A great prize & challenge
I'm still struggling to catch up on all the posts I've missed......at least I have a whole weekend ahead of me before returning back to work to catch up.
If anyone is interested, here's my race report from Comrades.
I was wide awake well before my alarm had gone off. It was 2:30am and if felt like I hadn't slept for more than 20 minutes all night. I probably hadn't. This was it. No more sleeps left. I was finally going to tick off a race that had been at the top of my bucket list for many years - The Comrades Marathon. It was an 'up' run this year, meaning almost a 6,000ft elevation gain over the 87km course from Durban to Pietermaritzburg.
If this didn't sound like a lot on paper, it certainly looked a lot on the bus tour of the route the day before. No hill training I'd done was enough to prepare me for this. On top of this was the weather forecast for the day of the race - temperatures reaching 31 degrees Celsius and a head wind reaching gusts of up to 40mph. I'd also managed to catch my wife's sinus infection a day earlier, meaning I awoke with a sore throat and a head that felt like it was frozen in an ice block.
Strangely though, I wasn't feeling nervous. Daunted yes, but also excited. I had no idea what this day would bring or whether my training had been enough. I did know that I was going to try and enjoy it! The race started at 5:30am. I got to the start at just gone 4:00am and was shocked to see people had already entered their pens and were sitting patiently for the race to start. With my walnut bladder, I'd never manage such a wait! I entered about an hour later, squashed towards the back and waited. As the clock ticked towards 5:30am, the South African national anthem was played, followed by Shosholoza and Chariots of Fire. The atmosphere and singing sent shivers down my spine. I was definitely feeling overwhelmed now.
Before I knew it, the gun had gone off, and we had started the long road to the finish. It only took a minute to cross the start line and I was away in to the dark night. My eyes were transfixed on the road in front of me, making sure there were no chances of tripping over fellow runners and pot holes.
I was secretly hoping to go sub 9 hours before the race, but even though I was less than 10 minutes in to running, I knew this wasn't going to happen. My sinus infection wasn't bothering me at all, but the temperature definitely was. It was muggy and the sun was still an hour away from rising. I was already drenched in sweat. With the constant uphill climbs for virtually the first 46km, I knew it was going to be a struggle to keep such a pace and still maintain enough energy for the 2nd half.
The first major climbs of Cowies Hill and Fields Hill came and went, and even with some short walking breaks up these, I was still maintaining 10 minute miles, which was needed to come in under 9 hours. With the sun up, the temperature was rising rapidly. Crowds were out in force, the smoke of their breakfast braais crossed the course. I was expecting the smell would make me hungry. It just made me nauseas.
It was just before entering Hillcrest that the 10 hour bus swallowed me up and spat me out. There was no point pushing for this dream with another 60km still to go. I'd been running with a girl I'd met at the 3 Forts Marathon a month earlier for a few kilometres and was still feeling pretty good. It was nice having company. I was wearing a Union Jack vest, offered to all UK runners. This certainly helped with getting more vocal support (and light hearted abuse from Australian supporters!) from the crowd.
It was only after the third of the five main hills - Botha Hill that I started to struggle with the constant uphill running. I walked for all of this and then enjoyed the first proper downhill section, passing the Wall of Honour and Arthurs Seat on the way to Drummond and the halfway point. I was about 10 minutes down on my sub 9 hour goal by now and was feeling confident of posting a decent sub 10 hour time. That's when the trouble started.
I felt I'd been doing quite well at staying hydrated up to this point. I'd been taking a gel every hour too. The one thing I hadn't been replenishing enough of was salt. Energy drinks hadn't been enough. The cramps started and they immediately brought me to a walking pace. I tried to start running again and my calves again let me know that this was against their wishes.
Luckily the 4th major climb was coming up - Inchanga, which meant walking time, which I hoped would help with the cramps. I took advantage of a salt tablet and some salted orange segments. Unfortunately the damage was already done and the cramps never went away. There were more downhill sections now and I happily managed to run these, but as soon as the uphill sections returned, the cramps also returned.
My average pace by now had dropped drastically. The cramps had spread to my arms, quads and strangely my cheeks. The kilometre signs still read 32km to go, 31km to go. They were passing at a ridiculously slow speed now and I felt despondent there was still another 20 miles to go. I was now in to unknown territory. I'd never ran this far before. The sun was beating down, the wind was letting itself known and blowing a dust storm into our eyes. There was nothing enjoyable about this. I swore there and then that I would never be so stupid to ever attempt anything like this again.
The next 10 miles were definitely the hardest. I was running on my own and the course was passing sparsely populated areas, which meant less crowds. I'd also made the decision of damage limitation. I was starting to feel a bit sick now and with the cramps, I decided to focus on getting the bronze medal and not on time. To get a bronze medal I needed to finish in any time between 9 and 11 hours, which meant I had plenty of time to play with. All I had to do was run about 4.5 miles an hour for the rest of the race and I'd come home in time.
About 12 miles from the finish I got talking to a local runner called Theresa. She was running her 10th Comrades and was getting her green number. It was nice to have company again and I ran the rest of the race with her. It definitely made the last miles pass without any incident. The camaraderie amongst runners is something this race is famed for, and it certainly didn't disappoint. We walked the up hills and ran the down hills. I was more than happy with this.
Climbing the last major hill, Polly Shortts about 8km from the finish, it was carnage. I must have past about 10 runners collapsed or past out in the 2km climb to the top. Other runners were cramping up more than me and they looked like they were playing musical statues, too scared to move again for fear of what was coming.
The crowds were back and as the stadium came closer in to view, I finally allowed myself to think I was going to complete it. The stadium finish was like no other. I managed to spot Mrs. Shady in the crowd. The look of relief on her face was easy to see. Not surprising considering I'd told her I was going to be there 2 hours earlier! There was no sprint finish. My legs didn't have it in them.
I got my bronze medal with less than seven minutes to spare, finishing in 10:53:06. I was ecstatic and actually felt really good. That feeling last for about 2 minutes when my stomach let me know that it had not been digesting any of the liquids I'd been taking on for at least the previous 6 hours. So instead of celebrating finishing with everyone else, I found myself filling airline sick bags for several hours. Hydration and nutrition will definitely be areas I'll be focusing on next time! (It's strange how my mind has already forgotten all the painful parts of Sunday's race!).
It might have been the toughest race I've ever ran, but it's one of the best experiences I've had when running. Completing the race meant I ran 21 miles further than I'd ever ran before in my life. Now it's time for a bit of a break!
I'm actually very jealous now of all of you that are doing TR24!
Sorry for the radio silence- camping then crappy wweek at work- only 5 weeks 2 days and 8 hours till I leave!!! Not that I'm counting...
Ady- awesome report and still have so much respect for you doing it.
I'll try to round up and catch up properly later, as off to the kids Hospital to collect my eldest son- had emergency surgery yesterday for his broken arm. Monkey bars are dangerous things!
Great report ady and a truly wonderful achievement. Think I have now put this on my bucket list like you had. Not sure why though.
Ady - wow! Just wow! What an experience. I have to say that I'm not sure whether I feel more or less likely to do an ultra after reading that but I certainly feel like I know alot more about what it might be like.
That was a top notch report - thanks for taking the time to fill us all in. I can't imagine what it was like with 20 miles to go feeling like you did.
As you know, salt depletion and dehydration have hit me before too (though I'm sure in not as big a way) so I have a little familiarity with what you were going through, albeit over the tiny sprint distance of just 26 miles.
I have to ask - when you say your cheeks were cramping, which cheeks were you referring to? As you seem to be expressing surprise I'm going to guess it was the upper body cheeks Bizzare how the body reacts to exertion.
Anyway, well done once again. I was watching the Eddie Izzard 27 marathons thing the other day and he mentioned a quote about marathon running being 90% mental, and the other 10% all in your head. I think you just proved that beyond doubt.
Clive - blimey, not you too. That's Tigger and yourself who have had kids with broken bones recently. What happened? I'm guessing a fall from the bars but must have been pretty heavy or awkward.
Hope the holiday went well. Should have had some decent weather, no? Ouch, still 5 weeks to go at work eh? Hang in there.
Reg - what else is on the bucket list and more importantly, how far down it is this new entry? Going back to what I said earlier, that was a pretty raw account so part of me is sayinh 'hell yeah, let's do it' and the other half is saying 'you'd have to be mad'.
I'd like to do an ultra at some point but maybe in this country first and not in the heat, up so many hills and into a headwind
I like the sound of the north downs way 50:
It doesn't meet the 'not so many hills' criteria but it's UK and in May so hopefully not 30 degree heat. The main reason I like the look of this is that it finishes in Knockholt which is only a few miles from home
RRR & Jen - race reports as soon as you can please!
my bucket list includes a Ironman, Marathon De Sables and 3 marathons in 2 weekends. And maybe a catch up weekend/day/race with all here.
Just looked at the north downs way, looks good for a first attempt at a ultra. I must check as well because the Womens Course record is Emily Canvin and we have a person of the same name that runs for Langport Runners. I could get the low down.
Marathon Des Sables!? You're a braver man than me. Did you talk much to the lad at BC who had just done it (Ben was it?). There were two things he said which stuck in my mind. The first was that he lost all his toenails. The second was that you have to carry all your own food and so to keep the weight down you couldn't carry much. He found that the only way he could get enough calories was by charming the ladies into giving him some of theirs!
I definitely think that Marathon Des Sables is a no-go for me. If not for my lack of ability to charm food from a female then for the heat. I'd prefer to go the other way and run in the arctic!
The one I've always thought would be amazing is the Western States 100. After reading about it in Dean Karnazes book I always thought it would be an amazing one to do. Ady - you would already qualify with a sub 11hr 50 miler!
Reginald wrote (see)
my bucket list includes a Ironman, Marathon De Sables and 3 marathons in 2 weekends. And maybe a catch up weekend/day/race with all here. reg- impressive list. Think mine is a bit more conservative- triathlon of some description, and the closest I'll get to MdS is spicy meatballs and couscous Definately fancy a catch up race/weekend- TR24 will be a bit like that in july. Malcs- how's it going? Has Tigger sorted you out with cash yet? got my programme for Cologne in October sorted out- looks pretty good, with a couple of 20 milers either side of great north Run. Still not sure if I have a GFA/BQ in me, so anything less than PB will be main aim How did Sarah get on in Skye??
reg- impressive list. Think mine is a bit more conservative- triathlon of some description, and the closest I'll get to MdS is spicy meatballs and couscous
Definately fancy a catch up race/weekend- TR24 will be a bit like that in july.
Malcs- how's it going? Has Tigger sorted you out with cash yet?
got my programme for Cologne in October sorted out- looks pretty good, with a couple of 20 milers either side of great north Run. Still not sure if I have a GFA/BQ in me, so anything less than PB will be main aim
How did Sarah get on in Skye??
Malcs....Haha....yes you are certainly correct it was the cheeks located just above the lips and just below the eyes! When they cramped, it felt as though I was being forced to smile in a very creepy way.
Clive.......sorry to hear about your eldest son. Hopefully he'll make a speedy recovery. When do you start your Colgne programme?
Reg........I've always fancied MDS too, but have been put off by the price and waiting list.
Which Dean Karnazes book are you referring to Malcs? I've always heard Westwern States is held in high esteem. I think Ultra running might be put on hold for a while for me though. My positiveness over doing another ultra has dipped significantly since last night though.
Just before bed I noticed I had a pain in my groin (no wise cracks!), more on one side than the other and the pain has got progressively worse today and now both sides are visibly swollen and too painful to touch. Dr. Google has diagnosed a sports hernia. I've used google to diagnose this condition once before when living in China and I ended up red faced when having 7 Chinese doctors lined up all waiting to cop a feel.
Hopefully it's nothing as serious as that, but I'm slightly confused as I haven't really done any physical activity since Comrades? Anyway, I'll have to bite the bullet and arrange a trip to the doctors! I think I'll be resting until it's all sorted!
How is everyone feeling for TR24?
Ady - sounds nasty. I will refrain from poking any fun at you as it is definitely no laughing matter when a grown man's special area is compromised.
I certainly wouldn't rely on Google to provide you with answers but I think you know that. Get to the GP pronto.
The book is Ultra Marathon Man. May not be the best book ever written but the content I found fascinating. He describes his WS100 in great detail. I have no idea if laymen like myself are ever considered for it but it looked like if you've done a sub 11hr 50 then it's just a straight ballot after that. If I ever do it then it'll be a few years from now as I currently want to focus on the marathon.
Clive - Tigger has it all in hand thanks. That said, she hasn't posted for a while and her facebook status says 'in bahamas after a recent windfall'
My TR24 training starts this week (bear in mind I said that last week and the week before).
No news from Sarah as yet.
Ady - as malcs says straight to the Dr for you, no messing around where the boys and surrounding area involved.
Anyone got any other book recommendations?
As for the MDS I think it's the thought that I wonder if I could do it, and to quote a motivational poster, until you spread your wings you never know how far you can fly. Or as another pic I read locally said if it smells like poo, looks like poo then it probably is.
Does anyone else use a tablet to post on here, I use Mrs reg`s and it takes me an age to correct the auto spell thing. Might just leave it one day and see if anybody can understand it.
Well, after reading Adys race report I feel very humble writing mine! massive respect Ady, you did great!
My weekend was the craziest I have ever had. I wasn't running day1, so spent the day on the pick up/support bus. This involved driving past the runners shouting abuse..I mean encouragement out of the window, then parking up a mile down the road, handing out water and cold water sponges, banging drums, blowing trumpets and generally being noisy untill our runner passed, then getting back on the bus and repeating this process! We then picked up our runner at the end of their leg, and repeated the process for the next leg and the next runner.100miles later i was exhausted and I hadn't run!!!
After about 5 hours sleep I was up putting my kit on. I didn't feel too nervous. This time I was on the drop off bus. My leg17 wasn't untill 12.40, and we had 6 runners to get to their respective starts first. It felt a bit like Lord of the Flies as our group got smaller! We only had one problem getting to a start line as an illegal rave was taking place on the top of one mountain, and we had to drive through it.
It was very warm by the time I started my leg, clear sky, and no shade anywhere. I had to run along a busy main road with no pavement,which was horrible, and some drivers came a little too close to me for comfort! I can't say I enjoyed it. I started off at a good pace, and stuck to my plan for 5 miles, but then the heat took over and I had to slow up. I honestly thought I wasn't going to finish. I had a bird of prey flying overhead for ages which was a bit disconcerting!! and then I ran past a graveyard! However, I stuck with it, and eventually saw the finish line. My support bus was fab, and I didn't see the car of shame once! I was 10mins inside the cut off time, I had hoped to be quicker, but given the heat and the traffic stressing me, I was just happy to finish.
And YES I would do it again!
Ps Dean Karnazes is my hero!
Jen - sounds fantastic! And that's another feather in your supporting cap as well!
Ha - love the signs of impending doom
Illegal rave? On a mountain? What the....?
Anyway well done!
Gotta love Karno. Anyone who can eat a whole pizza with extra toppings whilst on the run without voming deserves hero status.
Congrats Jen on your race. I think I must have missed what race you were doing? Great report. It sounds a tad dangerous having to run along the main road during the race. I suppose you can't zone out with all the cars going past you. Did you feel the supporting on day 1 helped put you in the right frame of mind for your leg ?
The illegal rave on the mountain has painted an interesting vision in my head!
Pizza while on the run? Total respect! I ate a sausage baguette the other week mid run........never again. I also drank about 40 cups of Pepsi during Comrades..........something else I'm not going to do again in a hurry again!
Reg.....I'm still stuck in the dark ages and use a laptop to post...Mrs. Shady is too territorial of her tablet! I think it would interfere with her Candy Crush playing!
Well I managed to get the next available doctors appointment at my local practice - 1st July. I'm sure most people have fought over their illness before it's time for their appointment! I might try and get an emergency appointment later in the week if the pain stays the same. There's a definite lump I can feel as well. I think it might just be my body telling me I need a rest!
Ady - I'm no medic but I'm pretty sure there should be at least two lumps down there. If the lump in question is in addition to these two then please just ignore me
40 cups of Pepsi! Blimey.
1st of July is ridiculous. In that time you could fly to China and back - I'm sure your previous set of experts would gladly see you.
Reg - I'm on the iPad now and it's fine. Do you have a different tablet? If you do then you bought the wrong one
Mrs Reg won a Nexus 7 as a prize and the spelling on it is terrible. I mean I type the same and spell it correcktly and it makles it all diffreent. Bloodie thinkg.
Candy Crush; there's a game which has got me into trouble. "You'll turn into a piece of candy soon if you carry on with it" " But I've got 5 lives to use and then I will have to wait til it reloads!!!!"
Ady - I will have a word with one of my staff as he seems to have the doctor on speed-dial and can get an appointment by clicking his fingers. Even has his own chair, although I think you are healthier than that!
Bloody technology is a problem for me- posted twice and they don't seem to come up. Maybe GCHQ have put it on the US website for me...
Jen- great report- well done!!
Ady- 1st july is a joke, but not suprising. NHS is going to the dogs. As I said on Twitter unlikely to be sportsmans hernia, but worth getting GP to check if you have got an inguinal (groin). fairly easy to fix, or can leave them if not causing pain. I start my Cologne programme on 24 June, as small matter of 1 mile race in Lake Windermere to do this weekend first- a balmy 13 degrees water temperature
Reg- I'm not a fan of the Nexus 7. Gave them to the kids, and for some reason the block in app purchases is not always effective. Number 1 son ran up a £125 bill in 3 minutes recently, resulting in Barclaycard cancelling my card for unrecognised activity.
Malcs- Dean Karnazes is amazing. I read his book about 50 marathons in 50 days in 50 different states. 3 were in official events, the rest were on the official course in small groups of 10-50 people. His aim was to run a 4 hour marathon with average Heart rate of 100...He ran 3 hours in New york on the last day as well. My only slight concern was that Lance Armstrongs conditioning coach was his coach too...
Morning all. Been manic with work and family life so little time to post or train for that matter.
Ady - magnificent effort to keep going when cramping up like that. I thoroughly enjoyed the report. I found it amusing that you made a decision there and then never to run another ultra only to be thinking about the next one straight after.
It has made me want to run it more than ever but I fear my age may be against me! We've had some top performances on this thread this year but that has to top the lot. Running for nearly 11 hours - awesome!!!
Sounds like your body is telling you that it needs a rest - a well earned one at that!
Jen - I love your reports!!!
Anyhow, I seem to have a recurrence of the knee problem that I had in the weeks leading up to my marathon. I played hockey last Wednesday and I don't think all the twisting and turning did me any favours. My joints have been sore ever since. Still I managed a steady 4 1/2 miler yesterday at 7:39mm average and after lots of ice last night things seem much better.
How did Sarah get on at the weekend?
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