Monday, March 11, 2013

Secunda running!

I managed to qualify for this year's Comrades marathon by finishing my marathon on Saturday with 5 minutes to spare. We have to run a standard 42.2km marathon under 5 hours in order to run the 89km distance in June. Two weekends ago, I did the 42km distance but was way over time and spirit. I was getting concerned about my running 'mojo' as my sugar levels had not settled and I ended up with an extremely sore left foot due to inflammation of the tendons. 

Training during the week had ground to a halt as I visited my physio for some treatment and decided to pay a visit to the 'running doctor' for a cortizone injection. It seemed to do the trick and by Friday I was walking like a normal person. Friday afternoon we realised that we may not be doing the Saturday marathon after all, as we saw that entries were closing that day. Some quick emails and phone calls made sure that we would be getting an entry into the Secunda marathon early the next morning. 

After a dismal attempt at sleeping till 2.30am I got up and readied myself still very pleased that my foot felt good. We met up with Marlene and Cerlest and headed east. The red slip of the new moon hung strangely on the horizon and in the distance were flashes of lightning. I announced to the ladies that this morning's run was 'everyone for themself' I didn't want a repeat performance of Marlene waiting for me on the long drawn out kilometers. We got to Secunda quickly and waited for the 6am start, eating breakfast in the car and watching the sky lighten with heavy rain cloud looming. I had a thought that this is the area that I would see a pet pig, and I laughed at the odd thought that crossed my mind!

A large field of runners lined up for the marathon and this race is rather unique in that there is the option of doing the full marathon in the morning, then a lunchtime half marathon followed by a late afternoon 10km. We had entered for the marathon but Cerlest had taken the option of doing the 21km if she felt up to it. I shook my head being very content with getting my week's mileage in one run.

The gun went off and we set out on a very dark road due to the rain cloud and at around the 2km mark, the rain played with us. It was rather refreshing and not too heavy so we sucked it up, knowing that the alternative of heat could begin at any moment. My foot started to twing at me and and I silently cursed. At the first water table I stopped to take a pain pill and Marlene and Cerlest kept moving, I waved them on, when I saw Marlene straining her neck to catch a glimpse of me. The pain pill took a long time to work and my mental powers were straining themselves to come up with and fight excuses for me not going the whole distance. At around 8km I settled into a rhythm and began to notice my surroundings. The rain had stopped but cool cloud still protected us. The route weaved in the suburbs but not too distractingly as the runners were seen far away from our turning points. 

The water tables were excellent and support from the locals in their gardens and driveways was fantastic, all greeting us and willing us on. Traffic was very patient as they waited for us plodders to cross intersections while they were on their way to work. Being in a different district it was interesting to see how far runners travel. People from Richard's Bay, Phalaborwa, Free State made for good diversions. Lovely open gardens with a huge variety of dogs kept me distracted from the gnawing pain in my foot. At around 18km I seemed to have a small stretch of road to myself and I noticed how loud the pigeons were. My offbeat footsteps and the cooing made me smile. Garden gnomes and cement ornaments are a common sight in this town and I caught a glimpse of a rather unusual colour, patchy green, then I realised it moved. I stopped running and watched. Almost the same size as the Chevy Spark behind it, stood a glorious fat pig! I gasped and laughed and watched the three dogs give the pig respectful distance. I pointed it out to myself and hoped that the runners a little behind me would see it, as this was a lovely sight. I set off again and moments later heard the runners behind remark on the big pig! 

What a lovely morning it was turning out to be, if only my foot heard my nice energy and stopped moaning. My time was going good in spite of the pain and this kept my confidence up. The waterpoints got better and better the further we went along, and the food choices were mind boggling. Biscuits, chips, sweets, chocolates, easter eggs, potatoes, bananas, worsies, oranges, condensed milk in a syringe, grapes and a whole lot more made my eyes wide. I felt like a kid at a great party. The drinking water was ice cold and as the rain clouds melted away the sun began to show us what it is made of. 

With about 9 km to go I was giving a leaning walker some encouragement, when my foot roared with pain. I forced myself to keep shuffling and rummaged in my pouch for more 'drugs'. So close and with enough time I thought. Apart from the foot everything else felt good. My sugar behaved, my pace felt right, so I started my internal debate about why I should keep going and just get the qualifier over. (Except my inner dialogue was not this polite!)
Single figures is always comforting and I just kept an older man in my sight as we shuffled past each other time and time again, knowing that he would be measuring the time properly. I don't like to get too worked up on the timing, so I think of an overview and then distract myself. 

Near a school was a small water table with a big sign saying 'Marco's water table- pop in for a visit'. He was a young man who was dishing out refreshments with a great spirit. Dad stood proudly in the background as us weary travellers trundled past on tired foot. The last few kilometers looked like a downhill, which helped the mind and I found myself shuffling past a foreign lady who had passed me very early on in the race. I congratulated her as by now it was 'in the bag' as I overtook her before the last corner. The PA announcer there was telling us to 'put foot' as we only had 8 minutes left. I looked nervously at my watch and saw that we had 12 minutes. It doesn't sound like much, but three minutes at this stage means a huge difference in stress levels. Breaking it down, I felt relief that my foot had behaved and held out and that I had managed to keep myself from sliding down that tricky slope of negative self-talk. Sister and friends cheered me in, and I gratefully crossed the line with 5 minutes spare. 

We relaxed at the lovely venue and I even went for a physio rub at the medic tent which was great before we set off home. A fantastic day out and everyone seemed to enjoy their morning in the 'kosmos' land. I am sure this race will see us again next year!

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Triangular running

I really seem to be only get my mileage up on weekend runs. Last weekend I slogged my way through the Township marathon and finished with one of my worst marathon times ever, another free ice-cream and more real estate lodged in my knee after a fall. Wait, it must have looked more like a somersault by the strange location of bruises. No real damage done other than my ego, once again, after one of those deep guttural roars on my way down to mother earth.

I picked up a very sore heel/foot though and after a visit to my physio she said it was because of my calfffff. (That's the kind of noises as I was making as she kneaded her spindley fingers to demonstrate.)
She told me not to run, and she almost shook her head when I told her I wanted to do a half marathon on Sunday. I am beginning to realise that it is indeed March and my distance logbook looks like it is on some kind of diet. I think she saw the panic in my eyes and gave me exercises to do. I rolled my foot and did what I was instructed and agreed to travel down to the Vaal for Sunday's race.

Promptly waking up a full hour before I needed to, is getting rather annoying, so I eventually turned off the unrung alarm and went in search of breakfast. Ouch, ouch, ouch. My foot seems to be at it's worst when getting up after a time of sitting, or lying and I thought it was plantar fascitis, which I self diagnosed years ago. Hobbling around excited dogs, my 'awake' when supposed to be, goes much faster then when I lie there willing sleep to visit.

We set off at 4am and immediately found a long red tail line of traffic on the highway. Sister and I looked at each other.
'Are these all runners?'
Turned out they were. The traffic flowed a little slower near my old home town and we contemplated some back roads. We stuck to the usual route and got there with plenty of time for pit-stop, entries and chats. I was actually feeling very excited for this half marathon.

I have a love-hate relationship with this marathon. It was my first ever 42km, my best time and my worst time. Last year was one of my worst. So this trip down memory lane had memories that included my running past, and not just my school days.

The gun went off and I was watch and running-partner free. Marlene and Cerlest had other weekend obligations so it was strange not having the weekly dose of catch-up chatter to distract me for the early kilometres. I did see another running friend who is looking fabulous and she was doing the marathon, and though sad to see her leave me, was delighted knowing that I wasn't putting myself through the torture of the marathon.

I decided to see if if I could only walk at the water points which are every three km, just to see if I could. This is a very flat route, so my usual 'resting' up a hill wouldn't be my excuse here and I needed to get some running confidence back. Apart from one 'hill' lampost I stuck to my plan, even though my foot was squealing at me to walk. 

Knowing the area very well, meant that my grey matter was open to any memories that popped in as I jogged past the 'Hills, Lows, Lucas' cafe; Gerald Bosch; Murphys and then directly up to my old street. We had a long stretch of field or veld behind our childhood house, which may have been farmland, and being Vereeniging and very dry I would never have considered the area pretty. On this morning however, sunrays streamed through cloud remnants over the moisture haze just above the golden land and I felt nostalgic. A forgotten memory of newspaper and bamboo kite crashing flowed in, and I laughed at how much I had to run to will the heavy thing into the air. I saw the power lines in this stretch and laughed as my kite could never have reached them. 
I slowed down as I passed our old home and as usual, thoughts turned to mum who died there, now so many years ago. I'm sure I heard her cough gently as I thought that maybe the prettiness of the light was her 'doing'. 
All the way up the dreaded long road that I walked to school and memories of crunchy toes due to the freezing mornings hideously teased my memories. I passed the house I did my only ever 'illegal' bunking and smiled at the memory of Mrs Els telling us knowingly that she had seen us in our school uniforms walking there, the day before. We crossed the 'busy' road to our school where there was a water point and took a little stroll. The biggest hill was up ahead, and as I trundled up it memories of cross-country routes now fully' grown up' where shown to me. The next section of town, I only know from my running days as it was still being built when I left town 30 years ago. Did I just say 30 years???

As we ran past the lovely reserve, next to the river, I spotted buck. And to my delight some of the Springbok started springing. I have never seen them jump before and I was delighted to finally see it. I am so used to having Marlene run with me that I turned to runners beside me and gasped 
I forget that not everyone looks at the view, and gets excited by dogs, houses, gardens, flowers or in this case Springbok. Plus I also get a few quizzical looks when I speak. This could be for 3 reasons.
I speak to strangers
I speak really fast
I may be misunderstood as I have a very strrrrong Scots accent, exaggerated while running. (This may be because I pant more !)

My morning was turning into a delightful run, apart from the niggly foot. A motorboat quietly broke the still surface of the river and I wondered how I was doing time wise. I didn't feel like getting neurotic so decided against asking someone and just kept moving. I knew by now that we were getting close and not only because the distance markers told me. I forgot that we took an extra loop up past the old route and it took me a minute or two to get my mind back into my mellow mode. 

Shuffling along the road, I weaved a bit and then I heard the megaphone voice. Yippee, the split, the moment I'd been waiting for. I almost cheered out loud, but spared a thought for those soles going 'straight' while I kept left for the finish. A very well organised race by my old home town, and was delighted to hear my sister had done a sub 2 hour race, and enjoyed herself too. We sat and watched in awe at all the shapes and sizes of the runners coming in for the marathon and cheered for them
( and us who may have made 'peace' with the Vaal Country Meander - this year anyway!)

Spring bokkie spring!