I really love running. I’m not very fast so it’s not about winning races for me (although I do enjoy passing people near the finish line!) but it’s one of those times when I can really let everything go and just enjoy the world. I just completed the 28km Two Bays Trail Run and learned a little more about myself and experienced something completely new.
Two years and five days before the 2015 Two Bays Trail Run I could barely run for 90 seconds. After my first session with C25K (Couch to 5km) by legs hurt, my lungs burned and I was wrecked. I weighed about 108kg and was seriously unfit.
Over the next year, I slowly built my fitness until I could comfortably run 5km. It wasn’t all smooth sailing. There was injury and there were plenty of days when my motivation wavered. But I set some goals and persevered.
Over 2014, I built my training load. Despite a hectic travel schedule and some very trying personal circumstances I managed to build my endurance and pace. I entered my first two official races, learning plenty along the way.
The second race, a half-marathon, represented a personal milestone and was loaded with extra importance. By then I’d entered the Two Bays Trail Run. In order to run in that event I needed to run a qualifying half marathon. The time I needed was 2:15. I managed it in 2:06 – qualifying despite coming last in the race.
Preparing for an event like Two Bays is hard work. As it’s a trail run, it’s not just about endurance and leg speed. You need strength to climb the hills – and there are a lot of hills. The opening few kilometres are relatively gentle gradients up some residential streets before you hit the Two Bays Trail which works it’s way up Arthurs Seat on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula.
You need agility to negotiate obstacles like rocks and tree roots as well as holding your balance on sharp descents on loose, gravelly ground. And you need to power to climb the sections that are on steep steps.
When I do this in 2016, I’ll be doing a lot more strength work and practice on sharp descents.
Most of my preparation, after qualifying, was on building endurance. This culminated in a 25km training run on a very hot day.
After getting up at 5:00AM, I ate a carbohydrate-loaded breakfast (with pasta for the dinner the night before, I felt that I ought to be pretty well fuelled for the first few kilometres) I headed to the start line.
After the obligatory visit to the bathroom to quell pre-race nerves and to ensure that the need for an early pit stop was negated I was as race-ready as possible.
My race plan was pretty simple. Keep hydrated and fuelled up – I ran with a hydration pack and some energy gels, don’t go out too hard and enjoy the race. Despite the physical challenge of running 28km on a tough trail, I was determined to enjoy it as much as possible.
The first few kilometres were great. I felt strong. I went out at about the pace I wanted and, once the main pack hit the trail it was difficult to go any faster than a quick walk as the track is narrow and it became congested.
After a while, the crowd thinned and I was running in my own space with nothing but the light breeze on the overcast morning, the patter of footsteps a few metres away and the trees. It was peaceful.
At the 14km marker, some of us let out a huge whoop as we celebrated the halfway point of the run. For plodders like me, running is about both solitude and camaraderie at the same time.
At the 16km mark, something I’d never experienced before happened. I was totally at peace and happy while running. I suspect that if the race photographer had been nearby he’d have spotted some nut-case running with a huge smile across his face.
I’ve read about “runner’s high” before and I get the science of the endorphin rush but I’d never experienced it like this, while running. It lasted about five kilometres. The calmness, as well as feeling great, let me plan the last 12kms in my mind.
By this stage, I was able to break the remaining 12kms into three 4km sections mentally. After all – I can run 4km easily so it was an easy way to manage the remainder of the race.
While I was feeling good, I could attack the course (armed with another energy gel, the sports drink in my hydration pack and my mighty endorphins), cruise through kilometres 20 to 24 and push through the final four.
Finishing and Recovery
When I started my preparation for Two Bays, I was hoping for a sub 3:15 time. I didn’t hit that, finishing in about 3:27. But the time was irrelevant. I had such a great time running that I bolted (maybe hobbled is a better word) past a couple of people on the final bend to the finish line.
The Two Bays finishing medal is a great piece of bling – far better than almost any other race medial I’ve seen and it’s functional. The top is a bottle opener!
It’s fair to say that I was seriously fatigued at the end. However, my body wasn’t completely dead. My legs were sore but a walk through the water at the beach later in the day, some light stretching and a short walk helped.
The next afternoon, I swam a few laps and did some water running to loosen up.
Two days later, I had a massage with a local massage therapist, Dan Crofts, who had letterbox dropped an introductory letter at my house. He worked wonders. Now, three days later, almost all the soreness is gone and I can move with reasonable freedom. At 47 years old, I’m not as flexible as I used to be!
The plan is to go for a short, easy run tomorrow. The next few weeks will be about cross-training and having some fun with training before embarking on the Gold Coast Marathon in July.