Trials and tribulations of the KSR trail running team.
The Razorback is steeped in history, originally run back in XXX as a fat ass event by some equally hard ass alpine runners it has always ticked away quietly in the background with an addictive hold over runners who know its slopes. Its one of the those events seen only fit for old school “rough” Alpine runners offering some of the most spectacular views and alpine single track coupled with punishing climbs, arduous descents and “temperamental” weather conditions. Throughout its history Razorback has always seen a steady flow of elite runners grace its start line with the likes of Matt Coops and Andy Kromar making regular appearances The Bungalow spur is the main climb in the 38k rising consistently to 1900m at the summit of MT feather top. I hit the trail and moved quickly to the front however of late the word is spreading about the Razorback, perhaps due to its inclusion in the La Sportiva Mountain Series or perhaps due to its various distance offerings of 22/38/58/64k? Either way now runners come from all states to test their resilience on its slopes and this year was no different with entrants from NSW, ACT, VIC, QLD, TAS, SA and WA toeing the start line of the various distances.
So when the opportunity presented itself for me to have a crack this year I couldn’t say no but with Buffalo only 3 weeks later and still trying to cram my training in (due to the late recovery of my injuries) I unfortunately couldn’t risk lining up for the 64km. I took the next best option signing on for the 38km which worked out well with my fellow La Sportiva Team mates Tom Brazier, Stephen Upton and Matt Adams also on the 38k start list it was shaping up for a fun day out. Matt Coops had also planned to race the 38k which would have made for a great duel between us all but disappointingly last minute commitments meant it wasn’t to be.
So back down to Vic Apls I went this time alone and bunking with KSR Team mate Dan Nunan (racing 64K) less than 25m from the start line! Saturday morning rolled around quickly and start was in typical “Paul Ashton” style….low key and humble. With the 38 and 64/58 starting all together a nice group of Gill Flower, Matt, Stephen, Tom and myself ran the short road section through Harrietville up the start of the Bungalow spur trail. Once on the trail I moved to the front hearing Tom and Stephen drop in behind me. I knew I was up for a 70min+ climb so just settled in and let the legs tick over at a comfortable pace as I could still feel the hill session from Thursday lingering in my quads.
After about 5min I looked back and surprisingly had dropped Tom and Stephen and had developed about a 1min gap. It was still dark but thankfully my Ay-ups where lighting the way like a set of car headlights. It had been a long time since I had run in the dark and I was really enjoying just focusing on my little tunnel of light and focusing on the next few steps as we continued to climb…and climb…and climb. Nearing the top of the climb daylight started to break, the sun snuck out from the mountain peaks and a burst of orange glow lit up everything around, the silent dead trees, the rocks and the sweet alpine single track in front of me, everything had an orange glow…it was probably the most beautiful sight I have ever seen running. This natural beauty really sparked me up and hit the federation hut just below the Feathertop summit in high spirits and feeling great. The trail up the final section of Feathertop is brilliant…rocky but clean and with nothing but spectacular views in all directions.
Summiting the top I couldn’t help but stop and take a photo, yeah it might have cost me 2min in my race time but with views like this I couldn’t resist. I stashed my phone back in my bag and hit the descent of Feathertop at speed. I was still worried about where Tom was and sure enough we passed on my way down about 3-4min back. I was also pleased to see Dan in 1st place in the 64k about 5min back. I smashed down off the summit and made the right hand turn onto the Razorback.
The Razorback was more technical than I had expected, I don’t know why but I had expected it to be a smooth and buffed trail but it was actually quite rocky and undulating. The views from the ridge were again spectacular and I found myself stopping to look around a bit more than I should have. I found my legs where a little lazy going along the Razorback and I had to focus to keep turning them over and keep my pace honest. It was here along the Razorback that I started to feel the altitude, sucking in the big ones on the little rolling hills of the Razorback was making it harder work than it needed to be…I don’t know why but altitude really zaps my hill legs. Nearing the end of the Razorback I spotted the 22km entrants bounding towards me. The track was narrow and fell away steeply so there were plenty of rubbing shoulders as we all tried to dance our way past each other. It can get very lonely in these longer races and I always enjoy seeing others on the trail so it was no surprise that my pace quickened a little as I ran through the 22k runners.
Pretty soon I hit the Diamantina hut, had my name taken then made my way back out to the Bon Accord spur for the long decent home. The Bon Accord trail had only just reopened and we had been warned the trail was a little sketchy in places…sketchy was an understatement! The trail was overgrown, unmarked and loose with some parts no wider than shoe width. It was difficult running but I had no choice as I knew Tom had a great downhill ability as he had caught and passed Damon Goerke on the final 10km decent of the 64km last year. I was pushing the pace hard down the spur trail slipping the sliding here and there on the loose and rocky trail and before long BANG! I went down! I’d kicked a big rock and went head over heels for about 10m. Getting up I dusted myself off, muttered a few choice words under my breath and had a quick look behind. Thankfully still no sight of Tom or Stephen. I took the second half of the spur a lot easier not wanting to repeat my mistake as I knew another fall would be highly likely.
At the bottom of the spur the final 5km back to the finish line was a nice gradual downhill and flat on a buffed out single track, pure heaven so I picked up the pace again and made sure I finished strong. I crossed the line in 3:55 (a new record on that course) with Tom Brazier about 20min back and Stephen another 15 or so back from him. It really was a great weekend of running at the La Sportiva Razorback, the views, atmosphere and great people place this race well within my top 5 of all time and I highly recommend if you get the chance to race go for it!
Also that weekend I was lucky enough to back up the next day with a 2nd in Bon Accord Vertical KM, getting a lesson in hill running by Vertical KM specialist James Stewart while managing to keep the current VIC Mountain Running champion Gerard Robb at bay….but only just!
Gear used Razorback Shoes: La Sportiva Helios (4mm drop)
Top: KSR Branded Ron Hill Advance Tee
Shorts: Compressport Trail running short
Pack: Salomon Slab 12lt
Nutrition: Endura Vanilla Gel 1x 30min, Water in my bladder (it wasn’t hot)
Happy Running Caine Warburton