I’m singing to myself as I run along the narrow trail: I am who I am, I don’t want praise, I don’t want pity…
We’re about 8 kilometres into this 15k event, and I’m moving fast, enjoying the flow of this single track for the first time in several years. I’m not sure if it’s my vision being better (the laser therapy for floaters has really helped me see the trail again), or if it’s because someone has dumped a heap of sand all along this once technical trail, and now it’s smooth and runnable. Either way, I love the feeling.
It’s unfamiliar, this confidence in my speed. It’s like finding myself as I was ten or fifteen years ago, feeling pleasure in descents, dancing a bit with danger.
We began on the beach, in sunshine. It was Race 4 of The Trail Running Series 2019 in glorious Anglesea in early spring.
It was easy terrain but hard running, as I pushed the pace early. My favourite moment was when I saw the tide was in, and that we’d have to scramble through the ocean to upper-thigh height. In normal life, I’d never do this; alone, I’d think it was nuts. But here, today, I laugh and laugh and run straight in below the giant cathedral-like cliffs, foolish and fearless and joyful.
The beach section goes for five kilometres, and then we scramble over some rocks.
This section used to scare me; it doesn’t today. Just as we hit the top, though, some guy smashes my arm with his watch as he passes and though he says sorry, I’m distracted, and turn the wrong way.
It takes a second for my brain to see the pink ribbon, to think, hey, that’s not green, I’m on the long course, not the medium course, and then I quickly turn back and get onto the green-ribboned marked medium course.
Phew! That was close! A few people had followed me, and I warn them, so we all got back on course.
I’d been pacing myself with a fit-looking woman in shorts, and now I caught her. I heard her telling a running mate she hadn’t trained on hills, so I lost her as I moved upward; I love uphills, as they allow me to make up for downhills. She’d catch me up again towards the end, as often happens. We were even caught at the finish line together in a photo!
A gel, a sip of water, running smoothly, climbing up and up. I know this course, having run here for many years but the trail had been smoothed and was easier than usual. Strangely, except for this bit by the Heart Foundation guy – I was too scared of tripping to high five him!
Details escape me now. I recall a water stop where I took a salt capsule and swallowed a cup of water at ten kilometres, and then we began to descend. It was easy at first, including some dirt road where I flew, but it soon became rough and more technical and I got passed and had to focus on myself and the song in my head.
It’s a funny thing – we’ve all got strengths and we’ve all got challenges. They differ person to person, but no one gets a free ride. It’s easy to have compassion for other people’s “weaknesses” but much harder to do so for our own. So I have to remind myself as I’m passed that this is my personal best and I’m not racing anyone but me. And I’m certainly better than last year, and this is pleasurable again and that’s what counts.
Of course, we get to the section by the caravan park and it’s smooth and easy and I put my foot down, zooming, enjoying my strength.
There’s a real risk of cramping though – I can feel my feet and calves asking me questions and I drink more and slow down a bit.
Silly me, though, I’d been thinking of previous years courses, where we finish near here, but this year there are two endless kilometres to go.
I can see the finish area but it’s like a mirage: it’s there, then it’s gone, then it’s there again, as we wind back and forth on little tracks near the river.
Finally, I see the finish for real, but my calves and feet are cramping so I don’t speed up.
The guy behind me does though, and nails me with an elbow as he sprints his careless way home. I may have sworn at him but I quickly let it go and enjoyed the finish.
What a buzz it was, with athletes who’d done 50 and 100 kilometre events the day before, with short, medium and long course finishers. Hundreds of elated, exhausted people, with souls lighter after their experiences.
I waited for presentations with Andrea and Dean, and was delighted to see Andrea get second in her age category, and inspired by Dean, who’d done the Surfcoast Century 100 km solo, as well as the trail series long course.
Another woman I’ve chatted with named Kim also got on the podium. I promised her I’d post her photos here. And here’s Jo who warms us up looking like a star athlete too!
I came fourth in my age category, which was wonderful, especially after I’d had a huge face plant the week before the race and was not sure I’d be able to run at all. That’s my Osteoporosis check done again: at 53 I can fall flat on my shoulder and knee and nothing broke – woo hoo!
An hour after presentations, I sit with Andrea and Dean at Morgan’s in Anglesea as we gobble down the best burgers and the best fries ever. Food tastes extra good when you’ve really earned it. We talk about families and homes and things we don’t get to chat about on training runs. After several coffees and lots of great conversation, I’m off to meet my family in Ocean Grove, feeling completely soul-satisfied and ready for school holidays. Life is a balance of action and rest, hunger and satiation, running and stopping to recover. I love how the whole town of Anglesea seemed to be full of runners, like it was a special town made just for us.
Thanks for a great event as always Rapid Ascent. You’ve changed my life with your events – back in 2012, I’d never run further than 15km; after joining a Surfcoast Century relay team, my world opened up!
The night race is in just two weeks – it’s always a bittersweet one as it’s the end of our beautiful series for another year, so I’m aiming to be fully present and joyful for each moment.
Thanks to Photos4SaleNZ for the great race images!