I thought I'd stick a race report in here (instead of my log) for a change - and my apologies for the length!
This past weekend was one of my favourite running races which is a night time technical offroad mountain race where you are required to run with a partner. The advertised distance is 15.5 km, but it is closer to 18 km (with somewhere over 1,000 m climbing). My fitness is pretty bad with only 4 weeks of consistent running (pretty disorganised before that) but I had a rather fit partner and my expectations were to be slow and to struggle to keep up!
I felt surprisingly good at the start but at two kms in there is an ~400m climb that is very steep, so it is important to keep the lid on before you hit that - so I was pleased to be running comfortably at just about 4 min/km. I really expected to be near the back of the field so I was very surprised to see we were in 2nd place by about the 1st km. The first place team was well up the road - and they are good friends and we knew they had their sights set on winning, so we happily let them go. The first few mins of the climb are on a road but after about 4-5 mins the real climb begins and it is a grovel! In recent years they have "improved" the lower part of the track so it is gravelled and non-technical, just steep. My partner quickly gapped me here, but I was able to keep him in sight - but I could see lights getting closer from behind which put the pressure on! About half-way up the "improved" track disappears and the track becomes rooty, rutted, slippery and even steeper - freakin' steep at times. Fantastic - just the way a race should be. I was finding it pretty hard going though! I kept my partner in sight, and on a few of the really steep bits I could see lights behind. I managed to hang on and not pop before the top and we somehow hung on to second place.
The next stretch has no long climbs but has endless short and sharp up and downs, bogs, big roots, dodgy footing, etc. Awesome.
I went to the front here and was running surprisingly well. As we hit the top a pretty thick fog rolled in which made running with head lamps on technical trails rather interesting... The fact that it was Winter Carnival in town and we had 30 minutes of booming from the fireworks display added to the ambiance.
Somewhere before 1/2 way is a check point, which if you have not made in 1hr 15 you get sent back down the hill for a DNF. I had been a bit worried about making this, so I was very surprised to make it through in 2nd place and in 40 something minutes. However, at this point is where the route becomes very technical and the track more-or-less disappears. You try to follow the track as best you can, but are reliant on the occasional orange flare (small circle) attached to a tree, to make sure you are headed in the correct direction. This part of the race is an absolute blast, but if you go in the wrong direction, who knows where you'll end up, and there are plenty of places where you could slip and fall far enough to hurt yourself pretty badly. At this point it became clear my partner's lights were dying... I had prepared for this occurrence (having run with him many times...) by bringing extra batteries, but in the pre-race rush I left them in my other bag! Ah well, that just meant we had to slow down some so he could see with my lights some - which was probably good for my legs. About five mins in we were caught by the team behind and they quickly dropped us. Think "Lord of the Rings" for this part of the track
hobbit size roots, big steep/vertical drop offs, roots up in the air that can trip you, trees that will clothesline you, and mud mud mud - so not much time to "enjoy the view"! but endless fun. This part was around 30 mins and near the end we could see the lights of the next team approaching from behind. uh oh...
The final stretch is single track with one fast downhill of around ~200m, a flattish twisty, magical and fast stretch, and then a 200-300m climb followed by another long descent. The team behind almost got us on the downhill cuz of our light issues, but I felt great on the flat stretch (this track is somehow special for me!) and nailed it for about 10 mins and they disappeared behind. As soon as the climb started I nearly popped and my partner passed me. I did my best to keep him in sight but he got a pretty big gap on me. At the top he slowed up (he needed my lights!) and we took the downhill hard, but conservatively - my legs were blown and he could not see... all the time I was worried we would be caught from behind. I had also hoped we might catch the team ahead - on an out-and-back before the climb I saw the had less than 2 mins on us.
The last ~2.5km are flat and on the road. I was gave it everything to see if we could catch the team ahead and we got close enough to see them, and then I had a melt down and we could not quite make it.
Ah well, at least we did not get caught from behind! So a podium finish and 1 minute too slow for a free pair of shoes. A pretty good way to spend a Saturday night I think
However, as almost always when I podium, it says a bit more about who did not
show up than who did
next weekend is the biggie - I hope I get some recovery before then!