Running with Husbands

A couple of years ago, The Husband suggested that we start running together again. I agreed – albeit somewhat apprehensively as he tends to take his sport very seriously. I reminded him that I hadn’t run in a long time and asked him how far he wanted to go.

“An absolute minimum of 5km. Anything shorter and it takes you longer to get dressed,” he replied.

“Not necessarily,” I said, “depends how long it takes you to run 5km”.

More recently, The Husband announced that he will be doing a triathlon on 9 March. A day or so later, he announced that he had begun his running training and had run 1km on the treadmill.

I burst out laughing. The man has spent more hours on a bicycle in the last five years than French people have spent at their desks and he was proud of himself for running 1km?

“A lot of people laughed when I told them that, but I have a plan!” he said. “It involves increasing your mileage in small increments.”

The following Saturday he wanted to know whether I cared to join him for a 2km run?

I took great pleasure in replying that it would take me longer to put my shoes on than it would to run 2km.

Then, on Sunday, he invited me to join him for a 3km run. Since the beginning of the year, my new running buddy, Judy, and I, have actually gone on a few very slow 5-6km trots, so I felt that I could continue to push myself beyond the 3km mark. I told The Husband that I knew a 5.5km route but that he was welcome to cut it short and run his 3km while I carried on. He agreed. Monday morning came along and off we set on our run around the neighbourhood.

I think I would have actually eaten my running shoe had The Husband waved goodbye and turned around after 1.5km.

We did 6km on Monday.

On Tuesday, we started to plan our Wednesday run.

“How far can you go?” he wanted to know.

“Um, since I’ve only actually been on about 5 runs in the last year and none of those have been further than 6km, I can run 6km.”

“That’s not far enough” said the man who, only three days before, had invited me on a 2km run. “What about 8km?”

Clearly, the man had a hearing problem but I didn’t feel like arguing.

“Fine, whatever, but what happened to your planning of adding 1km every run?”

“Oh no,” he said, “I ran out of time so I decided to add 1km every day, but if I miss a day of running then I still add another km the next day.”

“Right,” I nodded. “So, according to your custom training programme, how far are we supposed to be running tomorrow?”

The answer was 11km.

And I almost got bullied into signing up for the 21km route for the Hyundai Rock The Run on 16 March. Then I remembered announcing that I would ride the 94.7 cycle challenge last year and how tough it was to train for that race. So I stuck to my guns and declared that I would do the 10km route or nothing at all.

10km should be a breeze – in terms of The Husband’s training schedule we should be on about 39km a day by mid-March.

Party Mommy

I officially feel like a student again. Why? Because I have just waxed my own legs. The only difference between now and my student days is that I can afford Veet strips, whereas before I had to rely on good old Mandy's Wax. You'll know exactly what I mean if you've ever had the misfortune of having to wax your own legs.


The reason I'm waxing my own legs is also one of the reasons I haven't been blogging in the last month and a bit. The Father Figure fell ill in early October and has been in various hospitals dotted around the Western Cape. Tomorrow, The Princess, her nanny and I, will make our way to George while The Husband is in London for work, so that I can go and visit my dad. Hence, I am missing my wax appointment on Monday and hence the return to studentdom.


Although it is still early days in terms of The Father Figure's overall recovery, he is out of danger, thankfully. And one thing this whole ordeal has taught me is that he is way, way tougher and stronger than I ever gave him credit for. Turns out he's a fighter! It is very scary confronting the reality that your parents are not immortal but I suppose it makes one realise that our time with our parents is right here, right now. I read an autobiography by a recovered alcoholic, Alice King, a few years ago. Although she was still a fully-fledged alcoholic when she lost her father, she describes how she coped well with his death, despite being very, very close to him. She put it all down to the fact that she "had no unfinished business" with him. Isn't that great? I can't say I would have felt the same way had my dad not pulled through and so I feel very, very fortunate to have been given a chance to work on any "unfinished business" between us.


One piece of business that my dad's illness put paid to, was my half marathon goals. I would love to lay the blame at The Father Figure's feet, but that would be grossly unfair. The truth is, I probably would have clung to any old excuse to get out of my self-imposed running commitments. Whilst I feel I am living proof that anyone with two working legs can run if they put their minds to it, the fact of the matter is that I am just not a runner. I find it incredibly hard, incredibly painful, incredibly uncomfortable. Not to mention the mental anguish I put myself through before hitting the road.


Instead, The Princess and I have become serious walkers. Walking with a baby really is a win-win situation: the baby sleeps, you get exercise, the baby gets fresh air, you get out of the house. There are just advantages all round. On weekends, I sometimes bump into my neighbour going for a run with his two and a half year old daughter in a jogger. Now he's a really, really good athlete but recently he confessed to me that running with a jogger is approximately twice as hard as running without one. That is just not something someone like me can cope with.


So while the Irene half marathon was taking place two weekends ago, The Husband, The Princess and I were enjoying a lazy day out at a Latin themed picnic. Way more fun than running 21km! As for the Surfers Marathon in East London in Feb next year that I made such a big noise about on a previous blog… well, apparently it's physiologically not good to run it. Something about all that uneven sand and what it does to your joints etc… Anyhoo, it sounds VERY dangerous and I, for one, am not about to take those kinds of unnecessary risks with my body. So I will either be drinking a glass of wine and congratulating myself on my prudence or I'll fly to East London and walk the route with my half-sister.


On the weight loss front, I've been more successful than on the running front. I'm a few hundred grams away from my lowest weight in the months leading up to my pregnancy. That does not mean I'm near my goal weight, it simply means I "only" have those 10 kilograms to lose that I've been trying to shed since Std 8. But at least it's 10kg once again and not 17kg, which is what I was facing in July this year, after a winter at home with a newborn baby and finding friendship in food.


And so it was, 7kg lighter, that I managed to squeeze myself into an LBD from 1999 for The Husband's 40th birthday party the other day. It literally was a little black number from the late nineties. I remember the date well, because it was The Husband's first Christmas present to me in the year we started dating. In my defence, it is a fairly timeless black dress, so it seemed okay to dust off the cobwebs and whip it on, twelve years later.


What also seemed okay at the time, was to drink my body weight in sparkling wine. In fact, that probably would have been fine, had there not also been some shooters enjoyed with another "new" mom, who has also barely left the house after dark in the past 8 months.


After my pregnancy, my first reconciliation with champagne came when The Princess was about three or four weeks old. I was not coping. I was being advised by a rather fascist breastfeeding consultant who had me on a three hourly expressing regime around the clock. I was seeing her every other day out of desperation and every time she came around, it seemed I had yet again done something wrong. It was either "your baby's not getting enough sleep!" or "your baby's starving!" or something indicating what a failed, first time parent I was proving to be. So, after I'd decided I'd had enough of this woman, I called for the help of the woman who had taken the ante-natal classes I'd been to at the Morningside Clinic. She was also a qualified Sister, but one who wore make-up. In short, my kind of girl. Her parting words to The Husband and I were:


"Right, here's what you're going to do now. It's Friday night and your nanny's on duty. You need to go out for dinner, order a bottle of champagne and celebrate the birth of your baby."


My protests about alcohol being bad for milk production were tut tutted and dismissed with the words: "Nonsense! Champagne makes milk!"


I was pretty sure that was an old wives' tale and basically, just too good to be true, but who was I to argue with a fully qualified Sister?


The long and short is that we were both so exhausted we were out for dinner for about 45 minutes flat. I downed as much French champagne as I could physically stomach – can't let the good stuff go to waste – and then proceeded to pass out on our bed while my bath overflowed. So much for Party Mommy.


Now, nearly eight months later, I was determined to party all night at The Husband's 40th. Needless to say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions and I woke up at 6am the next morning with a headache from hell, still wearing my party dress from 1999. The bad news was that I couldn't quite remember how or when I'd crawled into bed but the good news was that The Princess' nanny was there and so I rolled over and went back to sleep again.


Party Mommy might be out of practice, but at least she's back on the horse and getting in gear for the festive season…

Cape Epic Day 8: Lost on Lourensford

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…