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From Marathon Training to Margaritas
Photo by Joe Harrison
So over the past few months in this column, I’ve been detailing the increasingly lengthy and masochistic trail runs in which I’ve taken part here in New Zealand. However, I don’t want to convey the misimpression that I am some sort of Nietzschean über-woman, knocking off endurance event after endurance event with ne’er a moment of human weakness, annihilating finish line after finish line with a deadened stare. To this end, I’ll now explain what happened in the aftermath of the Routeburn Classic, the 32km mountain race that I detailed in last month’s column.
To briefly recap, I’d spent five hours and 15 minutes running up and over a mountain pass, finishing the race around lunchtime. For the rest of that day I felt pretty rough, but, really, it’s only to be expected that you’ll be somewhat exhausted and dehydrated after something like that, and that your electrolytes will be seriously out of whack. I was still feeling pretty ropey the following morning, though, like a combination of being extremely hungover and suffering from severe jetlag. I stumbled into a cafe and ordered two cappuccinos, a plate full of eggs, bacon, toast, and hash potatoes, and a family-sized chocolate chip cookie, washed down with several litres of Queenstown’s finest tap water. More carbs! More salt! More water! (I’m sure the server just thought I was recovering from a huge night on the razz, Queenstown being the party capital of the South Island and all that.)
Anyway, I then nearly passed out at the bus stop, and one horrendous bus journey back to Dunedin later, I fell through our front door, said “I don’t feel very well right now” in a small voice, then slumped into a heap on the living room floor, faint and shivering and nauseous. Having run several marathons before, I knew this was not just normal post-race exhaustion, and indeed, it turned out to be some sort of unspecified viral infection, which I’m sure I would have simply brushed off under normal conditions, but after the exertion of the Routeburn it hit me like a freight train, leaving me laid up in bed for a week, weak as a kitten and with a resting heart rate of 90, relying on my roommates to bring me cups of sugary tea, and wishing desperately I was back in my parents’ house in Ireland. You’re never too old to want your mum when you’re ill!
Anyway, somewhat shaken and several kilograms lighter, I slowly returned to normal energy levels. I’d been planning to run the Christchurch Marathon at the start of June, and had trained for it for several months; however, now not only was I extremely unenthused about the course in question - 42km of flat tarmacadam seemed a rather lacklustre prospect after the mountainous splendour of the Routeburn - but I figured it would be quasi-suicidal to run a marathon only a few weeks after having been so debilitated. Furthermore, for the same weekend in question, some friends had planned a trip to a backcountry hut and natural hot pools along the rugged West Coast, which sounded far more appealing than once more running myself to the point of ragged exhaustion. “Well”, I thought, “that’s the next column in the bag anyway. I can just wax lyrical about the geothermal activity in NZ and smugly describe basking in the pools.”
Alas, when we arrived at the trail head, the car park was full to overflowing, which would have resulted in one grossly overcrowded hut, to say nothing of the hot pools themselves, and we didn’t have tents with us as a back up option. So! What to do when you have a Camelbak of whiskey, the constituent ingredients for backcountry margaritas, and five high-spirited ski-bums at a loose end? Answer: rent a cabin in a local holiday park, try and fail to find some roadside hot pools, go for some daywalks, polish off the booze, bounce on the trampoline in the holiday park playground, bounce off the walls, bay at the moon and generally regress to middle-school levels of maturity. Honestly? It was a far better weekend than running another marathon. There’s only so often you can push your mental and physical limits in the outdoors before you say screw it, let’s just have some fun. Sometimes you just have to cut loose for a while.