Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Trail time again - urban trails that is

I’m staying true to my word – good grief – and giving you an update on the Trail event I ran on Sunday morning. Set in the bushlands around the Yarra River and only a short distance from the city centre itself the Salomon sponsored Studley Park Urban Trail event was a full subscription with participants taking on 5k, 10.8k or 15k. Each event had nearly 450 runners so the tranquil sounds of running riverside were broken by the heavy breathing and thumping of runners on stone, grass and dirt.

The setting of the event was quite remarkable, the photo below shows how close to the city centre we really were, but besides the sounds of the traffic on the nearby Eastern Freeway (we did go under quite a few bridges) you could have thought you were a fair way from urban sprawl.

As per normal I didn’t take the easy option and signed up for the 15k event, something you do when you need to put in long runs but are fed up with the same treks around a lake or local running track. As a result we were the first lot to set off in the chilly conditions (I’m not going to say it was cold, I’d felt cold at Mount Macedon and this was nowhere near like that). As regular readers of this blog would know, I’m a slow (but steady) runner so I self-seeded myself into the slowest wave start, about mid pack, and steadily proceeded to be passed by even the slowest of runners. A number of sections had loops so once we were about 2.5k in it was a bit disconcerting to see runners already about 4k down the path (although some did have a 5min head start on me) – it became even more disconcerting once I looked backwards at the 5km mark and could see nobody (and I mean NOBODY) behind me. Yep I was running last, was worried a sweeper may come and get me (at least it wasn’t going to be like those big city races where they reopen the freeways so have to come and load you onto a bus, there was no way any mode of “pick up” transport was getting along these trails, unless I was going to be asked to sit on the handlebars of a mountain bike!)) The other worry was the one and only drink station would shut up shop before I arrived!!! If that happened I’d be going 15 clicks without a refreshment.

But I do exaggerate, as I did arrive at the drink stop I found that the 10k runners were joining us at that spot, but they went left and weren’t taking an extra loop for the longer course, although a couple of very speedy guys did run passed me about 500m down the trail before noticing a pink marker and realising they’d taken a wrong turn so they did a very quick u-bolt and headed back to the correct trail. Even though I had a further 3 kms or so before I came back to the same drink station, I realised it was going to be a bit of a pain as all the mid paced 10km runners would then be running up my backside as they completed the last 4kms of their run just as I was hitting the 11km mark of my slog. Add to that the fact that it was a single file trail with steep drops to the river on my right and thick bush on my left I knew it was going to be a case of disgruntled runners waiting for the old slow bloke to find a clearing and pull over for a few seconds to let the masses pass.

Elevation here was (according to the Garmin) quite small with only 126m gain over the 15k but there were a few spots where I was reduced to a fast walk (especially up a large flight of stone stairs) but given I ran the Hobart Marathon which had 1,200m gain over the 42kms it was a walk in the park. Not something I’d expect on the trails.

I’m using a 20 week marathon training plan to be ready (plus some) for the November Trail marathon in Marysville in November and am a few weeks ahead of schedule, figuring I’ll put in a few extra weeks of the longer runs to make sure I’m ready for a 42km run on trails, up mountains and waterfalls and through bush. This week’s long run called for 90 mins so I figured a 15k effort would suffice. One thing I did learn though is the larger, more well-advertised events attract bigger fields, where we had 54 runners in my event at Mount Macedon, and a total field of 209 this event attracted 1,307 runners so as you can see a well and truly congested trail. Nothing like the 10’s of thousands the big city events get but still quite a large number for single trail running.

All up I finished 2nd last in the field of 437 but can say I finished top 20 in my age category with only 18 men aged 50-59 participating in the longer event.

Don’t get me wrong, any event that can get people out and about exercising and enjoying the scenery is worthwhile and this event was very professionally run and the course was clearly marked, well marshalled and the volunteers and runners were all a friendly bunch, I just felt a bit of the solitude I enjoy on these trail events was missing.

My next organised event is the Trails of the You Yangs, granite peaks that are between Melbourne and Geelong, I know for a fact this will be a smaller event with the large “Run Melbourne” event being held on the same day in the city (that will attracts 10’s of thousands) and the minimum distance here is 15kms and that elevation will be well and truly greater than 126m. Bring it on.

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