Well, this was the day, the day where I started logging the big miles “on site”.
I work on a Rio Tinto Iron Ore mine site, Yandicoogina, in the middle of the East Pilbara, Outback Australia. Otherwise known as “the middle of freaking nowhere”. I live here 11 days at a time and then fly back down to Perth for 3 days, catch up with family and friends, then fly up to start all over again. It’s generally referred to as FIFO, Fly-In Fly-Out.
I work 10.5-11 hour days, most days starting at 6am and getting off work generally between 4:30-5:00pm. The mess hall is open for dinner from 5:30-8:00pm (and I’m rather fond of eating dinner). So this week I’m scheduled for a 23km long run. I’ve been rather nervous about this all week. My “fuel belt” doesn’t hold enough water for me to get through that long of a run in this heat, and I’m not keen on the idea of running with a camel-back. I expect the run to take me 2 1/4-2 1/2 hours to complete which means time is tight to get back, showered and changed in time to make the mess hall before 8. And I’m not sure where I’m going to run to make this distance without multiple boring laps of the same stretch of road. Lots to think about!
A co-worker reminds me that the dirt road that runs off the end of the bitumen where I normally run, is a public access road (although Rio wouldn’t like to remind people that), so nobody can tell me off for running that way. The morning comes along and I eat a big breakfast, pack a lunch for the day, and just in case, pack a dinner. I don’t get off work until 5pm, so I get to my room, change, and it’s 5:30pm when I finally set off.
For hydration, I decided my only option was the camel-back. It holds a couple liters and the safety people gave me some Gatorade mix to put in it.
For music I go with AudioFuel’s Run Free 1&2, something I’ve never run to before, but it has a 2 hour cadence of 150-165bpm, and I’ve been trying to slow myself down to improve my stamina so I give it a try. It has me running between 6:05 and 6:25 minutes/km and I’m feeling like I can go on forever. In fact, it isn’t until the hour and a half mark that I finally take a walking break, and that was simply to eat my energy gel, not because I needed a break! But of course, once you take one break, the rest come pretty easy
It was a great run. I’d felt tired from my day before I started, but once I hit my tempo I was totally into it. As the sun set, I had cattle running along with me on both sides of the road. There was no moon, but my new hat with the LED’s in the brim kept me from straying too far off track. Your eyes tend to follow the circle of light rather than focus on what’s actually on the ground, and I can’t see either edge of the road so I sort of bounce between both sides. I was about 10km into the run, far from any sign of civilization, when a mining vehicle passed me going the opposite direction. They were really good about slowing down to a crawl to minimise dust to me, but I would have loved to have been in the vehicle listening to them wonder what the heck somebody was doing way out here at this time of night!
I had decided to run out 12km, so when I ran back I didn’t have to worry about the Yandi hill being part of my running time, I could walk the last km guilt free. But at 11.56km by my Garmin GPS watch, I hit Marillana Creek, which covers the whole road. I wasn’t too keen on filling my shoes with water and collecting lots of heavy mud for the last half of my run, so that became my turn-around point.
It was VERY dark on the return, I had a hard time keeping to the middle of the road, and when another vehicle passed me, suddenly my spot of light on the ground became a cone of light floating in front of me, picking up all the dust in the air, and VERY hard to see through. My Gatorade filled camel-back felt pretty good, just a few times I felt the straps shift to rub on my neck, and it didn’t weigh me down like I thought it would.
As I got closer to the bitumen, I came back within the Rio Yandi mine lease, a couple of workers were looking at something in the bush and turned their flashlights on me to see what the heck was coming up the road. About the 20km point my legs started to give in a bit, walking breaks became more frequent and I pretty much walked up the whole hill. All in all though, I was only about 15 minutes slower than my previous weeks 21.1km pace in excellent conditions and early morning energy, so I’ll take it.
I heated up my Thai chicken curry and Singapore noodles in the microwave, ate that and a bit of green salad, got back to my room, showered and pretty much went straight to bed. Today my legs have felt tired, heavy, but not sore. And I did TWENTY THREE KILOMETERS! FOURTEEN POINT THREE MILES! And while almost every Friday will be another new distance PB for me, I’m still going to enjoy every one of them