Adelaide Trail Runners Summer Series Race 3 – Belair

Today was the 3rd event in the newly-expanded Adelaide Trail Runners Summer Series. This year the events in the series have been flipped around a bit, with Belair, traditionally the last race in the series in March, now being run in January, and the series concluding at Cleland in March. If you’re just catching up, you can check out my reviews of the new event at South Para and the most recent race at Anstey Hill.

Last year I had quite a good run at Belair, albeit on a somewhat cooler day! Unfortunately for me, as has become tradition, I failed to take advantage of Past Jane’s helpfulness, telling me all the things I should and shouldn’t do in this event, by not re-reading my blog from last year. Why do I even bother?

In a classic example of shutting the gate after the horse has bolted, I re-read last year’s report this afternoon (ie AFTER the race) in preparation for writing this one. It’s hard to imagine that last time I ran here I was kicking myself for not bringing my fleece gloves! (This time I once again forgot my cycling gloves for hand protection – I really need to leave those in my race vest!)

Sometimes in the past I have written about my lead-up week to races (again primarily for Future Jane’s benefit) – I didn’t do that last time but if I recall correctly I ‘tapered’ for all the summer series races – I’d do a 45 minute run on Tuesday and Thursday, and either do an easy parkrun on Saturday, or volunteer.

I seem to have forgotten all about that this year. Tuesday was a particularly revolting morning for running, and I did 12km with a LOT of swearing, then Thursday was just over 11km and only slightly more pleasant. Saturday I decided to make the trip down to Victor Harbor and visit one of ‘my’ parkruns as Event Ambassador, and, well, you don’t just go to one of the fastest parkrun courses in SA and take it easy, do you? I followed that up with a 2km swim in the lake, the first time I’d been swimming in nearly 2 years, but I can’t imagine that would have made any difference as I don’t really use my legs in swimming. Also during December/January I have been doing more gym work (with time off work giving me more time to train) and although I definitely feel my improved leg strength helps my running, there was definitely a bit of fatigue in the legs leading up to today.

I don’t want to make excuses, this is really for me in 12 months time to know what NOT to do!

The main focus for me in this series is the age group prize. After the first 2 races I was leading in my age group and you have to run 4 out of the 5 races to qualify for an age group prize. My plan is to run all 5 (especially Cleland which is my favourite!) but in the current climate with every second person being in iso, who knows if I’ll be able to run both or even one of the last two races? So I figured, even with crap preparation, I needed to run when I was able to!

Just for a bit of variety in the photos for the series, I decided to wear a green T-shirt and blue shorts for this race – I had seen one of my favourite running photos during the week where I was wearing that exact outfit, and I thought it would look pretty cool in the photos, albeit at a different part of the day!

This is the photo from 5 years ago that inspired my outfit for Belair – on a night trail run with a group, Dave captured the moment of Kay and me taking a selfie – and his photo is WAY better than mine!

It was probably the best thing I did all day, because as it turned out, I was perfectly coordinated with my race bib! And I hadn’t even seen the bib before picking my outfit!

One of the best things about Belair is that there are proper toilets as well as the portaloos – and who in their right mind would use a portaloo when there is an actual proper toilet right next to it? And even better – no queue!

I arrived in plenty of time as usual – the short course started after the long and medium courses, meaning the carpark would be (and was) pretty full by the time the short course runners arrived – therefore we had to allow extra time in case we had to park a little way away.

Like all the other races this season there was only one wave start for each event so I put myself somewhere in the middle. The plan was to take it pretty easy for the first kilometre, just settle into a rhythm. It wasn’t likely to be a fast one so there was no point busting my arse right at the start (like I almost always do!)

After the race, comparing my kilometre splits from last year, I can safely say I failed miserably at starting conservatively! Last year I ran the first kilometre in 5:37, this year I did it in 5:05. It was interesting reading because that first kilometre pretty much destroyed the rest of my run (OK maybe that’s a slight exaggeration – it was not all bad, but it could have been a lot better!)

Spoiler alert – every kilometre from then on was slower than the equivalent kilometre last year – some of them MASSIVELY so!

One of the issues at the start was a bit of single track, where I had people right behind me with no room to pass, so I felt like I needed to keep running fast when I would have preferred to take it a bit easier. I certainly was not going to step aside and let people past this early in the race! In the first kilometre there was also a flight of stairs which I had forgotten about – normally I do NOT run up stairs, I walk, but on this occasion I also felt I had to run which wasn’t ideal.

After getting past the first kilometre and realising I’d once again made a serious error in judgement, I finally got into a bit of a rhythm of sorts. A slow rhythm but a rhythm nonetheless. The first half was HARD. Lots of up.

The elevation plot!

My goal was to get to 5km without walking but then something else happened that ruined that plan, and something I had completely forgotten about. I came up to a sign that said “Echo Tunnel” – for the uninitiated it is quite a long, dark tunnel (I swear it got longer since I was last there!). If you walk on the high side, you have to duck to avoid clocking your head on the roof. If you walk on the low side, you can stay upright and possibly even still run, but it is often muddy and sometimes there’s even running water (not on this occasion!). Last year, being super prepared, I brought my head torch and that was probably the one take-home message I should have taken home. But I didn’t, so this time I felt my way along in the dark for what seemed like an eternity before emerging to light at the other end and trying to run again. But the ‘momentum’ was broken so the first hill I got to, I was walking. Last year I went with the 8 step run/8 step walk strategy, which I have used only recently and which I SHOULD have remembered, but that went out the window – it was pretty much all walking the uphills from this point on, and running the flats and downs – which, along with the too fast start, almost certainly accounts for being about 3 minutes slower than last year – which is quite a lot for a 10km race!

It was definitely not all bad! The highlight for me (other than my bib matching my outfit, and the always awesome post-run coffee from Neil at Stir Express) was my first ever emu sighting on a run! Ollie, who had caught me just before this point and was about to pass me, who is a local to this area, informed me that emus are pretty common in Belair but it was a treat for me to see one trotting (do emus trot?) across in front of me. Had my phone been more easily accessible and not in the back pocket of my race vest, I definitely would have stopped to attempt to take a photo!

Just after Steve caught up with me. Photo: Lachlan Miller Photography

Around this time a couple of fast runners passed us, they looked way too fast to be ONLY overtaking me in the last few kilometres. I later found out from another fast runner who passed me, Neil, who I definitely remembered having passed me earlier, that a bunch of the faster runners took a wrong turn! Oh that’s one other thing that went well for me – I managed to stay on course – and in fact I thought the course was pretty well marked. There were times in the first half where I didn’t see another soul and I never questioned whether or not I was going the right way. So thanks to the trail markers – you did an awesome job! (AND – winning at life moment here – I also did not fall over!)

The last few kilometres, as you can see from the elevation plot, was mostly downhill. THAT bit was fun. I remembered chasing Steve last year through this section. I was behind him again this time after he caught me, but this time he was so far ahead I couldn’t even see him – but I managed to keep Ollie in sight.

I got to the finish line – albeit about 3 minutes slower than 2021 – and my first port of call was my car to get my keep cup so I could get a coffee – I’m actually surprised I didn’t go for Coke first (that came later) – the coffee went down beautifully, and later, so did the Coke!

It was pretty warm out there today, especially compared to last year – well done to everyone who ran/walked, and as always thanks to all the volunteers without whom it would not have happened!

So, all being well, I will see you at Onkaparinga in February! (Hopefully better prepared next time!)

Oh, and isn’t it about time I won something in the random prize draw? My wine rack is looking a little empty…