Monday, 28 November 2011

Australian Corporate Games 2011 (English)

(Daar is ook 'n Afrikaanse weergawe van hierdie bladsy)

I don't know about you, but in my mind I'm not getting any older. I still feel 19, just finished with school and in my first year of studies, something that happened 19 years ago if my calculations are correct. On the one hand it's a good thing because they say you are as old as you think. But it can also cost you dearly, like when you agree to take part in the Australian Corporate Games.

Two years ago I took on the 10km challenge and of the 205 runners I finished third. From the back. When the race officials start to collect those orange route-marker cones and flags immediately after you passed, it might be considered a subtle hint that you may not be as competitive as you thought you were. I would just like to express my gratitude to Lesley, a lady from ANZ who ran a little slower than me, and also two of my former colleagues from JDS, Neale and Vilam. If they had not decided to walk the whole 10km for an equal last place I would probably have had that honour. (here are the official results of that historic day)

How quickly one forgets! Two years later I again found myself signing up for the 2011 Australian Corporate Games, but this time I was a little wiser and decided to go for the 5km run rather than the 10.

Shortly after committing to that, I attended the monthly JDS "Fly Home Friday". This is something the company I work for does once a month. In the past all the consultants "flew home" to the Melbourne head office for a day of meetings, workshops and team building. As the company grew they decided to do this once a quarter and on the other months the Brisbane and Sydney offices hold their own "local FHF". Our team building for the Brisbane FHF this time was putt-putt, after which we enjoyed a quiet one at the restaurant next door. It was here where everyone suddenly and without warning turned against me and insisted that I not only do the 5km run but also join in for the touch footy. I fought against this valiantly but in the end peer pressure won. The fact that the owner of JDS was also present and actively participated in the campaign did not make it any easier, one doesn't want to jeopardise one's next salary increase. My fate therefore was sealed, I was officially part of the JDS touch footy team.

As these things go I may have left the training a bit late because I'm a little fat and fat people generally don't like running. About four weeks before the big day I was worried about my lack of preparation to the point that I finally started my training regime in all earnest. I felt brave and courageous and kicked off the training with my "lake route". It starts with a 2.5km walk to the Cove Park lake to warm up the unwilling muscles. Once there I attempt a jog (with a fair bit of walking in between, just so that I don’t overdo it) around the lake, together with some other brave, and somewhat fitter people. This is followed by a short rest where Koda, my Australian Kelpie, goes for a quick swim to cool off. Then we attempt to jog home, a round trip of about 8km.

Koda cooling off in the water

According to Koda, he is taking me for a walk

Unfortunately my training only lasted four days when it hit me. Shin splints. Now let me tell you, this is no joke. This is not something you ignore and all training had to stop immediately. To make matters worse, about a week before the big day I had to make a run for the train as I usually do and about half way up the station stairs I managed to pull a muscle in my back. My ability to compete on any level was rapidly deteriorating. Now I could hardly get out of bed let alone run and play touch footy! I popped a few Voltarins and somehow managed to get through the week and before long I found myself on a Virgin plane fast approaching Melbourne.

The big day arrived and typical for Melbourne, it was overcast and cold and wet. Ideal weather for hot chocolate in bed with a good book. Less than ideal weather in which to go running. At about 6:30am we strolled across to the registration desk and I was given my JDS shirt. As soon as I saw it I knew there was trouble. It was way too small for someone with a "fuller figure" like myself and it took some serious manoeuvring to get inside it. The previous time I ordered a large and my shirt was a little on the big side. This time I opted for a medium but unbeknown to me JDS ordered the shirts from a different supplier who used smaller measurements, and so I got a shirt that made me gasp for air. If I wanted to look half respectable I would need to suck up the my spare tyre, but in this shirt I had the choice of either that, or breathing.

The lake at Albert Park

After registration we proceeded to walk to the starting line, or rather all the hunks and sexy girls walked, while I waddled. Our 5km track would see us run all the way around the Alber Park lake, the guys who opted for the 10km run would do it twice. At the starting line I overheard two girls talking about different strategies, like starting slow and slowly increasing the pace to finish fast. The other then said she won’t change her strategy at all and will rather stick to what she did while training. I thought to myself, if I stick to the strategy I used while training I would still be in bed for an hour and then maybe get up to make some coffee. No, in my case I would have to change my strategy, and promptly decided on one where I would start slow and finish slow.

And then the race began. The mad people running the 10km race all got black numbers while the wiser 5km competitors all got red numbers, mine being 5229. My less fat but equally unfit colleague and I were swept along with the crowd for the first 15 meters and then we were on our own and had to do some running for ourselves. For the first 200m we maintained a rather nice conversation. Between the 200m and 300m mark we were down to two- and three-word sentences. After the 300m mark we panted so heavily that it took everything we had just to keep breathing. We tried hand signals but you can't exactly maintain an intelligent conversation that way so before long we were left, each one with his own thoughts. Mine basically consisted of two questions, asked over and over in my head. The first being a simple "WHY???", and that was invariably followed by "Can I please just walk?"

I'm still having trouble getting an answer to the first question. The second question would normally evoke a quick and decisive "yes!", but it's not that easy when you have a buddy running next to you. You don't want to be seen as the wuss who started walking after 600m, so as long as he kept on running, I would have to keep on running. Afterwards I learned that he had exactly the same debate going on in his head. If only we had discussed this beforehand, then we both could have walked without a guilty conscience or a bruised ego! But alas, it was too late.

Half way through the torturous run I looked up just in time to avoid some idiot who came running towards us from the front. It reminded me of that joke about the Free State farmer who had to drive into Johannesburg for an agricultural conference. The last time he was in the city was in 1972 and since then most of his driving had been on a tractor on the farm, so a trip to the city was rather daunting and challenging for the old chap to say the least. Fortunately they lived in modern times so his dear wife gave him her mobile phone, just in case. Later that morning she switched on the wireless and was just in time to hear a traffic report about a reckless driver just outside the city travelling North on the N1 South Freeway, causing all sorts of carnage and mayhem. She just had to warn hubby because this will just freak him out so she called him saying "dear, you must be very careful, I just heard there is a wild lunatic driving on the wrong side of the freeway!" Stressed and out of breath he answered, "there's not just one dear, there are HUNDREDS!", and with that my thoughts returned to the foremost question in my mind, of "WHY???"

And so we continued. When I was about three quarters through the mindless torture I heard someone approaching me from behind. It was rather disheartening because for every step I gave it sounded like he was giving three. He came flying by and as he passed me I saw he had a black number! Here I was, trying my utmost not to curl up in a little ball on the side of the road and die, and this fellow is lapping me! Not a motivation by any stretch of the imagination!

Finally we reached the finish line and I collapsed in a heap of pain and self-pity. It took everything I had to get up and return to the hotel room for a sandwich and to massage my aching feet, and then we had to return to take on our touch footy opponents. We decided to take a cab because none of us had much energy left or will power to face the weather, which by now had taken a turn for the worse. There was an arctic wind cutting through you and rain falling with more of a horizontal angle than vertical. After the run earlier that morning I was not up to much so opted for the flank position, which basically means that you run backwards and forwards the whole time with the odd defensive touch inflicted on an approaching opponent. What humiliation! At one point we cheered as if we had won the competition but really we had just scored our first goal, with our opponents well into the double digits!

Here the weather started to improve :)

By the second game my knees started to buckle and my insides felt like the inside of a washing machine. It was so wet that each step you gave went slosh-slosh and where there was once grass was now just a dark grey-brown sludge. With the third game, and fortunately the last one my ears started ringing and my balance had departed and I no longer had any feeling left in my legs. Just before the St John first aid van collected me we were done and I could start to crawl back to the hotel room. Were it not for the visions of a dry, warm, soft bed I think I would still be lying in a puddle next to the field. I was about to go when my boss said we should first go to a pub for a beer and some warm potato chips. To me that sounded like a five course banquet so eagerly accepted the invitation, and shortly after started to replace the lost carbs.

The next day my body sent me a definite and unmistakable message that it was not built for such treatment. Breathing hurt, not to mention coughing. Half crippled I dragged my body out of bed for a coffee before making my way to the airport. My left pinky toe, ear lobes and tip of my nose were about the only parts of my body that weren’t stiff and sore, but in spyte of this I am satisfied that the 2011 Australian Corporate Games was a success, with success measured by the fact that I was not admitted to either the hospital or the morgue. Now for 2012.

Australian Corporate Games 2011 Results

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