I headed out for a little run on April Fool’s day and within the first few hundred metres the rain came down. It pelted down deliciously, completely soaking me. There was no one else around. I was all on my own running through the rain-drenched streets, breathing in the smell of rain on warm tar, and taking the glorious display of saturated colours, bright storm lighting and giant billowing clouds filling the sky. And, as I rounded the corner, a rainbow arced across the sky to complete the show.
It was my first rainy run of the season. I was soaked, but I was pretty happy with the official announcement of the wetter weather to come. Bizarre, really, since I’m a summer person. I love the heat. Give me a good old South African heatwave over winter weather any day. But I’ve had enough of weaving my way through the crowds when I run. I want the roads to myself now, thank you very much.
I ran along the Promenade and took the time to snap a few pics of the sunset and of the heavy clouds dumping dark sheets of rain into the ocean before I headed back home.
After that it was a quiet week of running, though. But I bought new shoes! My first ever pair of trail running shoes: a pair of Salomon Wings Flyte. We’ll have to see how we complement each other. They’re so very different to what I’m used to running in. And I got a pair of shoes to replace my Nike Flyknit 3.0: Adidas Boost in a lumo colour of indescribable hue. They can snooze in their box for a few more weeks while I completely wear out my beloved Flyknits. But I’m thrilled to have found them. I think we will love each other.
The Salomons, after a few trials on the daily dog walks, stepped up for duty this weekend at the Lourensford Trail Run. I don’t know why I keep thinking of this as my first trail run. I did a 12 km last year when I ran one of the Tortoise Trail Series events, as well as the 8 km De Grendel Season of Sauvignon run. But the Lourensford is the first in a series of runs that I’ve booked over the next few weeks, and it marks the first trail run on my way to running that beast of a trail run I am supposed to be running on 10 December. ‘Supposed to be running’? Am running!
However, having run the Lourensford 12 km trail run, I fear I might have been somewhat overly optimistic. Wow … just running on the different terrain made it tough, let alone the hills, the ridiculously narrow paths, and the balancing act I needed to perform on the slippery water pipes!
It had been the Jazz Festival weekend – one of the highlights of my year. I check for the festival dates a year in advance and diarise not only the event but when the ticket sales open. And being the Queen of FOMO, I was missing out on neither the festival nor the trail run. So I knew that after two nights of standing at the jazz festival, drinking wine and getting to bed late, the trail run was going to hurt. In fact, just getting out of bed was going to hurt!
On Saturday night I tried hard to leave the festival early … but the music was so good …! We left at around midnight, Ubered home, mixed our energy drinks, had some tea, got to bed … I tried. But it was still quite late. And then Sam came to sleep on the bed next to me. He did a few turns and then just flopped down hard, half on me, and went to sleep. I didn’t have the heart to shove him off the bed. He had nightmares in the night, and twitched and kicked. I tried to wake him but with no success. Sleeping under a pitbull is not easy. So not much sleep came to my weary bones on the night before the trail run.
But I was up bright and early, and waiting outside in the cold and dark for Firstborn Daughter and her Boyfriend to fetch me. I was supposed to mix up some energy drink for her, and bring it along when they fetched me. I did mix it. And I did put it in the fridge. And then I left it there. So neither of us had had anything to eat, and neither of us had our pre-race energy drink. Ryan Sandes says to ‘go with the flow’ – don’t take it too seriously if you don’t have your Gu or whatever you rely on. It’s just a race. You can made do. Go with the flow. So I tried that philosophy on her. She wasn’t impressed. We stopped at a petrol station along the way and picked up a few goodies. A packet of Rollos would have to do.
We arrived at the Lourensford Wine Estate with plenty time to spare – exactly as I had hoped – and got into the queue for the toilets. Then Firstborn Daughter decided that she wanted a cappuccino. It was nippy out and she wanted to warm herself. I didn’t want any, thinking that it would probably not be good for my stomach, but when she stood there, wrapping her hands around a steaming up of soothing liquid, it seemed like a fine idea. We passed the cup back and forth between us and, as the last dregs went down my throat I said, ‘Well. Let’s see how I run on lactose in my gut.’
Yes. Well. I saw. I certainly did. Yessiree, I did!
With just a few minutes to the start gun, my gut started cramping. I’ve got to go! There’s no time but I’ve got to go! I ran to the toilets. I had seven minutes. I should be able to make it there and back?! Nope! The queue was now snaking out the door. I followed some women to the portaloos that had been off-limits to us earlier on. Only one was available. I stepped in.
Oh, no! No. Not going in there. Nope! If you’re a runner, you know what portaloos can look like. No need for me to describe it.
It was too late to get to the back of the queue and wait for another loo. So back to the start line I went, resolving to apply mind over matter. Oh man …
Off we went. Straight up the first incline. And, wow, was it beautiful! Morning light, mountains, orchards, trees decked in their autumn finery … just exquisite. My stomach settled as I my body had other things to agonise about – like how to breathe and make it up this hill at the same time. I felt as if I was at altitude. I stopped to take a few pics. The route was just too pretty to run through without appreciating the surroundings.
It all went pretty well, actually, until about the 6 km mark. I was running along a narrow path bordering a small canal, completely lost in my own thoughts, thinking how very cool this is, taking in the tall trees, the light, the dense groundcover … and then … whoa! My foot clipped a rock and down I went onto one knee, onto the cement ridge or the canal. I tried to break my fall – and avoid landing facedown in the water – by putting my hand out, and ended up grazing it on the opposite wall of the canal. My left knee went down into the water and there I was, on my hands and knees in the canal with a long line of runners all braking behind me. Oh man …
Someone helped me up, the rest of the runners filed past, saying ‘Are you okay?’ as the gobbled up the road ahead. The small round woman I was determined to beat trundled past. I stood aside, clutching my knee, trying to regroup. Firstborn Daughter stood there, shaking her head. I ran a little bit but I felt stiff and sore. I stopped again. Walked a bit. Ran again. I’m thinking about next week’s run, and the one after that, and the really, really big one at the end of the year, and I’m feeling a bit like that baby hippo in the old Chomp advert … not that I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, but that my mouth isn’t even big enough to take a bite in the first place!
And then my stomach said, ‘Hey-a! Remember me? Remember that milky stuff you poured into me? Well, I’ve got a little something for you now …’
‘Ha-nngg!’ I said.
Oh no …
So we ran a bit and walked a bit each time I needed to say ‘Ha-nngg!’
The gap between us and the people up ahead widened.
‘We’re stone last,’ said Firstborn Daughter.
‘No, we’re not,’ I said. ‘Are we?’
‘We’re last,’ she said.
I took a moment to process this. Hm. Well … would you believe? I didn’t care! Not at all. This was party weekend. Jazz Festival weekend. Test out the new trail shoes weekend. Try the old body on a trail run weekend. So it was fine. There was no PB to aim for, no time to beat. Nothing. Just a great run out in the mountains. I’m not sure what my excuse for coming last will be next week, but it’s what I’m going with this week.
Then Firstborn Daughter had to pee. Simply had to. So she was no longer walking because I was walking. She was walking to control the bounce of her innards.
‘It’s just a pee,’ I said. ‘Just go in the bushes. No one can see you.’
So she disappeared into the dense shrubbery while I snapped some pics of the autumn leaves. A large group of runners came by … Ah … It would seem we weren’t last after all. Well … we certainly are now! I stood watching them as they disappeared into the tall trees at the end of the orchard. Gone. More people we won’t catch. Oh well …
We walked and ran the rest of the way. I ran when my stomach gave me permission to and walked when it tightened the vice.
And then we were done. We reported to the nice people at the finish table and I asked if there was a special prize for coming stone last.
‘There are goodie bags at the next table,’ they said. They didn’t seem to be in the least bit amused by us wanting a special last-one-home-is-a-rotten-tomato prize.
We eyed the pile of medals, hesitated a moment, and then moved to the goodie bag table. Clearly those medals weren’t for the likes of us. Not sure why. We collected our bags and then I decided I needed to retire to the toilets.
And, because I am all three Stooges, Charlie Chaplin and Mr Bean all rolled into one, it turns out that I came third in my age category and that they had called out my name to come and collect my medal – one of those nice, shiny medals that we had coveted – and I was … where? My first ever, and probably my last podium finish for anything vaguely athletic and I am in the toilet!
It turns out we weren’t stone last after all. There were enough runners behind us – and only one runner is enough, right? – for me to be a podium finisher for the first time in my life!
Of course I’m not taking it seriously. If there were any other runners in my age category, there couldn’t have been very many. But my bronze medal says ‘3rd’. It doesn’t say ‘3rd out of 3’ or ‘the only runner in this category but too slow to qualify for 1st or 2nd, so 3rd place is awarded’. It just says ‘3rd’ and it’s mine. I’ll take it, thank you very much!