I just walked up the stairs. Then I turned around and walked down them again. And repeat. Why? Because I can!! It’s Sunday evening, and I’m sitting down writing a blog post. I don’t know what I’m more surprised about; the fact that I can walk normally only one day after a 36-kilometre race, or the fact that I am starting to write my blog before the weekend has even finished!
I promised myself I would never do the CHIA Abel Tasman Coastal Classic race again with little to no training. I learnt the hard way in 2012 and still wince now as I recall the pain. It’s funny what the mind blocks out but also very vividly will never forget. I don’t remember the never-ending gradual hill at the start, I don’t know how long the stretch of sand along the beach was (although let’s be honest, sand ignites a whole new emotion for me now after six days in the Sahara. Still deciding if it’s good or bad.) And I don’t remember how amazingly beautiful the Abel Tasman is. But what I do remember very clearly is stopping with about three kilometres until the finish line, thinking, “I just can’t do this.” I did do it, of course, I did. But only five minutes after I finished, I swear the only way I could make my cramping limbs move was to walk backwards. And when I finally made it back to the car, I lay horizontally and moaned for the following three days.
So as I ran past that same spot on Saturday, with only three kilometres left on the watch, I may have done a small skip. And even a fist pump (don’t worry, I looked around first to make sure no one was watching.) Yes, my legs weren’t as fresh as they were at the start; I most likely wasn’t cracking negative splits as the textbooks tell us to (that’s where your second half is faster than your first), but I was still running and feeling good. I even had gas left in the tank. And, gasp… as I crossed the finish line, I could have kept running!!
I left Christchurch mid-afternoon on Friday with George, a friend who was also racing – a dream scenario for me as my car doesn’t have a radio so it would have been a very long and painful drive. Maybe not a dream scenario for him though as we used my iTunes mix on shuffle… it even got to the point where I’d hold my breath each time a new song would start, then I’d hear George do a wee chuckle as a song last heard on your parents LP would start up. At least the drive through the Lewis Pass was stunning.
The three boys doing the race too – George Acland, George Sinclair and Tom Inglis – picked me up just after seven in the morning (ok, so maybe a wee bit later) and we headed for Marahau and registration. “Are you wearing a skirt?” “Yes,” I replied. “Are you running in a skirt?” “Yes,” I replied. “So you’re running in a skirt?” Ok, so it was established that ‘yes’ I was wearing a skirt, and running in it too! And here’s why. After seeing pictures of myself in bike shorts during the Marathon des Sables, I said I would NEVER wear bike shorts in a race again. Camel toe isn't pretty, even in the desert. So I am aware I may sound slightly vain here, but I love my running skirt. This was its first outing, and I will definitely keep wearing it.
So back to the race! We were herded onto the boats that would take the almost 300 competitors from Marahau and the finish line on a 40-minute boat journey to Awaroa and the start of the race. It was a beautiful day and being out on the water with the sun streaming in got me so excited about summer! As we were one of the last to get on the boats, we hopped on a smaller one and got dropped off at the far end of the beach. Sand, oh sand, how I haven’t missed you! Ha, after almost a kilometre walk along the beach we caught up with the rest of the competitors, got the sand out of our shoes and made last-minute preparations before dropping our bags off and heading for the start line. After a bit more milling around and a team photo, we were finally given the race briefing and were off, with only 36 kilometres between us and the finish.
Our feet were wet less than a kilometre into the race, but as the tide was almost all the way out it wasn’t really an issue. Starting out too fast the last time I competed, I was conscious about getting caught up in the rush and doing the same again. But it’s amazing what experience teaches you. Over the last two years, I have learnt a lot, most of it being the mental game. Coast to Coast, rogains and adventure races and without a doubt the MdS, has really taught me that competing in events like these is 90% mental and 10% heart. Pretty much, keep your mind focused and p, and you’ll get through anything. And DON’T whatever you do, get the tune ‘ACTIVEWEAR, ACTIVEWEAR, having coffee with my friends in my ACTIVEWEAR’ in your head because that’s what happened to me and it almost bloody killed me! Maybe it’s actually a good strategy; one way to take the mind off the legs! Hence the name of this blog (also thought up while running along!)
The Abel Tasman Track is breathtakingly beautiful. Around every corner is another epic view, golden beaches, the smell of the manuka and crossing the many swing bridges and streams. I managed to get the camera out a few times, but more often than not by the time I had unlocked the phone and got the camera setting on, the view was partially gone and not quite as good. I did sneak a few stops in though (which were sometimes very welcome!).
The track is great to run on; wide without too many tree roots and mostly gentle ups and downs. We wound in and out of bays, popped out onto beaches and many times escaped the suns rays in the bush canopy. Four checkpoints along the way provided jet planes, bananas and water if required and as always there were friendly volunteers to cheer you on. I settled into a comfortable rhythm with only a few people passing me along the way. Occasionally I ran with others (always men), but more often than not it was just the track, the crystal clear ocean and me. Bliss.
I crossed the finish line in a time of 3.50 (and was handed a nice bottle of CHIA to help the hydration too) surprisingly five minutes slower than my first time but in a far better state both physically and mentally. It has reassured me that I am on track for Kepler in a few months (why oh why!!??) but it also put the sh*ts up me that Kepler would be almost the same as turning around and running back to the start!
The boys crossed the line together, not too far behind me, having developed a newfound love affair with Vaseline (apply to the lips first boys!) and Gu Chomps. George Sinclair and Tom had just increased their longest-ever running distance by at least ten kilometres, and they seemed far too fresh for my liking. A few well-deserved beers on a bench by the cars at the end (thanks to the wives) ended what was another fantastic race put on by the crew from Nelson Events. I know I’ve said it before, but if running is your thing, then make sure you do at least one of their races. I’ve even heard a whisper they might have something planned along the Heaphy Track. If they do, you can be sure my name will be on the starting list!