As I go out now to get more miles in my legs, my mind turns to the Big Day. The good thing is that the agony comes later in the run. I’ll start happy. Let the hanging-in creep up, take over the closer to the end the better. After Polly Shorrts is okay. Please!
“As one would expect in an atmosphere charge with common suffering and endeavour, there is a lot of spontaneous, unconscious humour of the type that the written record cannot adequately capture. One pictures the exhausted 1935 athlete lying on the roadside on Alverstone Hill with his legs stretched up the bank for greater relief.”
A motorbike came racing around the corner. There was to be a bike race the next weekend on the same route. It nearly hit the nearly upside down runner.
The writer remembers how the athlete “promptly forgot his weariness and ran off as hard as he could”.
(Story from The Comrades Story, Morris Alexander)
Two Oceans 2013 – the experience
As always being part of a great event is enriching. Two Oceans has the great South African ultra razzmatazz: big field of runners, screeching loudspeakers, anticipation, seeing old friends – always a treat at the start, during the run and after; the count down, squash up of bodies in the starting pen, boom of the start gun and nothing happens. Two minutes to the first shuffling.
It all squiggles and wriggles into my curly corners and I like it.
With that comes the 56 km of tar road, supportive people cheering along the way, a bit of moon light and a good sunrise. and this year a gusting, gale-ing wind that didn’t bother me too much. My plop-plop is strong and anyway for the last part of the long flats towards and past the halfway, it was behind and chilling.
You get the views of Long Beach, up Chapman’s Peak and over Hout Bay. My family, Robyn, Michael and Emily met me this year there, maybe 39 km into the run. Great for me, wind-chilled and uncomfortable for them.
Run right, the effort part of this ultra comes after Hout Bay village – pushing through still another 18 km, past the 42.2 k marathon mark, sometimes relentlessly hot, but this time breezy-cool. My ~4:40 marathon time is worth noting because less the stops along the way, its roughly the same time as my 4:34 training standard marathons earlier this year.
So this year’s long-run running pace is set in my legs – hills, flats, pic-taking, falling, pee-breaks and all. It’s what I’ll do in Comrades with extra walking … if the hills get too big.
Finishing through a channel on a crowded, loud field, banners, balloons, helicopters, tents and occasionally being cheered has to be good.
Two Oceans does it well. You feel the buzz and strain, the anticipation of family waiting for their special one at the end of the ultra-long finish chute, the grins and strains of the runners, simmering and bubbling on that field of dreams.
Doing 56 km is an achievement for me and for most I suppose. Because of all the effort after-finishing is a good as the running; finally being able to sit down and relax, ease on home to a just-right shower and meal; feel life swirl through me for a while, then slip into a just right snooze.
There are bits about the event that aren’t to my taste – the endless re-numeration of “overseas” runners before the start – as if the out-of-south-africas are a trophy for us poor stay at homes, as if its a particular thrill to be running with those numbers; the old fish horn designed not to be musical but to chase away cockroaches and bigger urban game, the endless hype about being the most beautiful marathon in the world which of course it can’t be – even just one route like the Big Sur marathon, which is like Chapman’s Peak the whole way, must compare; combining the ultra with much shorter runs, and now this spirit thing.
Oh and of course, the giant medal. I mean they should have told us to bring a supermarket trolley to push it to the car to get it back home.
But, hey, its not my event so I can take what I want, including the medal, leave the rest and everyone’s happy.
So, Two Oceans 2013, thanks
I’m especially happy with what I took. Especially because its a big part of dealing with what’s coming.
Now the next phase: Recover. Run for a bigger one – not the medal, the run. Recovering. Then more.
That Comrades Marathon Medal
Even before my old shoe-box was full of medals for doing runs between 10 to 160 km, they had kind of lost their value.
Not the running, the medals.
At best I could see myself old, one had holding a rattling teacup, the other hand in the medal box lingering in the residue of running.
My Comrades medals aren’t in that box. When others want to see, I get them.
It’s a funny thing looking at those unassuming medals, rich with the story of me.
Here come the old, not-too-wrinkled vigour boys, well this one anyway; and for ~5 km this morning, anyway too.
The first 5 are always easy. It’s just the other 55 to worry about for Saturday’s Two Oceans.
Actually the first 20 km and hopefully probably the first 40. It just the last part that’s hard.
Anyway, I’m not allowed to worry about those either. Comrades is a whole ~32 km further. Those last km after 56 km the real worry-mes.
But even those hard last Comrades km, I have learned to deal with.
I put off worrying about the hard bits until after I’ve finished the run.
Tapering, carbo-loading practice
Got the taper and carbo-loading, such as it is, going for Two Oceans on Saturday. Not so much to perform there, but just practicing for the taper and carbo-loading before Comrades which is still a couple months away.
One thing I’ve learned is that it’s no good just sitting or lying around in the last week. Gotta keeping moving, doing short, faster runs, nothing that will damage muscles, everything that will keep my heart rate pumping, my blood-volume up and waste-removal pipes working.
Another thing I know is that it doesn’t help to pour in or push in all sorts of stuff in to me, in the hopes that it will carbo-load something somewhere. All that does is upset my systems completely.
Part of the carbo-loading trick is eat only when the muscle-glycogen-store receptors are working, in the 45 min or so after exercise, or after a couple of days of carbo-depletion.
For the rest I eat less.
Because I need less on daily basis as I am not running so much.
Also because my body is far too good at turing excess carbs into fat. I have enough of that for many Comrades Marathons
Why do ultras?
Get yourself strong, start something you might not be able to do.
When the going gets tough, go on; when it gets tougher dig deeper; go on until you finish it.
Not because you have to, were told or paid to, not because there is a crisis or a medal you can show or a reward
Go on because you choose to.
The engagement, you get to understand, creates good in you.
Two Oceans Marathon
Two Ocean’s marathon coming up soon, less than two weeks.
The last extra-long run preparing for Comrades. Two Oceans Marathon – 56 km of Cape Town. Some race it. So it’s a challenge even though any distance, even 100 metres can be a challenge too.
But I’m not worried. It’s a test but not a big one. An opportunity to practice Comrades race pace, drinking and eating on the run, running a crowded road and to put a bit more steel in my legs. They need that effort beyond the 42.2 km marathon mark. My mind needs to be out there and remind it to feel good at 50 and 56 km as Comrades is a lot further.
And I’ll practice the training taper too. So this week I’ll run a little less with a longest run of about 15 km.
I don’t mind, even though I love just getting out there and I like the way my body has got stronger since December and how I found another gear for running.
A couple of easy weeks, Two Oceans, then more miles and hillwork and I’ll be ready for the big one.
Comrades Marathon riches
The stories of the people of Comrades make Comrades as rich as it is. One of them is story of the youngest finisher.
The Templeton’s, father and 16 year-old son L.H, entered and ran the second Comrades, 1922. Father gave up. The boy didn’t and was given a “silver pocket watch” for his efforts. The Comrades organisers immediately implemented a minimum age of 18.
That’s the story in The Comrades Story, Morris Alexander, 1975.
My fun is in imaging, while I am out there accumulating more miles to get stronger for this years event, the Templeton meal conversations. What father and son said to each other before the event, and after the event, and what Mother said while the two chatted … or not.