The goal for this race was to get back into a bit of racing form as I haven’t been in a race since December 2010. I had been in the Snowy Mountains in the days leading up to the race knocking out some big training runs as part of the lead up to Western States in a couple of months. It was only an off the cuff suggestion a week prior to the race from Mr G that got me thinking about testing out where my fitness is at currently. Click here for some pictures of the day
Before the start I had splits and water nutrition set out for 6:00 and thought that anything below 5:40 would win the race, so I was not going to be there today. As it turned out the top 8 runners all went under 5:40 and my splits went out the window in the first kilometre.
Start to top of Solitary
Race started well, with the first four km’s all starting with a 3:50 something. Sh1t!, and I was running in about 10th with Ian, Tony, Pipi, Jonathan W, Ewan, John Glen and some other downhill specialists out in front.
Hit the single track with John Glen just behind me and then caught up to and settled in behind Ewan. We hit the river in under 33 minutes with Rod ringing his cowbell.
Heading up to the top of Solitary I went ahead of Ewan, passed Jonathan W and then could see Pipi and Tony further up the hill.
I settled into a good rhythm and caught up to Pipi and Tony, passing them as it levels out about half way up. They asked me “what had taken me so long?”
Tony then stayed with me while Pipi dropped back a bit on the climb, still getting over a chest infection.
We reached the log book in 1:06 and then set off to try and catch Ian who had been completely out of sight for most of the run so far.
Top of Solitary to Golden Stairs Checkpoint
Leading Tony across the top we passed the marshals who said Ian was about 30-40 metres up ahead. Soon enough we could hear the branches crashing in front of us just up the trail so knew we had closed the gap a bit.
We passed Ian soon after as he was stopped adjusting his shoes and the three of us stayed together across the top of solitary, taking a few wrong turns here and there. This was not due to the course marking, which was excellent, more due to the speed at which we were travelling and not being able to take our eyes off the trail directly in front.
I asked a few times if the others wanted to go ahead, but they seemed reluctant. I was making sure I was looking after my nutrition across here as there is a lot of fast running to do once off the top.
Coming off the top of Solitary I overshot a turn and only managed to prevent a bit of a disaster by grabbing a tree branch. All good, but decided here to reduce the risks and drop it back a notch and increase the nutrition a bit more.
Once off the descent of Solitary Ian and Tony went past me easily and I settled again into a steady pace along the trails leading to the Golden Stairs.
I pushed it up the stairs hoping to catch a glimpse of one of the two leaders and soon enough spotted Ian much further up the trail. Nearing the top I overtook Ian and ran into the checkpoint at approx 2:32:30 race time. Tony was in the checkpoint and after a quick changeover thanks to Buzz I was on my way again leading out of the checkpoint with Tony right behind.
Golden Stairs to the Finish
Tony and I descended the Golden Stairs quickly, with a few slips and slides and last minute catches onto railings, but it was important to try and spread the field out a bit here.
I think at half way the top 10 were all within 15 minutes of each other, as much as going up and down golden staircase is tough, it does allow for good close racing.
I led the way through the landslide with Tony right behind. The lead chopped and changed a couple of times through here with Tony faster on the flats and me faster on the stairs. Soon enough the stairs were finished and by the bottom of the Three Sisters Tony had disappeared into the lead.
It was good to see the 25km racers coming the other way despite it being difficult at times to pass, and Luis tried to rev me up by telling me Tony was only just in front and that I could catch him.
I was on my own now in second place; I never looked back but knew the others would be very close behind.
I managed to run the small hills out of the clearing after Leura Forest, always a challenge for me and I usually get dropped here in training, so I knew everything was pretty dialed in nutrition wise and effort wise and I was pleased with how everything was unfolding.
Entering the last checkpoint at the heli-pad I could see Tony about 300 metres up the trail, but soon lost all sight of him until just after the last creek crossing. Kedumba Pass is not an easy section of trail to cover. I could see Tony now 200m up ahead.
I knew I had no chance of passing him from this far back so to give myself some sort of chance I had to close the gap to a more manageable distance and then see how we both were feeling.
I did this slowly over the next couple of kilometres and before I knew it I was coming up alongside him. We were both mixing some strong walking in with running and trying to get the gels down and Tony commented that “you have to be pretty fit to run all of this”, I said “yeah and to think in North Face you have to do it at 80km not 40km”. I edged just ahead.
Around the 4km to go point I put in a solid run and managed to get a small gap that I held through to the finish, each time looking back I could see Tony still there but I couldn’t break that line of sight hold he had on me.
I thought he would be able to run me down over the last 2km as it flattens out, but I managed to hold on and finished only 90 seconds in front with Ian only 7 minutes back in third.
We had traded places many times throughout the day and I really enjoyed the close quarters racing that a shorter event like this provides.
Thanks to all the running wild committee members and volunteers I know that this race will grow into an iconic “must do” race as the years follow.
Glad to be part of the first one, tough conditions, superbly well organised and a great day out in the mountains. Nice trophy too, even though I do have to hand it back.