Hi. My name is Slow Coach and I am an addict.
Several people have asked me to write about my novice experience at the Pirates 21km which has the dubious reputation of being Joburg’s toughest 21km. You’ll remember my Dis-Chem 21km experience, right? I find it very difficult to believe that any 21km could be worse than that. However, the Pirates route detours through my neighbourhood, so I knew that there’d be some preposterous hills in the Pirates 21km route. I also knew that on any given day of the week, I run those preposterous hills. Not all of them in one day, but I know what to expect for the most part. So I was looking forward to a tough but not unachievable Pirates 21km.
So what did I learn on this Pirates 21km which, as expected, was tough, but not unachievable? I learned that condensed milk is not supper! What a dreadful way to learn that lesson. Rewind to Saturday morning. I had an early start racing my ass off at track training. I came home, rushed in and out of a bath and went off with Mike to a Two Oceans Marathon workshop at Gold Reef City. My energy levels were low. I hadn’t had any Coke or water after track and I was hungry. The workshop served us an array of croissants and sandwiches and fruit sticks, as well as coffee. I wolfed down 5 fruit sticks and a cup of coffee as well as 4 little bottles of water. The workshop was wonderful with talks by, amongst others, Dr Ross Tucker, Thulani Sibisi and Bruce Fordyce. Afterwards, Francis, Mike and I wanted to go on one of the rides which we attempted to do but then we didn’t have the requisite armband and were kicked off the ride. Real rebels! Luckily they kicked us off before we were mid-ride. That would have been a bit scary for me. Mike and Francis would have coped, but I might have cried a bit. Francis gave Mike and I a lift back to Mike’s car (because of a very long story which included a very long, brisk walk by Mike and I before the workshop) and we headed home. By this time it was about 1pm and I was hungry and my sugar was in the doldrums. When I got home I got sidetracked by admin and still didn’t eat. By 3pm I was so hungry and not thinking straight, that my cat, Noonoo started to look like a Woolies roast chicken. In my delirium, I fried up two homemade hamburger patties and did the unthinkable, stuffed them in between 4 slices of bread. I had made tomato puree from my garden’s tomatoes. It was so delicious that I ate the whole pot of puree. How? With bread as the dipping agent! By 8pm, I still wasn’t hungry, what with my stomach stuffed with bread and the hamburger patties sitting in my gut like a brick. But……I was peckish. My insulin levels were all over the place and I WANTED SUGAR. I WANTED SUGAR. I know how drug addicts feel because I too have a substance addiction and that substance is sugar. I WANTED SUGAR. What did I do? I opened a tin of condensed milk and, although I tried to stop several times, I just kept taking one hit after another until half the tin was gone. My sugar craving satisfied, I headed off for bed in preparation for my tough but not unachievable 21km the next day. I’ve subsequently been led to believe that eating half a tin of condensed milk is not a normal thing and so I’ve considered that I might have a problem. Don’t think I’m ready for rehab just yet, though. I can quit any time and I can do it on my own.
I was fine when I started the race probably because of the euphoric sugar coursing through my veins. By 3km into the race at the top of a preposterous hill which is not part of my weekly neighbourhood runs, I was grumpy. By 8km I was swearing….at people as well as the route. By 9km I had hit the most preposterous hills imagineable and I was unhappy. I was so overloaded on sugar that Coke wasn’t working at the water points (like it usually does). Kumar was yelling encouragement and his usual positive attitude at me and I felt violent. I wanted to just smack him. I ran away. I ran up all the preposterous hills. For those of you who don’t know the route, there’s a hill (Cliffside Crescent) which is so steep, at the top of the hill, which is also the 10km mark in the race, a kind soul has painted the words “OH SHIT!” on the road. I was determined to run all the way up the Oh Shit hill until the Oh Shit mark. I did but it didn’t improve my mood. I even did a dance of joy and if dancing wasn’t cheering me up, then nothing on earth could do it. Joseph met me at the top of the hill and we ran on together. I nearly vomited. Nearly. Joseph was trying to make the run fun for me, but I was getting grumpier and grumpier. It was quite awful. Joseph and I were doing a good time, but I was just so unhappy. My drug overdose from the night before had seriously impacted my emotional well being. I think I had a sugar hangover. To add to the misery of my hangover, they were playing Whitney Houston at 1000 decibels at the King of the Mountain water point. I cried great, big, sobbing tears which alarmed Joseph (mostly because he doesn’t understand how much I really hate Whitney Houston’s music). I complained to him that I couldn’t go on. I was running forward at the time at about 5:45min/km and I cried that I just couldn’t go on. He looked totally baffled by my non-synchronous words and explained that I was moving forward, what was the problem? Gosh! What a scene I was making. Petulant drug addict that I am.
So I’m not going to mention names here, but I asked Joseph where, in relation to us, a certain fellow Journeyman was. Joseph looked around and told me that this person was about 200 metres in front of us. Suddenly, the petulance left me and I lifted my head and started running seriously to catch up and pass this other Journeyman. Who? and Why? is what you want to know. The why is easy: This Journeyman once told me that my non-plan plan to run Comrades was not going to work because I’d never be fast enough and my plan wasn’t emblazoned on two golden tablets (I’m paraphrasing for effect here). I promised myself that day that the Journeyman would never be allowed to beat me again, something which they had often been able to do prior to that moment. This person has never beaten me since that day. The Journeyman nearly beat me in my petulant drug hungover mood at Pirates 21km. They didn’t then and they never will again! Not next week and not on 1 June 2014. Joseph and I finished the Pirates 21km – Joburg’s Toughest 21km – in 2:26:49. A respectable time for a race of that nature. The Journeyman finished probably 2 minutes behind us. Whoop Whoop! I’ll admit it. I’m super competitive, but at my Slow Coach pace, there’s nothing much with which to compete except the tarmac and the demon who wants to quit. I now have a competitor. The Journeyman has been doing this for many years. I’ve been doing it for 2 years. I will keep getting better and better as long as I keep focussed and do the training. The Journeyman will keep doing their plan like they’ve always been doing it. And that is the last time I will speak of this, because I find the competitive side of me quite repulsive.
The point I’m making here is that sugar is a drug. I’m an addict. Sugar could ruin my running if I let it. I need rehab. I have tried on my own, but I’ve failed many times. I need a 12-step programme to get me out of this unsustainable situation. I’ll do it. Just let me finish this packet of wine gums and then I’m in!
Yours in the spirit of running, winning and rehabbing.