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COMRADES 2017: THE JOURNEY STARTS NOW

December 29, 2016

First of all profuse apologies are in order for not updating everyone from the week before the Melbourne Marathon. Things there and at the other events I completed in November didn’t exactly go according to plan, and I certainly wasn’t alone. More on that will come (HOPEFULLY) in later posts. Also I hope the festive season regardless of religious faith you believe in brought some sort of joy into a miserable life that seemingly is around us.

 

As many of you are aware if you followed my Twitter (@MHJeffrey027) and Facebook feeds you will know that following Melbourne, and despite a below par performance from a personal standpoint, the time I ran was good enough to ensure I passed the qualification clause to enter the famous yet gruelling Comrades Marathon in South Africa next year. To cut the long story short because many others online will tell you what the story is, the start line for the 2017 edition is at the town hall in Durban, with the finish line at the racecourse in Pietermaritzburg, a mere 5 major hills and 87 kilometres away. It probably sounds like I’m making it look like a casual stroll, but in reality it’s the toughest test I’ll probably ever do short of losing my brain totally if I convince myself to enter a 24 hour race.

The training for this event will be a long road trying to get what many see to be the necessary kilometres under the belt to succeed on the first Sunday in June next year. To that end, this blog from now until mid June will with a couple of exceptions become almost a diary like journal or log of the week or fortnight that will build up into what I hope to be something to hang my hat on when I join almost half of the entertainment industry that has passed on in 2016 (I’m not anticipating joining them). That’s not to say that there won’t be anything on lead up events such as Canberra in April, they are now part of the training regime that will hopefully lead me to the most satisfying experience that life can bring.

The start came earlier yet later than anticipated. When I first entered I promised myself that I would begin training on January 2 to give myself a good 5 month build up to the big day. Then upon booking accommodation in Melbourne over the Christmas period, I was hopeful of getting up early on the 27th of December to charge into a couple of laps of the famous tan track, but in the end I was lucky to get up in time to only miss the first couple of overs of play at the cricket. The start of training for this came on December 28 at Rydges on Swanston, using something I really prefer not to use, a dreaded treadmill. It’s unlikely that I’ll be using another for the remainder of the time in training for this event unless I book a motel that has a fitness space incorporating gym equipment, more on that a little later. It was nothing more than an eye opener to the rest of the program, only 30 minutes at varying speeds and inclines before a 5 minute walking cool down, but at least we’re up and running. Distance was nothing special, but it was the time on the feet and being active that I was seeking.

Important weeks in the training program will come starting January 23 and March 6, when the plan is to fly down from my Rockhampton base to Brisbane to do a week of running at another venue. There’s only so many times I can pound the pavement of the local roads, plus there’s a chance I’ll be able to do a few runs with other like minded individuals who are making the trip across. Running with others who are also doing Comrades this year may help me address what I see as what may well be the big challenge in training and as a consequence race day, early pacing. If I repeat what I do so many times in marathons and 10km races and show impatience by trying to run too fast too early, then some of the cut off times that are strictly enforced may become too great to overcome, let alone the 12 hours to complete the course.

In terms of lead up races, there are 2 definitely confirmed and perhaps a couple of others that are in the maybe stage. The plan at this stage is to head to the country Victorian town of Wangaratta late in February for a half marathon, if only to get myself used to race day scenarios. Due to the distance of the major goal this year requiring pre-race fuel beyond mere fluids that I am used to taking prior to marathon distance and shorter events, Wangaratta will be the first chance I’ll get to try to at least eat something before race start. I’ll also be venturing to Canberra for the 4th consecutive year in April, and based on advice of those who have followed this road I’m on for the first time on several occasions, I’ll try to actually complete the 50km event that I failed to finish in 2016. Redemption won’t be the primary motivator, but if I use it right then that event will give me the boost I’ll probably need in order to get through the last tough portion of training before a 2-3 week taper in May. Not sure of my status in other events such as Twilight Run (although the prospect of 2 training runs in the one day given the timing of the race has some appeal) and even the local Rocky River Run (possibly going back in distance to 10km as I believe this will be a week before Comrades and 2-3 days prior to departure). Final decisions will be made in January.

A January program will go up on New Year’s Day. I’m looking to mix things up a little in the realisation that incorporating a walking cool down/recovery will be of more use to me this year than in previous years. This will probably enable me to do the types of sets I was easily doing a couple of years ago, where I did something like a 26 minute/5km set followed by 4 minutes active recovery, then 24/5 with 6 recovery, then 28/5 with a recovery lasting until I reach home base. Some training will be done on grass ovals, but the bulk will be done on road or concrete surfaces. Naturally at least one day of hill climbing will need to go into the schedule where I’m planning to also schedule a minimum of 3 days rest. Whether someone is crazy enough to follow this program is up to them although being a rookie to this event it’s unlikely that anyone will contemplate using my template for at least 12 months when it’s at hoped that this gets me to the finish line. That’s all I want to do out of the event, time apart from the final 12 hour cut off and perhaps one or two intermediate sectors won’t really matter.

 

In terms of logistics, the passport was the first item of business in order to even lodge an entry from outside of South Africa, and a successful submission of the form the day after the Melbourne Marathon and subsequent acquisition in late October was about as good as it got in the late stages of the year. Hotel bookings were made before the passport was sorted, with payment due in May. It’s not a 5 star hotel by any means, but it looks like doing that job required (here’s hoping). Flights are due to be booked in a month’s time, but I have the funds to be able to book whenever I desire. The issue of local currency is being constantly helped thanks to being a frequent flyer and the perks that come with it (thank you Global Wallet), and I’m hopeful of getting close to 10000 Rand in the kitty upon departure.

 

The planning will be made formal this week, the long journey has already begun!

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