Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Mt Wilson to Bilpin - A lesson in Trailrunning

Apologies for the tardiness of this report – I’ll explain later.


On Saturday the 23rd of August I ran my first Willy to Billy. It won’t be my last. The race is the best I have ever run. The volunteers are fantastic. The course is beautiful.


I ran a great race and was overjoyed with my time, but I have one rather dumb flaw in my preparation, which means there is some room for improvement.


The flaw in the preparation started the day before the event. Work was so manic on Friday that I didn’t bother making up Staminade, I only drank water. Then on the morning of the race I neglected to take my normal supplements, so I missed out on a magnesium tablet.


We decided not to go up as a family, so I drove up on my own. A familiar and somewhat eerie drive for me as I went back through the Hawkesbury region – the place that was home for so long. I’d left myself plenty of time, and stood around at the start chatting and eating scones. The ladies of the Mt Wilson Rural Fire Service make awesome scones.


The race started and I tried to stay with Belinda. This is easy enough on the flat or uphill, but on the downhill she took off like a woman possessed. It was then that I started to realise that previously I’d taken the downhills a little too easily, and that they were a serious opportunity to make up time you would lose walking up hills. A couple of times I tried to stay with her, but when a long downhill resulted in a 4:10 K I started to learn another important lesson in trailrunning: Run your own race.


So after 5K I was looking good on 29 minutes, and feeling good. 10K under an hour - still feeling great. Looking at the course profile it suggested 27K of mostly downhill, 7K of killer uphill and 1K of flat finish. I figured if I could go at 6 minute Ks until 27K I'd be in a position to really take it easy up the hill and finish well under 4 hours. By 15K I'd lost a little time and was right on 6 minute pace. I'd lost Belinda on one of the uphills and I was feeling pretty good. The plan was unfolding perfectly at 26K, which is about where Belinda caught me, sprinting down a long hill.


It was soon after this that the uphill started, and with it came the first sign of my folly - my calves just started to show signs of cramping. The next 8K were to be difficult. I jogged until my legs started to cramp, and the walked until they were back under control. On the whole it was OK – I was worried it might get very ugly, but I pushed through without losing too much time. When the uphill finished I asked how far to go at the last drink station. “About 1.6K” was the response. I looked at my watch: 3:39. 3:45 was gone, but a sub 3:50 was still a great time. About 100m later my legs felt a bit dodgy, so I started to walk. A girl close by screamed at me “You’re too close to start walking now!”. I started to make a feeble excuse about cramping, but at the same time I realized that she was right. I shuffled the last little bit to the end without looking at my watch.


Belinda finished about 100m in front of me, and when I saw her at the finish she was telling someone “sub 3:45”, which prompted me to have a look at my time – 3:44:55.


I couldn’t believe it. Obviously 1.6K was a bit of an overstatement. I was stoked.


It was then I realised why it is good to run in a race run by the Rural Fire Service. One of the volunteers came over to me and said “You look terrible!”. She wrapped me in a blanket and just looked after me for the next little while. I didn’t want to sit down for fear that I’d cramp up completely, but I was well looked after with lollies and warmth. People join the RFS because they like to protect people. When you run a race run by the RFS, they look after you. It’s a good thing, and I’ll be back.


Now, since then it’s been a wild old time personally. A couple of weeks ago I was asked to move to a different company within the group I work for. It’s been a great move for me personally – I’m working in a product area I really enjoy and in a small team where I get to be involved in everything. But I have been working very bloody hard.


I’ve kept up to date with training, and I suspect I’ll be able to run about 1:52 at the Blackmores Half on Sunday week. My plan is to stay with the 1:50 pacer for as long as I believe it is safe to do so. If I can go all the way, that would be awesome.


I did see a sports dietitian several weeks ago. The great thing about this was I took a food diary in there, and basically she told me that it was pretty good and that the only thing I needed to do was eat more vegetables and less cheese. It was good to get confirmation that I’ve been managing my diet well.