TERRIBLE preparation. FANTASTIC day!
2 weeks ago I was recovering from the Heysen 105k ultra. Yesterday I was back in Kuitpo Forest, where Heysen ended. The last section of Heysen 105, through Kuitpo, is technically the easiest part, so naturally I was anticipating a relatively easy run. How wrong I was…
The Kuitpo event was run by Trail Running SA which is a new organisation, having split from SARRC a little under 12 months ago. TRSA had already put on several successful events, with the low cost and beautiful locations being some of the selling points.
Last weekend I was in Goolwa, chilling with a group of girlfriends. Other than a bit of shopping at the markets and some funky local stores, we spent a hell of a lot of time eating ALL OF THE FOOD and drinking ALL OF THE WINE!
Saturday morning I snuck out to Victor Harbor for a sneaky parkrun but other than that there was very little physical activity done that day apart from moving my hand to my mouth, alternately containing food and a wine glass. We had planned to go to the local restaurant for dinner (walking distance, so we didn’t have to ‘rock/paper/scissors’ for who had to drive) but after grazing on the deck all afternoon and into the evening with dips, crackers, bread, olive oil and dukkah, wine and chocolate, it became apparent at around 8:00 that we weren’t going to make it to dinner. I had certainly eaten plenty but it wasn’t the ideal pre-race ‘meal’. Not to mention the fact that I had drunk practically NO water all day… all I’d had to drink other than wine was a can of Coke with lunch. Another less than ideal piece of preparation. I said to my friends that if I had a good race, then I’d have to have the same preparation for every race from now on!
I got to bed around 12:15 and my alarm went off at 5:50. Second night in a row of less than 6 hours sleep. Not enough for this little black duck!
Staying away from home before a race you have to be prepared in advance. Well on Friday from the time I left work at 4 to the time I hit the road just after 6, I was running around like a chook with its head cut off. As it turned out I forgot a couple of things. I forgot to bring sports tape to strap my feet to prevent blisters, and I also forgot to bring my trusty XS Energy drink. I guess that’s not so bad. I could have bought tape in Goolwa but I decided to wing it. With proper socks, and no threat of rain to cause wet socks and subsequently possible blisters, I would be fine without tape. The energy drink… I’d just have to see how I went without it!
I decided to try a new piece of kit on race day. My Yurrebilla singlet. I thought a trail event was an appropriate place to debut it. Hasn’t anyone ever told you NEVER try something new in a race? I was trying a lot of new things as it turned out!
I made it to the start line with an hour and a bit to spare. As always I didn’t time my portaloo visit too well… as race time approached I needed to go again but by then the queue was ridiculous so I decided I could hold on. I’d done it before and could do it again.
There were a LOT of familiar faces out there! Around 700 people had registered for the 2 events, the 21k and the 10k, and it seemed like I knew at least half of them! One person that I felt like I knew but had never actually met, was Andy, a friend from Instagram, who is very inspirational, having lost an amazing amount of weight and chronicling his journey via social media. It was great to finally get to meet him as we both did our first trail half marathon!
Time-wise I didn’t know what to expect. Other than when I have paced 2 hours, all my official halves have been sub-1:50. No way was I expecting to do anything like that in this event, given that it was a trail run! I was anticipating somewhere between 2:00 and 2:30, probably closer to 2:00.
Just slightly behind schedule (as Race Director and Chef Extraordinaire Maurice said was standard for trail events) we set off for the 21k just after 8am. It was a chilly start to the day – I had opted not to wear my traditional stripy sleeves, mostly I admit because they clashed with my singlet, but was wearing gloves up until the start, as my hands were numb from the cold! It was going to be a warm day though, and despite the fact that we were running in the morning, and the temperature in the forest was generally going to be cooler, many people would be affected by the heat.
I started slowly, although to be fair the first few km were uphill! I quickly caught up with Justin who first of all asked me what I was doing so far back, and then when we were discussing a recovery beach session for later in the day, said to me ‘But now you have to piss off and start racing!’ or words to that effect! (This is the guy who told me after Yurrebilla 56k that I’d had my fun and now it was time to start taking it seriously!) So I did. After a while I thought to myself, if it all goes pear-shaped later on, I’ll know who to blame! Previously I have always started half marathons quite conservatively. Not any more, it would seem!
It was a great course – it had a bit of everything. Not too technical, mostly wide track and a bit of gravel road. Some uphills, but all runnable. Some quite steep downhills. Some nice flat bits. There were two out and back sections which I really liked. You got to see all the other runners and encourage them along. I saw Andy both times and gave him a high five the second time – he really seemed to be enjoying himself!
There were drink stations but the trail running events are trying to go ‘cupless’ for environmental reasons. Hence a drink stop would literally be a stop – no ‘grab and run’ like in road events. I didn’t want to stop, and being a warm day (and me being already pre-dehydrated) I wouldn’t be able to get by without drinking. So I had made the decision to carry my small hydration vest with 500mL Gatorade in bottles and just over 500mL water in the bladder – any more would have been uncomfortably heavy to carry. Probably about half the runners were wearing either vests or bottle belts.
I settled into a rhythm. I flew down the hills and slowly plodded up. I managed to avoid walking, other than a couple of minutes with Jim, who had started 2 and a half minutes late but still flew effortlessly past me and stayed ahead of me for the rest of the race! Not bad for a guy who’s 60 and a relative newbie to running, putting people half and even a third of his age to shame!
On the second out and back section, at around 14km, I passed Beck who told me that I was 4th female. Oh no, why did she tell me that? Now the mind games would begin! I had seen the first two girls, one was Bronwyn who had finished about 40 minutes ahead of me at Heysen, and the other girl I didn’t know. They were pretty close together! The girl in 3rd place was also looking strong and I did not think I had it in me to catch her. I was happy at that stage to try to hold 4th place but I also knew there were a few girls not far behind me. No sooner had I had that thought, than I started to gain on the 3rd placed girl. Before I knew it, I was only a few metres behind and quite happy to stay there for the time being. This is where I started to get tactical. Up until that point I had been calling out encouragement to everyone passing the other way (this was still the out and back section), whether I knew them or not. Now, I went quiet. I didn’t know if she knew I was there but I thought if she didn’t know, I would try to keep it that way! I did notice that she wasn’t carrying any hydration and couldn’t help wondering if she might need to stop for a drink.
Then, at around 16km, she did! As much as I would have preferred to stay behind her, I had to make a move.
Having passed her and moved into 3rd, I needed to put a bit of distance between us. My next 2 kilometre splits were 4:14 and 4:32. I was reasonably confident that I had her, and if she was going to get back in front of me, well she was damn well going to have to earn it!
I kept the pace up until the 20th kilometre which was uphill. I did walk a bit there. I had a few sneaky peeks behind me and couldn’t see any other girls near me. I didn’t want to give anyone the opportunity to pass me and I didn’t want them to know I was struggling by letting them see me walk. I saw that Jim up ahead was walking so I figured it was OK!
Once I got over the hill we were into the home stretch. I kept looking over my shoulder but there was no sign of the girl I’d passed.
I crossed the line in 3rd place in 1:48.46, and the 4th placed girl was only a bit over a minute behind me – it was a near thing!
After going back to my car for a protein drink and then grabbing a coffee, I went back to the finish line to see other friends finish including Andy, still smiling! I was so happy for him!
The last order of business for the day was the presentation of the medals for the placegetters, followed by the random prize draw. The medals were something special, handmade ceramic medals by SA trail running legends Stirling and Jen Greeneklee. I didn’t win any of the random prizes but I did manage to position myself right next to the tray of vegan brownies made by our esteemed Race Director… I may have indulged in one or two… or five!
All in all it was a fantastic day – personally, a great race for me but just a wonderful event (so many happy smiling faces!) and great to see the SA trail running scene looking so healthy. Thanks must go to every single one of the fabulous volunteers who made the event happen!