Trials and tribulations of the KSR trail running team.
The Pinnacles Classic is an iconic trail race set in the Brisbane Forest Park organised by the Trail Running Association of Queensland. It is famed for having 18 hills over its 18km distance and with the hills carrying ominous names such as Bastard and The Mother racers know they are in for a tough day. This year saw a sell out field and an anticlockwise running of the course (the direction alternates each year).
I have been fortunate enough to have some success in this race, previously winning on three occasions and setting a course record in 2011. Going into the race a tad under-trained but feeling fresh I was hoping that my knowledge of the course would lend me an advantage over my speedy KSR teammates Ben and Caine who realistically I expected to finish behind in third place.
The pace was on from the gun on the gradual uphill start. Ben had suffered a bout of sickness earlier in the week and initially he seemed a little sluggish but I later learned that he hadn’t warmed up for the race so was just getting into his stride and he and Caine steadily started to gap me towards the top of the climb. I was excited to see how the race would go between these two but it was clear that Ben was turning the screw early as he pulled away from Caine on the opening descent. I settled into my own rhythm knowing that the first half of the course in this direction was considerably easier than the second half and kept the boys in sight for most of the first 5km. However, Ben maintained his early pace and steadily built his lead until he was out of sight ahead. Surprisingly I was holding the gap to Caine at about 100m, catching him on each of the descents and falling back on the climbs. At one stage we were passed by a group of cyclocross riders and I used them to help pace me up a couple of climbs and by about the 7km mark I had bridged across to Caine and we ran together until the half way aid station. I knew Caine had been suffering with some foot pain and was also a little underdone for the race so I started to think maybe I could use my experience of the race to put a gap on him and then try and hang on until the finish.
Blasting past the volunteers at the aid station I attacked, pushing the pace hard on the climbs and throwing myself down the now very steep descents. Initially the change of pace had the desired effect and Caine seemed to drop back slightly. However, I should have known it wouldn’t be that easy and he stuck to my heels like glue and upped his intensity to match my surge. For the next couple of kms we were hammering along pushing each other to maximum effort. Such was the intensity of our pace increase that I was amazed to catch a glimpse of Ben ahead of us. This gave me renewed focus and I kept pushing the pace, shouting encouragement to Caine to try and chase down Ben. With about 5km to go and dreams of a surprise victory starting to enter my head, Ben – who must have heard my excessive panting and grunting, turned on a climb to see me only 20 seconds or so behind him, visibly accelerated and within a few strides destroyed any hope I had of catching him. Damn. Meanwhile Caine and I were both feeling the heat from my mid-race surge and I just had nothing left in my legs to try and follow Ben’s shocking change of pace. Caine appeared to recover slightly and managed to maintain the high tempo and started to pull away from me. The tail end of the Pinnacles course involves a series of very steep climbs and descents making it very difficult to hold an even effort, especially when your quads are smashed and it feels like your heart is about to burst out of your chest. The course definitely got the better of me in the last few miles and I settled in to consolidate my third place, now more worried about being caught from behind rather than catching the boys ahead. Fortunately, I had enough left in the tank to run all the climbs to the finish and finished a happy and tired third in 1hr21, 2 minutes behind Caine and a further 2 minutes behind Ben, both of whom ran under my old course record.
I really enjoyed this race and the chance to go head to head with my KSR buddies. I was massively impressed with their performances and can’t wait to see what they can do at The North Face 50/100 in May. Special kudos also to Delina who smashed out a strong second place finish behind in-form Mandy Lee-Noble despite very little trail or hill training coming into the event.
Thanks as always to TRAQ for organising the event and for all the volunteers who came out to support and help on the day. Next race for me is the Brisbane Kokoda in June which will be our first outing together as a team and a great warm-up event before the Gold Coast Kokoda Challenge in July. Thanks to Barefootinc for the Inov-8 X-Talon 190s, the perfect shoe for fast technical racing. Now for a beer!