Note: This post was written pre-Melb Lockdown 4.0
Races are back.
Ok they have been back for a little while, but I haven’t been.
After bailing on my last 2 race entries (Warby trail fest and Brimbank park), I was nervous when I signed up for Maroondah Trail Run. I thought I was probably just throwing money down the toilet and with my new fascination with the She’s on the Money podcast and Spaceship investment, the guilt factor was high. I didn’t want to waste more money. I didn’t want to let myself down.
I was starting to think that maybe I was “over” the whole ultra running thing. That maybe it was just a phase, that I didn’t have “it” anymore. The mojo was gone.
But I signed up anyway and I kept it to myself this time.
My relationship with Maroondah Dam 50k is complicated, as is my relationship with Trails Plus events in general.
I’ve met some amazing people at this race, fellow runners, who I have been stoked to share the trails with and have a chat. Sometimes about nothing, sometimes about everything. There’s nothing like a trail race for encouraging deep and meaningfuls with random strangers.
But I’ve been lost twice at Maroondah Dam, on two different years. It’s the only race I’ve ever gone the wrong way (because the signs are ridiculous!) and I know lots of other experienced trail runners who have also gone the wrong way. (2019 race review is here)
I was pretty determined this year to not let this effect my experience of the event. I had 2 goals, 1. Dont cry going up the hill and 2. Get the course right
Kinda sad that number 2 has to be a goal but hey.
Trails Plus events aren’t like any of the other trail races I’ve done, and not in a good way. They cost a lot and you don’t get a lot. No atmosphere, no photographers, minimal aid at aid stations and if your lucky the race director might berate you for questioning the signs. Now don’t get me wrong, the volunteers are amazing and don’t get the credit they deserve but it makes me sad that people who aren’t trail runners attend these events as their first experience and this is what they get.
Anyways, I was kinda proud of myself that I didn’t sleep in and bail on the whole thing. I arrived at the base of the dam with enough time to do dress myself and get ready for a long day ahead.
The race briefing kicked off 15 minutes or so before the start, with the usual, “it’s not my fault if you get lost so stop whinging about it” disclaimer (that’s me adlibbing and being quite a bit more polite about it). Though it was a nice touch for Brett, the Race director, to present a plaque to a bloke who had run every running of the event since the beginning. It was a nice touch and I hadn’t seen him do something like that before.
Right on the hour, the small group of folks running the 42k and the 50k headed off.
The course is a strange out and back, with a complex loop at the end.
After a superficial loop to ensure you run the correct distance, the course starts over the dam wall and along a concrete walking path until you head out onto a long fire trail.
You spend the first 14k or so climbing steadily up to Mt St Leonard. I’m not the best at climbing, the mental part of it grinds at me and I find myself going so slow that it feels like I’m not moving at all.
The thing with this climb is that it feels never ending. Just when you think you’ve made it to the top, it keeps going.
I was lucky enough to be hiking up the hill with the awesome Julia and Jenni who were super strong climbers and still in great spirits. I just did my best to keep up with them and managed to get up there a good 10 minutes faster than in 2019.
Jenni was running the 42k as her last long run before UTA 50 and Jules was in for the 50k.
I was stoked for the company and enjoyed playing trail tag with the ladies over the course of the day.
What comes up must come down, so once you reach the summit there is an uncomfortable down hill that takes you into the Tanglefoot. This year, with the trails closed and no races allowed in 2020, posed more of a trip hazard than previous years and the recent rain didn’t help matters.
It’s a beautiful trail and at least for the first hour it is stunning and a joy to dance through the rainforest to the sounds of waterfalls and local birds.
Like most things in trail running, it’s fun until it isn’t. The trail that once made your heart sing starts feeling like you are stuck in a bad movie and you might never see civilisation ever again.
Despite our efforts, (and frankly not our fault at all, incorrect directions from an aid station), Jenni ended up taking a wrong turn and doing the 50k instead of the 42k but she took it all in her stride and we all caught up to each other again, to cautiously tumble down the back end of Mt St Leonard.
Once you get down the hill, it’s a cruisy downhill fire trail to the finish.
We would have all finished together if Jen and I could have kept up with Jules over the last 5k! She smashed it and came over the line as the third female of the 50k and Jen ended up on the 42k podium too even though she ran 8k more than she needed to!
I was stoked with a 15 min PB and managing to do the actual course! And the cutest thing ever, my PT Megan, who smashed out the 21k, waited at the finish line for hours in the cold until I finished. If I had known she was there I might have tried a bit harder to keep up with Jules!
There were no medals at the finish line which was super disappointing but they didn’t arrive in the post time. Brett said they were special medals that he ordered. I didn’t think too much of it, but it was super odd walking away emptied handed after almost 7 and a half hours on the trails.
I said thank you and goodbye to Jules, Jenni and Megan and headed off to get supplies for the 2 hour drive home.
About 2 weeks later, the medal arrived and it is the strangest thing I have ever seen!
The dude who got the plaque, who turns out to be Kevin Marshall, is on the back of the medal. Yep and his name is on the ribbon too! So weird!!! The plaque and ceremony was a lovely gesture but this is just odd and kinda creepy!
Creepy or not, it’s another medal in the rack and another 50k under my belt.
Hopefully I can sneak a few more races in before Brisbane Trail Ultra in July. 110k. Longest one for me in a few years. No pressure.