GSER 50 Miler by Ross Murphy

Leading up to this race I was nervously excited, I had run an 80k previously but not with this much elevation gain or terrain. The GSER is an 83k mountain race with nearly 5000m of vertical gain run in November around the mountains of Harrietville. It starts out nice and flat for the first 7k with some rolling hills and then BANG, you are getting a stark dose of reality as you start the unrelenting climb up to Mount Feathertop. This is a 1500m climb in about 8k over steep, and due to the weather, slippery terrain, it just didn't plateau out at all.

I had researched the course profile, researched the terrain, (thought I) knew the challenge in front of me, but I was still not prepared for it, it is impossible to properly prepare for this race in QLD. Hill repeats definitely helped but the steepness and length just can't be replicated in QLD, but that's why you come down for these races 🙂

I was passed by probably 10 people on the climb up to Feathertop but kept repeating the mantra "race your own race". This was the biggest climb of the day so I wanted to be ‘fresh’ and good to go once we were at the top. The top, when it came was a white out, some rain, with visibility about 10 meters. Once at the top I was able to get into a rhythm, getting some solid running in as we headed towards the first aid station at 29k. I overtook all the people who passed me on the hill and never saw them again, pays to be patient😀. It took 5hrs 15 to cover the first 30k, longer than I expected but given the terrain I was happy with how I was going up to this stage. After a few K's on the road we hit the climb to the twins and BANG, you get a reminder of what alpine running is about for a second time!!!. I was feeling good at this stage so powered up and down the next 2 hills passing more people along the way. I found myself alone for the next 10k along the Razorback which was nice, the scenery is stunning, the day cleared up at this stage so you could really see the peaks all around you, snow still evident on the sides of many mountains.

The next aid station was Mt Murray, this was where I started to see many 100 mile racers and they looked like they had been through some rough racing, the word 'Viking' came up once or twice!!! I have nothing but respect and admiration for them. The 47k turnaround was nice to see from a mental perspective, the journey home was becoming real and I could start visualising the finish. At 50k I was 9hrs 20 into it, it was late afternoon, and I was determined to get as much done in day light as I could. I knew we had a couple of big climbs (the Twins) left but got up them solidly and soon enough I was at the final aid station at 65k, fuelled up on some hash browns, then some road running and rolling trails got me to 70k and then it was all downhill for 13k to the finish.

At 70k, darkness set in, as did the rain, this time quite heavily, lightening was evident, but I never got a clear view of it as I was under the canopy of the forest. Unfortunately, the lightening and worsening conditions led to the stoppage of the race for any remaining runners who were still to get to the Blowhard aid station, frustrating for them to be stopped as they were so close, and all the hard work had been done. These are tough decisions for race organisers to make and you need to trust them, but I am sure all runners would have carried on if they had the choice. The conditions did make the final 13k a ‘slippy slide’ coming down the mountain. It was hiking with a bit of running, 1k at a time. I realised close to the end that I could complete the race in sub 16hrs so gunned the last K and finished in 15:58. Ultimately, the time is irrelevant but the target helped me finish the race quicker, which meant getting dry quicker as by the stage I was soaked!!

Overall, the body felt good for the race, walk the hills, run when you feel good. Nutrition was good but not perfect, the aid stations had hash browns which went down well but this is an area I need to work on, especially if I am running for longer distances and time. Spring energy gels are yummy 😀 but for the next race (KOSCI miler) I need to ensure some real food is available for me through drop bags.

I would definitely go back for the GSER 100 miler, it would be an awesome challenge.

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