Sunday, January 9, 2011

Hares & Hounds 50km...Or was it?

Nic and Mallani gave me a lift down to this one for the 3:30am start. We were on the road at 2am, with some serious beats blasting to wake us up. I would have preferred a bit of Chili Peppers to psych me, but who cares, really.

On your marks...Go! We were off into the dark and the rain; taking Nics advice, I blasted the first 300 metres to the end of the road, to put myself in a good position when it turned to trail. I fell into a solid rhythm, feeling remarkably good, despite running in second. As the road widened, others caught up, and soon it was Jason Sewell, Dave Coombs, another fella, and I running four abreast up the front of the field. We blasted through mud, splashed through creek crossings, and burnt it up on the road sections. My self-talk was pretty mediocre; I was constantly telling myself that I was going to blow up. I went through good and bad patches, always staying within 50 metres of Dave and Jason, while we put a decent gap on the other fella from 20km onwards. At some times I thought I would have to stop and walk, and at others I felt that I could run at that pace for the whole race. Coming up to the school at Beerburrum, Jason told us that he was shooting for a sub-2:30 marathon in 2011, and that he had pulled an all-nighter at the casino on Wednesday, hitting the rum hard. If someone ever asks me what "Carpe Diem" means, I will refer them to him.
After going through the turnaround with him and Dave, and running another few kilometres, I started to fade at about the 28km mark. This was due to my bloody hamstring insertions flaring up and restricting my stride length; I felt like, without this hindrance, I would have still been running with them. The gap slowly got larger and larger, until they were completely out of sight. Then, with about 12km to go, as I was taking a crap on the side of the trail, here came Nic. I sauntered back onto the trail, running slowly, and almost resigned to the fact that he was going to pass me. On the one serious hill of the course up to the lookout, I ran a fair amount (but not as much as I could have) and power-walked otherwise, in an attempt to show Nic that I was stronger. It didn't work; he knew me too well, and just chugged along behind, eventually catching up and then passing me with something like 10km to go. Then, Jeff, the goth guy who was running behind, passed me aswell, and at the 40km mark they were as good as gone. I came into the checkpoint that Mallani and Libby were working, and Libby had a very concerned look on her face when she saw me running. She noted that my stride looked really restricted - that was the effect of the hamstring problem. I sang to myself and took in the surroundings, thinking about "Our Sunshine" the fictional biography of Ned Kelly, and how the surroundings reminded me of the Victorian landscape that Robert Drewe describes in this novel. The temptation to walk became greater and greater, but I resisted, largely due to my good fortune with the gradient of the course. I chugged along, frequently checking my watch to make sure that I was on track for a sub-4:30 finish. Just past the marathon mark, I saw an aid-station ahead with what looked like the 10km runners. I sloshed through the massive creek into the station, up to my knees in water, was helped by Mandy and then quickly set off for the final stretch. Passing and greeting the 10km runners coming in the other direction was a real boost, and helped me to take my mind off of everything.
Before I knew it, I was ushered into a right-hand-turn by Ian Javes (the race director) who encouraged me, and said that there were only 2.5km to go. I was flattered by the fact that he hadn't seen the four in front of me and asked if I was in first (maybe he actually said fourth, I dunno), and that he remembered my name! What a servant of the sport.
I caught up to a few 10km runners, locking in with Daniel, a PhD student at UQ who looked about the age of an undergrad. We had a good run and a good chat, pushing each other along. Before I knew it, we had hit the road to the pool, and I started to give it a serious nudge. It was 4:20 into the race; I was going to complete my goal of a sub-4:30 50km! "Come on Daniel!". Running past him, I held his back, to get him moving quicker. I got to the finish, thinking about some way to celebrate. I crossed myself (why the hell? You aren't even Christian!) and then did a swan dive that failed miserably, as the grass wasn't slippery enough. Handing my ticket in to the race officials for a final time just under 4:23 - 5th place, I was a happy man.
After having a feed and chatting to a few people (Trevor who won the 5km, Dave C who won, Daniel, Jeff who came fourth, Mandy, and the fourth guy of the initial group who had had to drop out due to hamstring issues), Nic informed me that the course was only actually 47.5km, due to last-minute changes as a result of the inclement weather. What? So I didn't achieve my goal after all!
Oh well, I was still really happy with that race. This was because, despite going out way to hard, I ran about 90% of the last 10km, unlike at K2D. This was probably due to the fact that I drank and ate plenty, it was run on an interesting and curvy trail instead of a straight road, which made it alot more enjoyable, and maybe I had a little more mental tenacity.
The people working the aid-stations were fantastic, so nice and so efficient!
Ian Javes, Bill Thompson, and co. marked the course so thoroughly, even in the face of the absolute downpour. I only doubted which way to go at a junction four or five times, and I/we (when I was in the lead-group) only had to sniff around for less than a minute each time to find the right way.
Special thanks to the Moloneys, who let me have dinner at their place and stay the night, before giving me a lift up and back.
The trail community, all of the wonderful people, are the main reason that I love to race.

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