I recently ran what was supposed to be my qualifier for Comrades at Kaapsehoop in Mpumalanga. It was supposed to be pie and cake – afterall the route profile I had received beforehand showed that the race was all downhill and most (sensible) people had travelled to Nelspruit to qualify there rather than do the unthinkable and try to qualify at Soweto. Who does that!?
The day itself was great, it had rained the night before and the start of the race was fantastic and cool. A later learned that before the start, the deck at one of the restaurants where some runners had been registering and waiting in the morning collapsed leaving a few runners hurt. Fortunately, it seems most if not all were able to run. The race however did claim a victim. Someone whom I did not know, suffered a heart attack and died not far from the finish which is incredibly sad.
My first ten kilometres went by well but a little slower than I had wanted but only by 5minutes. At that point, I was of course still able to do mental arithmetic and wasn’t too worried because I knew I could make up those 5minutes and be at halfway on target. Or what I thought was my target. I had forgotten my pace charts on my desk at work but thought that I had more or less memorised where I needed to be at the major milestones (10km, 21km and finish) but as it turns out what I had memorised was itself off by 5minutes. One can see how this story is unfolding.
Thankfully, my footpod died at about 12km into the race, else this story would now be a horror story. I am embarrassed to say this but the thing had never been calibrated in over 4years (I don’t use it that often) – and after having calibrated it this week, manual in hand, I wonder if it was even ever properly calibrated in the first place. At about 15km into the race I realised that my pace was way off and feedback from my footpod had been as accurate as a politician in parliament. So for next 20km I set off with some intent and by the time there were 11km to go, I had an hour in which to make a sub 4:40 which would have been very acceptable and doable considering the route profile promised a nice freewheel into Nelspruit. Of course that was all a lie! The route had been changed to finish at the stadium and so the last 7 or so kilometres were like……the road to hell….complete with the temperature and scenery.
I picked up a ‘friend’ along the way which was a welcome relief having run nearly 30km all on my own. His exile stories were delightful and I soon forgot I was fighting cramping quads. But. I will shortly be compiling a rule book for long distance running, and a top rule will surely be: Do not make friends with people you have caught. People who catch you on the road, by all means, yes. But people you have caught, no! No matter how interesting they may be, if you catch someone that means that person is already struggling and running a slower pace than you. Leave them alone!
Okay, I don’t really mean this. My point is, I think it is important to stick to your pace plan, particularly if you are using a race to qualify and not just out for your LSD.
But what happened is that my friend really wasn’t strong enough at that point and in hindsight I don’t think he had set himself any targets for this race. Based on some of the things he said in the 8km we ran together I now also think he was one of the people who got injured when the deck collapsed and I don’t think his mind was on race by the time he’d even lined up for it. Of course at that point, you (well, me) would be ‘running poles’, running 3light poles and walking one but my dear friend could barely run one pole let alone 3 and with the surprisingly hilly last few km’s our (well, my) sub 4:40 very quickly slipped through our fingers and we were going to have to settle for a tight sub 5.
To our surprise, after running 2km past what we’d been told was the last water table (which was not the last water table), we found out there were another 3km to go. We assumed (another point for the rule book!) that the last water table had been the 3km to go mark and we thought we had 1more km to go – I mean we could see the stadium and we could hear the public address system. Did we freak out!!! The writing was on the wall when with 2km to go, I realised that we had ten minutes left – that’s 5minutes per kilometre!! Boy did I run my guts out. Clearly the people of Nelspruit are proud of their Soccer World Cup white elephant, oops I mean stadium, because, really was it necessary to make us run all the way round the bloody thing. I heard some people from a local running club say, ‘that lady is not going to make it’ and I hated them for it, but I appreciated the reality check and I was not going to go down like a wimp. In crazy degree heat and furnace like humidity, I ran those last two kilometres in 5:30min and suffered the torture of hearing the gun go off as I run down the tunnel into the stadium. That, is a feeling I do not wish on my worst enemy.
5:01:10 was the time on my watch and bless the organisers as they felt sorry enough for me (or pity) to give me a medal anyhow.
In many ways I am glad that things turned out this way because it taught me a lot of things about race strategy. I would much rather experience what I did when I did, rather than had it been at Comrades itself or Two Oceans. For one, I know I need to not only focus on my endurance but my speed and have started incorporating hills into my regime. They really aren’t bad at all.
Then of course there are small things like making sure you don’t have equipment failure if you rely on equipment to set your pacing.
As it turns out, the organisers adjusted the times and my official time has me scraping in under official cut-off. It does take off the pressure of qualifying for Comrades although I’d obviously like to improve my time for seeding purposes next year.
In all, this has all been a fun(ny) experience and I’m kinda glad if not amused it unfolded the way it did.
So after City2City I picked up a bit of a stress fracture in my left. I say a bit since my foot was a little sensitive for about 10 days after the run but that seems to have subsided after I decided not to run at all for a week. This has also helped my bursitis in my right hip. (I sound like I was in a train accident!).
All of this has left me thinking about whether it is sustainable to run big distances in my minimum trail. Granted, I should have never run 50km in them in the first place, with such a short transition time – but I think even if I had slowed it down a bit, it’s unrealistic to run that long in a shoe with very little cushioning – certainly for me anyway. I still love my mimimus trail and will always wear it offroad and whenever I feel like it but I think I will look into getting the minimus road which is a little more forgiving. My mind’s not quite made up. Searching through the internet is proving to be a confusing exercise – on one hand is the ‘born to run’ movement and its disdain for anything that is not zero drop, then there’s the group that says Nike Free is a gimmick…so I think I have my work cut out for me.
…..that didnt end in a DNF! Finally, I am delighted to say I completed an ultra for which I could be awared a medal and an official finisher’s time! All praise and thanks are due to God. I (sort of) secretly entered myself for City2City which for me was a tester before 2Oceans. I had a disastrous 2Oceans in 2008 and it’s taken me 3 years to pluck up the courage to go back again. But deep in me I felt that I had to run City2City to know if I could do it again and run over 42.2km and actually finish. It was a massive risk to sign up for it because I had very little mileage for this, coming out of winter and the fast – not even enough for a full marathon let alone an uiltra but I was determined that where I lacked in training I would at least make up for in not making the same mistakes I made in 2008 where I went out too fast, didn’t carboload sufficiently and didn’t prepare for cramps. I was a lot better prepared in this regard this time round and then as my luck would haved it, I bumped into a clubmate (whom I’d actually never seen on the runs before) at about 2kms into the race. We started chatting and then naturally continued the race together but this was really lucky for me because this guy turns out to be an ultra-marathon guru of sorts. He really helped me along, telling me where to hold back, to run half the hills and he kept saying, ‘the race starts at 30km, leave a little in reserve’. He was fantastic. Even in the last 15km where my mind really started to suffer and play games with me, he was really encouraging and kept telling me to not listen to my mind – if it weren’t for him, I’m pretty sure I would still be found sleeping under the trees in the streets of Bramley right now. I’m really delighted to have finished at 6:17:00 that was a whole forty minutes early than I was hoping for. It’s not often that things work out this way but this is really the boost I needed to get my mind right for 2Oceans.
here is a pic of me at halfway
A while ago a colleague and I decided we would collect food items to hand over to one of the charities that is currently involved in the Somalia crisis. We must have contacted close to 100 people that we know from work and outside with the idea being that each person brings in just one tin of food from their pantry. A donation of +/- 100 items of food would have been decent we thought. To our surprise not one person responded to the request. This really disappoints me and makes me wonder how so many people can be so disaffected by the suffering of a people. Is it because people tell themselves those people in East Africa don’t matter because they are Somalis, Kenyans, etc.? Is it because people tell themselves that those people don’t matter because they are Muslims? Sunnis? Poor? What concerns me even more so is the fact that every year we run around and want to commemorate Mandela Day and ‘give’ our 67minutes to those who have less than us as if our obligations as society can be fulfilled in 67minutes. I have long had a problem with the Mandela Day idea and apart from the fact that Allah tells us, “If you give alms openly, it is well, and if you hide it and give it to the poor, it is better for you” (Qur’an 2:271) – I sometimes wonder to what extent people are genuine even in giving those 67minutes.
Of course the current crisis in East Africa goes deeper than the starvation of millions, which itself is only a symptom of a greater problem – that needs a different kind of intervention. And of course, East Africa is not the only place where people are facing challenging conditions, indeed there are people facing challenges even closer to home, but when people have the opportunity to do one small thing and they choose to walk away, I can’t think of anything more disturbing.
I’ve never been a morning person let alone a morning runner. I decided to give it a try this morning after having managed in Ramadaan to force myself to gym in the mornings – on three occasions would you believe. I did 10km this morning and it was fantastic, I still managed to be in the office at a decent time but the greatest feeling of all is knowing that my mileage for the day is complete. This is making me think that Comrades training for next year is indeed possible. I even have a crazier idea: to jog to work in the morning every day and shower at the gym near work. This would give me at least 55km between Monday and Friday before my long run….but okay lets not get ahead of ourselves!!
The other day in my impulsiveness I decided I was going to buy a pair of Vibram five fingers because I was nervous about developing further injuries and had also heard too many stories about torn ACLs. I’m glad I did a bit of research on barefoot running and that in the end I didn’t jump straight into it without knowing about transitioning. It also helps that in the end, the shop I went to didn’t have the five fingers in my size. While I was there a pair of New Balance Minimus caught my eye and although that wasn’t my plan I ended up going for it a few days later after reading a bit more about it. (I’ve always been an Asics girl but secretly admired NBs.) I obviously didn’t read enough because I actually bought the Minimum Trail and not the road which I only realised two weeks after but this doesn’t bother me at all because I’m glad to have a shoe I can take on and offroad. To be honest, I don’t actually see what the need for a separate trail and road shoe is particularly since the Minimus Trail is so light and flexible. It also has a very robust Vibram sole. I think the Vibram sole is what caught my eye. I’ve done more mileage (not much probably only 30km thus far) on the road with it and I really love this shoe. I ran 10km on the trails with and it really comes into its own off-road. You feel the connection with the ground, I like that, that’s nice, that’s why we like trail running in the first place, but it’s extremely grippy which gives you so much confidence when you put your foot down. I can’t get over how light the shoe is. The only concern now is whether I haven’t transitioned sufficiently and whether I might not pick up stress fractures later as my mileage picks up. That’s the other thing, I didn’t get any stiffness in my Achilles or calf with this shoe as I expected. On the first two runs i could feel that my foot and heels were a bit more engaged but that’s to be expected with the zero cushioning but I never felt my calves ‘sieze’ as I’ve heard other people report when transitioning so maybe I’m one of the lucky ones, time and City2City will tell!