Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Three Peaks - The Conclusion



Most people reading this blog would have a fair idea of who i am and what races i've done over the years so would wonder why a race over 131 K's spaced over 3 runs would be such a challenge to me ?. I think it can be best summed up by the uncertainty, you get into a boat and at some point you get out and run you have no control over when that may be and in the meantime still have worries like "will i get seasick?" (i still don't know the answer to that one as i've never worked out what the symptoms are !), "should i be sleeping now ?" (an interesting question to ask yourself in the middle of a glorious day) and similar.
Normally when you do stage races the answers are easy, you wake, you have breakfast, you run and then finish, maybe have a massage but at least relax and then have dinner and then sleep and do all the same again, it may sound a bit like a treadmill existence but it's an easy rhythm to get into, races like Three Peaks are something totally different !.
Anyway we spent 22 Hours at sea the next leg, some of it was truly enjoyable lounging around on deck feeling like you wouldn't want to be anywhere else, beautiful sunny weather, great scenery and wonders of the natural world such as dolphins and albatrosses all around, but always at the back of the mind the thought that eventually we'd be off on - what was by memory (and doubly so if at night) - the toughest run Mount Freycinet.
About an hour before nightfall we hit Cole Bay, quick gear check and i was surprised to see Victorian runner Jane Sturzaker over as an official (back in 2005 she was the one who had brought up my name when a team was looking for a runner - i think i was thankful for that ??).
First 5K's was fading light basically long enough to do this easy road section in daylight, Clarence had got a friend to stow a couple of litre plastic bottles of water at the start of the trail as we knew water could be a problem here (going by run 1 the race organisers appeared to still have similar supplies out for runners as in previous years however this year there were twice as many so i definitely wouldn't have wanted to be last to start). Steep steps and paths sum up the start of the trail but at least it was downhill and we were making good time when crossing beautiful Wineglass Bay and were very thankful there were people at the end of the beach directing us on to the trail out and i'm sure much time could have been wasted here. From then on it was skinny, rutted, stony tracks as the mist rolled in (i know it makes it sound like some on Hammer Horrors Gothic Movie !), and the actual track to Mt Freycinet was simply a case of spotting and then following arrows not sure how much involved actually being on the trail with numerous times just clambering up rock faces and using trees. I'd remembered this was very hard in daylight last time, at night it was lots harder, but nevertheless we still completed the proclaimed "2 Hour return walk" in 40 minutes so had done pretty well.
From then on the difference of us two runners was apparent, me the lumbering runner never tiring but with no speed over technical trails and struggling by headlamp over the uneven ground and Clarence the nimble footed mountain runner as home on this ground and in this light as i would be on a road in the middle of nowhere. By the time we hit Davey Bay (the next aid bin), i'd had a couple of falls and was possibly a little shattered confidencewise as i seemed to spend most of my time recovering from stumbles, definitely not the place to be for my size 13 feet in dark.
Not helped by the fact that my Nike Humara's were falling to pieces by now, all the scrambling up rocks had made some cuts through the upper so they weren't solid on my feet.
In an attempt to make up time Clarence offered to carry my pack so i could run easier (for the first time in weeks i was beginning to feel the sciatic nerve again, not sure if that was simply because i wasn't used to running with the new pack or by its weight), which even double laden still put him quite a few steps in front of me as i huffed and puffed behind.
Finally back at the carpark (and the remains of our bottles of water) and i admit i was rapt to be back on road, still struggled up the two hills (sciatic nerve/back was a worry to me knowing we still had a run to go) and finally back in 6:42:12. Around 100 Minutes slower than we had set out to do, logically the night running added an hour but nevertheless not really a time we were happy with being 11th fastest and over two hours behind the fastest who'd done it in daylight.
Just happy to be back on the boat, a bottle of powerade washed down with a beer and then a shower and i was more content (don't know about the ego, not easy to hand the pack over and have a team mate run with two packs, but from a team result point of view this was the way to go). By the time i hit my bunk it was around 3AM and had a beautiful nights sleep, easily explained there'd been no wind and no tacking etc and ultimately we covered 20 miles in 12 hours immediately after. Lunch was delicious pizza (and knowing we wouldn't be running for a long time) washed down with a beer, if we weren't in a race i could live this life for many weeks !!.
We even had a fishing line out the back and ultimately caught a tuna, and for entertainment a pod of dolphins and some seals but despite all this it was hard to relax as it seemed like we'd be at days before the next run.
After a while i headed back to bunk for a lay down and again the little wind had so calmed down that we had the crew watching "Wild Hogs" on DVD, a film i'd seen on last years flight to the US but nevertheless something to take our mind of the long wait.
Finally after 20 odd hours we had sighted Hobart, but again the wind stopped and ultimately it wasn't until he had been at sea 26 hours that we finally hit Constitution Dock.
In the meantime the weather had worsened and just before leaving ship i decided to put on my goretex jacket as the rain was getting steady and at 4AM it was far from warm.
First 8K's or so are all sealed roads, taking Davey Road out of town, in theory ideal running for me, however nowadays taking 5K's or so to warm up meant i was keeping up with Clarence but my heavy breathing gave me away as not used to that sort of speed so early !!
From then on it was trails, and my incipient clumsiness, but many parts were quite runnable so was able to keep up reasonably well. Again for the sake of team speed Clarence took my pack for 3 or 4K's on the hardest bits of trail and soon enough we were headed towards the summit.
Best summed up as absolutely freezing and no visibility as we made our way to the pinnacle.
Was very happy when our crew caught up with us (in cars) just as we started to head down, not only was it great to see them but also Powerade was a godsend but most importantly their vehicles headlights provided that bit of light we needed to see the road. So for the next road section we simply thundered along making good time and were all fired up for the downhill trails. After that it was all relatively easy and we hit the road section as the sun was rising, not quite fast enough to catch the Launceston Apartments Crew (who started 10 minutes before us) but nevertheless a very fast pace (around 18KPH) so ultimately made it in in 3:06:18 within 40 minutes of the fastest time (and 5th fastest overall).
A cold beer, followed by some Captain Morgan Rum and i reckon i could have happily gone out and done it again, strange time to finish as the city was just waking up after the long weekend.
So in total we did 16:55:23 for our 131K's, which was 8th fastest over all (not sure this is exactly correct as some teams had injuries etc so possibly some teams of two were not the same throughout), not quite up to my 2005 effort of 15:58:52 but probably better overall considering all the running in the dark.
I basically spent the rest of the day walking around the city (enjoying being back on dry land) especially as 8AM isn't really a time i think of sleeping.
Back by 4 and a nap before the post race get together which started at 6.
Actually at 6 we had to move the boat (otherwise it would be in a locked position we couldn't access) so didn't make it till 6:30 and then found they had run out of food, so instead it was off to the Courthouse Restaurant down the road with our remaining crew Drew and Toni as well as Vanessa and Fay. Great fish and chips (i did have one oyster just to prove i could but really they aren't my thing) and then back to the boat and a good nights sleep.
Next morning one last run with Coolrunner Milov (Michael Lovric on Boat 25 Epsilon) and an easy run to Wrest Point Casino and return.
Certainly looks like i am the man to bring rain, by the time i got to Hobart Airport (by bus) it was bucketing down and ultimately our flight was an hour late, sure enough i hit Tulla and it's raining just as bad. With 4 hours to kill there was no point waiting at the tiny "Tiger Airways" terminal, so it was off to an Irish Pub at the Qantas Terminal, great nachos and coffee and basically killed time for two hours.
Couldn't believe it when i found that i'd now had 4 out of 4 flights delayed, my flight back home was an hour late !!!, interesting trip to the plane as the rain was so heavy they took us on a bus across the tarmac to the plane (and we then got wet climbing up the stairs !), still eventually back at Coolangatta by 9 (and it had been raining but thankfully had now stopped). Very pleasant walk home (sick of sitting in terminals and on planes) only made more exciting by a plastic bin burning in the park behind home (hopefully my one 000 call for the year).
So three days to recover then it's off to Waterworld Red Rocks To Coffs 45KM Ultra http://www.aura.asn.au/WaterWorld_RR2CH.html .
A huge thanks to Drew and all the crew Toni, Tony, Jules, Shorty, Royce, Alan, Simon and James and to my running team mate Clarence, interesting to note though maybe i was too well fed, started the race 67.2 KG and am at present 68.5 KG, obviously all that great cooking meant i spent too much time carbo loading while waiting for our runs to begin.
Note: for people reading this and confused i'm about a week behind blogwise ! there will be a Coffs Race report soon, but i'll admit that after my best run this year on Sunday i seem to have taken a couple of steps backwards sciatic nervewise, maybe i just can't run fast and stay injury free anymore ????

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