Landing The Fish


Like a lightning bolt, two weeks flashed by since my most recent ultra.  And in this moment, I’m slamming down hard on the brakes of time.  To pause a while and share with you as promised, my fourth post, about The Fish River Canyon 100km Ultra’s wake and lessons learnt.

Reflecting on the wake, my mind wanders back in time, to a place where the June sun sets and the Super Full Moon peeps through gaps in the canyon wall.  I’m following the beam of my headlight shining on the feet of Koba Becker, the angel mentioned in my previous post.  All day long my inner dialogue’s been hopping from topic to topic, similar to me hopping from boulder to boulder, and suddenly says: “You’re still in good nick, no cramping, no blisters, no nausea”.  So, it’s telling me my level of fatigue is not unusual, considering I’ve been on the go all day.  Step by step the finish line nears and I’m still feeling good enough to enjoy it all.

Crossing the finish line, my friend Cornel and I high-five and seal our sense of accomplishment, after being through so much together.  We have all the empathy in the world with our friend Cole who made the right decision to abandon due to dehydration.  We congratulate a very relaxed looking Fanuel on his amazing win.  Sheer joy unifies all.

Soon the comfort of my room, a short stroll away at the Ai-Ais Resort, beckon.  I step into a piping hot shower and close my eyes as 14 hours of dust, dirt and sweat washes away.  The healing waters at Ai-Ais, come from a hot spring deep under the earth’s surface.  It revitalized body and soul.  Renewed I stroll back to African Extreme Promotion’s race village and I hungrily tuck into supper, as every runner chips in his take on the story of the day.

After this hearty meal, the peace and quiet of my room beckons me once again.  I say my thanks, goodnights and goodbyes and settle into a blissful solitary space on my balcony.  From here the view of the moon, hovering over the mountain, brings gratitude and I sit quietly, reminiscing the adventure that’s just passed.

My inner dialogue continues and now the topic is lessons learnt.  It dawns on me that the list of  “should haves” thankfully has only one item on it.  My pacing was sensible.  I ate enough, early enough, so my digestive system kept ticking over and body and mind had ample fuel.  I stuck to my tried and tested schedule of taking liquid every 15 minutes – from the first 15 minutes – swallowing an electrolyte tablet every hour, and so never cramped.  My ritual of taping every toe individually with micropore, laying a pair of injinji toe socks and a pair of Falke compression socks, worked its charm in blister prevention.  My overall planning was good, I must feel very good about that!

Then the “should haves” list with one item pops up, noted as The Blunder of the Day.  Yes I know.  It was my not-so-bright decision to tackle trail in Namibia, without my trusty RaidLight Desert Gaiters.

In my defense, it’s a long story.  I received a new pair of Saucony Progrid Xodus trailrunning shoes from Omni Sport, especially for this race.  Being a self-confessed running shoe junky, I could not get myself to “ruin” the brand spanking new pair, by asking Rocksole, Cape Town’s specialist in all-that-is-shoe-work, to glue and stitch Velcro to the shoes, to enable desert gaiters.  I did the gaiter thing for Namib Desert Challenge in March, with another pair of Xodus and found not a grain of sand in my shoes.  Despite this fresh memory, I set off into the race with the new shoes in pristine, non-gaiterised, condition.  This caused my shoes to swallow sand over and over.  I really should have known better.

Saucony Progrid Xodus trailrunning shoes rock VIBRAM outsoles, perfect for the canyon’s conditions, it provides ample grip on boulders and rough terrain.  Sporting a minimalist 4mm heal-to-toe drop and a neutral design, I love the natural feel of it.  The wide toe box allows my toes to spread when they touch the ground, the way nature intends and my feet remained fresh, all the way to the finish line.  Below is photos of the older pair of Xodus, fitted with my RaidLight Desert Gaiter modification.  Lesson learnt:  if a trail adventure includes lots of sand, do not leave home without the ultimate sand cure, gaiters!

shoe gaiter

In the aftermath of an ultra, emotions are all over the place.  One is on such a high and feels somehow invincible, whilst actually being emotionally and physically drained.  My brain’s been telling me all day that I’m feeling okay and that all is well.  It’s been lying to me.  This trick of the brain, is crucial in ultras, as it allows one to get comfortable being uncomfortable and so survive the tough going.  When the brain has to keep up this illusion for hours, it leaves the mind tired for days afterwards.  Furthermore, one feels like you’re in limbo and a bit lost.  For months one was occupied with this definite, sometimes scary goal, it becomes all-consuming.  And now its all over.  What now?

Well, as mentioned in my second blog post, you turn to the web and surf it in search of another challenge.  This usually takes care of the feeling of being lost.  But you’re still tired emotionally and physically.  The best part of recovering from an ultra, is spending lots of time with your loved ones.  Lazy walks on the promenade or mountain, chilling in coffee shops and bistros, going to the movies, driving into the Winelands and so on.  It’s a time to invest in relationships.  Do whatever works to recharge emotionally.  I invite you to tell me in the comments section what works for you?  Be lazy, your body and mind will soon thank you.  You only get stronger when you rest.

The Fish River Canyon 100km Ultra strengthened my mind and body, which will be tested to the limit in my next big challenge on the 23rd August:  TuFfer PuFfer.  A 160km ultra, right here on my door step in my beautiful home town of Cape Town.  We start in the popular V&A Waterfront, head over the front and back of Table Mountain to Cape Point, turning and heading the same way to the finish at Ferryman’s Pub in the V&A Waterfront.  This is the challenge that all my 2013 training and races are gearing me up for.

In my next post, I look forward to continue the Namibian theme and tell you about my experiences at the 2012 Aussenkehr 100km Desert Extreme Trail Run and the 2013 Namib Desert Challenge.

Happy running.

3 Responses to Landing The Fish

  1. Bev Scher 11/07/2013 at 3:53 PM #

    You are amazing Marius, keep going and good luck for the Tu and Puffer on the 23rd August

  2. nadia 14/07/2013 at 10:45 PM #

    I enjoyed reading your story. Congratulations. Thank you for sharing.

    • Marius van Zyl 18/07/2013 at 6:12 AM #

      Hi Nadia. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Thank you for commenting. Regards. Marius.

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