A while ago, a blogger wrote a comment on one of my posts. ‘Sometimes the best thing for running is not running,’ she said. And it’s so true. Sometimes you just need to lay off running for a little bit so that you can come back stronger.
Okay, you shouldn’t really lay off running quite as much as I did when you’re supposed to be training for a marathon. That’s just silly. But that’s also just a whole other story.
So for the week after the Cape Peninsula Marathon, I was in the most spectacularly good mood. I felt great. Imagine how great I would have felt had I done a good time? Anyway. Bygones. Back to feeling great. The post-marathon blues never kicked in.
And, because I didn’t really do that much running in the second half of the marathon, my body didn’t feel hammered. I took the dogs for their 3 – 5 km walks almost every evening and I went to gym every day. For nine days I didn’t run. Instead, I went to spin classes, gave the Elliptical trainer a go (if it’s good enough for Meb Keflezighi, it’s good enough for me – and what a great workout it is!), gave the Watt bike a go (another really good sweat), went to the Glutes, Abs and Quads classes and finally, after many months’ procrastination, started swimming.
Nothing gets me as tired as swimming. One length of the pool and I’m clutching to the edge trying to stop my lungs and pounding heart from escaping from my chest. I haven’t swum in about 25 years and knew getting back in wouldn’t be easy. I didn’t think that I would give my sinuses such a thorough irrigation, though. The crawl had me either swallowing water or taking it in up my nose. Backstroke had me splashing water over my own face – and up my nose and down my throat – each time I brought my arm past my ear. Of course, Firstborn Daughter just slipped through the water like a dolphin. I ignored her. It’s the best one can do under the circumstances.
But running has taught me one thing: patience. So the first session in the pool was somewhat inelegant. As was the second. But by the third session I was taking in less water and spending less time recovering between laps. And by yesterday’s session I had finally managed to get a breathing rhythm going and, apart from colliding with the lane marker a few times, the backstroke was pretty uneventful.
The marathon was followed by nine days of gym and dog walks and I could feel a difference in my body. I felt lighter, somehow, and rested. And brighter. Can one feel brighter? Kind of sunshiny. I was aware, all the time, of feeling good.
I signed up for the Team Vitality Lighthouse Ten and on Wednesday evening, on the tenth day after the marathon, I ran a 10 km race.
It’s a nice, flat route along the Promenade, so there was no stress about getting there on time, or finding parking. All I needed to do was stroll down to the start line and wait for the gun. I felt a bit nervous, as I usually do before a race. And there was that thing about the vegetarian chicken nuggets I had eaten a little while ago.
Yes, I ran a marathon just the other day, but can I run ten kays? Probably not. I’ll probably have to walk.
There was quite a delay in starting the race. Not sure why. But there we all stood, waiting and waiting. And then, suddenly, the crowd surged forward. I didn’t hear the gun, but we must be starting, I figured, and pushed ‘start’ on my Garmin. Then the surge came to a halt. It wasn’t the start. It was just a walk to the start line. But my Garmin was running. Oh, well, I thought, a few seconds won’t make a big difference to my time. I’m going to run slowly anyway. But then we continued to stand. I fumbled with the buttons on my watch, trying to push pause.
Then the gun went and I had to fumble with the buttons again, trying to resume the clock.
We set off at a good pace: a little bit fast for me, but comfortable. Not scary.
At the 2 km water station I checked my watch. 5:43/km. Too fast, I thought. Running too fast. Will never keep this pace up for 10 km. Slow down.
I slowed down for a bit. When my watch beeped at 3 km, I hadn’t slowed down enough. 5:51/km. Slow down, dammit.
The 4 km beep showed 6:01/km. Slower. Better. But I can’t run a whole 10 km at 6:00/km.
But somehow I did. I felt so good. I felt as if I was cruising. Just running a nice, easy pace. Flying, by my marathon pace standards, but just a nice pace that felt as if I could open up and fly at any moment. But fear of whatever it is I fear kept me at the same pace.
It grew dark and I could no longer see the numbers on my watch – I really need to get one of those watches with the giant display. Had I been able to see my time, I would have realised that I was flirting with a sub-one hour 10 km. And I would not have patiently stuck behind the two big guys running next to each other. I would have pushed past them, somehow, and picked up the pace just a little bit.
Instead, it was only once I was in the chute, heading for the finish line, that I saw the clock. I sprinted towards the finish, but it was too late to make up the lost time.
1:00:07, it said.
Damn and bugger and blast and … ah man!!
And I couldn’t even rely on my Garmin to give me my correct time because I had let it run before the start gun was fired.
But it had been a good run. A great run. After all the slogging I had done over the past weeks, after dragging myself on leaden legs through each training run, having had a run that felt good was reward enough. I was happy.
I walked towards the woman holding out the plastic sachet with my race position on it … and wanted to vomit! NO! I held back. Swallowed hard. Felt my stomach revolt. Swallowed. No! Not now!
The medals were being handed out a few metres further. I stood still for a bit. I’m not going to make it. I’m going to lose those vegetarian chicken nuggets right here, between finish line and medal. Swallow.
Slowly I walked to wards the nice woman handing out the medals. My stomach convulsed again. And again. Swallow!
I took my medal. Smiled. Took a few steps beyond … and then went to crouch next to the barrier. Ugh! It wasn’t too spectacular, and probably no one saw. Well, that’s what I’m telling myself. It was dark. Too dark to see the digits on my watch. So too dark to see me lose a bit of my lunch.
But it was still a good run. The number on the little blue sachet said 252. Two hundred and fifty second out of the women. And, no, there weren’t 253 women, okay! I was probably about midfield.
Strava tells me it’s my best 10 km effort, at 59:43.
I’ll bask in that for a little bit. And I won’t allow myself to be distracted by the fact that the winners were coming in just as I passed the 5 km mark. Instead, I’ll keep in mind that I did that run fairly effortlessly, and that I could have run faster had I tried.
A few days off the road, cross training instead, has worked wonders.
And now I need to get back on the road in earnest. I’ve signed up for some big races.
The first challenge is the Grootvadersbosch Trail Challenge, a two-day trail run in June: 33 km with a 1 270 m altitude gain on day one and 22 km with a 900 m gain on day two.
Then there’s the possibility of the Mauritius Marathon with Embark Training in July. I’m still working on the Significant Other on that one. He’s still off the road with his Achilles tendonitis and is feeling less than enthusiastic about discussing marathons.
Then there’s the Cape Town Marathon in September.
And then there’s something really crazy in December. But I’m not going to talk about that one yet. Let’s just get through the first trail run in June. And bask in the afterglow of a 10 km race that went pretty well.