"I'd rather be seen on my bicycle than on a park run" - Quote from the dark side

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Vaal Marathon Race Report

I finally had time to complete my race report for the Vaal Marathon I ran this past Sunday, so here it is.

I wrote in my online training log at Buckeyeoutdoors.com “another day, another marathon, another 04:59”. I suppose that pretty much sums up the Vaal marathon for me. It was another long training run for me in my Comrades buildup and I did what was needed.

The mornings are getting cooler and darker here in South Africa so with a 6AM start the sun was still hiding when we were waiting for the start.


The Vaal marathon is a very popular Comrades qualifier because it is a relatively flat marathon and many runners have run their best marathon times here. I find it a hard work marathon with not many hills but also not many downhills to relax on. Having said that it is certainly not flat all the way.


My race went well without any incidents up to about 24km when I started experiencing a stiff feeling in my upper back. This became quite severe at times and I was thinking it must be because I changed work sites and have been sitting at a different desk with a different chair the past two weeks. (I confirmed this on Monday morning as the spasm returned when I sat in a certain position at my desk)

At 27km my back was forcing me to walk at times and we also reached a water point with no water left. This was not great at all and I decided to take it very slow to the next water table at 30km to see if they had water and then decide on my plan. It was dry and warm by now and I was not looking forward to a tough run without water.

 Dry and warm by now.

My progress was really slow between 27km and 30km and I kept stretching my back, trying to work out the spasm I was dealing with. There were quite a lot of runners taking some strain.

  
All runners were certainly not taking some strain! At about 32km I saw Staci (Sandal Girl) coming from behind. She was smiling and clearly having a ball. She was on her way to a great new best time and Comrades qualifier! I joined her for a few strides and gave her some encouragement saying she was doing great and will easily make her goal of a sub 5 hour run. I also said she must just make sure she stays ahead of me and then she would be fine.

Staci (Sandal Girl) on her way to a 4:48 Comrades qualifier. Way to go Staci!

After this I just kept going and slowly got rid of the back spasm. I just relaxed and enjoyed running another marathon. The last 8km runs next to the Vaal River which forms the southern border of Gauteng, the province I live in.

 Vaal River

During the last few kilometers I really experienced lots of incredible emotions from the runners around me. There was the woman running with her husband cycling next to her. At 40km she just stopped and burst into tears, she was close to her limit. I became aware of how desperate the runners around me were to qualify for Comrades. Emmotions were running high all around me.

This guy in yellow was pep talking the lady in pink from 30km onwards. He kept on repeating, "keep going, never quit, keep going, never quit". She did and finished in 04:59 to qualify.


There were also these two runners trying to help a totally finished runner to make the 5 hour qualifying cutoff. I don’t know if she made it.


In the last kilometer I passed 3 runners at different places standing next to the road vomiting. All of these things made me realize again how tough a marathon is and how much I should keep on appreciating the fact that I am able to do this.

My final time was 04:59:13, nearly the same as my 04:59:10 three weeks ago. (3 seconds difference!) It shows you it helps to have experience to pace you through to the end, even more so on a not 100% perfect day.

Nice medal.
With my favorite recovery drink after the race...chocolate milk!

A good run overall with my Comrades training 100% on track. As I said to a friend afterwards, "I’m not training to run a good marathon time, I’m training to run a comfortable Comrades on 29 May".

Happy training everyone!

38 comments:

misszippy said...

What an incredible race to be around all those folks trying to qualify. Glad your back relaxed out for you toward the end. You continue to amaze me with all your distance!

Tim Wilson said...

Another great race, and another great race report with great pics! Nice medal. Nice job!

Kate said...

Great report, Johann. Stinks that your back was bothering you, but hopefully now that you know what's bringing it on you can adjust at work. I'm amazed by your consistency in these marathons. I guess it's just the voice of all your experience, but as I'm ramping up for my first marathon, it's hard to imagine "relaxing and enjoying another marathon".

Julie said...

Loved your report, Johann!

I loved the story about the lady and her friend - "keep going, never quit, keep going, never quit". AWESOME!

Teri S. said...

Great job on the qualifier - sounds like you are right where you need to be for Comrades. Really enjoyed the photos - you live in a lovely area.

Jennifer said...

Always impressive Johann! You are such a cool cat and so down to earth, what a great attitude you have. Someday I hope we can run a race together it would be fun!

Christi said...

Congratulations on a great training run!

Jill said...

You definitely know your pace, Johann! That's not an easy thing to learn, and takes skill to keep consistent. Nice race!! And love the blue skies - looks so much like Colorado - nothing but air above ya! You'll see when you come out here and run Pikes Peak and Leadville :).

Staci said...

Thanks for being so supportive of me, when I eventually found you after 30kms. Sorry I didn't stay too long to chat ;-)
Great report and love the pictures!
Wonder how long it takes for your photos - maybe 5 minutes in that?? I don't know and I wouldn't want to miss your photos but it's because I'm so pressed for time that I don't get to take on the route. Thanks for documenting it for me.

One Crazy Penguin said...

Well done!

I love your race reports. Not only do they make me want to run the race, but they make me feel like I'm there with you!

Laura said...

Great report and pics..I got a little teary reading about the support people out there!

Heather said...

Great race report Johann. I love all the photos. It's awesome to hear about all of those people out there that were so encouraging to others!! puts a smile on my face to know how friendly and helpful other runners can be.

Marlene said...

I love your philosophy - training to feel good at your big race, rather than chasing a PB at these races along the way. Congrats on a strong finish and another 4:59 - I'm sure all of this will pay off for you.

racing dawn said...

Great report! It's so amazing at the last stages of a race when you can physically feel the emotions of all the runners around you! One of my favorite parts of racing...witnessing others accomplish something hard! So great... and good training run... :)

Kovas said...

That is some amazing consistency!

Giorgio said...

Congrats on your great race! Beautiful report!

Small Town Runner said...

I agree with Kovas! That is very consistent.:)

Also, Just a great read to see how it is for those who are looking to push EVEN further with a step towards Comrades. It's wild to me that after it's so tough to get in by the cutoff, they would want to endure a MUCH longer race. Perseverance for sure. Maybe a bit crazy. ? =D


Liked reading about how the runners help each other.

Congrats again, Johann! Nice medal, too.

Indi said...

congrats on a well run race! Great consistency and I'm sure that'll be a saver come Comrades!

ajh said...

I love chocolate milk too. It is not always available here though. Good job. You are very consistent.

Char said...

Sounds like a tough race - but you came through. And boy, you're a consistent runner

Ewa said...

It is impressive how smart you are about your training, Johann.
I hope your back improves soon. Have you tried yoga? I am a true yoga convert now. Soon I'll start believing it being a remedy for all ailments.

Laurie said...

I hope to one day get to a point where a marathon is a training run. Great work!
And cholcolate milk (sometimes just plain milk) has become my recovery drink of choice, too!

tahoegirl said...

Great report. You are inspiring!

The Green Girl said...

I'm sorry to hear about your back but I'm glad you identified the culprit.

Urgh, that sucks that it was hot and there was no water.

It was interesting reading about all the runners trying to qualify for Comrades.

Congratulations on a well deserved finish and medal.

Big Daddy Diesel said...

As always, you are a freaking rockstar and congrats

I wish I had some of your running talent

Amy said...

wow - awesome report, Johan, I felt like I was there with you, and I feel even more sure now that a full marathon is not for me - I would probably be one of those people vomiting on the side of the road!

Molly said...

Congratulations on another great race Johann! the stories about the other runners hit home with me!

Chris K said...

Comrades is legendary. I should put that on my Bucket List. Hey, I posted a train pic for you today.

HappyTrails said...

I definitely admire your consistency with all the training you do - quite a good example for others! Glad the marathon worked well in your training and hope you have a great weekend Johann!

ultra collie said...

well done on holding back..easier said than done for some

lindsay said...

very rural route it looks like! those are some of my favorites - i don't need the big cities/crowds like many other runners do.

thanks for taking pictures along the way!

Lauren said...

Great Report. Running is very emotional, so I can relate to some of those runners. I can't believe you did this with a back spasm -- that's tough! Great job on your time!

Andre said...

Hi brother Another great report and a great Comrades training run!Keep going like this and Comrades wont be a problem!Proud of you*

Runnergirl said...

Knap gedaan! (NS: Ek stem heelhartig saam oor die tjoklit-melk :) !)

Black Knight said...

Beautiful medal and beautiful place to run a marathon.
Congrats for the finishing time and the other marathon under your belt.
Yes, yesterday we got crazy thanks to the victory of our rugby team against France!

Erika said...

great race report!!! awesome job!

Erika said...

great race report!!! awesome job!

Thomas Bussiere said...

Congrats, great report, and love it when runners encourage one another and get the results. Your looking strong and will be ready for Comrades.
I need to do this race in the near future.