Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Carry On Plodding (by Simone Schmid)

Guest Post: Simone Schmid

I met Simone at the wedding of one of my best buddies. Richie and I have been friends for more than 25 years and he married Simone's sister Dani. I am hoping I will get to introduce guest posts from all the Schmids at some stage... the third sibling is Mike. They are a special family. Amongst other things, Simone is an engineer, an artist, an (almost) a brewer. She is determined, smart, silly and creative. She also happened to take on the epic 90km Comrades marathon and her story is the stuff that makes this one of the most special races in the world.

Jason, Me, Dani & Richie, Simone, Josey

Carry On Plodding
By Simone Schmid

I have always been a runner (a sprinter though). Up until three years ago I had never run more than 5km. Then my brother Mike ran the Two Oceans half marathon, and described how amazing it was, so I decided I would run it the following year. That's how it started, joining the Chiltern Athletics Club in September 2011, to train for my first half. I have always wanted to run Comrades, but I never actually thought I would get there. Being a sprinter it was just too much to imagine. But once you run your first half the bug bites you and so I planned on running Comrades at some stage, just not for the next few years. Then last year (2013), while watching my fellow club runners go past me in Westville on their way up the hill I could not help but feel that I was really missing out, and so badly wanted to be out there with them. So come September 1st I entered.

The Running Schmids and a Richie

In preparation for Comrades I came across two articles that had a big impact on me, and always seem to be able to get me choked up. The first is actually the route description by Tim Noakes (from Hillcrest to Durban) and the second was Don Oliver's Final Tips. Tim Noakes also said 'I know why this is all necessary, what common bond unites all Comrades runners. It is the need to look for the mountains in life. Skill, you see, is not our requirement, nor has your race got anything to do with winning or losing. These are the spoils of other lesser games, unable to transport you to the places we have been.'

Comrades is a crazy day, but what a day it is. Everyone will give you advice, some is good, some not so much. But you have to figure out what works for you. I did a lot of my training with shin splints, strapped up. And to get through the amount of mileage for the training without furthering my injuries my bio told me to take it really slow. All my training was done between 6.5 and 7 min/km, and unfortunately you become very set in a pace. So a lot of the runners at my club didn't think I would cover the distance in the given cut-off times. And I was worried about that as well. At the end of Feb I did my first marathon, and my qualifier, the Maritzburg marathon. Wow!!! Your first marathon hits you hard, so be ready. From 33km my legs felt like bags of cement. Anyway I got it done in 4:53ish I think (you need to do a 42km in under 5hr to qualify). But February is still early days. So you carry on plodding.

Then you get to April and the training becomes intense. You are doing 80-100km a week (generally 50km a weekend). You live, eat and sleep running. And you start mentally preparing yourself for the day. The long run happens about 6 weeks before race day. I joined with Hillcrest Villagers for this and we ran from Collegian Harriers (in Maritzburg), down to Hillcrest, so 57km of the Comrades route. My long run went really well, I wasn't nauseous at all, I ate a fair amount of food along the way, I could have a Gu gel every hour and Coke at every table. I got to the halfway mark in 5hr10 which was bang on target. And my legs felt fresh at the end, like I had maybe run a 10km, no injuries playing up. So after that I was pretty confident, and with the time I did I worked out I could've done a 10:30 Comrades.

Come Comrades day and it all fell apart right from the beginning. Firstly I set my watch on laps I think, but didn't want to reset it, so I didn't actually know what my current pace was. I was also nauseous from very early on, and couldn't get my Gu down and couldn't even handle Coke, so I wasn't replacing my energy. I carried on plodding, but my quads started getting very tight 30km in, not sure why, and have never had that issue before, but it made the remaining 60km very trying. So I fell off the pace I was meant to do very early, only getting to halfway at 5hr43, so it is really amazing I finished at all.

And then I started getting emotional from around Hillcrest. I just wanted to go home. I was tired, and in so much pain. I was lacking energy and probably getting dehydrated, because I was too nauseous to eat and drink. But the running club guys and my parents kept popping up all over the place and cheering me on, so I plodded. Fields Hill arrived, and I was in such pain I even struggled to walk down it, it is so steep and so cambered, it kills your legs. So that whole thing about "the desire to quit comes but once..." is not always true, I had it most of the last 30km. I got to the top of Cowies and saw some Chiltern supporters, and asked them if they knew where my parents were in Westville, I wanted to go home, I couldn't go the last 15km. They got me running again and phone my parents to tell them I was on my way but wanted to quit, but I was still doing ok. I got to my parents by Jan Hofmeyer and said I wanted to go home... and I just remember my mom saying to me "Are you really sure you don't want to finish this" And I couldn't say yes, so I carried on.

By this stage I knew my time was very close, and I still had the cut-off at the bottom of 45th to make before the last stretch to the finish. Somehow my parents managed to pop up all over the place from Westville to the finish and that kept me going. I finally go into town, and the crowd was incredible, the streets were packed with people cheering, and about 2km from the finish I spotted my parents again, and they started running on the pavement next to me, and cheering, and suddenly I could hear the stadium, and I managed to dig deep and as soon as you hit that grass you feel like you are running on air, and somehow you manage to smile...

It is the most emotional and physically draining day you can imagine, but so special at the same time.


In writing a blog about several topics in which I admit to being a complete beginner, I am going to have to rely heavily on the people I am writing for who cumulatively know most of what I am likely to learn already. I would love it if some of you found the time to write a guest post on the subject of happiness or learning. The framework I use for thinking about these things is what I call the '5 + 2 points' which includes proper (1) exercise, (2) breathing, (3) diet, (4) relaxation, (5) positive thinking & meditation, (+1) relationships, (+2) flow. Naturally if you would like to write about something that you think I have missed, I would love to include that too. If you are up to doing something more practical, it would be awesome if you did a 100 hour project and I am happy to do the writing based on our chats if that is how you roll. Email me at trevorjohnblack@gmail.com

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