“Sometimes, you get the bear. Sometimes, the bear gets you.” – Sam Elliott
Today’s post was gonna continue to roll on the wave of positive energy and confidence of my previous post. I was super excited about attempting my first 100 miler, “amped” in teenage speak.
Guess what? My wave never reached the shore. I crashed and my dream ride to success slipped away, step by step, no matter how hard I tried to hold on to it. Humbling stuff, I tell you!
So friends, let’s talk about Friday, when meticulous planning, attention to detail and discipline did not give me the Tuffer PUFFeR finisher medal, that I so wanted.
I got up on Friday morning with a familiar feeling that everything was just right. I arrived at the start of Tuffer PUFFeR fighting fit, stronger in mind and body than ever before. With a big smile I kept reminding myself of the long day ahead and how I was going stick to my proven pacing game plan. I was going to set out at my own pace and not get lured into stepping up to someone else’s faster pace. I felt in control of the task and constantly reminded myself that my running is all about energy efficiency.
Twenty five runners set off at 8.00am on a beautiful, sunny and wind free day. I stuck to my plan and I felt good summiting Table Mountain. About 12km’s into the race I hit the descent at Maclear’s Beacon with perfect flow. I love technical terrain and I felt high on life.
I did not see it coming…in the wink of an eye the frost covered wooden walkway had me flat on my back. In a flash I jumped up as quickly as I fell and continued the descent. Briefly some rational thought kicked in and I mumbled to myself: “Wow that could’ve ended badly!” I continued running, felt good and paid a lot more attention and respect to the wooden walkways.
A half an hour later, a slight stabbing pain in my right knee puzzled and surprised me. I did what many runners do: I ignored the discomfort and believed it would go away. But, as it goes in life, ignoring a problem only makes it worse.
I continued not seeing the red lights flashing. The little stabs kept hitting my knee more frequently and I could not ignore it any longer. After giving it the thought it deserved, it dawned on me that I fell much harder than I cared to realise at the time. I mean, come on! I have fallen in the mountain many times and it has not once been a major problem.
I replayed the fall scene in my mind’s eye and saw how I hyper extended my right leg as my body instinctively braced itself to control the fall. This had put major strain on my right hamstring and only a few hours later would I conclude that it was the root of the trouble to follow. Our bodies’ physical wiring is so sophisticated, it knows just how to outwit a stubborn mind and bring you to a standstill when the chips are down. This intricate system that would save me from running my body into the ground chose my knee as the first communication channel, politely asking me to stop. My response was to negotiate and I adjusted my gait.
However, after continuing with an adjusted gate for about 60 km’s more, the pain in my knee and the added threat of signs of my hamstring wanting to cramp, forced me to reassess. At that late stage it was a quick but very hard call to make: there was no way I could continue, I was only nearing the half way mark. If I found myself at these crossroads further into the race, I might have decided to suffer the consequences of finishing and so causing even more serious injury than called for.
Once I said the words “I cannot continue” out loud to Alex, my support buddy in that section, to Kim the race organiser, and to Dave and Cornel who would join me later on route, some sense of relief washed over me. I called my partner and broke the unexpected news, she was supportive and matter of fact about reality. As Alex and I whooshed back home to Sea Point in the comfort of his car, instead of running back, I started to feel a bit better emotionally and pictured the hot bath and TLC that was waiting at home.
My first attempt at a 100 miler, the Tuffer PUFFer, left me with unfinished business, one of my greatest motivators. The whole thing brings back memories of my 2007 Cape Epic experience that I wrote about a few posts ago. Friday was a lesson in surrender and accepting that which I cannot change.
See you on the trails soon, happy running.