Monday, April 25, 2011

The View from my Bicycle [COLUMN]

Two Oceans Vibe  - By Nick van der Leek

I've just had a look at my dated obsolete SONY CYBERSHOT 7.2 mp camera to figure out why I was such a lousy photographer on the 23rd.  Seems it was automatically set on No-Flash which meant it needed a much higher light setting for clear snaps.  Not ideal lighting then if you're running an hour before the crack of dawn.  So apologies for the mostly poor picture quality below.

This was my first half marathon in roughly 6 years, and it's hard to say which one had more people.  The previous one was at midday near Seoul, a flat course, and a beautiful day.  I ran a 1:39.

This race attracted a record 14000 entrants, and the race T-shirt was a doozy.  It is an amazing feeling driving to an event like this and finding major traffic jams at 5:30am to get to the start.  The start of course is throbbing with shivering runners in their thousands.

I was feeling nervous because my calves were stiff, and I was hoping against hope that since they felt less stiff running than walking, I'd be off the hook.  Unfortunately, during the  first kilometre, I knew I was in for a long, brutal day.  My legs felt extremely stale and tired, and I really felt the gradual upward tilt of the road through Claremont.

The downhill at Wynberg brought Jean-Marie and me to a long downhill, and 5km, which we reached in 28 minutes.  We were hunting the 2 hour pace-runners, because that was our goal - to run a sub 2 hour.  6-7 kilometres felt fine, but I started misfiring at around 8-9km.  Now the road tilted towards Constantia Nek, and so I finally said to JM, "Don't wait for me."  A few moments later she drifted forward in the throng and was gone...heading towards Sub Two Hour Land.

I had been trying to extricate myself out of E [aka the no-hopers] but it was quite an interesting group.  There was even a runaway bride, with veil, running with her husband [they had 'JUST MARRIED' safety pinned to their vests].  They sounded like run-loving-pommies. 

JM hit 10km at 57-58 minutes, I had already lost about 3 minutes by the time I reached the 10km mark.  Then we headed for Southern Cross Drive, 3km of uphill.  I refused to walk, which meant eventually I was running at just above walking pace.  It was amazing to me at this point to still be surrounded by a thick swathe of runners, in fact I was ensconced with bouncing bodies from start to finish.

At 15km the road dipped a little but beyond Kirstenbosch the sheer distance started eating the back of my knees.  I started feeling like a muscle could twang at any moment. I saw someone here called Tanya, smothered in tats, running in a pair of Vibrams, and slowing noticably on the downhills.  And so was I...runners were slowly drifting by me now, on both sides.  I hate it when that happens!

I'd obviously not trained enough beyond a few treadmill runs, and was hopelessly underprepared for the uphills.  At kilometre 18 the alarm bells were going off, so for the first time I reached out for some Coke to kickstart the system.  19-20 was a teeth-gritting, snail-shitting nightmare, with my legs screaming at me that I was leading them back to permanent injury and would I please give them a fucking break. I insisted on not walking, and threw another cup of Coke at my mouth.

Someone pitched up alongside me with the sign: "I may be slow..."  She said her partner had the rest of the message: "But I'm faster than you."  She then proceeded to walk, catch up to me, walk, for the next 2 kilometres.  The signs on the lampposts weren't any help either:
- Almost there
- This is your greatest feet
- The truth is in your sole

The incidental uphills in the last kilometre were depressing to say the least, and whilst I entertained the fantasy of going under 2:10, the last hill laughed at me.

Again, I refused to walk, and once on the grass in front of UCT sped up, and got some nice momentum going until my inner thighs gave a jelly twinge...I slowed as I passed the announcer, who said, "Come on Nick."  I finished in a crappy 2:12, but I have to say, I'm invigorated and encouraged by so many people who have the strength, the motivation, the wherewithal to run 21km mostly in the dark.  It gives me extra hope for mankind, I must say.  If the average Joe and Jill can do this, surely we're capable of quite a lot when the chips are down?  If I'm happy about one thing it's that I ran this race in not the best shape and got through it without hurting myself.

My next half marathon is next weekend, so hopefully I'll feel fresher and can get to work whittling my way back to that PB I set in Seoul.
PS. JM ran a cracking 1:57.  Many thanks to her for positive motivation and steady pace for the first half.


Jeanne-Marie Louw said...

Nice, working towards that PB. 1h45 my next goal.
Thanks for a great race.

joanriekert said...

It has been a very long time since I read stuff you wrote in your blog. This was a lump in the throat read for me, as It will always be that way for me reading how brutally honest you are about yourself. Nick Van Der Leek stay that way, as honesty is such a good characteristic and seldom found in people about themselves. L U Joan