Today I ran the Two Oceans ultra marathon for the sixth time. Every time I finish, I have a different story to tell and that is why I love this race.
Woke up at 3:30am and laid there for a bit thinking about getting up and then as usual faffed around the flat for an hour getting the kit on, applying vaseline to body parts and applying 3M micropore tape to other body parts. Tied the hair back, tripled checked the Gu, the door keys and got in the taxi to the start. Arrived at the starting area in Newlands early, found the secret toilet with no queue (my sister and I chanced upon this miracle last year) and I was set.
I was allocated to the C batch which is stuffed full of runners that have qualified with a 3:40 to 4 hour marathon and are looking to run a lot faster than I was today. The race plan went as follows: run/walk up the steep hills, run/walk down the steep hills and slip in under 6 hours feeling comfortable and ready to run further. On no account was I to shoot off like a rocket and f*** up my Comrades. Sounds easy right? Wrong. It was one of the hardest races I’ve ever run psychologically. To watch everyone pass me for the first 30km and hold myself back, to practice walking up a hill when I had the energy to run it and to walk down Chapman’s Peak when I usually fly down it at 5 minutes a km was an absolute feat of discipline. At one point when it got really hard not to let go I started talking to myself – ‘this is not your race, this is not your race’. Last year I smashed out a 5:18 finish. This year I’m fitter but I had to be slower.
The first 15km to Muizenberg dragged like hell. Every time I carbo load properly I feel like a slug. I bumped into Andreas (on his 10th outing) and then pretty much ran by myself to Sun Valley. I only started to feel comfortable at 26km when we crossed over onto Noordhoek Main Road. I do wonder why it takes me so long to feel okay, but feeling okay at any point on an ultra is a bonus. Up onto Chapman’s and now I break out the power walking. Arms pumping, chest out (Justin would be pleased), but I still felt like a twit for a minute of walking per 5 minutes of running. I ran with Craig to the summit and then again by myself down the other side. Kirsty caught me at the bottom and then I stopped to chat to a few of my club mates that weren’t running in Hout Bay. Why not? I had the time, and I’d already stopped in Claremont to say hello to Jill (and that was only 2km in). The long, boring meander through Hout Bay leads into the marathon mark and to the base of the second climb of Constantia Nek where I planned to walk again. I went through 42km at 4:11 – about 10 minutes too fast for my planned 5:55 finish, but what the hell, I was going to power walk up Constantia Nek anyway.
It was after the marathon mark that things got interesting. I saw my old work colleague and recent club member, James struggling in Hout Bay, he was on his first ultra and so I ran with him for a bit to see if he wanted some company up the Nek. If you have the misfortune of latching onto me in a race, I do warn you that I’m a bit of a pacing nazi. I always give people the option of telling me to f*** off or hang on. I gave James the outline of what I thought we could do to get in under 6 hours. He had stomach cramps, stitches and was generally having the worst day out imaginable. When he was running I noticed he was holding it together pretty well so the joints were still okay. We ran uphill for two minutes and walked for one, we made it up to the top in one piece and then we had 10km left. I did my calculations and pushed him hard from this point as I fully expected him to be slower over the last part of the course, but despite retching in the bushes his determination was amazing. We ran for five minutes and walked for one all the way to the M3. What an inspiration James was at this point. He fought all the way up the highway and I broke my ‘no walking on the M3’ rule because he was just so brilliant. On a number of occasions he told me to leave him (I hope he didn’t really mean that), but I wanted to make sure he finished well. Someone did this for me on my last Comrades and I can’t tell you how much that means when your day has gone to shit in every possible way. We got up the last hill (don’t look at it, we’ll just go slowly) and then I guided him onto the grass of the finishing field. Despite me waiting for him to cross first, he insisted we finished together.
And the beer story? Well, I spotted my old friend Grant and his family at their spot 2km from the finish. I stopped, grabbed the beer from his hand and downed it. Wow it was nice, but I did burp my way over the line. Beer is not generally not recommended as fuel on an ultra, but I was going slowly.
I finished comfortably, paced it well, took no pain medication (never run that far on nothing) and I know I could have run another 33km. Now I’ve got 6 weeks to nail it and stick to the plan.
Route: Main Road, Newlands – Lakeside – Muizenburg – Kalk Bay – Fish Hoek – Noordhoek – Chapman’s Peak – Hout Bay – Constantia Nek – M3 – UCT