Friday, May 10, 2013

Race the Train (aka Solo NZ Running Camp Pt. 3)

So the last time I wrote about running, I had discovered a local race that was starting less than 48 hours after a 37-mile block of destruction.  I awaken the next morning to absolutely THRASHED legs, like "not getting out of bed legs," but hobble out to the street in my cute little shorts and awkwardly "run" 3 miles to "shake out," by which I mean feeling like an uncoordinated idiot the entire time.

The rest of the day is spent licking my wounds and psyching myself out for Race the Train.

Meet the Kingston Flyer, age 120

Sunday morning presents itself as warm and clear, and my legs are still totally shattered.  However, I had signed up for the race the prior afternoon, and those 30 bucks are not going to waste, so I drive out to Kingston (working the clutch hurts) and enter the fray.

Race the Train is in its second year, and it's a 12k cross-country race that comes with the added motivation of having a train chase you.  Unfortunately, you don't run on the tracks, so it's not a matter of life and death, which would make it way more cool, but it's still a neat setup for a race.  We ride the train from Kingston to Fairlight (fare included in our race entry fee), watching the countryside go by at a nice clip while the train belches black smoke into the ether.  I begin having visions of running alongside the train while it fills my lungs with Gradual Death.  Once in Fairlight, we scatter for a quick warmup before toeing the line.  My legs still really hurt, and my only idea of the course is what I've seen from the train window.  Eh, whatever.  Time to toughen up!

So it turns out that the train doesn't actually go THAT fast, and I hope I can say as humbly as possible that you're only Racing the Train if you're mid-pack.  If you're faster than mid-pack, it's a running race just like any other, which for me, means that I'm getting my ass kicked by -actual- runners while I lurch violently in the general direction of the finish line.

The gun goes off, my muscles shriek in protest like perishing wraiths, and the fast doods immediately disappear, along with a few others that I don't believe can hold their pace.  My legs have pretty clearly dictated that no speed will be happening today, so there's no way I can match the opening clip; I have to be patient.  The surface varies from packed dirt road to loose-ish dirt to shin-high grass fraught with rodent holes.  Within the first kilometer, I start praying for a broken ankle, as it means the pain will be over sooner.

No glory save for avoiding Black Lung

The leaders are long gone, but those questionable ones are starting to come back to me.  I'm working really hard, and my legs have strangely accepted what I've asked from them.  Resignation works wonders for the oppressed.

As the kilometers tick by, I learn that shin-high grass is surprisingly tough to run through, and also that tailwinds are only nice below certain exertion levels (which I am not).  Above those certain exertion levels (which I am), a tailwind is the equivalent of a superheated death chamber (albeit with nice scenery), which is cute and all, but also mildly unpleasant.

By the time the last couple kilometer signs come 'round, I'm spent, which means Good Pacing, and I've caught most everyone except for the actually fast ones (I'm 30s a km slower than the winner...).  I reward myself with a plunge into Wakatipu (yep, still cold) and hang out while everyone finishes; there are some awesome sprint finishes right as the train arrives.  The true winners in my mind are the 2 guys who ran with STROLLERS over that beat-up terrain and managed to not kill their kids in the process.

Awesome race, awesome day, and a good excuse for a thorough thrashing of the ol' meat kebabs!  Also, didn't get chicked :)


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