Solemates Handicap Run XXIV
The first runners set off soon after, accompanied by plenty of cheers and encouragement from those waiting for their turn. Eventually it was my turn to start and I raced off, as eager to distance myself from the start line as sponsors distancing themselves from Sonia Kruger. Despite the chill, the Montrose foreshore was a lovely course to run at this time. The sun had now come up and was flashing off the choppy waves in the river to our left. The perfectly flat track itself curved back and forth with the waterline so I could see the tiny shapes of runners way in front of me and even the designated turning point some two kilometres away.
After passing the rowing sheds and the play equipment, we crossed the first of the multi-coloured wooden bridges that form an aesthetic shortcut over a marshy section of the river. It must have been too early for Gen-Ys, as the only people out other than Solemates were walking dogs. Not a single person trying to catch a pokemon to be seen! I had set out pretty hard and wanted to wind back the distance to the leaders as much as the Coalition wants to wind back the superannuation changes they took to the election. After a bit more than a kilometre I had to admit to myself I was going too hard though. I dropped a fraction of speed and tried to settle into a rhythm (a difficult task for a man with no rhythm).
After the second bridge, we turned past the huge curved structure of the Derwent Entertainment Centre and headed out towards where one of the MONA sheds formed our turning point. You could feel a bit more of the wind that you could see on the water at this point, but it was more of a crosswind than a headwind so it didn’t have too much impact. The turning point itself was marked by a simple witches hat (if Peter Dutton is reading this, I don’t mean a hat belonging to Samantha Maiden, I mean a traffic cone- and if Miley Cyrus is reading, this I don’t mean something that you smoke whilst driving, I mean a witches hat). There was a pool of water next to it, making the ground here as slippery as one of Scott Morrison’s answers so I slowed to a walk (which I really didn’t hate) as I went around.
After the turnaround point, we headed back the way we had come. Despite my efforts, I had not managed to overtake many people by this stage but I could tell I was closing the distance to the main group from what I could see ahead of me. I crossed both bridges and followed the path towards the play area, noticing for the first time that there were several Solemates photographers out taking photos of the runners as they passed. “Try not to look stupid, pretend they’re not there, stop grimacing, pretend it doesn’t hurt,” I managed to think to myself all at once, resulting in a photo of me looking as uncertain as the Marriage Equality Plebiscite as I run past.
It was a very unwelcome cold start to the day. There was less warmth in the air than when Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard meet. Moving with reptilian sluggishness in the cold, I was cutting it pretty fine for time after battling the ice all over my car that reformed almost as quickly as I could get it off. This was pretty much my first experience of Tasmania’s much talked about ice problem, but I can see why the police say the fight against it is so difficult (or maybe it is my turn to take things out of context). I got out onto the Southern Outlet and traffic was very slow due to people being cautious of black ice (there it is again).
My momentary irritation at the delay quickly turned to a more philosophical outlook as I decided I was happy for people to drive as slowly as they needed to stay safe. I go to Montrose Bay about ten minutes late and given I hadn’t looked closely at the instructions for where to meet, I was a little concerned that the group would be as difficult to find as Hilary Clinton’s deleted emails. My fears were unfounded as a number of other stragglers were arriving at the same time and I followed them to the meeting point.
The event was organised by the energetic and boundlessly positive Dalts (who is kind of like The Pied Piper of Tasmanian running). He welcomed everyone and gave a special shoutout to noobs (I’m a little concerned that spell check didn’t try to correct that word) like me, before explaining the route and particularities of the event itself. Being a handicap event, people were each given a handicap of between 5 and 25 minutes time penalty to determine when each runner started. As this was my first race and had no form to be judged on, I was just asked about my fastest time over ten kilometres. Much like Malcolm Turnbull, I made the mistake of talking myself up before I was in a position to deliver fessing up to having run a few pretty quick times prior to last year’s major injury. This earned me no sympathy for the injury and a hefty handicap that put me towards the back of the starting pack. On the plus side, It mean I could leave my extra layers of warm clothing on for a bit longer and still had plenty of time to do a decent warm up.
By the end of the first lap, I felt like I had got my pacing pretty much right. The burning in my lungs was getting a bit more persistent, but I felt I could keep going for a fair way yet. I was creeping up on Damo (not like that), who had been in my sight the whole race and felt like my chances of catching him were getting better, although I had realised already that I was no chance of catching those right at the front.
I kept pushing hard and the second lap went by surprisingly quickly. By the time I turned for the final time I was close enough to catch a few people, which spurred me on. All thought of the cold had gone by now and I was sweating hard, so the cool breeze was now something of a relief.
With about a kilometre to go I put in a final effort to come home with some extra speed. Well I meant to, but according to my running watch I didn’t actually get any faster despite my Big Bad Wolf impersonation (just to be clear, I mean I was huffing and puffing like the wolf from Three Little Pigs, not eating old ladies and dressing in their clothes like the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood).
Dalts’ handicapping worked out pretty well with everyone finishing within about five minutes. Line honours for the day went to The Road Knight (who sounds like he should feature in some kind of epic crossover movie featuring Mad Max and Batman) who ran a time of 41.20 and was keen to point out he is currently the oldest winner of a Solemates handicap.
After the run, we moved to the nearby BBQ site for a communal breakfast once again organised by Dalts but with many people pitching in to assist on the day. It was a pleasant and relaxing aftermath and a welcome counterpoint to having really thrown everything at the run. Despite coming in several minutes after The Road Knight, I had been happy with my own time and felt the structure of the event worked really well.
Like many people, I am looking forward to Handicap XXV, but if I am going to be competitive for line honours I’ll either have to train to get faster or try to sweet-talk the hard-working, underappreciated and generally amazing Dalts to get my handicap lowered, although he is probably way too smart for that (bet you can’t guess which option I am going for).