Sometime in January this year (I remember the night well - I announced my resignation from Telecom the next day) I was out with some of my colleagues and a couple of beers in, Dale and Kirsten said they were thinking of doing the Abel Tasman Coastal Classic in September.
Given it was
1. A few beers into the evening
2. 8 months out
3. I knew I'd have training time
it seemed like a perfectly reasonable thing to do.
The event is pitched as a 33km run along some of NZ's most beautiful scenery. Train for it like it's a marathon. Fast forward to last weekend, I thought I was in reasonable shape. I had managed a few 3 hour runs and was feeling pretty good.
The event kicks off with a boat ride to the start - worth the price of admission alone - it was stunning. Clear morning, dead calm - beautiful.
To make a long story short, I was trucking along well - got to the 21 k mark in a very comfortable 2 hours and thought that I should be able finish in 3 and a half hours. Genuinely enjoying the scenery and the track. I had been warned that you feel like you start going backwards around this point so I was keeping some in reserve. Around 2hr 40, I felt the first sign of cramp in my quads. No problem, I think, I'll take some water in and just throttle back a bit. No improvement. Still, no worries, I seem to be running ahead of the few people in front of me and they are not showing any inclination to pass. Km's seem to be clicking past more slowly now - I start wondering if I calibrated my footpod on my Polar correctly. Cramp definitely not improving. Couple of people pass me that I thought I passed 30 minutes ago - I am slowing up. Uphills I am catching people - can't keep up downhill or on the flat. Around the 30km mark, I think 'only 3km to go' but I can't see the end. Drinking like crazy, quads on fire. Remind myself not to stop and stretch - did this once before for sore quads in a half ironman which kicked off a cycle of paralysing quad and hamstring cramps. At least I can still move my legs. Scenery has turned into haze as I concentrate on running. I have to go under a fallen tree (translate: stoop slightly) - I stop to do it. 2 guys who had been running with me vanish instantly into the distance as I try to walk. Stop to shake my quads next to a guy who is carrying his kid on a daypack. I walk to get moving. He puts 20 meters on me while I am walking. I have to run to catch him. I say 'I am back on the wagon' - feeling like crap. 3hr 30 min pass - I am a long way from the end. At the 33km mark on my watch I know the end is still at least 2 km away - seems like forever. At this point I cannot run downhill - my quads can't control the descent. I am bitching out loud about the organisers inability to measure the course. Start to sense I am near the end - more walkers. I pick up the pace to run past a picnic site - I hear the picnicers talking about how crap I am looking as I *try* to run down the very slight incline with all the finesse of a man with two club feet. 2 guys roar past me yelling 'only 5 minutes to beat 4 hours!' I mumble something about them leaving the iron on at home, what's the rush. I see the end! Stumble across the boardwalks and cross the finish line in 3:58. I look like this...
I tell Arlene it's the worst thing I've ever done and have never been in so much pain - she is stoked, she ran her 12 km supporters run in an hour and 40 min. I think I acknowledge it. Longest run she has done by far. I eat pineapple and try and find a spot to sit while we wait for Dale and Kirsten. Kirst comes in first, looking fresh but worried "I think Dale died at Torrent Bay!". Apparently she prodded him all the way there and at that point he decided to take out a Muesli Bar and have a break from the prodding. She is worried that his flu has caught up with him and we need to send out a search party. While discussing this Dale crosses the line - he was sick of the prodding and told Kirst to p!$$ off or words to that effect.
Kirst says 'I thought you were dead'
Dale replies 'Sure didn't end up in heaven'
I question whether he deserved to be in heaven or not - this photo happens.
Probably do it all again next year. Officials have confirmed the race distance as 36 km - I feel a bit better.
Today I see that I could have won the Women's 50-59 division with my time - there is hope for me yet.