Report by the Cyborg
Have you seen the Crow? The Brandon Lee Movie from 1994? You know, the grunge Casablanca. Of course it was! But I digress. There is a scene towards the end where the already dead, but dying again nonetheless (no, really, you should see it!) Eric Draven grabs a hold of his nemesis, “Top Dollar”, (Michael Wincott) and passes on the 30 hours of pain that his fiancé, Shelly suffered before dying, with the words, “30 hours of pain, all at once, all for you”. That’s what the Mountain Run is. It’s all of the ascents, from all the runs of the weekend, thrown into one big concentrated dose of slogging up Mount Stromlo. Maybe even more. 180m of ascent over a 3.2km course...
And, sadly, this was the run I was looking forward to. I prefer sprints. I rather enjoy running uphill. (Note here that I say uphill. Not upMountain. UpMountain is just impossible, so impossible it’s not even a word!) Given the shorter course, I was also intent on running in my Vibrams, believing that my calves could now survive the punishment of running in them, particularly uphill.
When the alarm went off in the pre-dawn darkness of that Sunday morning, and I could feel the two-day burn in my legs arriving prematurely and the fatigue still lingering, I started to have second thoughts about this foolishness. Foolishness of trying to run up a mountain I can’t even ride up! Yet, somehow I managed to talk myself into it, got up and headed off.
Once again, the field was quite small, perhaps 40-odd runners, which was a very welcome change (though, a pack may have provided a better excuse for poor times!) Many were enthusiastic about the run, and I overheard some conversation about training runs up Black Mountain and Mt Ainslie. And they were looking forward to this run! They were smiling!
The run started at around 7:15 and the small pack headed onto trails to start the climb. I was enjoying the opportunity to run in the Vibrams. The fire trails had some larger rocks and uneven surfaces, but that didn’t worry my feet at all; and my calves were coping very well. I was actually enjoying the run! I may have even been smiling. My iPod died, and I didn’t even really mind (in fact, I was kind of expecting it after the day before), I just listened to the pad of my feet on the ground, while looking down at the view.
At about 2/3 of the way up, when I was just starting to feel really happy with myself, I discovered that my calves weren’t quite up to the challenge after all - I could probably do the 3.2km on flat ground, but the combination of climbing, and wearing the Vibrams made them lock up. I walked, and stretched my stride to get a bit of blood coursing through them again, before setting off again on another run. Unfortunately, I had to repeat this process three times on the way up.
But I made it to the top! I drank some of the water on offer, and jealously eyed off the bikers on the summit. If I had’ve really thought about this event, I would have turned up early, locked my bike at the top, and driven back down to the start. A bit of single-track magic would have been excellent fun on the way down (though, it could have been challenging without the use of my calves!) Unfortunately I had no such luxuries, and began the slow walk back down.
Then I noticed everyone else was running. Probably the same people who smiled before the run... So I set off at a jog. Now, I have to say, I don’t particularly like running downhill (okay, I don’t like running, but I like running downhill even less!) However, it was a much different experience in the Vibrams. Rather than that funny, losing-control feeling, with my toes digging into the front of my shoes, I would just lean forward, and straighten my leg to slow my descent. I had a quick, and most enjoyable run down (and my calves were actually feeling much better!)
Arriving at the bottom actually feeling relatively good, and able to stretch out my calves, the pack run was announced to be starting in 15 minutes. That was a “social training” run of 10, 16, 21 or 25kms. Runners... Barbecues are social. Beer is social. Running 10km is just masochistic. I stretched out my aching calves and watched in amazement as some of the runners from the Mountain Run jogged up to the pack and headed out with many of the others for another run...