|The View from the top of Arthurs Seat|
I feel like to start off this race report, I need to provide some context as to what exactly happened prior to this run. 1: I went on a week long camp (Lord Somers Big Camp, as a staffer) where I got an average of 5 hours sleep per night before the race. 2: My longest run prior to this was 30km through the Mitchell River National Park which took me 4.5 hours. 3: I came off an extended break throughout Christmas to try and recover from my foot injury. 4. none of my running friends or my family knew I was running the 56km, the only people that knew were Dan from Ultra168, some random people from the cruise over the Christmas holidays , and people at the camp.
For those friends and family who are reading this, the reasoning behind not telling you is this. I wasn’t confident that I had the self-motivation to go through with running it if enough people told me I was crazy for trying. I was and still am nowhere near fit enough to be attempting this distance, but I wanted to try for a couple reasons. To call myself an Ultra Runner while still in my teenage years and to have confidence when doing my first road marathon on the Gold Coast in July that I can make the distance. Which meant having a crack at one of the easiest trail ultra’s I know of, a stunning out and back course with (only) about 1500m of climbing (according to the website). So with that in mind my two goals for this race were this. The first and ultimate goal, finish it, no matter what. The second and perhaps more unrealistic goal, try and break 5 hours.
|The kit I would be racing in, a Salomon shirt, hat and pack. Hoka Speed Instincts, Brooks shorts and starting out in 2XU calf socks|
With that out of the way, my race! I turned up to the start line with a solid 8 hours the night before, so no-where near enough to erase the previous week’s sleep debt, and had 45 minutes to do a warm-up and get myself ready before the gun went off. What I thought was plenty of time quickly disappeared after waiting in line to use the toilet, you would’ve thought that by now I would know to go before I get to the start line, obviously not. That meant by the time I ran back to the car (and used that as my warm-up) to put on my pack and running shoes (I only had my Sanuks on at this point, they’re super comfy) and then ran back to the start line, everyone had already filled up the starting chute. And since I wasn’t wearing anything summer-y (Hawaiian shirt or boardshirts) apart from a Fiji bracelet I bought on the cruise a few weeks prior, I wasn’t able to force my way to the front.
This meant the first few km’s of the race, while I was still fresh, were super slow. This, in hindsight, was probably a good thing as I didn’t really have a warm-up and meant that I didn’t start too quickly, which is usually a problem for me. But was frustrating at the time! However, this meant I got to enjoy the spectacular views across Bushrangers Bay and got talking to a few of the other runners, and generally just enjoying myself.
As mentioned above, I have no experience running this length so I set out with this basic plan. Start out running no faster than 5min/km, as this is usually an easy running pace for me, going faster later on if I feel good. Taking the uphills super easy, the flat stuff easy and pushing the downhills hard, as that’s usually my strong point. And having a Vfuel gel every 45 minutes and constantly sucking on sports drink throughout. Starting off with Trail Brew and switching over to Vfuel drink when that ran out (didn’t think to have a drop bag with more Trail Brew in it, thanks Troy for suggesting for me to do that next time!).
And for the first 18km’s all was going well. The scenery was stunning and had already encountered a wide variety of trail surfaces including some gravelly single track, open grassy sections and the killer soft sand section, where, to my surprise, Kellie Emmerson came flying past me, saying she got lost. She was really making up time for that mistake though, flying through that sandy section. I was still in a great mindset, ticking away the km’s and even still on time to break 5 hours. But within the next 2km’s my right sock started rubbing, and I could feel a blister coming on. However, I knew this might be a problem as the last time I wore these socks in a race, a blister formed (wearing different shoes and on road instead of trail). This meant I brought another pair of socks in my pack and quickly swapped my right sock across at the aid station just beyond the 20km point, which drew a few remarks from other runners as I had odd socks on. One calf length 2XU compression sock on my left foot, one ankle height Stiegen sock on my right. But even though it probably only took 2 minutes to swap it across, it felt like infinity as the people who I had been running with took off and saw people whom I passed at the start overtake me. I was a bit annoyed to say the least. But with the problem solved I was off and running again trying to make up time, which didn’t work all that well as the biggest hill of the race started about 1.5km after that aid station, Arthurs Seat. And while the climb up it wasn’t particularly difficult in comparison to some of the hills I’ve raced and trained up, it still took more out of me than it should have and took longer than I would’ve liked. And this is where my lack of long distance training started to show its face, I had breached the half marathon point, the focus of all my training this past year. But the views at the top were breathtaking and was a nice little accomplishment.
|The beach in Dromana looking up to the top of Arthurs Seat|
Going down was easy and nothing to write home about, and when I got down into the township of Dromana and the turn-around point I had just realised how much time I burned making my way up Arthurs Seat the first time. Ringing the bell at 02:37:28 made me realise that there was no-way I was going to achieve my secondary goal of breaking 5 hours (which I don’t think was ever going to happen), so I set my focus on the primary goal. Finish.
|The bell (screenshot from the Two Bays Trail Run Site)|
Re-filling my drink bottles and grabbing some more gels and ringing the bell I hardened my resolve to climb Arthurs Seat the second time, where I got passed and passed again. Usually I’m towards the front and this was bit demoralising, but for the most part I was ok with it. I’m doing something I’ve never done before, I don’t have to do well first try, so I kept on trucking and before I knew it (and with some tasty tunas helping (that’s music for all you non-triple j listening folks haha ;)) I had reached the top, and the second time around actually felt easier than the first time. And I had a new distance record! 32km’s and counting. But coming back down almost killed me. Every time I landed on my left leg after a stair I felt like my quad was going to cramp up on me, so I changed my gait, landing on my right leg instead, which fixed the problem. But I was still glad to see the end of the hill when I reached McLarens Dam and even gladder when a person handed out some ice and water to me at that point (and found out later that that person was Nige Stuart, so thanks!)
The going really got tough for me from the marathon mark onwards (which I ran in 4.28.31, got a lot of work to do if I want to break 3 hours this year). A headache had developed at the back of my head, probably from the constant pounding of my feet against the ground, and I felt soo tired. My legs didn’t want move anymore. Each step was hard. I wasn’t prepared for this. But lucky for me I was moving through my favourite part of the course, Greens Bush between the 42-48km markers. And boy was it beautiful, it made me forget my pain for the briefest of moments.
|A tunnel of trees|
But it was over too soon and I was struggling to keep on running. I had to walk more and more, and felt like sitting down. The only thing that stopped me from sitting was a trail race that was on during Lord Somers Camp. It was relatively short and not very hilly but some of the participants had never done anything like it. They gave it their all, and I kept it at the back of my mind throughout the final stages of the race. If they can push their limits, then so can I. In the final 2kms I gave it everything. I ran it all, even the uphills. I even sprinted the final 50m to just beat another person across the line.
My official time was 06:15:08, with my second half of the race a full hour slower than the first half, taking me 03:37:40 to complete. And looking at the results page, I had to flip to page 3 to find my name, which hasn’t ever happened before for a trail race. And to finish in the bottom 50%, when I had maybe thought I could finish in the top 20 overall has left me with a weird feeling. I would usually reflect on whether I had done enough training or whether my nutrition was correct, but I obviously hadn’t trained enough and I hadn’t consulted my sports nutritionist about the race so that part of the race went down the sink too. It was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. But I don’t care. I’m now an Ultra Runner!
Thanks to the team at Big Long Run for putting on an amazing race :)
Thanks to the team at Big Long Run for putting on an amazing race :)
|I'm going to assume that the GPS was inaccurate!|