Adelaide Trail Runners Summer Series Race 2 – Cleland

This weekend was the second race of the Adelaide Trail Runners Summer Trail Series, at Cleland. You can read my report from Race 1 at Anstey Hill here.

I have run this event once before, in 2019. Last year I was volunteering – it would still be a few days before I was cleared to start running again after 4 long months! So it was good to be back out there again running!

This is my closest event in the series, and an area where I run pretty regularly. As per last month I hadn’t done quite as much trail running as I would have liked in the leadup to the event. I think I did maybe 2 trail runs?

Prior to my half marathon in November, I was in a pretty good routine of having a ‘drop down’ week every 4th week. After the half the routine kind of fell apart as I had a very easy 4 weeks to recover from the half, and never really got back into the ‘3 weeks on 1 week off’ routine. So I decided at the start of this year to get back into it again, and this week seemed as good as any to have a quiet week. So I ran 8km Tuesday and Thursday (aiming for around 45 minutes where I would normally run for about an hour) and then volunteered at parkrun on Saturday, hoping that this would lead to fresh legs on Sunday!

I entered the whole series, short course, and as per all the other events the long course started at 7, medium at 7:30 and short at 8. I still needed to get there early though because there were a lot of medium and long course runners, therefore the carpark would have been pretty full had I got there after 7:30! (Plus it turns out a lot of people don’t know how to park between two white lines, so there were less parks than there should have been!)

Earlier in the week I had to clean my front windscreen as I could hardly see through it. I did a really crappy job of it, leaving streaks right in my line of sight. I thought to myself, next time I go for petrol I’ll fix that. Then, on the drive up to Cleland, it started raining lightly so I put my wipers on. And then it dawned on me – why did I not think of doing that a few days ago! Windscreen = clean! *facepalm*

The light shower on the way up was all the rain we got, and really the conditions could not have been better. I had my arm warmers on as it was a bit chilly at the start, but while standing on the start line with about 2 minutes until go time, I quickly took them off and put them in my race vest. I had my sunnies on my head but it was overcast throughout and I didn’t actually have to put them on my face until well after I’d finished running.

Being there so early I went for a short walk to loosen up my legs, and taking note of some of the course markers along the way. While walking back through the carpark to the start line, I came across a marshal with 2 big foam hands and asked her about the course, she informed me that the medium course runners were about to come through. So it was good to see that part of the course in action (tight turn past a red car) before having to run it myself half an hour later!

I ran into Robin, a regular runner with the Sunday group that I occasionally run with, who was also doing the short course. I realised that I didn’t know how long the short course was (other than that it should be less than 10km) so I asked him, he said 8.6km. My response was that I would estimate the distance to be anything from 7km to 10km given the notoriously approximate distances on trails!

Once again we had a 2 wave start, and I went in the first wave. This time I was closer to the middle of the pack. Race director Brett warned us of a ditch about 100m in, so we wouldn’t trip on it. And I remembered the tight hairpin turn a little further along, from running the event in 2019.

‘Don’t trip on the ditch!’ Official photo courtesy Lachlan Miller.

The start was pretty kind, a bit of downhill and some small hills which were runnable. There were 2 main big climbs which you can see from the elevation map. I ran/walked all of the steeper hills – instead of 20 steps walk/20 steps run, I went with 10 and 10 – I’d managed to conquer the ‘Big Dipper’ on the Chambers loop using this method and it seemed to work relatively well on this occasion as well, although a lot of people did tend to pass me on the uphills. Uphills have never been my favourite! I think maybe overall there wasn’t as much climb as at Anstey Hill.

For a lot of the race I was following Troy, who was wearing a dark green shirt and therefore blended quite nicely into the background, making him a bit difficult to follow! (Meanwhile I, in my fluoro pink top, would have been quite easy to spot for whoever was behind me!) He ended up finishing about 30 seconds ahead of me, and despite the camouflage I was able to keep him in sight for the most part!

At one of the drink stations the volunteer told me I was in 2nd place, I said ‘let’s keep it that way!’ I knew there was one short course runner, a young girl in an Adelaide Harriers singlet, who was ahead of me. At the time I thought it was the same girl who beat me at Anstey Hill and she beat me by a number of minutes, so I wasn’t expecting to catch her and 2nd place would do nicely (even though only 1st place got a bottle of wine – a very nice drop from Chaffey Bros!). I later found out she was a completely different person!

I intentionally didn’t look at my watch the whole time – no idea how far I’d gone, or how far I had left to go. I think that added to my enjoyment – I was just appreciating the moment and taking it all in (wank wank!)

The first photographer I actually saw (Lachlan was at the start line as well as later in the course but I was too busy telling myself not to trip over on the ditch to notice!) was Sputnik. As I ran past him he told me I could use his photos in my blog, I always ask for permission before using official race photos in my blog but he thought he’d save me the trouble!

Captures the mood perfectly! Official photo courtesy Sputnik.

Later on down the road I saw Lachlan and I thought I might as well ask him while I saw him, he of course also said yes, and the photo he took captures me asking him if it was OK to use said photo in my blog!

How very meta! Official photo courtesy Lachlan Miller.

Probably the highlight of the race for me was the RMA drink station, they were all dressed up like Test cricketers! Not only was it extremely entertaining but as a huge cricket fan it totally made my day! (As per normal in the shorter races, I prefer to carry my own drinks so I don’t have to break up the momentum by stopping, but I still appreciate them being there!). As I approached I asked Voula, who had a bat, to hit the imaginary ball to me, and I took what I can only say would have been described as a ‘classic catch’! So much fun!

Best drink station EVER! Thanks to Michelle for the photo!

At one point in the race I passed Emily, who was leading. Not long after that, we came to a sign that had 2 arrows, one pointing left and one right. This indicated that two of the distances would go one way and the other distance would go the other. I wasn’t able to see until I got right up to it, which way we had to go. I couldn’t rely on following the person in front of me, (not that you should ever do that in a trail race because it assumes they know where they’re going) because by this stage all the distances were mixed up. I worked out that we had to go left, which was uphill and a bit of a tight turn, and in the process of slowing down to take a look at the sign, Emily passed me. Oh well, it was good while it lasted!

Around the 5km mark we started going downhill, and that was really fun! I was fully expecting more uphill, having not studied the course. At one stage during the downhill section I passed Emily again, knowing that she would pass me on the next uphill section. Then I got a bit confused when I went past the volunteer who had told me I was in 2nd place, and he told me I had held my spot – then I thought maybe someone ELSE was also ahead – oh well, I can only do what I can do, let’s just enjoy all this delightful downhill because at some point we’ll start going up again!

Coming back along Steub Track there were signs indicating how far to Cleland Wildlife Park (the first one I saw was 1.8km) which is not far from the finish line, but I didn’t know whether the course designed had added on an extra loop at the end so I didn’t assume we were close to the finish. But when I came back into the carpark and saw the volunteer with the foam hands again, I knew we had to be near the end – and miraculously we hadn’t had any more hills! The last kilometre or so I’d been trying to follow Troy while occasionally taking a sneaky look back and not seeing anyone, so I thought there was no way Emily was going to catch me now (unless there was a big arse hill right near the end). As it turned out there was a slight hill near the end but a short and runnable one and I managed to hold off Emily who must have finished quite strongly as she was only 15 seconds behind me!

My time was 44:47.58 – having never run this particular course before I had no idea what to expect but I was pretty happy with how it all went. And most importantly, I enjoyed every minute – yes, even those damn hills!

As always it was great to be able to catch up with some fellow runners I haven’t seen in a while (most since the last race at Anstey Hill and some since long before that!) and have a coffee from Neil at Stir.

All in all another fantastic event, thanks to Adelaide Trail Runners and all the fabulous volunteers!

Wine and bling – a pretty good day!

See you at Onkaparinga in February!