them and try and stay with them to the end. I had nothing to lose and so I put my foot on the gas. Without comprehending exactly how it had all happened, I passed through the finish line of my very first marathon in 4:58. I was elated. Bernie, Look at you! A marathon runner!!!

    I was never meant to run more than 5 Kilometers, let alone 42,2Km. A year ago I was a couch-potato mother of 2 busy boys, battling to jog 10Km’s and now, here I stand at the finish line of an International Gold Standard Marathon, as a proud finisher. I also just qualified for the Old Mutual 2 Oceans Ultra Marathon. I never wore short sleeves because I hated my flabby arms and I hid behind the safety of my sloppy tracksuit pants. All the hard work had paid off.

    My so-called “friends” convinced me to grow-a pair and enter 2 Oceans Ultra 2018 because I had already qualified. Once again, I called my coach Sam and asked her if she thought there was any chance I would be able to do it – and she agreed with them! A wave of nausea hit me when I received the confirmation email that I had successfully entered my first ultra-marathon.

    Sam reduced my December training to half of what I had become accustomed as my training and races had been intensive doing back to back half marathons, Jo’burg’s 32Km Tough One road race followed by the 94.7 cycle challenge in November. I was tired and my excitement for running was waning. So I kept my legs turning in the holidays and enjoyed my down time with my family.

    Panic set in mid-January 2018 as I had entered a Marathon at the end of the month. I seemed to remember feeling fitter at the start of 2017 than this year. Sam got me back on track quickly. The only difference was that my youngest son had started Grade 1 and the demands of homework as well as my work commitments had literally doubled overnight. I found myself more tired and with less time on my hands to get out and run, cycle and gym. I battled to get out of bed with my 4 am alarm and my 5am alarm was even tougher.

    My husband has been the most supportive partner throughout my journey. So with my crazy goal, a mere 3 months away, he made the decision to sacrifice his cycling time to allow me to fit in my running. He agreed to reduce his races and the rest of the time, help me with our 2 sons, as well as join me on the road for some very necessary training runs. I couldn’t have wished for a better person to be my rock and new-found running partner. I got through my second Marathon, in 5:00:32.

    February running was HARD. My work schedule was jam packed and took preference, plus I was already missing out on a lot of family time with my boys. I just couldn’t fit in my training as I had done so in the past and I started to get very stressed. I didn’t want to go run this 2 Oceans ultra any more.

    My pace had dropped and no matter how much I willed it on, I simply wasn’t getting any faster! I was just drained, very emotional and the nerves had kicked in.

    Working late nights and waking up before sunrise was taking its toll on me. There was no possible way I would be able to get through this. Coach Sam kept adjusting my program weekly to ensure I could get some training in. At this stage, any training was better than o training at all.  I started to analyze my running stats and set myself up for disappointment as the numbers kept telling me that I wouldn’t finish the “World’s most beautiful marathon” before the 7-hour cut off.

    It was a month away and I became a weekend-binge runner. It wasn’t ideal, but it was the only time I had available to train. The greater obstacle was my headspace. I had to convince myself that I was going to finish this thing I started, even if it meant a 6:59:59. What if I missed the cut off and I got stopped half way? What if I made it through to the finish line after cut off and NO medal?

    Running wasn’t fun anymore. Sam explained to me in a heart to heart, that if I wasn’t having fun, I shouldn’t be doing it. She was so right. Running is supposed to be fun! I started running because it made me happy. I needed that reality check and realized that no matter how hard it is, running will always be fun and the achievements that come with every goal I smash are worth the pain.

    The 31st of March 2018 crept up on me and as I sat of the ground amongst thousands of people in my starting batch at the 49th 2 Oceans Ultra Marathon, I was mesmerized that I had made it that far.

    I got here! I qualified! I went quiet. I took it all in and looked around me, I was nostalgic and contemplative. I knew it was time to run when I heard the national anthem and then the canon bang which signified the start of the race. It was too late now and all I could do was run with my heart and make the most of this once-in –a-lifetime experience.

    It was a congested start in batch E and I walked, then jogged and as the field thinned out, I got into a steady rhythm and was running. I decided then to just give it my best. What an incredible journey this has been.

    I lived in that moment. I hadn’t seen a lot of Cape Town before. I was a running tourist. The moment I got to Chapman’s Peak – I got goosebumps – what a spectacular place. I have never been there. I walked as I knew I had the time to play with, but when I turned around and saw thousands of runners heading towards me, with the most breathtaking view, it was biblical. I quickly pulled my phone out and took a photo. For those few seconds, that’s all that mattered to me. I put my phone away fast and continued to run until I reached the 42Km mark in 5 hours and then the hard work begun.

    The elevation en-route to Constantia Nek was insane. I walked and enjoyed the vibe! When I reached the peak, I was psyched up and ready to go get my medal at the finish line. I was so excited and proud! I ran and ran and ran…my adrenalin took over and the Km’s were flying past.

    With just 3kms to go and the last little bump of a hill to go, I walked. I walked the 54th Kilometer and I reflected. I then pulled out all the stops and used everything I had left, to run the last 2Km stretch home. What an amazing feeling entering the grounds at UCT and seeing all these people cheering for me, my biggest fans, my husband Pedro and my amazing boys Gabriel and Rafael amongst them.

    The ugly cry took hold! I had a few meters to go. I waved and blew a kiss to them. They had supported me and followed my journey from the very beginning and here it was – the moment had finally come! I became an Ultra Marathon runner that day in 6:48. I was a finisher, I got the medal to show the world.

    I still cannot believe I did the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon! I get emotional thinking about it. Did I really do that I keep asking myself? YES, you did Bernie – and this is only the beginning.

    Bernadette da Silva

    MPG Athlete, Mother and Wife

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  • Accuracy of MPG … it boggles the mind!
    February 26, 2018

    Iron Man, Comrades, Marathons, Mountain biking and every other derivative thereof needs dedication and training.

    About 15 years ago someone wrote an article of the people that just plodded along “hoping to finish” an Iron Man. I was quite upset, because even “hoping to finish” seemed an unreachable achievement for an average Jo like myself. A mom of two with a full-time job and no particular skills in any type of sport.

    MPG changed this outlook for me. I could train to be better, get better results and maybe even dream to one day participate in a world championship event…It taught me to believe in myself with realistic goals.  Your coach will inspire, give advice and listen to you – to your story and your concerns.

    The training program is designed to fit your needs, disciplines and protects you from over or under training.

    It gives you expert opinions from your coach and with scientific algorithms a fail proof training plan.

    MPG makes you a BETTER you!

    A picture tells a thousand words…

     

  • MPG Sponsored Marathon Runner in Lesotho by Bokaako Augostines
    February 21, 2018

    I started my Journey with MPG just over a year and a bit ago. I found them on Facebook and decided to give it a try and registered for a try. Before training with MPG I had no formal training or coaching so I thought this would be a good idea.

    MPG decided to help me out since I don’t have much resources and decided to sponsor my training and since then my running has been taken to the next level.

    Before MPG my fastest 1Km time was 3m:05sec but now I can clock a respectable 2min:45sec and I feel my running is moving in the right direction.

    My Coach John Middlewick is very good, very humble and always helps me and pushes me in the right direction. He gives me advice on race nutrition, what and when to eat and the why.

    John and MPG have helped changed my running completely and now I know what to do on a daily basis as I have a structured personalized program to follow

    My PB for full marathon is 2h:33m at Maritzburg City Marathon in Kwazulu Natal and my PB for half marathon is 1h:09m at Taba Nchu

    Bokaako Augostines

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  • The Journey of a newbie Triathlete
    February 14, 2018

    “Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway!”

     

    After a few years of running and cycling, in August 2017 I decided it was time to tackle Ironman. The only thing that stopped me in the past was my swimming… or lack thereof. I hadn’t ever swum and it was a seriously scary barrier in my life. When I was at school, I just stood in the water. Never had the courage to muster a stroke or even attempt a length in the pool. I hated the feeling of my head under water and I never trusted my ability to allow my body to float in water. So I lived the better part of my 31 years on this earth with an overwhelming fear of water.

    So now I had to tackle this fear. I contacted Cara Lee (Recommended by my friend David Bellairs) at Virgin Active in Claremont. My first session was on 7 August 2017. She slowly helped me get over my fear and in just 5 sessions, I was swimming up to 2km in my training sessions. Slowly but surely I was getting stronger and my confidence started growing in the water.

    So the next step was to take on my first triathlon. I picked the sprint distance event at the Miway Cape Ultra at Theewaterskloof Dam on 24 September 2017. It didn’t seem too daunting as it was only a 600m swim, 20km cycle and a 5km run.

    But this presented me with another problem… an open-water swim. If there is one thing that freaks me out the most, it’s a swim where I cannot see a thing underneath me. I unfortunately did not have any open-water practice swims so I was going in blind.

    The last problem that I was faced was that I was going to be swimming in a mass group start which takes my claustrophobia to a whole new level. I was already worried that some underwater demon was going to drag me into the depths of the dam and now I have to worry about other swimmers that were going to punch me, kick me and swim over me.

    So with all these things floating in my mind, I arrived at Theewaterskloof on race day more nervous than a Grade 1 Pupil with an oversize blazer and a school backpack big enough to fit a club gazebo in. I racked my bike, and put my cycle and run bags on the rack. Slowly put on my wetsuit and meandered to the race briefing opposite the main stage. I gingerly walked around looking for any friends that I could talk to, to try and calm my nerves. I found a few MPG athletes that reassured me that everything would be ok.

    Race briefing done and we all started walking towards the water. And because of the horrific drought that Cape Town is going through, the walk to the water’s edge was quite a long one. The water was bitterly cold and within minutes I couldn’t feel my feet.

    The start of the race was signalled by loud horn and every athlete, besides me, scurried hastily to get to the first buoy. I slowly walked further into the water and then started swimming. Within about 10m I had a panic attack and freaked out. At that moment, I had forgotten everything that Cara had taught me and I was doing a slow backstroke to try and regain some sanity.

    After a few more strokes on my back, I decided to go back and see if I could get some momentum and comfort in the water. Nothing was working. I then resorted to a mixture of doggy paddle, back-stroke and “freestyle” to try and get through the 600m swim. I was not going to let one of the officials pull me out the water. I had trained too hard for that. After 24mins and 31 seconds, and 756m of swimming in “zig-zag”, I had finished the swim.

    I started sprinting up to transition to get my wetsuit off and get on my new Giant Trinity Advanced Pro 2 TT Bike. I had been waiting for this for a long time. I got onto the bike course and my legs were so sore and heavy that I couldn’t put my fast bike to good use. So I went as hard as I could and started to feel a little better. After a while, I was back in transition changing into my running shoes and to something that I was so familiar with. I started the run and again I had nothing in my legs. But I pushed through and could maintain a slow, but steady pace.

    1hr45m57s was the time that popped up when I crossed that finish line. What an unbelievable feeling of accomplishment! And it might seem like I had a bad time during my first triathlon but it was one of the most exhilarating feelings that I have experienced. Massive thanks to my Coach Freddy Lampret and for getting me ready for the triathlon! Will always remember my first triathlon and the special journey that I had to embark on to get there!

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  • The value of strength training (part 1)
    February 5, 2018

    A very debatable topic in coaching circles is the addition of strength training. Some coaches rely fully on “sport-specific” strength training where the strength work is done in the sport itself, while some coaches include additional strength training in the gym. Some coaches throw it out altogether.

    Lets unpack a bit of what both science and logic tell us about the specificity of movement:

    As an example, cyclists train all their legs muscles to a very large degree, yet a cyclist is not automatically a good runner, although the exact same muscles are trained and these muscles would be highly efficient in terms of metabolic activity as well as the ability to produce work. So, we see from a very practical example, that all training is not equal, and scientific studies have consistently shown that a muscle needs to be trained not only to perform work, but also, the neuromuscular system needs to be activated in the same pattern considering that a single muscle does not work in isolation, but rather as a component of a movement pattern. The muscle will contract and relax in rhythm with other muscles in a pattern that is specific to the movement being done. It is the type of contraction (concentric – where the muscles shortens when activated, or eccentric – where the muscle lengthens under load) and the timing of these muscle activities in relation to other muscles, performed repetitively, that leads to a sport-specific conditioning.

    The theory of why strength training should be beneficial:

    Below is a list of some of the improvements we would expect to have, theoretically, from strength training:

    1) Strength training should result in increased power in the specific movement patterns that have been stressed and trained, under loads that exceed normal activity.
    2) Increased muscle mass should provide us with a greater capacity to store energy in the form of glycogen, therefore we should have an increased endurance.
    3) Increased muscle mass should positively affect metabolism so that we become leaner. More muscle burns more calories, therefore, at least theoretically, we would expect a lower body fat %.
    4) Increased strength should result in reduced occurence of injury, as the body is more robust and simply a stronger unit.
    5) Strength training should theoretically delay or prevent the natural decline in muscle mass over the course of the natural ageing process.

    These are only some of the theoretical benefits of strength training, and as mentioned before, whatever strength training is chosen, the movement patterns need to be specific to the sport in order for a performance benefit to be seen in the sport that one is training for.

    In part 2 we will have a look at the current research to see whther these assumptions and theoretical implications hold any scientific water, and in part 3 we will put it all together in a practical way, so that the inclusion or exclusion of strength training can be understood and put into practice.

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