Adelaide Trail Runners Summer Series Race 3 – Onkaparinga River

Pre-start pic stolen from Scuba!

Never before had I run at the site of Race 3 in the 2020-21 Summer Trail Series – Onkaparinga River. In fact, I didn’t even really know where it was, other than ‘way down south’. I was pretty sure I’d seen once from a winery at McLaren Vale but that was about it, so it was a bit exciting to be running in parts unknown! As usual I didn’t pay much attention to the map or elevation, although at the start, Mal had a printed map that indicated the short course was 9.4km (so in other words, somewhere between 8 and 10km!) and the elevation was less than Anstey Hill and Cleland. Plus the finish was uphill. I didn’t really want to know that but it was helpful to know.

Numbers were good again – almost 400 finishers all up, with 147 in the long course, 127 in the medium and 122 in the short.

As I did for the last event at Cleland I had a bit of a ‘taper’ week – I did my usual Tuesday and Thursday runs but abbreviated, aiming for about 45 minutes – and then gave parkrun a miss on Saturday.

Being Fringe time I went to shows on both Friday and Saturday night – Saturday night’s thankfully was not a late one and I was designated driver. I was seriously craving Coke when I was on the way home and was planning to stop at a servo to get one after I dropped my friends home, but one of them, Chris, suggested that Coke just before bed was probably not a good idea. I thank her for that because she was right, and when I got home I drank some water which tasted pretty damn good and did not interfere with my pre-race sleep! (If it matters, pre-race dinner was a mushroom pizza from Anchovy Bandit. So good. Didn’t need to eat the whole thing but did anyway. Even though I was only running 9.4ish kilometres the next day!)

Given that I didn’t know where it was, plus as usual the short course started after the long and medium, meaning that I would need to allow more time for parking and walking to the start, I allowed plenty of time to get there, meaning that I arrived early enough to see the medium course runners set off before joining the (at that time non-existent!) portaloo queue. I mean the queue was non-existent, the portaloos were very much existent. Plus they were the fancy ones with the mirrors so I could check my hair on the way out – bonus!

Again the weather was pretty good – it had been a hot week but thankfully had cooled down by the weekend. It was sunny – which wasn’t so much an issue during the race, more so on the drive down, on a narrow windy (not to mention unfamiliar) road where there were times I was driving straight into the sun!

As in the other 2 races, there were 2 waves for each distance. Having started in the first wave at the first two events, I figured that was the go again! We all lined up by the timing mats only to be told that we were starting in the opposite direction – if the race director wasn’t sure about which way we were going, I’m not sure there was much hope for me being able to find my way (especially as a virgin in these parts!)

Anyway, we eventually set off in the right direction and I figured I’d just follow the crowd as I normally do, except then I couldn’t, because they all took off and I knew better than to try to keep up. That would only end badly for me!

I was on my own for a little while before encountering some of the longer course runners. That was when things started to get interesting!

You see, one thing I didn’t know beforehand (not that it would have made much difference) was that this course has a lot of single track. A LOT. While I don’t mind a bit of single track, what I don’t like so much is being caught up in congestion on a single track, which was exactly what happened. For the longest time I was either wanting to overtake those in front (but not being able to) and/or having people breathing down my neck (but with no room to overtake). I figured I’d best just suck it up and wait for the trail to open up a bit. Some people did stop on the side and let others through – I thank them for that but it’s not my style to do that myself – unless I personally need to stop for some reason, I’ll just keep moving.

Given that people were behind me, I didn’t feel like I could do my ‘walk/run’ that I normally do on some of the longer/steeper hills – I felt like I had to keep running. So that took a bit more out of me than I would have liked, but conversely the times I got ‘stuck’ behind someone, I was able to have a bit of a rest and give the legs a break. So it probably all evened out in the end. Not that it mattered. The lead pack was so far in front at this stage (I assume – I hadn’t seen them since about 200m from the start) there was no chance of getting anywhere near them this time!

Having never been here before you’d think I would have taken a moment to take in the views – but nope! After the race several people were commenting on how lovely the scenery was. Luckily some of them had stopped to take photos otherwise I would have had NO IDEA! I must go back there one day and just walk it.

Even though I was watching my feet and straight ahead of me instead of admiring the scenery – I did trip on a rock once. Luckily I managed to maintain a vertical orientation and hopefully helpfully pointed said rock out to the person behind me. I didn’t hear a crash or any swearing so I am assuming they didn’t trip on it! (There was a bit of carnage on show at the end though – quite a few people had gone arse over, possibly admiring the view? Susan and her first aid team had a bit of patching up work to do!)

Official race photo – Thanks to Lachlan Miller!

There was only one drink station on the course (for all 3 distances) which was pretty smart – given that we don’t do cups anymore, many people take their own hydration, and given that due to COVID now we aren’t allowed to fill our own bottles/flasks/bladders, drink stops take longer than they used to, so a lot of the faster runners don’t stop. Therefore, it was manageable having only one drink station and it meant less volunteers were required. It was the RMA crew again and this time they had adopted a tennis theme, given that the Australian Open finals were on that weekend. It was also quite funny for me because prior to going out on Saturday night, I was at a friend’s house and his son asked me if I wanted to play tennis with him. Having not played tennis (and I use the term ‘played’ VERY loosely) in… at least 20 years, it could have ended in disaster but I sort of remembered how to hit a ball. Still can’t serve to save my life though! So that was a bit of a highlight for me!

Did I mention that there was a lot of single track? For quite a while in the back half I was following a guy in black with blue socks (I believe his name was Sam) and at one stage he asked me if I wanted to pass him – I didn’t at that stage, he was running at just the right pace for me so I sat behind him – not too close, mind you, but he must have got sick of it after awhile because just as I was thinking about possibly making a move next time I got enough space to do so, he took off! He ended up finishing about a minute ahead of me. Not long after this I was overtaken by Darren, who I encouraged to try to catch him but he didn’t quite get there – he must have had a very strong finish!

Now I try to go by the rule “don’t look back” MOST of the time. There are a few reasons why it is not a good idea. One, you might trip over if you try to look back while still moving forward. Two, you’re letting the person behind you (if there is a person behind you) know that you’re aware of them and that you might see them as a threat. Maybe I am over thinking this but I know if I was following someone and they kept looking back, that MY first thought would be, “I’ve got this!” So I try not to do it.

On this particular occasion though, I DID do it. I looked back 4 times in the final stretch – there were definitely people behind me but estimating the distance to the finish line and the distance that they were behind me, after the 4th look I was confident that there was no way they were going to catch me. If they were fast enough to overtake me now, they would surely have done it earlier. And there was always a good chance they were not even in the short course event, as the finish was common to all 3 distances. So long story short, I was pretty comfortable with my position at that stage. And those in front of me (nearest were Sam and Darren) were too far ahead for me to even contemplate catching.

So I made my way up the hill to the finish line. For me it was probably the most challenging of the 3 races so far, even though elevation-wise it is technically the easiest. And I’m not the best going up hills so generally less elevation is good for me! In terms of average pace it was the fastest, but again with less elevation you’d expect that. I was pretty spent by the end so I just kept walking back to the car to get my reusable coffee cup, because, will run for coffee! (Unless there is also wine, in which case wine might win out!) When I got back to the coffee van (a new one to me – Caravino) – I was super excited to find that not only did they use Sublime coffee but also they had a number of different vegan goodies! I asked the girl to choose for me between an almond crème croissant and a chocolate brownie. She chose the croissant for me and it was way delicious!

Not long afterwards they started the presentations, I had only just got back from dropping some stuff off at my car and didn’t realise until then but I had managed to scrape in for 3rd place behind Anna (doing her first race of the series) and Rosie (who beat me in Race 1, but pleasingly I had closed the time gap slightly – from close to 3 minutes at Anstey Hill, to about half that here at Onkaparinga. I was surprised to find out that 4th place was only about 20 seconds behind me – she must have been in that pack that I kept seeing when I looked back – I could have sworn they were further away than that! Out of all the races so far I think I definitely earned my place most in this one!

With 2 of the fabulous tennis-themed RMA ladies at the finish line – look how colour coordinated we are!

Thanks again to all the fabulous volunteers and Adelaide Trail Runners for putting on another fantastic event – as I said before I definitely intend to come back and actually appreciate the scenery (although I may have to supply my own coffee and croissant next time!)

Race 4 is only 3 weeks away at Belair – can’t wait!

Happy days!