Today was the 4th and final race in the 2017-2018 Yumigo! Summer Trail Series. The races are held once a month over the summer months (so it’s not just a clever name!) and this was the 3rd one I had run this season. You can read all about Race 1 at Anstey Hill and Race 3 at O’Halloran Hill if you’re keen!
Race 4, in the time I’ve been trail running, has been held at Newland Head, near Victor Harbor (where I was last Sunday and will be again next Sunday!), a nice 90 minute drive from Adelaide. This was the last year it would be held at Newland Head, as from next year it will be somewhere closer to Adelaide! I actually quite like a bit of a road trip and despite the early start, I think I’m going to miss it!
The weather forecast was looking a bit gnarly. In fact, a fairly large cycling event, the Coast To Coast, was supposed to be held today but was cancelled yesterday due to forecast dangerous conditions. When it comes to trail running, a little mud and rain never hurt anyone, so I was quite looking forward to a mudbath! (Plus, hopefully the weather might put off some of the competition!)
I did plan my clothing accordingly – I didn’t want to wear anything that would be ruined by mud! So, all black on the bottom half as usual (although I did brighten it up with some hot pink long socks!) and for some inexplicable reason I had decided to wash my trail shoes after my last run, so they looked brand new! (OK I like them to be nice and clean at the start of a race – rarely are they that way by the end!) I wore an old favourite, the pink top I’d run my first 3 marathons in, and my original arm warmers, which I’d purchased in Liverpool the day before my first marathon. I was expecting it to be cold in the morning so I also threw a buff into my bag, to wear as an ear warmer. A full change of clothes and 2 rain jackets also made the journey – gotta be prepared for anything!
I set my alarm for 5am, planning to leave around 5:50 to get there a good 40-45 minutes before race start at 8:15. (The race was originally meant to start at 8, but a last minute change was forced by a 15 minute detour on one of the roads leading to the event. So instead of having to leave home 15 minutes earlier, we started 15 minutes later – thanks to Race Director Ben for that!
It rained a little bit on the way down there, and there had been a fair bit of rain overnight, but it was looking pretty clear by the time I arrived. It was windy though! A couple of the gazebos threatened to blow away!
It is really a spectacular part of the world. One of my all time favourite bits of trail is the section of the Heysen Trail between Newland Head and King Head. That is a pretty technical section and probably not suitable for a race with a large number of participants, but definitely worth checking out if you want some challenging trail along with some spectacular scenery – just make sure you stop to admire the view, don’t try to admire it AND run at the same time, it won’t end well for you!
I went to take a photo of the ocean before we started. On the way back to the start area, sweeper and course demarker Ziad told me to go back so he could take a photo for me with me in it! After a few photos from different angles, we headed back and literally almost ran into a big f***er of a kangaroo bounding across the path, I’m not sure if anyone else saw him but he had to be at least 6 feet tall!
As mentioned earlier, I had brought 2 rain jackets, one light one which I was only wearing to block out some of the chill before the start, and a proper one in case it actually rained. (Fortunately the rain never eventuated!) So when it came to getting ready for the race, I was able to leave the jacket and my buff in the car, and put on my hat, sunnies and small race vest. I was ‘only’ running the short course, which was meant to be 11.5km (but as all trail runners know, distances in trail running are a guide only!) so I wasn’t expecting to need much in terms of nutrition and hydration. All I had was 500mL of Gatorade and a Clif bar (which I was planning to have at the end).
I didn’t see my ‘nemesis’ Jenny at the start, but didn’t think much of that as she had probably already sewn up her age group series win, and with the weather forecast as well as the long drive, I suspected a lot of people would not be making the trip today. (To be eligible for an age group series placing, you had to run at least 3 of the 4 races, and I knew Jenny had run all of the first 3 races)
As with all the previous races, the short and long course runners all started together, and the bulk of our 11.5km course was identical to the first part of the long (19km) course. Consequently, unless I asked, I wouldn’t know whether other runners were in the short or long course, until our paths separated around the 8km mark! It didn’t matter though, I would just assume every female I encountered was a) running the short course and b) in my age group. (Not that I was worried about age group placings anymore – having missed Race 2 at Cleland and finished 4th in my age group at O’Halloran, I was pretty certain that train had sailed!)
RD Ben described the course as ‘flattish’. Where the previous races had included some challenging hills, the challenge here was more in the terrain than the elevation (lots of sand, tree roots and rocky sections). I had actually run this event before, 2 years ago, (the long course) so I had a fair idea of what to expect. Strava tells me there was an elevation gain of 190m which is not huge for a trail race.
It started a bit uphill, in fact looking at the elevation map the first 3km were pretty much all uphill, but again, not particularly steep and very runnable. I was averaging about 5:20 per km over that first 3km. I had no idea where I was placed, given that I didn’t know which runners were doing the short course, and also I hadn’t paid attention to how many runners started ahead of me. I was pretty much just running my own race!
Probably around 3-4km (I was making a conscious effort not to look at my watch too much, because I wanted to keep an eye on where I was putting my feet!) I started running with Steve, who was doing the long course. He was about the only person I ran with in this event, so it was nice to have the distraction for a few kilometres! We chatted about what events we had coming up, and about ultras we’d done in the past. It’s always good to be able to have a little chat while in a race – I guess you could say that if we were chatting then we weren’t running hard enough, but I didn’t really see it that way! One thing I did say was that I was hoping to finish the race in less time than it took me to drive down! I didn’t really have a time in mind – I guessed somewhere around the hour would be a pretty good time! (There wasn’t much chance of Steve finishing in less time than it took him to drive there – I think he said it was about a 45 minute drive and he was doing the 19km!)
Around 5km was the only time during the race where I actually had to stop running. I didn’t walk, I literally had to stop for maybe about 10 seconds because I somehow got tangled up in a loop of wire that had come loose from a fence. I wasn’t able to just kick it off, I had to stop and remove it. Luckily there was no damage done (luckily I wasn’t running very fast!) and I tossed the wire over near the fence, where hopefully no-one else would trip on it! Of all the things I was looking out for, a rogue piece of wire was NOT on the list!
A few people passed me while I was disentangling myself, but I did eventually catch up with and pass them. I caught up with Steve again after a while and we ran together again until the drink station where we were sent in opposite directions. From there I was following a guy in a Heysen 105 buff who was running at just the right pace for me to sit a couple of metres behind him. I’m not sure if he realised he was pacing me but he did a great job!
The course was beautifully marked, thanks to Denis and anyone else who was involved in marking it yesterday! One thing I wasn’t expecting but came as a nice surprise was kilometre markers. Ben had told us about this at the pre-race briefing, and there were different colour coded markers for the different distances (red for short, blue for long), but he had said that if we saw a blue kilometre marker on the short course, not to be alarmed and think we’d taken a wrong turn! (Even after the two courses separated, there was some overlap of the courses later). I’m glad he did say that because at one point I saw (I think) a blue 12km marker and then probably 500m later I saw a 15km one!
I got to the red 10km marker (definitely the short course 10km marker!) so it was around 1.5km to go. I passed my pacer and started to accelerate a bit. (It was, literally, practically all downhill from there!)
I saw, up ahead in the distance, a peach coloured top with a backpack on, attached to a pair of legs in capri pants. Now I don’t want to get into gender stereotyping here, but I had to assume it was a female. And I had to assume she was in my age group. I already knew she was in the short course – none of the long course runners had passed me. So all that was left to do was to try to catch her!
I had a sneaky look behind, while on a section of trail that was not too technical. No sense ruining it all by falling over at this late stage! I couldn’t see anyone, so I thought I was safe from attack from behind! I wondered if the runner I was currently pursuing, had any idea that I was there!
It was pretty windy by this stage. I wasn’t breathing all that heavily, and although I tend to be pretty heavy on my feet, especially when I get a bit tired, I was confident that she wouldn’t be able to hear my footsteps. I could barely hear my own footsteps or breathing over the howling of the wind! (OK maybe that’s a slight exaggeration but you get the idea!)
Due to the high winds, there was no finishing arch today. Consequently we wouldn’t know when we were nearly at the finish line, until we were actually nearly there! (Normally you can see the arch from a few hundred metres out, signifying that it’s time to start the sprint!)
I saw the gazebos, miraculously still standing after almost blowing away at the start, and I was steadily making gains on the UFR (Unidentified Female Runner). I thought what the hell, let’s go for it! So I sprinted.
Approximately one metre from the finish line, she must have heard me, turned around and saw me literally RIGHT THERE, swore (just the S word mind you!) and finished strong to hold me off by about half a second.
Then she turned around to see who it was, and I realised it was Jenny, she was there after all, having arrived with just minutes to spare before the start! I had run with her a bit during Ansteys and back and forth at O’Halloran, but I’d never been that close at the end! I actually would have felt like a bit of a bitch if I’d passed her, mainly because I’m sure if she’d had any idea I was there, she would have picked up the pace much earlier and beaten me by a much bigger margin!
Still, it was kind of cool to do a sprint finish at the end of a somewhat challenging 11.5km and to almost pull it off, against someone who is significantly faster than me on a good day, certainly makes for a good story! (And let’s face it, who wants to read a race report that goes “Started. Ran well throughout. Finished comfortably”?)
After catching my breath I got myself an EXCELLENT coffee from the Stir coffee van (I have to give them a plug because it’s the first coffee van I’ve been to that makes a proper long black!) and caught up with the other runners, including meeting Sally, who I can only assume won our age group (having finished 3rd overall today). And of course there was the obligatory photo with Gary, who had also run the short course today. (Seriously, where would my race reports be without you, Gary? Never change!)
Then we hung around and watched the presentations for the short and long courses (the male winner of the 19km did it in about 75 minutes. That’s moving!) and finally the bit we were all waiting for – the random prize draw! After a slow start (you have to be there when your name is called to be a winner, and a lot of people were being called out who had already left), one by one the prizes were all given out. I didn’t win anything today but Denis kindly gave me the sparkly gaiters he’d won, at the end of the presentation. I actually thought they would have suited him but was happy to accept the gift – secretly I thought they’d probably look better on me!)
One of the best finish line moments (apart from Jenny’s and mine, of course) of the day happened during the prize draw. Quite a few of the long course runners were still out there, and as they finished, Ben paused reading out the names so we could all cheer them on. It was a nice touch! Anyway, one girl got to within about a metre of the finish line and then just stopped. We wondered what was going on but she said she was waiting for someone, they were going to finish together. Several more runners came through while she was waiting but then there she was, her mum coming up over the hill and joined her for a memorable finish! Well done to Michelle and Chloe!
Then it came time for the huge job of packing everything up and into Ben’s 4WD and trailer – I’m amazed at how much stuff goes into these events, and I hate unpacking my car at the end of a race, and for me it’s only my personal race gear! I hate to imagine the job Ben has to unpack his car after an event!
Thanks as always to RD Ben for putting on another great event, and for once actually organising GOOD weather for us! (Amazingly enough, I did not have a spot of dirt on me at the end – not even on my shoes!) And of course to the wonderful volunteers – I hate to name names because I’m bound to forget someone but here are just a few that I know of: Ziad, Sheena, Denis, Justin, Robbie, Kim, Simon and Graeme.
Well done to everyone who made the journey down despite (or perhaps because of!) the forecast nasty weather! It was a great day to farewell Newland Head from the Summer Trail Series, and to end the season on a high note!