A 25km trail run. As I signed up, I said to my husband, ‘this is crazy, why do I want to do this?’. I had never run further than 21.6km and the elevation gain on this run was going to be over 700m. This was scary.
Even after training hard with a lot of hours on the trails, I wasn’t sure I would be able to do this run. Self-doubt is a powerful force. Standing at the starting line, I still wasn’t sure.
I’m a slow runner, I don’t ever claim to be fast, and it’s not why I run. As I’ve said before time and again, I run because I love it. My favourite places to run are trails, but all my long trail runs have been excruciatingly slow. To that end, I set myself the goal of finishing this event before the cut off time of 3 hours 40 minutes. This would be challenging for me. The first 10km was mostly downhill but the last 15km was a steady climb, with the most brutal part, dubbed ‘Doug’s Hill’ just after the 20km mark.
As I stood on the starting line, I was full of self-doubt, but I knew that if I kept to my race plan, I would be able to finish. Whether that would be within the cut-off time was another question.
My plan was to run 75% and walk 25% even in the early stages, so that I left some energy in the tank for the gruelling climb at the end. As I started off, it was so tempting to throw the plan out the window. Having everyone around me running full pelt at the start made me think I should keep up, but I continually said to myself ‘run your own race, stick to the plan’. This proved very useful in the later stages… but more of that later.
My gorgeous family turned up at four out of the five drink stations to cheer me on. This gave me an incredible boost, and I cannot thank them enough. I first met them 5km in at Greenhill Road, where they were cheering and waving ‘go mummy’! Nothing beats that.
The first 10km were fairly plain sailing. You would hope so, being downhill. I had also been working on my downhill technique during training, so I could move at a fairly good speed. I covered the first 10km in 71 minutes even with my walking breaks.
Down at Waterfall Gully, a few of us stopped to help someone who had fallen down. She wasn’t in a good way, but thankfully had someone with her to help her out. As we continued on, a few of us commented how glad we were that it wasn’t us.
As the ascent of Mt Osmond started, the sun started beating down a little harder, but I enjoyed the view of the city, sky and ocean. It was on the long climb up to Eagle on the Hill that I started to be glad of my run/walk plan. I felt strong walking up the steeper sections and managed to pass a number of people who seemed to be hitting a wall.
At the 20km mark, it was my turn to take a tumble. I landed well, thankfully, but my elbow was bleeding. I took a moment to wash it out with water, then started the climb up Doug’s Hill.
This was by far the hardest part of the day: a steep climb, requiring hands and feet to get up. Many people were stopping half way up (I also took a moment), and as you turned a corner, it just got steeper. I passed a few people on the way up, and we all acknowledged to each other how hard this was, and that we believed we could make it.
One thing I can say for trail runners is that they are always there for you when you need it.
Doug’s Hill had slowed my time down incredibly, so I knew I had to keep my pace up from there to the finish line.
There was another 4km to go, so I tried to ignore my bleeding (and hurting) elbow and kept up with my run/walk for the rest of the race.
As I came down the home stretch, my daughter and son ran the last few metres with me across the finish line. No better way to finish.
Official time: 3 hours 38 mins 08 seconds. 2 minutes under my goal time!
I’m very happy with my time, but most of all I’m feel a great sense of accomplishment. I looked up at the hills this morning on my way into work, and thought, ‘Yep, I did that.’