So it was that I arrived at the Cotter Reserve at the crack of dawn on a decidedly bleak and threatening day. I was going to run 15 miles (23.9 Garmin kilometres), over some big hills, in a spectacular location. On a clear day there are panoramic views that hearten the soul — largely the result commercial forestry and the 2003 bushfires. Fifteen years ago "The Cotter" was the perfect location for a summer run — the three courses (15, 18 and 21 miles) being shaded by towering Radiata Pines.
I set off with the impetuous intent of keeping the other (faster) runners in sight. Not an easy task on a course that climbs steadily for the first 20-odd minutes. Dumb idea! I was at close to racing effort, yet the three leaders steadily increased the gap. Steve must have felt some pity, as he waited patiently at the top of the first hill while I breathlessly caught up. "You go on and catch the others," I said. "I know my way, and need to slow down."
Half an hour later I was climbing the aptly named Jellylegs hill, battling into a headwind under steady rain. It was a miserable day. When I reached the gate at the top of the climb I took a drink. I stood there in the cold rain for what must have been a good five minutes, debating with myself about whether to turn right or left. Right was a short-cut home that would reduce the run to about 17 kilometres. Turn left and I'd be committed to the 24. In the end I thought "what the heck", and turned left. Fifteen minutes later I crested the rise on Bullock Paddock Road wondering what I'd done. The wind was biting and there were snow clouds blowing down from the mountains. I was freezing.
I can only remember a couple of times when I've been worried about my safety whilst out running. Once I was jogging beside a quite road towards Crater Lake in Oregon — just me and my thoughts, having a great time until I heard something moving in the forest. Immediately I recalled the stories about joggers being attacked by cougars or black bears. Needless to say I ran with adrenaline inspired urgency for the last 5k back to our lodgings.
What saved me on Saturday was a fortuitous break in the weather. Weak shadows appeared on the ground just after I reached Padovans Crossing. I'd never been so happy to see shadows! I was still cold and wet, but the rain had stopped and I was slowly jogging. At Vanities Crossing my legs were numb and dead from the cold. I was only 7k from home, so I walked the long hill towards Pierce's Creek then jogged the last 2k down to the cars, thinking all the while that this was one run I'd remember for a long time!