Dan B Race Report
In years gone by, the Glasshouse 50km event otherwise known as the Flinders Tour which incorporates a 10km and 30km run has in the main stayed within the confines of local Queensland runners as it’s much bigger cousin, the Glasshouse 100’s tend to be the drawcard for us people south of the border. Indeed, it’s a fairly long way to travel for a 50km run but I do have a sense of belonging here up in the Glasshouse Mountains as it’s where I completed my first 100kms and indeed very first ultra.
I think it’s for these reasons that you become attached to an area because of the emotions that you go through and leave out on the course. It’s fair to say that the course up here isn’t the prettiest by any stretch of the imagination, but the area has a lot of history behind it. You run for the most part in dense forest and logging territory, but a quick look up and you’ll see one of the five or six mountain peaks nearby which will give you a fair indication of where you are.
One of my most distinct memories of this place was when I ran in my first 100kms back in September 2008 at around the 80kms mark. Between 45 and 70kms I’d been through absolute hell. I’d never run beyond the 42.195kms mark in my life and that 25kms was where I learnt my first big lesson about ultras. Around 75kms, something clicked for me and a lot of the pain and anguish I’d been feeling was suddenly lifted and I was moving freely again. I was moving along some of the rolling fire trail which makes up most of this course and as I crested one of those small hills I could see in the distance Mount Beerburrum reflected in a very bright and shining moon. It was stunning, and maybe what Captain Cook had seen or felt when he discovered the area and named the Glasshouse Mountains as such because of the reflections. It was here that I fell in love with trail running.
Fast forward nearly three years and I still have a yearning to get myself up to this part of the world and run along the trails. I entered the 50km race because I wanted something to keep me ticking over. With quite a gap between North Face and GNW, I felt as though I would be lost for a few months if I didn’t keep some kind of focus. The Glasshouse 50kms fills this hole perfectly, so I set out a pretty simple six-week training programme that would get me in half decent nick, ready for a three-month onslaught for GNW soon after.
Lining up at 7am on Sunday morning, I was a little surprised to be in the leading pack for the first kilometre or so. However my rightful place was soon found as we hit the base of Mount Beerburrum and the steep climb to the top. I’d ‘run’ up there the day before to acquaint myself with this nice little climb to gauge how much I could feasibly run. The first 100m or so is pretty steep, so as we hit this section I put the fast walking legs on and let the likes of Mick Donges and Dave Coombs take their rightful place up front. I kept a pretty solid walking pace, with some bursts of jogging to the top before the quad bashing decent down.
From here it’s pretty much undulating fire trail for the next 25kms, which sees the 50km runners do a big loop around some of the course used for the Glasshouse 100’s in September, so the route was pretty well-known to me. I found it a little too easy to get carried away to be honest, after I had set myself a goal of around 4hrs 45mins for the 52kms. That would be an average of 11kms per hour (5:30km pace), which for 52kms of undulating trail would be a tough day out. In the first 10kms I was ticking over at around 5min km pace, before reigning my neck on somewhat to a more sensible 5:15km pace, which would still be above target.
Intertwined with the nice runnable fire trail are some more gnarly sections of single file track and a few short, sharp hills which slow the pace down somewhat, but all still very runnable hills. I let a few people go past me here thinking there would be a bit of carnage to mop up later in the race perhaps. However towards the end of the first loop, it was me who was feeling the pace somewhat. With the extra climb up Mount Beerburrum, the total distance on the first loop was 27kms, which I hit in 2hrs 27mins… pretty much bang on target. BUT, my legs really started to feel heavy, and I was concerned that I was about to become the carnage for everyone else to mop up!
Panic not though, I knew that if I could hold 5:30kms on the way back, all would be good. After the turnaround, it became noticeably warmer, but I was able to keep the pace where I wanted despite feeling rather heavy legged. In my mind I kept on wondering when the legs would grind down more and more, but remarkably they didn’t get much worse. I put this down to base I’d built up for Northburn over the last nine months. I knew that I had to keep trust and faith in my endurance and all would be good.
As the race wore on, I started to haul in some of those that had overtaken me on the way out, but the rolling hills on the first loop that seemed so easy were like mountains on the way back. Not to be deterred I just kept on reminding myself that they all had to be run. No walking, not in a 50km race. At times the 4:45 I’d set myself a goal of running looked distinctly on, and passing through the marathon point at 3:51, I knew that I’d have a real fight on my hands to hit that goal. However I knew that there was a fairly gnarly bit of track coming up in the last 10kms, so hitting that would require a real effort. I pushed hard, but alas I knew it was slipping away, so the next goal was to make sure that I hit 4:4x, which I managed to do.
Looking back, I’m pretty pleased with the run given it’s a bit of test of where I am right now and to just about scrape top ten. Congratulations must go to Mick Donges for his win, coming off the back of some great runs at the Gold Coast marathon, and then setting the new course record for the Kakoda Track team event just a week beforehand. He’s a class act. Zac Braxton-Smith also had a fine run in second place, bettering his 4.44 from last year by a staggering 38 mins, running Mick close with a 4:06. Zac has strung together some good runs this year already, so it will be interesting to see how he goes in his debut 100 miler in September. Certainly one to watch in the next few years.
Thanks also to Ian Javes for his tireless work on putting these runs together. He does a lot of the work himself and at nearly 70 years old there is a need to pass on more of the workload to others. He’s also muting the idea of having one last crack at the 100 miler as part of his 70th birthday celebrations which would be a great thing to be a part of too. I hope that he’s able to do it.