Trials and tribulations of the KSR trail running team.
The wet and wild weather that has ravaged most of east coast Australia left the trails at Mt Glorious littered with fallen trees and branches. It is a testament to the hard work of all those who assisted in the massive clean-up and in-particular race director Greg Waite that the race was able to go ahead. However, road closures still took their toll and the course was altered with the point-to-point 22km format replaced with a 24km out-and-back one. Somewhat disappointingly this meant that the initial steep climb from Cedar Creek had been cut out, but a mountain race is still a mountain race and I was just happy that the event didn’t have to be cancelled.
Like many other (very helpful!) runners, my mother wasn’t going to let a persistent back injury stop her from being involved in the running community and had volunteered to spend her morning helping out at the race while my Dad and I ran. Since we were all travelling out to the race together, this meant we were all getting up three and a half hours before the start to be there early enough to assist with setting up, which was perfect timing for a few scoops of Hammer Perpetuem for breakfast.
Arriving at the start to help set-up, we were met with a thick fog, as is typical of the rainforest area. Any hope Dad and I had of keeping our feet dry were quickly dashed carrying equipment through the damp grass of the finish area. Any hopes we had of keeping anything else dry were also dashed when the heavens opened up on all the runners huddling together at the race briefing. 10mintues before the race start I downed a Banana Hammer gel with a couple of swigs of water and then made the short trek to actual start line which was short walk down the road.
The race begun with a long (around 9km) steady downhill into the valley below. Fellow KSR team mate Dave Coombs (although much shorter than the upcoming Kokoda Challenge, both Dave and I were using this race as a chance to test our fitness on an appropriately mountainous course), a strong middle distance track runner Adam Hulme and I bolted from the start line relishing the chance to fly downhill. I loved just trying to see how quickly I could turn my legs over because with my Hoka One One Stinson Evo’s on, this was really the only factor limiting how quickly I could reach the bottom! My back quickly became covered in a layer of mud which was to stay there for the remainder of the race.
I would admire the beautiful views of the D’Anguliar ranges from between the trees, but a quick glance behind me at Dave Coombs charging down the mountain just behind would quickly remind me to keep (at least partly) focused on the race! Once reaching the bottom of the mountain, the course follows an undulating track along England creek before turning around and sending runners to retrace their steps back along the river and up the mountain. At the turn around I checked my watch which read 38.33 and I could also see that Adam had since over taken Dave and was looking extremely comfortable gaining on me along the flats. Although my main focus for the race was simply to test myself by running a bit quicker than usual, I was determined to do well since my beautiful girlfriend, Iulia, was waiting for me at the finish line and the last time she watched me run I DNFed due to a gastro infection!
The climb was long but never very steep, so I was simply focusing on keeping a steady running rhythm and not looking back at Adam too much. It was great to see all the smiles on other runners’ faces as they headed down into the valley. It made me wonder if those smiles would still be there on the way back up! The race ended with a section of single-track that had been avoided at the start to prevent a bottleneck of overenthusiastic trail runners. I seemed to have forgotten this section was actually a couple of kilometres and was convinced that the finish was always no more than 200m away. This was probably a blessing in disguise since I ended up running this final section pretty quickly (though I think running on single track always feels quick!), expect for when negotiating a few slippery mossy stairs with about 900m to go. I emerged from the rainforest and ran through the finish line with my watch reading 1.42.30 and was pleased to have felt so good the whole way. Adam came through a few minutes later followed by Dave a minutes after that. As the rest of the field came through I noticed that none of the smiles from before had been removed by the long climb (or if they had, then they quickly reappeared when the finish line came into view!). As is typical of TRAQ (Trail Running Association of Queensland) events, there was a smorgasbord of food waiting for hungry runners at the end but I stuck to my mother’s delicious chocolate date-balls. There was such a wonderful atmosphere at the finish line as all the runners cheered each other on and chatted away about the experience they had all just shared together
This was such a great race and brilliant sign for Dave and I that our preparations are on track for the Kokoda Challenge in July. I really wish there were more mountain races like it so close to Brisbane but I guess that is just one of the many things that make this race special!