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Lightning Strike

Report by the Cyborg

Report by the Cyborg

Lightning Strike

Profile of the Lightning Strike
Looks hilly...

The Mizuno Lightning Strike run was a cross-country run which could be undertaken in either 30km or 11km lengths. Being the non-runner that I am, I had signed on for the 11km run. I also elected to wear my Mizuno running shoes for this event (no, you may not call me Imelda; I only have a couple of pairs!), as I wasn’t confident in doing that sort of distance in my Vibrams yet.

I did do some preparation for this race (apart from selecting an appropriate pair of shoes). Admittedly, it was not really “traditional training” preparation, such as actually going out and running. No, that would be far too obvious (not to mention time consuming and, well boring). I did some advanced geeky preparation.

First of all, I made a training program in my flash new GPS-enabled watch thingy. Given that I wouldn’t have Mr GPS or anyone else to pace me, I thought I’d leave it up to my watch (instead of myself, or some poor bunny I picked out of the pack) to do my pacing. It works like one of those heart-rate monitor watches, sounding an alarm if you drop out of your target zone. It seemed like a great idea. So I made two zones: a warm up for the first km, then my target pace (based on a series of complicated algorithms related to previous results, wishful thinking and the alignment of the moon at the time I was programming the watch) for the next 9km. Then I’d just run with what I had left for the end. Easy. Pacing done.

Then it was time to turn to motivation, and rhythm, for that I turned to my trusty iPod. I spent hours making a playlist, considering every track, and when they would occur during the run. Based on my times for previous 10km runs, I estimated this one would take me a little over an hour. So I put together tracks for an hour, starting out relatively easily, and throwing in the occasional song from a Rocky soundtrack just to boost me as I went; with some really good, heavy music at about the 1:10 mark (if I was still going then, I would no doubt be in a lot of trouble - and that just wouldn’t be the time for the iPod to shift into shuffle mode and play “Better Be Home Soon”!)

I got up relatively bright and early on Saturday morning to head out to Stromlo - the dim early morning light causing me to abandon my initial plans of riding (yes, it was the thought of having to find my bike lights, not that I was too lazy!) I arrived shortly after to what seemed a fairly empty car park, and found very few people around the event hub. Then I headed back up to the pavilion to wait and board the bus. That’s right, there was a bus to the start! None of this freaky car-shuffling stuff required at other events.

Robert De Castella in Vibrams!
I knew Vibrams were the go!

The buses duly dropped us off just across from Camp Cottermouth in a paddock surrounded by cows, and I started to have some serious concerns: was this going to be the inaugural Pamplona in Canberra? Deeks joined us to give us a briefing (while wearing some red Vibrams - that explains how he wins races; no, not the vibrams, the colour!) The course would wind up and through a farm, before moving onto fire trails, over the side of Mt Stromlo and back down to the hub. Easy.

A small field of runners at the start
There was only a small field of runners at the start.

The small field of 48 or so lined up and prepared, a welcome change from the larger events I’d been in of late. Deeks fired the starter’s pistol, and we were off: running uphill at a nice, steady pace. I started the flash pacing watch, and the iPod, and settled into a nice, easy groove. It was all going according to plan, and in such a small field, I had nobody to block my way; a clear path through fields awash with green after the recent rains, my rhythm matching the music in my ears... I was on my target pace and all was going well. Until about 2.86km into the race (or 2.5 songs), when the iPod stopped. Rhythm gone. I pushed on, picking a couple in front of me as bunnies to follow, while blindly playing with the buttons on the iPod to no avail. It became nothing more than a dead weight, irritatingly slapping against my thigh with every step.

Running through green fields
Green fields are much more interesting than bitumen!

Then the course moved on from the relatively gentle climbing path onto the "undulating" section. Most people would call it hilly. Now, I’m not sure what real runners do when they’re running, but in the absence of music, I tend to start an internal monologue, to fill the boredom and keep me going. You know, things like “Ah, just around this corner, you can do that...” Or “Oh, this isn’t anywhere near as hard as the Wild Endurance, piece of cake! Let’s go!” However, in the silence (apart from the sound of my thudding feet) my internal monologue rapidly turned into a dialogue. Various body parts were feeling quite disappointed that they didn’t have a say in this monologue; after all, they were doing all of the work! And it wasn’t anything so simple as my legs saying, "Hmm, Chris, this is hard. Oooh, is that another climb?" No, no, my body has many more discrete functioning parts than that. So, my ankles were talking, my knees were talking, my thighs were talking. Even my arms got in on the action. It was a very disturbing experience. And I have to tell you, my feet have some very disturbing insights!

Much to my shame, as I began to climb another hill with all those voices reaching a crescendo in my head, I had to stop and walk for a while. Though, it did mean that more people got to see the PANDSI logos on my shirt, so I was really doing my bit for PANDSI, rather than slacking off. Honest. Shortly after this humiliation, however, I climbed to the drinks station, where they had cups of water, and lollies. Much to my regret, I helped myself to two of each, before attempting to continue running up the last major climb of the race. Stomach camps quickly ensued followed by my trusty pacer watch commencing it’s beeping to let me know I was going too slowly! I had to continue walking for a while, listening to the frantic voices of my body aching, now joined with my stomach, as well as the insistent beeping of my watch.

Once the water had settled in, then drained out through sweat, I dared run again in a desperate bid to get my watch to shut up. It took another two kilometres of running to get the watch to agree that I was now doing a "slow jog" and therefore shut up. Slow jog. Who defines these paces? The path began to level out, and I began to find a stride again and settle into a semblance of rhythm, following a few runners ahead of me around bends and into the hub, finishing not quite exhausted, but only managing a short sprint at the end for a time of 1:05.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Always try equipment before an event!
  2. Don’t drink too much water at once!