To Sleep Perchance to Dream – Namaqua Quest Day 2

So if expectation did not meet reality on Thursday, today was much more so!Before I complain, I’d like to give a shout out to all Sanparks people. You do amazing work and you make our nation proud. Thank you to the rangers, the volunteers and the good people who run these beautiful parts of our country, making them accessible to us and visitors from across the world.Goegap Nature Reserve is spectacular. What I discovered today is the ocean that I spoke about yesterday was actually a glacier. The mountain face we climbed up today gave us the clues about the glacier and the striations on the rocks provided grip for our shoes as we climbed.

The glaciated volcanic mountains

The rocks are really impressive and the quiver trees peppering the almost barren landscape are a true delight. We saw some springbok….so close to Springbok. Although, talking to some people after the race, we may have imagined those! Quiver trees are really quite unusual. I was reminded of the Joshua Trees in the Mogave desert. It seems the most unusual trees grow from the barren desert.

Helen and I didn’t know how close the finish was at this halfway photo stop!

There was not much time to see anything else because the race, sold as a 10km, like this blog, ended too soon at 6.7km.

Yours in the barreness.

SlowCoach

They Grow Where They Are – Day 1 of Namaqua Quest

I was disappointed and little bit pissed off as I turned into the race village on Thursday. I had expected to drive up to the hotel with swathes of flowers on the left and right of the road. There had been a few little patches of flowers here and there and a few threadbare carpets, but nothing like the brochure! Mother Nature had not dished up the desert I had ordered.

There have been 3 sustained years of severe drought in Namakwa, an arid semi-desert region in the northern part of South Africa, close to the border with Namibia. Flowers don’t really like droughts and so there we were, in the desert, in the sun, in Spring. Where else could we want to be?

The 4 of us: EP, Luisa, Simon and I have been training reasonably consistently on really challenging terrain for the past 3 months for this race. We’ve been running up and down Westcliff Stairs. We’ve been running in Klipriviersberg nature reserve on tough technical routes. In our taper month we’ve been spending time in Cradle Moon and Delta Park, soaking up some elevation on more mundane trails. So we were ready for the flat, rocky, daisy-clad trails of Namakwaland. If Friday’s run was anything to go by, then we were ready for something that was not Namaqua Quest.

The massive lava mountains must have, at some point been covered by ocean and since emerging from the sea have spent eons being battered by a very angry wind. Fascinating rock formations on massive mountains and smaller, more palatable koppies as well as thick treacle-like beach sand on the lowlands are the result. We ran that!

The beauty of the Namakwaland daisies, I have found, lies not in their carpetness, but in their individual prettiness. I know that the whole appeal of the area appears to be their carpet-like appearance, but, as I ran along the treacle beach sand, I got to notice the individual beauty of each flower, growing exactly where it found itself. It really is quite peculiar how every flower grows wherever it is.

There’s no, this flower grows better in sand, while this grows better on the rocks. They just grow where they are. And they’re happy and beautiful where they are. It was a good reminder for me. Sometimes we’re driven to be somewhere else. Somewhere new, somewhere different. Somewhere that isn’t where we are. We hope that we will find the peace, the joy, the beauty we want for ourselves where we aren’t, rather than being the most magnificent version of ourselves where we are. In a world where you can be anything you want, be a Namakwa daisy.

The race started on a beach sand road, uphill. And as always, everyone fucked off into the distance while I was left, treading through the loose sand somewhere at the back. I wondered how much everyone else had trained to be buzzing off into the distance like that. So I took that as the sign that, in the absence of carpets of flowers, I’d enjoy the beauty of each individual flower I saw. And what a wonderful, joyful experience it turned out to be. I must have seen more than 200 different flowers. And not even several colours of the same flower, there are hundreds of different flowers. Some succulents, some bushes, some shrubs, some pretty little, flimsy stand alone flowers. All growing exactly where they are.

I can truly recommend getting off the beaten track when you come here and taking a walk through the beach sand, volcanic rock and hard-packed sand. Get to all the flowers.

Be warned that you may face some headwinds, growing where you are, but choose to be your most beautiful you, exactly where you are.

It’s in the trails that we find the meaning of life.

Yours exactly where I am.

SlowCoach

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