So here we are again, descending slowly into basket-case-ry, as the three-for-three, which morphed into a four-for-four, approaches rapidly.
In fact, it's six for six; six events in six weeks. Two weeks ago it was the Joseph Howe 160 km recreational ride. Not a race but a long club-run a la the Crest CC, with coffee and snacks or even lunch every 40 km. Nice. Last weekend, a complete change for the Rum Runners Relay, more in a moment. This weekend, currently sitting twenty hours to the start of the Valley ultra.
Rum Runners wasn't quite the way I wanted it. Instead of being with the team for the whole 12 hours, events conspired in a way that I was able to make my leg, leg #7, and only my leg. As I say, not the way I like to do either of the relays, but as the choice was to do this or not do it at all, this was the best alternative.
It was weird, waking up at 8 and knowing the relay had been on for 90 minutes already. I left town early to arrive at the start of my leg early. I think part of the early departure was that I was just so antsy, although I told myself it was because I didn't want to get caught up in relay traffic, be late for my leg and get a team penalty for bad parking. As it was, I was the first one there by about twenty miutes.
It felt pretty cold, with the rain and the wind. For the race it was going to be a tailwind, but for the warm-up it felt pretty miserable. I was glad not to be on the tech crew this year and deal with that for 12 hours straight.
As it was, I slowly stripped off, going from multiple layers to the racing order of shorts-and-singlet over the course of an hour; acclimatising after each layer came off before removing the next one. Still, I went for arm-warmers and a singlet at the start. I wasn't convinced i'd really need the arm-warmers when racing, but they gave the illusion of warmth, at least, at the start and they could come off easily if needed. Besides, we all know the one about being able to take it off if you have it but you can't put it on if you don't.
There's a picture of me at the start. La belle thinks I look mad. Come to think of it, la belle often thinks I look mad, often at her, when I'm really doing something else. I thought I had a greater range of facial expressions than Kristen Stewart, but apparently not. In this case I like to think it was focus. I remember shaking hands with a few of the runners before the start (Charles? Laura? Help me out here), which I don't think I'd do if was mad, so I'm pretty sure it was focus.
Our teams main rival in the drive for six consecutive relay wins was Oxford At Eight, OAE, and they brought their strongest team yet. The OAE guy is there in the blue on my right. I like to think he's looking a bit apprehensive while I look mad. Or focused. Or whatever.
I was on the front from the gun, with the OAE guy on my heels. I led the first kilometer at a good pace to get some room and see if he'd stay. He did. I pulled over after the first hill to let him come through and do his share of the pace-setting. Which he didn't.
So I dragged him over the hills.
With about two kilomters to go I was getting a bit annoyed with my passenger. In fact, I still don't know what he looks like because I never actually saw him on the leg. I could tell you what his foot-falls sound like but I don't know his face. So, I gave a little surge. Not enough to break away but enough to gap him briefly and see if he'd come back. Normally it takes three or four surges before the elastic snaps, but here all it took was one little jump and he was gone.
The Garmin says I did the last kilometer in 3:30, with an average of 3:42 for te whole thing. I think that comes into a 38 minute 10K if the course had been 700m longer. Cookie MacKily too this interesting shot of me just outside Chester, where my Gamin has me clocked at 3:30.
Note the excessive shoulder and hip rotation. Here's one in the eye for those who dispute the humans-evolved-as-distance-runners theory. The theory says that the ability to decouple the rotation of our shoulders (which themselves rotate to counterbalance the motion of the contralateral leg) from our heads allows us to run looking straight ahead without getting dizzy or unbalanced: a crucial trait for bipedal, running scavengers. Whereas there are many tasks in my life that a trained monkey could literally do, interestingly this most elemental of things - running in a straight line - is not one of them.
Next up, the Valley Ultra, This will be my 20th marathon, or should I say run-over-26-miles-with-a-dossard, and I'm not counting any other type of event. I don't include all the Sprint triathlons in my all-time 5K race count. One entry fee, one prize, one entry in the "done" column I say.
I'm all packed. Treating this more as a long training run; taking my Camelbak for ad libitum drinking, some salt tabs and a whole ton of Vega gels. Oh, and my iPod, I think it's going to be lonely out there.