The good, the bad and the ugly

Many aspects of life give us highs and lows. My relationship with science, for example, suffered a bit of a hit last year when it was announced that a bacon sandwich, rather than being a fantastic occasional treat, was a carcinogenic nightmare. Conversely, science wormed its way back into my good books when a study from the University of Georgia concluded that a couple of long blacks prior to exercise could increase athletic endurance.
My training for the Routeburn has followed a similar pattern. Since mid January I’ve been trying to get at least one dedicated long, hilly run in each week, as well as a variety of other training. My first Routeburn specific run was a bit of a high. A 14km run from the Bullpen carpark, over Flagstaff and on to Swampy Summit, returning by the same route. After three days of solid rain, the sun had come out to play and as the cloud burnt off the views were spectacular. The thing that made it so good though, was a silly incident just towards the end of the run. I’d slogged back up Flagstaff on my way back to the Bullpen. I was just over the summit and  the helping hand of gravity had given me a micro burst of energy. I was (in my own mind at least) pinging off rocks and floating over obstacles, when I passed a fit looking elderly couple striding to the summit, dragging a brace of unimpressed looking teenage girls and lad of about ten in their wake. After the usual nod of acknowledgement, I passed the old couple, then the girls. The boy was a little further back on a narrower section of track, he clambered onto the tussock at the edge to let me pass and as I grinned (probably more of a grimace to be honest) and gasped “Thanks”, he dipped his chin in the tiniest of nods, stuck both thumbs up and softly exlaimed “Skills!” I was still grinning when I got to the car five minutes later.
Fast forward a couple of weeks and I’d had another big, hilly run (Woodhaugh Gardens to Flagstaff summit, with a couple of laps of Ross Creek thrown in for anyone familiar with Dunedin). Which despite torrential rain and near death from attempting to inhale a jelly bean near the summit, offered no real lows, but no real highs other than those ever present endorphins either.
In the days between that and my next big run, I’d been struck down with a rather violent bout of gastro, which my wife sympathetically referred to as ‘sprint intervals’. I don’t know whether it was some lingering effect of the bug, or whether I hadn’t got my fuelling right, or whether the Central Otago heat got to me, but my third big run, in Naseby this time, was just plain awful. I’d decided that I was aiming for about two and a half hours, and a run up from the town into the forest, followed by a couple of the 10km laps that the Great Naseby Water Race ultra-marathon is run around, then a trot back into town would fit the bill nicely. The first lap passed fairly well, my pacing (sometimes a problem for me) was pretty consistent and I felt good. Sometime around km #17, the wheels came off completely. I ran totally out of steam, I’d been making sure I kept refuelling as I went, but illness had obviously left me with less in the tank than usual. The last three or four km of the run were absolute torture. It was all I could do to keep my wooden legs turning over at a pace I’d normally find laughable. Back at the house I crashed on the floor for about half an hour before I could do pretty much anything. I barely had the energy to swear at my dad (who’s visiting from the mother country for a few months) when he started to tell me all of the things I’d done wrong and why I felt like crap (he has no athletic background or medical training you understand, he’s just one of those people).
Anyway, despite a rather nasty low, I’ll be back training again next week. Slowly upping both the kilometers and the height gain. Never say die (unless you’re dispatching zombies with a shovel, in which case it’s pretty much mandatory).