Good morning folks
I trust you had a spectacularly superb weekend and that this finds you in tiptop form.
A week where all roads led to Huarochirí, or Cocachacra to be more precise.
The Marathon was really just a warm-up, the mountains had been-a-calling me for some time and Sunday saw the first of a 3-race-bout, up into the Sierra de Lima, an incredibly amazing place about 2hrs up the road. Blue skies, bright sunshine and BIG mountains, whilst meanwhile the old grey city is cloaked in a cloak of grey. It’s a place where it feels really good to be alive
However, it wasn’t all plain sailing…
The Book of Excuses…
I’ll get these in first!
Trainingwise, I’d been doing alrighty and pushed myself as hard as I have done in a long, long time last Sunday on a round of the local hilltops (despite getting a very fetching vest tan). I felt ready for what was to be my first competitive hill race since way back when (Lakeland 100 in 2011 I think, but that wasn’t really a race, so maybe back to the Haworth Hobble in 2009!)
It has not been a straightforward week. It never really is here. The Wee One got stung by a bee on Tuesday, she was ok, but keeps holding her thumb up saying “Owww!”
Then on Wednesday, I think I must’ve copped for a dodgy meat pie or something, because I suddenly felt as sick as a sickly dog and lost all appetite. Having dodgy guts is never fun, but when you’re teaching it can be a bit challenging!
Between Wednesday and Sunday I only ate 3 bowls of soup and 3 bowls of porridge. I was even off the coffee and bananas for 4 days, so it must have been bad. Running is iffy with dodgy bowels, especially if you’re dragging your silly self half way up a mountain, surrounded by other idiots daft enough to get up (very) early on Sunday morning.
The Big Day…
It was touch and go, but as I am a stingey Northerner who’d already paid, at midnight I set the alarm for 4am and tried to get some shut-eye, whilst a big concert at nearby Jockey Plaza kept me awake until gone 2am, but that’s Lima for you.
The bus that was supposed to pick us up at 5:45am rocked up at 6:45am, so it was already a race to get to the start on time, but we made it with 15mins to spare. A mad dash to the khazi, get registered, khazi, drop my bag off, khazi and then to the start line with 2mins to spare.
(In the rush/haste I left my banana in my other bag, so it would be a no-food outing).
Blue skies in Cocachacra (pic courtesy of Angel Bravo Hualpa).
Cocachacra is a tiny little village on the edge of the main road inland (eventually) to the jungle. Nestled at the foot of big fells on both sides, with clear blue skies and the brightest of sunlight, it feels like Paradise, a long way from the chaos of Lima. It feels a long way below the surrounding tops which soar skywards, but it’s already 200ft higher than Ben Nevis, and we hadn’t started climbing yet. Altitude and the prospect of a nasty “accident” were at the front of my mind and fears. (Worst case scenario: An accident at altitude!)
Now I confess I am a bit of a dreamer and rose-tinted specs wearer at times, but I was brought up on tiny tinpot fell races where you paid a quid-on-the-day, put 20p in an envelope (for results that would arrive 2mths later) and disappeared into the mist, got lost and plodded muddily around for a few hours, with a handful of bearded blokes in smelly Helly Hansens wearing Walsh shoes and one with a sheepdog! Prizes were normally a pair of socks (not that I ever troubled the Judges) and you got a plastic cup of tea that tasted like coffee/coffee that tasted like tea and a piece of stodgy cake at the end. Happy days!
It has all changed!
Nowadays you have to enter in advance, which is understandable (and much easier for Organisers) and you often get some kit for your hard-earned. Now I landed myself in bother with Lina (and I apologise publicly here) as she went to pick up my kit and discovered that there were in fact 3 vests for 3 races. If I forgot to mention the other two events, it was an oversight on my part and I am sorry.
People don’t wear the old Helly Hansens anymore either. Even if you boil washed them, they wreaked and nowadays it’s all compression gear, fancy footwear and matching rucksacks/hydration tubes. Being the homeless hillbilly I am I still use my old bumbag and wooly socks. They work for me
8am and we were off. It only rains in Cocachacra from February to April (is that a song?) So, it is drier than a Dingo’s ding-a-ling in desiccated demerara. If you’re not at the front (and I never was) it’s a serious breakfast of eating dust. I had been up this way on the Clunk last June and July, so it wasn’t completely new ground. The first 20mins were fast and runnable, but I was mindful of blowing up, so let the headless ones lose their heads and disappear into the distance. Then suddenly it got very technical, very steep, and very hot. It’s a different kind of heat to the general sweaty sauna-ness launderette steaminess of Lima, being much drier and after an hour the water in my swig bottle was hot enough to brew/mash/stew a teabag for a cuppa. A lot of the local lads were bouncing up this bit, but I was hands-on-thighs by now.
Then, out of nowhere, came the top! Not the top of the top but we’d done a vertical 3800ft of gasping in 6 miles, so it was downwards we went. A wide track with a few boulders, but fast running (if you had the legs left) and I started wondering what the course would be like backwards (broken ankles terrain in parts I reckon!) Thinking it was all the way home on the track, I was grabbed from my daydreaming and awesome views of massive peaks all round, by a left hander down a snicket, where suddenly we were on what seemed like monster steps hewn out, but tilting downwards and then covered in what felt like ball bearings. A wide ridge at first, but then a tiny path just wide enough for a snake, with a hairy, hairy drop to the right. More ball bearings, sloping steps and hairy drops took us down, down, down through the tiniest of wee villages and then down. down, down to the dusty start, rounding a corner to a brass band playing and a very, very enthusiastic female commentator/MC. Race 1 and I was home and dry (without mishaps, a huge relief!) 2hrs and 18mins of up-hill-and-down-dale fun!
Just as I was hobbling away from the Finish Line, I was accosted by a bloke who interviewed me about something that I didn’t really understand, but I rambled on for 3mins before be got bored. It was a brilliant, brilliant race and I wish I’d been up to full speed, but race 2 is in 4 weeks, so we’ll see! (I’ve only been back training for 9 weeks, so I can’t expect too much).
In the incredible Emil Zatopek book I’m reading, the mighty Czech was hospitalised a week before the European Championships with food poisoning, then cooked himself a meal, drank some beer, discharged himself and went straight to the races where he scooped Gold in the 5000m and 10000m. Harder than a nail made of hardened steel. Inspiring stuff (and here I am moaning about a bit of bellyache!)
The bus finally headed Limawards about five hours later and we were all treated to an ultra-violent, badly dubbed, unknown film, played from the halfway stage. A common feature on Latino bus journeys. All in all, a grand day out…
Apologies for the entirely running blog this week, (under the cosh timewise), the usual mixture of nonsense will return next week. Including “Black Dog Syndrome”, “New Wheels?”, “Slow, slow, quick, quick, slow”, “failed attempts at meditation” and “How Niall Grimes and Alex Honnold saved my sanity!”
Video of the week goes to this Italian snippet (with subtitles in español)
That’s all for now folks!
Have a stupendously brilliant week
Johnny, Lina and the Nipper
p.s. I still don’t know where I came, nor how many ran, but I wasn’t (quite) last! Should know for next week. Onwards and upwards to Matucana in 4 weeks…