But I had no idea it was going to be that hard!
Leading up to this years Comrades was a bumpy road, in March I got diagnosed with a stress fracture in my Fibula. This was really frustrating as my training had been going so well and I was feeling super strong but hey these things happen. I knew it was a bit of a long shot but I had 3 months to Comrades. Could I let the stress fracture repair and be fit enough to get on that starting line on 9 June? There was only one way to find out, try! I didn’t take the decision lightly and sought the advice of my awesome physio Parys Edwards and radiologist Bev Roos, both who thought that I if my leg healed properly that I would be fine to give Comrades a bash!
Because of where my stress fracture was (in my Fibula) I couldn’t do any lower body exercise for the first 6 weeks. The reason for this was that my calf muscles attached to where the “stressie” was and by doing any lower body work we would aggravate the area and delay the healing process. So, for 6 weeks I was resigned to swimming but legs only, pretending I was a cross country skier and using the SkiErg, Aqua Jogging whilst tethered to the side of the pool which looked like even using armbands was a step too far and every upper body weight exercise I could think of! The only good thing was I had a bit of variety! A huge thanks to Joasia for the aqua jogging inspiration and Jenni for keeping me company in some of my aqua jogging sessions!
From weeks 7 – 8 I could start incorporating my lower body and I did this by using the elliptical, Watt Bike, a bit of yoga and chucking some kick into my swimming set. It was nice to start to use my lower body but I did freak out for the first couple of sessions as I thought that my leg was going to snap in half, funnily enough it didn’t!
Week 9 -10 saw the introduction of the Alter G treadmill. This machine is so weird you basically put on some really gross neoprene shorts which I am sure have never been washed, you then zip yourself into this bubble and fill it with air. The air takes some of your body weight away which in turn allows you to get back into the motion of running but without too much weight going through your legs. I started running with only 30% of my body weight. It felt like I was running on the moon it was so weird but I was happy I hadn’t forgotten how to run. Over that two-week period I slowly increased my body weight until I was running at 90% of my body weight!
Week 11 saw me begin a run/walk programme where you get to run for 3 minutes then have to walk for 2. It was so nice to be outside running again breathing in the fresh air and having the sunshine beam down on me. With having done all of my exercise in the gym I had hardly been outside for 11 weeks, how depressing is that!?
Finally, in weeks 11 – 12 I could run with no walking, hurrah!!! When I was out for my second run, I sprained my bloody ankle. I went completely over on it and was so annoyed. Luckily I had a physio appointment booked for an hour later so I dragged myself home iced it up and then went to see Parys. She said that out of all the secondary injuries I could get this was the ‘best’ mainly because I could strap my ankle up and that would immobilise it and let me run. Which it did. I had to use one tape all day for compression and then every time I went for a run put on this rigid tape to stop my ankle rolling again but it bloody worked!
Just as I started to get in the swing of running I had to start my ‘taper’ for Comrades. This was a bit of a joke as I didn’t really need to taper but thought it would be a good idea to have a normal taper week! Then week 13 arrived…Comrades time!
This years Comrades was 87km of uphill torture. I had analysed the last few years results and seen what time I would need to do in order to get a top 10 finish. Last year I came 9th and even though I had been injured I was aiming high. For me there was no point in just aiming to finish as I knew I could drag my ass to that finish line with sheer stubbornness so instead I decided that having started ‘proper’ running training two weeks before Comrades and clocking a big 15km long run before the big day that a top 10 was a good aim ;) (don’t worry I know this is actually ridiculous)!
My goal was to set off at 6hr 45min pace and to do a negative split. I wanted to run the first half of the race in 4:45min/km and the second half in 4:30min/km. This is what happen in reality I did the first half in an average pace of 4:47min/km…pretty much bang on target! Then my second half is when the wheels came off, big time! I ended up running an average pace of 6:04min/km not quite the 4:30min/km I was gunning for! My second half of the race was a whopping 1hr and 17minutes slower than the first, I think this is what we call blowing (thanks to The Running Man for the stats)!
So, what happened in the second half? It was strange I wasn’t tired or out of breath probably because of the ridiculous amount of cross training I had done (I pretty much lived in the gym for 10 weeks). I was aerobically fit my legs were just not conditioned to the pounding they would have to endure over 87km. Having only done two weeks of proper running before the event and my longest run being 15km made the second half an emotional battle. Every step just hurt. Uphill hurt, downhill hurt, flats hurt and it was so annoying I just couldn’t run properly. So, I decided that I was going to chat to people and try to have as much ‘fun’ as you can in dragging your ass the finish line of a 87km race! I saw my cousin Briarly on the road and it was so nice to be able to stop and chat to her as I knew I was no longer chasing a medal. In fact, I want to try and collect all the Comrades medals and I am gutted that I missed an opportunity to sit on the side of the road, have a boerewors role and wait for the 9hr clock to strike so I could get my hands one of the new Robert Mtshali medals!
In the end I managed to get to the finish line in 7:51:12 a 4 minute PB on my last Up Run attempt. That was something to take away! Whilst I hoped I might be able to pull an impressive performance out of the bag for this race, I didn’t but I still trained as hard as I could to get to that start line. I could have chosen to DNS but I had trained so bloody hard and I wanted to see what I was capable of doing and sometimes pushing our minds and bodies beyond their capabilities is good four our soul!
Luckily Comrades happens every year and next year I will be back having another bash and I will do everything I can to chase down one of those nice shiny gold medals!