This race meant something special to me. Three years ago I ran this race in its inaugural year. But that’s not the reason. This race in 2016 was my first on my journey raising money and awareness for Alzheimers Australia ‘muddering4alzheimers, in support of Beryl, Ness’s mum.
This year I’m here to make a mark and see what three years of training has accomplished.
It’s late March, 24hr True Grit Enduro is only a couple of months away, so I find myself scrolling through news feeds and race groups finding a race to prep myself in a racing state of mind. Spartan have a 20km obstacle race in Picton over Easter. Ness reminds me we are in Bali during that time so that’s out! #huntersdobali-again 🙂
TRAQ announce they had to postpone their Brisbane Trail Marathon to May 05th due to bad weather. I immediately decide to enter for preparation and sentimental reasons.
Training has been consistent over the last three years with baseline running and gym work, however at the start of 2019 I added to the mix a qualified strength coach GC S&C with a very simple brief:
Run faster for longer over long distance trail and obstacle races.
I was keen to put the structured strength and conditioning training to use on the trails and hills.
There’s a good crew of Mountain Goat Trail Runner’s running today, some using today as a race in prep for UTA 100km coming up and the Guzzler 100km, however none are underestimating the task that lay ahead.
The TRAQ Brisbane Trail Marathon is no ordinary 42.2km race. A short stretch of technical single track is flanked both sides by steep climbs and descents on fire trails throughout the beautiful South D’Aguilar National Park climbing over 2,300 metres. A tough day out for advanced and beginner runners. My first attempt at this race had memories firmly planted so I knew what to expect.
I’d been training with Edge Electroytes for a few months now, with regular visits to Mount Cootha testing the nutrition and its ability to handle long slow runs and hill climbs to supply the source of fuel needed over long distance. I’d even introduced the electrolyte to some intense 40+ minute conditioning circuits run be GC S&C to see how my stomach handled the consumption whilst under high pressure and fatigue. The product had always performed well so it is my primary source of hydration for this race.
We take off just on 6am where it had warmed to around 16 degrees. I immediately fall into a relaxed cadence and embark on the first climb of the day, only a couple hundred metres from the start line.
A marathon really kicks in at 32km’s, take it easy till then.
I managed to nestle into 5th place and sit there for a few km’s, with the 4 runners ahead of me still in sight, whilst at the same time I was slowly increasing the gap between myself and runners behind. Never at any time was a runner behind underestimated.
A marathon distance is a long way and everyone has a different race strategy. With good pacing and strategy, a marathon runner usually kicks it up a gear around the 32km mark, so I never become complacent or naive to the fact I wouldn’t be overtaken.
In a short while I’d picked up a couple of places and sat in third. I’d catch a glimpse of the guy ahead of me every now and again on a steep climb a few hundred metres ahead.
By 12km’s I’d made it to the first check point at the top of Centre Road/Mt Nebo Road, manned by the one and only Mountain Goat Trail Runners. It was early in the day but good to see some mates. I hear ‘Hammy Hunter’ from Rigby as I approach the checkpoint a couple hundred metres out. It’s a nickname he branded me with a while back and never let it go since! Andrew, Clare, Mitch, Sarah, Chris and Philadelphia are there offering snacks, support and jokes.
They let me know 1st place is steaming ahead, but 2nd place is only a few minutes in front and encourage me to chase him.
For the next 14km’s I pretty much have the trails to myself. Every now and again I’d catch a glimpse of the runner ahead of me in the distance. At the end of each climb I’d look back to see if anyone was gaining ground but all I saw was trail.
The hill climbing still felt strong for me and I’d made some good time on the downhill. Downhill running can give the quads a real beating but my legs were holding together remarkably well so I steamed down these trails in some instances hitting sub 4min/km. This was a great way to make up time.
The next checkpoint isn’t until 21km at the Gold Creek Boundary Track Intersection, however I make it in pretty good time and feeling relatively fresh, considering I’d just run a half marathon and climbed around 1,000 metres of elevation. I meet Geoff Russell from BTR at this checkpoint and after a brief chat he’s confident I’ve got the legs to chase down the guy in front which again gives a confidence boost.
Leaving the checkpoint, I do a self analysis. The 2 litre bladder on my back is feeling light so I’m confident I’ve had enough Edge electrolytes. I refilled my Salomon flask at the last checkpoint with water so I’m well hydrated. With this done, I charge on with the goal to greet whoever was in front of me.
It’s not until around 25km, I finally come along side the runner in 2nd place. A friendly guy Daniel who’d not long ago ran the Buffalo stampede 75km sky race, a great event in the mountains of Bright, Victoria. We arrive at the 27km checkpoint at South Boundary Rd / Augies Rd intersection together to refuel and be greeted by volunteers. After a short period I’m ready to duel for the spot and take off.
I bump myself into second place and gradually increase the gap between myself and Daniel, until not long I’m on the trail on my own.
The views from the top of these climbs are remarkable, rolling hills across the landscape of South D’Aguilar National Park. This is the highest point of the race at nearly 500 metres above sea level. For a moment, I take a few deep breaths and enjoy the nature and beauty of the surrounds.
I remind myself there is about 5km’s of steep downhill running ahead of me, so I put the gas on to make time, knowing a gruelling steep climb was ahead before the 33km checkpoint at Creek Rd and Gold Creek Boundary Track intersection. I hit the bottom of this climb with fresh legs but my pace immediately drops to around 11min/km. It’s a long steep climb with about 200 metres of vertical gain.
With what felt like hours, I finally reach the summit and the checkpoint. Volunteers are read to help with whatever is needed. I grab a cup of coke (cola is one of the best instant fuel sources at a time like this) in a minute or two the caffeine and sugar kicks in to lift the spirits. The pain and suffering of the climb just done become a memory.
I thank the volunteers for their help and kick on to run the last 9km’s of this race. The elevation profile shows an easy decline in elevation between here and the finish. But this is again not to be underestimated as many short and sharp climbs are hidden between the descents, enough to give you some grief and pain in the legs, as they start to scream they’ve had enough for the day.
I’m becoming fatigued in the muscles which is expected, but not depleted or bonking. So I continue to drip feed water and fuel to keep the wheel’s moving.
It’s not until I hit the last checkpoint of the day at the stone house on Gold Creek Boundary Track at 38km that I know I’ve got the podium finish in the bag. There’s been no sight of a runner in front or behind me since leaving the 27km checkpoint over an hour ago. With this in mind, a second wind is found and I charge on.
The hill’s still roll, the fire trails are soft and leaf soaked from the recent rain and wind. It’s 10am on a warm Autumn day. With 500 metres to run, I make it to the dam wall of Gold Creek reservoir. It’s a 200m flat run across the top of the wall with the finish line seen down below. I take a final sharp right turn and finish with a great sense of accomplishment as I stop my watch just shy of 4hrs 20 min.
I take a moment to reflect on the day and the reason’s I do this. Why do I do this?
It’s hard to explain. Running an ultra or long distance race, there’s many moments of pain and anguish, many moments of wanting to give in and throw in the towel.
Emotions can be extreme high’s and low’s. The moment you cross that finish line no matter what your placing is, what time you finished or what condition your body or mind is in, the feeling of overwhelming achievement takes over.
From start to finish it’s a journey, a chapter in your book not to be forgotten. I lay down on the grass and bask in the sun and applaud all the runners coming in finishing their journey.
42.2km trail race – 2,300m elevation
Time: 4hrs 19 min 12 sec Official race results here