Seriously, my legs feel worse than if I had just ran a full marathon, not just a half! Ahhh, but the reason being? It wasn't 'just' a half, by any stretch of the imagination. The reason for my achey-as-fuk-post-racing legs today is due to my last minute entry into the Kedumba half marathon down in the beautiful and awe-inspiring Blue Mountains, very close to Wentworth Falls. A couple of guys from the running group I've joined were talking about it when I met them for a hill training session earlier in the week, and well, I just couldn't pass up the opportunity! Sounded too good: a half marathon in one of my favourite parts of Australia, that was also a trail race half marathon and not the usual tarmac affair. I was in.
We travelled down way too early yesterday morning: my usual 4am alarm was shockingly reset to 2am and we were on the road by just before 3:30 am, driving down from Newy to the Blue Mountains via Sydney. We arrived there in good time, collected our bib and timing chip, along with a foldable reusable cup for the course (great idea!) and chatted nervously before the race. I say nervously - I wasn't nervous until one of the guys who ran it last year started shaking his head and mentioning 'oh the pain' that was to come. Hmmm.... Surely it would be ok? I sipped on my black coffee (the organisers had thought of everything: a café tent was on hand, as were a few portaloos with a steadily growing queue or other runners) and took it all in. I was so psyched to be there! Although, it was pretty farken cold that's for sure.
We set off on the dot at 7:30, after a short race briefing by the organisers, and we were off! Straight into a gentle UP hill - what the!? I thought it was literally 10.5km DOWN and then 10.5km UP? I was soon too hot, and discarded my mistakenly worn jacket (managing to find it later when I was coming back - result!). Soon, we were going down though, I didn't have long to wait. When I say 'down', I mean down. It was pretty steep in most parts and my calves started to hurt as I tried to slow my descent, not wanting to injure myself in the rush to get down the mountain. With every steep section down my mind was a mixture of: wow, look at the stunning, ethereal views (we ran through the layer of clouds at one point - amazing!) and: shit, we have run back UP this!?.
When we reached the bottom of the valley, the course flattened out and we ran along a pathway through a meadow and through a refreshing river crossing (up to my knees!) and then back across the same river to retrace our steps. Now the hard part would start, is what I was thinking to myself.
I actually found the second half easier, in some ways, than the first downhill half, as crazy as that sounds. I think I wasn't expecting my calves to have got so smashed as I ran down the mountain, so going back up was a welcome relief for them. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I could run parts of the uphill section too: hiking the too steep parts and conserving my energy for the rest of the race, but running the parts where I thought I could (and did). It certainly wasn't a PB for me, and was my second slowest half marathon (the slowest actually being my most memorable and best running achievement of being the female winner of the Great Wall of China Half Marathon and running a PW of just over 5 hours!) but I am thrilled with my time of 2:11! I had just wanted a time of roughly 2:30, but this was just a guestimate based on the professional peeps, the winning female from last year doing it in 1:47! Now, next year I have my time to beat: I will be aiming for 2 hours to 2:10. Because I am definitely coming back!
It was just such a beautiful and amazing race. Sure it was tough (it is actually listed as the 'toughest half marathon in Australia'), and sure I am now in a world of pain whenever I try to stand and walk anywhere, but it was most definitely worth it. There's no feeling quite like finishing a really hard race, and finishing stronger than you expected, AND having just ran through the stunning Blue Mountains in perfect weather conditions and on fire-trail surface (no tarmac and cars in sight! oh, save for the emergency car) just tops it off. Not to mention the veggie burger and cold drink (and copious fruit, lollies, water and sports drinks that were on offer at the finish line) that we found out were included with every entry - trail race AND a free burger?! What a perfect Sunday morning! Great company in the form of many other like-minded runners, and a very welcoming, friendly crowd and organisers, made this a very memorable and endorphin fuelled event.
Here are some pictures of the event, now excuse me while I hobble to the kitchen for some more leafy green veg and eggs! If you get a chance to run Kedumba, GO for it!!!