30 May 2011

Comrades 2011

Early morning preparations went well: two cups of coffee, boiled egg on toast, trips to the toilet, taped nipples, kit on, shoes on, watch on, belt on... ready to go!

Things did not get off to a very auspicious start. Claire dropped me off right near the start. I flashed my number at security and entered the starting area. After irrigating a nearby building I walked briskly along to find my pen. But just as I got there, there was an enormous surge of the runners already on the road. I am guessing that they pulled down the barriers between the batches and everyone was pushing forward to the front. I pushed my way into the entrance to E batch and then made my way forward a little bit along the side until the density of bodies just made it impossible to move. Then I stood around with all the other excited runners, waiting for the national anthem, then the cock's crow and finally "Chariots of Fire" (which never fails to produce an enormous lump in my throat) before the gun went off. And when it did... nothing happened. For a good 3 or 4 minutes. We just stood still. It literally took that long for the wave of motion to get back as far as where I was standing. Then we started to inch forward. Slowly. Very slowly. Then gradually, instead of shuffling, we were walking and then trotting. And sometime about 100 m after we actually crossed the start line (more than 5 minutes after the start), I was actually able to run.

Heading out of town across the bridge over Warwick Triangle the street lights went out and the throng of runners were plunged into complete darkness. The range of detritus dropped off by the runners up ahead suddenly became a minefield as people we tripping over discarded clothing and water bottles.

It was a pretty cool  morning, so I only discarded my black bag going up the hill towards 45th Cutting. Took a pee at the top of the hill. At this stage I was well behind schedule, but feeling good so not concerned at all. The long ascent up to Westville went by without event. Ran most of the way up Cowies Hill with a short walk break about half way up. Started down the other side, making sure to take short strides to conserve the quads. By this stage I had fallen into my normal fluids routine: one water sachet and a cup of Pepsi at each table. The flat bit through Pinetown is a little dull and boring, but Field's Hill on the far side totally makes up for this. Did a pretty systematic run-walk up the hill and got to the top feeling good. Enjoyed the coolth of the shade running through Kloof. Then onto the freeway briefly before getting back onto a side road. Just as I came off the freeway I met up with Robin (from the NDC) and we caught up a bit. I ran with him into Hillcrest where we both stopped to water the bushes. Trotted down the long hill to the bottom of Botha's Hill knowing that this was where my first bit of support was located.

Was pretty difficult to pick them out among the enormous gathering of people, but Claire's little pink fuzzy alice band made her stand out above the rest. Great to see Claire, Charles, Veronica and Jamie. Grabbed a hot dog, bottle of energade, gel and HYDRAssist sachets. Then took off up the hill. Run-walk again. You really do not lose any time by doing this. The folk who pass you running consistently generally lose steam after a bit and you reel them in again. I mixed my first sachet of HYDRAssist at this stage, making it pretty strong and washing it down with lots of water.

Normally the top of Botha's Hill is a swarm of school boys from Kearsney but they were completely absent this year. At this stage I was still feeling fine and half way was within a few km. And they were mostly downhill km! Claire has previously provided me with a flower for Arthur's Seat but this time she was going to be on the wrong side of Inchanga. Luckily GAME had a table about 1 km out and they were handing over pink roses. I was astonished to see that a load of people had deposited their roses on the Wall of Honour. I am not sure that they got the right end of the stick. I tossed mine onto the right spot, which by now was absolutely swamped with pink roses.

Drummond was loud and busy and the road was slippery with the water, Pepsi, squashed potates and orange peels. I forgot to check my time, which is an indication that I wasn't really worried. Started walking at the base of Inchanga and, with the exception of a few brief running bursts, maintained that all the way to the top. Probably lost about 10 minutes that was but at least I was still feeling good when I got to the summit. Again took it easy going down the other side. By this stage my legs were starting to feel a little sore. But I had the incentive of Claire waiting at the bottom of the hill. Again she was easy to spot and I got my hot dog and fluid fix.

Around this time I noticed that most of the people that I was running with were walking even the gentle inclines. This made a lot of sense so I fell into this routine. Passed by the Ethembeni School and approached the hill which had been my mental nemesis during the last few weeks. As it turns out the hill was actually a lot steeper than in my head. So perhaps some of that stress was warranted. But I got up it at a brisk walk and felt good trotting away on the level again. Harrison Flats was predictably dull. Long, straight flat and boring. Along this stretch I dipped into my portable pharmacy for the first time, being sure to swig down three sachets of water and swallow a potatoe immediately afterwards.

Cato Ridge was incredibly busy. I am always a little surprised when the tar road reverts to a dusty track for a bit. Found Claire on the way out of Cato Ridge. Then onwards to Camperdown. Saw Chantal and family on the far side of Camperdown. Looked like they were having a pretty fun day! At this stage, with around 30 km to go, I really started to enjoy myself (okay, maybe the little pharmaceutical marvels might also have played a role). Got up to Umlaas Road and for the first time was able to see Pietermaritzburg down in the hollow, about 20 km away. It must have been a rather cool day because the chicken farms were not too smelly. Or maybe I just didn't notice? Picked up Claire again on the far side of Lions' Park. No hot dog this time but a delcious peanut cluster. Mixed my fourth HYDRAssist on the way down to the bottom of Little Polly Shortts and washed it down with a bottle of Energade. Caught up with and passed Fanie at the bottom of the valley. Walked all the way to the top of the "little" hill and then trotted down the far side.

When I started up Polly Shortts proper a group of runners behind me loudly proclaimed "No running allowed!". I was quite happy to fall in with their commands so I stretched out my stride and attacked it at a vigorous walk. A few people came past doing the walk-run thing but it just wasn't working: I was keeping up with them by just walking and they were tiring themselves out.

At the top I was happy that there were only 8 km to go. For the last little bit I had been trying to do some mental calculations to figure out what my likely finishing time was going to be. Based on my average speed I knew that I would finish in less than 10:00. For a while I thought I might be able to do 09:30 but then I figured out that my calculations were wrong. So the target became 09:45 and even that was going to be tight. Luckily I was feeling pretty good and I managed to run most of the remaining distance to the stadium. In fact I was feeling so good (and my new goal was applying so much pressure!) that I went under 05:00 per km for the last two km!

My splits were:

Cowies Hill: 02:00:34
Drummond: 04:50:55
Camperdown: 06:50:51
Polly Shortts: 09:00:03

I crossed the line in 09:43:33, being my best time for the up run.

yeardirectionfinish timeposition

It's hard to say how this compared to previous runs. I do know that it was a lot better than my last up run in 2008. I also know that I felt really good over those last few km. I think that this had a lot to do with getting my hydration right (and HYDRAssist helped with that!). But it also resulted from the amazing support that I got on the day from Claire. Knowing that she was always waiting for me a little further along the road with a hug and a smile and some goodies was extremely motivating.

Finally, to answer the question that I have been asked a few times over the last few weeks: why do we do this crazy race? Well, the quick and easy answer is "because I can!". But that is a little trite. So, really, why do we do it? I am sure that everybody's reasons are different. For me
  • it gives a focus for my running year;
  • it is a brilliant (and economical) day's entertainment;
and, finally, but perhaps most importantly,
  • it reinforces the fact that I can do whatever I set my mind to. That there is no obstacle so large that I cannot overcome it. You walk away from the race with the most enormous swell of empowerment. Sure this glow of invincibility might not be entirely accurate, but when you are bogged down in something onerous you can always think back to Comrades and tell yourself that you got through that and now you can get through this too!

28 May 2011

The Day Before Comrades

The weather has improved. It is sunny outside right now but with a rather blistering little breeze. Will have to wrap up warmly for the start. Otherwise I am feeling pretty good: the aches and pains that I had a couple of days ago seem to have disappeared and, apart from a bit of a sniffle (which I am prepared to assume is psychosomatic), I am 100% good.

This is what my last week looked like:

SundayChelsea Bun Run
Tuesday10 km (am)
Wednesday4 km (pm); 2 Senokot (pm)
Thursday---; 2 Senokot (pm)
Friday---; register; cut nails; shave nipples; 2 Senokot (pm)
Saturday---; assemble kit
SundayComrades Marathon 2011

This morning I pinned my numbers on my vest and sorted out all of my kit. I think that I have everything.

Kit list:
  • shoes and socks (going with nice think trail socks this year)
  • spare socks
  • vest, shorts and compression shorts
  • Two Oceans t-shirt for the start (didn't run the race, so this is a throw away)
  • "black bag" for the start
  • belt pouch
  • lip ice
  • nipple plasters
  • toilet paper in bank bag
  • mini pharmacy (Imodium, salt tablets and Myprodol)
  • sun glasses
  • GPS watch
  • 3 bottles Energade naartjie
  • 5 Hammer gels (chocolate and espresso)
  • 4 sachets HYDRAssist
  • Championchip tag
Claire will be providing me with hotdogs at various points along the route. She did this last year too and it was a hit: the All Golds tomatoe sauce completely made them.

26 May 2011

Weather still crap...

... but this morning we were treated to a beautiful double rainbow on the way to work. Which should be a promise of better things to come.

25 May 2011

Five Days to Go...

... and it's raining. Not even a (very athletic) duck would find the idea of a pedestrian trip from Durban to Pietermaritzburg in the rain an appealing concept. So let's try and figure out where this is going.

The midday METEOSAT image for yesterday shows a whole lot of cloud to the south and a front moving into the Cape. The picture for this morning shows that the cloud over Natal is a lot thicker (which ties up with the rain nicely!) but it seems to be improving in the Eastern Cape.

The Weather Underground paints a fairly rosy picture: rubbish weather today but a great day on Sunday.

Finally, the South African Weather Service has this to say, which is perhaps not quite as optimistic. I am not sure that I am more inclined to believe it though. These guys do not have a history of reliable forecasts. Their weather predictions for tomorrow are generally doubtful and a "long range" forecast, like five days, is approaching science fiction.

Wed 25thThu 26thFri 27thSat 28thSun 29th

So the only thing to do is wait for Sunday morning and hope that it dawns cool and sunny.

17 May 2011

Teasing versus Pushing Buttons

The Maxim 2011 Sex Survey includes the following two questions:

What is the biggest turn-on when meeting a man?
  • Gentlemanly behavior, like opening doors (27.8%)
  • Lots of eye contact (18.9%)
  • He asks a lot of questions about me (11.9%)
  • Playful teasing (37.2%)
  • Physical contact (4.2%)
What's the best indication that you're into a guy you've just met?
  • I touch his arm or leg during conversation (22.4%)
  • I don't pull away if he touches me (21.3%)
  • I play with my hair (4.8%)
  • I laugh at everything he says (11.5%)
  • I tease him good-naturedly (38.8%)
  • I grab his penis (1.2%)
So clearly teasing is at the, um, forefront of foreplay. And this makes total sense: back in playschool, if you liked little Jenny you would pull her pig tails relentlessly and call her silly names. Certainly, it forms the backbone of David DeAngelo's "cocky and funny" strategy. But my question is this: how does "teasing" when you are single morph into "pushing my buttons" when you are in a relationship? Too much (inside) information (read ammunition)? Repetition? Or is this just no longer a game?

16 May 2011

Clark Road Confidence Boost

Comrades training this year has not been ideal. I managed to sustain my base training through the three months in Norway, going out for short but intense (well, intensely cold!) runs pretty much every day. Things started to fall apart a bit when I got home and life did a quantum leap in complexity. Then I came back from the NDC with a hobbled left leg which left me out of action for the three weeks prior to Two Oceans. So I ended up doing the half instead of getting in my long training run. Not ideal. Then, at the beginning of May I left for a week in Spain... without my running shoes. Also not terribly ideal. So no long run and a break in training during this critical period. Right now I am paddling in a puddle of stress. Despite the physical setbacks, I think that my biggest problem is lack of mental preparation: I know my training is not what it should have been. So I am just not feeling confident in my ability to klap it on the day. Normally about now I start to run through the race in my head every couple of days. But I am finding that every time I come to a hill in my mental rehersal my heart sinks. For pretty much every hill on the route. One hill in particular is my little mental nemesis. And it is not a terribly imposing hill. Rather an innocuous one, actually. More of a gentle incline. It's the one just before Harrison Flats. For some reason that is looming large in my mind. It's like an enormous hurdle that I need to push myself through.

You will have noted that I am paddling and not wallowing in that stress puddle. So I am by no means resigned to having a kak race. This evening I decided to take the proverbial bull by the horns. I went and did three repeats on Clark Road. If you live in Durban then you probably know Clark Road. I ran the steep bit between Manning Road and Cato Road. This starts out steep, gets steeper, then a little more steep and finally, just when you think that it should have encountered some sort of physical or geographic or moral limit, it gets a bit steeper still. Three repeats of that with a gradual trot around and down again. Each time I got to the top my heart was thundering along at around 175 bpm, my legs were burning, I was breathless, but as I turned the corner and it levelled out I found that it all came back together again and withing a few strides I was getting my breath back and the heart rate was cooling off to something a little less like "near death".

Three repeats. No stops. And I probably could have done another one. But good sense prevailed: wine, dinner and my sexy fiance were waiting for me at home. I feel a lot better now. And that is not just the wine talking.

10 May 2011

Change Your Words

Photopic Sky Survey

I enjoy dabbling with panoramas, but this takes it to a whole new level: a view of the entire night sky composed by stitching together 37440 individual images taken from a variety of different locations around the globe (including South Africa).

09 May 2011

If you call the Moon Another World then...

 Seems about time that we put another positive impulse on this curve.

Traits of a Real Man

Top 10 Traits Of A Real Man makes for interesting reading. Not sure that I agree with all of it, but some of it certainly resonates. It starts with "There's only one way to be a man, and that's the Mr. Mafioso way" and proceeds to list the following ten vital traits:

  1. A real man is strong.
  2. A real man is focused.
  3. A real man knows the importance of family.
  4. A real man doesn't gossip.
  5. A real man's word is his bond.
  6. A real man strives to be a role model.
  7. A real man makes his own fortune.
  8. A real man doesn't look like a woman.
  9. A real man keeps his house in order.
  10. A real man can defend himself.
So, it looks like a real man is stoic, driven, honest, independent and a leader. The strong and silent type. He can also kick the shit out of all comers. Oh, and he is also neat. But not in a girly way.

Although I concur with some of these items (to some degree), it seems to me that authenticity is probably of equal importance to any or all of the above.

07 May 2011

The Grant Cycle

So much of the truth.

Configuring DHCP Server on Ubuntu

I need to hook up my laptop to my desktop machine machine at home. My laptop also migrates between a number of other networks, all of which assign IP addresses dynamically. So it makes sense to replicate this scenario at home too. The DHCP server does this job and is pretty easy to configure.

Firstly you need to tell DHCP which network card to listen on. In my case this is trivial since my desktop only has one network card. For completeness though, this is achieved by editing /etc/default/dhcp3-server:


Next the DHCP server itself is configured via /etc/dhcp3/dhcpd.conf:

default-lease-time 600; max-lease-time 86400; authoritative; ddns-update-style ad-hoc; log-facility local7; option subnet-mask; option broadcast-address; option routers; option domain-name "noggin.za.org"; option domain-name-servers; subnet netmask { range; } host rockhopper { hardware ethernet 70:5a:b6:b0:00:ac; fixed-address; }

This is a very simple setup. The desktop machine has a static IP of and netmask My laptop has a reserved IP address of All other machines that connect will be assigned addresses in the range to

Now all that remains is to start the DHCP server:

# /etc/init.d/dhcp3-server restart

If you are not the root user then you will have to do this with sudo.

Monitoring the behaviour via /var/log/syslog:

May  7 11:29:30 marge dhcpd: DHCPDISCOVER from 70:5a:b6:b0:00:ac via eth0 May  7 11:29:30 marge dhcpd: DHCPOFFER on to 70:5a:b6:b0:00:ac via eth0 May  7 11:29:30 marge dhcpd: DHCPREQUEST for ( from 70:5a:b6:b0:00:ac via eth0 May  7 11:29:30 marge dhcpd: DHCPACK on to 70:5a:b6:b0:00:ac via eth0

Which is for my laptop, which gets the reserved address. Then when i connected Claire's laptop:

May  7 13:21:44 marge dhcpd: DHCPDISCOVER from 00:1d:72:21:1f:ad via eth0 May  7 13:21:45 marge dhcpd: DHCPOFFER on to 00:1d:72:21:1f:ad (acer-47cbe8a5ed) via eth0 May  7 13:21:45 marge dhcpd: DHCPREQUEST for ( from 00:1d:72:21:1f:ad (acer-47cbe8a5ed) via eth0 May  7 13:21:45 marge dhcpd: DHCPACK on to 00:1d:72:21:1f:ad (acer-7cbe8a5ed) via eth0 May  7 13:21:50 marge dhcpd: DHCPINFORM from via eth0 May  7 13:21:50 marge dhcpd: DHCPACK to (00:1d:72:21:1f:ad) via eth0
Update to this post. It seems that the latest Ubuntu packages are slightly different. Start the DHCP server using

# /etc/init.d/isc-dhcp-server restart

02 May 2011

Burial at Sea: Begging for a Conspiracy Theory

If I was wanting to fuel a potent conspiracy theory, then this is precisely what I would do.

Why would they do something this silly if they did not have something to hide? Einstein's brain has been preserved for science. Lenin's body was embalmed and is on display in a mausoleum in Red Square, Moscow. Maybe Osama bin Laden is not quite as famous or influential as either Einstein or Lenin, and you would not imagine them building a mausoleum to display his body, but you would think that they would not be so hasty to dispose of the body? And in such an irreversible way. If you bury it, you can disinter it later, if necessary. But when you commit something to the deep, you wave goodbye for good.

So the only reasonable conclusion is that this "burial at sea" was staged and either
  1. bin Laden is not dead or
  2. they did something so gruesome to him that they don't ever want the body to be seen. Maybe they tortured him brutally and now are wanting to avoid scandal or reprisals?
Either of these options is consistent with the fact that no pictures of the body have been released. Considering that we have been subjected to the hype of this manhunt for the last decade, you would think that they would want to publicise some definitive proof?