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 ( 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
Mont-aux-sources 50k on 5 Sept

See you on the road