Sunday 28 March 2010. The big day had arrived. Not only was it the FINAL day of being a soigneuse/ cycling slave; it was also the day of The Maiden Trail Run. Oh, and it was the last stage of the Cape Epic for the boys.
On registration day for the Epic, my fellow soigneuse and I discovered a reason to give ourselves licence to moan, feel important, eat lots, be stressed etc. The reason was a 12km run. There was a 6km option but we decided to sign up for the longer one to get more airtime during the dinner table conversations on heart rate, lactic acid, carbo-loading, aches and pains and other such phenomenally fascinating topics. In truth, we weren’t too stressed about the run.
Then I heard that it was an off-road run on Lourensford Wine Estate that would take us half-way up the Simonsberg Mountain and back down again. The Husband suggested that a 12km trail run was probably “roughly equal to” to an 18km road run. That’s when the panic truly set in. Only, I’d been moaning so much and milking the 12km thing so extensively, that no-one took me seriously once I was in genuine terror mode.
Pride alone got me to strut to the start of the run on that Sunday morning. As we waited for the gun to go off, I surveyed the competition. It was a fairly small group so there was no seeding – just one mass start. This meant, that instead of being in Group J with all sorts of shapes, sizes and ages, we were standing amongst some of the leanest and meanest most athletic-looking people I’ve ever seen. There was even a bunch of sports nerds in matching uniforms with the following logo embroidered on their backs: The Drinking Club with a Running Problem. They weren’t fooling me for one second. They looked as though their body fat was about 6%. Between them.
And then the gun went off and this herd of elite athletes took off. Quite literally. Almost immediately, we had to hurtle up a bl**dy hill while we were in full view of hundreds of spectators. And the competition was SPRINTING. I kid you not. So was my fellow soigneuse. She’d kindly offered to run a chilled race with me, but I honestly could not blame her for bolting right in the beginning. I mustered up every ounce of energy I could and I hauled myself up that little hill as though my life depended on it. Well, my dignity certainly depended on it. Within seconds, my heart rate was through the roof and I’d broken my personal average speed record. I was heaving and spluttering and could barely breathe. But that was not the worst of it, with every step I took, about 10 people FLEW past me. It might have been more like 20 people but they were going so fast, they were blurred. After about 500m, so many runners had passed me that I started to wonder if there was anyone behind me. “Oh my God,” I thought. “I could literally come last in this race. Absolutely stone last.” Another blur of people flew past. Was there anyone left now? I had no idea but I knew that if I turned around to see the motorbike marshall, I might just fall down and die of embarrassment. So I devised this little survival mantra and started repeating it to myself.
Don’t look back.
Don’t look back.
Whatever you do – DON’T LOOK BACK!
While I was chanting away like Lot’s wife, I was passed by a seriously out-of-shape chick with an arse the size of Simonsberg. She didn’t fly by, she just steadily sidled past me.
That was it. I was going to beat her if it was the last thing I did.
Incidentally, I did beat her. But not through athletic ability. Once we were out of sight of spectators and hidden amongst the vineyards, I found my fellow soigneuse waiting for me. When I saw her, I felt it was safe to turn around. Mercifully, there were some runners behind us. Granted, they tended to be septuagenarians or carrying up to 30kg in excess weight, but the point was: WE WEREN’T LAST!!! And so we began the long walk/run up the mountain. And then down. And then up some more. And some more. And then down. Basically we were zig-zagging up and down the mountain in between the vineyards. Around the 6km mark, the route sort of looped back on itself. This did seem a bit odd but the signs were telling us to go straight, so we did. The next thing a bunch of runners just in front of us starting shouting at us. They told us we’d taken a wrong turn and that we’d missed a section. I thought they were kidding, so I just grinned at them and carried on shuffling up the mountain. But they were serious – somehow we’d managed to miss a section of the route. This sort of made sense because I didn’t recognise anyone around us anymore. Crap. We had two choices: we could either continue, having effectively cheated at an amateur trail run or we could run back down the mountain and try to figure out the correct path to get back up. So as you can see, it was a no-brainer – we carried on with our new group.
Even though I later figured out that we’d skipped about 1.5km, we were still nowhere near the super elite, lithe front-runners. This was really fortunate because the middle-of-the-pack group we found ourselves with now didn’t give a toss that we had this massive unfair advantage over them. There were three super friendly middle-aged ladies who were chatting away and more than happy to include us in their group. And then there were two 30-something class clowns who were more interested in chatting us up than turning us in. I reckon their mums had told them that a running club might be just the place to “meet someone nice, dear.” Clearly they hadn’t been as successful as their mums had made out, because they were in full-on spade mode. They didn’t seem to care whose attention they attracted out of the 5 females around them – anyone who laughed at their jokes would do just fine. Lucky for me, I can’t speak when I do cardio-vascular exercise, let alone laugh. When our friend realised that his jokes weren’t going down too well, the leader of the the little duo changed tack. He heard one of the women cursing litter-bugs as she picked up a runner’s coke cup and so he launched into a long speech about how littering runners should be lynched. Now he had this woman’s full attention. Nice going, buddy.
Finally, 10.5km later, the finish line was in sight. I can’t say that I was gagging to run another 1.5km at that stage but I was nonetheless racked with guilt. I had visions of being reported by the chick with big butt whom I’d now beaten illegally. I felt as though I had the scarlet letter “C” around my neck and was convinced the crowd was about to start chanting “Cheat! Cheat! Cheat!”. I was so convinced I was about to be bust that I started explaining myself to the volunteer at the finish line who was recording runners’ positions as we came in. “No, no, don’t take my name! I didn’t finish the race. I mean I did finish, but I skipped a section. Not on purpose. OBVIOUSLY. It’s just I followed the wrong sign and then I couldn’t find the right one, so actually I’m not supposed to be in this position. It’s my first trail run and I’m very unfit…” I thought that if I gave her the full, honest sob story she’d just omit to write down my race number and that would be it. But she was taking her volunteer role very seriously. In fact, I don’t think she’d heard a word I’d said to her. All she wanted was the race number pinned to my back and before I knew it, she had grabbed hold of my waist and spun me around, before ripping off my race number and screaming at me to “move on!” I was shoved across the finish line and presented with my finisher’s medal: a wine glass adorned with the Lourensford logo. It might not have been much compared to the flashy yellow and gold Cape Epic medals that the guys were presented with, but hey – try drinking beer your beer out of your medals, boys…