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Barry’s Big C Race Day Tips

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After 40 years on the road, I remain convinced that
the Down Run is more difficult than the Up Run. It is, however, faster. You
trade 10 to 20 minutes for very sore legs. It is more difficult not only
because of the tremendous pounding that your legs take on the descents, but also
because there are still a great many hills to be climbed on the so-called ‘Down
Run’.

The terrain changes quite appreciably over the
distance and various stages should be run differently. In other words, there
are parts of the trip between Pietermaritzburg and Durban when one can float like a butterfly,
putting time in the bank, and there are sections where you should just put your
head down and grind it out. Therefore, it helps to break the race up into
‘bite-sized chunks’.

 

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Start
to Umlaas Road
(Start – 18km)

No sooner have you found your stride than you face the
long, slow climb out of Pietermaritzburg. There are a series of long but not
steep climbs, especially after Pollys (8km), so take these easy. However, you
cannot afford to be too cautious here. At best, you should only be a few
minutes behind schedule. As you crest the hill at Mpushini (Lynnfield Park
turn-off) at 16km, you will see a water tower on top of a hill ahead on the
left. You pass it about 2km later and that is the end of the long climb out of
Pietermaritzburg, and also the highest point on the course.

 

Umlaas Road to Inchanga (18km – 41km)

This is the fastest section, the time to relax and do
that floating I was talking about, and you can pick up the pace to pull back some
time if behind schedule. You can even afford to go into credit by picking up a
few minutes, but once again you must exercise control. This is still the first
half of the race and throwing caution to the wind over this stretch will lead
to trouble later.

 

Inchanga
to Hillcrest (41km – 52km)

Now the work begins. On the Pietermaritzburg side of
Inchanga, which starts at about 41km, you begin 11km of severe climbing. First
there is the back of Inchanga plus the severe drop into Drummond to the halfway
mark, and then the steep climb out of Drummond to Alverston. The Alverston Radio Tower
marks your target as you say “good morning” to the legendary Arthur Newton at
Arthur’s Seat. After cresting the Alverston climb, you will drop a little again
and then begin the climb up to Botha’s Hill. After the steep drop down Botha’s,
there is a much shorter but still quite steep climb up to Hillcrest. This is
the toughest 11km of the route, so exercise extreme caution here. Relax and let
the hills come to you.

 

Hillcrest
to Pinetown (53km – 70km)

Now comes 18km of ‘easy’ running with no major climbs,
but remember that you’ve already run a long way and you’ll be asking your tired
legs to perform at their optimum running speed for the day. The course
undulates gently downhill. Settle down and run, enjoy the shade, and feed off
the fantastic crowds. If you’re racing, it is this section that sets you up for
your time. Only one problem, though: The mighty 3.2km Fields Hill, where the downhill
pounding can turn your quads to jelly. Go slowly, or the graveyard waits at the
bottom.

 

Pinetown
to Finish (70km – 89km)

Now starts the true mental battle of the Comrades. Your
legs can get you to Pinetown, but only your head can get you to the finish. The
course undulates here with some very severe hills, getting harder as you go
further. Coming out of Pinetown there is the famous Cowies Hill, and after that
they just keep coming. Try to break up this last 18km with mind games, e.g. 15km
to go, just my normal morning run, and so on.

 

Nothing I say can really prepare you for the Comrades,
but these notes may help. Run the race to Pinetown knowing that you have done
the training. From Pinetown onwards, take heart in the knowledge that you’re
meeting the challenge of the greatest road race in the world.

 

If
you want to join Barry’s Sub-10:30 Comrades bus, look out for him in the
xxx-seeding pen. He will be holding a huge banner indicating his exact
position.

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