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How much is too much?

Waiting for me the first time on the Bush Bash.

Any rational analysis would suggest running 47km on trails yesterday would be tough for me.  I've only been back running for two months after two months off while I was treated for some heart and lung problems, and on Saturday, I ran our club's 10km race in 44:01, 3:30 faster than on the same course a month ago.  I hoped, rather than expected, that the 10km hadn't taken too much out of me and that by walking the steeper hills I would cope with the 47km Brisbane Water Bush Bash.

One of the smaller hills on the Bush Bash.
A week or so ago, Terrigal Trotters was contacted by the producers of a television program, Search4Hurt, to ask whether we would take one of their rookie ultra trail runners on a 40-50km run to gauge his preparation for The North Face 100km in three weeks time.  I suggested the Bush Bash because it was easily accessible in a number of places to film progress, and enlisted some friends from the club to accompany him.  As a point of pride, I wanted to do the run as well, perhaps hoping that the rookie wouldn't be that fit and I could hang on.

Misty views over Brisbane Water.

The run started with a brief on-camera interview about Terrigal Trotters and then we were off on a drizzly, misty and overcast morning for the first bike path section.  Sadly, my quads were very heavy from Saturday's run and my early pace was slow.  The leaders, including the rookie, disappeared into the distance.  I caught them at the first fire-trail junction, 8km into the run, but only because they were waiting.  Thereafter, I managed to stay in touch with the group, partly because I was moving a little better, and partly because my colleagues occasionally waited a short while for me to catch up.

The course is a real mix of terrain.  There are scenic, but boring and hard-on-the-legs, flat bike path sections, and some short road sections, but most of the course follows fire-trails along the mountain crests surrounding Brisbane Water, including very steep ascents and descents.  The intermittent rain combined with low cloud and mist made for some great scenery and atmospheric forest.  There's nothing quite like the eucalypt forests in rain and some of the views, with forested ridges interleaved with low cloud, were breathtaking.

One of the steep descents on the
Bush Bash.

The company was good, but I gave up on trying to keep up with the bunch after 26km and drifted back to run on my own.  I suddenly felt very fatigued and slowed to a plod, wondering how I was going to manage another 20km.  Fortunately, the rookie, who had found $70 on one of the trails, bought us all a drink at the South Kincumber store (they waited for me again!), and the Coke revived me a little.  I told them not to wait for me any more, and they quickly disappeared on the steep climb up Kincumba Mountain.

One of the bike path sections on the
Bush Bash.

I expected to be on my own for the last 15km, but instead developed a symbiotic relationship with Kirrily, who had not run the course before.  I tried in vain to keep up with her, causing me to run more than I would have otherwise, and she had to keep stopping at junctions, unsure of the way, to wait for me to catch up.  This worked well until the final descent, with just 2km to go, when I started to lose my equilibrium and couldn't do more than walk most of the time, taking great care on the steep descents and stairways not to fall, and cursing the unreliability of my muscles.  There was a background concern in my mind that my problems were heart-related, but it was beating regularly, and my blood pressure seemed OK.  Kirrily was concerned, but I was still thinking clearly and was confident I could finish.  I told her to go on ahead.

Another steep descent on the
Bush Bash.

I finished safely in six hours, about an hour slower than my best, and even managed to jog the last few hundred metres.  The TV guys, who wanted to go home, asked for another short interview with the rookie and me.  I was a little worried I would fall over, and hoped I was making sense.  Towards the end, I noticed Kirrily gesturing towards my feet in the background and looked down to find my shoes seething with multiple leeches looking for a feed.  The cameraman got a last close-up of the predators before I adjourned to a wet park bench and began trying to pick them off.  It took some time, but I was lucky and none drew blood.

The run definitely tested my current fitness limits, but it was satisfying to finish with all body parts, except for my very painful right Achilles tendon, in working order.  It will take me a few days to get over it, and I tossed and turned in bed with aching feet and legs last night, but when I do I will be stronger for the effort.  For today, I just walked an easy 5km.