Monday, 5 September 2016

Race Report: Hoka One One Anglesea Trail Race 2016

Since I live in Gippsland my race preparation started at 8.30 on the Saturday (3rd September) morning. The reason being I was finally using up my Physiohealth massage voucher that I won back at Plenty Gorge. It was good, I even learnt a new term; fascia line. 
Since I live so far away from where the race was being held, I had planned to stay with some family friends, and catch up with a mate that I haven't seen for years. Unfortunately the one day I was there he got called into work early, so the only time I spoke to him was saying hello and goodbye as I walked out the door the next morning. Thanks to the Low's for housing me and feeding me for that night!
The pre-dawn morning, on my way to the race.
Race day. 
Race 4 of the Hoka One One trail running series is held in Anglesea in conjunction with the Surfcoast Century, which this year is National Long Trail Championships. My race is on the Sunday with the 100km SCC held on the Saturday. 

The morning started off smoothly, I arrived at the start line an hour before the race was due to begin to do my warmup and get ready, but then something unexpected happened. I had to use my first aid skills. On my way back from my warm up run I stopped to get a coffee, whilst waiting for it to be made the person in front of me suddenly collapsed. When he was on the floor I was starting to put him into the recovery position before myself and the other bystanders could figure out what the next course of action was. However while I was doing this he came to, and we realised he had fainted. While we had him sitting down we discovered he had run in the 50km the day before, and that he also didn’t suffer any concussion as he remembered all the events leading up to the incident. After sitting down for a couple minutes he said he was fine, collected his coffee and then 5 meters later as he was about to leave the cafĂ©, he fainted again. That’s when we made the decision to call the ambulance, as something wasn’t right. We got him sitting down on a bench after that and he kept on insisting he was fine. After that point though I don’t know what happened, as this was 20 minutes before the race was due to start; so after checking that the other First Aiders were good to stay with him, I left.
From reading other race reports you would have seen that for me, a warm up is vitally important and due to that incident the only warm up I did was a jog, which isn’t enough. 
The start line, photo thanks to Bernie Larson
Nevertheless I lined up on the start line, and what a start it was, on the beach with a huge number of spectators and the sand was a dream to run on, nothing like the stuff I train on. Hard and flat, almost like running on bitumen. In terms of effort I started out pretty conservatively, which kept me in touch with the lead group for the entire beach section (about 6.5km). The beach running was kept interesting with towering cliffs over the top of you which was just stunning to look at, along with a bit of rock scrambling at about the 5km mark, where one person excelled and looked like he was dancing. 
Those towering cliffs! © SuperSportImages/Rapid Ascent Content Pool
It was incredible and gained a good 100m on the front pack just by being nimble. I also got speaking to Francesco Ciancio, the winner of the 100km the day previous and he was saying he was feeling sore (understandable) and that he likes to come home fast, so a plan formulated in my mind of how to try and beat him. Off the beach and onto the Surfcoast Trail, Francesco and myself were sitting 4th and 5th and he was starting to slow down, so at about the 8.5km point I passed him. All was going to plan, but what was the plan? For trail running, it’s impossible to stick to a certain pace as the terrain is always changing, so I like to measure pace by intensity. 

The plan was to start off fairly conservatively intensity wise, warming up as it were and hit the middle section really hard, trying to put as much distance between myself and Francesco as possible, and try to make it home.
My Strava splits,
10th and 11th km's were a bit slower as
I gained some elevation
From the 9th km I put the foot down, peaking in my intensity between the 12th and 15th km where there was a beautiful flowy single-track section. It was also during this section I had my Vfuel gel, to try and get me through to the finish line. From there though I started to fade a little and hit a really low spot at the 17km mark when I thought I only had 5km to go, as my brain can’t do math when I’m tired. When the maths was slowly ticking in over in my head and I realised that I had 6km to go I almost cried, 5km I can handle, but another 6km? It’s hard to explain, but running is a mental game. Your mind has to trick your body and at that point my mind wasn’t playing nice. Once I got through to the 18th km though I was back in a much better mental space, back to being able to tell myself 5km to go, 5km to go.

Throughout this entire time I was constantly looking over my shoulder to see if Francesco was coming for me and even in the stretches were I could see a good couple hundred meters behind me, I couldn’t see anyone. When I got to the 21km point I was running along the cliffs that I was running underneath just a bit over an hour earlier, and I could almost see the finish line. 500 m later the course turned inland, and I had another glance over my shoulder to see that distinctive red buff that Francesco was wearing, and he was coming for that finish line super fast. 500m after that, he passed me. Looking back on Strava, Frank’s 21st and 22nd km were about 4 min/km. Mine were about 4.30 min/km. There was no way I could keep up with him, so I just kept plodding along in 5th place. That’s all right, I’m still happy with a top 5 finish. Then we came to the final sand section that I was totally unprepared for, and it was soft sand too where I got passed again, coming across the line in 6th place, 10 minutes behind the front runner; and 1st in my age group in a time 1 hour 48 min and 5 seconds.
Made it across the finish line! Photo thanks to Bernie Larson

This race was my longest race to date, coming in just shy of 23km and I wouldn’t change a thing. I wouldn’t have started off slower and I wouldn’t have saved myself for the last bit because I haven’t ever been a great finisher; even when I used to run track. I think I wasn’t able to hold on at the end because I just wasn’t fit enough, and maybe because the course didn’t suit my strengths. I’m not that speedy and this course was relatively flat, and since I’m training to do well at 4 Peaks (Bright Alpine Climb), I’ve been focusing on strength and powering up hills rather than being fast on the flatter stuff. But I’m constantly improving and I’m happy with that. At this point in time last year when I did my first trail half-marathon at Walhalla, I don’t think I could have predicated I would be able to do so well at this sort of distance, and now I came 6th out of 238 people and rubbing shoulders with national champions. 
The National Trail Champion, Francesco
Unreal. I’m coming full circle with running the half marathon at Walhalla next weekend, but going to have some fun with it. I’m not treating it as a race but more of a training run as my racing schedule is so full, and 4 Peaks is just around the corner so I need to get some solid training in rather than just racing all the time. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to try and beat last years time though.
Stoked to finish top of the podium for the U20
Thanks to Sam and the Rapid Ascent crew for putting on another great race, the volunteers who crewed the aid stations, the fans for cheering us on and to Sale and District runners who are my loyal training partners and never cease to stop inspiring. See you next weekend Walhalla!


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