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Ultra Marathon Recon 2: Chapman's Peak descent

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Chapman's Peak descent - steady and controlled to cash in later

Yesterday, we had a look at the climb of Chapman's Peak, taking you from 29km to 33.7km, and some of the most amazing views any race can boast anywhere in the world.

Today, we look at the descent - the same views, and the bonus is that you get to fly downhill!

But therein lies the big catch...

This section, a seeminly innocuous 4.5km that takes you down to Hout Bay, is potentially one of the most "dangerous" phases of the race. It's here that you will face enormous temptation to push the pace, to make up for lost time, or to launch into the final half-marathon (you've got just over 21km to go) as you head to the finish.

Problem is, your work is far from done. Once you get down into Hout Bay, the road starts climbing up. Gradually at first, then steeper, then steeper still, until eventually, at around 44km, it kicks up to a brutal 9 to 10% on Constantia Nek, and that's where the real work will begin. And so many times, runners will cost themselves by pushing too hard on Chapman's Peak descent. They'll only "pay" later, on Constantia Nek, where the legs finally start singing, but the energy was actually spent on this segment.

Stuck on repeat - patience and control!

So if I sounded like I was stuck on repeat in yesterday's video, then prepare for more of the same here - it's all about patience and control. It's such a beautiful section of the race, not only because of the magnificent views, but the road surface is excellent and it's a descent that is not too steep. It's not so steep that you have to hold yourself back for fear of losing a knee, but that's what makes it challenging, because if you wanted to really let you, you could fly down here!

That's why the most important advice I can give you is to aim to run the first few kilometers of this descent at more or less the same pace as your normal flat running speed, or your overall average. For example, if you are aiming to finish in say 5:36, which is 6 min/km, then I would recommend that you run this descent at 6 min/km, and not faster.

You understand that it's possible to go faster, but by setting a "speed limit", you force yourself to go slower, and that will save your legs for later. So again (sorry for repeating) - be patient, be controlled, hold it back, and tell yourself that you're investing energy on this descent, and you'll spend it big time later!

Don't get sucked in by people who do fly by you - rather take note of their numbers and club colours, and pat yourself on the back for a job well done in 45 minutes' time when it is you flying past them on the climb to the Nek!

So that's the key concept.

Questions and comments beneath if you have any!

Ross

P.S. Next time, we'll look at another tricky little section, the section past Cecilia Forest to Kirstenbosch bottom gate, which features a camber, some undulations and really short but steep descents!

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