My strategy was a run/walk method - 4 minutes run/ 1 minute walk. Walk the uphills and steep downhills to save energy for the dreaded hill and sand portion. There were several aid stations that had water and earlier in the morning so hydration was not much of a concern. I had two hand held Ultimate Direction water bottles on me and would refill them at each station. I had also placed Nuun and Clif Organic food packets at four of these locations along with a pair of clean socks to change into after the sand portion.
1-5 km - I ran the first 2k but the altitude and continuous incline made it necessary to slow down to a walk. It was apparent early on that my 4 min run/1 min walk strategy was not going to work.
6-10 km - Hills, hills and more hills - the half marathoners split off from us and this section of the course became very uneven. At this point I was seriously worried how I was going to make the cut off of 4:15 at 25.5 km. This seems like a generous time cut off but I knew a challenging descent down the dreaded hill and 6 miles of sand were in front of me.
11-15 km - Marathoners received the plastic bracelets at the turnaround point and there was finally some relief with a gentle downhill slope. At 15 km it becomes apparent that no matter how many times we had seen the "hill" at Yellow Wood Valley into lion country it looked more frightening on foot.
16-25 km - This was a serious hill. The pace has crawled to about 25 min/mile during the descent. Teeny tiny baby steps! Anything else very easily could have lead to a fall with a nasty tumble. I kept looking around at the steep cliffs to my left and right hoping to catch a glimpse of the leopard. No luck but to be honest, falling down this hill became a real concern.
At the bottom of the hill there was an aid station before entering the deep sand. I could tell I was losing focus because I started to go in the wrong direction (which was captured on a race video by a drone). There were locals cheering for us and they directed me back on course. This portion of the course was difficult with several miles of sand but the scenery was so beautiful with an added bonus was wildebeest and giraffe sightings. The cutoff time motivated me to run more than planned. A major blister on my second toe was developing because I had forgotten to put on my gaitors at the last aid station from my drop bag.
25-31.5 km - 25.5 was a relief because the cut off time was behind me! The next best part was the sponge foot wash a change of socks! I had placed a pair of socks in my drop bag along with the forgotten gaitors and fuel packet. This stop was worth the four minutes it took to clean off the sand, assess the toe blister and refuel. This is the location where the race got serious and absolutely miserable. Going up the hill was probably one of the most difficult things I have ever done in my life. 900 feet of elevation gain in about a mile! My pattern became - walk ten steps, stop and take five breaths. This was the only way to get up the hill. I saw some people crawling and others throwing up. My heart rate had sky rocketed to 200 BPM. The motivator - ANOTHER cut off time of 5:15 at 31.5 KM. At this rate the possibility of not making the next cut off time was a concern because my pace had snailed to 41 mins/mile. This was awful but the risk of a heart attack or serious leg cramps kept my pace conservative. The incline averaged 43% during this portion of the course.
At the top of the hill was another aid station with cold spray. Seriously the best thing EVER for leg cramps. I had very little time to waste at this station otherwise I would be picked up off the course. At 28k I befriended an awesome woman from England, Hollie. I forgot how nice it was to have company. We helped each other along and BARELY made the 5:15 cutoff. A race official came up from behind to ask us a question and we thought he was going to pluck us off the course so we ran from him like he was the Grim Reaper! He was only asking how we were doing but we were still mere minutes away from missing the cutoff.