When You Get It Wrong

Wow I hate being wrong. Odd for someone that has been wrong, a lot. Life goes like that, though. We smash some of our choices, and hit beautiful high notes, and then sometimes we get it wrong.

I’m in Kenton for a few days. Small seaside village that I’ve been visiting in one way or another since I was a child. My family has a long history here; my paternal grandparents owned the Bells & Buoys Cafe and they owned some of the original properties, and at some point my dad purchased a large home close to Main Beach. Amazing gift to our family, we have continued visiting here for decades. Through time we befriended a local family, headed up by Mavis and Johnson. My parents have educated their children, and Mavis has had all three of my children strapped to her very accomodating back when baby daytime naps during holidays were needed. She loved them all, still does. My and Mavis’ eldest matriculated at the end of last year, in completely different circumstances but both got through, and Mavis and I shared the celebration.

I am completely digressing, but perhaps I’ve outlined a little of how special this places is to me, and to my children. We come here at least once a year. Dogs too. In all the house moves I have experienced in the past years, “my room” at Kenton has been a constant.

Kenton is nestled between two rivers; The Kariega and Bushmans rivers. In the past 6 years, my visits here have incldued lots of running. The humidity is always higher, and the hills are great for strength training. I always leave here feeling stronger.

A visit in October was never our norm, but my mom asked the kidlets and I to join her for a week. I jumped at the chance to bring my kids to a place that has remained a constant in their world. Always my happy place, I figured a week of working in Kenton, without meetings, would do us all good. I have the Otter Trail Run coming up, so good beach / rock training time for me, too. We arrived on 1 October, after a 10 hour drive, and Mavis was at the house full of hugs and her usual welcoming vibe. We settlled in and planned our first few meals, and my first few runs.

I set off the next morning with my pack full of water, and extras added for clever Otter training; I needed the weight on my back. I started from home, 1.5km from the lagoon. At the lagoon I ran along the compacted sand thanks to a low tide. It was heaven. A small drizzle began, the Main Beach was absolutely emtpy and my soul was singing. I stopped to take pics of my solo footprints in the sand. I didn’t have my usual Sea to Summit phone cover or dry bag, so I quickly tucked my phone away and figured in the very light rain, it would be ok. I ran on. I had my blue tooth earphones with me, but the crashing waves were more than enough of a sound track. Just before the climb over to Shelley Beach, I took a few more pics of the beautiful rock formations, bright green seaweed and white, frothy sea. Too pretty. I was thinking about the Tuesday Trails group on Facebook, and the pic I might add to their #MondayRollCall. I was like, winning shot coming up! Ah the simple things in life!

I dropped down in to the Shelly Beach cove, often full of famlies in December but I was the only one there that morning. I took some more pics, and then climbed out and over on to the Bushmans River Mouth side. I trotted along as the rain increased a little, worried about my phone but WOW what a morning and what beautiful running.

During the Otter, runners have to cross Bloukrans River Mouth with all kit on board. It is a shock to the system, straight in to rough waters with a pack on, shoes on etc. As I was running along the beach that morning I thought about that swim, and how I hadn’t done much of that in my training. None of it, really. Not even a gym pool swim in months. I looked at the river mouth at low tide and decided to cross over. There is a beautiful stretch of beach beyond that, and my plan was to continue up the beach before climbing out of Bushmans, and returning to Kenton via the highway. Good plan, and because I had failed to pack any decent waterproofing gear, I would simply do the crossing with my pack held above my head.

I waded out, the only person on the beach. I was a little nervous of this particular life choice, but I was half way through the Ryan Sandes book and up to my eyeballs in “sieze the moment” mentality. Trail running has taught me to be pretty brave, or at least a lot braver than I used to be. I have learned to trust my body more, and in so doing have discovered new territory and a better, tougher me. I still have so many things that I want to do, and boundaries that I wish to push. I’m still learning, and that morning a swift dose of humilty showed me exactly how much I have to learn.

As my feet left the sand and cold water lapped at my body, my right arm held my pack above my head and I started kicking. I was thinking, “hold your core strong, kick hard, use your left arm, it isn’t far.” For a brief moment I thought I had it. Suddenly there was too much water, a huge pull, I was rushing down the mouth and I realised I had misjudged it all entirely. It was a Spring Tide, outgoing, and the locals have since outlined exactly how stupid I was. My head went under and I swallowed water, some went up my nose. I tried to hold the pack up as I did a big guppy fish gasp, but I was dipping, and the pouch which carried my phone was getting wet. My head went under again and my feet felt like they were being pulled own, despite the kicking. In a matter of seconds I had to decide that the pack was going under, attached to me or not (and thankfully I kept it around one wrist) or I would go under myself. I turned on to my back, found some air and kicked hard with both arms propelling me towards some rocks. I was properly scared, and felt an utter fool.

A rock scraped up against my left shoulder and I turned and held on, then climbed over on to the sand bank, thankful for some traction beneath my shoes. I stood up there, got the pack off my wrist and walked out on to the beach. Run… was all I could think. I knew I had buggered up my phone, and my earphones. I still had to get up to the highway and home. I ran, my pack back on my back. I was a soggy, silly mess.

The run cost me. I melted my credit card on a new phone and cover. I have to update my contact base and reinstall client Twitter handles and Facebook profiles. I’m pretty furious with myself. Mostly, I’m now looking for a swim coach.

A dose of humilty is never a bad thing. Hell, I know I’m not the fastest or bravest trail runner and after completeing Ryan Sandes’ book (I snuck it back after my mom confiscated it, saying it was the cause of my misjudged river crossing!) I know I have lots to learn and many, many more mountains to climb.

I will be weary of solo river crossings though, and Spring Tides, as should you.


Otter 2013 Back Again Soon!







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