UTCT Training Diary Pt. 3 – The Unfortunate Inevitable..

by | Oct 17, 2022 | Run, Story Feature, Training, Training Insights

Josh “Goggins” Stevens is training for the UTCT 100 Miler trail ultra-marathon in Cape Town with no prior ultra-running experience. This is his third training diary entry. Read the series here.

Cape Town Ultra Trail Marathon Race Training For Utct
The journey to 100 miles continues, one step at a time.

Some people may have picked up that the last post was a little delayed. A lot has happened, September was a big month for your boy. Let’s start off with some September stats.

Distance Run316.8km
Elevation Gain14.91km
Time spent running41.30 hours
Number of Bucket Hat selfiesAn almost embarrassing number
Ultras run1
Jobs Obtained1.. Here we go..

Oh No. A Job.

The inevitable joining of the workforce. I started out this 100 Miler adventure as an unemployed varsity graduate in Cape Town with a fair bit of free time on my hands, when I wasn’t trying to find someone to pay me to do work for them at least. I am V stoked that my job hunt is finally over but it makes this whole 100-miler thing a touch more tricky. Well, that’s a bit of an understatement now that I live in Joburg. But we will get back to that in a bit.

September’s focus was completing my first ultra. My training plan had a 50k set for week 3. 50 felt like a lot. 50 is a lot… but some small part of my twisted pain-loving brain decided that it in fact was not enough. So I re-examined my Strava pre-planned route (Strava premium providing the goods), stretched it out here and there, added a loop n’ a wiggle, and managed to push it up to a 60k. 60 fat lonely kilometres that I had to look forward to for 3 weeks.

Cape Town Ultra Trail Marathon Race Training For Utct
Introducing Josh Blackshaw, my new running buddy who casually placed 12th in the Cape Town Trail Marathon last weekend.

September also held my big 2 week 215km training block. I started this off with more or less 3 half marathons in 4 days. The first occurred during the last day of my “Off” week. I was scared for this one, it was my first solo run with new found running buddy Josh Blackshaw, who I knew would put me in a hole. Nevertheless, I plucked up the courage and prepared for a major humbling. Luckily for me, he’d had a large week of running so I didn’t get completely rinsed. 

Well that was at least not until a Cape Storm declared war on us and did its best to pelt us with rain at such high velocity that I was convinced it was piercing the skin. Big day out you could say. Not only did I survive what felt like the apocalypse (Vredehoek really is the windiest place in the frikken world) but I survived a run with Blackshaw as well. Go me.

A rapid start to the training block put the wind in my sails and I was off. Achieving another marathon pb at the back end 100km week 1, putting a further 25 min into my marathon pb. I was unstoppable!

Cape Town Ultra Trail Marathon Race Training For Utct
Pain shows the path to progress.

The following week had my anxiety levels high. Saturday I was going to be running 60kms. And to further add to it, it was my last weekend in Cape Town as I signed my first employment contract and was set to move to Joburg the following week. How the fuck am I gonna train in Joburg? It’s flat as shit and I don’t know any trails and I don’t have time and aahhhhhh! The overthinking was, is and will unfortunately continue to be, incredibly real.

The 60k

I had a lot on my mind and a lot to do. I got up early on Saturday, around 4am, and started my routine. It has become almost automatic at this point. Get dressed, make eggs, drink coffee and contemplate human existence while we give our body a chance to digest breakfast, and then set off just before my existential crisis has a chance to really take hold and induce yet another panic attack. 

Although we started like any other morning, this morning was different. I didn’t have the classic gag reflex when brushing my teeth like I normally did before something big. I had an acceptance that what will be will be, which bled over into a very subtle confidence that I was where I should be. A feeling I hadn’t had in a while.

My route plan was to start at the Mouille Point lighthouse, and work my way through Table Mountain National Park to one of the Kalk Bay lighthouses.

Cape Town Ultra Trail Marathon Race Training For Utct
Click image to view route

I granted myself an incredibly generous two day taper going into this one so I felt incredibly fresh for at least the first km until I started climbing and the tired legs came back. Hello my old friends.

I made good progress out the gate, only slightly obsessing about how slow I was going. Incessantly doing the maths in my head trying to work out my pacing. “If I have run 7km in 56 min I am doing 8km/ hr which is 8min/km? Wait… no that’s not how time works? Or is it? Frik, I just fell over again” was more or less my internal dialog until I got to the top of platteklip when I was sure I was going at slower than 10min/km and the task ahead of me really sank in. I was about 12 km deep and now I had to run a 50k. 

Slowly I crept forward, progress was faster having bashed out Platteklip early on. 5 hours in I was feeling good, the sun was out and the world was a happier place. I reached Noordhoek peak a bit later and stopped for a cheeky bitta lunch. Who would have thought, me? Eating? No bloody ways! Fueled by a half panini, I pressed on and quickly hit the marathon mark. Just 20km to go. 

Entering Silvermine 2, my euphoric state continued. Nav was a bit shaky but the spirits were high, pressing on knowing that I could pop down to Kalk Bay was tough, but that was by design, the whole “Get fucking hard” thing playing out. Thanks real Dave Goggins.

By now I had ventured into the unknown, pushing through kilometre 47 I had now officially run further than I ever had. But I have been running almost 7 hours and I can feel that my mind was starting to get a lil unhinged (well a lil more unhinged than normal). This started off with a bit of poor decision making, running km 50 and 51 at a sub 5 pace before encountering a slight uphill and immediately panicking that I had burnt all my matches. 

Cape Town Ultra Trail Marathon Race Training For Utct
I’ll spare you an onslaught of bucket hat selfies but you can rest assured my close friends have received more than they ever asked for, snapped above Hout Bay at Noordhoek Peak.

It was around this point that my trusty AirPods (or as I like to call them, my lil serotonin fairies) died which left me alone 8 hours into a run. Goodbye strange bongo music. What I found most surprising was not that I was laughing hysterically (by now we all know that I am funny as shit) but that it took me at least 20 minutes to realise that I was having full blown conversations with myself out loud. 

Hitting Kalk Bay peak deep into the 50’s I looked down at my trusting Garmin Forerunner 235 and to my absolute shock it showed that my battery was gonna die soon. I had a fat zero out of 4 bars of battery which meant I had to haul ass to get home before my watch died. 

Descending on my now quite old and crusty shoes was always gonna be a task, but now I wanted to do it fast, on v tired legs. Lowkey convinced I was gonna die, I sent it. No risk, no story right 😉 I pinned my ears back and gave it all I had. Slowly picking off the kms as I got closer and closer to my goal. Hitting Boyes drive I knew it was over and now I could just enjoy it and take in as I cruised on down to the lighthouse.

In a rather poetic moment, I ended the run and looked up from my watch, 61 km deep, to see who else but Ryan Sandes, with child, standing just a few metres off in front of me. I almost expected him to turn to me and say “I’ve been expecting you”. Maybe it was just an apparition..

(At least one of you have picked up on the fact that I was now in Kalk Bay a long ass way from my car, but I was very lucky to have Jono and Robs, two of my besties, mission all the way out to pick me up, love you guys <3 )

The New Normal  

The last few weeks have been weird, a new city, a job, no mountain and, probably most concerningly, no time. Finishing work after sunset and being nonfunctional in the afternoons if I wake up early are some early teething issues I am working through but we are getting there. 

I got out to the cradle of humankind during my first weekend and managed to absolutely total myself between the heat and the altitude, a bit of a baptism of fire to running in Gauteng.

A Spontaneous Adventure

The Uitsoek Mountain Marathon, a lesson that chaos doesn’t breed success. An impromptu plan to run a marathon after 3 hours of sleep and no breakfast. I did a takeover of the WILD AIR Running instagram page and documented this, so many of you know how this went. BAD. Bit embarrassing that I can’t work food out. In my defence, I did experience the rare double bonk though. I almost lost it around 15km but pulled it back quite well, and then held it together until the all mightiest of blowups at 37 and a half km. My lungs were done, my kidneys were done, my soul done. 

Cape Town Ultra Trail Marathon Race Training For Utct
Scenes that I most certainly am missing!

Never before had I been in so much pain without something being majorly wrong. The death march home humbled me, I made it but it was fucking wild. It gave me a new perspective on just how deep into the pain cave you can go. Won’t lie it has left me scared about how much further into it one could possibly venture. I know I will find a deeper darker corner, hopefully my mental will hold up.

Where do we go from here? 

I have missed my running goals for the last 2 weeks, I just haven’t planned my life well enough. My hope of hitting those big 140+ km weeks may be dead but I still plan to get my 50 miler in as one last attempt at developing some sort of race craft. Idk where to do this, the best plan would likely be to mission out to the berg but my budget isn’t looking awfully healthy so laps of Joburg’s Delta park seem to be at the top of the list at the moment. Feel like it could be a vibe? It would allow for somewhat of a race sim by allowing me to get back to my car once every other hour or so which is about how often I will hit aid stations while doing the 100-miler. 

So many possibilities and so much excitement to come but we are starting to get near. Less than 2 months to go, can’t wait.

Live Fast, Die Last
Memento Mori
And finally, yours in suffering 
Josh “Goggins” Stevens