Friday, June 7, 2013

Trail and Tar

One of the differences I notice here when running on trails, compared to SA is the birdsong. It's more obvious, louder and frequent. My main trail routes take in Forest and Washington Park, where the canopy is thick and green, with a massive variety of flora and fauna, although my encounters with wildlife has been restricted to squirrels.
The view from the top of one of my favourite runs - Pittock Mansion
I had started running with music, especially on runs where I needed some motivation, but find that you miss a lot of the sensations when running in the forest. Your footfall and the birdsong are generally all you can hear as you move away from the city and deeper into the 70 miles of trails. I don't like my senses deadened when I'm running, and it also cuts down on your interaction with other runners, hikers and dog walkers along the way.
Lots of switchbacks in Forest Park
The forest here is a mix of fir and redwood, and is a joy to run between these towering trees on pristine trail. Last week was my first 100 mile week for 5 years, and this was mainly due to the better weather and the temptation to run both morning and evening in the forest. It felt good to push the mileage, on a soft surface, in the cool, but now my body is repelling with a sore back, stiff achilles, tiredness and some seriously bad looking feet! This used to be my norm but for the last few years 50 miles (80km) had seemed the sweat spot unless you were training to run a very fast Comrades.

Comrades, ummm. Sunday was the 88th running what is probably the greatest road ultra in the world. This year was an 'up' run, from Durban to Pietermaritzburg. It was hot! Now Durban in June is never really cold but this year was the hottest I remember since 2000 or 2001. 18,000 runners had signed up for the race, 14,000 of them had made it to the start line. The race alternates in direction each year, so you either start in the aching cold of Maritzburg at 5.30am or the humidity of Durban. I've always hated the up run with a passion, never running well and always struggling in that first 30km which pretty much climbs and climbs.
Shannon Campbell by Lindsay's wall of honour placque, a special pic

Watching this year for the first time since 1998 outside of SA was hard. The excellent you tube feed helped, the commentary and visuals didn't. It is a word class race with less than worldclass production it seems. I think everyone appreciates that having a running event on national TV for 13 hours is unique, but even so...

Anyway, as I said it was hot, and following about 10 friends on tracking it became obvious that a lot of runners were having a very, very hard day. Starting in hot, humid conditions and then running uphill for 7-12 hours is going to be a big test! The medical team reported record numbers, many people were hospitalised and 5 were in ICU. The winner was seen walking up one of the big hills near the end, looking around nervously for the second runner. A friend stopped after 60km or so and had a 2 hour nap in a sugar cane field before continuing to the end. Another, who is a 2,30 marathon runner went through halfway (about 27 miles) in 3 hours 20 mins and finished in 10 hours, thats a tough second half! The 'war' stories are endless, and even from 12,000 miles away, in the middle of the US night it was spine tingling to watch the race live on the you tube feed and know what a tough day it was.
Comrades Winner 2013. Claud Moshiywa
I've run Comrades 12 times, it was my reason for going to SA as a tourist and even more so moving there to marry. I have a protea tattoo, my permanent Comrades number very permanently on my back, so Sunday was my toughest day in the US, bar none. However tough the conditions were, I still wanted to be there on the road to Maritzburg, with my war story. Next year.

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