Saturday, April 26, 2008

Alpine Loop the Lake

Last weekend I headed down to Nelson with a bunch of other runners, including my good pal and running buddy Ed, to tackle the Alpine Lodge Loop the Lake, a 25k trail race around beautiful Lake Rotoiti. I've run a couple of offroad races before, but this was the first *real* one. I've decided that no water on the course plus having to carry a checked gear bag with an emergency blanket and whistle qualifies it as *real*. I had no idea what to expect in terms of time, but set an arbitrary goal of 3 hours.

We all met in Nelson on the Friday night and, after a stop for Subways, headed out to St Arnaud, a tiny alpine township about 90 minutes away. We'd organised two baches for the weekend, one a Real Kiwi bush bach owned by my aunt, uncle and grandparents and the other a slightly flasher version. The mountain air was freezing and there was no time to get a fire going, so we fell asleep under layers and layers of blankets, sleeping bags, thermals and woolly socks. Others had the smarts to bring hot water bottles. Something to remember for next time.

Peanut butter toast and a brunch bar for breakfast, with a nice hot cup of steaming instant. It was crisp, but not as cold as it had been, so I left with only my race gear on, and my emergency thermals in my backpack. Another memo to self: buy smaller backpack. We collected race packs, had our gear checked and stood in front of the log fire at the lodge, then headed out to wave off our first starters. The race was staggered by half-M time, so Ed had a 20 minute head start on me.

I started a little enthusiastically, though it didn't feel that way at the time, and soon discovered that the cold I'd conquered earlier in the week hadn't quite gone. I felt fine, but it turns out that I rely on my nose for breathing quite a lot when running up hills. The first 3 or so k was mostly climbing on a gravel road, so I was feeling pretty uncomfortable by the time we hit the trail.

The first part of the trail was quite smooth and wide, and was the kind of downhill I felt I could really fly on. Heaps of fun. After losing all of that elevation we'd gained in one fell swoop, the rest of the course was undulating with plenty of roots and scree slopes to keep us honest. I was surprised by how hard the technical footwork made it, and by how hard it was on my feet (you may recall that I had plantar fasciitis last year, so I try to be careful of my arches). It warmed up quickly, but not so much that I needed to take my long sleeved jersey off.

I had ups and downs for the next two hours. Ran through several creeks, and one river that was up to our knees. I swore at the cold, but appreciated the brief relief for my legs.

The ups came just after this crossing when I realised I wasn't behind EVERYONE in my group, and when I started catching up to a few of the rabbits I'd lost in the early ks. I felt strong for a few ks as I leapfrogged with a girl in a red t. When Ed passed me, I was too happy for him to feel to sorry for myself, and I was having a blast. The other "up" was the fantastic view. I would have loved to stop for a photo break! I got a bit down from around 2:15 to around 2:45, with no idea where I was, where the finish line was, and with my tummy rumbling and blood sugar feeling low. That lake was looking really BIG and I had no idea where the "end" was. I think having the regular jelly beans along with the sports beans might have been too much of a sucrose high, and it dropped me pretty hard. Fortunately, I had dulche de leche luna bar in my pack, so I munched on that for awhile. It wasn't easy to drink and eat with my nose blocked, but boy that bar made a difference. I flew for a bit more, feeling strong and alive, as I passed slower runners from earlier groups, and moved out of the way of the speedsters coming through.

Finally, at what I thought was around 2:56, I passed a sign saying that there were ten minutes to the carpark. I tried to do some mental maths- "is that ten minutes tramper time? ten minutes little old lady time?" and tried to pick up the pace a little. Before I knew it (roughly 3 minutes later) I was out of the woods and my friends (who'd pretty much all beaten me home, despite the handicaps) were cheering me over the line. The finish line itself wasn't really clear, and I kept running past everyone until I heard Ed tell me to stop! Oops. It wasn't just me- the other Kate in our group stopped running before the official line, and we had to tell her to keep going.

It got cold very quickly after I stopped, and I put everything from my gear bag on. Tights, poly, hat, warm gloves and a change of socks. There was hot milo at the finish which was just perfect!

The banquet we'd paid $25 for was pretty disappointing. A couple of cold chicken legs and some salad. Given that it was for RUNNERS after a RACE I was surprised that there wasn't even any bread. Oh- and they'd under catered so we couldn't have seconds. GRR! Won a mug at the spot prizes, which I've been enjoying my coffee in all week. And found out that my official time was 2:59:28, so I'd just squeaked under- phew!

We enjoyed fries and beers at a local cafe, then headed to dinner at the pub. The tiring day and that country darkness meant we were knackered pretty early, and our plans of a bender went out the window when we headed home and crawled into bed at the grand old hour of 8:30pm!

It took me a couple of days to recover, but the legs are good now. I'm definitely keen for next year, and I think it's manageable, even with the Rotorua mary two weeks later (I'm planning a return to the full next year...)

Photos courtesy of Nelson Events


Pip said...

That sounds like so much fun! It's the kind of running I want to get into this year, provided my ankle continues to hold up. I love St Arnaud.

Do you have your Garmin yet? I love mine. It keeps telling me I'm running faster than I think I am!

Rachel said...

Sounds like a great run! I'm jealous, and I don't think that I could do it. Maybe one day, I'll do something that cool!

Steve Stenzel said...

NICE JOB!! Too bad the food stunk....

Kieran Mischewski said...

Sounds like a really good run. I've really got to get out and do some more off road stuff. Good work!

Anonymous said...

great job - good on you for going off road - that scares me a little I will admit - wet feet! YUK

Wes said...

Totally awesome :-) I bet that was fun tramping through all those wet streams and rivers. LOL!! Wouldn't be streams or rivers if they weren't wet eh? Running on trails is so much harder both mentally and physically. You did great! Too bad the post race meal wasn't up to par... Give'em a shot in the ribs and let'em know you are expecting steak next year :-D

Rachel said...

Wow. That sounds really tough! And kind of cold too!!!

JenC said...

Sounds tough but fun! Good times!