Two Oceans Marathon Route Guide – Go All In

28 Mar 2014 Posted by

A very South African-centric post this one, for which I apologize, but perhaps those of who reading from around the world will be sufficiently inspired to make it out to run in one of the world’s most beautiful running races in the future as a result.

This is a guide to the Two Oceans Ultra and Half-Marathons, which I’ve been able to put together with a great team from adidas South Africa.  The purpose of the Route Guide is to give you a view of what lies ahead of you on race day, now only 21 days away on the 19th April.

The guide is divided up into two parts – the Ultra Marathon, the 56km ‘main event’ that takes runners through the Cape Peninsula and over one of the world’s iconic drives, Chapman’s Peak, before a challenging finish over Constantia Nek and Kirstenbosch.   Then there is the Half Marathon Guide, also challenging for its two big climbs of Edinburgh Drive and Southern Cross Drive.

The adidas team went out and filmed the key sections of the route, and I worked with their amazing abilities to put together what I really think is unique in the world of running, and what I hope adds value to your training.  It really does help to know what lies in store, to anticipate and then conquer the challenges.

So without further delay, here is the Route Guide, the “reconnaissance”, of the Two Oceans Marathon.  Enjoy, and feel free to share among all those who will be running this great race, now and in the future!

Ross

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The 21.1km Half-Marathon Route Guide

Let’s kick off with the half marathon

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1. Edinburgh Drive

The 21km race starts with a relatively challenging climb, soon after 1km.  It’s not particularly long, at only 2km, and the first part is not steep either, but it’ll let you know you’re in a challenging run right away.  Don’t be alarmed at how out of breath you are within the first 10 minutes!  There’s actually more ‘danger’ to your overall race once you go over the top, because then you have a long descent, and the temptation to push hard to make up for lost time can be great.  That’s a big no-no, because you’ll pay for it with weak legs later, on the climbs that await in the second half.  So be relaxed, find a rhythm early, and try not to get too carried away or “deceived” by the adrenaline, crowd support and darkness (which can make judgment quite tricky).  Key words here?  Patience and control.

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2. Southern Cross Drive

The most challenging section of the race, Southern Cross Drive ascends more or less from the halfway point at 10.5km, to 13km at the summit.  The length and timing are part of the challenge, but so is the steepness, which at points touches 10%.  Technically, however, it’s a climb that offers regular reprieve because it goes up in stages.  There is a pull at the bottom, then a flat section, then a very steep section that takes you through 12km, then another relatively flat section, before a final short steep section in the 13th kilometer.  Those flat sections are good opportunities to recover, and so if you have your race plan firmly in place, you can control Southern Cross fairly well.  What you want to avoid is too much stress and a fast early pace.  Key words here are rhythm and mindset – stay “above the line”.

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3. Kirstenbosch

One of the most enjoyable sections of the race because of the tree cover, beauty and great crowd support, the section that runs from 13km to the lower gate of Kirstenbosch just before 17km.  It starts with a nice long descent which is necessary to get your steam back after the climb, and then throws at you a series of bends and climbs that can be a little disruptive to your rhythm, but if you’ve managed the pace well then this is fast, fun section where you can really start to push and aim for a good time.  There are some very steep descents, particularly from the top to the bottom gate of Kirstenbosch, where you may need to hold back more than you want to on tired, eccentrically-damaged legs, but the overall pace here is a lot faster than your planned overall average.  Key concepts: freedom and enjoyment – you’re on the way home, the crowd is fabulous and it’s quick in places.  Just focus on rhythm to deal with the short undulations.

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4. Union Avenue to the finish

The final segment runs the last 3km, from the turn onto Union Avenue (the M3), to the finish of UCT’s “green mile”.  This section is a celebration if you’ve managed the race well, or purgatory if you haven’t!  When you make the left turn (where the video starts), you’ll be struck by a small, but very inconvenient hill, the last thing your legs will want after almost 3km of descending.  It’s very short though, so hang in for 300m and then it’s largely flat to the end.  A final pull in the last 1km leads to you to the offramp, and onto the grass for your victory procession.  Key at this stage?  You’re so close to the finish, it’s either all systems go, or it’s about hanging in there with only a few minutes to go.  Either way, mental toughness and training.

Then…enjoy your medal, beer, coke and rest!

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The 56km Ultra-Marathon Route guide

The Ultra Marathon is one of the most beautiful events in the world.  If you have a running bucket list, put this race on it.  You will not be disappointed. It’s extremely challenging, with two big climbs that are beyond anything you’ll see in the Major Marathons, for example.  Heartbreak Hill in Boston, for example, would not even feature in the pre-race talk of Two Oceans!  But the challenge is the value, so embrace it!

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1. Chapmans Peak Up

I decided to break Chapman’s Peak into the ascent and descent portion, because they’re important for different reasons.  The UP part of Chapmans begins shortly after halfway, and it was a pretty easy, flat first half.  The second half is quite different, so you have to have your wits about you, pacing wise.  The ‘true halfway’ mark of the race is probably at around 29km, which is where you want to be able to double your time to get a finish-time.  For instance, if your aim is 6 hours, then the target for 29km is 3 hours, and not at 28km.

The ascent of Chapmans Peak is not all that difficult.  It gets challenging in the final kilometer where it is steeper, but the first 4 or 5km are very gradual.  You’ll have plenty of capacity to admire the incredible view.  Don’t be deceived by “Little Chappies”, and the descent that comes only 1km after you start – there’s more to come.  Overall, the key here is to be patient and relaxed.  It’s the first climb of the race, so it is natural that your legs will suddenly protest and you may well feel sluggish.  Don’t judge your feelings too quickly – there is a long way to go!

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2. Chapmans Peak Down

The descent of Chapman’s Peak is actually a very, very important part of the race.  You might think it is innocuous, and easy.  But you’d be at risk of falling into the trap that will claim so many runner’s races.  That’s because there is a real temptation to push the descent hard, either to make up lost time, or to really build yourself a ‘buffer’ ahead of the hard climb of Constantia Nek, or perhaps because you think to yourself that it’s just on a half marathon to go, and you need to go hard.  All scenarios are potentially dangerous because the descent is long enough, and just steep enough (especially at the bottom) that you can really take it out of your legs.  That downhill running, and the eccentric muscle work, can ‘soften your legs up’, and the price for that will be paid a few kilometers later when the road starts to head up again, for the Nek.

So it’s really very important to hold back here.  From the elite to the back-of-the-pack, runners go too hard too soon, and pay later, so try to exercise control and patience, and rather make up time on the climb than now.  Physiology demands a stiff interest repayment!

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3. Constantia Nek

This is the most challenging part of the Ultra Marathon, and is a really difficult climb.  Race winners have walked sections of it, because particularly at the top, it is steep (10%) for a relatively long time.  The final 2 to 3km are particularly hard, and the bends and tree cover make it an interminable climb, one where you can’t see the target until the very end.  It demands a great deal of mental strength, because you start a very gradual climb just after running a marathon, as you leave Hout Bay, and then it gets steeper and steeper until those final 2km.  Very challenging, and the source of most people’s war stories after the race!

However, the challenge is the value, as I’ve said, and so you must remain ‘above the line’ here, with positive thoughts, focus on the race strategy and rely on the training you’ve done.  If you have managed the day well, then you can run this climb strongly.  To repeat, the problems will come if you’ve overdone it early, then this becomes doubly difficult.  So the keys are strength, manage your expectations (it’s a steep climb, so it will be slow) and just stay beneath your limits for now.

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4. Kirstenbosch

At this point, you join up with the Half Marathon route, and so yes, I know i’ve already described these sections in the descriptions above, but to save you from scrolling up and down, I’m just repeating them here…

One of the most enjoyable sections of the race because of the tree cover, beauty and great crowd support, the section that runs from 13km to the lower gate of Kirstenbosch just before 17km.  It starts with a nice long descent which is necessary to get your steam back after the climb, and then throws at you a series of bends and climbs that can be a little disruptive to your rhythm, but if you’ve managed the pace well then this is fast, fun section where you can really start to push and aim for a good time.  There are some very steep descents, particularly from the top to the bottom gate of Kirstenbosch, where you may need to hold back more than you want to on tired, eccentrically-damaged legs, but the overall pace here is a lot faster than your planned overall average.  Key concepts: freedom and enjoyment – you’re on the way home, the crowd is fabulous and it’s quick in places.  Just focus on rhythm to deal with the short undulations.

Top

5. Union Avenue to the finish

The final segment runs the last 3km, from the turn onto Union Avenue (the M3), to the finish of UCT’s “green mile”.  This section is a celebration if you’ve managed the race well, or purgatory if you haven’t!  When you make the left turn (where the video starts), you’ll be struck by a small, but very inconvenient hill, the last thing your legs will want after almost 3km of descending.  It’s very short though, so hang in for 300m and then it’s largely flat to the end.  A final pull in the last 1km leads to you to the offramp, and onto the grass for your victory procession.  Key at this stage?  You’re so close to the finish, it’s either all systems go, or it’s about hanging in there with only a few minutes to go.  Either way, mental toughness and training.

And that’s a wrap.  Thanks for the adidas team for going all in and making this happen.  I hope that it is valuable and helpful for you!

Good luck!

Ross

 

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