Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men.

By Kevin Cassidy

I was feeling reasonably confident of a respectable performance with recent training runs certainly indicating as such. Imagine my dismay when the first raspy feeling of phlegm in the throat hit me two nights prior. By the next afternoon, the runny nose and feverish feeling in the muscles had well and truly taken hold. Indeed, illness had struck at the most inopportune time, I spent race eve without sleep, a nose running like a tap and a thumping head as I dreaded what lay ahead the next morning. Suddenly my plan of a six hour finish became a case of hoping like hell that I’d be able to make it to the finish line without passing out and collapsing! Such is the fickle nature of trying to maintain a “streak”. If this was any other race, I would not have even attempted to get out of bed. Sadly, there are times when common sense just doesn’t enter into the equation.

Congregating at Fernshaw, it was fantastic to see such a huge field of runners, particularly the new faces coming into the ultra scene who really make me feel like an old “Has Been”. I would have loved to have engaged in the usual pre race banter but was purely and simply in no mood.

God only knows what the ragged looking couple in the camper van thought when a large group of runners descended on their quiet Sunday morning to start the journey through the rugged and spectacular Yarra Ranges

Suffering a high fever, I was trailing the pack within 200 metres in the most miserable of physical conditions. I was perspiring so copiously that it was dripping down my legs in a matter of minutes. My joints ached, head spun and the arduous task ahead looked to be nothing short of painful.

In essence, that summed up my day. I was within a whisker of pulling out at 10km and even closer upon returning to Dom Dom at 19km but determined that I had to finish for the sake of Nigel Aylott’s memory. Pushing on up the long climb to Mount Saint Leonards, I made the significant discovery that unless you expel the phlegm from your throat quickly, you almost vomit! My whole world seemed to be spinning on the ascents, while my joints ached like rotting teeth on the descents. Perspiring at an astounding rate, I felt sure that I’d be able to put an end to our water restrictions. The sensation was as if I had gone 12 rounds with Mike Tyson, although both my ears were still intact. Despite my sorry state of affairs, I had to chuckle at the “Running Race in Progress” sign, given that I was rolling along so slowly that I wouldn’t have even called it walking. Further on, a couple of stray deck chairs sitting alone had me somewhat perplexed as to their origin and purpose while the dead wombat just prior to Saint Leonards smelt worse than a fish market in a heat wave. The abundant maggots, however, thought it was Christmas as they made a veritable smorgasbord of the rapidly decomposing carcass.

A force more intelligent than I [which encompasses an overwhelmingly high percentage of the World’s inhabitants] was furiously encouraging me to pull out as I staggered into St. Leonard and the delights of the Mason family aid station. What a set up. Boston buns, cakes, fruit, coke, pies, red salmon, caviar, pink champagne on ice, roast beef and after dinner mints. I may be exaggerating somewhat but it was impressive to say the least. Resembling the kitchen of a five star restaurant during the dinner hour, such an array would have sent an entire Weight Watchers convention into a total frenzy.

Much to my consternation, I was lumbered with the honour of being stone motherless last [by a long way, I should add] along with the added indignity of having the ribbons pulled down behind me as I descended ever so slowly towards the dam. Knowing the trail well, I eventually sent our bike riding race official up ahead, not wishing to delay him anymore.

Drooping across the finish line several hours slower than my capabilities, I strongly suspected that race Director, Mark Mex, would have long since discarded his stop watch in favour of a calendar!

Feeling about as jovial as a polar bear in the Sahara Dessert, it was of no surprise to find the area almost deserted. I couldn’t even bring myself to enjoy my customary post race consumption of hefty quantities of Diet Coke and Cheesymite Rolls. To those who waited so tolerantly, let me apologise for the ordeal. I can’t recall the last time I had suffered so much, all for the sake of maintaining that streak. Was it worth it? No, I don’t believe so. To those who congratulated me on toughing it out, I have to reject such a notion point blank. It was nothing short of stupidity, lunacy and a severe dose of taking leave of one’s senses. To borrow a well publicised line from our former PM, Bob Hawke, “Silly Old Bugger” is the only term that I could apply to myself with any degree of accuracy.

Being ordered into the car with a rather profound “You’re An Idiot, I’m Tired And It’s Time To Go”, I was trying to think of a situation that would be less convivial but couldn’t come up with anything until partaking in a toilet stop at a nearby pub. Staggering through a room full of poker machines, I came to the bleak conclusion that such places are the absolute heart of social misery. Stony faced individuals with glazed over expressions in their eyes, clearly taken in by the environment of lights and bells, were mindlessly wasting their pensions and housekeeping money. I stood aghast as one ample bellied woman ran quickly to the ATM in the foyer to extract several hundred dollars, only to make a beeline back to the machines!!

For no other reason than the requirement of a Medical Certificate to cover some sick leave, I crawled across to the local doctor on the Monday with the stock standard complaint of a head cold. “That’s No Head Cold”, she stated in the most sanctimonious of tones, “You’ve Got Bronchitis”. I didn’t dare let on to the foolish manner in which I’d spent the previous day.

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