Saturday, June 8, 2013

Comrades 2013.....

What a race, up to 52ks I was feeling great, then the wind almost blew me off my feet. My legs got really tired walking into that wind, the dust dried my mouth out.... I normally  would have a sachet at every other table, from about 60 ks  I was taking an Energade and a water , and was thirsty and dry halfway to the next table.
At 72ks I met us up with Liz, the first thoughts were, "wow shes finished and come back to second me" however I soon realised that was not possible - she had baled, she been puking for about 10ks this has never happened to her before, after a race yes but not before.
The number of pukers and passed out going up Polly's was really scary.
Finished with a PW of 11:54.

Ok so summarising this years training, we missed too many long races - Long tom cancelled - :Loskop rain, possibly also my dislocated toe, stress with Max, work issues etc. But there again how do you train for excessive heat and wind.

We left Joburg for our 6 hour drive to Maritzburg to stay with Nikki and Myles as is our custom. They have a really great house and a re a most welcoming family, on the way down we decided to go to get our numbers on Friday to save some time, we also went to the finish area so as to familiarise ourselves with where to go and what to do on race day. We had Liz's cousin Joe with us from the UK so we showed him the International tent, and our club tent. He though the trip down was quite short, as he fell asleep as soon as the car was moving  We then went to a spot called Worlds View its really beautiful, with amazing almost 360 degree views. Had a nice relaxing meal followed by a good sleep, probably the first of the week. An amazing Omelette was followed by a drive down the route, this may be a bad idea but it is good in some ways to know whats coming. One problem was we did the route on the way down, which tends to hide some hills.

We checked in to our hotel a mere 15 minute walk to the start the 15th floor!

We walked to the expo as Joe had selected  Durban as his pick up point. The normal queue was taking about 2 hours, Joe had an International pickup which was really quick. We browsed a bit then left a few tonics with various sponsors/charities with spots along the route went to see the start area, and timed our slow walk back to the hotel. This took 20 minutes, there was a short cut we could take so 15 minutes was allowed. We spent the afternoon preparing everything, then took a short walk along the beach. A friend Gerhard  joined me with a Guinness and we went off to dinner. I had peri-peri Chicken breasts, they being Durban were nice and hot, Liz also had chicken, Joe being a youngster had a Pizza and a Pasta!.  

The alarm went off at 3:45, what an ungodly hour, at least the Durban start is warm, no sub  5 degree starts here. Joe headed off for breakfast, I munched a muffin, Liz never eats before a race. We set off for the start around 4:30 and I took an appletiser to drink along the way, I had a  consciously hydrated well over the last few days, but then I stopped drinking so much on the evening and morning of the race, this was a definite decision as I tried to limit my pee stops.

Got to the start and H batch at the back was already about 6-8 rows deep. Liz (C) and Joe( D) went forward to their batches. I met up with a few club mates, shared some stories....Just before the start a lady a few meters from me collapsed, it was very stuffy and hot for 1 hr before sunrise. They managed  to move her off the route, you never find out what happens in cases like this. The National Anthem was sung with gusto, as the enormity of the race starts to dawn...

As the gun went off , I  started my watch, 2 minutes later a guy next to me asked when the gun was going to go off! no movement yet. slowly we moved on and got mobile. Out of Durban is ok as the road is quite wide and  although it is up hill, I actually tried to think of the race as one long uphill....
 In the past I have always struggled with busses as they keep over taking me then stopping and up setting my rhythm. They generally have a run walk statergy, but there were no 11:30 busses, so no one trying to emulate my pace. I passed the 12:00 bus at 2ks and never heard or saw them again. I felt really good as I went along just trying to get my my average pace down to  7:50 region. My first k  having taken 13:36, I achieved my goal at 20ks, just as we started up fields hill, which was hill number 2, yes you are right this year I hardly noticed  Cowies which is hill 1. It was around I here I passed a "lady" with as WALKER tag. a while later she was in front of me, I then discovered she was running the downhill- I voiced my severe disapproval of not covering up or removing her walker tag.  I met up with Carmenn at 34ks within 30 seconds of my estimated time 2 seconds out from my previous up walk. . Got a tonic water and some dates along with a  chocolate coated nougat... Liz was 40 minutes  ahead, Gerhard  was 30. Liz was therefore a bit behind her goal.... My dates got me up Bothas hill which was a real ba$tard 2 years ago  I lost a lot of motivation on this hill. By 42ks I was 3 minutes faster than last time, by 52 I was 6 minutes faster, I at this stage thought i could maybe do a 11:20!!   At around 40ks they had a tv on and were cheering on the leading runner, I joked to someone next to me, they say its downhill all the way now, this was met with a stare as I walked past. At the half way i caught up with as walker Edward and I thought great at last I can find out more about him, as I was about to draw level he stopped with his club tent, he passed me right near the end on my first Comrades. He baled after Polly Shorts this year.

At 51ks we started a nice downhill, as I turned the corner the wind almost blew me off my feet. I was struggling to walk downhill, as it was a berg wind, ie coming down the mountain and heating up along the way, it was hot, being about 1pm it was at its hottest.. it was really hard work into the wind, my legs started aching from the exertion. over the next 20ks till I met Liz I lost  5 of those minutes, I did get another tonic from the Breakthru tent at 59ks which helped a lot, quinine being an anti-inflammatory. I did take a Norflex around here as my legs were understandably getting a "little" tired. As I started off after the BreakThru table I saw Geoff who is a really strong walker, he normally gets faster the longer he goes- his goal was a 10:30  so I knew he was in trouble, as he appeared to be puking. I passed him, as he stopped to get some magic spray on his hamstrings. He almost caught me going up a hill but appears to have baled somewhere as he did not finish.

I did not know what to do when I saw Liz, I knew it was really tight for me to make it, if i tried to help her, we probably would neither have made it. Not an expert on the subject but puking says your body has had enough, she was probably dehydrated, could not keep anything down. Not sure what to do I respected her   decision as the wise one. We have  gone through it a few times, neither of us have ever baled a race. My one consolation is she recovered quickly, and over the next few days added the 16ks to her weekly total, feeling absolutely fine, She could have ended up in hospital.
To quote from a news report

"833 runners were treated at the Finish Venue at the Pietermaritzburg Cricket Oval; 366 were attended to at the main Medical Tent while 427 sought R&R, rub-downs and mild treatment at the St. John’s Tent. The majority of the patients were treated for dehydration and exhaustion.

35 patients were treated at Durban’s St. Augustine’s Hospital while 61 patients were treated at Pietermaritzburg’s St. Anne’s Hospital. Of these, four patients were admitted to the ICU at St. Annes Hospital while one patient was admitted to the Medi-Clinic.

The Comrades Marathon’s medical provisions for Race Day have been described as ‘possibly the world’s largest temporary medical facility outside of a conflict zone’.

Dr Boulter says, ‘The main Medical Tent usually sees an average of 250 patients on Race Day but this year was different and more demanding in that we attended to 68% more patients."

I hang on till the end roughly losing 30 seconds per km to my previous UpWalk. I passed some people I knew, many lying motionless on the side of the road, I was really hoping the medics got there fast but not much one can do! I basically felt that I could make it so tried to walk conservatively, not forcing the pace, but still going fast enough to get complete the race. I was drinking 2 sachets at every table, 4 times my norm, I did not have to stop for a pee break, normally I have stopped twice.  The wind dried my mouth and removed all sweat. I was thirsty for the last 35ks of the race, 2 sachets hardly wet my throat. 
There is no better feeling than hearing the stadium announcer telling you how little time you have but knowing      that you are "safeish" Its not over till the fat lady sings.. Going in to the brightly light stadium, suddenly you realise a day has passed since you left Durban, and once again you will be rewarded  with the smallest medal you will ever receive. I guess its reminiscent of the old war medals, not the modern day Dictator medals and I suppose we do this race to honour those who have died in defence of their countries. The fact that it was a PW of 11:54:52 has no bearing, I am enormously proud to have finished this race. I was bone dry when I got to the finish, it normally get cold very quickly in PMB but I did not need to even  change my clothes.     

The queue was toooo long at the energade/soup tent so I set off for the BreakThru tent. Liz was looking a bit distraught for not finishing,  but at least hour family has 10 medals. Will there be more? I guess there will.....
Gerhard finished his 10th Comrades what an achievement, I've known others achieve this, but to have a friend and  training partner do it was really very special.  He did 10:59 which gave him a bronze medal for finishing within the old (but not original) cut off.   Joe did a very comfortable 9:47, he says with lots of walking.  

We set off to find Carmenns car she parked outside the parking area but traffic is a real pain as so many seem to wait until the last finisher finishes. We went to Steers and most had a double thick Chocolate Milkshake which was eaten with a spoon....
5 of us got our tired legs into the car, at least its as Auto as Gerhard (I think) had his legs on the gear lever, being the tallest I was in front, my quads were in a cramp for half the journey.... Thanks Carmenn for the excellent service! dropped off at our door, we went to our rooms to analyse the day. It was really hard for Liz, but I suppose it could have been worse. 8 years ago she watched comrades from her bed while recovering from DVT. 
The next day we treated ourselves to breakfast and then off to uShaka Market  to buy some spices  and a bunny chow for Joe, this is curry served in a 1/4 , 1/2 or full loaf of bread with the dough being taken out to make room for the curry. Having promised to order a full, he settled on a 1/4!!
We now had a date with 6 others from Liz's family who we were meeting at fairways in the berg for the week.
This was a really enjoyable week with list of wine whisky and no song. I played 8 holes of golf on Tuesday   
 Liz did a 8k run, I did 12 holes on Wednesday and felt much better for it.  Debbie introduced us to PNF stretching which helped my hamstrings and calves recover. No injury just over work tiredness. A  number of the family went for a tour up Sani Pass ( reminds me must enter Sani Stagger on 1st August . ) 
Then on Thursday the 4 youngsters went up the Rhino, a 18k hike with about 1200m elevation gain. Jono struggled a bit but the other three had started comrades so were much fitter. It is a tough hike but its the 3 rd time I've done it and I enjoy it every time.  Joe ended up running up the last section with hot on his heels. On the way to the start the temp in the car said -6degC. I doubt the day temp went much above 15..  

Liz and I both felt rotten on Friday while driving home, headaches flu or something. My calves are a bit tight now and I can feel my quads a bit from coming down the Rhino. We both still have headaches but hopefully a few days rest will cure all..

We survive to race another race!


  1. "833 runners were treated" man that is crazy. Hope you are both feeling better soon. Congrats on your finish.

  2. I really think I saw you on the live streaming - there are not too many other tall bearded guys there. You of course did not smile at me :), but I smiled and waved and cheered you on..... so proud of both of you.