Alan, Ian and I attended the expo on Friday morning just to get our race packs and numbers. The t-shirt is a bright yellow and our race pack included the usual advertising pamphlets and a few sample product sachets, shampoo and conditioner samples and The Modern Athlete magazine.
We bumped into Bruce Fordyce at the Elite Runners collection point. (Alan because he is an Elite and me because I was a charity fundraiser).
We went back to the expo on Saturday morning for a more social visit. We have tea in the Green Number area and chat to whoever is there at the time. We also walked around looking at all the new products available. Nice and Fancy but Are they really necessary tools or just expensive toys?
There was also the usual physio massage stand with long queues, the charity stands selling their goodies to be worn on the day. I bumped into Caroline at the PinkDrive stand while we were both collecting our race packs as charity runners.
I got pink socks which I obviously couldn't wear on race day but might become my sleep socks. I also got a pink buff which I did wear on race day and will continue to wear - I do love my buffs! There was a packet of plastic thingies that we couldn't work out what they were until we saw the stand where people were explaining what they are and how to use them. Turns out that are thingies to "pin" your number onto your your vest "without the prick". I will attempt to use them this weekend and post about afterward.
After the expo, we drove to Pietermaritzburg and checked into our hotel. The hotel experience was not a good one and I have written a letter of complaint to the manager. He did reply, unsatisfactorily, telling me he is taking suitable action without actually telling me how he is making better on the breakfast charge of R135 for Comrades runners or fixing the key-card system that never worked.
We spent the rest of the day eating - a burger lunch at a nearby coffee shop followed by scones with jam and cream with Anne and then dinner at Ken and Margie with The Hurry's . A Delicious dessert of brownies and ice cream was served but I didn't eat it - couldn't risk a dodgy tummy on race day from rich foods that I don't usually eat before running. I will be going back sometime to get my share of the brownies! Around the dinner table, amongst 8 of us, all but one person (my husband) have run Comrades, with a total of 95 medals and 3 of us running this year.
Got back to the hotel and into bed by 9pm. Awake at 4am to get ready to walk to the start. (I slept fine but the noise from street downstairs kept Alan and Ian awake for most of the night). Plenty runners in the hotel foyer, apologies to those I didn't greet in my rush to get through.
We are fortunate enough to get VIP access so got a muffin and tea at the start. Thanks to Di and Dave for making special arrangements for us and making sure that Alan was well taken care of. It was quite an emotional morning for me be because my mom was such a big part of our Comrades experience. She would have been fussing over Alan and I, making sure we got something to eat and drink and keep comfortable and warm before we go to the pens.
Alan and I lined up together in the C seeding block so that we could at least start together. As I said previously, we crossed the start line together while Ian tried to take pictures of us passing. We then went our separate ways - Alan to run his just-over-5-minutes a kilometer and me to run/walk my 7 minutes/1 minute.
Quite a mess of plastic bags and long sleeve tops are left behind once all 14000 runners have made their way over the start mats.
The start was cold and windy for the first 20 kms. I threw my long sleeve top to one of the many people lining the roads especially to collect the discarded running wear, at about 10 kms. Bad move because the cold wind picked up and I was freezing right up until I met up with my support team at about 25kms. Norman, Nichola, Wendy, Ian, Gus and Kim were at Camperdown to offer me (and before me, Alan, Chris and Val) support, cheering and whatever I wanted but I didn't wants nothing except to see some friendly faces and to know that I had people watching for me. It offered something to look forward to and a certain comfort in knowing that they would help me out if I needed it. I saw Norman, Nichola and Wendy another two times, at Ashburton and at Cowies.
I was running ahead of schedule and feeling fine. I saw the support team again at Alverstone and they told me that Jafta, the bus driver with the tambourine had just come past and if I hurried, I could catch up and join his bus. Just in time because my watch went flat and so I needed somebody to do the thinking (pacing) for me. I had run with Jafta last year and knew I was comfortable with his pacing. I caught up with him leading his very large un-official bus within a kilometer. Jafta doesn't run with a flag displaying his finishing time, he runs with a tambourine to keep pacing and aims for "Comfortable Finish" (This was his 18th finish so he knows the way really well). I am not sure if he means comfortable in the sense of within the cut-off time of that we walks and run without straining too much. Either way, both worked for me.
I met up with Kerry whom I had run with last year and later in the day Francis joined us. I met John who amazed me by running with his mobile phone and regularly chatted to his wife or children. Time passes really quickly in good company, when you can zone out because you don't having to worry about your pacing and when you don't have a clue where you are. at my last supporter spot, I was told that Alan had finished in 8:33.
Ian was there to welcome him home a good 3 hours before my arrival, enough time for a shower and lunch and then handing out green numbers. In the meantime, I was still out on the road and thrilled that I had no problems with my foot or any other part of my body and I knew I was gonna finish!
I didn't enjoy the Durban finish as much as the 'Maritzburg finish but again, I was thrilled to finish - 8 minutes faster for 2 kilometers long was just a bonus.
Relief? Joy? I am not quite sure what I felt when I finished. The medals are a great reminder of what I am capable of!
The blisters are also a reminder that small things don't matter.