On Saturday, I finished the Roller Coaster Run. That was 3 days ago, and I’ve taken in a lot in since then. About how different I am to other runners, and how different other runners are to me, and how we are also all somewhat of the same mould. Then there are the stories. Many of us have a story, why we do what we do. Usually it’s not a boring one either. The boring ones are the runners that win. They have been running since they were kids, they have lived and breathed it all their life, it’s in their bones, in their DNA to be fast, elite, endurance athletes. I say boring in the nicest possible way.
Problem is I don’t want to hear an inspirational story about a bloke that has run for 30 years and placed 12th in the world championships in 1997. I want to be with and run with people that have decided to have a crack at being an elite athlete, or doing what elite athletes do, even if they are only 25% as good. Even though I’m starting from so far behind the blocks that I’m not even in the stadium. Hell, most of us are not even in the car park outside the stadium when we began our story of running.
Lifestyle choice, getting healthy, losing weight, grabbing life by the jugular and screaming “I’m NOT done with yet”, I am not ready to throw in the towel and become normal again. Because there is nothing normal about choosing to do what we did last weekend. To run up and down over 1000 metres of elevation for 21.5 brutal, uncompromising kilometres, is far from normal. in fact I’d say it’s a galaxy far, far away from normal.
That said, here is my recap from race day.
I woke up a bit before 5am, and knocked back a breakfast energy smoothie. I was ready, pumped, relaxed, I felt good. So excited to be racing with so many friends. And new friends too. Danny, Dodders, Sketch and Tanya, some are new to me but I feel like I’ve known all of them forever. I’m a realist and I’m a competitor, so for me, it’s a nice balance. I knew I would go out hardish, despite the warnings from those more knowledgeable that I would blow up. Know what?? I’ve only been running for a little over 12 months, and basically had 3 months off with health issues, so I’m still learning this game. I listen to what everyone says, then I filter it, and I learn from experience.
When we finally got the nod to take off that the start line – I always knew I wanted to shoot off near the front, it wasn’t a matter of going hard, I just seriously didn’t want to get caught up going downhill with the main crowd. I knew I’d get caught but it wasn’t about that, it was about doing my best, and I thought this was my best shot and doing that. Only Sketch and myself were at the front, but when the course went BOOM and dropped for 3km, I went wooshka and let my legs take me down, I felt really comfortable striding out downhill, chatting to a few guys that were doing the same. Again, I knew everyone would catch me, that was ok.
Dodds track was longer and steeper than I could ever have imagined – which is saying something as we only did it a month ago in a training run! My hurt was big at that point, and I struggled with the fact that it was only one third completed, with only 7km gone when I finally got to the top of that bad boy. Danny overtook me on the hill, after a couple of high quality low fives and I sent him on his way. My big right toe I could feel was cracking and was painful, I contemplated stopping and bandaging it up, but the pain plateaued and I sucked it up and kept going.
About the 12km mark I was… how can I put this… rat shit. Around 13km I knew my race was done, because my calf that gave me so much trouble a month ago was cramping already, so this was going to be a war of attrition. I don’t think I ever fully recovered from the training run to be honest. I needed my body to hold together long enough to finish. Even at this stage I expected that time to be closer to 2 hours 40. Lots of jogging then walking followed from this point. I kept looking over my shoulder and you might not believe this, but I was hoping to see familiar faces coming up behind me. I just knew that the juggernaut Dodders was plodding away and moving forward endlessly. As I got to the last 3-4km, turned back a few times and expected to see him emerging from the eerie mist that clouded the forest track. I begin to actually worry a little that he’d blown up worse than me, surely he would have caught up by now?
Finally, on another little gnarly hill climb I finally heard “Seige!” from behind me. Dodders finally caught up, I was so pleased. My race was done, and this has nothing to do with position, and everything to do with camaraderie and personal race times. Another small run of slaps and of low fives. I love those moments out on course. Sure, it would have been nice to have a second wind and take off with him to the finish, but when there is no wind, what can you do? I sent him on his way, he looked strong and I was proud to see him disappear into the distance.
Now I would have been happy to hurt and run along anyway – pain is temporary right? Except every step became painful, and every time I broke into a jog, I felt like my calf muscles would snap. My right quad felt like it was threatening to slip away from the bone, and my hamstrings in the last 1.5km were tighter than a Baywatch bikini. I tried to find a way to keep going, the only way was to slow to a crawl and keep stretching, if anything snapped I’d be unable to finish. Somehow I managed to get to the top of the mountain, one last stretch to the finish line and it was over. I didn’t want to walk. Suddenly I heard cheers, “CJ!” “C’mon Seige!” “Come on Chris, come on mate you are nearly there just another 100 metres!” Danny came out and ran with me a little of the way in the last 50 metres or so, it was the most painful 100 metres I’ve ever hobbled, it was just excruciating. I wish it wasn’t so painful, then I probably would have remembered it more clearly. I wanted to look around, look people in the eye, smile from ear to ear, high five a few, and raise the arms in triumph. But I was just so spent and the pain was just so intense that I missed out on that. In hindsight, it was probably my only regret for the day.
I finished in a somewhat respectable time after all that anyway, of 2 hours, 56 minutes, 24 seconds. According to my GPS, I spent around 20 minutes stationary trying to stretch out the cramp issues, so I left plenty out there for next year.
Two days on is the worst for muscle soreness, or as we are all too acutely aware of the runners acronym, DOMS. But 3 days on, I’m feeling much better. Still very sore, but stretching it out, improving a lot each day.
I now look forward to the Spartan 7km Sprint on May 31st, Run Melbourne half marathon in July, Melbourne Marathon half in October, Two Bays in January 2015, and yes. I’ll be back for more hellish punishment when I do the Rollercoaster again in March 2015.
I’ve been running for 12 months and I’ve come so SO far, and made so many great friendships. This is a journey worth travelling, despite the bumps along the way. It’s not like the crossroads I’ve been to before. At the crossroads, I could have chosen another vocation, a different sport, golf, back to cricket, or even nothing. I chose fitness and running. Now the road is long, and winding, and undeviating. But it’s full of bloody toll booths, and every now and then, you gotta stop in pay your dues, then get going again. So I got a pocket full of change, and with no end in sight, I guess I just keep moving forward, occasionally looking over the shoulder to see where I have come from, to make sure that I don’t lose sight on my friends who at any time could be in front of me or behind me, and smile. Because what’s the point of any of this, if you don’t smile?