Hill training machine

Thursday 15 January 2015

So after a rotten, sleepless night and a whole day of feeling wrung out, I hauled myself off to the first hill training session of the Embark Training Two Oceans Half-Marathon programme.

This week I ran 5 km on Tuesday (with Embark) and 6 km on Wednesday (which was meant to be a rest day), so the idea of doing hill repeats on tired legs didn’t fill me with confidence. But I couldn’t miss the training. It’s 65 days to Maratona di Roma. It’s time to cram. All those months and weeks of ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’ have blended into a misty grey swirl of missed opportunities. There are no more tomorrows. There is only today.

So I squeezed myself into the spandex, found a matching pair of running socks (matching each other, not matching my spandex), laced up my worn-out shoes, strapped on my pink Garmin watch and headed for the door. Then headed back in to look for my keys, find a water bottle, fill the water bottle and find my naff-looking fanny pack. Where do other runners keep their cell phones and car keys? All the other runners out on the road look so sleek and unencumbered. And then there’s me, running with a heavy fanny pack bouncing on my pubis.


Off I went.

‘You’ll be fine,’ said my daughter when she caught a glimpse of my stricken face as I left the house.And I was fine. Absolutely fine. Better than fine.

It was tough. I can’t pretend it wasn’t. And my thighs felt like lead weights strapped to my bones as I hauled myself up the hill – the 11 km I had notched up over the previous two days had left a residue of fatigue clinging to every cell. But it was good. I need to run on tired legs.

We ran from Vida Café on the Camps Bay strip up towards Camps Bay High School, and then took the sharp right turn up to Kloof Road. There our coach had us running 90-second repeats – run uphill for 90 seconds, run down to recover, breathe, repeat. Repeat six times. Try not to vomit between repeats.

Then we ran up the hill for the last time, but a little bit further than we had during our repeats … and it felt very far indeed. I started walking a little bit, as did the two girls ahead of me. When we saw the end in sight, we all in unison mustered up the strength to make running-type motions to get us through the last few metres. We looked like little puppets all being controlled by the same sadistic puppet master.

Suddenly I heard footsteps coming up behind me, and out of the corner of my eye I saw a long shadow creeping up towards me. ‘Oh no you don’t!’ I thought, and picked up the pace, increasing the distance between me and the young youngster who thought she could overtake me. In my mind I sprinted the last few metres. Of course I didn’t sprint, but I’m going to hold on to the picture in my head – I quite like the idea that I sprinted up the last few metres of a hill after doing repeats and after thinking I was all but done. And I did like the look of surprise and amusement on the coach’s face!

We stopped for a minute or two to wait for the rest of the group and to take a snapshot of our happy, red little faces, and then it was downhill all the way back to Vida.

Man, I love a downhill! Can you see me grinning?

So down I flew (again – the flying is really all in my head; it’s kind of like the snail that flew), feeling great. I was ahead of the group and stayed ahead of them all the way home, increasing the gap the further we went.

I was first home! And I picked up the pace in the last few metres.

The bummer is that there was no one to see it. I was all alone. I seem to always be all alone – usually all alone in the middle somewhere, too slow to keep up with the fast runners and too fast to stay with the slow runners. And now I was out in front and our coach decided to be magnanimous and hang back with the back markers. He never does that! He’s always waiting at the end, arm raised to give high fives to everyone coming in. But not tonight.

Oh well. I felt great anyway. Tonight I was a machine.


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