Qi Gong. Kind of.

When the doctor put the kibosh on Qi Gong after the first recurrence of my ear infection I was a bit disappointed, because I’d wanted to do the full Perth Trail Series Summer Series of races. The disappointment was relieved slightly by the knowledge that Qi Gong was the same weekend as Lark Hill. Jeremy was planning on doing Lark Hill 25km Saturday night, and I wanted to support him but also had Qi Gong the next morning, with Jeremy flying to Adelaide at about 3pm Sunday afternoon for work for a week. After all that I’d really really need the Labour Day public holiday on the Monday. With no Qi Gong we could both sleep in on Sunday morning. Indeed, when I did wake up I realised that I am far, far too old to stay up late and then get up early the next morning.

When I got my competitor information email for Swissmurdie I realised I’d forgotten about the Summer Series Finishers Medal, but had spotted some information about “make-up runs”. On race day morning Melina confirmed that I would be eligible for the Summer Series Finisher’s Medal if I ran Qi Gong as a make-up run, submitting my GPX file with a photo of me on course, and wrote a few paragraphs. Not exactly a hardship, is it?

So Jeremy, Ben Oxwell and myself ran Qi Gong this morning. OK, sort of. We ran Gnog Iq, actually. That’s Qi Gong in reverse.

aIMG_20160327_110420This is the problem with the Courses maps screen on Garmin – it doesn’t have navigation instructions, just the course marking. If you’re on an out-and-back course, or the path loops back on itself, you can’t really tell which one you should take. You don’t get an indicator that says “take this bit first, not that one”. You just get two lines. So when we descended and got to a point where it looked like a small rockslide, we should have taken the rockslide. As it was, we went right, and carried on, inadvertently running out and doing the finish of the course. That particular bit went down and then up, like the course description had said, but it turns out that it didn’t go nearly as far down and nearly as far up, and once we’d realised that while we were clearly on the Qi Gong course we must have gone wrong, we were too far in to bother to retrace our steps and start again. The middle of the course to the aid station turnaround and then to the finish is lovely easy trail, with the only sour note going through a section of the Wungong Regional Park that had been burnt out by bushfire.

aIMG_20160327_104911If you’ve run the Short Course properly, the major descent must be a cracker, because it was an absolute bastard to go up. And the major ascent; after all the rain we had over the past 24-48 hours, was cloying, clay mud. I took forever to come down. I’d walk about 100 metres and realise that with all the mud I now had shoes with a taller stack height than Hokas. I’d gingerly walk a bit more, practically on my tip toes because of the wodge of clay mud stuck under my heels, then when I saw a suitably large rock I’d stop to clout my feet against it, knocking the majority of the mud off, then start reapplying it with my next step. Walk, knock, repeat.

As we were making our way up the ascent that should have been the descent, we decided that if you could limit the race field to about 25% of what a PTS race normally is, Gnog Iq Short Course would be a corker race. You’d be torn between using the easy terrain at the start of the race to get ahead of your fellow competitors, but know that you’d have to scramble up this ridiculous hill, so you’d want to conserve your energy some. It would be a delight to spectate on.

We’re going to go out again and do Qi Gong as it ought to be done, but I still feel like I’ve done all five of the races. And yes, Snakes ‘N’ Ladders was the hardest one.

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Swissmurdie, the revisit.

I had been looking forward to Swissmurdie Short Course; because that was the one race that I’d already done before – back in 2014 it was my first trail race, and Jeremy and I had run it together. I thought it would be interesting seeing what I thought of the course now that I’d done (almost) all of the Summer Series runs, because Hamish had said that the Summer Series runs increase in difficulty as they progress, and I didn’t think my memory of Swissmurdie was that bad in comparison to Snakes ‘N’ Ladders.

We set off from the Lesmurdie Falls car park, looping round and then up a steady steep climb. I distinctly remembered this climb from 2014 because during it I’d looked at my watch, seen that Jeremy and I had only travelled a mile, saw how long it had taken us to travel that mile and then swiftly re-calculated what a decent pace in a race must be, trail versus road. There’s a conversion that Jeremy gave me for mountain biking versus road riding; essentially triple your distance on the mountain bike for the equivalent effort on a road bike and I’d give a similar calculation for trail versus road running; wide, clear, flat or gently sloping trails like the Railway Heritage Trail? 1.75 or 2:1, but for technical nonsense, 2.5 or 3:1.

Either way, I embraced the hill and had a quick pause to take in the view; you can clearly see to the CBD and beyond from that hill. I was walking alongside another woman and we chatted as we ascended. We went around the bend and found the descent and conversation got a little spotty as we had to concentrate more on our movements while we belted down the hill. After a while I apologised for slowing her down and encouraged her to go ahead because she was a far more confident descender on a fairly technical surface than I was.

We turn a sharpish corner, and start ascending again. This is where if you are a back of the pack Short Courser, you begin to be overtaken by the faster Long Course runners. I would stop by the pathside (not that there is much path; it’s about a foot wide at this point) and let them go past because they’re moving so much faster than I was. Because the path was cut into the hillside, there’s a high side and a low side to the path. I learned to stand on the high side with my back to the hillside, rather than on the low side, because when I stood facing the path with my back to the low side, I leaned back a millimetre or two and felt myself almost toppling off the hill. Not recommended at all.

I came across Sarah George (from Move Fuel Love) and Tania Mercado as we started to ascend to the aid station. They were travelling at my speed, and we talked our way up to the Aid Station. When I got there, I told Ben Oxwell (who was manning the aid station) that Melina (the Race Director) said I could qualify for my series finisher medal by running the Qi Gong course as a make-up run.  He said he’d be up for ‘running’ it – Ben is currently injured (he’s seeing Lauren Shelley for treatment), so that meant he’d be slow enough I would likely be able to keep up with him.

Sarah and Tania had headed off from the aid station while I was talking to Ben and scoffing some banana. I headed out, up and around and found a descent I had happily remembered from 2014. I belted down that, stopping twice to let a Long Course runner go past me and then barrelling along after them. Of course, all good descents come to an end, and I caught Sarah and Tania at the next climb.

We went up and up and up and Sarah spotted the trail that she could take to just go home – she runs in the Mundy Regional Park / Lesmurdie Falls National Park quite often, as it’s near her house – and then we went up a little further. When you turned the corner, you were on the path that takes you past the Falls, and on the proper descents I tried to absolutely barrel down – give me path that is clear and I’ll belt down it as fast as I can.

The path got a little twitchy around this point – I’d run and keep an eye out for the blue flagging, because while I thought I was on the obvious path, there is that concern that you can overshoot a section and miss the flags – you’d get to a fork in the path and peer down each one to find the one with 14 bits of flagging tape indicating it was the correct choice. You go past the Falls on a series of quite wide and deep steps and I was just leaping from step to step – if you were walking each one would have been two footsteps. Lots of fun because there is a railing alongside, you can’t fall through and into the ravine.

I got to a marshal who told me I had about 400 metres to go, at which I think I whooped with delight. About 100 metres later I stopped and stood off what was laughably called a path – it wouldn’t have been wider than my foot – and carefully leaned so a Long Course runner could get past. I used my hands to pivot and hopped down a high rock step and then down to a wide path which took me to the finish line.

Completed. And according to Garmin, about two minutes faster than 2014.