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COMRADES 2019 RACE DAY: FIRST HALF

So the gun has been sounded, and the elite runners have all started to scatter at breakneck speeds relative to the distance of this race. Meantime many of us mere mortals who can actually see the starting gantry for once are still waiting to get underway. It’s a standing start at first, but then after a couple of minutes where the faster weekend warriors have commenced the slow methodical walk towards the line starts. Many by this time of course will have started their watches given that the time limits and cutoffs run on a Gun-to-Gun basis rather than a Mat-to-Mat system (just another near unique feature of Comrades), but panic isn’t and can’t be part of the game. Trying to make up several minutes lost waiting to cross the start line in the opening kilometres is the greatest futility exercise in running. Simply speaking there are far too many people around to get into your own rhythm without compromising wise race strategy, and those that try more often than not finish their day on the side of the road rather than crossing the finish line.

After a delay of 9 minutes which is about the normal time it takes people to cross the line in the G Group (truth be told it was a little quicker last year although I was in a better position within the pen) it was time to smile at the camera, make sure I didn’t trip over timing mats/discarded warmth garments/road furniture, and begin the long uphill trek. In the city streets of Durban that comprised the first kilometre, it wasn’t uncommon for people to utilise the footpath in order to gain running room, something I even did as I negotiated the first corner. Fortunately this year it didn’t result in the bottleneck of 2017 when virtually every backmarker came to a standstill entering the freeway to take us towards the first cut off point. Sure there were those choosing to walk that section as advised by many coaches knowing the conservative game would give them an advantage, but apart from someone who took a tumble (perhaps being squeezed for room or tripping over a “cats eye”) everyone was able to trot freely.

There wasn’t a lot of drama in the pack before sunrise as the field steadily climbed towards the first of the major climbs in Cowie’s Hill. However some roadworks necessitated a slight change to proceedings. Without a lot of fanfare the cut off at Pinetown was removed on the Friday before the race, AFTER many of the runners had toured the course (I was with the CMA’s tour mixed in with Brits, Canadians and with a whole bus to themselves Brazilians, many other Australian’s toured with Bruce Fordyce who is the Comrades equivalent of Peter Brock, a 9 time winner). Some roadworks had substantially narrowed the course leaving organisers to perhaps take a common sense approach with the unforseen delay (I’m sure they would have banked on this area being totally clear on race day, as it turned out the passage was wider than it was on Friday and others just jumped the concrete blocks anyway searching for clear road). Every other cutoff was left unchanged but for many the early stress levels would be somewhat eliminated. I’m sure others unaware of the decision would have been left slightly confused when they expected signage denoting the approaching cut off at Pinetown only to find nothing.

After passing one of my “Demon” landmarks of where last year’s race had concluded (this will only be exorcised when I pass that point next year), it was onto the longest climb of the so called Big 5 in Field’s Hill. For most of the field it represented a chance to utilise the walk/run strategy that many a Comrades Green Number wearer had used over the years. Others such as the Bus Drivers pacing to certain times saw this as a chance to again make up time a little earlier than anticipated. It isn’t that strange in the early parts to see pace runners for a  sub-11:00 schedule leap ahead of those trying to break 10:30. It also isn’t strange to see many tacking onto buses perhaps underestimating how their race plan in conjunction with sticking with a pace bus doesn’t correlate with the driver’s. In any case, my plan wasn’t necessarily to run with a pacing bus as such, but to keep at least the 11:00 bus either behind me or in my sight knowing that I would easily negotiate a cut off point if I remain in front of several buses. That said it doesn’t guarantee much for the cut offs also apply to bus drivers, with some whole buses in the past being too slow to make cut offs eliminating a hundred or so from the race.

Last time I ran the UP run I was a little concerned that I was going too slowly as I passed the Winston Park cut off, the same cut off going the opposite direction where my momentum deserted me last year. Reaching the mark in a tick under 3:50, some 40 minutes inside the cut off, left me in a positive frame of mind. I hadn’t at that stage needed to take on board additional fluids with my first Lucozade bottle still largely untouched, the legs felt as though they had plenty to give, runners around me were as content knowing the chances to make up time were still viable, the crowds were offering their usual tremendous support…..life seemed very content as the approach to the steepest climb of the day, Botha’s Hill, began.

Again it was time to do more walking than running with the second half of the day in mind and plenty of time in the bank to prevent panic. Reaching the top was not that concerning, I was even able to chat with a couple of blokes who were having varying races (the Western Australian lad I encountered was in meltdown mode, encouraging me to keep going with my race while he tried to figure out his own predicament). Little did I know as I was about to descend towards the Wall of Honour and Arthur’s Seat that physical complications were about to compromise my efforts. As I had done in the past year or so, I had applied strapping below the knee in a bid to make what I believe to be patella tendonitis bearable (this is a self diagnosis), even if for the first time in many months I had to use K-Tape. Yet when I was going downhill I felt some pain after running for about 30 metres or so from the outside of the same strapped left knee. Forget trying to make up time on the downhill into the wall, the seat and Drummond’s halfway point as I had to do 2 years ago, I was starting to doubt whether I could make it past the halfway marker that I barely made in my other Up run attempt. At least with time on my side the knee meant I could greet Arthur somewhat properly by doffing the cap and saying “Good Morning Arthur” to see if it brought luck.

To understand more about the Wall of Honour and Arthur’s Seat, here’s something I recorded on the Friday as the tour stopped at these iconic locations.

By that stage I felt I had a couple of options. I could either succumb to the injury, leave the course and retire from the race at Drummond. I could see if there was any type of treatment available in the knowledge that there actually was a physio table located precisely where my 2017 race ended after climbing the famous Inchanga. Or I could just keep walking until the inevitable cut off arrived at Cato Ridge. In the end stopping couldn’t be an option with my split time at 5:50 being 20 minutes ahead of the cut off, and someone with old fashioned magic spray to numb the pain could help the knee issue. It did however mean that the knee brace I was wearing ended up being a calf sock of sorts, for spraying against neoprene would have been as effective as Pikachu using thunderbolt on a grass Pokemon. Yet Inchanga was next on the hit parade, and the many elevation changes that punctuated the remainder of the race remained.

 

TO BE CONTINUED…..

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COMRADES 2019 RACE DAY: BEFORE THE GUN

What a day! What a race! What a bummer! It may have been my third crack at the elusive Comrades Marathon medal that anyone who is anyone in Ultra Marathon running wants, but even though the result didn’t go my way the tale of the day is so big that it will take many parts to get it done. It is with some pride that I can tell the tale, even if the fairytale finish is still to be written. That day will surely come sooner rather than later, although I do say that with some caution given sometimes my predictions can go pear shaped as it did on Sunday (and not necessarily in a bad way either!)

My Comrades morning started upon snoozing the first alarm at 1:15AM, something I can afford to do for the UP run as opposed to a down run. After all, everything had been reasonably well planned out, scratch around in bed or shutting off alarms until 2, shower at 2:30, quick breakfast at 3 and depart for the start zone at 3:45, before finally settling in to start pen G sometime around 4:45. Naturally when these plans are made something invariably causes the plan to be tossed out the window, but that’s coming later.

It actually took a little more time than I thought to apply the strapping on the right calf and the left knee than I had anticipated. With the lack of rigid strapping tape available in Durban (rigid as in a brown colour that doesn’t stretch) I had to make do with black K-Tape, a product I had used before but not extensively since Auckland or in exclusivity. The calf was easy enough to do with a couple of straps on the sides and a single down the middle, with a locking strap at the bottom to keep it all together. It was the strap below the knee that caused a minor hiccup in that I had cut the strip too small to reach fully around the area below the patella. Fortunately a bowl of Rice Crispies (for Australians that’s basically Rice Bubbles with more sugar content), 2 pieces of toast with butter and a couple of half glasses of Apple juice (need to do something about that machine) later I was able to at least secure the knee, then slip a neoprene knee brace over the top locked off with electrician’s tape. It meant I was leaving the Pavilion Hotel about 5 minutes later than I wanted, but with everything ready and a few others heading in the same direction it was time to face destiny.

After a half hour’s warm up walk (at this race there’s no space or time to do a proper warm up, that’s generally what the first 10km of the race is for), I arrived to stand in 2 long queues which race organisers or those in charge of logistics would need to heed a lesson from. Standing in line for half an hour just to have a leek was far from ideal, especially when there was a decent line behind and only 8 porta-loos in the area. Even an extra 2-4 would have made a significant difference to make things more convenient for racers. It may not have helped the mood either when one of the loos was left vacant for some time without anyone realising. Once I finished my business rather quickly it was then off to the quicker moving but no shorter line for the tog bags. Unlike the toilets it wasn’t a hassle, but perhaps organisers can actually make sure like in previous years when specific labels were provided for international racers within the kit bag. It wasn’t until Saturday when I was trying not to move too far from the comfort of bed that I saw a Facebook post stating this needed to be asked for upon check-in, which may have been handy to know 2 days ago. I know others will point to why I didn’t drop my gear off on the Saturday like some would, but I had items that I had to conceal in warm clothing in PMB that I anticipated I would require on Sunday morning for safety purposes. Still at least I knew which direction I would need to go if I was to collect my bag (or so I thought as it turned out).

It would be just before 5AM when I made my way into the already creeping forward G Pen. It didn’t stop people from climbing the fence prior to race start to perhaps get closer to the front (I take it the climb was why an Australian lass didn’t finish), but I was in, locked and loaded surrounded by locals of varying experience. Yet unlike previous years where they were talkative they were locked in their own worlds, setting up their phones to record the pre-race ceremony which makes it really feel like the Grand Final of Ultra Running. With 8 minutes to go it was time to begin to toy with the emotions, starting with the low hum of the South African National Anthem (I still can’t nail the Afrikaans section) with NOBODY daring to sit down (yet in Australia I’m sure someone will make front page news for being outraged over 2 words being in it that they think shouldn’t be, as opposed to 99.8% of the population). After that was the stirring emotion charged Shosholoza, the traditional hymn/song sung before, during and even post race.

(NOTE: This is NOT my video, but this is the song in full as captured by one of many on the start line from the 2018 race starting in Pietermaritzburg)

 

Following that there’s not much time for applause as the festivities go straight into Chariots of Fire. Three minutes to focus the mind on the task at hand. Three minutes to have one last look around to see if someone you know is also ready or in the vicinity. Three agonising minutes for those ahead of us before they were released into action. Three minutes before the final piece of the pre-race puzzle, the recording of a South African by the name of Max Trimborn giving two cock crows (COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO!). Max has been deceased for as long as I have been living, but like some of the past greats such as Arthur Newton, Bill Rowan, Vic Clapham and others this is his great legacy to the race.

Then at 5:29:51AM, Sunday 9 June 2019, 9 seconds BEFORE the race was actually supposed to start (I wonder if anyone noticed)…….BANG! GAME ON! 12 HOURS TO GET TO PMB!

 

 

To be continued……

COMRADES 2019: CALM BEFORE D-DAY

Nothing else can be done to prepare myself now. At the time of writing this there are just over 18 hours until the songs are sung and played (National Anthem, Shosholoza, Chariots of Fire), the cock crows twice or thrice (can’t remember how many exactly) and the cannon is fired to signify the start of another epic journey between Durban and Pietermaritzburg. Unlike last year where I was in a tizzy over whether the timing chip was going to work and if I could find the 8 pins needed to ensure both front and back number were secure, this time I have everything I can think of needing in my room ready to lay out in a few hours time.

What does a Comrades kit entail? Well upon checking in each runner receives a number of products that they shouldn’t use on race day (but probably will) apart from the cap.

The remainder of the gear is similar to what I was wearing last year, and this list may at least help understand how much I’ll be carrying on the race route.

(1) Race Singlet: Same Asics top as I wore the last 2 attempts, with the Australian sewn on flags added last year remaining on board. Probably will look to get a new top for next year should the budget allow.
(2) Shorts: Shorter than the ones I wore last year, don’t think it will matter that much in terms of performance but wearing these will obviously be a requirement
(3) Upper Leg Tights: Again the same “skin” coloured pair as last year, will look to replace prior to the 2020 race.
(4) Socks: Not the original choice I had in mind (I considered wearing the blue socks) but still short cut white pair
(5) Runners with timing chip attached: For confidence and continuity the pair I have for the race is the same brand and model as those I’ve been using all year in earlier races and training. The chip is vital as it needs to be attached to the shoe to record the time over the timing mats placed at cut offs and even at random locations to prevent cheating.
(6) K-Tape: Didn’t bring the rigid strapping tape with me, so store purchased K-Tape will be sufficient for strapping the right calf as well as below the left kneecap.
(7) Yellow Zinc Cream: The identifying strip if ever I needed one, plus it does keep the kids amused and brings attention.
(8) Sunglasses: Again a R180 purchase from the expo, won’t need these in the early portion of the race but as the sun rises they’ll eventually find their way to where they’re supposed to be worn
(9) The race cap: See the video depicting the goodie bag for details
(10) 2 Bottles of Orange Lucozade: Part of the nutrition plan, this will be hopefully tide me through until after the 30km race when I feel as though the Coke provided at the tables will tide me over. That’s not to say I won’t look for water on a few tables here or there, this is also part of a plan to avoid crowding at the early tables. I often train myself to run about 10km before requiring a drink anyway so missing out on early hydration tables isn’t a great concern. That said I was pleasantly surprised to see this was available in South Africa last year, prefer that energy drink to others.
(11) Sunscreen: Need to protect the neck, ears, shoulders, arms and legs from the sun, especially with an anticipated finish time of about 11:20.
(12) Vasoline: Under the armpits, the line of the race top, inside the legs particularly the left, over the “you know what” and following the success of this method in Canberra, between the toes which in past year I’ve bandaged. Good news is that Vasoline is available on course should I need it as well.
(13) Band Aids: Using band aids designed for elbows and knees to cover up the nipples preventing chafe and/or bleeding.
(14) The tog bag: To be dropped off prior to race start, items in this will include warm clothing as the finish line in PMB can get rather chilly, particularly at sundown. I’ll also need to have the vouchers for the post race feed and drinks internationals get. Plus a change of socks and even underwear should I need it.
(15) International hospitality tent wrist band: With my bag hopefully in storage in the international section, this wrist band is my ticket into the area. Without it I’ll never get my bag back.

All that is now left to do is to lay out my gear which I’m planning to do this afternoon, have a final room service dinner (and ask if they have something COLD to drink), make sure I have the alarms set and active (first alarm is at 1AM), and drift off to sleep. I know some will be lucky to get a couple of hours or so but if I can get my usual 3-4 hours on race eve and make sure I get up in time for the race, everything will be fine. The motel is a couple of kilometres from the start line at the town hall, but with a couple of other runners in nearby motels also walking plus a team of runners in the same motel perhaps coming to my aid should I require/ask for it getting to the start shouldn’t be an issue. The plan for race morning should be:

2:00AM: Wake Up having turned off alarms for the last hour or so, take time to regain awareness of surrounds
2:30AM: Shower (hopefully I won’t have to play HeMan to make sure the door closes properly)
3:00AM: Breakfast downstairs, should be better for the motel staff this year after last year having to be ready at 1AM. Won’t have a lot, perhaps a bowl of cereal, some yoghurt if that’s available, perhaps some toast and a juice or two.
3:30AM: Final check to make sure I have everything required
3:45AM: Depart on foot to the town hall
4:15AM: Drop off tog bag, attach international hospitality wrist band.
4:20AM: Final toilet stop, yes there will be a queue to do business
4:35AM: Enter Start Pen G, hopefully find some Australians to relax with.

 

COMRADES 2019: BACK AT THE SITE OF BUSINESS

Well I’ve arrived safely and without any incident (save for a slight issue with a shirt pocket in a strange location on my shirt on the body scan leaving Perth, nothing inside so no issue). The details of how I managed to get here will be posted in a video I’m currently in the process of editing and should be ready to go in the next couple of days. Yes getting here will tire out those who cannot stand flying or being on the road for so long just to get to the final destination (even though the final destination for me is the finish line at Scottsville Racecourse in Pietermaritzburg) but perhaps it will show the lengths some people will go to just to get to the start line.

cityfrombase

Part of the City of Cape Town from the base of the Table Mountain Cable Car, a mere 300m above sea level compared to the over 1000m at the top.

Glad I took a couple of days in Cape Town, even though Tuesday was virtually a wash out and avoiding the stream on the top floor of the double decker tour bus provided more entertainment than the tour due to the inclement weather. I heeded the advice of the cab driver in CPT and instead of waiting until Tuesday as planned I headed almost immediately for Table Mountain after landing on Monday afternoon (helped by the business class upgrade and the hour’s kip on the retractable flat bed). It can actually be a little hairy if you’re on the outer edge of the cable car heading up at such a speed (700m in 8 minutes), but you get an indication of the spectacular 360 degree views. Sure I’ve been at higher altitudes before with Mt.Wellington in Hobart about 200m higher above sea level, but that doesn’t offer the 360 degree views nor does it offer the cable car to make it world famous. I even got a telescopic view of the infamous Robben Island where Mandela among others were imprisoned for many years, perhaps one day I’ll get to see it myself

I also now know how KFC tastes in South Africa, with the answer being not a whole lot compared to Australia. That said their burger range was a little spicier than I felt I could handle and I avoided as such. Similarly Burger King (Hungry Jacks) was also similar, although I reckon instead of a second slice of cheese they used a cheesy sauce on their double stacker which actually tasted nice. In hindsight if I had the cash I probably would have sampled the Italian restaurant next door, but knowing I’ll have enough Italian cuisine over the next couple of days perhaps it was for the best.

Biggest concern physically has been a slight case of the lurgy rendering my voice rather useless, particularly yesterday with the change of weather. Thankfully it seems to be on the mend, so at this stage there’s going to be no physical impediment to me towing the start line from the G pen. Feels like a sense of familiarity heading to that pen again, having started there the last 2 years. Maybe it’s an omen of 3rd time lucky in more ways than one?!

Tomorrow (Thursday) sees a crowded schedule, with the always busy kit pickup in the morning. Hopefully I’ll be able to save a copy of the necessary E-Mail on the phone given I once again didn’t purchase a local sim card to get data, or better yet find facilities before 10AM (even more hopeful that the motel could help me) that allow printing of E-Mails to take place. At least this year the chip is already tied onto the shoe, so there shouldn’t be a need to spend any more on getting yet another timing chip. Cash however will be required for two of my 3 purchases that I will be making at the expo which in no particular order will be:

  • A Bus ticket back to Durban after crossing the finish line. I actually think the bus after finishing in PMB has better atmosphere and is more relaxed than the bus heading up for a Down run start.
  • A new pair of sunglasses. I was always going to purchase a new pair but sitting on my old pair on the bus to Brisbane and breaking my old pair ensured this is now a necessity. However this usually isn’t much more than a R150 purchase (about $14.50 in Australia, depending on who you exchange currency with).
  • Lunch which hopefully like 2 years ago will be a nice plate of Spag Bol. Yes there’s still an international hospitality area but there’s only so many times you can raid the biscuit tin with the coffee in the Styrofoam cup.

Following that at 2PM will be the Internationals run which is just a easy 5-6km from the Hilton which is across the road from the expo. If last year was a guide there were about 30 of us that wandered in, ran steadily down to the beachfront before clocking in at their own leisure. It’s always good to see if I can remember anyone, or if anyone can recognise me without zinc cream.

Perhaps it’s time to retire for the night with the cricket still on with the busy schedule! I know the next few days would continue the build up to the big day on Sunday.

COMRADES 2019 – FINAL THOUGHTS PRIOR TO DEPARTURE

The lead up racing is done, the training is almost done save for a couple of moderately timed training runs, the logistical details are almost complete. It must be that time of year where Comrades looms large. Indeed with less than 24 days until race day sneaks upon us like a pig hunter stalks the beast, consideration to how to attack the days leading into the race and especially race day itself now needs to be considered. I have just about got the planning down to a fine art of what I intend to do in the preceding days, but a final decision on the finer details during the race may not be 100% set in concrete with the probability of plans changing on the fly.

I remember sitting in not quite the exact same location 2 years ago as I blogged prior to my first attempt at this race, doubling as my first ever trip away from Australia. Excitement and anticipation was high as it is now knowing that the big race is a week away and traveling to the Republic is almost a reality. This time however, apart from being a now wiser traveler, there’s more angst, nervousness and pressure surrounding this trip. Whilst I’m sure many will tell me not to think about a DNF this time around, the fact that I’m still waiting to cross the finish line to get that medal around the neck for the first time at the third time of asking means I’m actually glad I’m taking a connecting flight to Cape Town for a couple of days.

It will actually be nice to do the tourist thing in Cape Town rather than just getting down to business, holing myself in a motel room watching SuperSport (the Cricket World Cup will be nice to watch at night). I’ll at least be able to see some sights and tick Table Mountain off the bucket list, hopefully not spending too much energy in the process. Then it’s a short cross country hop to Durban on the Wednesday to go through a now familiar routine (Expo Thursday, Tour Friday, Pizza Friday Night, Parkrun and shopping Saturday Morning, early wake up before race day on Sunday). The specifics I’ll go into more detail later on when I’m in South Africa.

For those wanting to follow me on race day hopefully there will be a link available for streaming of the race, which until a few weeks ago was in doubt thanks to budgetary cuts to the national broadcaster (Aussies feel your pain!) so anyone can watch all the action. For those that can’t understandably hack the pace or the journey, my number 22190 is as it was in the last 2 attempts. Obtaining green number and permanently securing that number is a pipe dream at this stage, even with time on my side. I just want to finish once to begin with so I can show off some hardware alongside photographic memories.

For those of you in or heading towards Durban this week, I look forward to seeing you at the Pavilion Hotel, at the expo (yes the chip is on the shoe this year, no need to purchase another), on Bus 4 of the CMA tour, perhaps at North Beach Parkrun among the thousands who are having their last tune up, or in Pen G just after 4:40AM on race morning. Like the 126 other Australians on the start line I’m sure we’ll be made as welcome as ever.

WINGS FOR LIFE MELBOURNE – MY VIDEO REPLAY

In an attempt to try something else, and to give something other than just words or the odd rambling video pre race (and to test drive the Movavi Video Editor) I’ve decided to try to convey race night (YES RACE NIGHT) at the Melbourne based Wings For Life World Run. For those unfamiliar this run has 12 locations worldwide where runners have their race ended when a car passes them, and several others when a virtual car used via their app gives a little buzz to indicate the “capture”. Apart from Melbourne, other locations where a car is used include Rio de Janeiro, Poznan in Poland, Munich and Pretoria (where I’m sure a few towing the line at Comrades would be using this like me as a training run). My distance of 16.79km was well behind the worldwide (a Russian bloke who covered over 63km) and the local (another Russian who was 10th overall covering over 58km) leading marks, but was certainly beyond expectations particularly with Cairns a week earlier taking a physical toll.

Without further ado I’ve divided the vlog into 2 parts. The first covers the pre-race festivities up to the time the runners are about to enter the course, with the second part incorporating the final moments of the pre-race, some vision from the race itself (which may be blurrier than normal, one of these days I’ll actually invest in a Go-Pro rather than rely on the Mobile Phone) and a brief post race synopsis on the bus returning to race HQ. Fortunately this year I was able to get back to HQ early enough to gather my gear and make the last train from Kooyong Station (where the first video commences) back into the city for a Sunday Night heading into Monday Morning. A recovery swim at Broadbeach the next morning was welcome, although it probably would have been more effective if the water was slightly colder and I wasn’t avoiding boogie boarders inside the patrolled area.

 

PART 1

PART 2

 

So with a month to go before the Big C, the major remaining training run will be with many of the South East Queensland based runners on “Hell on Coot-tha” on Saturday (18 May). After that there may be one more run of 2 hours plus before tapering off with very little running in the last week (not much more than 10km total from the Monday to Saturday of Comrades week).

CAIRNS MARATHON – HAMSTRUNG BUT PRESSING ON

It can be weird how many classify how tough a marathon or ultra marathon is. Some find them tough because of distance (applicable more in Ultras), some see the toughness factor hidden in elevation charts if not in the distance, a few see the elite nature of a field as the indicator that this will be tough. Then there’s climactic conditions where some find it tough because of heat (or lack of), humidity, wind and rain (intensity and frequency). The inaugural Cairns Marathon last weekend fell into the tough category thanks to tropical warmth and showers not falling consistently.

After settling in following the error of forgetting to lodge an entry before Saturday, I was thrilled to discover that the fridge in my motel room wasn’t operational. That said I conceded that if I was going to run this event it may be useful to try to simulate what I’ll be facing at Comrades as best as possible. Knowing that my motel in Durban doesn’t have a fridge in the room at all perhaps this was a blessing in disguise, particularly when I would be using the drink of choice in the opening couple of hours (orange Lucozade) and wearing almost identically what I intend to run in next month.

 

With the motel about a kilometre from the start precinct I wasn’t that worried about departing from the motel later than I had liked. That said with the wet conditions prevailing at the time perhaps it may have been wiser to go early rather than late. It was an earlier than usual starting time compared to many marathons in Australia, although starting later than 5:45AM probably would being the heat factor into  even sharper focus. Owing to the heat I planned to utilise as many drink stations as possible even though at Comrades I’ll revert back to using the 2nd or 3rd station for my first fluid replenishment opportunity. It was also determined that for the first 10km or so I would keep pace with the 4:15 pace runner to test if I was able to maintain some sort of moderately fast tempo befor before reverting to survival mode (walk/run which I’ll be practicing throughout May). There probably was little point or chance of keeping up for the whole distance with that pacer, partially due to conditions (and the dropoff in pace training in warm conditions early in the campaign would be enough proof), partially due to long term thinking.

For the first hour despute the heat everything went pretty well according to plan. It would be the only lap where the field would depart more than a kilometre or so from the Esplanade, running up to Aeroglen, turning into the Botanical Gardens, then shooting up a backroad to the airport starting what would be a trio of loops. The walk/run mode began just after the 70 minute marker, if only to try to cool the body down a little in between showers. Indeed the on again off again nature of the showers was frustrating as a runner, for it was harder to judge how I wanted to approach the run. Running in wet conditions is far different to clear running on a damp surface, particularly in sighting landmarks where you want to start or finish an effort.

Speaking of such efforts, it probably showed that I had learnt from Canberra that I was able to run less like a footballer when those efforts were made. I was able to go that extra 150-200 metres that I was looking for in my capital surges. Yet the conditions weren’t helping the feet. I passed a first time marathoner who had to discard his shoes and run in bare feet when his shoes were too wet to cope with. I too was battling this problem although knowing that these shoes would be a training pair after this race and with a dry pair waiting at the finish line persevering with what I had would be the plan.

This would turn out to be the least of my issues. At around 28km i started to feel tightness in my right hamstring. Perhaps I should have thought long term at this point and called it a day, but the fact that I was relatively close to the finish (2/3 race distance), the lure if finishing an inaugural event and wanting to bank the kilometres prior to Comrades saw me continue. For a while I did find a way of coping with the discomfort by shortening the stride pattern, which I’ll need to utilise for the hillclimbs in the first half of the up run. By the end of the final loop I was actually slowing up waiting for another runner to finish alongside me (even if some of the club runners were urging me not to), leaving a pedestrian 5:15 finish time as a result. That said upon looking at the overall results I’m actually not feeling as bummed about this time, with just 4 runners breaking the 3 hour mark. Certainly there would have been faster times if it was dry and cooler, but with Cairns based in the tropics the conditions probably wouldn’t have been much cooler.

I was thankful that each finisher got a towel, certainly much more useful than the tea towels Gold Coast dished out 2 years ago (I’ll be determining whether I enter in the coming weeks). Yet I didn’t end up going for a recovery dip in the pool falling asleep with the legs stretched out that afternoon. Due to the hamstring issue that hampered me for half the week at work, I couldn’t complete any training runs, which may be a blessing to give the legs a little freshen up before a solid 3 weeks to complete the big bloc.

Despite the injury it’s still a definite start for the Wings for Life event on Sunday in Melbourne. If I am restricted to walking then that’s what I’ll be content with. If I can run sections and get close to 15km (I covered over 16 last year) it will be beyond expectations. The purpose of this training run is not necessarily kilometres or time, but a chance to run on motorways much like the start of Comrades. I won’t get another opportunity to practice running on a slightly different surface to a normal road, even if it’s a 9PM start time. Expect a vlog on my YouTube page tomorrow prior to the run to go through the details of what the Wings for Life world run is, and perhaps it will be reposted here depending on if I use some motel WiFi to upload.