On 28 September, I learned two vitally important lessons on a 32k relay leg.
Not long ago, I started running with a sweet gal here in Canberra. She invited me on a group long run and after some soft hazing I was immediately asked to join one of their two relays teams running the upcoming Sri Chinmoy 101k relay. I said yes, immediately.
While I was initially going to run Leg 4, I switched with another relay member to take on the longest Leg 2, at 32k (about 20 miles). I had been building up to running about 10-13 milers for my long runs, but I knew the 20 miler would be an effort, and I was up for the challenge.
The day started cool, but began warming up as I stood around, waiting at the exchange between Leg 1 and 2. Good thing I had lathered on the sunscreen. Amanda and Phil would be coming in for the hand-off to Jasmina and me. Our portion of the course would take us on a steep climb to the Mt Arawang summit, took us along the backside of the National Zoo, and had us finishing at the National Arboretum. It was truly a beautiful course, predominately on trails, with kangaroo sightings, gate climbing, and only a little bit of terror…
VALUABLE LESSON #1
The deadly snakes and spiders that I am terrified of in this country have NOTHING on the magpies. While I’ve been looking down at the trail all the time, paranoid about the snakes that aren’t even out yet, I realized I should really be looking up, at those annoying black and white birds that sing that beautiful, throaty song. At least during the spring. Swooping Australian Magpies. This is a very real thing, readers. More in Canberra than other Aussie cities.
And all of this came to a head, when at the 10k mark, some of our teammates were waiting to cheer for us, and WARN us of the swooping Magpies up ahead on the course. We were given a hat, to wave it around in hopes of warding off the swooping. My heart skipped a beat. Maybe two. I really didn’t want to be attacked and have to get stitches from some bird who felt I was threatening a nest and thus pecked my head or my eyes or my back or something of that nature. I think I started waving the the hat around my head immediately, even though I didn’t see any Magpies. Jasmina calmly told me that I didn’t need to do that yet…
We saw several Magpie on the telephone wires and on the ground. I waved the hat, I looked around frantically, but we ran through the grassy knoll unscathed. I’m pretty sure the birds knew I was a Oiselle runner, and thus, one of them. Bird to bird, we had an understanding.
I pretty much have no choice but to not run, or not leave my house, until breeding/nesting season is over. So, November. And if I do leave my house at all, I must wear only black, gray, and white. I’d hate to provoke them by wearing orange, yellow, and purple during this time.
It’s no wonder that I see bikers with zip ties attached to their helmets, or eyes glued to the back of their helmets (Magpies won’t attack if they see you looking at them). But I refuse to wear those things will running!
Jasmina and I continued on, chatting, hiking the hills, watching for Magpies, and climbing over gates. While I was originally somewhat concerned about navigating the course, the RD had marked it all quite well! I never questioned which turn to take which really took the guesswork out of it all. Thank goodness.
The final 10k was fairly uncomfortable with the heat. I can’t say it was considerably HOT, temperature wise, but the direct sun, and very little shade made whatever the temperature was feel much warmer. We’d get a little bit of reprieve when the wind kicked up, which felt so nice. The few miles leading up into the National Arboretum and our exchange point were uphill. I think Jasmina and I were both ready to hand over the run to our strong Leg 3 ladies.
Oops. (No, I’m not a lefty. Yes, I wear my watch on the “wrong” wrist.)
VALUABLE LESSON #2
There is a hole in the ozone layer directly over Australia, and the usual 30 SPF I use in the Mile High State of Colorado does NOT work. I am no stranger to sun exposure. Having lived the majority of my 33 years in sunny Colorado, at 5280 feet, and I am adamant about wearing sunscreen daily. At least on my face, if not elsewhere, depending on the season and my clothing and the type of activity. Knowing that Canberra is not at sea level, but at about 1800 feet, I naively assumed that what I would usually use on a Colorado mountain run would be suitable for a trail run in Canberra. Not. So.
Looks like I’ll need to up the sunscreen (sun cream?) anti whilst here… Understatement of the century.
All in all, it was a fabulous day and the race was a lot of fun. Of course, I can say this nearly two weeks later!