Inside me

I’ve got a race coming up. I’m so excited about it. Actually, it’s turning out that it’s having to be the big holiday for the year because it’s getting quite expensive. The race itself and the accommodation and food at the race venue (it’s in the middle of the desert) is about R4000 each. We whinced about it when paying, but hey, we only live once and this is a 3 day stage trail race in the Namaqualand right about the time the flowers bloom there. *holding thumbs*.

So R4k for a race is good in theory, except this race is at the arse end of Africa, in a remote desert in the middle of Nowheresville. To get to Nowheresville from my house by car would be a 12 hour drive without a toilet break. So I’m not doing that the day before a 3 day stage race. The other alternative is to fly to Nexttonowheresville and drive for 4 hours in a hired car to Nowheresville. That would cost about R10k more.

The other option is to fly to Cape Town and drive in a hired car for 6 hours to Nowheresville. That would be slightly cheaper, and at least it would be Cape Town, which although not my favourite place on Earth, would be a whole lot better than Nexttonowheresville. And of course you can’t fly and drive 6 hours so you’ll have to stay over in CT for a night. Chiching! Then you have to come back to CT after the race so you may as well make a holiday of it and take 10 days instead of 5 days and holiday somewhere on the coast, say Nearlynowheresville. Chiching! Chiching! Chiching!

Yeah! So Namaquaquest is the big holiday and big race of 2019. Which I’m still really excited about.

When I entered Namaquaquest earlier this year I was so lazy. I’d like to blame work, and any normal person could blame my work because I work crazy hours and expectations are high. But, you know my motto? No! Not “don’t die, don’t come last”! The other motto! “You find time and money for those things that matter to you.” And so I can never blame work because now, suddenly, as the race gets closer, I suddenly have time to leave the office on time and get to gym and get to time trial. Amazing how that happened!

In reality, I’m in panic mode. I had fantasised, when I entered the race, that I could do well in the shorter race, like a top 10 even. I knew I was stronger than I had been before. My body was a stronger body. I was just unfit and all I had to do was get fit. And because I have this tiny, but very effective saboteur that lives inside me, I find myself now weaker than I was back then and still unfit.

When I started writing this blog in 2013, I was a couch potato who, by some cosmic anomaly managed to run the Comrades Marathon. But since then, I’ve become stronger. I’ve strengthened this couch-loving skeleton and without too much effort, am able to run a marathon or a less than shit time on a race. Maybe I am related to my athletic family after all. Inside me, there may be a genetic athlete who has lived long and well on a couch. Inside me, however, is my little saboteur. I should name her so I can blame her. Blaming her would be so much easier than calling out my couch potato self for having spent so much time avoiding and in some cases, ruining my genetic predisposition to be a good athlete. I wonder why I do that. I wonder why, even though I think I may have so much potential, I allow myself to be mediocre. At work I’m not like that. At games and arguments and my new business I’m not like that. In fact, I’m the opposite. I have to win and have to be the best and have to be seen to be the best at those other things. But with running…

I suppose I ran the Comrades Marathon which is not being shit. It’s being the opposite. But if I had trained better, I could have done better. Now if I trained at all, I could be semi-decent. I think that maybe it’s about external expectations. No-one expects me to be great at running. It wasn’t a sport my family excelled in – they excelled at everything else – and I did run the Comrades Marathon, so surely that’s enough? Even writing this blog has helped my little saboteur. With a blog like this, I don’t have to excel. I don’t have to be the best or be seen to be the best. I don’t have to win. In fact, you might be disappointed if I wasn’t so highly mediocre any more. And then, would this blog matter? Would any of it matter?

Holy shit! Am I having a mid-life crisis right now? I think I might be!

Inside me, I know that I can run a sub-4 hour marathon. I know that to do that, I will have to spend the next year at least dedicated to the gym, with a good biokineticist, who will help me build a strong, resilient body. I will have to run, at least 4 times a week. I will have to enlist the help of a coach like Illuminati Michelle. I will have to get a sports massage once a month. I knew all of this 3 months ago. Have I done any of these things? No, I haven’t! And now my race, not the marathon, is just 2 months away and I’m still unfit and highly mediocre.

It’s going to take a goal so abnormally unachievable for me to get off this metaphoric couch I have slipped back to, that I can do naught but be who I am born to be. I think the sub-4 marathon will be a good start. Now all I need to do is choose the marathon and place the stake in the ground.

Thank you for being part of this next installment of what is clearly a very drawn out mid-life crisis! Thank you for coming this far with me on this journey.

I am still not sure why my running saboteur is what she is. I’m not sure why I don’t choose running as the thing to excel at because it probably gives me more joy than my job….except for the whole running part! If you have an answer, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts. I suppose the answer is inside me already.

Yours in this throws of mid-life crises.

SlowCoach

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The Comrades Marathon Medals

Are you confused by the medals at Comrades? Don’t be, silly! Let me break it down for you with the times required to get these medals.

The Gold Medal

If you want a gold medal, then you need two things:

  1. Be born for this,
  2. Work your ass off.

If you want a gold and don’t have number 1, then be prepared to do two times number 2. You ask Belinda Waghorn, she has a gold medal and claims to not have much of number 1. While her fellow gold medalists were running 130km per week, she was running 230km per week leading up to that Comrades gold. To get a gold you have to be among the 10 best male or female runners on the day. That doesn’t mean you have to be in that pack from the start. The Comrades Marathon race only really starts at 60km. As a woman, you have to run the race at an average pace generally of between 4:05 and 4:20 minutes per kilometre (obviously depending on who else arrives for the gold medal on the day and depending on whether you’re running up or down). To stand a chance of having a stab at this medal, you’ll need to have run a marathon in under 2 hours and 50 minutes in the 6 months leading up to your gold medal attempt. As a man, if you want a gold medal, then you’ll need to lift that game a bit and run somewhere around 3:30 to 4:00 minutes per kilometre average. Are you vomiting yet?

This year, I helped one of the runners in the top 20 by running behind him and spraying his hamstrings. I looked at my watch while I ran next to him and I was running at 3:20. And he wasn’t in the top 10! So be prepared. To even stand a chance of being one of these men, you have to have run a marathon in under 2 hours and 30 minutes in the 6 months prior to Comrades. The numbers put it into perspective, right?

The Wally Hayward Medal

This is a cool medal. This is for men who don’t make it into the top 10, but still run under 6 hours. It’s pretty difficult to get one of these, and until just a few years ago only a handful of people had this medal. But with a more open society and more capable runners having access to the race, we’re seeing more and more men get this medal. It fills me with joy when I think of that. Yeah, so Wally Hayward. To get a Wally Hayward, you need the following:

  1. You have to be a man.
  2. You have to run 89.2km in under 6 hours.
  3. Don’t be in the top ten.

You’ll need to be able to run 89.2km at an average pace of 4:02min/km. How you liking your shot at that Wally Hayward now? It’s best to have run a sub-2:45 marathon the six months prior. You can do it!

The Isavel Roche-Kelly Medal

This medal was introduced this year in 2019 and the first recipient of that medal is my dear friend, Yolande Maclean. She adds it to her 8 gold medals. The Isavel Roche-Kelly medal is half gold, half silver for obvious reasons. To get one of these medals, you need the following:

  1. You have to be a woman.
  2. You have to run 89.3km in under 7 hours and 30 minutes.
  3. Don’t be in the top ten.

To do number 2, you have to run the whole distance at an average pace of 5:02 minutes per kilometre. The whole way. All 89.2km! Essentially, with the introduction of this medal, women can no longer get a silver medal at Comrades. To get this medal it’s probably beneficial to have run a sub-3:10 marathon the 6 months prior to Comrades.

The Silver Medal

That medal to which mere mortals could possibly aspire! Previously, all runners who came in under 7 hours and 30 minutes would be eligible for a silver medal. This has changed recently because women who achieve this feat now get the Isavel Roche-Kelly medal. But you men could possibly aspire to get this medal if you can run the full 89.2km at an average pace of 5:02 minutes per kilometre. Nice! You’ll have a better chance at it if you’ve run a marathon in under 3 hours, but at least a sub-3:10 marathon will give you a good head start at getting a silver medal at Comrades.

The Bill Rowan Medal

This medal was introduced in 2000 and is named after the winner of the first Comrades Marathon in 1921. He won the marathon in a time of 8 hours and 59 minutes and to get the medal, you’ll need to do the same. A sub-9 hour Comrades marathon will require you to run 89.2km at a minimum of 6:03m/km for every kilometre. Go get that medal! If you can run a marathon comfortably in 4:03, you’ve got a chance of getting one of these cool medals. I said “comfortably”!

The Robert Mtshali Medal

Made of titanium, this medal can be worn by those who manage to get over the finish mat between 9 and 10 hours after the starters gun goes off.

This medal was named after Robert Mtshali who was the first unofficial Black runner in the 1935 Comrades Marathon, finishing his race in a time of 9 hours and 30 minutes. His efforts were not officially recorded as government and race rules of the time stipulated that, in order to compete in the Comrades Marathon, you had to be a white male.

That really talented runners can now participate in our country’s greatest race, is really encouraging. That every young person can dream of doing the Comrades Marathon and that the dream can become a reality fills me with love and pride. We owe Robert Mtshali a debt of gratitude for that.

To have the privilege of owning one of these medals, you’ll have to run the full route at an average of 6:09min/km. That’s a marathon time of 4 hours and 13 minutes to give you a chance at earning this medal.

The Bronze Medal

I know that all of this seems easier and easier as we go on, but the Comrades Marathon is very difficult. Very difficult. I fully expected to get a bronze medal on my last one because I had an amazing 4:11 marathon time. So a Bronze medal was well within the realms of possibility for me. I snuck over the mat panicked half to death in 11:50, only just earning my copper Vic Clapham medal.

I fully expected to be able to get in between 10 and 11 hours. All I had to do was run at an average pace of 7:23min/km the whole way. I didn’t come close on that day. The only time I ran anything like that was for the last 17 kilometres. The up run is particularly difficult.

So although I will now tell you that a marathon time of 4:20 should get you home in time to get this medal, I have personal evidence to suggest that even a 4:11 marathon won’t help you achieve this. Of course, I have that head injury thing going for me where my head just gets in the way of success. So if you don’t have a head injury, then 4:20 should be fine.

The Vic Clapham Medal

I am the proud owner of two of these little copper medals. To get these medals, all I had to do was finish the Comrades Marathon before the gun went off at 5.30pm, 12 hours after I had started running. It seemed easy when I started. Neither time was it easy. The first time (a down run) I had run a sub-4:40 marathon. The second time (an up run), I had run a sub-4:20 marathon. Both times, I crept in with less than 20 minutes to spare. The Vic Clapham medal was introduced in 2003 when the time limit for completion of this great race was extended from 11 hours to 12 hours.

Vic Clapham established the race to commemorate the South African soldiers killed during the World War I. Run for the first time on 24 May 1921, it has been run more than 90 times since then and is now run by over 20,000 people annually.

To stand a chance at getting one of these medals, the qualifying criteria of a sub-4:45 marathon will not be enough to get you over the line in time. You have to run the full 89.2km at an average pace of 8:04min/km for every single kilometre. Seems like a lot, but I am living proof that this is a mammoth task even with a good marathon. Hwever, if I can, then you can.

The Back-to-Back Medal

I also have one of these medals. It is awarded to novice runners who complete an up or down run in succession. This means that your first Comrades finish and the subsequent run in the opposite direction both completed in under 12 hours will qualify you for a back-to-back medal. This medal was only introduced in 2005, but if you completed a back-to-back before then, you can apply to buy your back-to-back medal.

The Comrades medal is a tiny medal. about as big as a R5 coin and twice as thick. It was quite a surprise to me when I received my first one. All that for this, I asked? It is evidence to prove that size doesn’t matter. Those 3 medals are my most prized medals. They represent an achievement in my life that will be very difficult to match.

I hope this gives you a better understanding of the Comrade Marathon medals.

Yours in the love of humble little medals.

SlowCoach

Yoga Schmoga Part II

Yeah, anyway. I thought I’d give it a chance because, by now I’m a bit more grown up, I’ve run the Comrades Marathon which pretty much means I can do anything I set my mind to and my body is a bit stronger than the time that impossibly good looking woman was swanning between impossible poses on my new TV. My TV is older now and I’ve discovered Netflix. So I’m regaining my couchness again which is comforting. I’m still running, slowly, but I’m running small distances.

I’m sure you’re wondering how I ended up in a fucking flaming hot yoga studio. So am I. As I type this, I can’t really remember how EP talked me into joining yoga for a month. I think it had something to do with my paying for our RAC membership and so if she pays for a month of limitless. Limitless yoga, then we’d be square. That’s a whole year of limitless running versus a month of limitless yoga. Fuck it! I’m such a moron!

We signed up at a place called The Yoga Republic. An entire hippie place filled with very serious hippie yogaists. That’s not a word and I’m sure I’m coming back for another round of earth life for making that word up. Everyone is very serious about the yoga art/sport/practise/life. I think I just don’t belong there.

Anyway. EP signed us up for one month . There’s a calendar of all sorts of yoga classes. There’s Hot 26+, Air Yoga, Vinyasa Flow, Yoga Shred inspired class, Kundalini Yoga, Ashtanga, TRE and the non-descript list goes on. I, like you, still have no fucking idea what I’m signing up for when i read those words. There are two classes that have names which tell you what you’re going to get, and would you know it, those are the two classes I’m really enjoying. I can’t do half the shit in the class, but I’m enjoying them. The one class is called Restorative Yoga and works with your parasympathetic nervous system. Perfect for handkerchief on the sleeve, me! I cried in the first class which is apparently quite normal. The second time, I had my shit together and I was able to do some of the poses. Long, slow and deep / Yin yoga was not as erotic as it sounds, but it was good for my stressed runners body. I got a laugh out of the instructor for this one when she described some ridiculous pose, akin to checking for a tennis ball that’s rolled under the bed, but without putting your hands on the ground. I was struggling to get into the pose and she walked over, and nodded knowingly. “Yes, do you have a shoulder injury?” Clearly having seen this problem before on someone. “Not yet,” I confirmed. At least I got a laugh out of someone yogaey. EP sniggered next to me.

Many of the classes are done in a hot studio. Apparently, the studio hasn’t been hot enough for the past few weeks as there is something wrong with the heating mechanism. I won’t be going back if they fix the heating because I’ve run a marathon in the desert in summer and I’ve never been as hot as I was in that fucking studio today. Some moron yogaists complained that it was cold. Chops! EP and I were faint and nauseous from the heat. EP looked at me at one stage today and said, “Should we just go?” I stayed, mainly to see how much I could take, and of course because I’ve run the Comrades Marathon so I could do this. Although, I must admit that today, I probably only did 10 percent of the poses. At one point i looked at a guy in the class and wondered where the fuck he’d put his head in one particular pose. At another time, I looked up from the pose I had only barely managed to get into and everyone had turned into magical tea sets hanging in the air. I wondered how they had morphed into levitating teasets while I looked like Mildred the Hippo, sitting with my knee hanging over my shoulder by my ear. I mean, I managed to get my knee hanging over my shoulder by my ear and that wasn’t good enough? I was supposed to “flow” from that into levitating tea set, instead of grunting and plomping onto my side, unable to “flow” my shoulder out from under my arm. I shall not go back for Hot Flow Yoga!

I’ll tell you what I’ve got out of yoga. I am more relaxed. Seriously, either work has lightened up significantly, or I’m just feeling more relaxed. I’m learning how to breathe. My lung capacity is getting larger and I’m breathing better. I’ve only done 4 classes, but I’m feeling lighter and calmer. It’s a good feeling. I dread the classes because the stretching is just horrendous and of course the humiliation factor is still dialled all the way to the right. But I’m feeling better for the yoga. I still prefer running and I still prefer the couch over all this silliness, but I’ll keep at it for the remainder of the month because hey, I ran the Comrades Marathon. I can do this!

Namaste

LongSlowDeepCoach

Yellow Enamel Paint

“Time trial league starts on Tuesday and we haven’t marked the route yet!” I lamented to Francis. We must have been in the Wimpy where bad things happen last year sometime when we decided that we need to re-mark all the RAC time trial and, mind you, club run routes. “We” were Francis, Michelle, EP and myself. “We” are morons!

“Saturday afternoon sounds good to me. Will you be up to it after a marathon?” I asked Francis (guess whose the biggest moron of “We”!), knowing that this weekend would be our last opportunity to mark the route and knowing that EP and I had planned a very relaxing, do nothing Sunday. Francis liaised with the Chairman of RAC, Dick, and I agreed to fetch the paint from him on Saturday morning while Francis was running her marathon in Sasolburg. (Read about my own Sasolburg marathon a few years ago here). Time trail league is a series of 5km time trials around Joburg. Something else Francis and Staci started which is going to attract thousands of runners like their Freedom Runs for Freedom Day. The time trials in Time Trial League (TTL) get rated, formally or informally, by those that run it, on various criteria. The one criterion that RAC does not do well at is the markings on the route. The patriotic RAC member in me could not allow us to be marked down on something I could clearly do something about, so I was adamant that this route would be marked, perfectly, before TTL started this year. Which is how EP and I found ourselves at Dick’s house on Saturday, fetching paint. Dick and I had both forgotten about Francis’ arrangement and so it was late in the day when I arrived. Dick pottered around his very well-stocked garage looking for paint and brushes and solvents we could use for the job. In hindsight, the most valuable thing he could have given us was a bloody box to put all that shit in!

Into the back of EP’s work bakkie (truck) went:

1 x 5 litre unopened yellow enamel paint

1 x 1 litre previously opened yellow enamel paint

1 x 1 litre previously opened black paint

2 x small unused paint brushes

1 x large paint brush for what I initially thought Dick said was to cover up my boobies. Turns out the big brush was to cover up my painting booboos. I blushed momentarily until I realised that it was just my middle-aged deafness which had misinterpreted Dick’s well-meaning comment.

1 x leftover of mineral turpentine in a 750ml bottle

1 x 5 litre bottle of mineral turpentine

No box

EP and I then headed home to drop off dogs that we had with us and then back to the club to start painting the road. Francis met us there and we headed out onto the road in the bakkie to start painting. The first task was to stir up the ancient little tin of yellow enamel paint. That took me half an hour. That stuff would just not mix up. EP tried to make me give up several times, but I’m an asshole and I did it right. With the yellow enamel paint all smooth and perfect, we began. Oh, did I mention that this yellow enamel paint was labelled high sheen, road, enamel paint. Yes. Well that’s what we had.

We started off well, argued a few times about shape, size, location, placement, direction, angle and meaning of arrows and got to the 3.5km mark after 3 fucking hours and darkness descending on us. My 3 hours of squats had my knees shrieking in agony and my almost lying on my side to paint the last mark. EP, as always, was getting hangry and Francis had run a full standard marathon in the morning, so we thought it best to call it a day. We agreed that EP would take the paint in her WORK bakkie and, after club run on Sunday morning, we’d quickly finish up. We were all exhausted. When we got to EP’s house, we decided to just leave the paint stuff in the back of the bakkie and we’d use it in the morning. I would meet EP at the club at 7am for a quick run and then we’d do the remaining markings. Exhausted, I went home, fed my dogs and climbed into bed, knowing I had done a good deed for the club I’m so passionate about and I’d have a nice run in the morning.

On Sunday, i got up, looking forward to a run, a quick act of service and a relaxing Sunday with my EP. At RAC, I met some friends who I said we could join at the start of our run. EP arrived in the bakkie and then seemed to be taking forever to get to me. EP is known to dilly dally a bit. So I wandered over to the bakkie and a thunder cloud was hanging over EP’s face. “Hello love,” I smiled tentatively. “The paint has spilled in the back of the bakkie.” I looked at what EP was pointing at. The thunder cloud grew in size and positioned itself over my head. The two of us stood staring at the 5 litre (now open) tin of yellow paint lying on its side at the far end of the bakkie and the wave of yellow enamel paint spread across the rubberized coating and the rubber mat on top, unable to do anything intelligent. “You get the paint, I’ll go find us a box,” said one of us eventually. The next bit is a blur. I know we went and scouted the surrounds of the club for boxes and newspapers and the like. I know we moved the bakkie onto grass and I know we channelled a lot of the paint into a box and put it back into the tin. We were exhausted. We also knew this was not our car and so something had to be done and quickly.

First thing we did was to go buy coffee because neither of us could face this task without coffee. We almost cried when someone commented on our yellow hands in the coffee shop. We decided we’d go buy a broom, a lot of turpentine and some cloths. All of that cost us R700, which was nothing compared to the investment of time we were about to make. I went back to my house with everything and EP was going to meet me there after opening the house for the dogs. EP had one procrastinaty, petulant moment which I nipped in the bud with a “You can’t go see the puppy because this thing needs to be cleaned off before it all dries.” I could hear EP sigh angrily. We were both moving underneath the thunder cloud still, but I was into action. EP was still in avoidance.

“I have a plan!” I announced triumphantly to EP when the bakkie pulled into my driveway. Really, I had a semblance of a plan which seemed like it would work perfectly and we’d be out of there within an hour with a sparkling clean bakkie. But i had to sound positive and enthusiastic to the now totally deflated EP. The plan was thus:

Park the bakkie on an incline (I have that in my garden, luckily) Take the newly purchased broom. Pour turpentine at the top of the mess and let it run down towards the broom and then sweep the turpentine up against the stream until all the paint had dissolved in the turpentine. Sweep out the stream onto the grass. Then take all the cloths we bought and lay them over the remainder of the mess and soak them in turpentine. Let them soak over the paint and then magically wipe up the dissolved paint! E voila! Have you ever seen this meme?

That’s kind of how the plan went. As we started pouring the turpentine and brushing it, so the yellow started to spread like uncontrollable mercury, until eventually, the entire back of the bakkie was yellow. And we were yellow. Everything was full of this fucking yellow enamel paint. We took the cloths and started cleaning the mess. I felt hopeful. I knew that the size of the mess seemed to have increased, but i knew we were making progress. I’m not entirely sure how I knew that. The evidence before us would have indicated something else. But I’m an eternal optimist and I knew we were doing the right things, so only good things could happen. EP was less optimistic and the temperature in the back of the bakkie was both sweltering and icy. What an absolutely unpleasant experience this was. In hindsight, we should have taken photos, but i think we were both too angry to imagine we would ever see a funny side to this debacle. At one point we were all yellow enamel painted out and EP announced that a break would be taken. All we did in the break was move our cleaning effort into the house to try and clean our respective running watches which were by now well yellowed. A few deep breaths and a commitment to action and we were out at the bakkie again, cleaning with a renewed desire to end this misery. Both of us silently contemplated all the individual choices which had brought us to this point in our lives and how we could have prevented being here. I joked, when we were close to being finished, that I was losing my will to live. Just like our running, I was nearing the end and ready to give up, EP was nearing the end and had found a new enthusiasm to finish! That’s pretty funny actually. Running and our baggage in running is really just a reflection of who we are in the real world.

We cleaned the rest off with a high pressure washer and went over it all once more with some turpentine, cleaning out the tiny holes and crevices which are created by a rubberized surface. The high pressure spray had started to peel off the numbers from the number plate so we stopped that immediately. All in all, the cleaning took us 5 fucking hours. We finished at about 2pm, exhausted, dirty, smelly, sticky, yellow and furious at the wasted day of rest. I was happy, though. EP and I had really tested the maturity of our relationship. We hadn’t had a single angry or blaming or criticizing word, which is not like either of us. We had weathered this storm together with love and determination and a shared responsibility for the cause and for the resolution of the problem. We still hadn’t finished marking the route, but that was not going to happen on that day. Francis, who had not been party to this disaster, was still keen to finish. When I told her what had happened, she laughed, skipping through all the misery, to the part where we all find this very funny. She realised, however, that yellow paint was not going to be part of the rest of the day, except for our scrubbing and turpentining ourselves to flakiness. We looked liverish. There are little dust spots of yellow all over the place today.

By the start of TTL tomorrow, the route will be marked perfectly, trust me. Just don’t run on the actual arrows because you might slip on the wet paint!

You know how I always try to be philosophical about stuff. But I don’t really have much to learn from this experience. I suppose we learned a few things.

  1. EP is a scientist. For scientists, especially microbiologists, most problems can be solved with bleach. It was a really new experience for EP dealing with enamel paint. Lol.
  2. I was amazed at the sheer volume of mess that can be created with just a litre or two of paint.
  3. Enamel paint is fucking horrible stuff.
  4. Yellow is a fucking horrible colour.
  5. Rubberising the back of a bakkie could be a stupid decision, depending on your luck.
  6. Always use a box.

At the moment, in the back of my sedan is a box with:

1 x almost finished 1 litre of high sheen, yellow enamel road paint

1 x half full 5 litre of high sheen yellow enamel road paint

1 x 1 litre previously opened black paint

2 x well used small paint brushes

1 x big boobie brush

2 x 5 litre bottles mineral turpentine (I was surprised by how far the turpentine went)

10 newspapers

A lot of yellow stuff.

I’ll love seeing you at the first TTL fixture at RAC at 5.45 tomorrow and, if you come see me afterwards, I’ll show you my yellow fingernails. Let us know what you think of the road markings.

Yours in the spirit of turpentine fumes.

SlowCoach

Running Taught Me To Make Gin

Hot on the heels of one of the biggest disappointment in my life, (it seems so dramatic when I say it like that, but I’ll explain), I ran the Bugs Bunny trail run, hosted by My Road Less Traveled, yesterday. It was such a hard route. 3.5km of sheer climbing over technical slippery rocks and gravel. Of course, that’s just up my street because I’m so dumb! The harder the better. It’s just more fun for me when it’s impossibly hard. I wonder why that is. I guess life has been quite good for me. I’ve had a good life. Things have come easily to me and so I choose difficult things because then I feel like I’ve earned them or I get a real sense of accomplishment from the overcoming. I choose jobs that I have no idea about and stretch my mind and my abilities sometimes way beyond what I’m capable of, but I learn and I grow and it makes things exciting.

Hence my new hobby, making gin. I’m not really a drinker and I don’t really like gin. So who better to start up a gin making business than me? I really don’t do easy stuff! I started making rudimentary gin earlier this year with a bottle of vodka and a few herbs and flowers and spices. Nice. I love the creative process. I love the scientific process. And it turns out I have a bit of a hand for this. Everyone has been liking my gin. So EP and I discussed a few times and we figured that we would start a gin-making business. We discussed the market that we’d like to capture and we got the ball rolling. This is what running has taught me about making gin:

  1. In order to make gin, you need vodka. I’m not going to explain the whole process, but I decided to make my own vodka. I bought a still which is a machine which separates ethanol from water in a fermentation. Vodka is ethanol. Yes. Vodka is ethanol. Watered down ethanol. To make ethanol, you need fermented sugar water. No. Sorry to burst your bubble, but most vodka is not made of potatoes because the amount of fermentable sugar you get from potatoes is just not worth the effort. To make sugar water, you need water and sugar and a bucket and a spoon and you need to have run the Comrades Marathon. I know that might seem strange, but while I stood over the 20 litres of water with a six kilogram lump of sugar at the bottom, stirring continuously, it helped to be able to tell myself that I had run the Comrades Marathon and so I could finish this. 3 hours. I stirred that fucking bucket of sugar water for 3 hours. And if I had not been able to tell myself at least 8 times that I had finished the Comrades Marathon, I would not have been able to dissolve all that sugar.
  2. Once your sugar water is prepared, you add yeast and some other stuff to start the fermentation. The YouTube video said 20 degrees. The instructions on the packet said 28 degrees. I’ve made bread and I would argue it should be 34 degrees. I trusted the video because at the end of the video, the guy ended up with a lot of vodka which is where I wanted to be. The yeast I used is called Turbo Yeast and promised a 7-10 day turnaround. We were in the middle of a heatwave so I took the fermentation out of what had become the distillery and put it in a cupboard. Checked the temperature, 22 degrees. Perfect. And then I waited. 7 days. The fermentation was going bloop bloop bloop in the cupboard. Evidence that the fermentation was not complete and the yeast was still turning the sugar into alcohol. 10 days. Bloop bloop bloop. 12 days. Bloop bloop bloop. I’m not a patient person. But running has taught me to be patient. It took me two years to run the Comrades Marathon after I had fully anticipated I would run that race 8 months after I told Daniel I’d run it with him. Actually, that’s still so funny, knowing what I know. So two years to be ready to run Comrades had prepared me to engage with this bloop bloop with love and patience. At day 13, I went on a distilling course. And I found out things that I wish I didn’t know. I almost gave up. There are so many legal hoops to jump through, just to get a shot of vodka into your kitchen and that’s without making gin and without selling the stuff. I also found out that my yeast had been struggling along at 22 degrees when I should have been taking full advantage of the heatwave! I move the fermentation into the kitchen where there is adjustable underfloor heating and dialed the heating up to 30 degrees. I also realised that my fermentation had probably run out of oxygen so I whipped some air into the fermentation and continued the bloop bloop process. 15 days. Bloop bloop bloop. I’ve got this dog. He’s curious and clumsy. He investigated the bloop bloop and knocked the air lock out of the bucket. I could have killed him, but I fixed it and continued the bloop bloop process. 18 days. The bloop bloop appeared to have finished blooping. Finally! The fermentation was complete. Allegedly.
  3. We opened a company called CocoJade Distilleries and we opened a business bank account. All that stuff moved forward. Nothing moved as quickly as I had wanted. Exactly like my legs. Like EXACTLY like my legs. After the fermentation was over, I had to clarify the “wash”. It’s called a wash once the fermentation is complete. Then I had to degas it. It’s full of carbon dioxide after fermentation so you have to get rid of all of that gas. Picture a big 21 litre bucket of Coca-Cola needing to go flat. You can either stir until you need to remind yourself of your Comrades marathon or you can pour that bucket into another bucket, let it settle, pour the bucket back into the first bucket and let it settle and then do that over and over until the wash is flat. Less requirement for a Comrades reminder, but my back…..20 litre buckets full of fermented sugar are heavy, yo! I filtered it a few more times to get a very clear liquid to put into the still. Then on Saturday, I sat the entire afternoon distilling the wash into acetone, methanol and ethanol, leaving the water behind. It’s a process, I tell you. You have to watch it all the time and adjust your cold water flow to keep the condenser at the right temperature. And you need to be patient. Yesterday, I wanted to give up on the first hill at Bugs Bunny. What was I running this for? It was hot. I hadn’t trained. My back was sore. This was only going to carry on being hard. Just. Give. Up! Making vodka is hard. It takes so long. It takes so much time and sugar and water with no real guarantees. Just to make vodka requires a million forms. If I want to sell vodka, I need to navigate a thousand very expensive legal processes and get all sorts of permits. I won’t be able to do it from home because you can’t make gin in a residential area and our business model doesn’t really warrant a huge property and and and. Sometimes I just want to give up.

As it so happens, yesterday I didn’t give up. I didn’t die. I didn’t come last and I really enjoyed my run. My legs are a bit hungover today which is to be expected because I hadn’t really trained properly and I hadn’t been doing the necessary gym work. And that’s how running has taught me to make gin. Saturday’s distillation produced vodka that was less then perfect. I’m so hard on myself that I fully expected that it would come out perfectly. I was so disappointed. How could my vodka not be perfect? But if I’m honest with myself, I didn’t do everything perfectly in preparing the wash. Maybe all the sugar wasn’t dissolved when I put in the yeast. I should have fermented at 30 degrees for the whole time. I should have stirred it up properly in the beginning, feeding the yeast with oxygen. I should have kept the dog away from the bloop bloop. I should have checked if the fermentation was really over before clarifying. Ag! It got what I deserved. It wasn’t perfect vodka, but it was good enough for a first attempt. I didn’t win yesterday, but it was good enough. I never win, but I suppose it’s always good enough. Running and making gin are teaching me that sometimes you just have to do things that you love with love and the rest will follow. Keep going forward with commitment and focus and eventually, you’ll get over the big mountains and you’ll enjoy some of it and you’ll come to a point near the end where you see an impala leaping gracefully past you and you’ll remind yourself why you didn’t give up and you’ll be grateful that you didn’t give up.

Wish me luck with the gin. I have also decided that I will help someone else create a vodka making business and they can supply me with the vodka I need to make gin because making vodka sucks. I’m going to try one more batch of vodka and then I’ll hand that over to someone else who wants to make perfect vodka. I want to make gin and that’s what I need to focus on. Today I start the second part of the legal hurdles that I will have to navigate. It’s actually like Inchanga where you’re half way up and you can see the rest of it winding up and up and up in front of you. I seriously feel like giving up on this one, but I won’t. At least if I start, I can evaluate the merits of going forward.

I’ll be sure to take you on my gin journey. I might even get to like gin, kind of like I eventually got to love running!

Yours in the love of running and gin, I think.

SlowCoach

A Box Full of Knives

I got what I deserved this weekend. 4.16 is my personal best time for a marathon. I like to think that’s a pretty decent time for a marathon. Of course, when you’re friends with women who run marathons in 2.47 or thereabouts, you just always feel like a loser! “You’re not supposed to be comparing yourself to Comrades gold medallists,” snapped EP. Anyway, personal best 4.16. So when I crossed over the finish line at Kaapsehoop Marathon on Saturday in 4.58, one would think I’d be a bit disappointed. But I did a little air punch, smiled, bowed my head in gratitude and, of course, started crying.

When EP entered me into the Kaapsehoop Marathon on 3 June this year, we knew I needed a totally unachievable goal to get me off my couch and back out onto the road to recovery. The majority of my injury was over. I was still experiencing pain going up and down stairs, but I could run when the moment inspired me. I had put on almost 10kgs and I was breathlessly unfit. Getting onto the road was demoralizing and frustrating. But now I had something ridiculous that I had to train for and it had an end date to it. Amazing how student syndrome can be inspiring. How was I going to go from barely managing a 35 minute 5km time trail to a marathon in just 5 months? You just have to start somewhere. So I started. In a poetic twist, I started the day before Comrades in Durban. I was going to run Umhlanga Parkrun and maybe a little short warm up beforehand. I told EP and Lehlohonolo I’d do the warm up with them on their easy run. I won’t do that again. The little warm up was over 9km, run at pancreatic-failure speed. I wanted my 300 Parkrun points so I went from 5km time trial to PB 15km as a start to my marathon training. I really do try to be normal most of the time. It doesn’t come easily to me.

I had started my road to Kaapsehoop and it wasn’t as bad as one might have imagined. My broken knee and foot were a little sore after that run, but I rested it until I got back from helping at Comrades and started again….A little more circumspect this time. For the most part, I did my running return on my own except for a few lovely runs hanging on by my fingernails to EP and meeting some beautiful, almost long lost friends along the way. It was good to come back, slowly but surely.

EP fell early in August and tore ankle ligaments which had me having to get myself out of my bed and onto the road while EP snoozed away. It was tough on some of the colder days, but as Kaapsehoop’s date drew nearer, it became easier to haul my ass around the various neighbourhoods on runs.

Illuminati Michelle has turned coach and set up coaching sessions at RAC on Mondays and Randburg Harriers on Wednesdays. (You can join us on either evening from 5.30pm) I joined her for track when my foot was ready and started slowly. Work was crazy, so I only really got to track once every second week and both weekend long runs. I was getting stronger from the focussed programme my new bio had given me and things were looking positive for Kaapsehoop. I foam rolled. Every. Single. Day. I became very disciplined and focussed as October rolled around and I started planning for my date with my nemesis.

On the day, I was really terrified. I felt under-prepared. I had a plan which would see me finish in just under 5 hours, but really I would have been happy to get to the stadium in under 5.30 or even just get to the stadium. But I knew the treachery that was about to unfold on my still fragile legs. As I emerged from the forest near Kaapsehoop, just 9km into the marathon, I had my first cry and it was a cry of fear. I saw the downhill roll itself out like a red carpet in front of me and I couldn’t imagine how I was going to manage this. And then this calm enveloped me. A little voice said, you have nothing to prove. You have nothing to qualify for. You have nothing but yourself and your best and that’s what you will be today. You won’t be this race’s best. You won’t be your friends circle’s best. You won’t be any best except your best and you won’t even be your best ever best. You will be your best today. And that’s exactly what I did. I ran the race I planned. I forgave myself when I was behind and high fived myself when I was ahead. I was being the best me I could be on that day and I had a really wonderful run.

You know, running is like a gift of a box of knives. It’s a gift, but it has really sharp and painful edges to it. It teaches lessons that are usually quite unwelcome when the teacher arrives, but the lessons are gifts in every sense of the word. I received a huge gift from my favourite little knife this week. Thank you Kaapsehoop for the sharp stabbing pains in my calf today, but thank you for reminding me how to be my best, not by forcing myself forward, but rather just by being myself.

I ran most of the race in my own little bubble. I ran a few kilometres chatting to a lady who runs marathons for fun and I spent a poignant few minutes with Ingrid who I know is an amazing trail runner and was struggling at the end of her first road marathon. I was so inspired by her finish on Saturday. Truly inspired. I was also inspired by my own race. I managed a sub-5, just as I had planned….to the minute! I am less broken now than in previous post Kaapsemoer years.

Buddha says that when the student is ready, the master teacher will arrive. We sometimes like that master teacher. We more often dislike that teacher intensely. I now know why I’ve kept going back to my little box of knives in Nelspruit. Make no mistake, this marathon is almost beyond compare in it’s beauty. It is also almost beyond compare in it’s physical brutality and it’s mental torture in the last 8km. I have loved and hated this marathon and now I know why. I am the student and I was not ready.

Thank You for my box of knives. Thank you, Kaapsehoop Marathon, my favourite knife in the box.

Yours in the love of the gift that is running

SlowCoach

P.S. On our annual detour home from Kaapsehoop this year we met this amazing family who I know are just another little gift I get from running. Nice to meet you, Buxy and Mohammed!