So. I’ve entered the Ultra … an exercise in positivity

Well. I’ve done it. I’ve entered the Two Oceans 56 km Ultra Marathon.

My entry isn’t confirmed, as I haven’t yet run a qualifying marathon. The Cape Town Marathon was supposed to be the qualifying marathon but the less said about that dreadful day the better.

But, despite being at the end of my second week of sporting a hacking cough that would do a 60-a-day smoker proud, I have faith that I’ll be out there, blitzing through a marathon at a pace that will qualify me for the Ultra. Blitzing … yeah … well … Aspirations and all that, you know.

But what a weird year this has been for ailments and injuries and setbacks. I’m of solid mongrel stock. I don’t get sick. There’s no purebred pedigree anywhere in my family, as far as I know, so I’m really more Ford than Ferrari. I don’t require much maintenance and pampering. I just fuel up – any old fuel will do – and head off, usually getting more kilometres per litre than most others do because I don’t really think about food much. The Significant Other usually has to remind me to eat, and usually along the lines of ‘You’re getting ratty. Eat something.’

So there I was at the beginning of the year, missing the first big run I entered, the Bay-to-Bay 30 km, because I had tick bite fever. Tick bite fever! What city dweller gets tick bite fever? But there you have it. The first setback of 2015 was tick bite fever.

I recovered well enough to get training again and run the Rome Marathon in March.

Then, when I arrived back home, I hardly ran. It was about two months before I finally got properly back into training again. AfrikaBurn consumed my energy until April, and while I was at the Burn, I went for two glorious runs across the Tankwa Desert with the Significant Other. Glorious not because I was fleet of foot and light as a feather but because there is little to beat that desert light and landscape, that wide open space, that clean, cold air, the colours, all set against a feint soundtrack of throbbing Burn music.

And then, on Mother’s Day, 10 May, I officially got back into it. Headed out with Firstborn daughter and got myself running. The fresh resolve was swiftly thwarted by a week-long business trip to Swaziland. There was nowhere safe to run, especially not after dark, when business was concluded, and my training had to wait until I got back home. But I     quickly got onto the race routine and ran the FNB Cape Town 12 OneRun – such a happy, cool event!

Winter kicked in and I was badass and hardcore and ninja, running in wind and rain and dark – never wussing out and hitting a treadmill instead of braving the elements. It was with a sense of smugness, I must admit, that the Lone Runner (that’s me!) hunched into the wind and driving rain to get a few kays under the belt. And the piles of wet running gear in the bathroom made me feel like a real athlete.

And then … what?! Shin splints? No way?! Oh, don’t worry about those … that’s nothing. No. There was the VOB K-Way 16 km – just a quick jaunt straight up a mountain and back again. If ever there was a race I shouldn’t have run, simply because I wasn’t ready for that kind of climb yet, it’s that one. I think I was traumatised by that run for months! Let’s not talk about that anymore.

Fast forward to my Roadtrip with The Kid in July. Always a good time for bonding and talking about stuff we don’t get to talk about while we’re rushing between chores and all the things people do. Not such a great time for keeping up with the training programme, though. But I ran. Some short runs, kind of 5 km things, mostly at altitude and often in the rain and usually while The Kid slept. It was kind of a setback but I treaded water.

And then in August Firstborn Daughter got herself the mumps. Mumps?! What adult gets mumps?! And, my gosh, was she sick. Ended up spending a night in hospital when she swelled up so much she couldn’t swallow anything without choking. And then I caught some kind of low-grade bug of some kind that just had me exhausted and kind-of unwell. No idea what it was, but my long runs were disasters. Even my short runs were walk-runs. Two weeks of inexplicable feeling rottenness. Just weird.

But I got it together again, got going again, and ran the Cape Town Marathon. But with wrong shoes! Ah man! A month later and I’m still sitting with painful tendons on top of my left foot. At first it started hurting after running about 20 km. Now it hurts after 8 km – but limping-hurts, not just ‘I’ll run this off’ hurts. Damn and bugger and damn again.

And I’ve been sick for two weeks.

Damn and bugger don’t cover ‘sick for two weeks’. Nor do they cover the debilitating, dreadful, crazy, horror movie-ugly skin condition my 85-year-old mom’s developed, which now, finally, has her in hospital. Nor do they cover the stress and tired that come with doing a whole lot of driving, shuttling between my house, my parents’ house, the hospital, the school to fetch The Kid and places where The Kid needs to be dropped off and collected from … Nor do they cover the amount of work I’m not getting done, the deadlines I’m not meeting, the money I’m not earning, the household chores I’m not getting done, while I’m spending hours in my car driving from one end of the Peninsula to the other. Nor do they cover the feelings experienced that moment when you’re sitting in traffic and you see your car’s temperature gauge shooting off the charts.

And being sick for two weeks also means I’m not doing any running. I’m walking the dogs, which takes about half an hour, but that really doesn’t count as exercise. Sure, I get a bit of an upper body workout yanking the slathering beast at the end of the leash back from all the tasty treats he finds along the way – dog poop, discarded chicken, other dogs, other humans, more dog poop – but I don’t get any kind of running fitness.

And I’m feeling blobby. Like I’m made only of jelly-filled skin. Pear-shaped, jelly-filled skin, to be precise. Ugh.

So when will I hit the road again? At this stage is doesn’t look as if I’ll be lining up at the start line of the Winelands Marathon and probably not even the start of the Winelands Half Marathon. I’m not likely to join the running group on their hour-long run tomorrow morning.

So there’s no Ultra qualifier being run any time soon.

But! But … I’ve entered. A qualifier will be run. And I will qualify. And I will run my first ultra 154 days from now.

And, in the words of Forrest Gump, that is all I have to say about that.


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