You have a slightly better marathon time than I did for my first Comrades in 2013 (10:56 finish). For that I qualified in Autumn 2012 with 4:15, then during training ran a PB at Paris in Spring 2013 (4:08, although wasn't 'racing' it for a PB at the time).
I bought the Don Oliver book 'Make Sure of Your Comrades Medal' (which I've just seen now has a kindle edition on Amazon), and is also on the Alsoran website (http://www.alsoranrunners.info/). I followed that quite religiously in terms of number of runs per week, weekly/monthly mileage and number and distance of longest runs. I didn't particularly follow any pace/speed advice in training plans - it was my first ultra, and with an OK qualifying marathon time i.e. not just inside 5hrs, my main aim was becoming more comfortable running further and for longer rather than faster (and learning to walk from within the first 30mins). For the long runs, at roughly the timings in Don Oliver's schedule, I did x1 trail marathon, x1 trail 50K, x1 road marathon, x1 road/trail 50K not as part of an event but with a friend, and x1 44K trail event.
This year, I did pretty much the same thing, although I did rather focus on training for and 'racing' the London marathon (my first London), which meant I got a great PB there but then a bit injured and the last month (which was meant to be the main, big bit of training) was rather tough (but these 42-50K events definitely then helped me mentally).
I don't know what others advice would be, but from my experience I would say you can afford to race Chester this Autumn for as good a time as you think/would like to achieve, and then focus on steady long running from January 2015. I wouldn't suggest training for and racing a Spring marathon for a time though (I knew and read this wasn't a good idea, but couldn't help myself - probably a bit of over confidence the 2nd time around training for Comrades, as the first time I was very diligent that nothing would negatively affect the main goal that was Comrades).
I'd like to add my congratulations to all, particularly Douglas on the green number and Jacquie on the win. And I'd also like to add my thanks to all - before, during and after everyone really added to the enjoyment of my time in South Africa and running Comrades.
I found this down run mentally much tougher than the up last year in the abnormal weather, my legs hurt as much as I expected running downhill towards the end but it wasn't too much to bear. The worse thing I found this year was feeling very nauseous from about 50K and not being able to quench my thirst/dry mouth. And then with 7K to go I started getting awful cramp in one leg (never had this before during a run) which I could walk off, but would then return with vengeance if I started to push the running too much in order to get to the finish quicker.
Overall, I'm very pleased and happy with my 10:30 finish (26min improvement on last year) and with my back-to-back medal in hand I sadly won't be returning in the near future as there's lots more runs I'd like to do with my training time and money (they will have a lot to live up to as Comrades has been a blast over the last couple of years). I'll keep an eye on here and follow everyone's progress, and no doubt see people around at various other running events.
Arrival: Saturday 0900 Peter R Tues 1720 Douglas Thurs 1240 AONEH Thurs 1330 Peter Bowles Thurs 1320 SD, Dannirr, Emily Thurs 1645 RR, Becca7, Jacquie, Cam Friday 1005 Possum Friday 1125 justanothrrnr
Events: Thurs 2:30pm Ambassador's run - 5:30pm Ambassador's drinks - SD, Dannir, PiersW, Emily, RR, AONEH, Peter B, Becca7 (hopefully)
Fri Comrades bus tour - SD (bus 4), Muzza, RR, Dannirr, AONEH, Becca7 (bus 6) Expo 2pm gathering - Douglas, Possom (hopefully), SD Bruce Fordyce bus tour (PM) - Emily Runner's World pasta party - Muzza, Stephen Weston Modern Athlete pasta party –
Sat 8am North Beach parkrun - SD, Becca7, Muzza, Dannir(?), Emily, Possom,Peter B Post-parkrun breakfast at Mugg & Bean - SD, Possom,Peter B, Becca, Emily Sharks v Stomers - AONEH, Peter B
Sun Evening drinks at the Hilton – SD (if capable...), Emily (ditto)
Mon Breakfast at Mugg & Bean at the Suncoast Casino - Peter B, Douglas, Possom, SD, Emily (maybe as my hotel does include breakfast) Joe Kool's - Possom, Peter R, SD, Emily Bruce's party – Dave Ross’ party - Douglas
Accomodation: Hilton - Dannirr, Jacquie, CamillaScarlett, Matthew Hearne , jwheezy (James) Belaire Suites - Stephen Weston 3, Emily, Muzza, AONEH City Lodge - becca7, Running Rodent, Possom BlueWaters - SD, Peter B Hillcrest - Douglas Umhlanga - Peter R
Dannirr - A lift would be lovely if there is space, that's very kind of you. I'll be one of the many apprehensive looking people arriving at Durban, that doesn't really help much does it. I look similar to my picture still, and have met SD before. I'll keep an eye out for you both, sure we'll bump into each other at some point waiting in J'burg, on the plane, collecting luggage in Durban. Maybe let us know which company your hire car is with and we can head there?
SW3, Muzza & AONEH - I'm generally independent, but I'm going to play the 'lone female in Durban' card and ask if I could please meet up on Sunday AM to make my way to the buses for the start in the early hours with you?