The odd weekend that was

Monday 2 March 2015

Training for Rome Marathon (for real this time)

Week 8 of 10

19 days to go

Monday morning. A new week giving offering fresh opportunity to get out on the road and get some training done. That hourglass is emptying out: the time to pack our bags and board the plane is almost upon us.

Yesterday’s run didn’t promise great things for the marathon. I was exhausted and struggled my way through 7 km. This after missing the Milkwood half marathon in the morning, feeling wiped out all day and taking a nap in the afternoon. I had to take myself by the ear and pull myself out the front door, telling myself that an hour run is better than an hour not run, that any run, even a one kay run, is time on the legs, which is better than time on the couch.

The weekend was just weird. It started with being disqualified in the Century City 10 km Express on Saturday morning. It left me unsettled. I know it was a small incident, and not having my best 10 km time recorded on a random Saturday morning race is not really a big deal. There were thousands of other runners, most of them faster than me, and I was really a very insignificant little bolt in the big machine. But it was that people can be so mean. It always rattles me. It’s no surprise, of course. I’ve been around long enough to have come across plenty of mean people. But it always rattles me. Each time we interact with someone we have the option to be kind and respectful and the option to be unkind and uncompassionate. We make the choice. And I marvel, always, at how much easier it is to choose to be mean.

And, oddly, I quite wanted the medal. I don’t know why. We have fistfulls of medals, all gathering dust. But I wanted the medal. I felt I had earned it. The Significant Other gave his medal to one of the little kids who hang around at the end of the races, hoping to get a medal. When he told me he had given his medal away, I was quite disappointed. I had hoped that it would make its way into the collection, if not through my run, then through his. And Firstborn Daughter, in support of her mom, didn’t take a medal either. She also didn’t have her number pinned to the front of her vest, but no one noticed, and so she didn’t have the pleasure of having an official embarrass her in front of the other race finishers.

But anyway. I got past it. I banged out a letter to the the race organisers and received a very apologetic response first thing this morning.

I was quite tired, though, after the 10 km run. I was surprised. I shouldn’t be tired after such a short run. Despite my heavy legs, it was my job to take the dogs out for their walk. I managed to drag The Kid out with me – always so reluctant to do anything physical. But walking next to her while she walks the puppy is impossible. If she’s not lagging too far behind, or dragging the poor pup too far ahead, she walks alongside me and the dogs’ leashes get entangled or the pup ends up under my feet, either nearly tripping me or nearly getting its little back broken. So I ended up walking both dogs myself, with her walking alongside, keeping up a steady stream of conversation.

Some strange fellow up ahead was having a very animated argument with another fellow. As I steered the dogs away from him, he caught sight of us and flung a trash can in our direction. It landed a distance away from us, skidding aross the pavement and spilling papers all over the place. Then, as he passed us, he gesticulated and shouted some incoherent insults in our direction. I shared my more coherent point of view with him, and he responded with a well enunciated expletive. An odd exchange. Another unnecessary interaction.

The fellow had been having a bad day, quite clearly, as trash cans were overturned all along the rest of the way.

‘Geez, he’s been busy,’ said The Kid.

‘Ah! Bin busy, has he?’ I said. ‘Trashed the place, has he? Or are you talking rubbish? Absolute waste of time, this! The place is littered with rubbish bins.’

A bit further along we came across a couple walking a puppy. He was giant of a dog already, with folds of loose skin still to grow into. The dogs started straining at the leash to get to it. They wanted to sniff and say hello.

The nervy owner immediately picked up her dog and held it high.

‘Your dogs, haf zey been veccinated?’ she wanted to know.

‘Of course they have,’ I said.

‘Zey haf been veccinated?’ she wanted to know again.

‘Yes, of course,’ I said again, straining at the leashes, trying to pull the dogs back from this woman is is clearly convinced that my dogs are spreading the Ebola virus.

Her husband was giving angry instructions in German. I don’t know what he was saying, but the general gist was that my dogs shouldn’t come close to their pup.

Off we went on our way, muttering about the weirdness of people and picking up plastic bottle caps as we walked. The Kid kept up her steady stream of consciousness conversation.

We passed through the below-street walkway, me tugging at the dogs to keep them from eating discarded chicken bones and dog poop, and emerged back into the sunshine where the setting sun, now shining directly into my eyes, had turned everything golden and hazy.

Suddenly the dogs were pulling at the leash again, frantically this time. Squinting into the sun I could make out a blonde dog, off-leash, charging at us. Shit! What do I do? The dog is obviously not coming to say hello. He launched himself at Sam and there I stood with a full-blown dogfight happening at my feet. I know not to get my hands in the way of two dogs fighting, but my dog was on a leash and at a disadvantage. I kicked at the other dog, and kicked and kicked, but they were moving around so fast that I probably hardly touched him. When dogs are in the zone like that, they feel nothing anyway, and nothing can distract them from the fight. The puppy’s leash was entangled in the mess, and I was worried that he would be bitten as well. He’s still so small that any bite would have been a big wound.

I was screaming for the owner to fetch her dog, but she seemed to think that calling him from a distance would be effective enough. ‘Jake!’ she called. ‘Jake!’

No, simply calling the beast was not effective! The Kid and I each tried pulling the dog by its collar, but he was so strong and so determined that there wasn’t anything we could do, and I still had the leashes in my one hand. Eventually the dog’s owner came running along and pulled him off, only to lose control of him again and have him launch himself at my dogs to start the fight afresh.

I don’t know how it ended but somehow we were in separate camps, she holding her dog, still off-leash, and me trying to assess the damage to my dogs, shouting at her that she should keep her dog on leash, that this wasn’t an off-leash area. She looked confused by all this, not understanding that she had done anything irresponsible. Then I realised that I had been bitten. Fuck, I thought. Tetanus injection. This is all I need.

We started walking away, trying to just get the dogs home. Sam put the breaks on – he didn’t want to walk. I turned to see what was wrong, and saw his eye had filled up with blood. The sun was shining on him and the blood as bright red as it filled the eye socket. He’s been bitten in the eye, I thought, he needs the vet. Time to call the Significant Other to fetch us. I can’t drag my dog home in this condition. Blood from my hand started running down my arm, it dripped onto The Kid’s leg and onto the pavement. What a ridiculous day!

The Boy turned out to be okay. The blood in his eye was from a smallish cut above it – it had just run down his forehead and pooled in his eye. The dog’s tooth had punctured a hole in the webbing between my pinky and ring finger and, although not a huge bite, was still a dog bite and still needed to be seen to.

The Significant Other fetched us, dropped us at home and went to the pharmacy to pick up some antibiotics and a tetanus pack. I spotted a freshly poured, ice cold glass of white wine standing on the table – I had interrupted a visit from a friend. I picked it up and took a few sips. Gosh, wine can taste really good sometimes!

A few minutes later I had a plaster on my finger and a needle in my arm.

That was Saturday, and I had had enough of it. Pour another glass of wine, please, and order a pizza.

The Milkwood half marathon was in the morning. Firstborn daughter had gone to fetch our race numbers and what a nice job they had done. The our names and all our personal details were printed on the race number and we were given a peak cap – a good quality cap at that, and one that has an elastic drawstring so that it can be sized to fit my ridiculously small head.

I decided to sleep in The Kid’s bed so that I could get some sleep and be ready for the race in the morning.

But I just couldn’t sleep. The day’s events kept playing out in my head, over and over and over. In my mind I had numerous interactions with the Century City race official – and I had fresh words to share with him each time. And the white dog kept charging towards me and launching himself on my dog, over and over, all night long, through into the early hours of the morning, and each time I was helpless and unable to save my dog. The wind banged the blind against the window frame. The cat and dogs were on and off the bed, alternating between settling down to sleep with me, growling at each other or leaping from the bed and giving chase. Some barking and guarding were thrown into the evening’s line-up. I was too hot under the duvet and too cold without it. Mosquitoes buzzed around my ears. The pillow was too high and too hard.

Sleep just wouldn’t come.

The alarm went off. There is no way I could run a half marathon after a night like that. I was exhausted. I thought of Marshall Ulrich running across America, from west to east, running through the night, being exhausted, injured, in pain, emotionally and physically drained, but still carrying on, putting one foot in front of the other. But even that couldn’t inspire me to get going. My arm was sore and swollen from where the needle had gone in and my hand was throbbing. But mostly I was just so tired.

No one was going to let me sleep, though.

The Significant Other came to stand in the doorway and inquire about whether or not I would run. I always view his questions about my running as accusations. ‘Aren’t you running?’ sounds like ‘Why aren’t you running, slacker?!’ And I hate someone standing over the bed to talk to me. I feel at such a disadvantage.

No sooner had he left when Firstborn Daughter was in the doorway. She also had a few things to share with me. By the time everyone had buggered off and the room was dark and quiet again, sleep had exited too. I was awake now. I may as well have gone to the race. I closed my eyes and tried to sleep …

My cellphone buzzed. Damn! What now? A text message from the Milkwood race organisers. ‘Good morning,’ it said. ‘We would just like to wish you the best of luck with your ABAX Investments 21.1 km Milkwood Run.’

Ah man! How bad did I feel?! I was one of those people – I was a no-show, a Did Not Run. I felt so rotten! I was really looking forward to this race, even though it was a 45-minute drive out of town and we had to be up before five a.m. And here I was, lying in bed, receiving a text message wishing me luck. When do I ever receive good luck text messages?

I must have drifted off to sleep eventually but was aware of noises outside. There was some event going on and I could hear the announcements and the music. And the Tulip Hotel was being imploded. I heard the siren, the countdown and then the loud boom as the building came crashing down.

The rest of the day was spent in a haze of exhaustion. I did a bit of sewing and some reading but really not much else, other than feeling guilty about not having turned up for the race and worrying about the 30 km that had not been run this weekend.

We agreed that we would run at four or just after four. I decided to do a fifteen-minute lie-down before heading out, and fell asleep. I think I must have slept for about an hour and still felt spaced out and weird when I got up. I heard the Significant Other asking whether we had gone for a run yet or why we had not gone for a run yet – I couldn’t make out which, but either way it was an admonishment.

I got up, got the gear on, got the shoes on. An hour run is better than an hour not run. Every step taken is a step taken. Out we went. I would run as far as I could. 15 km would be great. I hoped I would feel better as I started running and that I would do 10 and then push on to 15. But not. I felt awful. So slow and heavy, and just exhausted. I don’t know if it was the sleepless night, the antibiotics, the injection or a combination of the lot. But I ran only 7 km. Stopped. Put my hands on my knees and stood there on the pavement, coming to terms with the way things were. And they weren’t good.

Tomorrow will be better.

And so it is Monday. Opportunity to tackle a new week of training.


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