Congratulations, it’s a…

Dear friends and fellow countrymen, if you are reading this post then one of a number of unfortunate things may have happened…

A. Someone who doesn’t have my best interests at heart hacked into this blog and hit the ‘publish’ button on this post without any consideration of the dire consequences of making the content hereof (and my current predicament) public;

B. At least one of our boys are even more tech savvy than we anticipated, and managed to navigate the internet to this site and published this post; or

C. I indulged in one too many a glass of Red and, in a fit of overconfidence or overenthusiastic folly, published this to share with you all my upcoming plight and eminent demise, and in so doing, irreversibly committed myself to face said Herculean challenge, because secretly wimping out wouldn’t be an option any longer…

 I am certain it won’t be option C, because I absolutely intend to keep this post in draft format (hopefully indefinitely), only for it to serve as material evidence for insurance purposes during the postmortem investigation that will hopefully follow.

You see, it all started last year when my dearest, kindest Hubs entered me into the Great Wall Marathon as a present for my birthday at end of August. I was beyond thrilled, and since the Great Wall Marathon was only in May this year, I had plenty time to train, stress, dream and prepare for this grand voyage. What a beautifully stunning gift. My Hubby is so thoughtful.

 Rolling along to the Hubs’ birthday in April this year, I decided to return the favour (of course! … or soap-on-a-rope?) and entered him for a teeny tiny race with which he has some (self-admitted) unfinished business: the a 100 km trail Skyrun in the Moloti Mountains (South Africa) in November this year, affording him ample time to train and properly prepare.

You picking up on a trend yet? Well, interestingly, it gained momentum…

 A couple of weeks before my birthday (this year), my dear Husband started getting all giddy with excitement, and without any prompting whatsoever it kinda leaked out that he had entered me for another race. It is incredibly hard for him to keep a surprise, and it was with great effort from my side that he managed to make it to my birthday for the Big Reveal (a month before my birthday I found the book that he intended to keep as another prezzie on my car seat, so he was really low on options…) I should have let him spill the beans earlier, now with hindsight…

Birthday morning broke and the Hubs presents me with a hand-made medal. No words, only a grin on his face that was ready to explode, and the medal that was the clue to The Race. My first attempt to name the figure on the medal was Baby Platypus, which I later thought was actually quite apt considering how I see myself faring in this race. 

The birthday medal.

Turns out the cute little animal represented an Otter. Yes, Otter with a capital O, because this race ain’t no baby anything, it is the big, big Mama of trail races!  

The Otter African Trail Run is a marathon distance trail ran over the most popular hiking trail in South Africa, the Otter Trail. In an effort to contain my already tattered nerves I will tone this done a tad and just provide the bare minimum detail, but the route includes 11 significant climbs and descents, 2600+ m of elevation gain, a trail factor of 2 (i.e. multiply the trail distance by 2 to get it’s equivalent of road running) and 4 river crossings (Bloukrans representing a possible huge swim). And apparently the most amazing, spectacular, breathtaking scenery you can imagine…

Otter (Retto) route and profile. (Source)

This year the trail is run is reverse from the normal route, i.e. from Natures Valley to Stormsrivier, and thus called the Retto (otter spelled backwards).

Crossing the Bloukrans River (Source)

On the trail (Source)

After my initial shock started to subside, the first stage of grieving set in, Denial. For the better part of my birthday I tried to tell myself that six weeks of prep to get myself ready for an epic marathon (make that two!) would be fine. Until it hit me (I hit Google….) Cue the second stage of grieving: Anger! My poor, well meaning, immensely thoughtful and loving Hubs went through an UNTHINKABLE deal of trouble to get me into this race (there are only 220 places for the Challenge with an 11 hour cutoff, and 220 places for the Run with an 8 hour cutoff). Entries for both races fill up within minutes from opening, and he got me into the Challenge.

Knowing that I am never one to shy away from a Challenge (check the pun), no matter how ridiculous it seems, how could he expect THIS of me?

Fast forward through the Depression and Bargaining stages (the Hubs suffered multiple weeks of them all, bless his heart) and on to Acceptance, the last stage of grieving. I started to embrace it. I didn’t have time to get ultra ready and really could do only damage control, so I carefully upped my mileage and invested in some sand running and hill training (running Damaraland trails always includes hills and sand).

And then I started to get petrified excited. For years and years I have wanted to hike (HIKE) this trail, but it is such a popular route that you have to book more than a year in advance, and now with kids it would have to wait for many more years. The Hubs and I have a very deep love for and fascination with the Knysna Forest, having  read and reread all of Dalene Matthee’s books and after hiking and running short distances within it in the past. I can’t imagine anything better than getting to spend time in this forest and along one of the most picturesque coastlines in the world for one whole day. Whether it be running or hiking or swimming or crawling, I bet it is going to be fantastically beautiful (the scenery, not me! …platypus?) and I will be sure to make the most of every moment of it for as long as I have.

And while I’ll be making my peace (pieces) with that 2600m altitude gain, I’ll obviously be working on my comeback for the Hubs’ next birthday. Do stay tuned…

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