Comrades 2012 - Sub 9 or bust

Every year, a bunch of ultra runners aim to complete the Comrades Marathon within a 12-hour cut off time. This year, 2012, was a down run from Pietermaritzburg to Durban. 89 kilometres. It would be my 4th Comrades. Our base station would be Umhlanga (pictured above). And once again I would run it with my eldest brother and seasoned Comrades veteran, Alberto.

Some stats:- I ran 622k's from 1 January to the start of the Comrades on 2 June. I noted with interest that my logbook total didn't appear on J. Louw's above table which starts at 800 kilometres. However, in addition to my runs, I had cycled and swum to average just over 9 hours of exercise per week from New Year's Day.

My Ironman South Africa 3h42m marathon time provided me with a B seeding for Comrades. Alberto had extracted a D seeding. His build up to Ironman was rather poorly as he succumbed to three bicycle accidents in training which hindered his ability to do sufficient training to run a decent marathon in Ironman Katrina. Despite this, he was going for his 9th Comrades and as such had to be duly respected.

That's my brother Stef (below left), our race manager and human riding crop, who kept an eye on our plans and racing targets. With his assistance, Alberto (right) and I agreed on a sub-9 target. Last year I managed 11.48 in a cow suit. My best time to date is a 10.09, so it was a nice chunk of a target. Especially as the longest we had run was the Ironman marathon.
We opted for paddock D and agreed on a 5 minute run/2 minute walk plan. Running pace was at about 5.20- 5.30 p.k. pace. After crossing the start line in 3 minutes, we commenced the 5 run/walk 2 regardless of the lay of the land.

Fast forward several hours, Alberto and I had systematically worked our way through the runners. We had managed to stick to a 6 minutes per k pace up to the 30k's to go mark. After losing 5 minutes to a loo stop, we started to pick up the pace gently. We intended to be at the 10k's to go mark with 60 minutes in the bag to make the sub 9 hour.

Aside from a cramp in my stomach, in the back of my neck, in my right armpit, in my right lat, in the crook of my arms, we were doing ok. Our moods were good but the pain was starting to build. If the race had been 60k's, that'd have been the perfect distance. But we still had 29k's to go. And in each kilometre time slowed down as the pain increased. It is an intense discomfort and the muscles start to whine and groan until they scream as though hot blades are being inserted into the flesh.

With 10k's to go, and muscles twisting around aching bones, we pushed for home. We had just under 50 minutes to get to the stadium. With a few big hills remaining, we banked some time on the downhills. We ignored our bodies' urges to stop and allowed gravity to take us into its painful embrace. The cramp that took out my brother was a nasty sniper-precisioned bullet which caught him between the glute and hamstring. We were at about 4m45s p.k. pace at the time and I lunged to stop him from toppling over. After some quiet deliberation, we threw in the towel on our sub-9 and limped home, thinking of how we could improve for next year. We crossed the line in 9.23.

For the second year running, I made the Comrades results section of the Natal Mercury. I think for my brother's 10th Comrades, I'd like to give that Silver a crack.

Looking forward to recharging the batteries over winter,