Saturday 7 March 2015
Training for Rome Marathon (for real this time)
Week 8 of 10
15 days to go
Saturday morning. The Rome Marathon is three Sundays from now. That 30-kay run happens today or it doesn’t happen at all. And if it doesn’t happen at all, there is no way we will be mentally prepared for that Big Thing we signed up for.
I wasn’t going to make a big meal out of it – no setting the alarm for 5 am and being out on the road by six. Sleep is in short supply in this house, with a Significant Other who does what men do to disrupt their wives’ sleep, and The Kid who needs to be collected from her social activities in the middle of the night. I’ve given up the fight. I’ll simply get to bed later, sleep later, get started later … and suffer the consequences of being out in the African sun after 9 am. It’s not as if I’ve had sunburn or sunstroke before.
I set the alarm for six, with the intention of getting out there by about seven. But either my alarm didn’t go off, or I switched it off in my sleep and carried on sleeping. Either way, I woke up at seven. I bit late, really, but I wasn’t going to stress about it. Firstborn Daughter appear before me as I was standing in the kitchen, making tea. She was dressed and ready to go: black compression socks, black shorts, white top, black cap. A pair of dark, tired and frightened eyes peered out from below the peak of the black cap. She wasn’t feeling very sure about this run at all. I was quite oblivious to just how apprehensive she was feeling, though. She had done the training, she had miles in her legs, she could run a half marathon quite easily, she’s young and strong … sure, it’s going to be tough, but nowhere did it say that this thing was going to be easy.
We finally got going at 8:30 – there was much looking for stuff (Where’s my Gu? Where’s my pouch? Should I take chocolate?) before being ready to go, and even then there was still remembering one more thing to take (I should take a cap, I suppose?) before finally closing the gate behind us and walking down the road to the Fanwalk. The 30-kay was going to happen this morning. There was no turning back now.
Our Garmins were a bit slow in locating GPS, so I snapped some pics of the morning light filtering through the trees and a few of Firstborn Daughters deer-in-the-headlights face. Then our Garmins beeped to let us know that GPS had been located and off we trotted towards into the soft golden sunlight sitting just behind the trees and buildings at the end of the road.
This morning’s run was not going to be about speed. It was simply about doing the distance in whatever manner possible, even if it meant walking; even crawling, if that’s what it came to. The Garmin’s job today was simply to let me know how far we had run, not how fast. And how far we had run was the focus, not how far there was still to go. Because thinking even for a moment about how far you still have to go is a killer.
So there was no pausing of Garmin during breaks – no clicking the pause button for photo ops, bathroom breaks, water breaks or while waiting for each other. Pausing the Garmin shifts attention again to how long the run is taking: how fast or slow you’re running, how slow your pace is. There was to be none of that today.
I was feeling good. Surprisingly good, given how lousy I had felt on Wednesday evening’s run, when 15 km had been a chore. I immediately settled into a light, comfortable around 7 min/km pace. The air was cool, the streets empty, the light beautiful. Cape Town was slowly starting to wake up and as we approached Somerset Road we started to pass those who were unfortunate enough to be working on a Saturday morning. They seemed to feel as sorry for us as we did for them, and we exchanged smiley good mornings with friendly strangers. So far things were looking good and the morning held the promise of a good day to come. But we were only about 3 km into the run. Many miles still to go – not that I gave them a moment’s thought.
I should have realized that there was trouble afoot with Firstborn Daughter, though, as she was keeping pace with me, instead of disappearing off into the distance, leaving me to eat her dust.
We ran between the red brick buildings of Prestwich Street – the sun hadn’t reached here yet, and the street was still wonderfully cool. We turned at Beluga Restaurant and ran under the bridge towards the Waterfront Theatre School. Then I got it into my head to get some extra distance done by heading into the harbour. We dodged the multitude of cyclists – who don’t stop for pedestrians at pedestrian crossings – cars and other pedestrians, and headed down past the dry dock. I loved the noise and bustle – people were hard at work already, loading trucks, operating heavy machinery and working on ships. Security guards leant against fences, sat on chairs, paced up and down, and smiled and waved their good mornings to us, probably grateful for a little bit of distraction. Some pungent, almost solid, aromas had us holding our breath at some point – a not very appetizing pile of rotting fish lay piled up along the way.
At Shimmy Beach Bar we stopped to take in the view. A white yacht passed a few feet away from us and headed towards the horizon for a day of far less strenuous activity than we had lined up for ourselves. I snapped a pic or two, most of which had my finger in the way, would you believe, as I couldn’t see the lcd panel in the bright light.
Firstborn Daughter was starting to show signs of lagging. She looked miserable. She said she was fine, of course, but she clearly wasn’t. Something was sore, apparently. Well … I don’t know …? What to do? It could just be beginning-of-run aches. It could just be nerves. We would have to see.
Not much further along she slowed down completely and started to walk. We weren’t at 10 km yet. I had thought we would do the distance in 5 km bites: run 5 km, walk a bit, run 5 km again. That way the distance behind you quickly piles up … 5 done, 10, 15 … we’re halfway … 20 … we’re more than halfway … 21.1 … we’ve just done a half marathon … 25 …. home stretch! But she was already walking.
‘I’m just very hungry,’ she said.
‘Okay,’ I said, and fell into a walk while she had one of her Gu Gums. I may as well have a bite of something since we’re walking anyway, I figured, and unwrapped a protein bar that I’d not tried before. It had dried cranberries in it, and I worried what it was going to do to my gut even as I munched away at it. It’s just pure sugar, really. I’m probably better off taking sugar cubes with me on a run, rather than spend a fortune on these little bars that are mostly chemicals and sugar.
And then we both needed the bathroom. Thank you, Green Point Park for sparkly clean bathrooms that are open early in the morning. We ran through the park, took our bathroom break, had some water and headed back out towards the Promenade. Daughter stopped to stretch, said something about being sore, I think, or stiff, or something. But she was fine, she said, and so we carried on. We were only on about 10 km, so chances were it was going to turn into quite a long day at this rate …
Crossing the road towards the lighthouse I tried to help her to take herself out of her body, to focus on something other than what her body is feeling. ‘Focus on the sounds around you,’ I suggested. It works for me. But she wasn’t really having any of it. I set off on a slow run again, leaving her to work things out for herself.
At the 15 km mark, at the drinking fountain at the dog park, I waited for her to make her way to me and sent a text to the Significant Other.
‘Just past 15 km,’ I said. ‘At dog park fountain. If you’re around, you can bring some water to the end of Sea Point, at the hill. Otherwise we’ll buy at the shop.’
That would give him about half an hour – more, in fact – to make his way to us. I let Daughter know that there would be water 5 km away and that she could take a little walk break if she needed to.
‘Can you just tell me the route? I don’t like to run without knowing the route.’
Oh dear. Things were going south within that psyche. If she’s starting to get cross with me, she’s in a bad way.
I explained that we were simply sticking to the coast until we have finished out distance. So about 7.5 km out and then back. All done and dusted. I left her to walk a bit more and started to run. I couldn’t believe how much better I was feeling than Wednesday evening. I was in good spirits, despite Daughter’s dark mood, and my body was feeling strong. I had managed to keep a consistent, easy pace, and if I could do this on race day, I might have a chance of being okay.
I got to the 20 km mark, the meeting point for water, before she did … and there was no Significant Other! Oh dear, again. I ran back a bit to meet Daughter and run with her for a bit. She didn’t seem remotely pleased.
‘Where’s the water?’ she wanted to know, her face still set in non-smiling mode. She has now been miserable for about 20 km. ‘Not here yet,’ I said. ‘But I’ll run on ahead and buy some water from the shop. You walk for a bit.’
I jogged ahead and sent him a text to tell him that we would get water at the shop, that he didn’t need to meet us. Then there was that rotten little hill to climb, which I did. In fact, I don’t recollect how I went up it. I think I was okay. Then the phone rang. It was Significant Other. He was on his way. He had all sorts of goodies – water, Energade, Coke, food …
Okay, I said. I would carry on for a bit and then run back to him. Then, of course, we had to argue for a bit. He never just does as I ask. He always has a counter offer.
‘No, no,’ he insists. ‘I’ll come to you. Where are you?’
Okay, so the reason why I said he should wait at the original meeting is point is because there is no parking anywhere along Victoria Road. There was no point in coming to where I was. He would be on the wrong side of the road (there is no pavement on the other side) with no way of doing a U-turn and, even if he could turn around, there would be nowhere to stop.
‘Just park somewhere. You’ll see us.’
Ah man. The fellow really struggles with even remotely vague instructions. He needs specifics. He needs to know exactly where to park. I didn’t want to get into a negotiation. I just wanted to run. I wanted to get off the phone and run. Argh!
‘Just find a space and park! It’s not such a big area. You’ll see us. We’ll see you.’
This kind of exchange continued for a bit before he felt he could manage to do this on his own.
I ran until my Garmin told me 21.1 km – half marathon! Whoop! Then I turned back … and faced Firstborn Daughter’s general unhappiness again. I let her know that water was waiting back where we came from, that she would be fine. I waited for her to run back with me, but she was taking some time to stretch and come to terms with whatever was going on in her head.
‘You don’t have to wait for me,’ she said. So I left.
Ah. Whatever his flaws … when he delivers, he really does deliver. There he was with a range of drinks, chips, hotcross buns, French loaf, salted peanuts, a chocolate bar … wow! I didn’t think I would feel like the chips, but once I had one or two, ah man, they were a fine idea on his part. We were on 23 km and I was still okay. Still in good spirits.
We stood around for a bit, taking our time to fill up on water, Energade, chips and Coke. My Garmin clocks that kay at 15 minutes, so we really didn’t rush things. Significant Other would meet us further along, just past the 25 km mark, for a top-up and then it would be the last 5 km home.
And the last 5 km is where I started feeling it. Whooooo … I slowed right down. Walking happened. Actually, I lie. It was really the last 3 km that I was all worn out, where even walking was too much effort. That last kay, ooeer! By now it was midday and hot. Foolishly, we’d not lotioned-up before we left this morning, and our caps offered little protection against that giant ball of fire frowning down on us. I had lost sight of Firstborn Daugher at the last stop, and didn’t see her behind me, nor ahead of me when I turned back.
Her Garmin had run out of battery at 26 km. And so had she – what little battery she may have had left at that stage. So she had sat down on the lawn and phoned her boyfriend to lament the misery of the morning. She sent me a text to say she was waiting for me at the lighthouse, but I didn’t hear a beep from my phone. I was heading home. And that was that.
I had survived the 20-miler. It was a long, long day out on the road. But we did it.
Tonight there will be pasta and there will be wine.