Tuesday, April 17, 2012

One week - two races

Running post alert!

With the gypsy lifestyle fast approaching (more on that matter another time), I have been getting in as much running and racing as I can before we leave civilisation as we know it. Last week was a busy one with two races 6 days apart.

Monday 9th April was the Mt Helena 40 Miler and Relay. Forty miles is 64km, and this off-road race is run on a heritage trail that used to be train line, beginning about 35km east of Perth. I half joked to my running buddy a few months ago that we could do this in a team of two, so 32km each. Neither of us had run that distance before, but the jokes got a little more serious and we eventually agreed to register. About a week before the race my partner injured her leg and was unable to run. I was disappointed at not being able to do this race, but not as disappointed as she was at not being able to run at all. Some more half joking took place with an old friend who also runs, and after a bit of deliberation he agreed to run with me! So off we trekked at 5am through thick fog to the Mt Helena Tavern - the start and finish point to the race.

To ease the pain of 32km, we broke the race up into relay legs, each running a 14km and two 9km legs. My friend started with the first 14km, which he ran in excellent time. My first leg was a very shallow uphill 9km. It was still early and the sun wasn't too hot, so I went out pretty hard. Maybe a little too hard for what was still ahead of me, finishing the 9kms with a 4:50min/km average. I felt great, like I could run another 23km (phew!). I got in the car, drove to the next transition point and waited. My next leg was 14kms, a slight downhill out and a slight uphill back. Downhill was good and I ran fast, but things were certainly heating up. The forecast was 31C and it was getting up there. The uphill return was painful. I slowed right down and began to question how I would make it through the last leg, but told myself "just one more to go" and made it to the top of the hill, handed over our relay wrist band and sucked some electrolyte life back into me.

By this point Hubby and the munchkins had arrived to cheer us on. The babes played "running races" in the bush and hunted for bugs while I got ready for my last 9km. It was now after 11 and the sun was very high and getting hot. We drove to the start point and waited. I knew this leg would be the slowest. We were hot and tiring, but just wanted to finish! My friend arrived and I took off. My legs made it known that they were tired, but off they went until they found a rhythm, albeit a slower one that the first 9km. This leg was a mental challenge more than a physical one. My injured running buddy recently shared a quote she found in a running book: "your mind is weaker than your body". This is definitely true. It was my mind that made my legs stop running with 3km to go. Thanks goodness my mind also realised that was a silly mistake and 10 or so seconds and a good mouthful of water later, I started running again. I even managed to pick up the pace a little in the last km, and we finished a 64km race in 5hrs 24mins. That put out average pace at just over 5min/kms and we both ran at almost the exact same pace overall! I can't thank my friend enough for agreeing to run with me. It was one of my biggest running achievements so far.

So.......over the course of the week it became clear that my injured running buddy wouldn't be ready to do the 10km run of the inaugural Shoalwater Classic Olympic Distance triathlon on 15th April, that she had entered with two of her friends. Although not quite as fast as her, I took her place. I have been a club member for the organising club for the last 2 years, so running with (or against) my friends would be fun. Ten km may sound like a long way, but it's the kind of distance that you have to run really fast to be competitive. I find running fast very satisfying, but not very enjoyable. I hadn't run a 10km race since November, and I've come a long way since then so really wanted to give it a good shot. I thought I might be able to run sub 45mins (or 4:30min/km pace). The morning was perfect, the course was familiar (I run it several times a week) and the atmosphere at the race was great. It was really exciting. Our swimmer and rider both did great, and then it was my turn. I started off really strong. That first km was fast, and I was a little worried it was too fast to sustain. Of course it was, but it had given me a good start toward that 45 min goal. The course ran 2 5km laps, and by the end of the first I was hot and starting to doubt if I could finish strong (that evil mind again). My splits were all over the place but by about the 7km mark I tried to pick it up and keep it there. It turned out someone had moved the turn around cone sometime between setup and the start of the race, so the total distance fell a bit short of the 10kms, but I managed to run an average pace of 4:27min/km and ran the 5th fastest female time. Woohoo! Keep in mind some of the phenomenal athletes that ran faster than me had also just completed a 1.5km swim and a 40km bike ride (which I had not), so while I was super proud of my time there were some pretty spectacular people out there. It wasn't fun, it hurt physically and mentally, but I'd run the fastest (almost) 10km I'd ever run. Crossing the line with lots of familiar faces and familiar voices cheering was so uplifting. It definitely made the pain worth it, and I hope I did my running buddy proud.

Where to from here? The Perth 32km, the last race before life as I know it changes for a while. I'm still undecided whether to run the 32km distance or try to get that sub 45min 10km, another distance option for the same race. I'm sure whichever I choose, it'll be a great last race for a while, and I might even treat myself to a massage once it's done.

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