Adelaide Trail Runners Summer Series Race 4 – Belair

Yesterday was the fourth and final race in the 2020-2021 Adelaide Trail Runners Summer Series. Just to explain the series briefly, it consists of 4 races across the summer, at Anstey Hill, Cleland, Onkaparinga and finally Belair. It was originally put on by Yumigo! which then became Ultra Runners South Australia, and this was the first year it was under the Adelaide Trail Runners banner. The 4 events have short, medium and long courses, and each event is a stand-alone event but participants also accrue points towards age group awards at the end of the series. It is a great incentive to enter the whole series rather than individual races, especially for those who are unlikely to be at the ‘pointy end’ of the field! I have run a number of events in the series in the past, and once I managed to run 3 of the 4 races which allowed me to scrape in for 3rd place in my age group (1st and 2nd in my age group also happened to be in the top 3 overall for the series – tough age group!). I don’t quite understand the point system but all I know is that going into the final event I was 1st in my age group for the short course and the points system is designed that only your best 3 points scores are counted. Which basically means that I would still win it even if I didn’t show up to Belair. But where’s the fun in that? I’d already paid for it, plus, I’m training for a half marathon and if I didn’t run the 10k at Belair I was going to have to do a road 19km. So naturally I went to Belair!

I hadn’t run recently at Belair – I think probably my last time running there was 2 years ago at the end of Five Peaks. Belair was also the site of my very first trail race in 2015, one of the very first events put on by Trail Running SA. My run itself was not particularly memorable (14km in 1:31:12, average pace 6:30 per km. 126th out of 188 and 44th female out of 96). Sadly I had only just started my blog then and I didn’t write a report on this one – I’d love to read it now! I was, however, lucky enough to win the random draw prize for a pair of Salomon trail shoes – and I’ve been running in Salomon trail shoes ever since! (I’ve paid for the rest of them, by the way!)

As for the other events in the series, the short course started after the long and medium so theoretically we could get there later, however I did get there about an hour before my event was due to start, to ensure I was able to get a car park. It also gave me time to go for a little wander to loosen up the legs, and not have to rush around.

With a bit of rain having fallen on Saturday, I was expecting it to be somewhat muddy out on the trails so I had decided against debuting my brand new trail shoes which have been sitting in my wardrobe patiently waiting since August 2019! What I was NOT expecting (but could quite easily have known, had I checked the weather forecast) was that it was COLD at the start! I even contemplated running in long sleeves (luckily I’d put a thin long sleeved top in my car as an afterthought, as well as a thicker one) and was annoyed to find that my fleece gloves were not in the car!

Standing at the start line, I was probably towards the middle of the pack (as per the other 3 events there were 2 waves and I was in the first wave) and there were quite a few women in front of me at the start. I had my long sleeved top on over my singlet at this stage and with a couple of minutes to go, decided that I would take it off and shove it in my race vest. That ended up being a very good idea – it gave me an extra layer to put on at the end, and it didn’t take long once we started, for me to warm up!

Given that we all finish at the same place and all courses share one common drink station, there must have been runners from long and medium courses that I encountered along the way. It was difficult to tell as I came up alongside someone and (hopefully) passed them, whether they were in my event, whether they were long or medium, or indeed whether they were just members of the public out for a nice run/hike on a Sunday morning! And I was trying to hold onto the ‘don’t look back’ philosophy so I couldn’t very well turn around once I’d passed them to see if I was in fact competing against them! So I just went with the assumption that they were ALL in my event and I would try to pass any female I happened to see (and hopefully not let them pass me again).

Pic courtesy of official photographer Lachlan Miller. Steve’s arm just in front of me (we’ll get to that!)

One such person was a girl in a dark green long sleeved top, who I later found out was Amy. I knew she was in the short course as I had seen her at the start – I’d noticed because she was wearing the same long sleeved top (albeit in a different colour) as I now wasn’t wearing. She seemed to be just that little bit too far in front of me but I decided to keep her in sight and hope for a bit of a surge at the end. As per the previous races I didn’t know what position I was in, although I did know that Anna and Rosie were both ahead of me again, so I was well and truly out of medal contention even if there were no other ladies in between Amy and the other two.

I was also trying to stick close to Steve, who I knew from many previous running events, and who had been within sight of me throughout the whole event. We had gone back and forth, sometimes I’d lead for a while, then he’d lead and I’d try to keep him in sight.

Pic courtesy of official photographer Sputnik. Again Steve setting the pace!
Pic courtesy of official photographer Sputnik.

I reckon around the halfway mark I did eventually catch Amy and pass her but I knew she was not far behind. Uphills are not my strongest point and there was a bit of uphill in the course, and I think she passed me a couple of times on the uphills (I went with the 8 step run/8 step walk strategy again – that seems to work well for me)

There wasn’t so much single track as at Onkaparinga so I didn’t find myself in the same situation as last time where I’d either be stuck behind someone and unable to pass, or have someone breathing down my neck (and often both!). There was really only one spot where I remember it being a bit of a bottleneck and that was the infamous Echo Tunnel at around the halfway mark. I hadn’t realised that the tunnel would be part of the course, but when I found out during a conversation with Heather and Peter at parkrun the previous day, I thought it would be a good idea to take my head torch to navigate through the tunnel. Well it doesn’t really require navigation, it’s a straight tunnel but VERY dark so a little light would make things a lot easier! (At the start line Heather said she also had brought her head torch!) As I saw the sign indicating that the tunnel was just ahead, I opened up the pocket on my race vest and took out the head torch and put it on. What a difference that made! I’m not sure why I didn’t run/walk on the low side of the tunnel (often filled with flowing water, but on this occasion it was bone dry) – not only would I not have to bend like a pretzel to avoid bumping my head on the roof, I could also theoretically overtake the conga line of people feeling their way through the tunnel! Anyway, if anyone is reading this in preparation for doing this event in future, if you take nothing else from this race report, TAKE A TORCH! Even your phone torch will do!

I had been thinking prior to this event, trying to guess what theme the RMA ladies would go with at this event (following on from Christmas in December, cricket in January and tennis in February) – and when I saw them I thought ‘OF COURSE! How did I not guess that?’ – they had gone with an AFL theme, with the AFL season due to start this week. Bravo ladies – definitely a welcome sight as always!

This pic was taken at the end – captured this shot of official photographer Sputnik taking a photo of the RMA ladies doing a jump shot at the finish line. I think it turned out pretty well (bet Sputnik’s shot was better though!)

The last little bit of the course was fun! Lots of downhill! Keeping Steve in sight became a bit more challenging because he was going SO FAST. At one point I thought I saw someone on a bike flying down the hill, but no, it was just Steve! It was great to have him to follow because it made me run faster to try to keep up, and forget about the potential threat of Amy looming behind me!

Pic courtesy of official photographer Sputnik.
Pic courtesy of official photographer Sputnik. All smiles because we’re near the end and it was literally all downhill!
Pic courtesy of official photographer Sputnik. All smiles because we’re near the end and it was literally all downhill!

And, just as I had at Onkaparinga, when I saw the finish line I had a sneaky peek over my shoulder and couldn’t see anyone. Whatever position I was in now, that was where I would stay!

As soon as I crossed the finish line, my first thought was ‘coffee and a brownie’! It was Caravino, the same coffee van as last time, and last time I had opted for an almond croissant over a brownie, so I decided this time I needed to test out the brownie! (Spoiler alert, it was TO DIE FOR!) I was also pleased to see that they had compostable coffee cups, one small piece of feedback for next time, it would be good to have some kind of sign that the cups are compostable so that people know they can take them home and put them in their green bin. I saw the rubbish bins overflowing with cups at the end, and I know trail runners are generally pretty eco-friendly types (most trail runs now having moved away from plastic cups at drink stations) so I am sure that many of them would have taken them home if they’d known.

When I did eventually look at the results I saw that Amy was less than 14 seconds behind me! If not for me trying to keep up with Steve, she probably would have caught me!

Overall it’s been a really great series, and well done to Adelaide Trail Runners and all the fabulous volunteers for making it happen! At the end of Belair I was KIND OF glad it was over (only because I had to work so damn hard at the end!) but now in hindsight I kind of wish there were more events as I feel like I have been improving throughout the series. Which I guess is what you want! I definitely feel like I earned my bling at Belair more than at any of the other events! I look forward to running it again in future, and I think now that I have a bit of trail momentum I might have a go at the Trail Running SA winter series!

Until next time…

Just a cat wearing a medal…