Wednesday, 10 June 2015

If you really want it, you WILL find a way.....Comrades Marathon 2015

Where do I start ??

Firstly I need to thank everyone who sent me Good Luck messages by card, e-mail, facebook, twitter messages – my time-line & feed were filled with wonderful messages of support.
I do thank you. 

Ok & a SPOILER ALERT – For those who don`t know –  I did it, I am a Comrades Finisher J and yes it was tough, bloody tough.

So how do I write a blog on a race that`s really been on my mind for about 24+ months ago. I`m sure it was longer than that but do recall watching the race in 2013 live via YouTube.

Comrades – basically you have less than 12 hours to run about 55 miles in heat on a tough course. To put that into context my previous 50 mile PB was 11 hours 51 minutes (Caesars Camp 50) & my 12 hour PB was 51 miles (Lightning 12) so even to complete Comrades I had to run through TWO tough PB`s BUT what I would say to this now (& indeed other challenges running or not) is DO IT & TAKE THE PLUNGE. Don`t hide within your comfort zone. There`s never going to be perfect time – just do it or you will talk yourself out of it. What`s the worse that`s going to happen??

Training wise I am thinking about collating my training plan on a spread sheet and adding it on here somehow but all I`ll say is that I trained harder (& smarter) for this race than any other race. I wonder if it actually helped by starting off in December a bit injured & yes I had the luck we all need during training. To sum up in figures (& Inc. Comrades) I ran 912 miles & 52,700 ft. of elevation gain – plus all of the yoga, PT Sessions, Massages etc.

Whoever said that Comrades is a Selfish Mistress wasn’t wrong BUT saying all of that & yes it was hard work, tough & tiring but I loved it – it`s not a challenge if you don`t push yourself !!!

The trip itself – I entered Comrades on the day it opened & the plan was to spent time in Africa afterwards & make it more of an adventure than the race itself sadly for this year (I hope) other restrictions applied and I could only go for a short `in & out` trip but what a trip it was !! I booked my accommodation & flights fairly late (End of March). I booked into the Garden Court – South Beach which was nice & full of Comrades Runners but if I go back & stayed in Durban I would move back towards North Beach which is only 20 minutes’ walk along the Beach front away. As for flights you can get to Durban many ways – UK to Frankfurt, Frankfurt to JNB then internal flight to Durban, or UK to Dubai, then Dubai to JNB & then unto Durban – I went for a BA flight from T5 to JNB then an internal flight to Durban. 
The day of the flight and seeing as it was an evening flight I spent the morning packing, seeing my PT Instructor by having a massage & popping over to see my main training partner Debby & Mike – all really relaxing really.

The advantage for me for flying out of T5 is that it`s only 25 minutes away, So later on I checked in & wandered around the airport for a while – I saw quite a number of the UK Comrades T-shirts David Ross had kindly organised . I boarded the aircraft and sorted out my seat for the flight. As I closed my eyes (something I seem do before all flights) an attendant tapped me on the shoulder & said “Hello Sir, would you like to come with me” – I thought “what have I done??” to my relief & complete surprise I was being moved to `Club Class` - thank you so much for that. I didn`t take full advantage of the bar but did raise a glass to you guys.  

I arrived in Durban with hours to spare for my connecting flight & after spending a little while I met up with some other UK Comrade runners in the Mug & Bean for a bit of a natter. The flight to Durban was I think uneventfully as I slept all of the way there  !! At Durban airport I jumped into a taxi for the 350 R trip to the hotel. Well what stunning countryside - I think my mouth was open all the way to the hotel. I checked in & after a quick shower I was off to the Expo. The buzz was electric. There was lots of talk about a pre-race route trip – I didn`t do this as I wanted it to be a surprise. I had an early night. 

In the morning I went for breakfast & even though it was Friday you could sense the atmosphere – it was brilliant.  That day & I didn’t want to wear myself too much I just wandered down to see where the North Beach parkrun would be held the day after. That night I went to the Runner`s World Pasta Party – which was great & listening to Comrades Coach Lindsey Parry which was motivating - we do write our own story.

#parkrunDay – I was looking forward to this. It was a 8:00am start as I got outside & started to walk down the promenade & was simply amazed on how many runners were already running, jogging / walking – I have to say many were not there because of the parkrun but just getting in their early morning exercise.  As I walked down a parkrun volunteer came aside, she noticed my 250 parkrun top & made comment but with that her phone went & she said “Hello Gill Fordyce” – after she finished the call I said “Sorry Gill as in the wife of Bruce?” she said yes & that Bruce would love to see my top. We walked over to Bruce who was getting ready & was introduced. Bruce said without any hesitation that he wanted my top…I replied that he would have to wait J Gill kindly agreed to take a couple of photos.

Bruce wished me luck for Comrades.  I met up with Dennis & the gang and awaited the pre-run talk. I edged towards the front & hear Bruce mention myself & Frimley Lodge parkrun (at last I felt like Darren Wood – aka Mr500 J ).  I ran an easy 30:00 mins with Dennis.  There were 1,245 off runners that day & the volunteers coped very well – thank you North Beach for a wonderful morning. Afterwards it seemed most of the UK runners went to the Mug & Bean cafĂ©. I met up with even more UK runners. In the afternoon I wanted to drop my post Comrades bag into the Expo – at least it`s one thing less to worry about on race day so I got that sorted.

Race Day –

Alarm set for 03.00am, kettle on & moved all my stuff unto the bed…where I noticed the Garmin was already on !!!!! So it was straight on re-charge, dived into the shower & out before I got wet. Prepared my `Oat so Simple` breakfast & thought “hang about where`s the spoon?” – so I ended up eating my Porridge with a stirrer – which took ages!! But apart from that I calm. I left the hotel at 4.00am for the short taxi ride to the start (50 R) – it wasn`t cold but I still wore my Brighton Marathon cotton t-shirt (well it was the race I got my Comrades Batch / Pen position in). I sat down by some steps opposite the clock tower & watched the pens fill – what an atmosphere & still 60 mins to go. The pens close at 05:15 so I got into mine at about 05:00 – I sat down on the kerb & thought about the day ahead, how I trained for this, my success along the way, the best moments in build-up races  – it was up to me now. No-one could do it for me just me. Instead of being worried I just smiled and thought `Let`s do this & get this done”.

As time ticked away & towards 05:30 we all moved forward – and not in a crushing way & we seemed to respect everyone`s room. The music got louder – the guy on the microphone pumped up the atmosphere. We shook the hands of the runner to the right & wished them well  - then we shook the hands of the runner on the left. We all had one goal and that was to finish, some had more than one but that was the aim everyone. I switched on my Garmin & not really knowing how much charge it had but hopefully enough. The famous `Shoshaloza` blasting out – the place erupted, then the `Chariots of Fire` – I actually had goose bumps.  I was hear listening to this live, not via You-Tube but live & just about the leg it for 55 miles – wow wow wow !!!! I will admit I had a lump in my throat.

We moved forward again & then remember my `Crib sheet` I attached it to my number so I could easily read it.  The next sounds we all wanted to hear was the “Cock`s crow” {great story about this – In 1948, at the start of the 8th Comrades a local runner Max Trimborn, one of the 44 entrants that year, couldn`t contain his nervous energy on the starting line. He needed to so something…anything. So he cupped his hands, filled his lungs, and issued a lusty rooster crow. The other  runners so enjoyed this homey touch that they demanded repeat performances in subsequent years. Trimborn obliged for the next 32, sometimes adorning himself with feathers and a rooster vest. By the time of his death in 1985, Trmborn`s crowing had been preserved on tape & still starts the Comrades Marathon – just how fantastic is that?? This is the beauty & charm about this race there are so many wonderful stories}.  Anyway we moved forward, again no pushing & shoving as I went over the line I started the Garmin…… HANG ABOUT – what a muppet, it`s a GUN TO GUN Race. I quickly checked with a runner & it took almost 2 mins to cross the line – ok time is now Garmin + 2 mins. What a Comrades rookie !!!

While it was dark it wasn’t too dark, as we all made our way out of Durban we filled the road – it was a sea of bobbing heads as far as you could see both in front & behind. All you really needed to concentrate on was the cats eyes & any discarded clothes  (talking of which my gloves soon came off – they were nice too – oh well never mind).

The plan was to be between 10 hrs & 11 hrs – but thinking it would be nearer 11 hours.  

My pace band was – 80Km – 00:52:00, 70Km – 02:00:00, 60Km – 03:10.:00, 50Km – 04:19:00, 43Km – 05:00:00, 40Km – 05:30:00, 30Km – 06:44:00, 20Km – 07:59:00, 10Km – 09:16:00, 5Km – 10:06:00 & Finish 10:45:00.

The `Crib sheet`  was just regarding the 5 major hills – they don`t tell you about the smaller hills or the hill with no name….

Cowies – 73 Km (2Km), Fields – 68 Km (3.5 Km), Bothas – 52 Km (2.3 Km), Inchanga – 43 Km (3.7 Km) & Polly Shorts – 10 Km (2.5 Km)

For those that don`t know in Comrades everything counts down – all the KMs markers count down, which I have to say is great at the end but not so great at the start but at least you are fresh. 

The first 35 Km (22 Miles) is uphill – this is not a warning this is fact – the incline is relentless. One of the 10 hrs buses went past.  The 1st of the hills is Cowles – I walked & planned to walk this hills & make up time on the down sections. I felt a surge when I went through the timing mat knowing that phones & apps were going off now – smiling to myself about all those refresh buttons being pressed beforehand – sorry guys. The next uphill section was about 14M & lasted about a mile – this incline was brutal, not only was it sharp but the contour on the road was incredible – I felt the strain all the way down my left leg.  We got the summit – I say summit as still goes up but the sharpness is less.  The 1st 11 hour bus goes past… head drops… 

The support along the roadside is amazing, the drinks stations are fantastic. The difference between the richer & poorer areas along the route is so distinctive – so moving.

Another 11 hour bus goes past, then what seems to be only a few minutes later the 11.30 bus goes by – my head really drops as I`m not even half way & I`m way behind schedule. I try to join the bus but it doesn`t seem to match what I need i.e. runs in the wrong place, walks in the wrong place, the drink stations are too busy.. I soon get off – I guess you need to join them from the start rather than go off too fast and then join. I see it disappear down the road. So I look at the views instead – they are spectacular. I would love drive the course with a camera. I decide there and then that “Yes I`m behind schedule & got the pacing wrong & that I might get timed out but this is the Comrades Up Run & it`s meant to be tough but there was no way I am pulling to the side of the road – the recovery bus will just have to run me down”  The next water station I put small chunks of ice in my hand held water bottle along with a High 5 tab  (it was like a slush puppy) & put a huge bit of ice under my cap & I picked my feet up. It was like in Rocky where he gets told to win by Adrian - I got my second wind. I thought if I get timed out let`s just see how far I can get – my target was 50 miles & to beat 11 hrs 51 mins.

I ran to Arthur`s Seat & I placed a flower & wished him well – I didn`t have a smoke but I did have my 3rd (& final) gel – I had more but didn`t really fancy then.  Later on I gave a couple of the double expresso ones away to the kids along the way – Hope they liked them.

I saw a sign saying `35 Kms` to go and thought that`s only 7 parkruns to go I can do this ….& yes I did count each one down. I later saw Hideo sporting his Dorking & Mole Valley AC vest, who was completing in his 16th (who also stopped for a trip into McDonalds on route - fantastic) we tagged each other for miles which was fun - if I say we tagged each other 7 or 8 times I think that`s an understatement & I did appreciate his help. We later worked out that we both run on the left, I spent more time at the water stations – I did have a hand held (which I highly recommend) & on the day I`m slightly quicker down-hill. I could hear him doing his tour guide bit telling folks it`s all downhill now as we just cleared the highest part of the course.  21 Kms to go – only a I have half marathon to go & most of this was downhill.

It is a great feeling & a huge turn around that I`m chasing rather than being chased – yes I`m tired but feeling generally ok & moving well. I was still chasing that 50 Mile `PB` which I`m think it going to right on top of a Polly Shorts…..I go through 50 Mile in around 10hrs 32 mins (Note to self-go find a 50 Mile race – late edit – Found one J ).  Polly Shorts is a real climb – all I wanted to do is run but I don`t as I seem to have this walk / run & water station strategy right so I carry on with it. 

Less than 6 Kms to go – I`m loving it. I`m waving to the crowds (ok trying to get the blood down from my hands) they wave back. I go past loads of runners – some I even recognise from earlier in the race.. I get photo-bombed – we did have a laugh. It`s funny how you remember the stupid parts of a race.  They sneak a couple of more hills in..  In the last two miles now. I see quite a few runners with cramp but they are still moving forward – which is the key – don`t stop. I near the stadium – the noise is intense. I raise my arms up, acknowledge the crowds.

I am running inside the stadium now – yes me – thank goodness I`m wearing my glasses. In one way I wish you could bottle this feeling but I guess it`s better if you earn it. God knows how fast I`m running – feels like I`m 5 minute milling. I want to finish but don`t want to finish – I want this moment to last for ever.

I see the finish line – it`s a wonderful sight, I go through & received my medal, Ok I missed the bronze medal but I still get the best medal I`ve ever received – a Comrades Finishing Medal (to be precise a Vic Clapham). I thank as many of the volunteers as I can & make my way through to the International finishing  area.  

My Splits time & Cut Off`s –

Cowles Hill – 70.9 Km (16.8 Km) – 01:57:40            Cut Off – 02:40:00 = +43 Mins Ahead
Drummond – 44 Km (43.7 Km) – 05:28:10              Cut Off – 06:00:00 = +31 Mins Ahead
Cato Ridge – 30 Km (57.7 Km) – 07:27:58                Cut Off – 08:00:00 = +32 Mins Ahead
Lion Park – 17 Km (70.7 Km) – 09:22:10                   -
Polly Shorts – 7.5 Km (80.2 Km) – 10:32:05            Cut Off – 11:10:00 = +38 Mins Ahead
Pietermaritzburg – 0 Km (87.7 Km) – 11:26:29     Cut Off – 12:00:00 = +33 Mins Ahead

Useful information about Comrades – Make sure of your Comrades medal & this Comrades, the ALSORAN way Link

Post Race

Yes I was fortunate - I got my pacing wrong, I totally under estimated the first 35Km but I had the luck in the race as well as the training – many a good runner didn`t get this & didn`t make the line (starting line & the finishing line).

I walked through the Finishing area, collected my bag & wandered over to where most of the UK runners I knew were. As I was putting warm clothes on I switched on the phone & while I think I’ve felt most emotions life can throw at you but I cannot recall ever feeling so overwhelmed by reading messages of Support & Congratulations as I did when I was sitting there.  I will treasure that memory for a very long time.

I sent a tweet which I had been thinking about for ages – “I am a Comrades Finisher #BestTweetEVER”. 

I sat there not really saying too much, eating or drinking – just grinning like a loon but eventually I wandered over to where the Buses where to take us home.  I got a bit of luck here too as my Coach instead of dropping me outside another Hotel of a similar name stopped right outside my hotel. #Result  I had a quick shower & hit the bar.

The next evening David Ross had organised a meal – what a great end to Comrades.

I flew back the next day. Hardly surprising I slept on the short flight to JoBurg, I didn`t have to wait too long for the connecting flight. I boarded the Aircraft I sat in my seat, as I was sitting there I`m sure I recognised a person a few seats up but didn`t disturb her. A flight attendance tapped my on the shoulder and asked if I had run Comrades, I said yes & she said “Oh well done, will you come with me please Sir” – Once was amazing but twice – I was totally gobsmacked. Again I raise a glass to them both  – such a kind & wonderful gesture (I did hear a wonderful story afterwards too). I have to say as soon I put the seat back & my feet on the foot rest I was asleep & slept for most of the flight. 

On the way to the Passport clearance & baggage reclaim I saw the person I thought I recognised and had the chance to say hello – I was right it was only Ellie Greenwood – last year`s Ladies Winner & this year 6th place Lady. She is such a nice person. Sorry rubbish photo.

Monthly stats

Miles = 204.3 Miles (Highest Month Ever)
Time On Feet = 34 hrs 54 mins.
Elevation = 14,783 ft
Highest Weekly Mileage = 65.2 Miles
Longest Run = 87.7 Km Comrades
Longest `Time on your feet` Run = 11 hrs 26 mins (Comrades)
Highest `Back To Back / Miles` = 2 Days / 57 Mins
Races = 7 (North Dorset Marathon, Alton Ten, Windlesham Relays, Hook Ten, Woodlands 5 & a Bit, BUPA 10,000 & Comrades)
parkruns = 5 (Rushmoor, Frimley Lodge x 2, Yeovil & North Beach)
Yoga Sessions & hours = 1 off / 1.5 hrs (Need to do more)
PT Sessions = 2
Sports massages = 3

What`s next –

After training for 6 months I`m going to be seeing & running with load of friends as the Endure 24. I am in a team of 8.

Thank you South Africa

Job Done !!!

………..or is it ???  J

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Comrades Blog...well not quite

but (hopefully) here some `music`........