From down there is only up

It’s amazing how getting back into running can open the curtains and allow the sunshine in.

I started writing this blog last Monday but didn’t finish. That Monday morning I had a bad case of the Monday blues. Or the I’ve-been-absorbing-their-stuff-for-too-long blues. Or the I-just-need-one-day-off blues. Whatever their cause, the blues had settled in. And it was Monday morning, which meant the emails would soon start rolling in from people wanting to know how soon I would be done with the work they want from me. Or, worse, there would be no emails. Either way, starting Monday with the blues is not a good kick-off for the week.

Then I started hatching a completely ridiculous, impossible, improbable running plan … and just thinking about running had me sitting taller and feeling brighter. I got down to the plotting and planning, drawing up tables, scheduling runs, coordinating them with Embark training and Kid coaching and got myself all fired up to get running. The blues evaporated … for a while.

The week had been up and down emotionally. On Monday evening I ran with The Kid and she ran a whole 7 km without stopping. We both came home feeling on top of the world. I had had a bit of a run, which we all know by now is a cure for everything.

But my moods seem to be inextricably linked to my mom’s state of health, my dad’s mental state, and the ratio between the distance I have to drive and the amount of work that is left undone while I drive. So some days last week were pretty crap. Wednesday was particularly bad. As I sat in gridlocked traffic, the sun beating onto me through the grubby car windows, I thought of the Significant Other and his friends heading off to Stellenbosch to do a trail run and Firstborn Daughter and her friends heading up Lion’s Head for a full moon hike. And there I was, the day’s driving chores still not done, just pushing on and pushing on. But I did go for another run with The Kid on Wednesday and, yes, I did feel less lugubrious afterwards. I did see a most spectacular sunset and I did see the full moon rise behind the buildings. The weather was perfect and everything was all Cape-Town-beautiful and restorative. So the pendulum swung back up again.

On Friday The Kid really, really, really didn’t want to run. She had had a late night, texting her boyfriend, I think, and we left her napping when we set off to walk the dogs. She was still passed out when we got back but, being a merciless bitch, I woke her up and dragged her reluctant little tail out the door to go for a run. Friday’s run was not her most successful one. She was tired, she had a stitch, she couldn’t breathe, it was all just too awful. She ran 5,5 km. I’ll have to work her case for her again tonight. She as 7,5 km scheduled … no excuses … no refunds … no returns.

And on Saturday morning I did it. I was out of bed at 4:45 am – this after a sleepless night of worrying that I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed at 4:45 am – and in Hout Bay before 6:00 am, ready to run 18 km.

I had mentally prepared myself for an 18 km run along Chapman’s Peak. Easy-peasy. Just 9 km uphill and then 9 km downhill. All I had to do was survive the 9 km uphill.

But then I had to make a swift mental adjustment: the run was not along Chapman’s Peak. It was through Hout Bay, up Suikerbossie, down to Oudekraal, back up the Oudekraal-Llandudno hill and back into Hout Bay. A whole different barrel of squirmy eels.

The Embark guys are on week six of their training. I have not joined them for a single run. Six weeks of driving up and down for my parents, and some weeks of being off my game coincided with their six weeks of track, hill repeats, mid-week runs and weekend long runs. They’re fit. They’re strong. I’m the rookie.

My two weeks of slow-slow runs with The Kid stood me in good stead, though, because that’s all I did: just kept it slow and steady, with no pressure to keep up with the rest of the guys. Let them go. Let them chat to each other as they stride on ahead. I just kept my head down, listened to the music on my iPod and kept going.

And keep going I did … all the way up Suikerbossie without stopping, over the crest and down to Oudekraal, all without stopping. The 9 km turnaround was the longest distance I had run in weeks.

Of course I couldn’t find the water and oranges stash that the coach had hidden in a drain along the way. He even showed us a photo of where he had stashed it. I had thought that is was where I thought it was, but then I thought I was wrong and carried on going. It turns out it was where I had thought it was. But anyway … I got some water at the Twelve Apostles instead. And also wove my sweaty self through their hushed lobby and up their plushly carpeted steps to use their bathroom. And, having done that, I can now tick off an item from my bucket list. Well, I could, if I had such an item on my bucket list. I don’t know why I don’t. But, yes, indeed, I was able to see my reflection repeated to infinity, in every direction, while using the toilet. Had this been on my bucket list, it would now be ticked off. I need to do more sit-ups, was my conclusion after seeing myself thusly replicated.

And then off I went again, back over the hill, without stopping, and down Suikerbossie, without stopping, through Hout Bay and up that sneaky little hills that rises up before you after you have come over Suikerbossie. I started entertaining the idea of walking but I didn’t walk. I pushed on. 18, 5 km run without walking.

We are pleased with ourselves.

On Sunday morning I took my tired legs out for a little 5 km run. My legs squeaked some protest. All sorts of bits were sore and I definitely wasn’t up for any more than 5 km.

And on Sunday afternoon, driving home from a long picnic lunch with the mentally impaired, socially inept extended family, with the late afternoon sun in my eyes, the Significant Other dozing in the seat next to me, two in-love teenagers napping on the back seat, their heads sweetly leaning towards each other, and Tom Waits growling on the CD player, all was well with the world.

Strava shows six days of running last week, adding up to 51,6 km: the most mileage I have done since the Cape Town Marathon nine weeks ago. And today there is no Monday morning blues. In fact, last night, as I was in the bathroom getting ready for bed, I thought how I couldn’t wait for tomorrow, because then I could go running again.



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