Sunday, May 30, 2010

Xterra Race Number 1: A Race Report!!!

Wow, how awesome is it that I'm writing race reports again? Yes, it's true that I haven't been posting much here, but I am training again, and it's going reasonably well. For example, last Saturday I ran for an hour, on Sunday I spun for an hour, I ran Monday and Wednesday, did RPM on Tuesday and Thursday, did a weights workout and had a Duck session in Frank Kitts. Yesterday I ran for ninety minutes, which is the longest I've run in I don't know how long!

All of this has been done in the midst of some of the worst weather. There have been floods all over New Zealand. Wellington has had day on day of rain, freezing temperatures and bone chilling Southerlies. Somehow, however, I've lucked out and stayed fairly dry throughout my runs. I keep waiting for my luck to run out.

Yesterday the rain held off till we were minutes away from the end. The heavens opened up while we were having post-run teas and coffees and I fully expected that today we would get drenched. It continued to pour down all day and, after my run, I spent most of it on the sofa in tracksuit pants with a book. I did not believe I could possibly stay dry today. Against all probability, however, today was indeed rain-free. In fact there were even some blue skies. The wind, however, was strong and arctic.

I was signed up for the short course Xterra run today. The start of the race is only a couple of kilometres from our house. Given the conditions we were very grateful that a local school had agreed to allow us to use their premises for registration. As it was double the anticipated numbers signed up for the race, and we were all packed into a hall like sardines waiting for the start. The start was half an hour late.

The long, medium and short course races started about thirty seconds apart from each other, on Happy Valley Rd across from the school. Within minutes of going outside I was cold to the point of my teeth chattering. I was wearing a polyprop, t-shirt and windbreaker with a merino beanie. With my car directly across the road from the start I made a last second decision to ditch the windbreaker and put on my merino jacket. It was a decision I did not regret one bit, and the only time I got a little warm was as we ran back down the hill again.

The race starts with a roughly one kilometre run up a very gentle incline along the road to the base of the Tip Track. At the race briefing we were told most people walk the Tip Track, and this indeed proved to be the case. I have a new respect for my friend Jo who runs the thing! I ran the first 100 metres but then surrendered to the might of the crowd and slowed to a walk.

It took around 20 minutes to walk to the turnoff for the short course. The track was quite rocky and therefore not muddy, which was a small mercy. We were also sheltered from the Southerly. The track is very steep and my hip was hurting so I took it reasonably slowly. As the track snaked up the hill it was possible to see other runners (and walkers) far ahead, so it was best not to look, or instead to look down at the landfill below.

As we got to the turnoff we were hit by the full force of the wind. This part of the track wound its way along the ridgeline, with views out to the Cook Strait. The Southerly was whipping in fiercely and it was all we could do to stop ourselves from being blown off the side of the track. It was extremely exhilarating but the wind made my eyes water terribly so that it was also a little difficult to see!

The track turned into a mix of long grass and clay, deeply rutted and with young gorse growths that attacked and bloodied my ankles. I wanted to take the downhills faster but it was just too slippery and, after nearly going over, I resigned myself to a conservative pace. To add to that my vestibular disorder was manifesting visually by making everything jump up and down in front of me. This was disconcerting enough to slow me!

After a while we hit a gravel four wheel drive track and I was able to speed up a little. We wound up at some kind of signal shed, where we turned around and ran back up the track. The woman in front of me stopped about 20 metres of the turn around so I made it my mission to overtake her. I did so and never saw her again.

After the brief out and back the track turned sharply down the hill back towards Bata Street. This would have been a great section to have really opened up the pace but the gravel surface was more than a little treacherous. I zig zagged and chose my path carefully and kept my footing the whole way. It didn't take too long to get to Bata Street at all, given how long it took to get up to the ridgeline.

From Bata Street we turned right onto Happy Valley Rd again and ran down to Owhiro Bay. Here I decided to overtake a woman in front of me so put on a burst of speed. The last kilometre was flat, into the headwind along the coast to the Red Rocks car park. It seemed to take forever and I was ready for it to be over.

Finishing was rather anticlimactic. I ran over the timing mat and had my chip removed. We finishers were all huddled in the new display area in the car park, sipping on sports drink, sharing war stories and sheltering from the wind.

After I finished I found myself in an extremely good mood. I'd had an absolute blast. I had gone into the event not worried about whether I walked or where I placed. I'd enjoyed myself, I hadn't fallen over. I'd gotten out of bed on a cold winter Sunday and explored a rugged, exposed part of the city. This was an excellent race!

One of the Squad girls, Karen, gave me a lift back to my car and I drove happily off home. After a hot shower I'm on the sofa in my tracksuit pants again. The central heating is going. Hamish is cooking pancakes and bacon. There is cider in the fridge. Life is pretty good really!


Dusty said...

AWESOME!!! Congratulations to you for getting back to the life that you love!!! Pictures???

:) Dusty

Neets said...

Loved your version of the race Pip. Very happy you enjoyed it, and didn't put pressure on yourself for time or place. I presume the pancakes and bacon went down a treat and the fridge needs restocking for cider ;-)

Tri Saint said...

Way to go PIP !!! Sounds like a great morning. You Wellington bunch really are tough characters.

Great to hear you're back out there doing what you enjoy. It's been a while.