Every race I seem to do that involves the trails always has me waking up at a god-awful hour. For this race, it was 4.30am. I went through me usual pre-race breakfast of golden syrup on toast (2 slices) and an hour before the race, a banana. My parents drove me out to the start line, I collected my bib and I was ready to go.
This race was a training race, in preparation for the Gold Coast Marathon in about 4 weeks time. I wanted some confidence for the GC marathon that I would be able to make the distance. This race is only the second time I had ran the marathon distance, the first time was back in January as part of the Two Bays Ultra. In my training, my longest run is only about 2.5 hours in length. That’s not a lot of long distance experience. So any extra confidence I get is bound to be helpful in breaking 3 hours for GC.
Since my major race is only about a month away I couldn’t afford to be totally wrecked after running this, otherwise my road training would be impacted. As such I didn’t do any research on the race, I didn’t know where the aid stations were. I didn’t know where the major climbs were (or major descents). The only thing I knew was that there was about 2000m of climbing/descending. This meant I went to the start line with an estimated goal of finishing in about 4.5 hours, which was the time I crossed the marathon distance in during my ultra. I had no placing goals (I thought a top 10 might be nice, but didn’t think I would get it), and I was prepared to let that 4.5 hours blow out if it meant I would cross the line feeling fresher. I had another reason in crossing the line in about 4.5 hours. If I didn’t my parents wouldn’t be able to see me finish because they would miss their flight.
Enough of the pre-race context! I started the race conservatively, using the first 30 mins as an effective warm-up. Which was good as the first 20 of those 30 mins was a gradual climb, gaining 100 metres along fire trail. We then dropped back down into a fairly technical single trail section around a lake, which was my favourite bit of the course. Lots of short, sharp climbs, lots of twisty goodness, and a few dry creek crossings for good measure. During this the pain I get in my right foot due to peroneal tendonitis reared it’s ugly head, but this wasn’t too unexpected as I haven’t done any weight training for my stabilising muscles (road is flat, so don’t need it!). However, once that section was done the pain went away as the rest of the race was fairly non-technical fire trail and I had my feet taped up to give that tendon some more support.
Coming out of the single track section I was probably sitting in about 7th and feeling good. There was another long gradual climb which I went up at a pace that felt comfortable and managed to grab another couple positions, before heading into a nice descent and coming across ‘Hellhole Break’. Working at a trail running shop I’d heard of this climb from customers, but had no idea what it would be like. Luckily its bark was worse than its bite. It was fairly steep, but short and early on in the race (about 15km in) which meant that I had plenty of energy to climb it. This was also the point I caught up to 4th, and we ran together for the next 6 or so kays.
Following Hellhole was a fairly long consistent climb and at the top was aid station 3, 27km into the race. At this point I was feeling good. Nutrition of consuming about 250 calories an hour with Trail Brew was on target, I wasn’t feeling dehydrated. No cramping. Just enjoying myself. So I asked the aid station people how far ahead 3rd was, contemplating increasing my pace a little bit to try and catch him. They answered with a few minutes. I made the decision then to keep on with my easy pace. Feeling good the entire way of the race was the original goal, I didn’t want to cross the line feeling wrecked. I didn’t want to enter the hurt locker.
After the aid was station was the biggest descent of the race, dropping down into a valley. Along this way a couple things happened.
1. I came across a friend of mine, Mike, who was out marking the course, telling me that 3rd was only just ahead of me.
2. My favourite part of the race, turning a corner and seeing a layer of cloud covering the fire trail. Spectacular. Just thinking about it now brings a smile to my face. This is one of the many reasons why I love running out on the trails. Completely unexpected moments such as that.
3. Passing 3rd and somehow putting myself into a podium placing.
|So cool dropping down into the cloud!|
There was an aid station just after this climb which I was soo thankful for. With only a few kays left of the race I thought for sure the next time I would see some cool water would be at the finish line, but to my eternal gratitude there was one last aid station. I used it to pour water all over me to try and bring my body temperature down, and that was when I left the hurt locker and started to feel good again. I mean that and the fact that the rest of the race was pretty much all downhill. I ended up crossing the line in 4 hours 17 minutes and 43 seconds, and feeling pretty good, and into the congratulations of my parents. I had made back before they had to leave for their flight! It’s been a little while since my parents had seen me finish a race, so that was a special moment!
Thanks to the amazing people who volunteered and to TRAQ for putting on a great event! This course pretty much had everything and I enjoyed every moment, even the parts where it hurt.
Gold Coast, I’m coming for ya!