Banking the 28 km

22 August

Right. That was pretty tough. Tougher than I would have liked it to have been at this stage of my training, and this close to the Cape Town Marathon.

So, having missed the group run on Saturday morning, and having all sorts of chores and stuff from real life to do before I could go on a run, I eventually left the house at two in the afternoon. The morning’s cool weather had given way to warmer temperatures and I immediately realised that in my black tights I was a bit overdressed for the occasion. But it would be cooler along the coast, I figured, as I tried to stay in the shade as much as possible along the Fan Walk and the stadium.

I was feeling off from the word go. My calf muscles were tight and painful, as were the backs of my thighs and my glutes. I was feeling tired and sore. Maybe I had gone to too many spin classes at gym. I have been trying to catch up on my missed training by doing some extra sessions on the bike – still working the legs, I figured, but without the pounding on the ankles, hips and knees. It seems now that it was maybe not the best idea. Or that I should have held back on some of those sprints.

Slow, slow, slow, I thought. Just keep it really slow. No faster than 6:46/km. Marathon pace. It was going to be a long day on the road, in the sun, with just my crazy head and an iPod for company.

By the end of the first 5 km I was still feeling heavy, stiff and sore. I wasn’t feeling the start-of-run-this-will-get-better kind of aches. I was feeling this-is-going-to-be-hell-all-the-way kind of aches. On top of it, I felt nauseous and unwell. I took a jog through the Green Point Park to use the bathroom and waste a whole lot of time repositioning the Camelbak’s bladder. Firstborn Daughter had told me to put the bladder in upside down, as she had read on some of the forums that this is a way of stopping it from sloshing about on your back, making that sound your stomach makes when you’ve overhydrated at a water station. I did as I was told, and lo! It made no glooping noise. Except that it also yielded not a drop of water when I tried to suck on the valve. And, to add injury to insult, its mean, tight little mouth pinched shut onto the tip of my tongue and held fast. Ouch! While in the bathroom, I wrestled for ages trying to get the upside-down bladder from its pocket before I could shove it back in, right way up this time, and get back out on the road again.

Off I ran along the crowded Promenade. The glorious sunshine had brought all the fair weather strollers out into the fresh air, and I was dodging all sorts of obstacles – kids on bikes, moms and dads on bikes, teens on skateboards, handholding couples, big bottomed girls strolling four abreast, obliviously nattering away, selfie snappers, and dogs on ridiculously long, and mostly invisible leashes.

Rocklands Beach - what smart people do on a hot day, while other people attempt a 28-km run

Rocklands Beach – what smart people do on a hot day, while other people attempt a 28-km run

But I was Zen about it all. Spring is in the air and long, lazy summer days can’t be far behind. All is well with the world.

And then, after 10 km, 6:45/km gave way to even slower than 7:00/km – barely faster than my fast walking speed from back in the day when I used to say ‘I don’t run; I’m a walker’.

By 16 km it was quite clear that the rest of the distance was going to take some grit. I was tired, I was sore, and I was bored with my own company. And the Camelbak was refusing to give me a drop of water. Each time I wanted to take a sip, I had to unclip the chest strap, drop it off my shoulders and hold it in my one hand as I tried to suck asthmatically on the selfish little mouthpiece.

I stopped at the bathroom at La Med (thank you, Cape Town City Council, or whomever is in charge of keeping these bathrooms spotless) and again did some wrestling with the Camelbak bladder: I figured that I needed to turn it so that the tube faced away from my back, as it was probably getting blocked by resting against my body, and so I spent a good while (again) trying to remove it from its snug sleeve. I think by then the heat was getting to me, and my brain stubbornly refused to take charge of my fumbling fingers. The handle on the lid had hooked onto the fold in the sleeve and I was just too stupid to get it unstuck. ‘Bugger it,’ I thought and left it as it was.

Camps Bay and the Twelve Apostles

Camps Bay and the Twelve Apostles

I slowly strolled out of the pleasantly cool and clean-smelling bathroom, texting the Significant Other, to let him know when and where to meet me, and Firstborn Daughter, who had stuff to tell me. I didn’t pause my Garmin during all of this and so the 16 km mark shows a leisurely 14.47/km. The race clock doesn’t wait for when you stop to tie your shoelaces, so there’s no point in trying to lie to yourself during a training run. Stop and rest but keep the clock ticking.

Time to start running again – down into Camps Bay, past the strolling, drinking, eating, sunbathing crowds, past the busy taxi rank, up past the police station to the 18 km mark – with the Camelbak straining at my shoulders and becoming more of an irritation than my sore legs were. By now I was alternating walking and running. On a solo training run just two weeks ago I ran a PR half marathon at midday. Today I was wrestling my way through my run in 500 m segments – walk 500 m, run 500 m, push to run another 500 m. Running is so fickle! You’re queen of the road one day and nothing but a staggering fool the next.

I walked up the short hill towards the parking lot where the Significant Other was waiting. After sailing through a 32 km run this morning, he was still fresh enough to offer to second me on my solo effort. I had thought that I should decline but allowed myself to be talked into accepting the offer. That was one of my better decisions of the day.

There he was – a welcome sight. But no more welcome than the party pack of Lays salted chips and the bottle of Energade! Yess! A party, indeed! I removed the Camelback, sat down on the tailgate and tucked in. Ah! A salty snack and some sweet liquid – bliss! I was in no rush to get going again, and clocked myself another thirteen-minute kilometer. Little did I care.

Salted crisps, energy drink, water - a picnic at 20 km

Salted crisps, energy drink, water – a picnic at 20 km

‘Do you want to call it a day?’ asked the Significant Other. ‘I’ll give you a lift home.’

‘Nope,’ I said. ‘I have to do the distance, even if I walk all the way.’

And, leaving the Camelbak with him – good riddance! – I set off again. He waited for me with some water a few kilometres further along, and then again a few kilometres after that. Each time he asked if I had had enough and if I wanted a lift home. ‘No,’ was the answer each time. ‘Are you sure?’ he would ask. ‘Yes,’ I would insist.

I finished it. I set out to do 28 km and I did 28 km. It was the slowest 28 km in the history of the world ever. But it was 28 km and it is sitting in the marathon bank. Today I am thinking that a Zimmer frame might be quite a sexy accessory.

So I felt crap. So it was a slow, lousy, rotten run. So what? Did I die?

So I’ll get out there again this week. Do the time. Do the distance. And next Saturday I’ll tackle the 32 km run. It might be better than this one. It might be worse. Who knows? Queen of the road one day, a stumbling fool the next. But we push on. We keep running.

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