Adelaide Trail Runners Summer Series Race 1 – Anstey Hill

Official photo by Lachlan Miller.

I last ran this event (then organised by Yumigo which then became Ultra Runners SA) in 2017 after first running it in 2015 when, sucker that I was at the time, opted to go with the long course. The latter time was my first time running in the Summer Trail Series. I have run it somewhat inconsistently since then, and have never managed to run the full 4 races in one series (3/4 was my best effort).

This time around the Summer Series has been taken over by a new player in the Adelaide running scene, Adelaide Trail Runners. I believe this was their very first event!

This season I have entered the full series for the second time and hopefully this time I will run all 4 races! (Last time I entered the full series, I totally forgot about it until I received the race briefing email, at which point I was already committed on the day of Race 1, hence the reason I didn’t run all 4 events!)

Like last time, I decided to do the short course. Mainly because I have done 3 trail runs in total since Mount Crawford in September 2019 (after breaking down quite spectacularly a week after that!).

The day before the event, finally after 40 weeks, parkrun returned to South Australia after its enforced COVID hiatus (delayed by 2 weeks by pizza boy and subsequent statewide lockdown). Knowing that Anstey Hill was on the next day, I (sensibly) decided to run with Mum, as I have been doing pretty much every week since parkrun went on break in March. I am quite certain that I would not have been able to contain my enthusiasm had I run on my own, and despite telling myself I would take it nice and easy and save my legs, I know me better than that!

After parkrun I caught up with one of the event team, Mal, who was also doing the short course (although he did use the ‘O’ word – ‘ONLY’…)

There was no special preparation for this particular event – it was ‘only’ 8.6km so there was no need for carb loading or whatever. The short course was the latest to start (long started at 7, medium at 7:30 and short at 8) – there’s another excellent reason to choose the short course – a sleep in!

Gear wise it was all the usual stuff – compression shorts, calf sleeves, black socks and trail shoes (black is generally a good base colour for trails, although it was pretty dry and not much mud!) with the old favourite pink tank top which I’d used for my first 2 marathons as well as the last 2 events I have run in – not sure what I’ll do when that finally falls apart! I took my arm warmers in my race vest just in case but it wasn’t too cold so I was confident I wouldn’t need them! I also wore padded gloves as protection in the unlikely event of a fall. Given the COVID regulations, there were no cups at the drink stations (that is probably more of an environmental consideration, which I applaud!) and runners were not allowed to fill their own cups or bottles – I figured that would add more time than a ‘normal’ drink stop, so I decided not to bother with drink stations, just running with my small race vest, with one small bottle of water and one of Gatorade (which I didn’t end up drinking until after the race). Plus, realistically I was going to be done inside an hour, and I often run for an hour without any drinks on cooler mornings.

I got there earlier than I probably needed to, given that I was not sure about the parking situation – the race briefing had very helpfully outlined all the parking options, but being the latest starting group, I wasn’t sure how far away I would need to park. I didn’t want to park in the recreation park itself as it might be a bit slow getting out! I ended up getting a park easily about 5 minutes walk from the start line. I made it in time to see my regular running buddies who were doing the medium course, and it was great to see a whole lot of people I hadn’t seen for ages, some more than a year! With many of them doing the whole series, it is nice to know it won’t be that long before I see them again!

Pic stolen from Beck – the rest of them were doing the medium distance. I was the token slacker!

As is traditional, I didn’t look at the course map, given that I don’t know the area well at all, so it probably wouldn’t help me that much! Also I usually prefer not to know what is coming, especially in terms of elevation! I was assured that it was very well marked and it would be difficult to get lost – my only danger would be blindly following the person in front of me, who may very well be doing a different distance (or even just a random out for a Sunday run!)

There were 2 waves for each distance, 5 minutes apart. The ‘super fast’ wave went first, followed by the ‘very fast’ wave. I’m pretty sure super fast was meant to be the faster of the two! I figured I’d be somewhere in the middle, so I had planned to go towards the front of the second wave, until I saw Amelie who asked me why I wasn’t in the first wave. Seeing that there weren’t too many people lined up for the ‘super fast’ wave, and the idea was for about half of the 100-ish runners to go in each wave, I decided to join the back of that group. Which was an excellent choice, because I realised that if I’d gone with my original plan, I would be LEADING that second wave and therefore everyone would be following ME!

Near the start – deep focus! Official photo by Sputnik.

As always I think I went out too fast (you’d think I would have learned by now, but no!) although the start was relatively downhill. Then we hit the uphills. As I said earlier, I haven’t done a whole lot of trail running recently. The 3 runs I’ve done in the past year and a bit have all been around the Chambers Gully region, and I have walked the steep uphills. Previously, I probably ran the hills here at Ansteys (presumably I wrote about it in my previous blogs but I can’t be bothered re-reading them – ain’t nobody got time for that!) but after a little bit of running uphill, I started to see people walking so I naturally decided to copy them (sheep that I am!). Trouble was, the hills were LONG (about 200m elevation in 3km) and I didn’t especially want to be walking for 3km in an 8.6km race! Not that I was ‘racing’ as such but I still wanted to go as fast as I could! So I went back to an old strategy I remembered from way back, run a bit and walk a bit. And by ‘a bit’ I mean a really small bit – 20 steps walk, 20 steps run. I found that really manageable, and I am certain that it was faster than if I’d walked the whole thing (naturally!) and also faster than if I’d attempted to run the whole thing (mountain goat that I am NOT!!!) I must try to remember that for next time!

The offending section of the course!
The offending section of the course!

After the uphill bit, it was mostly downhill which was a joy! Some slightly technical rocky downhills, but not much congestion which was good – I didn’t want to hold anyone up that was behind me, but by the same token I did not want to step aside and let people past (if I’d been walking I would have, but not while running)! The fast runners should have been well ahead of me by the time we hit any of these sections, anyway.

Running down that hill! Airborne and smiling! Official photo by Sputnik.

It was nice to intersect with some of the long course runners, who I hadn’t seen at the start (because they’d started long before I got there!) I ran with Matt for a while, who I hadn’t seen in ages but still had the trademark bright shorts so when he inevitably went off ahead of me, I had someone that I could easily follow!

Approaching the end, and very much enjoying the downhillness, and knowing that there wasn’t much longer to go, I saw volunteer Justin and asked him “is it all downhill from here?” to which he replied in the affirmative!

It was lucky I wasn’t following Matt too closely towards the end, as I later found out that the long course runners had to do an extra loop before the finish. Me, on the other hand, just had to cross the carpark and run straight across the grass to the finish line! (The finish line was not as easy to spot as it might have been – the traditional finishing arch had not been put up due to high winds – a good move, I have seen what happens to finish arches under these conditions!)

After crossing the line, I checked my watch (8.7km in 48:09 – official time was 2 seconds faster) – pretty happy with that considering my lack of recent trail running – I really had no clue what kind of time or pace I would do but I figured that was about as good as I could expect!

The very first thing I did was make a beeline for the Stir coffee van to get myself a long black (I had spoken briefly with Neil when I arrived, and told him I’d see him very soon!) – there’s nothing quite like a post-run coffee!

I chatted with Zorica and Riesje who finished the medium distance not long after me, while waiting for the rest of my crew as Kate had organised post-run brekky at a local venue! I finished just before 9 and they were expecting to run about 2 hours, but Beck and Kate finished not too long after me! The rest of the group were not too far behind, and once everyone had finished, we left for brekky as we were getting a bit cold.

As a bit of a postscript, while at brekky waiting for my peanut butter toast (not a whole lot of vegan options!) I thought I’d check to see how I fared in my age group (the always competitive F40-44) I was surprised to see I was 1st in my category, and even more surprised to see I was 2nd female overall! I thought maybe it was a mistake and maybe someone had changed distances and it hadn’t been updated in the system yet (I was sure there were a lot of fast females ahead of me at the start line) but it appears that the result was correct, as evidenced by a message from Linna later in the day advising I was indeed 2nd and she had collected my medal for me!

Congrats to Brett of Adelaide Trail Runners for an outstanding first event – ideal weather (the rain held off ALMOST long enough for me to get back to my car) and a downhill finish certainly helped! Thanks as always to all the fab volunteers (including one dressed up as a Christmas tree… because, why not?)

And of course to Neil of Stir for the coffee – because if there’s no coffee, did we even run?

See you at Cleland in January for Race 2 – to kick off a year that has GOT to be better than this one!

Obligatory bib photo – bling to follow 🙂