By Amy Ebedes
As runners, why do we do the things we do? Why am I doing the Knysna Big Five?
Obvious health benefits aside, what is the motive for putting our bodies on the line and pushing the boundaries?
It’s all good and well staying in our “comfort zones” with our favourite distances and preferred disciplines. But every now and then, we need to stop chasing PB’s and leap with reckless abandoned into unchartered territory.
If the Knysna Big Five has taught me anything, it’s a lesson in humility. The new venture will make you re-evaluate your strengths – and certainly weaknesses – and allow you to gain a new respect for both your preferred, and new, sports.
It’s a steep learning curve that I’m climbing at the moment, and it started skyrocketing on Sunday, during the 100km road ride.
There is little positive that I can say about my ride on Sunday. Lining up in the starting pen, I realised that I was one of the only riders on a mountain bike. This was a far cry to the Argus Cycle Tour, where novices on mountain bikes are a common sight. These were hardcore roadies, and I was about to eat their dust.
Within 20km, the entire group had dropped me and I was going nowhere, fast. My legs were feeling OK after the previous day’s ride, and despite my best efforts, I couldn’t up the pace. My frustration began to soar. At 40km, I stopped and checked my front wheel: brake engaged. Cursing, I fixed the issue, and kept on trucking into the headwind. The issue was slightly resolved, but I still felt like I was cycling through sludge.
Thankfully, the tailwind on the return 50km allowed me to pick up the pace a bit, and I dragged myself over the finish line, tail between my legs, at the very bottom of the log (a new experience for me). While drinking a beer and feeling very sorry for myself and my dismal performance, my father-in-law spun my rear wheel for good measure. It barely made half a revolution. I dissolved into a silly mess of tears, relieved that my dismal performance wasn’t all me.
Yes, I can blame the equipment (I am), but I am well aware that my mechanical ignorance goes hand-in-hand with the inexperience of under training.
Fast forward to Tuesday, the third event. I was extremely excited to lace up my takkies and hit the trail: my passion and absolute favourite discipline. Last year I ran the race after a 4 week layoff because of a broken arm. This year I was looking forward to smashing the run. I foolishly compared the Knysna Head height to Table Mountain, silently laughing at the 250m climb.
Oh, how I underestimated the race… How I overestimated myself!
As soon as I started running, my legs immediately reminded me that I’d cycled a pretty tough 180km this past weekend. They de-powered on any semblance of an incline. I struggled my way through the 15km run, and cursed every step of the 3km railway crossing. I took only a minute off of last year’s time, 10 minutes slower than my goal.
It must be said that the Feathered trail run is a magnificent race. A chilly ferry ride across the lagoon at sunrise, running through pristine terrain and giving it a final push on an abandoned railway bridge are three factors that make it a unique, well organised event. The marshals are the most supportive and entertaining volunteers I’ve ever encountered on a run, with humorous and enthusiastic gestures of support.
I’m tired. I’m cold. I’m humbled.
I’m mildly terrified ahead of tomorrow’s Xterra, especially in light of the grey skies and consistent downpour of rain. On the (very) bright side, I am riding on a new beaut of 29er, making the ride portion of the event less like a chore and more like an opportunity to play with my new toy.
The Big Five is not for the faint hearted.
My comfort zone is now a distant blur. I’ve had a good, hard look at my strengths and weaknesses. I could even be starting to admit that Big Five might just be bigger than me.
Will I do it again?