The day before the race has been all about preparation. I’m taking things very easy; the only time I leave the house is to attend the briefing and pick up my race pack (number, timing chip etc). The briefing goes on too long, but other than that everything is good. I look around the room at the real runners and feel somewhat intimidated, but I remind myself to stay calm – I’m not here to run any kind of a fast time, I’m here to find out whether I can finish the race at all. I head home and set out my gear for the next day – what I’ll wear laid out, my emergency supplies in my pack, hefty bags for Rhonda to carry to half way (drinks, energy gels, spare shoes and socks in case I need to change) and to the end (clean clothes).
Gear laid out for a 4.30am start
Drop bags. Spare socks and shoes in the backpack, change of clothes for after the race.
I cook dinner (stir-fried veges with tofu for protein and rice for carbs) and bake some potatoes (for fuel half way round).
I’m in bed by 930 and manage a reasonable night’s sleep, although I’m up half an hour earlier than planned – at 4am! At least that means I roll out of bed fast when the alarm goes off. It’s not cold at all, which worries me – I’d hoped for a dawn like Saturday’s, freezing cold but clear and calm. I shower (not for cleanliness but to warm up my muscles) and eat (plain bagels with peanut butter, for lots of simple carbs. I’ve tested this pre-race meal and know that I can keep it down OK even if I go running an hour later). I break a cardinal rule (“never experiment on race day”) by trying vaseline between my toes, hoping to stop blisters. Of course I’ve got sticking plasters on my nipples to stop chafing and bleeding.
Suddenly it’s 520 and I have to move – I start running as I leave the house, late for my 530 pickup. But as I’m heading down Sunshine a van pulls up: ‘Simon?’. I’d say it’s a fairly safe bet that I’m the only guy running here in full gear with a head torch, yes. I jump in – Pete is a runner from the Wellington Online Running Meetup group (WORM) who generously offered me a ride when I’d begged on the Facebook page. We head over to pick up a few others, and chat about gear, races, technique – the usual chatter of newly-introduced runners. My confidence that I’m in the right place drops when he tells me that he’s a former international mountain biker who used to race 24-hour races. I feel slightly intimidated. We pick up two others, one of whom I recognise from other runs, and head to Khandallah.
The Khandallah Park carpark is buzzing, runners with headtorches lighting everything up. I drift away from the others, not feeling I know them well enough to tag along with them. I spot a few people I recognise in the crowd, although in some cases only because I’ve seen their picture on Facebook. The people I’m actually looking for are nowhere to be seen. I overhear conversations in the dark – two New Zealanders in the top ten at Hard Rock, including the woman’s winner. This seems like a good omen….
Start of the race. Via Run Wellington