race report by Taru Mateti
Comrades 2019 Race Report – Taru Mateti
Flashback to a year ago
10 Jun 2018: Finished Comrades Down run in 10:53:02 to get the Bronze medal, totally elated, and declared I am done and satisfied with Comrades and would now move on to other runs. Quit all Comrades WhatsApp groups.
13 June 2018: Hubby decided to go in for Comrades back-to-back, and I decided to follow suit. Joined back WhatsApp Comrades groups!
Fast Forward to race day
09 Jun 2019: Finished Comrades Up run in 10:44:56 to get another Bronze medal and the Back-to-back medal, totally elated, and ready to move on to newer dreams!
At the finish
Qualifying for Comrades
The qualifying time for Comrades changed to 4:50 in full marathon and the seeding timings also changed. I followed the training plan diligently and trained well for Vadodara Marathon in Jan 2019. But loosies and vomiting during the run ensured that I got only a 4:35:31 there, not good compared to my last year’s PB of 4:24. Grateful that I had been able to complete the run, I had to accept where I was after another attempt in Delhi, and sincerely start training towards the Comrades goal because if I were to run well to beat the predictions!
Training for Comrades
Coach Atul Godbole’s training plan was designed keeping my fitness level, the distance, and the terrain in mind. The training through February for Delhi full marathon was in some ways training for Comrades too. But the real training started after that in March. Besides the regular tempo, progression, and hill runs we had the weekend runs that progressively became longer ending with a 50K+ run once a month. Additionally, we ran Sinhagad hill on three Saturdays. The Sunday long runs also had progressively increasing number of hill repeats. We had impeccably efficient support from the team Motiv8 support group; there was no way we could have done these long runs that started just past midnight.
Besides running, I continued with strength training, Pilates, and yoga once or a twice a week. To keep the niggles from earlier knee injuries and a hamstring pull under control, I visited Dr Mapari at Fit2Sport periodically and followed the exercise and conditioning advice. Towards the end we also had some deep tissue massage sessions there besides the regular weekly massage that I had at home. Foam rolling was at least thrice a week and stretches daily.
Other training aspects
Nutrition was another aspect that I was very careful about since Jan. I focused on healthy and clean eating. I also wanted to cut out on indulgences to lose the 2+ Kg I had gained since the previous Comrades run. Being a foodie, it wasn’t easy, but I did lose the weight I wanted to by the last week … although might have a gained a bit again in taper.
I got my tests done regularly to keep all the parameters such as Hb, B12, D3, Cholesterol, sugar, Ca etc. within specified ranges. I took my supplements regularly as prescribed. This was something for which I didn’t have to put in much effort.
Sleep is something that I know I could have done better with. I did try to get more sleep, but some issues are beyond our control. So I admit that this is definitely one major improvement area.
I reached Durban stronger and more confident than last year because I did not have any major niggles and I had full faith in the training that I had completed this year without missing any of the weekly runs unlike last year. Further, we had run many many hills during training, many with a lot more elevation gradient than at Comrades. We had trained in tougher weather. All of the nutrition and hydration strategy had been practiced during training, and I ran most of the long runs in exactly the same gear. My stomach was in better shape, and run-week sleep-wise too I was better off than last year.
This year, the uphill part was making me a wee-bit conservative, which in retrospect, is a good thing! In training, we have almost equal elevation gain and elevation loss. Last year I had finished at an average pace faster than training average pace because elevation gain was lesser than elevation loss at Comrades in the Down run. But I knew that this year my average pace would be slower than average training pace because this year the elevation gain was a lot more than elevation loss at Comrades in the Up run. So this time, I consulted the coach, looked at the pacing charts, and my training paces. The target was again set to 11 hours.
The Comrades run
The run started with the usual fanfare, it took me more than 7 min to reach the start and a little more to start with a slow jog. I still didn’t have a clue whether I would be able to achieve my target or not because, for me, uphill requires a lot more effort and is much more of a mind-game than downhill. I had calculated the average required pace as 7:26 for an 11-hour finish considering the start time loss and kept a small buffer, also basing on 88K because I knew I would run about a km more. I ran the entire run just keeping my average pace a few seconds lesser than calculated. So almost until half time, I was at an average pace of 7:17, with a slightly faster start. Then the pace was steady at 7:20-7:21 for a long time. At the last cut-off of Polly Shorts, it expectedly dropped to 7:23, and I finally finished at a pace of 7:20 for about 88K.
During the run!
At no point during the run did the hills overwhelm me. We had run longer hilly portions, steeper hilly portions, hills with more hills, and downhills too. We had a strategy in place that I followed; I ran just as I had run during the training. Each hill reminded me of some other tougher one that I had already run, and I just knew I had to keep counting and putting one step after the other. Yes, Polly Shorts was difficult, but I did my walk-run on it just as I had planned I would, maybe a little better. The remaining distance after the last hill still had three and half climbs! But I could manage that part at a pretty good pace because I hadn’t exhausted myself.
I had to stop for loo breaks four times, which isn’t a low because last year stopped 5 times 😀 Just that I had to wait each time in this run. Lost some 12-15 min, but look at it positively…maybe that helped in going faster overall.
I lost three gels, probably fell out of my pocket during one of these breaks. I realized this at 45K. I had only two gels and four dates left. I panicked for exactly 10s. And then I said to myself that enough food is available along the road, and I ran for the first three years without gels. I just modified my nutrition strategy at run-time.
I can never complete a run without tripping! Tripped many times despite a deliberate effort to focus on the road and twisted my sensitive left ankle a few times.
Made me happy
When I was walking during my 150-20 run-walk at the first hill Cowies, a gentleman on the roadside remarked, “But you should be smiling if you are walking”. Not only did I smile, I stated running again and ran more than the decided number of steps J
The crowd support was tremendous all through the route. A lot of people looked at the India tee and called out! There were a lot of Indian families too cheering and clicking along the way.
I was more mindful of the run and the surroundings this time than last year. I remember more after this run. I even noticed Arthur’s seat and the school kids, besides a lot else.
It was a good-effort run, but not killing run. I kept remembering all the friends, family, well-wishers, our support group, friends who were tracking. I merrily posed for pictures all along the route!
I also remember sending up a few prayers when I felt some part of the body beginning to ache or a cramp threatening to appear. It is amazing how it took my mind off the problem and it just disappeared.
I finished without any injuries. (The bronchitis two days later can be attributed to a lot of things. But there’s a lesson learned there.)
Sizonqoba! Together we triumphed!
I was able to achieve the target after running a very happy run! The entire training process had ensured that I just had to go and do my thing there confidently, and the powers-that-be took care of the unpredictables and uncontrollables!
Thanks coach Atul! Thanks team Motiv8 support team! Thanks family, friends, and well-wishers! Thanks hubby Chandan! Thank you, God!