Monday, May 30, 2011

My Pre-Comrades & Comrades Expo 2011 Experience

This was my 3rd Comrades Marathon but my first up run.  They said you can never claim to have done Comrades if you just run the up or the down run.  You have to run in both directions.  So when I completed my first Comrades in 2009 (down run), I knew I have to do the up run in 2011. However, I also very gian the back-to-back medal, which was awarded to novice runner who successfully completed 2 back-to-back consecutive Comrades in their first 2 attempts.  Hence, despite knowing that the 2010 Comrades is also a down run, I ran it anyway.  I really had no choice - I wanted any medals that I could lay my hands on.  Besides, tell me which other run will give you 3 medals when you successfully completed 2?  No races!  Except the Comrades Marathon in my limited race dictionary.  So here I was, in Durban on 27 May 2011, after an overnight flight from Manchester, UK.  Looking forward to immersing myself within the atmosphere during the Expo and on race day, but worrying about my ability.

As with the past 2 years, Ian, whom I met on my first trip to South Africa back in 2007, picked me up from the Durban Airport.  I was very happy and glad to see him.  Despite crossing over the half-century years plus another half a decade, he looked very fit.  Since 1991, he had attempted and completed every editions of the Comrades Marathon and Two Oceans Marathon.  [Mind you, Comrades Marathon is not a marathon and Two Oceans Marathon is also not a marathon.  They are almost 90km for Comrades (depending on the direction of the run) and 56km for Two Oceans.  I'm not sure why but one possibility that I could think of was that the word ultramarathon did not exist back in 1921 when Comrades was first conceived.]  So this will be the 21st time he would be running Comrades and I gathered I could ask him for some advice for the up run.  : )

We went straight to the Expo to pick up our race packet.  It was a breeze for the international runner and for the green number club runner.  (To qualify for the green number club, you have to complete 10 Comrades).  However, for the South African runners, the queue stretched to outside the Expo and almost reached the main road next to the Expo!  Also at both the international and green number registration counters, there were drinks and snacks provided.  I took a bottle of Enegade while Ian made himself a cup of coffee and we sat down to rest and to look through the goodie bag contents.  There were a lot of product samples and race pamphlets.  Pretty standard stuff.

After 20 minutes or so, we decided to do some walking and shopping.  Our first stop was the Reebok's official store which sells all sorts of Comrades products.  There were dri-fit tee-shirts with both men and women's cutting, polo-shirts, cotton tees, mugs, wine glass, jackets, shoe bags, etc.  There was even a green number section where only green number runners could enter!  As usual, I bought myself a dri-fit tee-shirts of men's cutting and a mug.  Then we went to look at other products on offer.  As compared to Singapore, they had different brands, new products and more varieties.  However, the prices were not necessary cheaper than in Singapore.  A standard GU gel was selling at around ZAR100 (S$20.00) for 4 packets and the endurance GU gel was selling at around ZAR35 (S$7.00) for 1 packet!  After a quick walk-about, we went looking for Nadia and Estienne, who were the organiser of the Extreme Marathons series of runs, including the Addo Elephant Trail Run and the 7-day Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon Stage Race.

I first met Nadia and Estienne in 2007 when I signed up for the 50 Miles Addo Elephant Trail Run.  Unfortunately, they no longer included the 100 Miles race for the Addo Elephant Trail Run and I wasn't keen on Stage Races, especially those that you need to carry your own stuff.  Since I DNFed in the 2008 100 Miles race, I only managed to keep in touch with they when I visited them during the Comrades Expo.  But we were all very happy to see one another again and I told Nadia that I may check out Augrabies eventually, but as a photographer.  We left them as they got busy with answering queries from interested runners.  Ian and I went for a testing to check on our cholesterol level, which revealed that we both had unhealthily high level of bad cholesterol!  Ian didn't really believe but I accepted as I had not been taking my cholesterol medication since my trip to UK one week ago.  We decided to go to another exhibitor who was also testing cholesterol, as well as blood pressure and glucose level.  This time round, although our cholesterol level was still high, it was within the safe zone.  This meant that we both could press hard for Comrades the next day!  Before leaving the Expo, we picked up our Comrades Certificate (Ian had 20 race times recorded on it while I had just a miserable 2 race times) and paid for our bus tickets (from Pietermaritzburg to Durban after end of race).

I loved the Comrades Expo.  There were so many things to buy, to explore and to do (like massage, cholesterol testing, catching up with friends, etc).  And I secretly hope that my 3rd Comrades up run would be as exciting as when I visited the Comrades Expo.  We had an early carbo-loading dinner and I had 2 plates of prawn pasta.  It was great although my evening was somewhat spoiled by the defeat of Manchester United by Barcelona in the Champions League Final.  As I opened up my race packet to check my bibs (there were 2 - one for front and one for back) and prepared my running gear, I got more worried as the race drew nearer.  Ian advised that I should pin both  my race bib on my running top instead of using the race belt for my front bib.  After pondering for a while, I did so but used just 2 pins to pin the bib near the bottom of my running top so that I won't my bib won't be crumbled after the race.  Would I make it 3 in a row?  I certainly hope so...

No comments: