I think that most SA athletes aspire to being able to step up to the starter’s line in the green and gold to represent their country. I felt honoured to be able to do just that last week Saturday. Prior to the 75km trail run, the four girls participating had gotten together to discuss our “team strategy”. Not having previously run for a team, I realised that the dynamics would be completely different. Our final result would not come down to an individual’s performance on the day. This was something bigger than my personal achievement … our accumulative times would determine the overall position. We would be running for all of our fellow trail runners back home, following our every move on Facebook & Twitter. As Altus had put it: “It comes down to National pride”.
The air was electrifying as we all assembled in the starters shoot on Llanryst Bridge. 150 participants were ready to take on the best of the best. The SA ladies team approach was to go out a little more conservatively, leaving enough in the tank to give it guns in the final lap. All was going according to plan. After completing the second of five, 15 km laps – I was still feeling strong. The months of training prior to World Champs was paying off. Much to my dismay though, after about 5 k’s into lap three the wheels started coming off. A lack of the correct nutrition led to my blood sugar levels plummeting. I started experiencing the early stages of hypoglycemia. The way things were looking I didn’t even know if there was any chance for me to be able to make 50 kilometres, let along 76!
I just had to keep soldering on – I knew that some of my fellow team mates were taking just as much strain. We had made a commitment to each other. This was no time to even consider backing down or pulling out. For the first time, I realised what it was like to have others depend upon your performance. (If I were going “solo”, I would have probably withdrawn – considering I felt like I was going to pass out en route). Thanks to an awesome seconding team, I was slowly resurrected and by the final lap (with the knowledge that I was actually going to complete this course), I managed to kick into gear and gained a few positions.
One of those sad realities in life came knocking at my door on Saturday the 6th July. You only need to get one thing wrong, and all those months of training and dedication come tumbling down.
Reflecting on our World Champs experience, I can however say that I am thrilled with the fact that all of my team mates managed to “vasbyt”, no matter what was thrown at them. At the seconding station my husband saw grown men cry, with athletes withdrawing due to various different aliments and injuries. I commend every one of the SA team’s sheer commitment and determination. We went out as true ambassadors for our country; bring back invaluable experience of racing on International soil.