Punkt Zu Punkt 2021 (aka ‘Will Run For Wine’)

This weekend I took a cruise up to the Barossa to participate in an event I’d never done before. Punkt Zu Punkt (German for ‘Point to Point’ is a trail run presented by Chaffey Brothers Wines with Adelaide Trail Runners as part of the Barossa Vintage Festival. This was the third running of the biennial event. The 2017 event had only the 33km from Bethany to Angaston, which I opted not to do as I was in Washington DC at the time, having just run Boston (has it really been 4 years???). In 2019 an out-and-back 7km was added. This time I was in peak training for the Adelaide 24 hour, so I’d decided to go and run the 5k at Clare instead.

I was keen to run it this year, until i realised it was the week after McLaren Vale. This year another shorter distance, 14km, was also included. That was the one I had been looking at. I knew that the 33km participants all got wine at the end, but I was nowhere near ready for that sort of distance! The tipping point was when I realised that 14km runners ALSO got wine (1 bottle, with the 33km runners getting 2 bottles) and that was when I threw reason out the window and thought, WHY THE HELL NOT run back to back events?

After McLaren Vale I just had the one run during the week. My pre-race meal consisted of paella and a cheeky glass of red wine while watching the final episode of The Sopranos (I have mentioned before that I have a history of being late to the party when it comes to TV series – this time I was only 14 years late!) – how about that ending?

Gear-wise, I decided to leave the bottles at home and get my bladder out of storage – I figured, while 500ml (2 x 250ml bottles) was enough for the shorter distances of the Summer Series, I should probably have a bit more fluid on board for a longer event, plus the VERY CIVILISED 10am start time meant it would likely be a bit warmer than I was used to! (As always, for anything less than an ultra, I prefer not to have to stop at the drink stations).

For once I decided not to wear pink (2 events 2 weeks in a row, I can hardly wear the same outfit now, can I?), instead I went with a nice green T-shirt which would go nicely with my purple race vest (green and purple in a wine region, how appropriate!). I also pulled out my rainbow arm warmers for a pop of colour. What I didn’t realise at the time, until I looked at my Facebook memories on race morning, was that it was exactly 4 years since Boston, AND I had worn the very same arm warmers that day too! Spooky!

The 10am start was a bonus – I didn’t need to leave home until around 8am! As I was on the way there I was kicking myself for forgetting to bring a change of shoes – if it was muddy out there, I could hardly walk into a cellar door afterwards with muddy trail shoes! However there hadn’t been too much rain so I was hopeful it wouldn’t be too bad.

I kind of wanted to know what the course was like – I had been assured that it was very well marked, and there were maps on the website that meant nothing to me, not knowing the area, but what I really wanted to know was the elevation – I knew the 33km had a lot of elevation near the start, but we wouldn’t be running that bit. At the start line, I saw Mal who always has all the info (distance, elevation, etc) and he told me it was around 200m and showed me an elevation plot – nothing too dramatic, being out and back it was a mirror image, and there was a bit of up and a bit of down both ways.

Doesn’t look too gnarly! Bit of a climb at the start but a nice downhill finish!

There was a fair bit of road in the course but the website showed it was 85% trail and 15% bitumen. The roads weren’t closed so we had to give way to traffic, but being a Sunday morning in the country, there wasn’t a heap of traffic.

There were 42 runners in the 14km, a nice smallish number, so no wave starts this time, we all set off together. No-one seemed to want to be at the front! But when you see someone in an Adelaide Harriers singlet you know you’ve got someone to chase (if you can keep them in sight for long enough, that is!). Early on, the top 3 females were clearly a long way ahead of me, so I just tried to keep them in sight for as long as I could. With a few stretches of open road, it was easy to spot them. It wasn’t too bad running on non-closed roads – given that I was in trail shoes I tended to try to run on the gravel shoulder wherever possible. There were a couple of road crossings, and I was kind of hoping a car might come along to force the girls in front of me to stop and give me a chance to catch up, but no such luck! It wouldn’t have made a difference anyway, they would have been well ahead of me soon after!

Near the start. Official photo by Lachlan Miller.

The course was well marked, and there were plenty of times when I was running on my own and often without being able to see the runner in front, but I never took a wrong turn or missed a turn. There was one section, in a field, where the 2 lead females had taken a wrong turn, the 3rd female was far enough behind to see their error and not make it herself, and of course I was well back enough to do the same! I can see where they went wrong, the signage could have been confusing given that there were arrows to mark the course in both directions, and it made perfect sense when I came back through the same section. Just goes to show that blindly following the runner in front of you is never a good plan!

There was one non-runnable hill, a bit of rock climbing. I saw the girl in front of me start walking and that was my cue! I tried the ‘8 step run, 8 step walk’ technique but eventually realised that was futile and just walked until I got to the top of that hill. The other hills on the course, I either ran or walk/ran.

On the way out to the turnaround, the faster 33km runners started to come through (the 7km and the 14km were out and back along the same course that the 33km followed, which made perfect sense in terms of minimising the amount of marking and drink stations required, plus it meant the runners got to see more people out there which is always nice especially in a small event) – of course they were all wearing red and white!

When we reached the turnaround, I was a bit pleased to see that we hadn’t quite reached 7km so that meant it would be a little bit shorter than 14km all up. No problem for me! I was pushing fairly hard trying to maintain my position so 13.5k would be more than enough, thank you very much!

On the way back I saw the rest of the 14km runners coming towards me, there was a guy and a girl who seemed to be a little bit close for comfort and I didn’t want to be overtaken by anyone else (since the start I had so far only been overtaken by the 2nd and 3rd male in the 14km, as well as the fast 33k runners, and I didn’t want any other 14k runners to pass me!) so I had to keep working!

I swore I could hear a conversation quite close behind me and I could hear a female voice, so I picked up the pace a bit.

I think it was on the last road crossing, after I went through I heard a voice very close behind me, and event though you NEVER look back, I did – there was a guy only metres behind me! This would not do! I picked up the pace again.

Before too long the finish was in sight and he eventually caught up with me, he said he’d been following me for the last 40 minutes! Turned out he had run the first half with his brother and then taken off on his own, and had been running 4 minute kms to catch me – I told him he definitely deserved to be ahead of me, ultimately he finished 4 seconds ahead of me and I ended up finishing 8th overall in a time of 1:09:46. And that female voice I heard? Probably not my imagination, the next male finished only 9 seconds behind me and the next female just 13 seconds behind me.

Not quite sure what I was thinking here! Official photo at finish line by Lachlan Miller.

The finish line atmosphere was great, with lots of stalls set up, including a wine bar (which I may or may not have checked out before the start of the run – just looking to see what I would have afterwards, I did not indulge in a pre-race tipple!) so I hung around there for quite a while, waiting for the other runners to finish (there were a lot of familiar faces out there!) and watching the presentations. (I was a solid 1 minute 30 behind 3rd place so I was pretty satisfied that I could not possibly have done any better than I did!)

I didn’t end up stopping for a wine after all – a few of us popped down to the main street to get a coffee, and by the time we’d finished there, I needed to head back to Adelaide for a Zoom conference so I didn’t even have time to stop off for a wine tasting while I was in the Barossa! (I did, however, make a quick stop at the Barossa Valley Chocolate Company)

I heard some talk about this becoming an annual event – I hope it does, and next time I might even think about doing the 33km (2 bottles of wine AND a sweet medal might just get me across the line!)

Congratulations to all the runners, and thanks to all the fantastic volunteers as always! Well done to Daniel (Chaffey Brothers) and Brett (Adelaide Trail Runners) for making it all happen!

(This is probably going to be my last post for a while, with no events on the immediate horizon!)

I will very much enjoy drinking this, knowing that I earned it!