To those who follow me on Instagram, I must apologise. I promised to blog about the run I did in Townsville on Monday morning as soon as I got home on Tuesday AND IT IS NOW FRIDAY so I suppose I am officially fired as chief blogger.
In my defence, I have been getting deep and meaningful, thinking about my spirit animal. I think I am going through a hippy phase, brought on by all the meditating I inevitably end up doing on my runs.
If you are like me and struggle to do the whole ‘ohhmmmmm’ thing but you kind of know that meditating could be good for your poor frazzled brain, maybe give running a go. I think there is something about the rhythmic pounding of the pavement and sound of your hot breath heaving in and out. Or maybe it is the faintness and lack of oxygen getting to your head that makes you hallucinate that you are meditating. Either way, it seems to leave me feeling more at one with Mother Earth or something.
SIDENOTE: Individual results may vary, etc. You probably should never take anything you read on this blog as advice.
So anyway instead of blogging I was thinking about my spirit animal and hoping it might be a dog, because just like Matilda the dog who features heavily in my writing, I think I am soft, cuddly and pretty cute. I also love food and sleeping.
But interestingly, the more I pondered the various possibilities, I realised my spirit animal is not a dog. Nor a wolf or bald-headed eagle, both of which might seem appropriate to a badass triathlete.
I couldn’t ignore the evidence:
1. I am soft and sweet on the inside.
2. Sometimes a bit hard and crunchy on the outside.
3. I am a bit fruity, sometimes a bit nuts.
4. No one can tell if I am really Australian or not.
5. You either love me or hate me.
So… My spirit animal is apparently a Pavlova.
With that conundrum sorted, I can now blog about my run on Monday. Please feel free to leave a comment below telling me your spirit animal. Or list your personal qualities and I will diagnose you.
I had ventured up to Townsville for the weekend with Shane, as I had to attend a conference there on the Monday. It’s a beautiful spot to escape to over winter for all things tri training because of the weather. In fact, there is a triathlon in Townsville on the weekend of my impending Half Marathon! Which is only six weeks away, by the way. Holy crap, somebody hand me a slice of pav.
Whilst in Townsville there was zero chance of me swimming in the ocean with crocodiles and deadly jellyfish (even though they put stinger nets up in sections to allow for safe swimming and I am sure the nets don’t have big holes in or anything) so I found a beautiful outside pool to not-drown in instead.
I don’t really remember the last time I swam in an outdoor pool with lanes, but I am pretty sure I would have been 6 years old and in Primary School when it happened. And I was probably wearing my pyjamas (that is how I remember swimming lessons from the UK) and contracting a urinary tract infection at the same time. Perhaps this explains a little more about why I commenced this triathlon journey as such a useless swimmer.
Anyway, swimming in an outdoor pool in a proper swimming costume and being able to pee afterwards was pretty good fun. The sun shone down upon me and I watched my shadow as I was gliding through the water, so I could spot some of the things I was doing wrong. There were lots of things. Lots.
BUT let’s just take a minute to appreciate how professional I look when swimming these days:
Because it is only 8 months since I first jumped into a pool and couldn’t do three arm strokes without having a meltdown. I still have a lot of improvement to chase, but I have come a long way.
So training got off to a great start and we followed it up with a day full of carb-loading and walking up and down the strand. I jumped on the exercise bike in the hotel gym for training session number two and then spent another day traipsing around the streets of Townsville and stuffing gelato into my mouth.
And no matter where we went, out of the corner of my eye I kept spotting Castle Hill.
For some bizarre reason, I decided I could run up Castle Hill. It was probably my spirit animal speaking, if I am honest.
Castle Hill is a few metres off being a mountain, at 286 metres above sea level. It juts out of the landscape as a massive chunk of red stone that probably doesn’t scream ‘Climb me!’ to most sane people. Indeed, the last time I was in Townsville I had thought briefly about driving up Castle Hill, but I didn’t even end up doing that because I didn’t have a hire car and I didn’t want the extra taxi cost.
It doesn’t just look high, but it also looks steep. The sides seem almost vertical.
So with all this in mind, I decided it was a fantastic idea to run it. Because I am a runner. And when I go on holiday I actually enjoy running somewhere new. This is a strangely wonderful side-effect of becoming a triathlete, friends.
I did a Google search on the climb and found that there are dozens of tracks you can select from. I decided to go with the most popular one in the hope it would also be the least treacherous.
Google Maps reckoned it would take an hour to walk up to the top, so based on that (and the fact that I was going to use a track rather than the twisty turny road) I figured an hour would cover me for both the ascent and descent if I ran the whole thing. But I also had to get to the base of the mountain from my hotel, which I thought would take 15 minutes each way.
On Sunday night Shane left me in Townsville to return to his work, far away from my crazy triathlon training escapades. I don’t think he believed that I was going to run up the stupid hill in the morning, but if I’m honest I wasn’t entirely convinced of this myself. However, I set my alarm for 5am and packed a rucksack with water, a map and my phone for emergency taxi calls if I got to the top and couldn’t face going back down. Then I went to bed.
In the morning I seriously reconsidered my options. I had to meet my boss at 8am and I started telling myself all the reasons why going for a run up Castle Hill could lead to absolute disaster. Everyone who has ever been to the gym will know how this goes, so I wasn’t surprised in the slightest. I simply called upon my spirit animal to guide me through the tough times and before too long I was accepting that there was no way I could get on a plane that night and fly over a hill I’d failed to run up without crying. The run was on.
The hotel was eerily quiet as I stepped out of my room clad in my running gear and very-serious looking backpack. I looked at the reflection staring back at me in the lift and gave it a high-five for encouragement. Then I hoped there were no cameras in there.
The lobby was empty save for the poor sleep-deprived staff and as I broke into a run out the front doors, the concierge standing outside looked at me as though he was quite unsure whether he should tackle me to the ground or not. I imagine I looked rather like a crazed thief escaping with a bottle of water from the mini bar.
I waved, said good morning as un-crazily as possible and ran down the street away from him.
It was still pitch black outside but Townsville has plenty of street lights so I didn’t miss my headlamp in the slightest. It was quite exciting to be running along the waterfront with wet steamy pavements from the sprinkling of rain we’d had overnight. At first I saw lots of other walkers and runners squeezing in their morning workout, but as I turned off the main esplanade towards the road to The Hill, I found myself suddenly alone. And suddenly running vertically.
The streets of Townsville take no prisoners. They’re mostly flat, but when you find a hill you really find it. There’s no mistaking a Townsville hill. If you’re a runner or a cyclist you may have heard the term ‘false flats’ which is where a route looks flat but is actually on just a slight incline which will zap your strength and energy. Well, Townsville doesn’t have any false flats. It’s either flat or you’re basically rock climbing, there’s no in-between.
I huffed and puffed up the first section of hill, then turned a corner onto an even steeper hill, and then turned again onto a section that I thought might kill me. I can pump these tree-trunks-I-call-legs pretty hard and for a fairly long time, but this hill was going to beat me and I knew it within about 10 minutes.
Unfortunately there were a couple of walkers in front of me by this time and my ego insisted that I must overtake them. So I pushed on. I could feel myself getting faint. I could feel I wanted to puke. And then mercifully, I spotted the start of the track on my left.
I pretended I had only been running to the start of the track and slowed to a professional-looking walk. I wasn’t sure how far in front I’d positioned myself, but I was determined to look like I climb Castle Hill every second day so I went striding up the rocky steps as confidently as I could.
And it was beautiful.
After about 20 minutes I turned around to survey the first rays of sunlight peeping over the horizon. The houses and pubs of Townsville twinkled and car headlights buzzed around like electric ants.
There didn’t seem to be any people close behind me so I strode on, overtaking a lady and her teenage son and heading closer to the rain clouds that had descended from nowhere over Townsville during the night. I could feel the sweat in the air and as I got closer to the top little bursts of misty rain exploded over my head.
There is no way I could have run up the track. If I’d stuck to the road, I might have had a chance, but apart from being far too steep it was all rocky steps and screed underfoot with nothing to stop you falling over and down the cliff face.
Plus, the steps were an absolute killer.
Unfortunately, probably because I was walking, I reached my time limit on my watch before I could make it to the top. I’d allowed 45 minutes each way as a guess at what I’d need, but I reached 45 minutes without reaching the summit.
I wasn’t really disappointed by this, because I’d reached a fair height and I’d had a good workout. I couldn’t have started any earlier without forcing myself to navigate the track uphill in total darkness, which would have been foolish as a first-timer. So given my restrictions (and having to be a good employee and earn my money) I’d done as much as possible.
At most I could have pushed on for five more minutes, but I wouldn’t have reached the top. I also wasn’t keen on getting rained on too much more as all my gear was going to have to go straight into my suitcase where it would sit and fester all day at the conference.
I heard my spirit animal tell me I’d done good, so I turned around with a happy heart, snapped some photos and headed back down.
On the way back I decided to venture down a different track, which I’d spotted on the way up. The Goat Track, as this other track is apparently known, was probably a bit easier to run on as there were less steps in some parts and it seemed a bit shorter. The only problem was, it spat me out in a totally different part of Townsville and I had no idea where to go. I ran haphazardly all over the place before remembering I’d packed a map in my backpack (and that I had a phone with Google Maps on it) and ended up only just making it back to my hotel in time for a quick shower.
But if I’m honest, even getting lost was quite exciting. I was lost in a fairly small ‘big town’ and felt confident that no matter where my hotel was, I could run back to it. I trusted my body and its ability to run, maybe for the first time. It was quite exciting and amazing.
I’ll be back in Townsville on the 31st August for a couple of days. And as long as my poor bum muscles have recovered in time (they still ache from climbing all those steps!) I have a date with Castle Hill already lined up.
Watch this space!