Trials and tribulations of the KSR trail running team.
As part of our preparation for the Gold Coast Kokoda Challenge, team Kokoda Spirit Racing decided to enter into the 30km Brisbane Kokoda Challenge, a shorter training race in the lead up to the main event. This would give us a great chance to test our legs and practice running together as a team. Unfortunately on race day, our team of four was reduced to two, with Ben taking a well deserved rest after his stellar performance at The North Face 100, and Caine having to catch a flight to Tahiti for a defence force athletics competition (its a tough life in the Australian Army these days). Therefore Dan and I toed the line along with hundreds of other teams for what turned out to be an enjoyable run through the Brisbane Forest Park.
Dan and I decided to use this run as practice for Kokoda, so opted to walk many of the climbs we would normally have run during a 30km event and paced our effort as if running a longer event. I pride myself on being the best plodder in our team and from the gun it was clear that Dan was struggling to maintain a slow enough pace up the climbs. We would run together on the downhill sections, chatting away, only for Dan to rapidly pull away on the uphills whilst I engaged my ‘ultra distance low gear’. I don’t think Dan is used to running this slowly and a few times he actually ended up running backwards up the hills at the same pace I was running forwards! Realising that Dan would eventually tire if he tried to run the whole course backwards, we changed tactics and stuck together more closely on the climbs.
The course itself was on undulating terrain with barely a single flat section of track but without the super-steep climbs we will encounter during the Gold Coast Kokoda. During the opening half of the race we were running in second place behind the team Hare and Stoat pair of Benson and Shayne but always had them in sight and I was confident that we could pass them on the run home. Having the other boys ahead of us gave Dan and I a good gauge of our pace, making sure we were maintaining a sustainable effort without losing sight of the two leaders. At the half way checkpoint we were cheered on by Ben and his Dad Andrew (who is also running Kokoda in team Hare and Stoat), who assured us we were still looking fresh and encouraged us to pick the pace up for the second half. Our plan was to try and take the lead after about 1 hour 30 of running and right on cue we caught Shayne and Benson just after the halfway point on one of the more technical descents. A quick surge up the next climb (the steepest of the race) saw us with a handy lead and barring any disasters we knew the win would be ours.
After 20kms the race course doubles back on itself and this gave us a great chance to see many of the other teams who were still approaching the first checkpoint. The encouragement they gave us really helped spur us on and we tried to encourage them as much as we could, realising that many of the teams would be out in the forest for 5 or more hours longer than us. Dan and I kept the pace reasonably high for a few kilometres and guessed we would be pulling away from those behind so even a couple of brief stops for Dan to stretch out his hammys in the last couple of kilometres meant that we crossed the line in a new course record time of 2h43, 6 minutes clear of second place.
This was a really enjoyable run and a chance for Dan and I to get used to running in sync. Even though we didn’t push the pace full-on, we still had a decent lead by the end and take a lot of confidence from this leading into our last few weeks of training before the ‘big dance’ in July.
Thanks to the organisers and volunteers for putting on a great event. I had a chance after the race to chat to one of the Kokoda Youth Program volunteers (this is the charity that the Kokoda challenge supports) and it was great to hear about the good work they do here and overseas.
The buffalo are rising…