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Pain without End.........
by Denis Oakley in

Running, walking and crawling are the only forms of locomotion allowed in an Ironman. I have never crawled in an ironman but this weekend I crawled on the Climathon.

A 4am start and a short drive to the start with an awesome red sunrise gave me the only view of the mountain that I had over the weekend. Big.

The start was on tarmac road and with a 30% gradient I gave all the speed freaks a chance and plodded up at my on pace. After some hill running practice over the last month or so I knew that the critical thing to stop blowing up was my heart rate; so I had 2 rules. 1/ keep my heart rate low enough. 2/ Never stop.

After a few minutes we left the tarmac as we went through the park gate and down onto a trail though the jungle. It was pleasantly cool and after a few minutes we left the last of the flat behind us. The trail varied between 20% uphill and 20%+ steps. Either plain wooden steps with a handrail, earth steps with a wooden lip (teak!) or rocky boulder kind of steps. These were fun for a bit.

We went up steps past the 0.5km mark, the 1 kilometre mark, the 2 kilometre mark ... are you getting the idea yet? There as no flat. There was no downhill. There was, after a while no path without steps. Still the main concern was my HR and this was now starting to settle at  160 and I as slowly overtaking people who'd started off too fast and now had to rest to catch their breath, or were just going slower.

We kept climbing and looking at my atch it seemed unlikley that I'd make the summit in 2 1/2 hours, then implausible and then impossible, It wasn't the point really any more. My legs were still strong but my calf muscles were starting to pre-cramp and I appeared to have had a second heart inside my head as all I could hear was "Thump. Thump. Thump." My speed as slowly dropping as the effects of the altitude started to kick in. There was now a heavy mist and on most of the step sections I was using the rail as an additional support.

By kilometre 7 (the summit was at 8.72km) I was having to pull myself up the stairs with both hands but I didn't stop and my heart rate was ok. I stoped to pull a T-shirt on over my Tri suit and then half an hour later my ultra-lightweight waterproof (40g) as the mist started to turn into cold rain. Life as pretty miserable but I felt that I was still strong and had more to give. I just couldn't move that fast.

Alas the I came round the corner to the checkpoint before the ropes going up onto the mountain top and the sign said 'race closed'. Gutted, not suprised, relieved and really proud of what I'd done. In 2 1/2 hours I'd climbed about 1800m or 6000'. Mind you the winner had already finished by then :)

Then the pain began :) Going up hill was one thing - but I discovered that my quads had a dislike of going down hill. Especially going down steps. Each step as a pain and I could feel a red band of pain round each thigh on a persistent basis. Going down hill is quick. Going down hill 7km over steps is really painful and it takes a long time even if you are going don faster than you came up. It was absolute misery - the only theing that made it bearable was a Sabah Guy called  Ron who walked/ran with me for a while.

I'd always thought I was pretty good at going downhill. Good eye, good balance, good nerves. I had nice shoes on - a pair of Montrail's (only complaint as that the toe and heel snagged a bit too often) and they gave me rock solid grip. The trouble was that other people obviously didn't have wives or children that they cared about, or were perhaps trying to arrange for them to claim on their life insurance. They flew down the mountain. After a while I realised that the flaw with me was that I was afraid of falling and that I ould take 2-3 strides and then get both feet together again to regain balance and poise. Most people did not - running was running on the flat or don a flight of stairs!

I plowed on through the pain - letting the other runners come past (by the way I'd given up the stupid idea of no stops once I started descending) - and trting to recognise the path. It went on for ever and half of it Ididn't recognise. Ooooh. Eventually we cam back to the Park gate with 100 wooden steps to climb to reach it. I managed about 40 before deciding that crawling as a much better idea. Had a big smile on my face - I just couldn't do it on 2 feet. Posed for the photographer at the top and then stopped for a 100plus.

Then some big chap came through struggling but with such a sense of humour failure that it pissed me off. I finished my drink and headed after him. He was running and so did I if you can count a pained hobble (now including my toes on the downhill) and sloly draing aay from me. Bastard. I kept going and was pleased that he started walk running.  I overtook him on a steep downhill - lean forward for the gravity assist and ignore the pain in my toes and I never looked back. I kept plodding though and saw some white number on the road. 2.2. The next one said 2.1. The next 2.0. Was that how far it as to the end? I hope so; knowing that if it wasn't I was going to be gutted. Then I came round a corner havibg just passed 0.2 and saw the finish. Tet book style I thought. Head don I pumped my arms and legs and must have gone as fast in the last few moments as at any point up to that time.

I finished and Tey took loads of snaps of me. Thanks Tey.

That was the hardest and most painful race I've ever done. My training was totally inadequate and I think to do the race justice you need a lot of race specific training. Lots of stair climbing and descending (ideally with a plastic bag over your head). It was amazing fun though and I was so proud of my certificate - the only one I ever got with a DNF on it!

I finished in about 5 hours and placed 125 in the men's open. I think there were about 180 entrants and only the top 60 finished the race. The rest were killed by the 2:30 cut off or the 4hour cut off. Damn hard but worth doing


Simon said...

Good on you Denis, sounds like hell. Not one I'm chomping at the bit to do but no doubt I'll do it one day.

Anonymous said...

Well done Matey. Your write up gives a useful insight into this event and whilst I have a few other priorities just now I'm keener than Simon is it would seem to give this a go. Mind you of course I'm a lot older than him so I have less time left than him :-)
Hope to catch up soon. Dave

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