After shuffling my training plan to cooperate with work, the third week of July would be my last chance to train on a leg of the Surf Coast Century (SCC) course AND my “Run Larapinta race simulation week”.
After a few weeks of enjoyable but reduced kilometreage, this week was going to end one of two ways.
1 — EPIC — reassurance that my training is effective and I am in a good position with less than a month before Alice and less than two before SCC.
2 — DISMAL — totally underestimated my ability and am going to struggle in August and September.
Monday July 16 — Mega Monday
Generation Run Club celebrated its 3rd birthday with a “go as you will” 3K track session.
I decide to treat it as a time trial with the goal of hammering out the 7.5 laps of the Croydon track in less than 14 minutes.
Keeping the pace around the 4:20 – 4:30 mark feels pretty comfortable — tough! — but comfortable and although I begin to flag around lap 5, I am able to kick back up to pace and even managed to sprint it out for the final 150/200 metres, flying across the line at 13:31.
If I am able to maintain this pace for an additional 2 kilometres, I should be able to shave a good 30/40 seconds off my current 5K PB and edge closer to that golden 20 minute 5K.
Maybe this is something for next year though!!
Tuesday July 17 — Track Tuesday
I head off into the city for my new regular urban track session with #Get It Done Club.
Compared to speed on a nice springy track, smashing it out at hard effort on concrete is tough but again it feels good to run as hard and as fast as I can — in a controlled environment.
Wednesday July 18 — Wonderful Wednesday
Long run time finally arrives and after spending a good part of my Tuesday pouring over maps, trawling the Parks VIC websites and generally googling every mountain I can find within 20Ks of Warrandyte I stumble upon the Yarra Ranges and the beginning of the Bicentennial National Trail (BNT). 5,330 kilometres of marked trail from Healesville VIC to Cooktown QLD, along the Great Dividing Range and Eastern Escarpment.
Naturally, I want to run it — all of it. Right then.
An impossible feat to achieve in a 4-hour training run.
Even the 1000 odd kilometre section — Healesville to Omeo — is a big ask for such a tiny window of running.
Still, running a multiday from Healesville to Omeo peaks my interest so I decide I should at least check out some of the trail, so I know what is in store.
The plan is to follow the trail up the side of Mount St Leonard, follow the ridgeline and at the 20K mark, turn back and follow a smaller walking track back down the mountain.
Theory and practice are two very different things.
Given I had not run this before and that every other sentence on everything I had read about the BNT is “self-sufficient trekkers only”, I take enough food and water to be out there for at least 8 hours.
The first few kilometres, following the road from the Bakery to the trailhead are flat and easy and with glorious and calm weather I am lulled into a false sense of security and, despite the heavy pack, clip along at a reasonably gentle pace.
As the bitumen became gravel then fire track and the quite street became bushier, the vert. begins to impose itself.
After 90mins of running I have covered 10Ks and 600 metres of vertical ascent and it is up hill all the way.
After checking in with home I am faced with a decision:
- Do I continue to follow the road I am on, which spirals up the side of the mountain at a more tolerable gradient for the next 5 or 6 kilometres.
- Do I cover the final 400 metres of vertical accent up a 2 kilometre hiking trail.
Number 2 every time!
At this point it becomes abundantly clear that I am a hills fetishist.
Suddenly confronted with 25%+ gradients, there is not a lot of running up the final 400 vertical metres but I am serenaded by at least three lyrebirds as I drag myself up the side of the mountain.
The road connecting Mt St Leonard and Mt. Monda IS undulating but I am the Wiley Coyote and this is an ACME undulating hills kit.
On any other day and on any other training run, this undulation would be considered a decent climb.
I also underestimated the distance between Mt St Leonard and the trial I would descend on and unwittingly embark on a long, slow 7 kilometres.
Yet, there are gems to be gleaned.
Along the way I discover the Tanglefoot loop and the track to the top of Mount Tanglefoot – another 1000 metre peak.
As well as a network of other tracks and trails which I am itching to explore.
I just need to work out if I can actually run from Healseville to Toolangi (via Mt Tanglefoot) in a day and if I can convince Sandi to pick me up from my intended finish.
The trail back down the mountain (Track 17 or Condons Walk Track) — through a mixture of the crazy weather that hit the region on Monday and Tuesday and an army of enthusiastic Wombats has made the initial descent impossible to run and my feet kept sinking into unseen holes beneath the churned up peaty dirt. On a number of occasions I peek into an alternate reality where I lay sprawled across the trail, less one ankle.
But as my elevation decreased so does the gradient and for the final five kilometres I race the sun back to civilisation.
The BNT, from Healesville is 33kilometres to Narbethong and 40-50 kilometres to Marysville.
It is a tough trek with some serious climbing but to be beneath those huge trees is amazing.
Marysville will take a day to run, I reckon, and even as I write this post, still recovering from the week this post is about, I can feel my legs twitching, itching to get back there.
BNT, I will be back.
Very, very, very soon.
Thursday July 19 – Thriller
As much as I love hills, after 1,200 vertical metres, I was after something a little flatter for my follow up run, so I decided to stay local and run a trail I haven’t run in some time.
Setting out late afternoon I decided to run my Blue Tongue loop — I wanted to run the thin trail between Black Flats and Blue Tongue but I also wanted to find “the secret church” — a Scout church hidden at Blue Tongue Bend.
It feels good running something flatter and familiar, after yesterdays adventure.
By the time I get to the Bend, the clouds have rolled in and it is only an hour or so off of getting dark.
Spying a trail off the fire track I follow it as it weaves around spikey bushes and spindly trees for about 100 metres before suddenly opening up into the secluded site, rows of low stone benches arranged in a semi-circle – pointing towards an altar with a big cross on it.
A kangaroo crashes off into the bush from somewhere hidden on my left and as I approach the alter and peer behind it, I half expect to find a skeleton, Dracula, at least a zombie.
I realise this is all in my imagination but at dusk the structure takes on a weird Blair Witch vibe and I am compelled to get away from this place as quickly as my legs will carry me.
The trail back to the fire track seems to wind a little longer than I remember on the way in and I wonder for a moment if I have, indeed, become trapped in some sort of B-movie hell, but then I blink and I am standing in the middle of the fire track, once again.
Time on this trail is very enjoyable and I am planning an 18K “Two Bends” training run – running Pound Bend to Blue Tongue Bend and back — I might even propose it as its own trail event to the Run Warrandyte committee, after I have tested it out a few times.
July 21 – 22 — The Weekend
Friday is my only rest day and I spent it travelling down to Anglesea for a weekend of trail fun.
It’s SCC Leg 3 Training Run weekend and the conversation on the event page is of some people running both legs 3 and 4 on the Sunday — on Friday night, Super Sunday with a 50K efforts is pretty appealing, I am already up to 60K and it looks like I am going to easily break 100K for the week.
On Saturday I decide to go for a bit of a run explore around Anglesea Heath – on the edge of the Otways’.
There is a huge network of tracks and trails to explore and, like a kid in a sweet shop – I want it all but I don’t know where to start.
With offline maps loaded into my phone, a mixture of orange juice and water in my pack and a few Cliff Bars – for emergency — I set out, following the Anglesea River towards the old Coal Power Station and the beginning of the heathland.
The sandy tracks and the hills are tame compared to what I have run this week and I decide to try and cover about 24K.
A little before the 12K mark I arrive at a road, Bald Hills Road, my map tells me there is a trail at the top of the hill which comes out a few kilometres further down the hill – I decide to run up this road then down the trail.
Like the Vl’hurgs and the G’Gugvuntt death fleet featured in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, I am burdened with a terrible miscalculation of scale — but unlike the joint Vl’hurgs and G’Gugvuntt death fleet, I was not eaten by a small dog, merely forced to realise that this hill I find myself climbing is a lot steeper than the map suggested and Bald Hills Road, for that fact, is a hell of a lot longer.
But with the slow up bit out of the way, the road, which is very easy to run, levels off and pushes through forest on the edge of Otways National Park — I am having such a great time, and with nowhere else to be, I simply push on.
By the time I realise the distance I am likely to cover is way beyond 24K, it is too late.
In fact, I am at the 20K mark and Fairhaven is about 30Ks directly south.
The trail I was punching for has been closed by Parks for revegetation so I find a different track to take me back to Anglesea.
Still, Anglesea Heath is extremely runnable with a good mix of flat track, steep hill and gentle undulation.
Although with 32K done for the day, the prospect of running 50K on the Sunday is getting smaller.
At 7:30 on Sunday morning, some 100+ runners are milling around on the grass outside the Great Ocean Road Resort.
Leg 3 is noted to be the hardest of the legs but my new trail shoes are working really well and even though I covered 20 miles on Saturday – I am feeling well keen for the 28K saunter to Moggs Creek.
Taking my time, walking the hills, I manage to maintain a nice relaxed pace, taking in the scenery and making mental notes about where the turns are on the course and wondering how different this will feel when this is kilometre 50 – 78 and not just a 28K training run.
Skirting the edge of Anglesea heath and the forested hills of the Otways, this leg is a mixture of wide fire tracks and single trail, winding its way through the bush and up and down hills – it is all extremely runnable and I sincerely hope I enjoy it as much in 2 months time.
With 120K under my belt, this is by far one of my bigger weeks.
I have three more weekends before heading to Alice Springs and I am now convinced that an extended taper – between Larapinta and SCC is the way to go.
So what’s in plan?
This week I will do two 10K runs and then 40 – 50K on Sunday – running the Mullum Mullum/Koonung/Yarra trails in a big circle around Manningham.
Then it’s 21K at Silvan and 30K around Sugarloaf the following weekends.
My question at the beginning of this post was whether this week would be epic or dismal – it was definitely EPIC and I am feeling really good about Larpinta and SCC right now.