This beautiful run is set in the Grampians, a place in Victoria that holds a very special part of my heart. It’s where I married my husband Michael coming on 3 years ago in January. I have been there a number of times and the landscape around the area is just stunning. It’s an area I am more than happy to hang out in!
And like I have been continually saying this year, this race has been on my to-do list for a while. There is two distances to choose from, a 20k or 36k. There is thoughts about putting on a longer distance next year up to 50k I think but nothing has been confirmed yet. But I’ll be the first to say that if there is a 50k there next year, I’m in!!
I headed up to Halls Gap where the event starts and finishes on Saturday morning after a lovely ride with a good friend Mark and grabbing some new Entrix gear that I have been waiting to get my hands on for a while!
Not a lot to report from Saturday. Got my gear sorted. The weather was predicted to be really nice so they downgraded the amount of mandatory gear that we had to take with us so that is always good. The lighter the pack and stuff I have to carry the better! My friend Nicky who was doing the 20k came late Saturday afternoon to stay and hang out.
We got up early Sunday morning and headed into town. The caravan park we were staying at was a little out of town and neither of us wanted to add on an extra 3k each side of our runs!
The race was started in waves 3mins apart. We were standing a little back from the front so by default we ended up near the front of the second wave. Neither of us knew the course at all so it was all new. The only things I knew was that we would start climbing pretty quickly near the start. So get used to climbing! That and there was 1300m of climbing with two big climbs near the start and middle then a smaller climb towards the end. Everything in between is any ones guess!!
The run started, after a bit over 1km we were into the trails and going up! There was a lot of rock hopping and climbing up stairs pretty quickly near the start. I soon understood why everyone wanted to get to the front of the group so they could have clear path up the stairs as there was no way to pass on certain sections, but it opened up and people could sneak past each other. I managed to get past a few people and then felt immediately that I needed to keep going so the person I had passed didn’t get stuck behind me. I always get short of breath up stairs. It doesn’t matter how fit I am. Every. Time. So I just sucked it up and pushed on! The views were stunning as we went along but I know from experience that if I am to look around, I have to have a quick pause or make sure I’m on flat, even ground or else I’m going to stack it. As it was, I rolled my ankles and stumbled quite a few times. Thankfully, stayed upright for the duration of this run!! Yay!! That’s definitely a win for me!
The only cut offs I knew were the place where we split off from the 20k course (2 hour cut off) then the check point at 7 hours but I couldn’t remember how far that was!! Really should learn to check these things properly. Thankfully, I managed to get to the split well under 2 hours so I was sent up the hill after a quick hug from a friend Amelia – after almost falling over!! Whoops. We were sent up another hill which didn’t have a very steep gradient but if I have learnt anything in trail running, walk the hills. Everyone else around me was walking so I figured it was a good decision. Not knowing what was to come, it was better to play it conservative than push through and destroy yourself too early!
We passed another aid station a couple of kms later around 9kms. I felt that I still had enough water to keep going and as I left, I heard someone saying that there was 12k left. What? It confused the hell out of me and I thought about it for quite some time after! I thought that she might have been confused that we were on the 20k loop but even then, it wouldn’t be right. I kept going. And then we climbed. Up and up. There was a LOT more rock hopping, took me back to my childhood when we would play in the rock pools and jump around from one rock to another. I felt reasonably agile which is a nice change for trail running! I usually feel a little strange having people behind me as I feel that they are just waiting to pass but no one said they wanted to so I kept going. We ended up climbing to just under 1000m elevation. There was some open area parts where the views were just breathtaking. I didn’t want to stop and take photos as I knew I would just want to stop all of the time! I figured I could take photos next time I go back as we were on walking trails so I would (hopefully) be able to find my way back there again. The trails were really well marked, I only had one moment where I went off the trail in a rocky section but I realised very quickly and corrected my mistake.
When I say rocky, we were going up and down rocky steps, over rock faces and between two big rocks along little tunnels. Hopefully I’m painting a decent picture here! I have done rocky courses before, like Wilson’s Prom but this was way more than I have done in a course before. The race organisers said before the race, we would be fine with road shoes but I still chose my trail shoes as I like the increased confidence it gives me, especially when descending as I don’t have a lot of skill in that area yet! Haven’t done a lot of work around that skill to date. Can’t focus on everything at once!
After what seemed like a lot of climbing, we started to descend. It was a very technical descent to start with, down steep rock steps, around corners, needing to use hands and feet to get down. We then went into a nice, long descent where I really realised how slow I am going down! SO many people passed me. But whatever, I was having fun!! The trail was about half as wide as a fire road but nice and fast to get down. A few trees over the trail made me stop and climb over but nothing hard. Nice to just focus on my foot placement and not where the trail was going too.
Around this time, I ran out of water. I realised that woman was actually saying the next aid station was another 12k away. Total rookie error. I take this learning and will make sure I actually look at the course and where the aid stations are next time. It was a bit over an hour before I got to the next aid station. Thankfully I had lolly snakes that I could eat and not need water to digest. Everything else I had been using, my Huma Gels, vegemite sandwiches and salt tablets all needed water. I asked another running as he passed when we would get to the next aid station and he told me there was a creek crossing at the bottom of the descent then not too far on from there. I figured if I was desperate, I could drink from the creek if it was flowing fast enough. Thankfully it wasn’t too hot and I was able to manage the situation!!
I was more than grateful to get to the aid station as they had toilets, water and I also could refill my snakes!!
I had passed the half way mark at about 3:15 which put me on track for my predicted time of 6:30-7 hours. Since I didn’t know the terrain, I thought that this was a reasonable time prediction. The cut off was 8 hours so my plan is always to make cut off and then I work backwards from there.
After the aid station, there was about 14-15k to go. My garmin was tracking 1km ahead of the km markers so I can’t be exactly sure how far it was to go. I know I wasn’t running along the fastest route so I am not surprised I was not completely accurate on my garmin.
The second half was a lot faster than the first half. There was still tricky sections but not anywhere near as hard as the first section. Not complaining!!
However, as one of the sign said as we passed – another climb that’s not going to show up on the elevation profile!! There was a sequence of little short, sharp climbs that lasted 100-200m but they were STRAIGHT UP! These are ones that I am actually reasonably good at. In comparison to the people around me, I can actually get up them quickly. I take super small steps, lean far forward and just go. I usually use a flat foot instead of on my toes as well as I find this puts less stress directly on my calves. Seems to work for me anyway!
Only issue is, everyone passes me on the downhill!! On one of the steep downhills, my left knee started to have a sharp pain. To the point where I had to stop a couple of time to rub it and stretch a little bit in my hammy. Thankfully, it was fine on the flats and not as steep downhills! And there wasn’t that many left either. Phew!
There was one last aid station with 4k to go. I skipped it and kept going. I ran out of water (again), yep, I know. But there was only about 2k to go so it wasn’t too bad. I realised around this time that I was well and truly going to beat my predicted time. By about an hour! Amazing. Then I started to get worried that my friend Nicky wasn’t going to be in town at the finish!
There was a guy who passed me not too far before he finished but then kept stopping to walk. I yelled out to him not to let me catch him. I figure that spurred him on enough as I didn’t end up catching him!!
I ran the last part through the walking track and down the main street. I felt strong and amazing! I have never felt like this at the end of a long running race before. I have felt good at the end of a half ironman but never a long race. Usually I’m shuffling and surviving. I don’t feel that it was because I “didn’t go hard enough” or something like that. It was more that all of the training I have been doing lately to build up my run and get stronger is finally paying off!!
Nicky took a photo of me when I was coming to the finish and I feel that it sums up how I was feeling in that moment. Pure joy and elation that I had finished but also finished feeling strong and happy! This is a run I have been waiting to happen for a while now. So it was perfect timing!
Now onto Surf Coast 50k in 3 weeks. I’m excited!!