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Comrades 2011

Zelna Black

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Zelna Black, 49508
Earning the t-shirt

2011 was my second Comrades and I could not wait to receive my orange number – I think it must feel something like a yellow number and I will always cherish the beautiful back-to-back medal.

My experience was a little like yours, Nikki, as I did not nearly have so much pre-race jitters as last year. In 2010 I breathed, ate, spoke and lived Comrades and when I had a chance during the last two weeks prior to the race, I studied the route, the pacing charts and made sure every item needed for my race was checked and re-checked.

The first blunder I made this year was to think “I already got the t-shirt” and wrote the relaxed state of mind off to similar experiences I had during the year when I did a race for the second time around. What a mistake! In the first place, none of the races you do during the year alternates their starting points, secondly, they are MUCH shorter and yes, their difficulty rating is NO match to Comrades. I was warned that your second Comrades can be “dangerous” as one could feel over confident, but I did not realise that this was actually happening to me.

On race day, I treated the first third of the route and the hills with respect and walked a lot, so I was feeling good at that point. I also saw “Vlam” along the route a few times and that was very encouraging, but I did not focus on my race like I should. I only realised at the start of Botha’s that I am running with poor form: my breathing was shallow, my shoulders tense and my left shoe was tied way too tight (I carried my ChampionChip around my neck to the expo, attached to my shoe lace and quickly laced my shoe Saturday evening, without testing the tension).  By the time I realised this, my left foot was quite bruised on top and this continued to hurt throughout the race and really became uncomfortable at the top of Polly Shortts. On top of the fresh “injury”, my hamstring was also hurting and I realised that if I do not turn this around, the race is history.

Some people have mantras; I have a picture that I take out when the going gets tough. It is a dove with a window behind him. At the other side of the glass are 3 cats and they are called “Doubts”, “Negative thoughts” and “Bail”. When I look at the picture, I remind myself that the cats are on the other side and cannot get to me. I took out the picture, imagined that I am showing my bum feathers to those cats – and managed to re-focus! This is a powerful tool that I have learned from Maretha Claasen, a sport psychologist and the idea of the picture was sparked while reading your website on the “reality checks”. I knew 11 hours was out of the question, and 12 hours was still wonderful, but 12:01 means no medal. So the “dove” got going.

The 12 hour bus was too fast for me at Drummond, but I managed a steady running / walking pace from there on. From Drummond to 13km to go was a bit blurry, except for the wonderful Marmite sandwiches and Cream Soda at our club tent situated at Camperdown. Later I remember that someone in our “group” mentioned that if we get past the 13km to go marker soon, we will have just more than 12km and about 120 minutes to the end, which gives us 10 minutes a km. It is actually nice to be in that position.

Proudly, I finished 11:42:02 in 2011 with a very important lesson for 2012: you never have the Comrades t-shirt (medal) until the race is actually done! 

External links: Official Comrades Marathon website

Copyright Nikki Campbell 2011