The day started early as the start was at 06:00 and we left home at 3:30. There was a very big field but I can’t fault anyone or anything with the organization. All went smoothly for me from home right up to the start.
Waiting for the start with my favorite supporter.
The start was a noisy but festive affair with music, the call of the African Fish Eagle and then the gun. While talking about the gun, there is one thing I want to mention here. In South Africa there is no such thing as chip time….only gun time. There are serious cutoff times at most races and this, including the Comrades Marathon, applies only to gun time. At Comrades I will lose about 12 – 15 minutes at the start…it is just that, lost. That’s how we run here in SA and no one complains.
It took me about 2 minutes to cross the start at Om Die Dam.
Just before the start I suddenly felt a scratch in my throat and couldn’t speak. I took a sip of water and forgot about it. It came back at about 35km and I finished the race with a sore throat...not good!
The first few kilometers run down to the dam wall and are very easy and pleasant. I was just making sure I don’t fall in the huge field.
First glimpse of the dam.
There is a tunnel that takes the road over the dam wall. It is always very festive here. Everyone feels great, the road is slightly downhill and the scenery beautiful.
Into the tunnel…
…out onto the dam wall.
Above the dam wall.
Below the dam wall.
In/on the dam wall.
Once you cross the dam wall things get more serious as the first climb of the day begins. I was not feeling as comfortable as I would have liked and just tried to relax and run. I felt a bit nauseous from 2km onwards and I never felt 100% comfortable at all.
Kommando NekWe climbed Kommando Nek and then went down towards the dam again. This part is beautiful and mainly flat. The view from the bridge where the road crosses the dam was spectacular.
Great early morning view.
Over the bridge.
The road on the opposite side of the dam is flat at first, but after a few kilometers there are some serious hills to contend with.
Some hills to remember for next year.
I was feeling OK but knew I wasn’t 100%. It was as if I was not firing on all cylinders. Just after 21km the heel of my right shoe gave a click and a poof and collapsed! This was not great with 29km still to go and me not feeling 100% already. I stopped to check and there it was, a collapsed heel! Luckily I’m not a heel striker but as I sit and type this I can still feel the effect that this had on my lower right leg. I adjusted as well as I could but knew the collapsed shoe would not make the day any easier. The shoe has only done 448km so I am really upset with Nike.
A little further on we crossed the Crocodile River and I took a moment for some photos.
From the river it was a slow but steady climb for a few kilometers. I was still OK but could feel I was going to have a hard day.
Another hill towards half way. Note how tall the grass is.
At 27km I had my first gag of the day as I battled to get a GU and water down. I was now feeling very nauseous and was just glad the weather was nice and not very hot as is common for this part of the route. At 31km I had to rush into the tall grass next to the road and won my first Pukie Award of the day! This was not good timing as I was approaching the famous Saartjie’s Nek, a very long and very steep monster of a hill at just the wrong distance in this race.
I shuffled along to the fantastic water point at the bottom of Saartjie’s Nek.
Saartjie says good morning.
Look out for Saartjie.
Red carpet treatment.
As I came into the water point I had to take another trip into the grass for Pukie Award #2. Needless to say Saartjie was very tough after this.
Moving up Saartjie’s.
Almost at the top.
At last! View of the dam below.
The downhill after the climb was good but still not easy. I had zero energy left by now and my right shoe was starting to hurt my leg as well. To top it all my nose started running, my ears became blocked and I got a sore throat. Talk about hitting the wall! This wall fell on me!
At this beautiful shop and restaurant I fed the flowers again for Pukie Award #3.
Let’s just say pizza here will never be the same…I was really drained now and walked/shuffled on. I planned a LSD but this was now survival.
Onwards through the neighborhoods.
I was really feeling bad and when I hit the last hill with about 2.5km to go I just walked all the way to the top. This last hill is a killer even if you feel good and I can’t remember when I was last so happy to see a 1km to go marker.
1km to go!Finally I shuffled onto the field…
…and was very relieved to finally reach the finish 11 minutes before the cutoff.
A nice medal and t-shirt, although I would have preferred the cotton 21km shirt. Their's have a beautiful picture on it! Check it out at Sandal Girl's report.
I now know I ran this with a slight flu/cold in my system. I didn’t know I was a bit sick when I started, but this shows how carful we must be when we do feel a bit sick. I've taken 3 days rest and will not do more than a half marathon this weekend. Let's hope this was my last survival trip for a while...