Well well Comrades 2011 has come and gone.
It is always interesting doing a race where the start and finish is far apart, especially 90kms, and when both of you are doing the race, all sorts of logistical problems arise. Liz has some amazing friends in Hilton who she has known for 27 odd years. We have all become good friends over the years and enjoyed some really good times together. The last 4 or more Comrades we have stayed with them. As this was an up run we decided to stay the night before the race at a hotel in Durban, 1km from the start, the Friday and Sunday were to be with Nicky and Myles in Hilton. While travelling down to the race we called ahead to tell Nikcy we would be a bit late, only to find out that she had been involved in a accident, where a horse had basically knocked her over as she led it over a pool of water. She had bitten her tonque quite badly and had some facial injuries. This did not auger well for Liz and Nicky to natter all night catching up. Nicky was struggling to talk and Myles was trying to limit her answers to Liz's questions. Nicky had very kindly offered to take us to Durban on the Saturday but fortunately we managed to arrange a lift with some other friends Gerhard and Carmenn.
We collected our goodie bags and numbers from the smaller Expo at PMB , the shirt is great the goodie bags are not as good as some previous years. We were a bit dissapointed overall this year in the organisation of Comrades, eg changing from Coke to Pepsi 3 weeks before the race, repeated requests to update details that had not changed etc. The webtimes actually showed us going from PMB to Durban which confused our supporters who were following on line.
G & C collected us at the finish venue, it is always a good idea to familiarise oneself with the finish as a on the day when tired it is really easy to get lost. We then proceeded to the start to get a better idea of where Carmenn could drop us off in the morning.
We checked in to our hotel then did a walk along the beach front to de-stress and loosen up. I had my customary Guinness and Liz had some Famous Grouse as we watched the sunset from the 23 rd floor of the hotel. The sound of the waves are very soothing and comforting. We went to the restaurant in the hotel for dinner Gerhard and I had rump and baked potato with veggies, Liz had a Chicken salad and Carmenn a Chicken Schnitzel. We then retired to an early bed. Well we still had to sort out some of our running things, I glanced at Barcalona giving ManU a hiding. I have not been sleeping will lately , this night was not too bad, but getting up at 3:55 is not so great. If we had stayed further away we would have got up much earlier so I wont complain too much.
I was in H batch which is the last batch ie for the really slow athletes. Liz was in F (make mental note to ensure she gets a D batch next time) while Gerhard had somehow managed to get into D batch by doing a sub 4hr marathon. Liz and my batches were based on last years Comrades time.
I did not feel as emotional about the start as I did last year, probably due to work pressures, frustration for the Comrades organisation etc, as well as some apprehension over the up run. I set out with a race plan of getting my overall pace below 8:00 min/km as soon as possible and hopefully then getting it down to 7:40 and then trying to keep it there as long as possible. Because a gps does not take elevation in to account, race distances and GPS distance will vary, this adds to some severe mental calculatiosn to be done enroute. I worked on a distance of 89km in my calculations and not the offical 86.9km, that way I would not be caught short! The difference in average pace between 89 and 87 ks is 15 seconds which is quite significant,7:56 or 7:41. In my mind I was hoping to do a sub 11:30 which equated to an average of 7:41m/k.
I had felt my left knee a bit the few days before the race and hoped it was just pre race niggles. It took me 8 minutes to cross the start line, my feet startedf moving after 2 minutes , bythen Liz had crossed the start line!! After about 10ks of pretty good walking, my knees were fine, but my arches were getting quite sore- I have had this before but only with New Balance shoes and I was in my Asic Nimbus 12's which should be fine. I was convinced the pain would go away.... The only real effect was that I was taking shorter strides, which meant that my pace was slower. It was not really sore to walk but I did have to walk slower. I saw a number of people on the race that I have seen on previous races, we kept on encouraging each other. It is also really nice to have our names printed on our race numbers as this encourages the spectators to call us by name. I gradually got my pace down to 7:51 and thought that all was well.
Carmenn met me at 33.5 km, it is really good to see familiar faces along the route, she gave me a 32gi mixture which was really great, it was good to have something different from the usual race drinks and also to have a low gi drink for the long haul up Bothas Hill. I severely forgot how long this hill was, it really did not seem so long last year. It is amazing how flat it looks on the profile from my Garmin watch. I found that I was getting slower up the hills, my pace was suffering a bit and I was starting to doubt myself. I knew I needed to go faster down the hill but just did not feel comfortable going faster. I had planned to get to Drummond which is just short of halfway in around 5:40, my official time was 5:45, amazing how much being 5 minutes behind schedule can demoralise you. I was now faced with the problem of Inchanga which is essentially a 8km long uphill. I guess it was around here that I realised there was no way I could do an 11:30. The problem with this is to keep up the motivation to still go fast.
It was at around 50km I met up with Chris Piears from our club, he has just done London Marathon in a Rhino suit, now that must be tough,(www.savetherhino.org) we swopped places a few times, and then I got really fed up as a couple kept on running past me then stopping in front of me, forcing me to change direction overtake them. As a walker I tend to go a pretty consistent pace so many runners use me to pace them. I then decided to push hard up the hill in Camperdown to get ahead of them, and amazingly felt better for it. I kept going strongly and gradually felt better and better. My arches were still sore but seemed to affect me less, or maybe my desire to finish just overrode any pain.
Polly Shorts is a really tough hill being at 78km into the race. It is only 1.8km long but still a toughie because of where it is in the race. As I got over the top I felt liberated in a strange way and started going strongly for the finish.
I knew there was a 12hr bus ahead of as well as one behind me. I did not want to get caught up in them again, they had caused me much stress at around 30km by running past me then stopping to leave me struggling to extract myself from the 100 odd runners who were now dawdling along waving there arms as they do their stretching. With about 4km to go I saw the first 12hr bus ahead and pushed really hard to catch them, then get ahead so I would not be stuck behind them in the stadium / finish / medal collection etc. Passing the Club tents I was really encouraged by the wild cheering from my club mates. I felt really good crossing the finish line, collecting my second Vic Clapham medal and then getting my Back to Back medal for a novice completing 2 successive Comrades.
My race was affected by the pain in my arches, probably brought on by too much traing in New Balance shoes. I may have also started pronating a bit as I have got faster. I will be evaluating the cause over the coming weeks.
I am feeling fine now and am really chuffed to have finished this race, the up run is a pretty tough race.
I did 11:48:53 , Liz did 10:05 for her best time on an Up run.
What a day what a race. Whats my next race - I have no idea.