Endurance Walking

Road of Endurance

“WHEN you feel a little dizzy or experience some kind of ‘feeling of detachment’ from what’s going on around you – pour water over your head and the back of your neck  “. That was great ‘during the race’ advice on the flyer we received before the race. That’s right and true but how do you do it when you’re almost at the top of a mountain and the nearest water point is about a kilometer and a half on either side and you’re not carrying any water?

From the starting point it seems pretty easy, especially now that it’s only 30km, how difficult is it, compared to 75km of Mossel bay? The route is a small loose rock at the start and everyone is optimistic including you really. I remember telling one of the famous strong team members in the competition that this would be a ‘kids game’. I’ve done most of the tough routes like Mossel bay Vasby, Mossel bay Khoikhoi Stamp, Polsmoor, Kanaland, Gaansbaai Endurance walking competitions to name a few, so I wasn’t expecting much trouble with Tulbah.

As I sat on top of Mount Tulbah, thinking if only I could get some water, I could follow this advice (pour water over my head and the back of my neck), and maybe I’d feel better, but where would I go? water from? I only drank half 500ml of energy drink and was hoping to save it until I could see the next water point a mile away. I have begged my team members to leave me. I’ll be fine and I’ll find my way back once I feel strong enough. I promised them that if I didn’t feel better I would call and tell them and they would send help and they promised to call every 30 minutes just to make sure, and they did.

Build Endurance with this Walking Workout

It was a shame, it was only a kilometer after walking that I realized that I was having trouble breathing. It felt like my nostrils were closed, the oxygen I was taking in was not enough to sustain the difficult breathing. I feel more separated second by second. So I breathe through my mouth which is a really bad move. Within seconds, I was chewing a pebble and swallowing it without processing it completely. The pain was excruciating as if someone had sanded my chest inside.

My walking shoes have a hard time sticking to the ground, and you can blame that on my feet turning jelly. I kept tripping and was afraid I would break my leg. Heard I was swimming and drooping as if I didn’t get enough sleep. My vision is distorted, even if I close my eyes, when I open them, my vision is still far from improving. I don’t understand what happened to me. I was never a great sportswoman even at school level I have to admit. I played to the best of my ability even though it would never win me the Sports Women’s Award of the Year, but this is pathetic, I thought reluctantly.

I tried all kinds of sports I could take part in at school but wasn’t the great athlete, with the bird-bodied body I always expected from my elementary school teachers at first, until they realized I lacked the energy to go faster. In athletics, I get tired easily, even at 100m or I’ll drop the stick, who really does that? Even the asthmatic kids do better than me.

So I tried something I knew I CAN, running. Walking is easy isn’t it? I mean you walk endless kilometers but the end result is you walk, how hard is that? I grew up in a rural area where walking very long distances was a daily ritual. I have to walk 6 kilometers to and from school every morning and evening during middle and high school, rain or no school bus. Or traveling far to visit friends or relatives who live far away, so traveling is my hobby. I may not be a serious athlete or play a certain sport with an edge but I know I can walk.

Maybe it wasn’t too wise after all the really bragging that I had competed in the 75km big Vasby Mossel cove for the first time with a known slew of beach runs and had earned a bronze medal. Or that I also competed on the Gaansbaai Endurance road and got silver, and today I will take the gold medal. Even though I didn’t just pull his leg, I could only remind the competition that we were there to win. I’ve actually competed in almost all the minor competitions including the ones I mentioned and received a medal even though it’s not gold yet and I think I’m fit. My team members kept talking about how difficult this route was on our way to Tulbah, but I dismissed it as non-optimistic.

Even if I try, I’m increasingly finding that I actually walk better with my eyes closed. It was impossible because we were not walking on a paved road but on a part of the route that had small streams with dangerous slippery rocks. I kept going and tried to keep my pace but it became difficult with every step. Mainly because we were the first team up front and there was a group of people behind us who wanted to go through and there was only one lane and I was very slow in that lane. My teammates tried to put me in front of the team for morale. One dragged me with an emergency bandage rope tied in the middle of me and the other pushed me from behind but they finally understood that I was a semi-hospital case.

Someone from the other team was joking as they passed us and I realized he was from a team that I was proud of about my previous achievements. “You guys are a strong team of ‘dragging trailers all the way to the finish line’, typical contender cause. Being a hospital case at the top of a mountain where no vehicle can reach is a very dangerous farce. The closest we have to paramedics in terms of whatever is a savage firefighter, standing in a spot of water a kilometer away.Now if I happen to be seriously ill at the top of that mountain maybe I can get help but help from paramedics seems better than that of a wild firefighter.

So I decided that they should leave me there at least I could get back to where we left off in an hour and a few tens of minutes ago. I would rest then walk half way and find a support vehicle at half a mile back, have plenty of water then return to the starting point with my pointy tail between the legs of my hut. Although it was very disappointing for my team-mates to leave me, they now have to continue the competition individually.

I must have let them down, I think, we are not very good contenders for the gold medal but together we know we can do it. I feel really bad about it more than I feel bad about my immediate predicament. I have broken the spirit of the team, now they have to compete with a woman for herself. Every team that passed me lying on the ground felt sorry for me and asked if there was anything they could do and I said no I was angry inside. Even the old team over 50’s got strong and I’m almost half that age, what’s wrong with me? Had difficulty completing even the first two kilometers of the journey.

Lying there, I realized that feeling sorry for myself and letting my teammates down aren’t really nice words. I gave up and I felt helpless like it was of no use to my child in elementary school anymore. Oh! And the fact why I suddenly lost energy hit me, I’m even embarrassed to admit it to anyone. I didn’t have breakfast, I missed every first and most important meal of the day, so I was hungry, geez! The added strain on my body drains my energy sources and guess what, nothing flows because there is no food in my stomach, how stupid am I?

I was always so anxious that eating became difficult when I was going to travel far away. So I usually just bring my food in the morning and eat when I arrive but that morning we were a bit late and just minutes after arrival the journey was about to start. I couldn’t eat and since it was only 30km away I thought I would make it but I was so wrong. And guess what? I didn’t heed the organizer’s advice, (  if you don’t have backup help, carry some candy, energy-boosting chewable tablets, bananas, headache pills, etc. in a moon pouch around your midsection  .)

Although faint, I was determined to walk and finish my way, now I know I am not really sick but I have no strength because I am just hungry. Even though I am very behind my team, I will definitely finish the journey. Giving up wasn’t an option I was worried about, and besides walking with endurance was a newfound passion, the only thing I thought I was good at, giving up would betray that thought. Jelly feet, shaking hands, swimming head, distorted vision and so on, I tried to stand and walk. I can’t let this Tulbah Mountain beat me. Although there are very few birds on the mountain, but the little things seem to laugh at me, which is more loose!

Starting out in long distance walking

Instead of walking back to camp, I walked up the mountain towards all the other teams that passed me feeling sorry. I’m damned if I’m going to give up and get beaten by a 30km route? Never! The first team I passed couldn’t believe it. One of the members wide-eyed exclaimed, “Did you just wake up from the dead? Amazing!” “Oh yes and I’m here to stay”. I said creeping past the team, still weak and wobbly but determined to go forward. As I continue this route, one thing and only one thing is on my mind, I will complete this route no matter what. I could feel that I was getting stronger and stronger as I climbed the mountain. Maybe the sight helps me become stronger surrounded by mountain bush and Cape fynbos,

By the time I made it to the next kilometer, I had recovered and felt much stronger. So my next goal is to catch up with my teammates. They will not believe what they will see. They kept their promise to call every 30 minutes and several times I told them I would be back to square one. When they called every time after that I would tell them I was closer to the starting point or I had arrived and I was fine. So with that certainty they walked at full speed to the finish line. They were as surprised as every competitor I passed on that route when I saw them a few yards from the finish line.

They kept asking how I did it. I really am a semi-hospital case and they have seen it when they left me. We managed with my team-mates across the finish line. Even though we didn’t win the gold medal for first place due to the distance between the team members and the technical checkpoint reporting, I’m still proud of myself for holding on!

Don’t let anyone tell you that there’s something you can’t do! Don’t let yourself believe that there’s something you can’t do either! Doing and not doing is your decision and yours alone. You can accept defeat or move on and do it anyway. life throws a lot of rough lines at you every day, it’s your decision to take it with both hands and make it smooth. Everything seems so difficult before you try it and sometimes in the early stages of doing it, but once you put your mind into it, everything gets easier. Resilience is a tough act. This is uncomfortable and strips you of your pride and leaves you naked in front of your enemies. Resilience forces you to face your fears and conquer them. It forces you to reach within yourself and touch your true self, the stronger person within you. It can make one of two things destroy you or make you a stronger person. Being able to endure even beyond your physical capacities and abilities is one thing that builds your confidence, shows you that you are stronger than what people think you are and that you are actually stronger than you think. Stay afloat and life will show how much you can survive!