Monday, April 25, 2011

The Megalong Mega 36km Race

The Megalong Mega 36km is a funny race, it is an un-official race where no one records the time, you just turn up and run. So in the middle of the bush in the Megalong Valley about 100 cars of the most dedicated runners in the area turn and just run. Not entry fee, not drink stops, no time keepers. Just honest runners who want to tackle a section of the “ 6 Foot Track” as a training run  before the big event. The “6 Foot Track” will attract 10x the amount of runners in March. So this race is a nice taste of what is to come.
The race was meant to start at 7am, a few runners left earlier, as I said before it is an unofficial race, so you just take your own time. I don’t mind, I understand people have a long drive to get home, and it just gave me some people to run down.
It is a return event, you run down to a river for the first 7km on a winding rolling hilled single man track. When you hit the river you may as well dive in and swim, as it was up to my neck, so I free styled it across the river, attracting some amused looks from other contenders, as they all tried to keep their feet dry. You then climb for the next 4.5km an elevation of about 500m, you get a bit of a rest for about 2km before you climb again for another 4km to climb to an elevation of 1000m.
It was the first time in my life that I was able to climb continuously without walking. My strategy in the past was to walk and run, walk and run, pick trees, shadows anything to give me a goal. This time I just went out there and said, lets just try and keep my heart rate at 160bpm for the 4 hours, and then I will be happy with my effort.
I set a slow pace on the climb, let the fast men pass me, as I found a rhythm that I could keep up for the 4.5km of climbing, I then have rest as I ran down the hills. I am a strong descender, so any person within a 1km of me will usually be run down, even if they passed me on the climb.
So after a bit of a rest I made a deal with myself that I would run up all the climbs, and then I started to believe that I could run up all the climbs. It was such a great feeling, I had been out for so long with injury, second guessing myself only on last Sunday when I ran on the road and aggravated my foot, even the night before I  was worried about my foot, with the 42C heat my feet were swollen.
I thought about taking an voltaren, but decided against it as it would up-set my stomach more, and I wanted my stomach to be in top condition, as I had so many problems with it the last time I was on the Track.
The race is a 18km return, so it added up to 36km both ways, it is pretty easy to work out your position, the leaders run past you on the descend back down the climbs.
Initially I was running with 2 other strong male runners, one had completed the “6 Foot Track” 5 times before, he said to me that “I would not do as well as I did the previous year, I would run it 10 minutes slower”, I said “let’s just wait and see, I did a lot of walking last time”, “My goal is just to do more running, and it was only my 2nd marathon last year”, the other guy, almost beat me by an hour last year, truly amazing.
So if I could just stay in contact with these 2 guys, I would get a good time in this race.
The “super fast yet humble guy”, beat me to the top of the climbs by about 2km, I saw him descend in about 3rd or 4th place he was ahead on time as the other guys left about 10-15 minutes before us. The “know it all guy” beat me to the top by about 500m, he was easy to pick off on the down hill, I had caught him on the descend to never be seen again for the rest of the race, he ended up finishing about 10minutes after me. So if we go by his goal, I should run the “6 Foot Track” in 4:18 minutes, taking off 20 minutes from my time last year! In my dreams! His goal for the event is 4:28!
The leading female beat me to the top by about 1-2km, I was not sure when she started the race but it was before me by at least 10 minutes. She was a great descended, it took me 4km to catch her. But I was able to run where she could only walk and I stayed ahead of her never to be seen again, I left 13 minutes after I finished the race. So she finished at least 13 minutes after me.
I felt great, I had a water and glucose management plan in place, eat a Gu every 30minutes and drink regularly, I left 1.5L of water at the 7km mark, and took 1.7L of water to the top of the 1km climb and drank it up by the time I was 29km mark, just in time to collect my running belt at the river.
I was so concerned about running out of water that I almost took another 600ml, but the 3.2L I had was more than enough. The heat was not oppressive as it was the previous day, it even rain on me, and running through the cool mountain streams helped with my feet, keeping them nice and cool as I heated them up pounding down the hills.
At the 29km mark with only 7km to go I watch as the other runners tried to avoid the river. I am pretty sure someone was seriously injured, an Ambulance Chopper was called in to the river, and an ambulance passed me as I descended up the climb to the turn around point.
So with only 7kms to go I was able to run down another 4 guys thus improving my position. I recognised 3 guys at the finish and the “Super fast yet humble guy” was long gone so I think I came about 5th.
Job done, confidence restored, ready to hit the trails again when the DOMs clear from my legs.

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