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POINT TO PINNACLE 2015 – NOT QUITE TO PLAN, BUT WENT TO PLAN ANYWAY

December 31, 2015

So we come to the last hurrah of 2016, but what a way to go out. Why end the year with a boring pancake flat speed course (sorry City2Sea advocates) when you can spend a nice Sunday morning strolling up some 1270 metres above sea level to the top of Mt.Wellington. This was my second crack at the Point to Pinnacle, but unlike last year when I set myself time goals, injuries from Melbourne and the subsequent lack of training meant that the only goal was to finish.

At least this event caters for walkers and runners, meaning that there is no shame in a runner stopping to walk. When you encounter some of the gradients on the climb, particularly after the 14km marker, it’s very understandable that only the very best would run on the steepest parts. Certainly if this was a stock standard flat half marathon, I wouldn’t have bothered to make the trip down let alone attempted to finish.

After a seamless process at bib collection (even though some were disappointed that there wasn’t a shirt for this year, they got a running beanie instead) and listening to another inspirational tale from former cyclist Louise Padgett (nee Yaxley, one of the young Australian Women’s road team that was involved in a tragic accident in Germany 10 years ago) at the pre-event dinner, I actually slept for longer and better than I had before any other event this year. Not sure if that was a good or bad omen for the next day, but perhaps laying off the ice cream may have also been as good an idea as getting a good nights sleep.

Race morning dawned into a gorgeous morning without excessive breeze and in cool but certainly not freezing conditions. The target for the 3000 participants was clear for all to see, which I sure contributed to the bubbly mood at the start line. Everything was calm enough from my perspective, the layers of clothing gradually peeled off, I found a good spot to see off the walkers and for paraplegic Paul Pritchard in his special trike. My warm up was done with concerns over my legs seemingly gone, even if I had to dodge some others late in the piece. I had plenty of time to make sure my makeshift gear bag (my laptop bag) went on the right bus. Everything was set for a positive experience, and perhaps I would even get a decent time despite the low priority it had.

Just after 8AM the runners set off at a decent tempo. I was trying to run within myself on the hilly approach to the mountain, knowing that I would need as much grunt from my legs as possible. For the first few kilometres I stationed myself behind the 2:30 pace runner, although I dropped off the pace reasonably quickly. The lack of training came to pass I was constantly having occasional pauses on the approach to make sure my legs were in decent nick before getting back on the horse to go again. Naturally in most other races over a half marathon distance I’d never have to contemplate stopping and starting.

Despite all this I was going OK until about 13km, just as the uphill climb really took hold. As I was jogging between groups of walkers, occasionally stopping to inquire as to how they were traveling (the majority were saying they were “just going”) the knee problems that saw my efforts in Melbourne fall short resurfaced. I found I couldn’t run more than about 10 seconds at a time before needing a prolonged walking period. Fortunately with plenty of time to reach the Pinnacle before the cut off time applied, I was able to walk alongside many of the walkers on the way to the top.

Towards the very top of the climb I had to be cautious of the buses that were ferrying those who had already finished back to the Wrest Point. Communicating to other runners behind whose vision may have been obscured was an obligation I felt I needed to uphold. Fortunately I was able to reach the top with a clear road, and despite a slower finishing time compared to last year, I was still able to perform a cartwheel across the finishing line to amuse the onlookers.

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The sign says it all. If you make it it’s all worthwhile!

With the medal collected, obligatory snapshots taken and gear collected off the bus (it was with some reluctance that I left the warmth of the bus, despite the clear skies it was still a little cold at the Pinnacle), it was a nervous wait to see if Paul Pritchard would make the finish line before the time limit expired. Just as many of us contemplated heading onto the last buses back down the hill, and with a matter of 40 seconds to go before the time would be up, a lone figure on his hand trike struggled over the last few metres to cross the line and confirm his legendary status as a finisher of the “World’s Toughest Half Marathon”.

 

So with another medal now nestled among the collection the end of my running year had come. It may not have been what I had expected, in fact it was well below what I had anticipated. But with 2015 done and dusted it’s onward to 2016 to see what that year brings.

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