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

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Comrades 2013 Race Report by Caroline Lee

Blogathon post 12/30

Today is guest post day for the blogathon and I am very fortunate that Caroline Lee gave me permission to use her Comrades 2013 write-up for my blog. Thanks again Caroline!

Finally have the energy to make a comment about my race.

It was easily the toughest race of my life - even worse than my last minute untrained 100 miler (160 km!!!) in December last year. My dad said age is catching up - time to give up.

I started reasonably well... in my bright pink gear - hair and wings and tutus as usual - and big bright smile and chirpy comments. I noticed this year was very different to all the other 3 years I have done Comrades. Very few chirps back from other runners, very few smiles, very little chatter. Everyone was heads down and on with it.

By 23 km into the race, someone was offering nice big salty potatoes. I thought: "great! This is going to be a great race. Food early! I'm NOT going to be starving this year!" That is despite my Garmin watch refusing to give me any reading except the distance done. It's my fault. The last time I used it was last year Comrades, and I couldn't remember which button was the start button. I pressed many buttons at the start line, in the dark, and I ended up with this one constantly increasing mileage reading (good that it was increasing!) and nothing else.

As usual, I have 2 watches on. But I had to keep the other watch on time function because it runs out of battery by 7 hours on GPS and I HAD to know what time of day it was. No way I was going to be finished by 7 hours. Who did I think I was, A seeding???

Then the nausea started..... EISH! I ate.... not good. I don't eat... big hole in the stomach. I drink..... hands swell up. I don't drink.... worried about my kidneys. I'm a doctor. Really? I didn't know what to do with myself anymore.

Ah! There's Susan and Claudia! At Drummond, there was Johan and Jacky. So happy to see friends on the route. It made such a difference! Then I met up with the world's bestest supporter Veronica CrazyMom Svensson, and she immediately could see that I was in trouble. But what can either of us do? I ran on, and she watched me go with a very worried look.

I did try my best. I danced at the water station. I high fived the kids. I smiled at everybody. I joked as much as I could. I waved at everyone and I performed for the cameras. I did as much as I could, for as long as I could.

I picked up 2 flowers at the Game water point and put one for Jamie 'Highland' Quarandillo at Arthur's seat and one for me. I even stopped for a little prayer. By this time, I started to notice people lying on the side of the road. For everyone that I could reach, I asked if they needed anything or need a hand up. Some just wanted to lie a little, some said they were OK. Some asked me to call for a rescue bus at the next station. I tried to help as much as I could.

But the nausea kept coming and going. And blisters started forming under both my feet. It was really painful with each step. I tried to keep on as fast as I could, but the jolly jog soon deteriorated into a power walk, then a waddle, then a dejected stumble.... I MISS MY MUSIC!!!!!

Someone said to me: "I just want to get past Inchanga" and I thought: "it must be a tough one then, Inchanga". I was ecstatic when I powered through hills and hills and found the sign that said Inchanga towards the direction I just came from! So it wasn't THAT bad afterall. I congratulated myself.

As the Camperdown signs start cropping up along the route, I started looking forward to our club tent. By this time, I was falling asleep on my feet. I was lucky to be able to find some ice blocks along the way and stuffing those down my top. I also tried to douse myself with water as often as I can. The guys at the water stations were really enthusiastic with this task! They very happily obliged! :-) Everybody was suffering and I don't think anybody noticed this dripping pink fairy beside them. They probably got great relief being sprayed by the water from me! Fairies do have some uses!

When I got to out club tent - finally... I had looked for it for over 3 km...!!! I unceremoniously sat down and said I was going to sleep. You should have seen their faces! Whoever sleeps on a race??? I sat back and promptly fell asleep. It felt like a second only and someone was shaking me and telling me my time is up. It's time to go. Many thanks to Roland, who walked me up a little of the hill and gave me a good pep talk and made sure I walked straight and didn't stumble around. He told me that once I crested the hill, there was 6 km of downhill before little Pollys. He lied..... But I managed to run down that part, and many parts after that. 3 hours for 21 km. That doesn't sound too bad.

By that time, runners were seriously in trouble. The Rescue buses were frequent and full and they were simply getting into our way, spewing fumes in our faces, and obstructing our route. I so wanted to shoo them away! But they were really busy and many many people wanted to get on but couldn't, because they were already full. Many people cramped and many people were lying on the ground. By then, I had no more energy to help or to offer help, to even to offer an encouraging word. Only the smile still remained... for a little while longer.

15km to go and 2 hours left. Ok. If I can maintain under 9 min/km, I will make cut off. I run a little downhill and I time myself. Ok. That was 7:30 min/km. I banked 1 minute. Another km. That was 8 min/km. Not too bad. I kept pushing, because I knew Polly Shortts was coming up. My feet were agony and I felt myself getting weaker and weaker and my heart pounding really badly in my chest. I was breathing like a hot dog! I tried banana... yuk gag gag. I tried oranges...ok. a little better... water... yew..not too much... swallow down whatever came up.... Energade.. maybe the yellow one will be better than the blue... or maybe that funny yucky green? Please please don't let me smell braai...gag gag.... chicken farm... yuk yuk... not too bad... the wind must be favouring us for that instance.

It was actually quite a relief to have the wind in my face (strong I know), but it blew on my wet clothes and it did cool me down.

Polly Shortts.... sigh.... walk up the hill. Try to walk up a little faster. People were falling like flies all around us. Every few meters or so, someone was lying on the road side. All I could do was look at them and make sure they looked alright. Nobody looking blue, nobody looking too pale, nobody looking like they desperately need help. Ok. sigh of relief. I don't have to do anything. Concentrate on walking up the hill. Concentrate on following my friend Sharon, who is powering up the hill like a machine! Can't keep up. Oh well.... lost sight of her.

Finally crested THAT 2 km. Run 20 meters, walk 20 meters. No poles to count, no trees to run to. Just few steps at a time. Can't even run the downhills anymore. Just shuffle shuffle, then walk walk. One hour left and 7km to go. It is really getting way too close for comfort. I just cannot lift up my feet or my spirit any longer. Smile totally gone.

The long anticipated and pre race eagerly awaited Pink Drive area came up at 4km to go. They all looked at me and just pushed me along. They knew there was no time to waste any longer. No time for the usual dance. No time for the usual hugs and cheers. No time for the camera posing and the usual video interviews. It's a race against time, on legs that simply refused to oblige, no matter how hard I tried to persuade them.

2 km to go. Met up with club mate Sharon Saylor. She said "stick with me" and I said "I can't". I was stumbling into the fences by then. She ran on, and with every bit of energy I had, I kept that chequered shirt in sight (you see, our shirts are fantastic as a homing beacon!!), making sure I was running between the barriers and not into them. Waves of nausea just kept on washing over me and I was on the verge of succumbing to them, barely even seeing anything except those barrier lines on either side of me.

As I entered the stadium, I promised Susan Hui that I would listen out for the song that was playing (I can't believe I still remembered that promise) and all I could hear was the announcer saying that it takes a long time to run around the stadium to the finish line, and if we don't run now, we will not make it in time. No time to walk!! He said. So I ran.... I couldn't believe my eyes when I finally reached the finish line that it was only 11:54!!! I thought it was somewhere near 11:59 already. Even in the back of my head, I was extremely worried for all my friends that I haven't seen on the road that are still coming that they would miss the cutoff!

And as I crossed the finished line, within a few seconds, I was retching and vomiting in the corner, hanging on the barriers. And my feet just went, and I lied down on the cool grass and I thought "just sleep a little. It's so nice here"... and the next thing I was picked up by a stretcher and taken to the medical tent. I remember the guy saying to someone "get her the medal. Don't forget her medal" and he put the medal around my neck in my dazed and half conscious state.

I slept a little in the tent and then I told them I was better. Someone needs the bed more. The volunteer walked me out of the tent all the long long way to the finishing line because I wanted desperately to get my finishers badge. They didn't fetch me one! They had already packed up, but was kind enough to open the truck and give me one, after I bulldozed my way into the "no entry" zone and showed them my medical tent documentation. Sigh... finally... mission accomplished.

After much stumbling around, I finally found my club tent, and my wonderful club mates supported me all the way there and handed me into the capable and loving hands of my friend Veronica who took care of me the rest of the way back to the hotel. Don't know what I would have done without her tender loving care. Seriously tender loving care. Thank you with my whole heart, my friend.

You see.... long story.


Giorgio said...

Fantastic challenge! Huge congrats and thanks for sharing this excellent report.

Shazad Khan said...

Carline Lee The Rock Star of Running in South Africa

Char said...

Of course it's a long story - it's a long race. Great race report!

coach dion said...

Thank you for shareing her story

Lebowa Letsoalo said...

Wow...what a good story and an eye opener for a first timer like me