Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Adelaide 6 hour race report

According to the weather bureau, Saturday was to be the coldest day across the eastern part of Australia in 5 years. I was under trained, under prepared and had no plan going into the Adelaide 6 hour race. Hmmm... shit weather, shit training and no plan... sounds like a great idea!
At 6 am on Saturday 11th July 2015 a group of endurance runners from all over Australia set off on a introspective adventure into the limits of their own mental and physical endurance. Some were going to be running laps of Adelaide's uni loop for 12 hours and later in the morning a group of super humans would be testing themselves for 24 hours straight. Being relatively under prepared, I was participating in the comparatively measly 6 hour race. Well, maybe not measly, but definitely different and difficult in its own way. 24 hour and 12 hour races seem monstrous and terrifying to me but the 6 hour race is a whole different beast.
Setting off in the freezing dark morning I settled into a faster than planned pace but i felt comfortable. The first few laps of the 2.2km circuit cruised by in a happy but chilly haze of chatter and jostling for position. I watched the likes of Howard Norton (eventual 6 hour winner and record breaker) and David Turnbull (eventual 12 hour winner) power off into the cool dark morning on my first lap and found myself in about 20th place fairly quickly. I chatted with a few other runners and almost immediately struck up a friendship with a super gentleman named Kieran. Kieran and I locked into a solid rythm together at about 5 minutes 20 seconds per km and ran together for several hours.
After 30 minutes the heavens opened and unleashed freezing rain and hail upon us poor hapless runners. Cold and somewhat annoying but not a major annoyance. The worst part though was having wet shoes. I hate having wet shoes. It sucks. It makes your feet all pruny and sensitive. Running on wet feet can become painful as hell. Luckily, I had a spare pair of dry shoes and socks in my bag. I decided to wait to see if the weather would dry out a bit though before changing. Meanwhile, my feet were already soaked and hurting. Other than that I felt great.
The laps started to tick by, adding 2.2kms with each revolution, and the city of Adelaide began to come alive to a cold and bleak day. Other dedicated recreational runners arrived at the uni loop for their Saturday morning jogs, many wondering what the hell we we were doing. 'You're running for how long?!' Saturday morning football players arrived and started warming up and the Gibbons at the nearby Adelaide zoo awoke and started to make a raucous cacophony of noise. Clearly they thought we were crazy too.
As I approached the 33km (just after 3 hours) mark my soggy feet were becoming unbearably sore and it looked like the sun was actually  coming out so I decided to stop and change into my lovely dry shoes. Putting on my dry shoes and socks was like wrapping myself in a warm, cosy blanket. Immediately my feet felt better and I felt more comfortable running. Happy days.
Things were looking good, weatherwise, for approximately 6 minutes 45 seconds after I changed my shoes. Unfortunately, about half a lap after I changed my shoes and socks the sky opened up yet again and unleashed more hail and rain than earlier in the morning. So, my shoes and socks were wet. Again. Shit.
Despite my soggy painful feet I ran on. Lap after lap after lap. The supportive crowd in 'tent city' were awesome. After each lap they cheered each and every runner, be they fast or slow. The crew of excellent people supporting Howard Norton became my unofficial crew after I asked if I could drop my gear in their marquee in order to keep it dry. Without needing to be asked they did everything to keep me moving. Getting me food and drink, offering me loads of moral support and going so far as to offer me the shirt off their back when I was soaked through and freezing. I feel terrible but as I sit here writing this I cannot remember their names. Hopefully I will learn their names soon. I'll say this though, if you need any evidence of the kindness and generosity of the Adelaide running community it is abundant with this small but excellent crew, something that is not uncommon at every Yumigo event. I am forever grateful to them and will go out of my way to repay the favour next time I see them.

I moved through the 4 hour mark and hit the marathon distance of 42km. This was one goal I wanted to achieve and it was at this point I started to feel really tired and sore. My lack of preparation was beginning to show its ugly face. Negative thoughts began to invade my mind. I started the all too familiar 'bargaining ' that I do when I am tired. It goes like this. 'Well, I HAVE run a marathon, who cares if I only go another couple of laps. If I hit fifty kms I'll be happy ' .
Resigned to knocking out 8 more kilometres over the next hour and a half I started taking walk breaks. 50 kilometres. 'That'll do pig, that'll do,' I thought. For the next 30 minutes or so I struggled around the loop like an invalid on valium. Hobbling, limping, bent over, whinging. I happily told people that I was exhausted  and couldn't be bothered to run much more especially in this shitty weather. Then I started to do some maths. I figured out that it was very possible that I could still get close to 60 kilometres if I picked up the pace again. Very close. So I crammed a few gels, some potato chips and some Gatorade down my throat and resolved to run my butt off.
I believe they call it a second wind (in this case a third or fourth wind seems more appropriate) and it propelled me around the track. I decided I was not going to walk, chat or eat for the last hour of this race. I was suddenly desperate for 60kms. My posture improved and I pretended like my soggy feet were not my own. After each lap the numerous supporters were cheering and telling me I was looking better than ever. So I  pushed harder.
53 kms - 34 minutes left. 55.5kms - 22 minutes left... so close yet so far. The final time I passed through the start finish area the exceptional race director and all round top bloke, Ben Hocking, handed me a small bean bag with my name and bib number on it. I was to drop it exactly where I was standing the moment the finish siren sounded. I had about 7 and a half minutes to run 2.5 kms in order to crack 60km. On a good day where I hadn't already ran 57+kms I may have had a chance. But not today. The siren sounded and I happily dropped my bean bag and let out a Woot! 59kms (according to my GPS. I'm still waiting on my official distance)! I was over the moon with my run and couldn't have been happier.
It was such an exhilarating feeling running an event like this and I am grateful for the support that I received along the way from other runners, my unofficial support crew, my friends that came to cheer me on and my wonderful wife and two little girls who arrived to cheer me on my second last lap (perfect timing).
I recommend this race to anyone who wants to test themselves physically and mentally if you want to have fun. Well done to Ben from Yumigo on putting together a spectacular event. I will definitely be there next year.