THERE WAS AN alien in my mouth, pushing to escape through a non-existent gap in my upper teeth. I could not speak. Cramp. Jogging along in a slew of fatigue while your tongue is wringing itself out is uncomfortable, and it gives you a whole new ‘something to think about.
Cramp is not well understood. It’s neurological. Caused by muscle overuse, holding a position for too long, dehydration, mineral deficiency, inadequate blood supply, or even a trapped nerve. We all suffer from cramp at some point. It hurts. On this occasion, I was 25kms into the run leg of Ironman South Africa and had 17kms to go. Not ideal. It next manifested itself in my right hand as I lightly held an imaginary butterfly between thumb and forefinger, a prompt I use to relax my shoulders when running. The butterfly died. Then an involuntary contraction of my right shin pulled that foot into flexion, and almost simultaneously, my left inner thigh rippled as another alien struggled to break out of my skin. I buckled and went to the ground. The victim of Voldemort’s Cruciatus curse, like a hapless spider under the hot tap, scrunched into a ball. I was also – my tongue paralyzed – unable to speak.