What’s a Girl to Wear On a Bridge too Far?

I’ve decided to run the Comrades Marathon in a fabulous pair of silver heels which I originally bought for my sister, Melissa’s 40th birthday party. They fit me really well, are not too high, have a reasonable amount of stability, are quite comfortable and, most of all, they look fabulous, darling! I know. It’s not in any of the Comrades coaching books. I’ve already told you that I don’t do conventional. But heels? Silver ones? So ask me why. Go on. Ask me. Because Saturday night I went out dancing with my friend, Tammy, for her bachelorette party. I wore the heels because they went with my pants and the mardi gras theme for her party. Saturday night was the first time that I have walked pain free in three weeks!

Perhaps Kosmos was a bridge too far on this journey of mine to the Comrades marathon.  I knew it at Kosmos at the 60km mark. I knew it the day after and I especially knew it two weeks ago when my ankle and achilles and everything south of my left knee started shouting obscenities at me. This has been the most terrible time since I first lifted my backside off my couch. Not even the stress fractures when I first started were as awful as this time.

And I have felt so alone. Everyone around has been sympathetic and concerned enough.  I’ve discovered a great deal about my friends in this time. It’s been a lonely time because recently, my whole world has become about running. Most of my friends are so because I run. And those that are not running friends have felt quite helpless. Of course, when you’re injured and being forced to rest, two days seems like the two weeks before pay day. I ran on a Friday and then cried on Andrew’s couch on the following Tuesday because I felt like my Comrades journey was over. He stopped only slightly short of telling me to get a grip and an ounce of perspective.

I turned to crutches at one point because I was in so much pain with each step that the thought of putting my left foot on the ground filled me with horror. Physio Clare-Anne and Ross Tucker’s book had told me to do eccentric heel raises off a step. Clare-Anne told me to do 30, Ross told me to do 3 sets of 15, Francis told me to do whatever Clare-Anne told me twice a day. I did what Ross said 3 times a day. Obsessively. I even did obsessive obsessively. And do you know how dreadful those exercises are? The three you do in the physio’s rooms seem harmless. Get to ten in a row and it feels like someone is pouring hydrochloric acid down your leg. I would do fifteen on one leg and then hop around the bathroom huffing and puffing in the hope that I could breathe off the steam from the burning sensation wracking my muscles. And then you do it all over again on each leg….twice! And then you do it for breakfast, lunch and supper! Twenty days later, there’s less drama in the bathroom in the form of hopping and huffing, but they’re still frikken sore. Today I managed 30 in a row for the first time. But only once.

Maya Angelou once wrote, “You will face many defeats in your life, but never let yourself be defeated.” I felt defeated. I felt like all the hard work and all the progress I’d made since Kaapsehoop was in a dustbin on the pavement and 2014 would be just one more Comrades marathon that I entered and DNS.

Then last Saturday, Christien (not a running-specific friend) feeling helpless, but as invested in my Comrades journey as me gave me the first part of the miracle drug. She gave me this aromatherapy spray. Thinking about that spray makes me picture cool, green meadows of soft grass with little yellow flowers everywhere. That stuff is the miracle drug. Composed entirely of hippie-like aromatherapy oils, it eases pain like a shot of morphine. I’m not entirely sure how much healing power it has, bit I don’t give a damn. That stuff allowed me to put my heel down and it reduced some of the inflammation which had made my ankle look like it had swallowed a tennis ball. It’s called Spray On Relief and it’s made by Aromatic Apothecary (sounds like hippie shit). I’ve ordered 16 litres: 8 litres for my bath on 31 May and 8 litres for my evening bath on 1 June. I wonder if I spray it on my hair then my hair won’t be so big….*thinking* Anyway.

The spray on relief offered temporary reprieve from the pain. The hundreds of daily calf raises seemed to be doing nothing.  I was still walking in pain every step on my left leg was excruciating. The two short runs I managed were done so at the incredibly impressive average pace of 7:30/km. And I only managed 8kms on the better of those two runs.

This was a total disaster. It was like I had gone back a whole year. I cried every day. I hated seeing all the Whatsapp groups sharing the details of their respective runs. I was angry with the world when I saw runners on the road. Whenever the Comrades Facebook page posted the number of days to Comrades, I had a panic attack. I just never imagined I would ever be able to run again. All my progress. All my hard work.

So now my hard work continues. But it has changed. I’m having to commit at a totally new level. I have to jump around with a ball between my feet. I have to swim. Do you know how boring it is swimming lengths? Up and down. Up and down. No trees. No houses. Just water, pool tiles and shouting coaches. No-one talks to anyone else. Infinitely boring. Today I had an interesting swim because I got a cramp in my foot! This is a totally new level of commitment. An hour every second day. Argh!

Will I be able to run Comrades? I’m not sure.  Clare-Anne was quite firm about the fact that I am very injured. It’s all in my couch potato butt. My glutes have never really left the couch. I’m almost totally off the couch. The only thing left to move off my couch is my ass. I’m doing the most ridiculous exercises (complete with hydrochloric acid, hopping, huffing and my dog trying to grab the ball from between my feet) to get that final piece of meat off the couch and to the starting line at Comrades. This month, the journey will continue but will not be so on the road, but in a swimming pool. Wish me luck. I’ll see you on the road at the end of April. I’ll be the one in the fabulous silver heels.

Yours in the tough journey to that start line.

The Slow Coach