As I sit here, observe and acknowledge that I will never again have nice toe nails or even any toe nails on my big toes and – in the same synapse-firing moment look forward to 6-hours at Princes Park this Saturday, I realise I have just enough time between life and running projects to squeeze in a blog.
My work life balance has been flipped completely this year and I have been struggling to get the runs in, let alone get along to an event.
I’d already had to bail on Warby Trail Fest and the annual Frankston to Portsea run, I was experiencing some serious FOMO as my Facebook and Strava feed was bombarded by fellow pom Simon who is embarking on his own Ultra journey back in Blighty and the usual banter, excitement, trail running fun-ness from VUR, #Getitidone and the stream of running related sponsored posts.
But I suddenly found myself in a situation where I might actually be able to turn up on the start line at Maroondah Dam.
So I entered.
But which event, half, 30K, mara? “Fuck it!” I said.
“Go long or go home,” so the 50K it was.
Before I go on, a lot of this running stuff would not be possible without the help and support of my partner Sandi.
When NOT to attempt Parkour.
So Maroondah. If you are familiar with the course, or at least the hike from the dam to Mt St Leonard, you’ll know it’s a long way up, and it gets a little steep towards the end.
But I was in god spirits, I’d inadvertently recced the entire course (in two sittings) over the course of the previous 12 months and had a strategy for dealing with the initial climb.
My run strategy for summiting (walk the really, really big hills, but run where you can) was working and runners chats with new running bud Todd (who will now and forever known as Todd “who forgot to do the 3K loop a Maroondah) and a surprise meet-up with fellow Gidder Rihanna put me in pretty good spirits for the final ascent to the top of the hill.
Rihanna had broken ahead of me a little bit and a tree fallen across the track and momentarily slowed her down.
“Go on Rihanna, jump shot!” I shouted with giddy gusto – maybe the air is a little thin up here.
In fact, the air MUST be a little on the thin side because now I’ve got this crazy idea to put my recently learnt parkour skills to the test with a bit of a lunge over the fallen tree.
Spinning up to an uphill canter I execute the perfect Parkour lunge over the low tree and am on the verge of shouting “Parkour” and possibly insta’ing the entire event when, moments from touching the ground, my left calf cramps up, forcing my foot to snap straight out and I stand there, in some sort of half pirouette trying to force my left foot flat to work out the cramp.
Nothing major, just lots of up-hill and a little low on salt.
Top of the hill, now for some down. Tanglefoot awaits and it’s a breezy 3-4km down the hill to Checkpoint 4.
With my 3km loop lanyard to hand I begin the long slow march up to Checkpoint 5 and halfway, this section is a dream going the other way and I am getting a little hungry.
Hunger, it seems will be my downfall – poor race nutrition choices (no race nutrition plan) and only fruit and a dark chocolate taken on at the aid stations sees me in high spirits but beginning to wilt at half-way but I am spent by the time I have completed my 3km loop and am on the trail back to Mount St Leonard, I will get there before 2pm but it will be tight, the next 6km are a death-march towards cake.
The next hour is long, and slow, and cold, and wet, and foggy.
I haven’t seen another runner in quite some time, I haven’t seen a trail marker in even longer but I know I am on track, I begin to wonder if I’ve slipped into last place.
The clouds have not lifted and normally a run through damp, cloud covered ferms would be magical, a dream. And it is. Mentally I am feeling pretty good, physically I am feeling pretty good, but I am subsisting on fumes and anything quicker than a determined hike is impossible, even on the flat bits.
Let there be cake!
I arrive at Checkpoint 3 with 30 minutes to spare.
“oh no. where’s all the cake?!”
“yeah it was popular today, sorry we are out.”
Crushing defeat. I reside to coke and more chocolate. But salvation arrives in the guise of the chaps at Checkpoint 4 who are on their way back. They have cake, lots of it.
The nice lady at the aid station cuts me a generous chunk, I ask for a second and have to resist the urge to take the slightly larger remaining chunk instead.
I sit and eat and cake and coke does wonders. I feel energised and ready for the descent.
A long way back down
The road back down to the dam is not as breezy as I imagined it would be and it takes me 90 minutes to cover the last, largely downhill 10KM. But given the first kilometre of that is down a very, very steep, very, very rocky and at this point very, very muddy track – which took me about 15 minutes to get down, the descent was – on the whole – a little low but consistent.
Crossing the line, at a run, I jump across the finish line and am immensely satisfied with the digital beep of the RFID reader acknowledging my chip, mid air.
And I even mange to finish a solid 20 minutes before official cut-off.
Zero to 50KM feels pretty good and over the coming days, once my aches have subsided (two days later) and my big toe nail has fallen off (again), I start thinking about the next one.
Princes Park is on Saturday and I am in the 6 hour event again. The aim is to make at least 50km, the dream would be to touch 60km. It’s fast and flat so we shall see.
Definitely feels like I have my ultra mojo back.
I also learnt just how far I can get on fruit and a peanut butter sandwich.