Plunging straight into the second of the winter trail series, I knew a little more about what I was getting into. But again I was a little arrogant, even after sighting the scary route profile, and I felt that I could better my time from the previous week. Enough with the arrogance girl! Just learn that trail running cannot ever be approached with the scientific calculations that work so effectively on the road!
We started the race with about 3kms of broad, easy trail even though it included a deceptively tough incline. As we approached the top of this incline, breathing hard and sweating harder, I spot a line of runners at a standstill. There’s a fence crossing here that only 1 person at a time can get over and I quip to the man next to me that it was kind of the organisers to include a race equaliser, allowing the slower runners to catch up and everyone to catch their breath as we wait our turn to cross. A woman in front of me comments that after running 10 Comrades marathons, she felt that little incline was much harder than the notorious ultra-marathon up-run and I feel somewhat better at having battled the way I did.
But I soon learned that this was race of firsts for me...for starters, the first time ever that I have taken painkillers and anti-inflammatories during a run. I never do this, preferring to listen to my body and allow it the chance to heal on its own – but then my ITB injury started to act up after about 4km’s and the pain was intense. Being stuck out here in the middle of nowhere, the only way I figured I could get back to the start was by popping some pills and forging ahead. This was as I faced the most monstrous hill I’ve seen to date.
I called it Leviathon. The name was inspired by a poem I remember studying at school, and the mythological sea creature but most importantly by the fact that this name was given to one of the guardians of the gates of hell. Because my friends, getting up this hill was akin to being in hell.
For the first time ever, I felt like puking from exertion (about halfway up), my HRM was screaming at me to slow down and I began seeing stars. All firsts for me, I’m really good at listening to my body and managing my exertion levels but the trouble is there was just nowhere to stop for a rest. As I looked straight up to the top of the ridge I realise we’re close to the top and I begin a feeble cheer, but the guy in front of me corrects me by pointing to the left and commenting, “Not yet, we’re going there”. My heart sank when I saw there was more of a climb ahead and I resolutely dropped my eyes to my feet and refused to look further.
Thankfully we got through the gates of hell and onto a ridge with a view that was nothing short of breathtaking. Ok, I realise, it wasn’t so bad, I could do it again I suppose....sometime in the future, but certainly not now! The rest of the run was just as gorgeous...technical single tracks winding through the ridges, down to a river crossing and even a suspension bridge, ending with a gentle run through the riverside growth and to the end. I ran out of water about an hour before I finished but I was running along the river banks so it didn’t bother me too much but that was a first too – I never get myself into situations where I could dehydrate, I’m just too organised for that.
I’ll admit the last kilometre felt like it would never end but it eventually did and I stumbled over the finish 20 minutes slower than last week. Another first for me, out on the road I have consistently improved my times (bar the one incident where I injured myself) even if it’s only by a few seconds.
And as I catch my breath at the end of the run, I realise 2 things – I can conquer Leviathon and any other monster that crosses my path, and that not everything can be planned for so it’s time to let go of my little OCD tendency and just enjoy the ride.
Here's a snapshot of the route profile...dominated by Leviathon in the middle