K-Way VOB Table Mountain 16 km

19-21 June 2015

Wow. What was this weekend’s running all about? A late-night, post-dinner run on Friday, a sunny, light and easy run with The Kid on Saturday, and a 16 km up and up and up run on Sunday.

I feel possessed. Possessed by a poltergeist called running. I no longer have any control over it. I’m like a character in one of those stupid body switching movies.

So Friday was day 24 of 100 days of running. And, as usual, the day completely got away from me and, before I knew it, it was time to go to the Dragon-in-law for Shabbos dinner. Going for a run and arriving late because of it is not an option and, anyway, I would have been so late there would have been no point in turning up. So, after a heavy meal of a veggie bake of some sort and some red wine and a square or two of fruit and nut chocolate, the Significant Other and I set off for a run at about 11:30 at night. It was cold out there on the empty streets. But, really, it was more ridiculous than cold. But 100 days of running is 100 days of running, and one day of running will not be missed. And, actually, I think the Significant Other secretly likes that his wife is a complete nut, and he secretly enjoys heading out for a 3 km run in the middle of the night.

We always argue about who is setting the pace. He tells me I’m setting off too fast. I tell him I’m just following him. He tells me he’s just following me. Whatever. Strava gave me three PRs for that little run. And it was fun. I felt great.

On Saturday I hauled the Kid out the door for her second training run. The goal is to run an official 10 km race at some stage. We’ve not set a time limit for her but the idea is to get her moving. She took a long while to accept the challenge but when she finally did, it was with a fairly good attitude and a sense of humour. And if there is any argument about the benefits of running for one’s general state of mind, I present to you Exhibit A: the Kid after (and even during) a run. She transforms from a flatlining lump on the couch to a beaming lighthouse. And she pushes herself. Even though I remind her that it’s okay to slow down, and even to walk a bit, she keeps going until she can’t go any more. Then she walks 100 m or so, and then sets off again. And then she finishes off the run by running up the hill to our house. I am surprised, amazed and impressed. Long may this last.

And then there was Sunday. Oh my word. Sunday. The K-Way VOB Table Mountain 16 km that the Significant Other told me to sign up for. What the hell was that all about?!

I had been stressing about it for days. I knew it was a tough one – with a difficulty rating of 5, it wasn’t going to be a gentle stroll through the shopping mall. And I knew that my hill training had been pretty inadequate, to say the least. But, oh lordy!

I think it was 6 km of up and up and up. Then there was another 2 km of undulating up and up, with maybe a 500 m stretch of a relatively flat, albeit slippery, pathway. I kind of ran the first 2 km or more, and then looked up and just saw a long, zig-zag line of runners in brightly coloured tops trudging up switchback after switchback of steepness.

The views were breathtaking, the light spectacular, the air clean and crisp and fragrant. Had I been up there for a hike, it would have been most splendid. I can picture myself standing there, feeling on top of the world, taking in deep sighs of clean air and feeling at peace with the world.

But this was meant to be a run. Let’s not bother about it being a race. I’m never going to win any race anyway, so whether they call it a race or a fun run is irrelevant. But here I was, barely bothering to walk at pace anymore. Just kind of making my way up the mountain at whatever pace my mind and my legs would take me. Occasionally I would kick myself into gear and give the running part of the event a go. And then I would run out of steam again and slow down to a trudge. And of course I forgot my cell phone at home so I couldn’t even take some pics along the way. Since there was no chance of a PR, either up the mountain or down, I had ample opportunity to snap away.

Truly, I was simply defeated by this damn mountain. Scenic though it was, and as much as I love being in the mountains, shees! This was it. It was just ridiculous and I could see no point in being there.

So when I finally arrived somewhere near the top and found the lovely couple handing out tiny enamel mugs of Sedgwicks Old Brown Sherry, homemade crunchies and jelly babies, I stopped to commune with the other sufferers. I sipped cold Old Brown Sherry from a tiny enamel mug, bantered a bit and felt nothing for the ticking clock. Nor did I feel anything for the kilometres I had just covered. I had walked most of them, so they really don’t count for anything. There was no achievement in it. I was miffed. Really. Dammit. Day 26 of 100 days of running, some half marathons and a marathon under my belt, and I’m walking! Okay, so was pretty much everybody else. But that, too, means nothing. I wasn’t racing against them, or even with them. I wanted to run.

I had expected tough. I welcome tough. But this caught me by surprise. The idea of turning around and going back to wait at the bottom did occur to me. At least I didn’t give in to it. ‘Did not finish’ does beat ‘did not run’. But ‘suffered to the end’ beats both. So I suffered to the end.

Somewhat fortified after the few sips of Old Brown Sherry, and my spirits lifted, I started running again. Some nice individual came running down the slope towards me, at speed, and called ‘Well done, Deirdre!’ Must be a friend of the Significant Other, I thought, feeling pleased that someone had noticed my existence. Another person called out some encouragement, followed by my name. Do I know these people, I wondered … and then realized that I had my name written on my chest … ah … yes. Not my brightest moment rushed in to combine with not my finest moment. Wow. Must have been the altitude …

The only other representative of my running club came barreling down the mountain towards me. And I was running at the time! Whoop! He laughed and immediately stopped to fumble for his phone so that he could take a picture of me. I wasn’t stopping. I was running – uphill – and I wasn’t stopping. He turned to run a few paces back so that he could focus and get the pic. Clearly I had to stop, as his attempts at focusing weren’t working so well. He snapped a quick pic and off he went again, on the home stretch, smiling away. How cool was that? He was doing a great time but he stopped to acknowledge me and make me feel that my effort was worth recording. And today I saw that he had followed through – he put the pic on Facebook. Sometimes you come across a mensch. And it brightens your day.

A short while later the new addition to the Significant Other’s running clique came sprinting down towards me. I smiled, of course, and said something nice, can’t remember what … what else could I do? But that kind of killed me a little bit. Being beaten is one thing, but by so much?! Moments later the Significant Other and his Skelm came past, followed by the Bromance. They had all turned around already, they were all running strong and looking great. I felt like the special needs addition. Someone is allowed to hang out with the cool kids, the one who was about to be patted on the head and told not to worry, I would get there. It was kind of a final straw moment.

But on I went, running past glassy dams reflecting the deep blue sky and the white, mottled rocks. It really is a spectacular route.

From time to time I caught up with, ran with, passed, was passed by and caught up with two men running together. One had been bought an entry to the run as a Father’s Day present. He was clearly taking strain. His friend was running (and walking) with him, keeping his spirits up and keeping it all fun. It was good to have a bit of banter along the way. It eased the feelings of utter uselessness somewhat.

I finally finished the run in 2h10. It was a pretty long morning out on the trail but I wasn’t stone last. And some of the other guys still out on the trail, making their way down, were a long, long way from home. I was glad not to be them.

I felt pretty dejected by this run. It’s stupid to feel dejected, I know. All I have to do is get the shoes on again, step outside my gate and turn left, towards the mountain, instead of right, towards the sea.

Hill training, hill training, hill training.

Or I could just stick to flat routes. But that would just be silly, wouldn’t it?

K-Way VOB Table Mountain 16 km profile

K-Way VOB Table Mountain 16 km profile … and my running shame!

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