Sunday, February 14, 2010

Buller Half Marathon 2010

This is my third Buller. I am just a junior at this event when you consider my training partner and his brother were there for their 25th Buller.

This is an undulating course that can be challenging in the best conditions. Each year brings new stories and extremes that we all have to face and overcome. This is part of what makes Buller....BULLER. The atmosphere is amazing, this whole sleeply little town of Westport, all gets behind it and helps out. From pipe bands to pig skin drummers that all drum you in on the final straight. To people of the side of the road all cheering and egging you on.

But this year....this will be the year of....OMG were you at 2010?? in years to come people will ask with wide eyed wonder. This year was to be the Buller of the MOST EXTREME WEATHER. In the 27 years Buller has been run there has never been weather like this.

In the week leading up to Buller myself and Pete were fraught with injuries. Neither of us sure if we would make it to the start let alone finish. With both of us doing ZERO training in the last two weeks it was getting concerning. Then we looked at the weather forecast "Torrential rain, gale winds and Thunder storms" charming we thought.

Friday night we arrived into Westport and made ourselves at home. We took the time to ponder the weather and yarn with the locals. We then did the traditional Hague tradition....each person pays $5 and writes down their projected time for the event. Who ever gets the closest wins the kitty. My first time to be in this so I took a gamble. I was still optimistic and hopeful...I put down 2hrs 10mins & 36 secs. We chatted for a while about what to wear. We were reassured it wouldn't be cold and not to over dress. We headed back home to tend to our injuries and rub arnica cream to help heal.

Saturday morning we awoke at 6am to the sound of thunder, lightening and heavy rain. GREAT!! but it wasn't cold so I still opted for my normal racing top but decided to wear a jacket. Applied double Vaseline as I had not worn my jacket before. We ran over to catch one of the many buses that are used to ship us all out to the start line. How the driver could see was beyond me as I couldnt see out his fogged up window ..ha ha...We were dropped off near the start and had to walk down the start area. There is no shelter out there and the best I could do was back my self into a bush and shelter as best I could. By this stage my feet were soaked and I was cold and wet. Still an hour till we started racing. The weather was getting wilder and wilder by the minute. By 8.15 the wind had picked up and was howling along the gorge whipping the rain at you. 8.30 and the call went out to line up...walkers at the back. (try telling that to half of the deaf %^&^** that went out with the runners) any how....there is meant to be a 5 min gap before walkers head off but no one could hear the guy on the mic and we all had transponders on our feet so the walkers just headed out.

I was on the start line along with a few faces that were familiar. When I heard the starter say..just was all I needed and I was off. Ahead of me I saw a guy walking away (a rec walker) at great pace so I off after him and had decided to sit on his heel. I caught him within a km and I am so pleased I did as about that time we came out of the shelter of the gorge and crossed a bridge. A huge gust of wind caught me and threw me across the road and smack into him. He righted me just as another gust knocked over a runner ahead of me and threw both us across the road. I adjusted me stride and punched into it when the next gust came from the other side and nearly knocked me off the bride (a 20ft drop into a raging river was a tad frightening) lucky for me the walker (Micheal) grabbed my jacket and pulled me back up right. We continued punching into the wind for the next km when it started to hail. I felt like my skin was being peeled off my face. It hurt so much. I couldn't see as you couldn't open your eyes, people were running into each other and tripping up because of it. The wind and hail didnt stop until approx 5km into the race, but the rain kept coming. Heavy rain, that ran over your face and down your neck. At the 10km mark it was still me and Michael taking turns and leading the walkers. Both realizing that we were in different classes but both still wanting to be the overall winner of all the Walkers. (neither of us knew that a recreational walker had gone out with the early runners and would finish in 1hr 51) I pushed through the 10km mark in 61mins and was thinking to myself .. I might just make it in the time I wanted to. Then the hills loomed and I am no good at racing walking up hills. I tried to keep up with Michael but as I was pushing up the hill I felt the muscle pull in my groin and I decided to pull up rather than end up really hurt. It was so hard to watch him pull away from me but I knew it was a nice long down hill on the other side and yes I did catch him back up but only in time for the next hill and the same happened again. We did this for the next 6km's.
Passing the 3km to go sign never felt so good. By now the rain had stopped and I called out to the Race Walk judge could she take my jacket next time she passed. So she went up ahead and got my jacket from me. I also had my wireless MP3 on and as I pulled that off it caught in my pony tail, so Gillian had to run along beside me while yanking on my hair to pull it out.
I turned at the 2km mark and headed into the township. Michael was 50mts ahead of me and I picked up the pace to try and catch him. By now my groin was really hurting and so where my feet. Between my toes were really hurting and I couldn't figure out why? I didnt seem to be gaining much on him and it was starting to play on my motivation. As hard as I tried to push through pain and catch him, he was pulling away too. Finally at the 1km to go mark he seemed to slow and I did gain but as he rounded the corner to the finish he looked over his shoulder and was shocked to see I was only 20mt behind him and he took off. There was still 500mt to go and I knew it was too soon to start my I kept my pace hoping that as he entered the shoot he would see I had not followed and would ease up a little...which he did do!! as I entered the arch way I start pushing hard. I knew at the top of the walkway there would be photographers so I plastered a smile on my face and took off. I got to the end of the walkway and hit the grass finish. The announcer saw the speed I was coming and he made attention of it over the loudhailer, next thing the crowd and the people in the grandstand were chanting and stamping egging me on. I had gained 15mt on him but he just pipped me across the line by 3 seconds. I had pushed stop on my watch but was too nervous to look at it. They took my transponder off me and congratulated me for being first Women Walker and then I looked.................2 hours 11 mins 7 seconds. Whooo hoooooo how amazing was that. In those conditions to have taken 5 mins of my last years time and come so close to my predicted time, I was thrilled. Yes I did win the kitty as all the others were at least 5 mins off their times...both runners and walkers. Once my training partner rocked in and I wont mention his time, he broke down (got a flat tyre is what we call it) and had to "walk" back. He was very disappointed but as he said....Thats Buller for you. So it was off to the traditional pub for a beer and then home for a shower. Prize giving was not as big as it usually is due to the weather dampening it but lots of fun was had. An awesome BBQ after wards with a few wines and stories, then it was up early for the drive home so I could make it back to be with my hubby as it was Valentines Day and Our Wedding Anniversary.

Here is me with my eyes focused on the Recreational walker just ahead of me.

Here are the prizes ... these are the icing on the cake.


malvs2walk said...

Wow... what an awesome race! and reading your account, well I may as well have been there with the hail and gusty winds! You are my hero racewalker!!!

Tammy said...

Loved your report!!! WOW that was awful horrible weather. You are amazing! And your PR is now 50 sec better than mine --- way to go!!!!!!!! Congratulations on all your fine accomplishments.

You go, girl! :)

Glennis said...

Wonderful effort and in such weather as that! You were so lucky at the the bridge, you could of been seriously hurt there.

Mark Rhodes said...

Awesome result! I was there for my first Buller marathon and somehow managed a PB despite the hills and the rain. The tougher it is the more memorable!

Rob E said...

sounds like "fun"!
Only get high winds and rain coming from the sea in high bridges to worry about!
Happy to see you still improving as well, I am sure your short club races on the track will keep you sharp.
Whats next?

The Dad Who Walks said...

Great description of the event... I almost felt like I was there. I do admire your determination to push on through all that.


Werner said...

What an amazing race. I just got back from race walking 5 miles in 28 mph winds from the NE. Not enough to blow me across the road, but it still slowed me down some. I've only been race walking for about 5 months, but I can do 3 mile under an 8 minute mile.