Let The Race Run Itself

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I attended a Comrades Marathon race briefing by Runetics. I was in two minds whether I should attend the briefing or not as I’ve studied and lived The Ultimate Human Race for the past three years, attended all the seminars by all the Comrades legends in my first year, read the books, surfed the net, read the blogs, listen to the podcasts, followed and stalked people on Facebook and Twitter (lol!), got myself a running coach and have run the race twice (UP and DOWN)…and in the process became obsessed with ultra running.

So, after 3 years of training with the primary focus on conquering this grueling race I feel like someone that’s about to graduate with a B.Comrades degree!

It’s not that I don’t find these Comrades talks useful; I do. There’s always a question or two or some advice given by the experienced that makes you think and sent you back to the drawing board! One of the things I love about ultras other than the challenge of pushing my physical and mental limits is the uncertainty relating to the outcome on race day. This will drive you nuts in the days leading up to the race. I suppose it goes for any race distance, however it feels like the odds just multiply ten fold for an ultra. You can have the most perfect build up, taper and race strategy but when race day comes you work with what you have, embrace what gets thrown at you, enjoy the ride, accept the outcome (PB, goal achieved or lesson learnt) and hopefully emerge stronger for that next crazy adventure!

Running is my hobby. I shouldn’t be spending so much time dwelling on this (hehehe…addict!) but with months of hard training and your race outcome still a bit uncertain what do you do? You plan, strategise and prepare for…every single thing that is going to help you get through race day (including pre-race strategy, pacing and nutrition). Well, that is what I’m doing and I am sure so is every other Comrades looney, which is why I initially thought of not attending the briefing session. I have my plan, my race day and my pacing strategy clear in my head. I must admit not as detailed as the previous year where I had the route dissected with gradients and paces (lol!). So at this stage I really don’t want to listen to or be influenced by others’ views and opinions but I decided to attend and to just keep an open mind.

As soon as Ray (from Runetics) started to talk about pacing there were lots of questions. I suppose everyone came prepared with their own strategies from the Race Start to the Finish; even for that extra 800 and something meters added to this year’s race distance…but then Ray said “Look, at some point you got to let the race happen” …and that’s when the penny dropped (for me).

My goal for this years Comrades is clear. It  will by no means be easy with it being an UP RUN but I’ve put my heart and soul into my training. I really wanted to see how far I could push myself both physically and mentally (and I need to be fit and strong for all the trail running waiting for me in the second half of the year). However, I’ve become a little obsessed with this sub 11hr goal – what my splits should be, where I need to be at what times and strategising (i.e. WORRYING) what I am going to do if I fall off pace; it’s now just starting to stress me out. Absolutely crazy to think you can plan everything for a race this long. There is only so much planning and preparing one can do and then you have to let the race run itself!

So, I am going to relax – not at all saying I’m going in unprepared and without a plan (to be unraveled in my next blogpost) but I won’t be wasting any  valuable energy over the next 10 days trying to out-think every eventuality :)

Celebrating Comrades Peak Training

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It’s time to celebrate! Yes, C.E.L.E.B.R.A.T.E!

No,  I’ve not won a race or ran a PB. I survived the Comrades peak training months (March and April).

I have one goal race this year and it’s the 90th edition of the Comrades MarathonI consider all other races training runs to prepare for my massive desert shuffle in April 2016.  My goal is to run a sub-11hr Comrades and based on how training is progressing and how I am feeling right now….I believe I am on track!

We are in the final stretch of peak training and I can honestly say I’ve never worked this hard on anything in my entire life! A quick glance at my training log and I can’t help but smile and be proud of the 1040km I’ve ran in 4 months.

Rocking in the colors of Starfish Charity at SlowMag 50K

Rocking in the colors of Starfish Charity at SlowMag 50K

Getting to this point uninjured and still feeling fairly healthy is a milestone itself!

So…I am doing a happy dance and celebrating! :)

Runners World’s CRO, Bart Yasso is baffled by the fact that Comrades is the only race in the world where you train just to get to the Starting Line! Take a look at his Comrades Marathon experience in the video below…it really is the greatest ultramarathon in the world!

Focus

Running this many kilometers in training doesn’t just happen. It requires absolutely focus and commitment. It helps to have a goal that scares you enough to get up every morning without fail to train. Committing to a quality structured training programme to achieve that goal is…priceless! When I started running in 2011 I did a lot of research, probably read every running blog looking for information and practical advice. I now have a running coach and don’t waste time worrying whether I am on the right track or figuring out which workout is the right one. I focus on my training and I’m always excited to see what’s planned for the week so that I can mentally prepare for my runs. I literally don’t think…I just do!

Peak Training

The highlight of my Comrades peak training was without a doubt running the EASTER 100….my first mini multi-stage race with a total of 107 kms for that week. That was the most mileage I’ve ever done in a week! I loved running the EASTER 100; must be the fact that EASTER 100 was not an official race but a Comrades training run. It was like a mini Comrades…everyone suffering together for 3 hilly days. Actually, those hills had a total elevation of 1800m over the 3 days! That’s almost equivalent to climbing Table Mountain :)

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I ate those hills for breakfast!

I am very excited with where I am in my training –  definitely getting stronger and faster. I can feel it!

I will be closing out April with a total of 290km (March was 270km) and I’ve reached the 1000km mark for the year but the excitement of knowing I am doing something I’ve never done before is getting to me! I’ve been on runner’s high this whole time and it was only last week that I went through a bit of a low. I felt mentally tired, stressed, paranoid and convinced a hamstring injury was looming and that I was going to get sick…which would be disastrous at this stage! I felt like I’ve reached my “limit” and was more than happy to take a few days off….to clear my head! I guess this is where we say Less is More.

Keep Going

I still have my challenges with feet and legs going numb when I try to up the pace, so for now I am OK with not being as fast as I would like to be, drawing comfort from the fact that Comrades is not a sprint! Other than that my legs are feeling unbelievably good and those few rest days have left me energised and ready to take on the last few weeks of (not so hard) … The Comrades Marathon Taper! (hehehe…who am I kidding!) celebrate

Parkrun Playtime

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I was wondering for a while what everyone was going on about. I mean really…a 5km race?

Parkrun organises free, weekly, 5km timed runs around the world. They are open to everyone, free, and are safe and easy to take part in. My programme said parkrun the week before the Durban City Marathon so I decided to go for it!

Woodlands Parkrun was a “double lapper” with short steep hills. Yes, even in parkruns you get double lappers! I started off way too fast and blew it with a numb foot and tired calf by the 2nd kilometre. I had to run/walk the rest of the race (so frustrating). To make things worst my husband who has been recovering from a kidney transplant passed me on the 2nd lap with a huge smile on his face and for the 1st time in 3 years beat me! I don’t compete with anyone but my husband…so it was game on!

The next weekend we were off to Durban and he made a point to go run the North Beach Parkrun. I was doing a happy dance…my running buddy is back! I am sure if my husband had any idea his wife was going to turn into a running addict he would have never encouraged me to started running…water under the bridge!

The week after Durban City Marathon I had parkrun on the schedule again so we decided to go and check out the Modderfontein Parkrun. At least it would be a full 5km lap. Arriving there I was pleasantly surprise with all the facilities.

However it’s starting to appear that I don’t learn from my mistakes! The race was a physical and mental repeat of what happened at Woodlands Parkrun. Hubby passed me in the 4th kilometer and he had that smile on his face (he knew better than not to wave or talk to me). He got the win but only by 18s this time. I LOVED IT…this might just be that little bit of healthy competition I need to learn how to push myself in races!

I came 7th in my age category and 44th female. I look at my time (struggling through a race) and I feel I have the ability to even finish top 20 female on a good day! So I will keep trying – even looking forward to our next parkrun! :)

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