The morning of…
The sun began to rise on our way up the winding road to the start line in Mapleton, after a 3:30am wake-up. The sky was half-filled with heavy clouds and the temperature felt pretty fresh for a November morning on the Sunshine coast. It disheartened me a little to have what felt like Melbourne weather with me when I thought the day would be bright and sunny…and hot. Running in the sunshine would have been nice as since I moved to Melbourne earlier this year, I mostly now run in dreary, overcast weather. At least I’d be aclimatised!
Ready to race
Six am saw the hardcore 100k-ers set off. I gave my well wishes to friends commencing the journey which would turn out to be a tough day out. I then got ready for my own race and ventured to the start line. I was lined up next to Surf Coast Century record holder and 2014 trail champion Kellie Emmerson and was excited to be competing against such a talented runner once again after my close win at You Yangs 50km in July. When the bell was rung she set off at a lightning fast pace!
A fast start to the race
The adrenaline that comes at the start of a race makes me throw all tactics out the window and for the first couple of kilometers I was just trying to keep my sights on the head of the pack. After the initial lactic acid fest, I started to get into my own and think about my rhythm and remember my goals for the race. I wanted to get a good result but also get stronger as the race progressed which meant pacing myself accordingly. I backed off the pace (just a little) and took some time to just enjoy the scenery and the feeling of running again after a week and a half of tapering. I was not anxious about losing the bunch of runners ahead but I was careful to remember the wise advice that my coach, Andy Dubois, had given me a few days earlier – to not blow yourself up in the first few kilometers along the flat road section. Good advice Andy!
Once we entered the single track section, I was in my absolute element. I’m not sure if it was just the gorgeous rainforest scenery or the distant familiarity of the Queensland terrain that I had trained on for most of my life but I was going at a ripping pace, with ease. I passed a few runners and was now in the women’s race lead. I ran with a few new faces through this dark, winding rainforest single track that was quite difficult to navigate. I was in the lead of the second bunch and the forest floor was completely covered in leaf litter and palm fronds so without the help of the colourful pink tape tied in the branches above, I would have been lost for sure (it’s happened before and sucks!). I was bounding over rocks and roots of the towering trees around me, channeling my inner wild animal.
There were a few pinchy climbs, more sweet singletrack and then onto some more open fire road where myself and Jim Heaslop egged eachother on at a ‘solid-yet-lets-not-blow-ourselves-up-too-early’ pace. I made an effort to increase my leg speed on any descent to gain free time. One thing that I incorporate into my training regularly is hard downhill sessions. It definitely helps in these ‘undulating’ trail races where descents can either make you or break you. Managing a calf tear over the past few months has reduced these sessions from my training but I found that I was holding up well today.
I continued on, flying down the technical switchback descent towards Gheerulla Falls (first check point-CP3). This section was so much fun that I could have run back up and then gone back down again – but I’m racing so I better just keep going!
Jim speeds up and makes a breakaway into the distance while I continue on alone at a steady pace along the creek that winds through the Gheerulla valley. I am mindful here that I want to FINISH STRONG and not blow up in the middle like I did at You Yangs. I am also mindful that I tore my calf after my last race and can’t afford to run that hard in this one if I want to be ready for Two Bays in January, Tarawera in February and Buffalo in April. I take in a gel, some water and start thinking about how nice it will be to pour cool water over my head at the checkpoint (at about the ten minute mark of the race I began to warm up and embrace that Queensland humidity- it actually put a smile on my face at the start but is now making me feel like my cheeks are bright red). No time to take a runfie though and see if that’s the case-I’m racing!
I reach Gheerulla Camping Area and CP3. Yippee. I get there, ensure they have my race # and run straight out because I’m in a race and I surely can’t afford to waste any time at a check point right?! The course basically goes straight out of the check point and straight into the ascent of Gheerulla Bluff. I LOVE hills and I would have LOVED this hill with its spectacular views and uphill switchbacks all the way to the top. However I really struggled at this point. Negative thoughts were trying to creep their way into my mind, telling me that I should have stayed longer at the checkpoint, maybe refilled my hydration pack, poured some water over my head, packed more gels this morning…
I made it to the top of the climb, struggling somewhat with light-headedness and the increasing heat. I began to push those little dark thoughts out of my head and open up my mind to a flow of positive energy. It helped and although my body was suffering, I was able to make little gains like speeding up on the descents, until I felt better. I began to think about how far I had already come. 23km actually and my Garmin has just died because I had forgotten to recharge it for like the past 3 days. Ooops. Sometimes to counteract nerves, I try to think very little about the race until the start. This backfires when you don’t properly organise yourself beforehand though. Lesson learnt. I’m no slave to technology though so I just laughed it off and kept truckin’.
Another guy came up behind me and ran with me for a few kms . We ran through a mini-checkpoint at a road crossing. The marshall here was an absolute legend and had thrown ice into the water tank so that it was really cold. Soooooo good! I crossed the road and ran along the singletrack as the marshall yelled out- ‘you’re beating the guys!’ It’s always nice to beat the guys, sorry guys!
After a few more undulating kilometers, I had reached the second big ascent of the day – up to Ubajee Walkers Camp. This was another fun climb made difficult by the distance travelled earlier this morning. It was really nice cheering the 100km runners on as they descended the same bit of singletrack. I reached the top and headed to the second check point of the day, Mapleton Day Use Area (CP4).
I refilled my bladder this time, poured ice-cold water from my trusty drop bag over my hair and ran off for the 5km loop which would take me back to CP4. My quads were a bit smashed by this stage so I just tried to keep up my pace. Just over 10k’s shy of the finish now so I’ll give it my all, which after 39kms wasn’t as fast as my ‘all’ earlier on, but an ‘all’, all the same J. The undulating fire road 5k parkrun loop was great! It was mentally enjoyable to have such a short CP after the first two epics. I was in a good place at this stage, swooped through the final CP and headed for the finish line, now under 10 kilometers away. Awesome.
Those last 10 kilometers were more fun than a rollercoaster, even on now tired legs. Running through more winding single walking tracks through the rainforest, going up and down, around, jumping over a few logs and big strangler fig roots. Just before reaching the last of the singletrack before getting back on the road for the last few k’s to the finish, I ran past my dad, who had come out to cheer me on. So great to see a familiar face! He said I was looking fast which only fuelled my fire even more and I began to pick up the pace and finish with my goal- STRONG.
Running back along Obi-Obi road, my quads and glutes were finally starting to feel the effects of the 51kms raced today. I took the road crossing that was required before the finish and marshall’s were telling me that I was in 3rd place…overall! Sweeeeet! This will be my first outright podium finish. Happy with that after a few setbacks this year! I’m getting more excited and picking up my pace, faster and faster. I turn right into the QCCC where the race began 5 hours and 20mins earlier and make a sprint (it felt like a sprint-not sure if the pace was on sprint though) to the finish line. First female in, 3rd outright and I get to ring the huge Blackall cowbell at the finish.
What a great race! Beautiful scenery. Amazing weather. The course was marked really well so I didn’t get lost. Stoked to get those results and still feeling relatively fresh by the end, ready for a few tough months of training before my 2015 season begins.