I’m going to be perfectly honest with you from the start, I wasn’t ready for this race.
In the week leading up to it I had not achieved half the running I wanted to achieve and the runs I had gotten in were mediocre at best.
But this is Silvan — I’ve seen this area on the map and have always wanted to run here so just deal with it, right?, we’re in the Dandenong Ranges — just enjoy the scenery.
I had already built in a bit of a buffer, telling Sandi I would be about 2 hours given the terrain, even at my most shittiest of performance, I can run 15K in 2 hours — just ease off on the pace and enjoy myself, right?
Pre-race I spotted fellow blogger Patricia Bowmen, a blogger whose trail running exploits I have been following even before I came to Australia.
We’d been talking in blog comments through this year’s series and it was nice to finally say hello to her in person.
The calm before the storm
The medium course headed out first this time, due to my unease about the course I started near the back, instantly regretting this as I moved, frustratingly, though the back end of the field for the first 200 metres.
I found some clear air as we moved onto a management vehicle track and I began to admire the scenery; freakishly tall trees with thick green fernery at ankle height.
And then I looked left…
And up, and up some more.
How had I missed this piece of information, or more specifically — how had I not taken it properly that the initial climb was going to be anything but race defining.
It is quite a sight, and a sound, to see most of a 300-strong field of trail runners — a lively chipper bunch usually slogging their way, slowly, up this mammoth of a hill in total silence, the ground was slippery underfoot so most attempts at a bit of a jog up this imposing climb stopped with slippage fairly quickly.
I spotted a couple of people attempting to run the hill and one bloke (who I assumed ran it) being violently sick at the top.
Despite internal cries of “oh god what have I signed up for” and “how am I going to run after this” during the initial stages of the climb, by the top I was feeling pretty happy and my legs were itching to run again.
What goes up….
Must come down right? And oh what a down it was, after that initial climb; now on wide vehicle track, insanely graded but quite runnable if you don’t think about it, I wizzed down that hill.
That bastard George
It wasn’t him all the way, and I am not even sure who this George fella is, but we began to climb, ever so slightly, on a track called “George’s Track”.
For the next 3 kilometres the course climbed up the side of some (I hope) mountain! The thinnest of goat tracks, the tall treed slope going up one side and dropping away into the valley on the other, ferns up to our knees, gradients of around 15 – 20%, everyone was walking – mostly – a little trot when it levelled out a bit to make up some distance on the poor sod in front (it is a run after all) and every now-and-again, I’d look out over the valley below. Stunning. Yes the climb is hard, yes it’s taking me an hour to cover 7 kilometres but wow the views make it worth it.
And then the course completely changed, the endless goat-track’ish up suddenly became wide grassy down, I covered the next 5K in half the time it took me to do 7 and boy was it a fun second half of the race.
I love running downhill, especially on trails; you can be fast, in the wild and when it gets a bit technical you can weave around the corners, hop over the rock, roots and small gulley’s, it’s a real pleasure.
At around the 10K mark, after burning down three kilometres of 15% graded management track I turn on to the “Bridge Track”, suddenly I’m a pod racer, or a speeder, or I’m like those trail runners you see in the official videos – zooming along a narrow trail with ease – there were turns, low bushes, a bridge – and I’ve just climbed up for 7 kilometres, I shouldn’t be this happy and quick here, but I want to run fast, and I can run fast. Didn’t I say I was not ready for this race? Who was that guy?
I eventually hit a road and my watch has me close to the distance, must be near the finish. I’ve passed the 90-minute mark but I am a long way off hitting 2 hours. I think I am going to get around this course in pretty good time.
I cross the line at 1:42, about 4 minutes behind Patricia on the official timings – which is a lifetime in running terms but a lot closer than I thought I would be.
The good thing about running up is that you eventually get to go down, it is rare though that you encounter such an enjoyable and challenging down as what I experienced here.
I definitely want to run here again.