Last Saturday was my second trail race, and I had some moments of relative leisure during it to snap some pictures to show you.
There’s this thing, in the running community, called a “running report”. It is, in essence, a really boring-sounding term for someone’s pared-back-to-the-bone, honest, no bull story of their battle with the sneaky side of themselves that just wants them to go back to bed. But it should be a saga, a towering tale of victory or a lament for disappointed hopes or goals unreached.
This is my race report. My saga. My tale of weekend idiocy. It’s Saturday, after all, isn’t it? It’s a day for sleep-ins, and reading the paper over a big cooked breakfast, and watching old TV series on DVD, or knitting, baking, pottering, visiting with friends. Who in their right mind wants to get up hours before dawn, drag cold tech clothes on, drive an hour to some unfamiliar place and then wait, cold, nervous and awkwardly wallflowerish, before shambling, lurching, trotting or sometimes even running with varying degrees of pain, self-doubt and suffering, just to end up right where they started?
I learnt ages ago to never trust anything that goes through my mind in the first two kilometres of a run. That’s a good thing to remember but on Saturday, my watch clicked over the six kilometre mark and I was still miserable, regretting even dragging myself out of bed. There’d been a long, stressful descent featuring a terrifying combination of pea gravel (gravel of varying sizes shaped like peas), honky nuts (gumnuts the size of golf balls), and drifts of dry, slippery eucalypt leaves obscuring the ruts and protruding rocks. I was mentally exhausted from being so frightened of falling or worse, sliding and pulling a back muscle. My lower back was tired and my quads jelly from the constant braking with each step.
And then, as I turned away from that 6km mark and faced down the hill for which the race is notorious, I started to have some fun. The hill was hard, hard. It was a hike from the beginning. The parks service had cut deep berms across the trail to discourage the illegal off-road driving lunatics, but that just meant that we had to leap down and then scale hillocks of deep, loose, sticky, dusty dirt and rocks, then leap down the other side, hike a few more steps up the natural hill, do it all again…over and over. Finally, we reached the top. Then back down the way we came, getting serious air as we tumbled and jumped and bounced our way over deeply scarred earth littered with the dirty, shell-shocked faces of the runners who came after us. I fell only once, I’m pleased to say.
The final stretch of the run was purgatorial, my shoes filled with grit and cupfuls dust from the earthworks, combining with my sweat in my shoes to form irritating nubbins of gritty mud that scraped evilly at my feet with every single jarring step. I ran into the finishing chute feeling nothing so much as relief.
I can’t wait till the next one.