20 June 2013

Glow Worm Tunnel Trail Running Weekend

This was my first ever trail race last year and I was out to prove to myself that I could run well in Newnes.  It was also my first real test against the best in the Mystery Mountain Challenge.  The weekend included many activities, events and was a relaxed family event.

Saturday began with the trip to Newnes after morning swimming lessons.  We arrived early to allow the boys to get stuck into the Treasure Hunt, which they did with eager enthusiasm.  While the boys sought their treasure, I was able to warm-up for my event, the Mystery Mountain Dash, a 1km vertical sky racing style event taking in 350m of elevation gain.
What a view from the top
We ran in pairs starting at 1 minute intervals, I was paired with Brendan Davies and we were first cab of the rank.  A short sprint along the firetrail followed by a hard left onto a single trail that twisted, turned and rose up the spur that lead up to a cliff that adorned the Wolgan Valley. The trail is steep, technical and littered with many obstacles such as roots, rocks and loose dirt.  It runs up towards a gap in the cliffs and the last 400m or so is tough going, requiring rock climbing, hiking and scrambling skills.

Words that describe the 800m from the firetrail to the top - lung busting, crazy, amazing and well worth it. I ended up 6th in 13.42 min, roughly 1.30 min behind Fats, who was absolutely unbelievable on the climb a real highlight watching the man destroy the mountain.  It was a nice chilled atmosphere at the top with beautiful views, friendly encouragement and plenty of talk of lactic acid.  When Sean arrived at the top we took a group photo and made the descent back down to the event hub.
Group photo!
In the 6km Ted English Bolt I was able to relax, looking after the boys, chatting to other runners, enjoying the fire and a beer.  Kel took it upon herself to run and she did a good job, cruising into the finish line around 7th overall and 1st female home, her first career win.  This is a symbol of where her running is going and how much she has improved in the last few months.

The trip home was magnificent, the darkness shrouding the cliff line with the fading light behind was indescribable.  We were able to get home and sorted, ready for another big day of racing.
Sunday was a late 10.30am start, a nice opportunity for a sleep in (rarely taken on a Sunday!).  We drove down and assembled at the front of the Newnes Hotel on the camping ground, which was now full and a buzz of energy.  The marathon had started and the lead runners were approaching quickly, so quickly that I missed the planned stop with Brendan.  He pushed on chasing the Fatman who was leading the way as he had done the day before.

After our warm-up it was time to race, I had caught up with an old uni mate Dave, who was running his first trail race, dejavu. At the start line I placed myself front and centre, knowing what would be required to get to the stepping stones that cross the river before the mass of 300 odd runners.
Kel came in 6th in the female field and 38th overall
The start went to plan, I put the hammer down and arrived at the river crossing in 2nd position.  From there I continued to motor, testing the field to see who followed, Adrian Bailey was behind me and Mark Lee was next to me.  On the approach into the start of the single trail I slipped into the lead, where I aimed at keeping the pace up and the racing fast.

We flew along the following single track, faster than I expected and I was hoping to drop my rivals but to their credit they ran with me stride for stride.  The course has several wash out sections with stairs that I knew would slow the pace and I tried to use these to push off and away, but as we came into the first noticeable climb, Mark shot away impressively.

Adrian and I ran together for a while and he moved away while I recovered for a few hundred metres.  I kept him in sight right up to the tunnel, I was now moving well after going through a rougher patch.  I knew I had a break in the tunnel and used this opportunity to get my heart rate down, breathing controlled and nutrition sorted.  I was feeling good and the tunnel allowed me to compose myself, I knew I’d have to fly to catch up and hold of 4th place who was now breathing down my neck.

The section from the tunnel to the junction went to plan.  I ran well over the ridge and smashed the downhill as hard as I could, I knew if I was going to make up time it would be here.  I arrived at the junction and hadn’t caught a glimpse of 1st or 2nd, so I focused on the plan to run the last 7km sub 30min. 

The downhill was fast and I passed many runners making their way back up the track and some that were finishing the marathon.  I offered encouragement and the sense of sportsmanship and spirit was really high amongst everyone, no matter how they were travelling. 

I had 4th behind me and decided to put on one last effort.  I ran the last 4km in sub 3.50 pace and flirted with “blowing up”, as I had all race.  Moving into the last 2km I knew I was safely in 3rd and was now pushing into the finish hoping to catch one of the lead runners.

As I crossed the stones I kept the hammer down to the finish, I ran past Fats and Mick Donges, who were cooling down after their top performances in the marathon, and at this point the look on my face said how I was travelling.  I ran into the finish and crossed the line 3rd overall in 93.09 (which was over 9 minutes quicker than the old course record), redemption, well this was 35 minutes and 27 places better than last year, so yes this chapter is closed.

After I finished I was joined by the boys and chatted to others about the run, everyone was of the same opinion, amazing.  Brendan and I were eagerly waiting for Kel to finish, which she did strongly, running 2:03 placing 6th female and 38th overall, another excellent performance.  I can’t wait to see her progress further in the coming months.

Finally the beers flowed, it was good to be able to have a beer or two, relax and enjoy the environment, and Newnes in the Wolgan Valley of NSW is a pretty good place to do it.  The preso was as usual a prize fest, I cleaned up two 6 packs and Kel a Hammer pack, so no complaining here.  It was also good to see Sean and Mel of Mountain Sports enjoying what they have created and what I believe will become an iconic Australian trail event each year The Glow Worm Tunnel Trail Running Weekend in June.
Beer, a trophy that doesn't require dusting
I am also pleased to announce that as of this weekend, I am an ambassador for Mountain Sports.  I am proud to be involved with the team and will be promoting trail running and being active with them as much as I possibly can.

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