Thursday, October 27, 2016

African Centurion 2016


I am still asking myself why I entered this event not so much in because its to tough or anything, just why. Let's try and work it out!!

Over the years I progressed in distance I have sought help from various places but in the beginning I learned most from Patty and her merry band of walkers at the walking site. In 2013 I remember this new guy arrived Rob Robertson, and boy did he progress. I encouraged him then no sooner than having to do his debut Marathon on a treadmill at home because of a snow storm cancelling his planned event, the next thing he's eclipsing all my times, after a year of a walking .... then I hear he plans to do 100 miles and I think that's just dof ( dumb for non safricans). And boy he nails it- aha I could never do that so many laps around a wee track.... I feel safe , then he does another.. then he wants to get all 6 except Malaysia does not happen anymore.. guess they not so popular... then some Ozzie joins the walking site guess he met Rob on one of the weird races. next thing I get a message Whats up with this Robben Island Centurion?  I google and believe it or not google does not lie... it appears something is on the go. then lo and behold Rob jets off  meets up with John Killmartin and together they try and get dizzy, 396 laps of lane 3 on a track is 100 miles.... You will never catch me doing that.... Then we hear Robben Island is 20 laps times 8km... my heart says I could do that my head says "Call a psychiatrist!!!!" ....
Speak to Kypie... sounds like fun.. maybe but hey we concentrate on Comrades-- see previous post for that story....

When Entries open I get a message from Rob he's in.. John's next  Kypie not keen.. So I leave it.. but what if we don't get enough response... will they cancel it... In a moment of confusion I enter . but what will my wife do, no ways will she second me by sitting on stool... I know her better than that. So we start agitating people , everyone I walk with hears about African Centurion, but not much interest... About now is when I tried to do some digital canvasing but the official site was not cohesive to that  , Comrades Marathon Face Book Page , no interest ... Comrades Marathon Walkers Facebook page,... not  interest.  Whats this Friends of  page idea.. lets try it. So https://www.facebook.com/groups/275188149515641/ was born.. This seemed to work gradually we got together various teams.. broken leg apart we seemed top all get there. We had some  interesting planning sessions - talk about the blind leading the blind. The novice giving advice- Why because I am walking further?

So enough background. Liz and I decided to drive down so we could take more stuff.. Tobie Reyneke  the knowledgeable 34 x hundred miler  gave me  some advice, you need good sleep in the days prior -- possibly his biggest cause of baling this time.. Not being the greatest sleeper I though get a mild sleeping pill. In the aisle with Somnil in one hand I ask for stay awake tablets,  the look was awesome! " Not taking those together are you???"  Tobie also said rather have a stay-awake tab and not need it than want it and not have it.. would the bakkie ( Ute) be big enough...   Any way Sunday night I take my Somnil and on Monday we head off for our walk.. Liz thought I was at the end of the Centurion already, I was walking so slow.. I could not get below 8:30 /km I felt like a Zombie all day , I even slept really well on Monday night...

Tuesday we drive past Colesburg to Safari Farm Park about 680km. please the Somnil has now worn off...I had some issue with a big client but trying to logon via edge to terminal server was not easy but I tried various fixes. I had a good nights  sleep again before going through to Protea Farm in Montagu  but we went the scenic route through  Meiringspoort and Ladismith before a quick wine tasting in Barrydale    

As we arrive at Protea farm I discover that the fixes are not working and  .... Oh well carry on looking but no success.. There is no cell phone coverage in the 3 walled room.   We relearned our wind geography with the Anabatic and Catabatics keeping us on our toes.  The next day was a wine tasting day  along with more rusks and dried fruit... Maybe too much dried fruit I am not sure but my Diarrhea started around midnight I lost count of times.  I regretted missing my sleep. but hey we have to take it on the cheek. We made it to collect our numbers after a stunning drive through farmlands and over Franschoek pass. We progressed to the water front to find the Clock tower... Liz had a beer while the boys had some Eton mess dessert at Quay 4.. Then off to Moulle point and memories from Bay to Bay.

We stayed at our friend Rob in Verdehoek , I had a single glass of white wine followed by Steak and Roast veggies followed by cheesecake followed by final packing and prep.

Diarrhea persisted during the night so I managed get some Imodium from Rob and hoped for the best.  As we waited for the ferry it started to rain .. by the time we boarded the rain was over but the wind was up and the sea was choppy. A number of people took sea sick tablets a few more were not so lucky... we arrived to wait for our bus... I got frustrated and just lugged my provisions box , next time wheels or less provisions, I guess wheels are best.

#### Mistake 1 forgot my footpod after my zombie walk on Monday.

It is hard preparing for a race that starts at midday you feel you have so much time but it goes quickly. I taped  my heels with Zinc Oxide plaster as a prevention for blisters.. I nearly forgot my Microspore nipple plasters, but at least I did remember them.. I did forget to take salt tabs the day before but hey no ones perfect.. We set off to the start   Liz came with  and took some pics.. What a start it was Kypie, John, Petro and myself walking in a bunch for almost half the lap. Fundi charged past like she wanted to win the event.. I tried to settle into a good rhythm and keep moving along. first 11km were completed in 1:27 pretty much on schedule, if I could now stay below 1 hr per 7km lap it would be fine. actually I worked out up to 65 minutes would be fine.

####Gripe 1  The Ninja timing only gave us elapsed time, no laps, no last lap time, no pace etc.. So I had to rely on my Garnin.

Up to my 6 lap all was great then the sun said goodnight and the wind was not happy so I guess it chased the sun even further. Boy did it blow. Gauteng Smilers and Pretoria Strollers were excellent in supporting me... Thank you so much..

#### Mistake 2 I stopped to change my top form day tonight, taking off my white top and using a wicking T under a thermal long sleeve. This separated me from my team support.

#### Mistake 3 I did  not change my shorts for my thermal long johns at the same time as I changed my top. so 2 laps later when I was colder I stopped again. these stops were about 4 minutes each, on laps 7 and 9          

#### Concern #1 Being at the coast one expects plenty of Oxygen but I was finding I could not breath deeply.  I tried my various  breathing methods but nothing helped. Almost took up Conita on her offer of an Asthma pump. This stayed like this  to the end and never improved. On though about it well afterwards when I was able to breath normally again anyway.

I was now walking alone and struggling with calves and hamstrings threatening to cramp. I decided to take it as easy as my pacing limits would allow.  It was around this time that Rob Robertson passed me , walking his customary slow but steady pace. As he passed glanced at my watch watch I had slowed to 8:13 which is Robs pace. He said everyone goes through a tough patch and it will improve. I decided  to aanhouwen - just persevere. as long as I could keep my pace below 9min/km I had a chance of success.  At one stage I thought I had become too slow but convinced myself to keep going a bit further
        
At some stage I  needed the loo and took another Imodium. By now I had eaten from  a wide source of preserved Ginger , Milo bar , Hot Milo, Hot Chicken Stock, Licorice, mars bars, a peanut butter jungle oats bar and most laps I got energade as well as drinking water on my laps.  Funnily I could not eat biltong but did take some salt tabs..   Never touched coke.
I had meant to  recharge my watch but somehow got that wrong and managed to lockup my watch. so that was now useless, thanks Kypie for loaning me your watch, even though the the data fields were different I still got the last lap pace and actual time. This really helped me.   Also the Aleve helped me to reduce the fear of cramping.. not normally one for drugs but in limited cases it is ok. I was peeing regularly showing I was hydrated, on Comrades I never need to pee as I control my input.

During the night somehow Hans waited for me I think and we set off again. He tried to speed me up but I really feared cramps so walked as fast as I could but holding back so as to keep going. It was great to have the support of Gauteng Smilers again and Conita from Pretoria Strollers joined in one lap with Hans. We had numerous laps where every time I came round I was taking 2 laps off- yes I was optimistic!! I watched the moon rise and saw some absolutely beautiful views of Table Mountain, Industrial Cape Town , and some distant views of Bloubergstrand, all these keep me focused on my task.  Walking the  sunrise loop with Liz  was mind blowing. Liz was amazing and did a double loop to support me.

 
     

   
Eventually my team confirmed sub 8:55 to the end and I checked myself and thought actually  9:30 is safe so set out to try and keep going.  It was amazing to say only 35km to go just over a Tough One and actually feel that I could make it.
Unfortunately John Killmartin baled at about midnight with blisters, Liz took the photos. He tried another lap but it was just too sore. Sorry Mate better luck next time, maybe try my two thin socks option.

My Hero Rob Robertson caught me with about 3 laps to go we walked some way together that  was really special. TFOF is a really hard dilemma - the fear of failure  that is-  when Gertrude went past in fear that she was too slow we said easy its safe, but no Rob and Gertude set off on charge.  Maybe Kypie was not as calm as me! Waar is daie donderse Dave nou!
On my second last lap Werner who had baled from vomiting during the night was  down in bottom section near the  sea supporting the last finishers. he gave some energy and a dose of water down my back. Thanks Werner .. on my final lap I was more confident and avoided the cold water and was really chuffed walking my last lap with m,y biggest supporter Liz..





My Diarrhea stopped only in Tuesday night. Guess it was a tough bug!
All I can say is thank you to all who in any way encouraged me , challenged me or inspired me to become a Centurion.
I am the 8th or 9th  South African to become a Centurion. the first was in 1912!!
I am the 18 person to finish the inaugural African Centurion.
Less than 2000 people have become centurions most of these are UK centurions!

Who is gonna join me and become a Centurion?
Thanks to https://www.facebook.com/roland.quarshie.9?fref=ts for the pictures more can be found on his page!!! 

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Comrades 2016

What a day..





So we drove the route, as we did Kypie's eyes got wider and wider, fortunately we stopped just after halfway  we decided a craft beer was in order to calm our nerves poor Kypie only had a diet coke!! These hill are something else, let no one kid you that this is a down only race....


We caught the bus to the start to alleviate stress, except our bus was so slow it was almost in first gear most of the way. Once in Maritzburg the traffic was so bad we abandoned the bus and walked to the start..  Instead of being in  the front of H (the last batch) we were pretty much in the middle.. The atmosphere is awesome, as we move forward when the ropes come down, batch by batch we edged forward. We got to where E batch started off which is about normal.  Out of the blue Heather popped up behind us so great to start with friends around us. We had me met up with Giep and  Leana the night before, and seen them enroute to the pens but could not see them at the start.
    
I spent much time analyzing times vs hopes and expectations ..  eventually I worked out a reasonably simple calculation. If each 30km leg  took less than 4 hrs we were fine... I started my stopwatch as planned at the gun, and my Garmin at the mat.    It took  8 minutes to cross the line.. We settled in to a comfortable pace and went through 30km in 3:46 from the mat in 7:33/km pace add the 8 minutes in and we were on about 7:40.
At around 19km we caught  Giep who did not look happy and did not respond positively when I motioned him to join us as planned.  
The 12 hr bus passed us at about the 5km , I knew they were going to fast but let them go. At around  25km just before Camperdown we caught them- - my biggest bugbear on comrades is these busses, they block the road and make it "impossible" to pass. We went on the grass to overtake, I think I heard Buks (the bus driver) comment as we went past. We hit a down hill through Camperdown so upped the pace to get away ..   a few km later we met up with Mavis Morris another walker albeit without Ws.. She walked with us for quite a long way just fading a bit on the hills but on checking her splits she was only a few meters behind us.

I knew we had to maintain a good pace so kept going on the uphills and allowing Kypie to catch up on the downs. I am much stronger on hills - note to self Kypie needs to do severe hill work before next year. Kypie complained a bit about shins , piriformis, etc but hey its a long day and we all have pains.  I hurt my left knee a few months ago going toooo fast on a dog run and that was hurting a bit not real pain just a niggle but enough to cause angst.. We settled in to a rhythm and plodded  along.... and along.... My but its a long way. 

I try and maintain hydration to a level that I never need to stop.. Kypie was not so successful, but still managed to keep up. We passed 1000 hills chef school but they were not handing out beers for tasting! oh well better keep going.   
  
We went through 60km in around 3:53 on my Garmin so we had a few more minutes in the bag. Going up Cowies the last major hill Kypie fell back a bit , but I had told him about the downhill, except for another damn bus, dawdling down ... then they jogged a bit till the road narrowed and tehy slowed to a crawl. We went off passing on the grass again then they started  jogging so we rejoined. Kypie confirmed that sub 8:30/km would get him to the end, and I extricated myself from the bus and shot in front , this was around the 70km, I kept looking back but never saw Kypie.. I got into a nice rhythm  and just kept going. Passed  a friend Peter Bosch who had done Jackie Gibson with me , he was battling but I thought he would make it ( later I found out he baled with 3km to go- it is a tough race) Those last few kms just drag on and on and on ... and on. 

We had seen a friend Pottie  a few times along the way and guessed he was seconding his son , with a less than 2km to go Kobus introduced himself as Potties son, its a small world... I was hoping to at least get a 11:3X but just missed out, 2 years ago i did 11:45:03 now 11:40:06 . Job done for me ..
I enjoyed the race , some niggles but always thought and felt comfortable.
My 3 goals were   
"My Goals for Comrades 2016
1 For Liz to finish her 10th Comrades- hope sjhe achieves her goal time
2 For Kypie , Giep and myself to all finish Comrades by walking it...
3 For me to better my down pb of 11:45 and possibly by overall Comrades PB of 11:27"

My awesome wife did an amazing 9:33 so now has her green number.    



Kypie ( 11:50) and I finished as planned , Giep struggled and baled but maybe we can help him more next year if we train together.


I got my down PB, I maintained my pace the whole way. I am very happy

Interesting comparing our pacing



Now to plan the rest of this years races..

Some ideas
Sani Stagger                 http://www.sanistagger.com/
African Centurion        http://www.africancenturion.com/raceinfo.html

Keep walking

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Comrades 2016 - my thoughts

As I prepare for the daunting prospect of propelling my body from Pietermaritzburg to Durban in less than 2 weeks time, sitting here with a cold front deluging buckets of water from the heavens I wonder what weather we will have on the day. A rerun of the cold 2012( glad I missed that one) or a berg wind resisted 2013( boy was it hot) I guess time will tell.

My mind is ready for this year, every race  has been purpose driven , most training sessions have been rewarding. I have met some amazing people through walking, most have inspired  me to achieve more , to set my goals higher, to strive for that little bit more, to them I say thank you.

One of the toughest parts for me as a walker in attempting Comrades is the qualifier, boy would I like more 60km plus races, much easier for me on the longer races as then the pace required is just a bit slower. Last year  October i attempted revenge on SABS marathon, I did a poor time of 5:15 in  2014 and really wanted a sub 5 , I based my pace on 2014's distance, worked out I could do 7:04 / km on my watch and be safe. It was not to be I missed my qualifier by 19 seconds... finished at 7:04 but the route came out longer this year than the previous year- on my watch that is. I really enjoyed the race but felt very deflated at my mistake...

January we went to Cape Town for my nephews wedding , did the amazing Bay to Bay 30km ( better race than TOM 56 in my opinion) did lots of beach walking and some cycling but felt just under-trained going into Sasolburg 42.. Another route issue as the route had always been a bit short was up to full distance, as I realised this I slowed a bit and came in a 5:04... good training but still not a qualifier.

I toyed with Bergville 52 but decided instead to do the 42 at Cosmos 73.3 as my qualifier.. I knew the route from last year, Kypie (my walking buddy who is doing Comrades this year )  joined us , he picked up an injury doing Sunrise monster the week before ( I had hoped he would push me through my qualifier)   I did not have Jane to pull me either ( she did Cosmos 42 last year as her first ever marathon, 1/2 a pace ahead of me the whole way). Oh well at least i have my Garmin...

My 310XT has one flaw, after  charging when power is removed it sometimes switches on.. I had charged but on the morning of the race.. low battery ... bang another pacer gone.. I just though I will just use my normal watch. Liz and Kypie offered me theirs. but I'm stubborn and  refused. As we started I looked back at Kypie he was not looking happy , ok he won't push me I thought. Then I saw Buks 5hr bus.. I'll use them  I thought... My calculations said they are going too fast so I let them go.   I was trying to do roughly 50 minutes for every 7ks.. and felt good at that . At 25km I thought I was ahead of schedule by 32 I was convinced I was behind.  Your mind's ability to do maths fades with fatigue - dont try complex maths keep it simple...  In the distance I heard Buks voice, ok I
need to catch them I thought.. I tried asking people their pace, both said 10 min/km. I knew they were wrong, but decided that come hell or high water I was going to qualify.. My strength in mind helped me as I truly accelerated to the fastest I could go. .   I managed 4:57:35 ( average pace of 7:03- see SABS for relevance), finishing a dew seconds behind the 5hr bus.. Afterwards Buks admitted to doing some kms at 6:40 which is way too fast for the 5hr bus.. Kypie came in a bit later , I was truly chuffed he finished cant say looking strong but still moving.. We did the 21 and 10 km together at a really slow but comfortable pace..

I convinced Kypie to join us for our IngramsEaster100 ( 42 32 20 20) which includes a bit of VAT. The 42 in Midrand includes Norfolk and Milford , two notorious climbs, Liz Shane and Kypie were not very communicative when we got to the top of Milford... Gerhard on the bike encouraged Kypie  quite a bit.. anyway we all did our 100km+ well done..

The midrand 60 which I did last year as well was Kypie's first Ultra...

Ok so now training is over , where does that leave us.
I am on 1237 as of today  20ks behind last year but missed the Love Run yesterday because of rain, so on a par. 70km behind 2104 but 110 km ahead of 2013 all on the 15th May.
A good year overall I guess.

My Goals for Comrades 2016
1 For Liz to finish her 10th Comrades- hope sjhe achieves her goal time
2 For Kypie , Giep and myself to all finish Comrades by walking it...
3 For me to better my down pb of 11:45 and possibly by overall Comrades PB of 11:27
 
 My Plan for Comrades 2016
We (the walkers) plan to start together..
I will start my stopwatch at the gun , and my Garmin as I cross the start line, could be 6-8 minutes later.
My goals will be to get our pace to around 7:30- 7:35 per km and keep there to about 60km.
That will leave us 4:20 hrs to the last 30km ie just under 9 minutes per km.. I am sure we can all finish from there. Depending how I feel then either I will speed up a bit or just keep going at that pace.  I need to go below 7:30/km average for a pb...
This is similar to my previous goals so I truly believe it is achievable..
Intention is to do 7:00 /km on downhills  , just below 7:30 on the flats and keep as close to  8:00 /km on the ups as possible. in 2014 my first was 12mins   and 20 of my last 50kms were 8 or above. Only the  56th km was above 9 it apears that is where I met up with a second of mine in Hillcrest. 
From 60km on there were only 7kms above 8 which includes Cowies Mayville and Tollgate..
That section also includes some boring hot freeway walking...
My toughest part of the down route is Halfway to the top of Bothas about 8km of climbing...
These below show best and worse.
I set it a 91km as my watch normally ends around there





Good Luck and enjoy the day









                   

Monday, November 16, 2015

94.7

94.7 Cycle Challenge

http://www.cyclechallenge.co.za/LatestNews/20151116congratulations-results-are-out

Having threatened to do this race since 1996 ( the first)   we eventually entered this year because a few friends had entered...
We did the training, 30ks then 55ks then 73ks and 2 weeks a really enjoyable 92ks...    So I thought we were ready...

This was a hard race,
Looking at the profile you think the first half is tough then the second half looks easier...Except for the wind , the wind was strong and more or less with us the first half.. that mean that it was against us the second half.. and boy was it..

Liz and I decided to cycle together, it was great to have her near me... I have managed to get her bike sorted, replaced a few worn out bearings etc, and boy does it go. That steep  hill at the peak is  going up the wilds into Hillbrow, she shot up there... With the heat the water stations were a disaster blocking the road and  forcing us to walk. saw a few cleated cyclists lying under their bikes. .. This frustrated  Liz at the wilds so she sped up the hill. We went past some interesting land marks. stopped on the Mandela bridge for a drink and snack, we decided before that we  would stop to drink as thats what we did in training..

Everyone says going down Jan Smuts is fast, we had to pedal on some down hills, on the downhill to  Sandton clinic I lost Liz she had been ahead of me but I could not see her so I stopped for a drink but then realised that if she did not have a bike problem  she must be ahead, I set off trying to catch her. Pasta another waterpoint... more congestion, started thinking how I would meet up with Liz at the end, when suddenly there she is.. She had stopped for water at the water point, but had seen me go past.

We struggled up Witkoppen hill into the wind, at least next week we go down this hill! I saw a lady doing hip flexor stretches on her bike down the next hill.. what balance! I wont be trying that. Liz kept pulling away from me. Cosmo city up to   the Lion Park was tough , the wind was really pumping , we had driven some of the route the day before which helped me a bit.. At 85ks there is a long up hill which we both went up quite comfortably, then I thought it was flattish to the finish. Oh no 3 of the 7 hardest kms were to come, I was drying up , my palate was bone dry  I drank going up the hill the 90th km was the first time I changed down from the big cog in the front, I needed some respite. Liz just powered up these hills, waiting for me at the last circle, and coastig next to me as I tried to pedal to keep up with her down the hill! She beat me by a whole second!!          


I was totally our of it when I finished. I could hardly walk..We wanted to go for a beer but I did not know if I would make it to the car afterwards.  I struggled back up the hill to the top and went left to orange car park. I tried to cycle downhill but my back started to spasm. My calves started cramping.. I was stuffed. Eventually got to the bakkie about a 2-3km distance. Liz had to help me load the bikes.. first time ever.. I downed half a 1L tonic water and some energade, Jane's pool was calling.  I cramped quite badly in the pool.  Quads calves sartorius all cramped, lower back was sore ... but after a Humdinger from Manchester and an Amber Ale from the Cape ,I felt much better. . I was dehydrated as well.



Worst I have ever felt after any race.. Liz however was fine. She waited for me quite a lot on the race.... I feel reasonable today muscles are sore but no damage neck a bit sore. My road race cycling days are probably over at 94.7 is.. Been there done that did not buy the t shirt,,,  I think I did not eat enough, but never felt hungry.. Blood sugar was low. Morale was low. 3 of the worst hills , most climbing were in the last 7 kms!  I managed to cycle the whole way, and realistically the way I felt a the end I would not have made it if i had pushed my bike!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Mont-Aux-Sources 2015

Just after Comrades we found out that MAS entries had opened up. So do we ; don't we, we did.
6 weeks after Comrades we did the Knysna Marathon, it's a toughie with lots of hills. So we saw that as a training session for 6 weeks later which was MAS.
I remember about 10 years ago we went to Sentinel Car Park , while staying at Clarens, and walked to the base of the chain ladder.. Neither of us could go up, maybe I psyched Liz out with my fear of heights/ exposure but who knows neither of us went up. We went around to the gully and went up over the top to see the chain ladder from above.... Part of MAS is going up the chain ladder-- my own fear factor.
Training for MAS went well, some good long walks to Randjiesfontein, including  new loop or three to make mine a 31km walk. We also did back to back 21s at Wierie and Breakthrus race. I managed 2:25s on both which was awesome especially carrying a 3kg pack on the tougher Breakthru race. I planned a cycle after a short walk the week before, but had chain issues (still to replace chains on both bikes as we prepare for 94.7) so abandoned that idea...

We watched the weather for 2 weeks before MAS, options changed from sun to rain to overcast to BRR cold.... We in jhb have had really warm pre spring weather so cold was hard to fathom,  then the day before we leave...BRRR its cold. So we read about the requirements, add  in extra thermals, a rain jacket gloves for the rope in the gully, whisky... etc.

On our way travelling down we get an SMS , very cold weather predicted..... a bit late now. We got some biltong for Liz in Harrismith, and arrived at Thendele around 2pm. We requested #17 as its the best view, we go it. We decided to braai early before going to register, eating early before Comrades worked, we hydrated with some stout and Red Wine.. This is what greeted us...

At registration someone had been given Liz's bag so she got a new number, not an issue till at presentation they said that the tag on the bag was important for the race start. They  introduced a slow runners batch where fortunately they allowed Liz and I to join. at presentation this was called  the slow batch  at 5:35. We went back and found Liz's correct bag and tag..We got tags saying B which was shown as at 5:45. A great presentation about the  bearded  Vulture which is pretty endangered and gets some support from the money raised. its not a cheap race to enter but a very worthy cause.
Andrew Booth gave us a good background to the route with a scary looking route profile.

We packed and repacked  our bags, less water more clothes, we were unsure how much we would sweat so took spare tops in case we need dry tops for coming down in the cold / wind / rain,  then off to bed. The usual tossing and turning was followed by a funny noise in the lounge, aah my alarm clock.. We got ready and set off to the start, nice being close to the start so you can get there a bit later. Watched the elites  go off past our car, and ambled across to the start, 2 minutes to the start of B batch we hear over the PA..., oh so the slow batch is B at 5:35, we rushed to the back of pen, gave my tag as the gun went, Liz gave in hers and off we went. Liz's head torch would not stay together so we packed it away and I tried to give her light from mine. It was not very dark and 3 ks in  all lights were off .  About 1km in to the race I looked back, these were the slow group, only 3 people  were behind me.... I knew that to make the 10 hr cut-off we needed to average 12 minutes per km so my goal was to keep below that.  I slowly managed to drop my pace over the 10.5km to Witsieshoek to around 10:28 even wth a gain of about 700m . There faster runners coming through on the single track meant we often needed to move off the path as a faster runners came past. Mostly my walking pace seemed to match runners as we gradually wound our way up. at around 8km we ascended into the clouds. We arrived at Witsieshoek at around 1:53 for an average of about pace of  about 10:30, had a quick potato and a cup of water. our first checkpoint of about 20 done.. I set off on the road to sentinel car park, this is a lot steeper than expected but over this 9 km we would gain another 600m. Liz was struggling to keep up with me walking so ran/walked, it was pretty cold in this section as we climbed through the cloud, which was moving over the little berg and had a strong wind keeping us cold. One lady at an aid station said if we wanted we could give her our gloves, but we knew we needed them on the Gully Rope.   As we passed one the aid stations Liz stopped to take a picture of the Sentinel, unsure of any later photo opportunities, 

I had gone round the corner before she took the next one.


Eventually after I had a biscuit and some powerade at the Car park I saw her arriving. I had averaged around  8:30/km and dropped my average pace to 9:52, now the tough climbing would start.   As we left the car park we heard the first runners had got down the gully. I was at 19km they were at 28km. It was cold as we had now reached the snow line which was around 2500m, we traversed around in the cloud then got an amazing view of the sentinel with snow on it. The Zigzag path up her was pretty hectic, I remembered it from our last visit, the leaders came screaming past us on the way down. It was quite interesting going up the slippery snowy path. I do struggle going up really steep sections in the berg so took it easy and just plodded along. 


As we came around a corner we saw a queue of what looked like about 15 people queuing for the chain ladder. there seemed to be  biggish gap to the next group of say 10 and then between them and us was another 10 or so. It looked good, about 300m later we passed the gully 21.8km on my watch. Liz was encouraging me to keep the pace up so we would not be overtaken..

We arrived at the chain ladder and my average had slowed to 10:39 wee were offered water, Jelly babies, or a harness, wow within a few minutes of stopping my harness was on Gavin was hooking me on the rope and off I went. I guess I set-off a bit quick, my Sartorius on my left leg started cramping.. easy does, then I start thinking "what if I freeze", forget that keep moving slowly. Maybe I should have told the guy behind me as I am almost bounced off the ladder. hang on tight keep moving, oops getting close to the girl in front of me..., ease off the first ladder walk across to the second ladder, on you get , keep going going , eish the Sartorius, keep moving , I'm up , I've done it, I've climbed the chain ladder, look up eish more climbing to do, I keep moving slowly to the top on a path, but pretty steep. 
At the top I took two Cramp ease and drank some Energade some biltong as well, Liz also had some, now I knew I could make it. Ave pace is now over 11 minutes per km feeling good. Its a long trudge in the snow to the halfway mark  at the top of the falls , well marked off by a few rolls of twine. Wow but this challenge is well organised. Its fun walking on the flat in the snow as your shoes crunch the snow , I feel  awesome. At the top I retied my shoelaces as probably with the cold my feet were not swelling as much as normal.

At half way we get some photos taken , watch as a few drink a Jaegermeister , its very festive up there but we are only at 2800 m , still need to ascend a bit before descending the gully.
My Sartirius did not enjoy going uphill but hey we have no choice.. Up we go once more into a higher cloud only to arrive at the gully.
 

A rope is in place, thanks to Mountain Club/ KZN rescue , we hang on for dear life as we slip, slide, jump, step our way down. A number of rocks tried to overtake us, being close together on the rope often either causes whiplash by moving to quickly or is  whip-lashed by others. Gradually we move down and exit the gully at a now average pace of 11:33 , going up to the gully the km was nearly 17 minutes, down the gully was about 27 minutes. I suddenly realised sub 10 was a real possibility and maybe even as sub 9hr.              

The way down was slightly different and as we joined the route 2 of us went right, I was trying to understand this ascent  when Liz shouted  out wrong way as we should have turned left . On her way up she had seen someone come down this way so made the association. We were moving along quite nicely now as we returned to the car park, I got the last chocolate chip cookie!! The top section of the road is paved which is nice for speed so I got into a good rhythm and did a few kms at around 7:15, on the way up I had done 10:09 for these top 3kms. so that was doing our average a  lot of good. Even on the down there is a wicked up hill where Liz got left behind. I had said that if need be on this section I was prepared to jog if need be to make the cutoff , wow was I pleased that this was not necessary.  I offered the lady my gloves now, but she no longer wanted them, said I needed them round the corner ....It was a long slog down the road to Witsieshoek. I now knew that we had a shot at a sub 9hr, as our average was pretty much 11  . In my mind I worked out that sub 9 hr needed to be sub 10:50 average so I set of trying to go as fast as comfortable. Our numbers were 132 and 133 , and we met up with 134 who maintained the mathematical progression to the end. I knew that we needed a few fastish kms but as long as we got our average below 10:50 we would be fine- provided the distance was exac, which from my memory /calculations both at the gully and Witsieshoek I estimated that my GPS would be pretty much spot on.

Liz was struggling to walk at my pace  so she walked ran with 134 to stay with me.  At one point with about 8kms to go I managed to kick a root or rock which made me stumble and almost fall, I stuck my hand out and caught the grass and noticed my had was a bit swollen. I realised that my watch was a bit tight on my wrist so I loosened it a bit. Every time Liz ran to catch up with me I moved off the path to let her go only to realise that she was not overtaking. Eventually we got to the finish line, only the second time Liz and I have crossed the line together in a race- although this was a challenge not a race. My watch said 49.98km...8 hrs 52 minutes... the rain started, although only as drizzle we had made it. Thanks to the slow runners B batch start we had a fantastic day... 

If you have never done this race, you must do it. If you have done it, do it again. This is the most awesome experience I have ever had in a race/challenge. Previously I thought the Knysna Marathon was the best organised race that I had ever done but this event exceeds that by some margin. There is so much that needs to be done , and really I cannot fault this event on anything.    The batch thing was our mistake. The route was really well marked, aid stations were perfect, all marshals, helpers, were awesome   the challenge was awesome.. I guess I have a new item on my bucket list- a permanent name at Mont-Aux-Sources - you now get that for 3 finishes!.
The next morning


After the race we had a beer , saw Jonathon from Bean There who come in the same time as us.. well done Jono and then went off to have a bath and warm up.  I got really cold and my hands were both a bit swollen I guess the descent and keeping my hands down for most of the day and not up as in my usual  race walking style. The bath helped  but so did the red wine...  Another Optimal challenge done and celebrated with L'omarans Optima,

I guess we are blessed to have done this amazing challenge in optimal conditions with a superb option for us slower competitors starting earlier and getting a big advantage from that, we never waited but neither did we hold anyone up. So if possible I would really appreciate starting in this batch next year. It will be a different event whether hotter or colder , wetter or dryer bu still I would appreciate it. The conditions for me this year were perfect. Next year who knows, but I will blog it..
  
To compare this some of our other other challenges,
Sani Stagger is harder although shorter, it is way faster and only up and down but on a road the whole way.( red below)
4 Peaks is a lot shorter but no real path so harder in it's own way.
Comrades is harder because its Comrades. (green below)


Keep walking



     

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Comrades 2015

Ok so I forgot some things in my preparation..

  1. On the 60k I got severe blisters on the lower part of both my heels wearing my Asics Kayano "Comrades shoes"
  2. My subsequent races were all done using New Balance shoes as they seem to give me more space on that area and that seemed to help.
  3. When I did a dog run 14 days before Comrades and checked my Kayanos I noticed the soles were cracked. 
  4. I returned my shoes to Sweatshop and they were replaced free of charge.
  5. I now had to wear in new shoes in, but in less than 2 weeks while on a taper with no long walks!
  6. 12 days before Comrades I got a sore throat and a head cold. Strepsil, vitamin C , Zinc, Viral Guard, hot honey and lemon, ginger tea with lemon....It cleared.
As usual we collected our race packs in PMB and headed off to Nikki and Myles for Friday night. We had a good catch up with whisky, red wine and a delicious chicken dish with veggies, followed by some good coffee. Had a good nights sleep, I did remember last year where I agonised over Liz doing the race or not ; this year I had no doubts over Liz who was in great shape and I was very confident for her race.

After a leisurely breakfast, coffee and some sound advice on Liz's hopes for a job and encouragement from the Sinclairs we set off to drive the route. It is a hard route this.... why oh would someone enter a race like this. On our drive down we met Hazel Moller (www.ten10.co.za) who was running 10 comrades in 10 days, this is way beyond what my brain can comprehend. She did this to raise money for animals in distress, if you you can, please donate something to this worthy cause. She still managed to run a 9:39 as her 10th Comrades- wow... absolutely amazing.  There are some long hills both up and down, remembering that we were driving the wrong way. We had to get to the Team Vitality drop off to leave my Tonics and  Liz's Lime juice for the 40k and 76k mark.We just made it before 2pm and went to the hotel to checkin. The hotel is only about 1km from the start so an ideal location. Once again we were on the 19th floor so nice being high up with a view up to Umhlanga Rocks and back to the Bluff. We got our stuff ready and went for a very early dinner at around 4:30 , this was followed by a few stouts for me and Liz had some whisky. I watched the FA Cup final as Arsenal destroyed Aston Villa to win for a second year.. The Lions also won their Super Rugby gane so my teams were helping build confidence.

I had spent the week before thinking / hoping / dreaming what would be a realistic goal for Sunday.
I had an excel spreadsheet where I started with my last UpWalk. I then played around with various possibilities. Kypie thought 11hrs was possible, no matter how I stretched my projected times it did not seem possible to me. I ended up with a best possible time of 11:18 based on my last Upwalk with as much improvement over each section as I could realistically forsee. That excluded the extra 800 odd m due to the road works in Pinetown about 19ks into the race. Liz had set her heart on a 9:30 and my goal was sub 11:30.

Interesting observation!
With a route of 87.72 I needed to average 7:51 per km to finish in 11:30
My gps would end up showing much closer to 89km which  meant an average of 7:45
On my previous UpWalks I had never got my pace below 7:50, remembering  that every second average faster means 87.72 ( lets call it 90) seconds off the total time. Last time I ended at a pace of 8:04 I think. My goal was to get to 7:40 as early as possible then try and keep as close to that as I could for as long as possible. By starting my watch 90 seconds late I could get my average down quicker which I felt psychologically would be a benefit. It meant only 1 second at the end, the total discrepancy of 2kms added another 5 seconds. Just shows how tough it is to judge an accurate pace.

The one fear I had was of starting too fast- Don Oliver - Bruce Fordyce - Lindsay Parry all warn against this. Don Oliver at out Team Vitality/Rockies talk said start slow and get slower . Easy to say but I need to be as consistent in pace as possible. I did know that to achieve my goal I would need to go faster.


Getting up at 3:45 is never easy, getting everything laid out the night before helps the next day but there are still the unfortunate mistakes.. We were fortunate that Gerhard was doing the race his 11th and Carmenn was seconding him and we hijacked their back seat. Gerhard had not had the greatest training year as unlike me he does not have a dedicated training partner, he hoped for a sub 11 and I hoped I would not beat him, but if I caught up with I would have to overtake....

I toyed with the idea of using zinc oxide plasters around my heel to protect my tender heels. I had toyed with using Methylated Spirits to harden the skin but was scared that hard skin may cause more problems I did treat with some Camphor cream as usual .  I used plasters on Slow Mag to protect my blisters and they seemed to work, but that was a 21 so what will happen over 90ks????  With plasters I could not use vaseline on my heels .....I decided to risk the plasters.

We got to the start having wished each other all the best and off we went into our various pens.  We had brought cardboard to sit on which made the wait easier/warmer. I just sat there looking at people almost wanting to see someone I knew but also hoping not to see anyone as then they could become a distraction. As soon as the first pens were opened I got up moving as far forward as I could, as each pen opened I moved quickly forward, it was a big field and I did not want to fall too far behind. The start in PMB is more "vibey" but this was still quite emotional. The national anthem then Shosholoza followed by Chariots of Fire was punctuated by Max Trimborn's recording of the cock crowing and bang the race was on. Not that we noticed as it was nearly 2 minutes before we moved. I was not that worried as I was expecting that, one needs to ignore it and just keep focused.  Fortunately the road is quite wide except for some spectators encroaching and narrowing the road, once we were on the freeway we only had to worry about cats eyes. I seem to be able to walk what I refer to as comfortable pace, which is a pace which I feel that I can keep going at "forever"; this pace varies according to the distance I am doing so I guess its not "forever" but it feels comfortable for the distance. I hardly looked at my watch to check my pace I was essentially going as fast as I could based on the current section of the route, so even if I was a bit slow I could not have gone faster anyway.

I did keep a printout of my excel spreadsheet with me which I checked roughly every 5 kms  to see how far ahead of 2013 I was and each time the gap kept increasing which was really encouraging. I caught a few Midrand Striders and tried to encourage them still feel part of them in a way! As I passed more and more people I realised that my training had been good and all the hardwork was paying off. Doing the Midrand 60k at close to 7:30/km was hard but it really built confidence and strength especially the section from 44 to 54km which was mostly uphill. As the kms rolled by I felt better and better, it helped to have experience of the route and to sort of know what to expect along the way. The thought of meeting Carmenn to get restocked at 34km was an encouragement. I do not race against others as my race is totally against myself and my time, but it feels good when one catches up with runners one know's and expects to be ahead.

My pace above in the first 10ks was affected by congestion, after that I was pretty happy with my conssitency.
So getting to 34 kms and getting my tonic and dates from Carmenn I was ready for Bothas , I am not sure why Cowies at 18km is included as a HILL on Comrades, to me there are others which are much harder but un-named.. Bothas was my nemesis in 2011 and in 2013 I used dates  for energy for this in my mind second toughest climb of the race. I see at almost 5km to the peak at Rob Roy hotel, it is tough as it is the 5km up to around 40km which is often the tougher section in a marathon. This time I had no real issues other than realising when the top was actually achieved. It is a long climb. I passed Chris Piears who told me that Caroline Wostmann was leading the ladies race by 10 minutes - wow did that inspire me, we are both  ex Midrand Striders!!!.

Bothas is followed by a long descent into Drummond, which is halfway at 44km, where I managed to get some good pace going. I had secretly hoped to go through halfway in 5:35 but missed this by a few minutes going through in 5:43. I was feeling good so pushed  reasonably hard up the tough Inchanga, a really long climb getting one back up higher than we were at the top of Bothas.  The benefit of getting to the top here is that your longest climbs are done, Most runners take it easy up Inchanga but I did see one novice running up, overtaking on the dirt and obviously determined to make up time. I never saw her again. I was still feeling fine, making up time on 2013 and feeling good.

I had registered for SMS notifications ( these were for the splits as shown below ) for Liz and Gerhard which I managed to occasionally check. I was happy to see Liz's splits as she was almost on schedule for her 9:30 albeit a bit slow. I did however notice that Gerhard was not that far ahead of me On a hill at around 54km I saw Gerhard ahead , he started in E batch as all Green (Permanent) number  entrants are allowed to do. I nearly caught him going up the hill, but he ran away from me at the top. Just before the 57km mat I almost caught him again, but once more he ran away. Then he turned back to an aid station asking for a sandwich and I snuck past. I was less than a minute ahead crossing the mat. I expected to see Carmenn about 2kms later but Gerhard had phoned her and asked her to get him a beer from the car so when I went passed she was still on the way back from the car so I missed her. I must say I could not drink a beer on the route , but each to his own i guess!!

A few kms later I started getting a cramp/ twinge on the lower part of my legs near the ankles. I have never felt this before; it was down the inner and outer sides of the leg just above my ankle.It felt like the muscle twinges that I get after a race not on a race.. I slowed down a bit to ease the muscles and took some cramp ease tablets, the muscles eased and after about 5kms I gradually started to increase pace again, I am not sure about the accuracy of the mats as my pace was  more consistent than that shown below between 57.7 and 80.2. I guess the Lion Park mat was misplaced! Checking on some of the top runners seems to confirm my suspicion, as Caroline's times are also skewed.  

locationtimespeedo/asexcatsplitspeedo/asexcattime of day
Cowies Hill 16,8 km2:15:438:04 min/km143461173320542:15:438:04 min/km1426811677202107:45:44
Drummond 43,7 km5:43:347:52 min/km121591008316613:27:527:45 min/km109049083143411:13:35
Cato Ridge 57,7 km7:32:527:51 min/km11049915514631:49:187:49 min/km7885638189913:02:53
Lion Park 70,7 km9:22:027:57 min/km10050831812681:49:118:24 min/km6725543971214:52:03
Polly Shortts 80,2 km10:30:307:52 min/km9403780611591:08:287:13 min/km5351436452016:00:31
Pietermaritzburg 87,7 km11:27:087:50 min/km90257470109356:397:34 min/km7364584382316:57:09
 
The section from Lion Park to Polly Shortts involves going from more or less the highest point down along long section, then up Little Pollys then lose all that gain only to start up Polly Shortts.  The one benefit here is that you know only one more major hill to go, a number of speedbumps as well but hey its down to single figures now!  I really felt strong but believed the best I could do was around 11:35. I decided to push hard and see what I could achieve, not many runners passed me as I powered ahead. As much as it feels like you are going at record 10k pace, the body lies!! I managed to get close to 7 m/km, but could not breach it. I have sort of taught myself to walk at comfortable pace, so that watch viewing becomes less important as one knows that essentially any faster would be uncomfortable  so therefore to be avoided. I am toying with the idea of using 5km splits on Comrades next year as then there is less to calculate so less chance of an error, as maths seems to be less accurate when tired!.I guess ones mind is clouded by the past calculations and the overriding thought about the sought after pace.

Just after Pollys a lady passed me and commented about me walking all the way, the person she was running with was Shane Brown who I went to school with and last saw nearly 38 years ago.  We are friends on facebook so follow each other there but it was good to meet up. He stays in PE so not much chance of meeting up.. I then managed to overtake a good many runners as I felt strong. I really enjoyed that section from the top of Pollys even though every km seemed to be long. Coming in to the full stadium , with team tents all full and cheering was an amazing experience. As I neared the end I saw a clock and realised my sub 11:30 would be a reality, my emotion were pretty high as I finished in my now customary fastest pace for the day. The last 1km is normally the only time on the day  that I walk below 7min/km.

Job Done...
Out with my phone to check Liz's results and I was really chuffed to see she did 9:52 which was an up run pb for her..

So whats next..
Knysna Marathon  on 9 July http://knysnamarathonclub.com/forest-marathon/
Mont-aux-sources 50k on 5 Sept http://www.wildseries.co.za/events/mont-aux-sources-challenge/about/


See you on the road