I was amazed at the number of people already lining the streets leading out of Durban. They were all dressed warmly and making a huge amount of noise (as I said earlier, my sense of hearing was heightened.)
My friend Norman had made me a pacing chart to finish comfortably in a time of 11:25. This included 15 minutes to cross over the start line. I had since then got CC seeding which altered the time taken to get to the start line and I was curious to see what a sub 11 hours finish would look like. On paper, 25 minutes seems easy to “collect”.
I had both charts in my waist pack and had knew I should be at 80km to go in a time of 1:07:00. (Kilometer markings along the route are shown TO GO, not as kms Done), an average pace of 7:26. I wasn’t at the 80km mark to go yet so I could only work on my average pace which was about 7:46. I was following my 9R:1W plan and knew I could make up the time over a longer distance.
We continued upward and at the 80km to go mark, I was on track time wise and feeling fine.
I knew that in another 10kms, around 17kms I would be seeing my club manager Nichola and club mate Norman. They had driven from Johannesburg the day before the race, just to follow me along the route and offer support. To them, Thank You, it was great to know you were going to be along the way and it was even better when I could stop and say hi.
The plan was to see them 4 times before the finish. I was very excited at the first point, the bottom of Cowies Hill. They had this fantastic sign board which became “talk of the road”!! (Val, another club mate had made the sandals out of card and Norman had assembled the board.) They couldn’t get to the second spot due to road closures. At the third spot I handed over my jacket and had a quick chat. They were at the 4th spot (Camperdown) but I was on the wrong side of the road and only heard them calling my name. That too was good to know that they had seen me and I was running well. I found out over the weekend that they didn’t think I was looking so good at the third spot (Alverstone, about 40kms done) and were worried about me making the 12 hour cut-off time. What they didn’t know at the time was that I have been feeling nauseous and had vomited less than 5kms before that.
I’m not sure at what point I had stopped looking at my pacing chart. I had sort-of attempted to join the sub-11 hour bus but I fell off that one. I then got onto Fiazel’s 12-hour bus but was finding that the walking was too long and the running too short. Again, I am not sure of the time frame or kilometers done. At some stage I found out that I had done 4 of the 5 named hills which felt great – if I hadn’t noticed them, they couldn’t have been too bad and the last hill, Polly Shortts was at 8kms to go which would be good news. I started having bladder problems and was rushing into the bushes very often – like every 5-10 minutes. This was proving awkward on so many levels but my main concern was one of time and I was running ahead of the bus so that I wee without loosing too much time. I would come out the bush, join the back of the bus for a while and then run ahead of them until I could find a place to wee. Eventually, my choice of ‘toilet’ got quite loose and I was just going behind peoples cars, and occasionally there were still people in them, which I only saw when I walked away.
At some stage I heard the familiar tambourine of Jafta (I had run in his bus at the Colgate 32km). I joined his bus at around 30kms to go (I think). This was a huge relief in that I was sure that he would get me to the end in time and I didn’t need to worry about the final hill or any other pacing. I found the going comfortable with Jafta – just the right amount of walking and a comfortable running pace. The people around me were friendly and encouraging altho’ it was a quiet bus which I enjoyed.
I remember that I had just over 3 hours to finish the last 20kms and I felt confident that I could achieve that as my worst 21km took me 2:50 and that was 18 months ago when I had been running for 4 months and I was sure nothing could be worse than that run.
We had over an hour to finish the last 8kms and it was downhill from there!! I am sure that from that point on, I had a huge grin on my face. Short of having a heart attack or being run over, I was gonna make the cut-off and I was thrilled. A huge Thank You goes out to Jafta (this was his 17th Comrades Marathon) for running such a great bus and assisting so many of us novices to get such a good finish and not feel finished.
So, my pacing went out the window and I know that that is one skill I need to work on before next years Comrades.