With only four days to go until my 21 km leg of the Surfcoast Ultramarathon, I’m well into taper mode. Our team, Team Inspiration, is tackling 100 km in a four-person relay – my leg is the first. I am prepared, except for the fact that I had not yet tried out carrying all the mandatory race gear in training. So today, with my planned run between 12 and 15 km, I loaded up my Camelbak and set out to prove I could do this thing.
Well. Seems an extra five kilograms does make a difference. The first kilometre, I really wanted to throw that Camelbak on the ground, kick it, stomp on it, and abandon it by the roadside. I fought the urge successfully, and found my way to the Bayside Coastal Track. I was expecting the run to feel easy in comparison to my mammoth 22 km effort last week, but I’d underestimated the impact of the load on my back.
As I ran, the bag grew lighter though. I found if I leant into it, I could land more lightly on my feet. If I remembered running up the Morning Trail in Hong Kong, the little rises I had to climb seemed less significant. I kept debating within myself – 12km? 13km? 15km? My husband said later that I was kidding no one – I’d always choose the longer of the distances, regardless of what was going on. My reasoning this time was I wanted to convince myself I could carry that pack far enough; there was a spot I wanted to see again on the Bayside Coastal Track; oh, I just wanted to! I aimed for the 14km target, upping it slightly to 14.6 so I’d know I could do the final race in the Salomon Trail Series with ease.
When I hit the turn-around point, it was time to test my other new piece of gear – an AquaPak for my iPhone. The cool thing about this AquaPak was you could take photos through it, even use the touchscreen without removing it. Having swum up rivers with my last AquaPak holding my mobile, I knew I could trust the product for water protection. But the cool bit was trying out the photo option. And it was true – I could take photos fast, without removing it from its protective case. So I took some photos of my favorite sections of the trail, knowing I’d be unlikely to bring the phone up here for a regular training run.
This is the view on my trail on the way back home. It was a hazy day, but you can see a hint of the bay and the foliage that surrounds it. There are still remnants of drought-damaged trees, which remind me how lucky we are to have rain these days. The track winds like this for a full 17km, some technical, most not, but with twists and turns and tree roots to keep my mind active.
I continued on, feeling light on my feet after the rest and relishing the view I knew was just another few kilometres ahead.
Red Bluff. To me, it is a spiritual place. I stop there during each run, no matter how far I’m going, but always on the way back. I stare out at the sea, raise my arms overhead, capture the energy with my hands, and push it back down to earth. This simple gesture taught to me by a Tai Chi teacher restores me, no matter what is going on in my life. Then I stand and look: I’ve stood here in tears, mourning a friend’s death; I’ve stood here in elation, thrilled at the course my life is taking; and I’ve stood here to contemplate what to do next, how best to fulfill my mission of inspiring others. In the standing, the looking, I find my center.
Today it is hazy, overcast. I relish the differences in the view each time I come: the stormy seas; the blue-sky brilliance; the seagulls hovering over the bay. Today, the haze reminds me of Hong Kong, and makes the world seem slighter more insulated.
To the right is the beach, a sinewy coastline. By rights, I should be running there instead of on my coastal track, as my next race is 100% beach.
From here, I dance down some stairs, trusting my strong ankles, loving the bounce in my stride.
Knowing this is a shorter distance than I’ve been doing, I increase my pace, try to bring it up to my 10km race pace. This pace makes me move with more agility, land more lightly on my feet. The last few kilometres go quickly, my Garmin beeping at me insistently at each one.
Near home, I climb the big hill that is bigger today. It occurs to me I haven’t thought about the Camelbak in quite a while, that I have achieved what I set out to do. The fear of the event has dissipated, and I feel certain I can do it now.
Funny – 14.6 km seemed too short today. I felt somehow cheated, like I had too much energy left bouncing around in my body. I guess that is how tapering is meant to feel.
In any case, that is my last long run before Saturday’s race. I’m going to gather my gear over the next few days into a compact, cat-proof pile in my office. That will help stave off the bad dreams about forgetting things, turning up late.
I am one step closer to achieving this aim. Go Team Inspiration!