Monday, 26 September 2016

Race Report: Hoka One One Trail Series Race 5: Studley Park

I’m getting a weird sense of Déjà vu as I am writing this, as I’m yet again writing the words, ‘the race didn’t quite go to plan’ for a night race. The last time I wrote those words was for my race report 'Wings For Life'
You’ll find out what the heck happened shortly…

But first off can I say how cruel it is of Rapid Ascent to hold a race at nighttime? This is the first time they did it as part of their ‘Hoka One One Trail Series’, where we returned to Studley Park to run the exact same course of Race 1 (which I didn’t partake in) and it was torture leading up to the race. For me I usually get the pre-race nerves the night before the race, take ages to get to sleep and then wake up ready to run the race in the morning, but not this time. This time I woke up and the nerves hung around all day. It’s terrible; I was at work constantly looking at the clock slowly counting down the hours before I could leave for Melbourne. And it finally arrived.
Trail Racing at Night!
Heading down with me to the race was Kym (who was running in the short race) and Dad, the person I dragged along so he could drive us home while I was having a sleep (we both live about 3 hours drive away from where the race was). We got there with plenty of time to spare, which was good as I need a long time to warm up and also good for another reason. For the first time ever I got my ankle taped up by the guys at Physiohealth. (For those who didn’t read my last race report, I hurt my ankle halfway through a half marathon and continued to run on it for another 10km, NOT SMART). It’s been a bit under two weeks since I hurt it and have been running on it for the past week with no issues, but it’s just been on the road and track not on any trails. I didn’t want to reinjure it, hence the tape. Which also probably wasn’t very smart to be trying something new at a race, and it wasn’t, but more on that later.
Taped Ankle
I had another quick chat with Francesco, (who ran in the 5km this time as he had an ultra race on the Saturday morning, so he took it easy. He still won) went for a good warm-up and arrived at the start line with my head torch and ready to go. Only to find that my head torch wasn’t working. I ran with it just two nights previously for the first time and with brand new batteries, worked fine. Turned it on that morning of the race, worked fine. Tried turning it on when I needed it the most, it says ‘screw you’ and makes me go into a mild panic attack. 2 minutes before the race starts and the RD is going through the pre-race briefing, my dad finds me and is my knight in shining armour; fixes it by taking the batteries out of the casing and putting them back in again. It starts working again. Didn’t even think of doing that but pretty much as soon as he does that, the race siren goes off and I’m off and running, breathing a huge sigh of relief. But I honestly think it was an omen of what was to come.

The long race around Yarra Bend and Studley Park is supposedly the easiest race of the Hoka One One Series, it’s shorter than all of the others at 15km, it’s relatively flat at about 150 metres elevation gain and not too technical with (and you better be sitting down for this) some sections that are on bitumen and concrete *gasps*. Exactly the stuff that I haven’t been training for. In other words, it’s a speedy circuit. And I haven’t been doing too much speed work. So I walked into the race thinking 65 mins to run 15k’s isn’t too bad, and to try and achieve this I’d hit out the first 5k’s in a bit under 20 mins, with the expectation of majorly slowing down in the last 3-4k’s due to my muscles being fatigued from the lack of speed training. And for the first 5k’s the plan went perfectly, I got into a group consisting of Kelly Emmerson (which I didn’t know who that female was at the time, it was dark!) and a few others who all seemed to have the brightest head torches, so it was almost like running in the day! And to maintain that sub 4min/km is so much easier in a group. Then the race seemed to go into a downhill spiral.

I got through the 5km point in 19.50, then ran down the first trail hill and promptly fell over. Which was fine, I didn’t badly hurt myself. I got up, dust myself off and managed to keep up with, and pass the majority of that group that I ran with at the beginning. 1km later; however, I got a stitch in my right shoulder and it’s where I lost my rhythm. I was expecting to start to hurt 6k’s later, not then! I went from running easy, to running hard. And it didn’t seem to leave until the 8th kilometre. The terrain helped to keep my mind off it, especially this steel bridge that we ran across at about 6.5k’s in. Completely unexpected and was cool to run across in the dark. Even with the stitch I was still making good time and made it to the 10th km in 41.44, which made me start to think that I set my sights too low in terms of a time to aim for. I then readjusted my time and told myself to aim to beat 63 mins, plenty of time run my last 5k’s. For me, between the 10-12th km was the most interesting and the most fun. There was nobody in front of me and one person a bit behind me so I had to rely on only my head torch. Which was lucky that the head torch; a ‘Black Diamond Ion’
My head torch that I won and run in, and didn't bounce around at all, which was good!
which I won as part of my last Rapid Ascent race, was up to the task. The single track went down to the Yarra River and got a bit more technical; I really had to concentrate to not trip up on any of the rocks or roots and potentially fall into the river! Lucky for me that didn’t happen, but something almost as bad did.

At the 12km point I developed a stomach cramp, the kind that felt like a punch in the gut. I occasionally get them, for unapparent reasons and the multiple specialists I’ve seen have no idea what causes it, how to prevent it and perhaps more importantly how to treat it. I went from doing reasonably well, maybe 5th or 6th overall, to dropping 5 places in the space of about 500 meters. I was practically slowed to a walk. It was demoralising and it hurt. The last 3k’s were agony, especially the point where I was jogging on a section of downhill concrete, where I should have been flying, which is where I got passed, again. And to top it all off I was starting to get a blister on the bottom of my heel from the tape that was put on earlier, perfect.
The beginnings of the blister
It was such a good feeling to see the lights and hear the music of the finish line at about 300m to go, it meant I had almost finished! I eventually crossed the line in (unlucky) 13th overall and in a time of 65.58 mins, and first in my age group which I didn’t feel like I deserved.
Walking over the line
I was in such a dark place when I crossed that line, I was angry at how I performed and angry for my body turning against me for no apparent reason. And my stomach cramp didn’t let up until the next morning, so in what should have been a joyous occasion celebrating the end of a good series with a few beers, ended up me just wanting to make the presentations go a lot faster, and screw recognising everybody’s achievements. I want my recognition and reward, and I want to go home. It was terrible to be thinking those thoughts, especially since my running companion won her age category for the short course, well-done Kym!
Fake it till you make it?
This race definitely had the best prize too, thanks to Hoka One One. Any pair of shoes in their range, which is awesome! I’m still yet to decide. I also got a nice medal from Rapid Ascent for winning overall U20, and it feels great to have that title.
My medal for winning the series

I’ve learnt so much from doing these races. It’s ok to walk up some the hills, different strategies work for different races, and how to run on different sorts of terrain, fast (which you don’t really do when it’s just a training run). I first competed at Race 2 back in 2014, before I had any idea what trail running even was. A harder form of x-country perhaps? But I’ve learnt it’s so much more than that and I thank the Rapid Ascent team for a great racing experience, time and time again. This is the last time I’ll be doing anything with these guys until I don’t know when (moving up north to QLD for uni next year); I highly recommend doing at least one of the trail series events, it’s the perfect way to dip your toe in trail running and see if it’s for you. I certainly found out it that it was for me.


  1. Good effort on the run anyway dude. Sometimes it happens that way no matter how much we prepare. All we can do is roll with it. See you out there soon.

    1. Hi Mitch,

      Thanks for your comment, I've been told that by a few different people now and I don't think there was much I could do to avoid it. You have good days and bad days, and that race was one of those. Hope to see you out there again soon!


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