This time last week, I was once again loading up the car with all the snacks and all the gear as I headed into the mountains.
This time to the Southern Grampians for the Peaks and Trails 50k.
The lead up to this years Peaks and Trails couldn’t be more different to last year.
Last year the event was the pinnacle of a four day “training camp” inspired by Jason Koop. I bunked down in a cute cabin with an honest to goodness wood fireplace and did nothing but eat, sleep and run. I had logged some solid 40 plus km training runs and had just started introducing intervals. I ran the race with every piece of gear I could need for the Ultra Trail Kosciusko 100k in December.
I had a great time for the most part. (My race recap is here)
This year, by contrast, has been marred with injury. One after the other.
My training has been more about survival than fitness.
But I’ve been taking better care of myself, eating better, including mobility and strength work as prescribed. I’m about 2kg lighter.
Peaks and Trails was big goal.
Going into it, with all the disappointments so far this year, I felt like my mojo needed a win.
At the last minute to save some money, I cancelled my fancy cabin and booked one night in a crappy motel about 30 minutes from the race start in Dunkeld.
I headed down on Saturday morning with the first race of the weekend kicking off at noon.
The Mud Dadjung (previously Mt Abrupt) challenge had runners going straight up and straight back down the biggest mountain in the 50k course, but the easy way.
Whilst it is technically a race and there was some folks doing the double which was also a race, I wasn’t racing. I plodded up and plodded back down.
One of the other runners, Clare, said to be before hand that she was thinking of her future self and not breaking herself this weekend. I made that my mantra.
Goal: to do better than last year, but not at the expense of my future self or having a good time
After the run I went to my crappy motel, only to realise that unlike the pictures online, it didn’t have a microwave. So much for all the food I bought with me and the pre race oats I was going to have which I have before every race. Wonderful, trying something new on race day.
I got myself some bread, avo and two minute noodles and settled in to watch the Matilda’s play France.
I got back to Dunkeld super early, had my gear checked off and grabbed my bib.
When the race started I was a bit annoyed that I had pretty much let the entire field go ahead of me, but reminded myself I only cared about my time, not everyone else’s.
I won’t go over the course again, but there are four big climbs on this course followed by about 20k of pretty runnable terrain. I wanted to climb better in the first half and run more in the back.
I had quite a tough time in the middle of the hilly section last year after I completely stuffed my nutrition plan. So this year I went in with the alarm on my watch set for every 20 minutes. I would have a clif block every 20 minutes and mix in tail wind, lollies and waffles and spring energy gels when needed.
This year, I passed so many people in that section. Getting through this section, all 8500 stairs of it, without a pity party was one of my biggest achievements of the day. I was stoked and I met Erin. We were yo-yo ing with each other for a bit before she caught up to me on the climb up Signal Peak.
We ran for a bit and chatted for a bit. We ran some really good sections together, chatting as we went about running and life. We conspired to run Kosci in December and laughed about the SquadRun workouts we both routinely skip. (Ali and Kerry if you are reading this, I’ve never met a squaddie who does the 10k time trial!)
She was super strong and dropped me quite a few times. I managed to catch up here and there until we had both had enough of the crappy road and ran/walked together.
At some point I decided that I didn’t want to just beat my time from last year, 8:20 ish, but I wanted under 8 hours. So we got running.
I have to work out a way to do run/walk intervals on my watch. I kept looking down and saying “ok I will walk for two minutes” but then I’d forget what the first number was when I looked back.
The run/walking is such a good lesson. You don’t realise how much time you save just by walking for 30 seconds to give yourself that mental break before running again.
As usual the aid stations and volunteers were incredible. It’s not every day you get offered quiche or a shot of whisky at an aid station.
With a few k’s to go, Erin could hear that finish line and disappeared off into the distance.
I “chased” her as my bunny and kept telling myself that she wasn’t stopping so neither was I.
When I turned to run up the hill to the finishing arch, there she was with her phone out, taking my finish line picture. (That’s one thing about Peaks and Trails, it’s no key, no photographers, no medals, you’ve been warned!)
I was welcomed back with a hug from Erin and the wonderful race organisers who promptly presented me with a fresh pair of socks to match the hat I got the day before.
“Water or coke? Would you like a slice or a quiche? The kinder made 300 quiches”
I smiled and sat down next to a few other finishes before grabbing that finish line pic with my new running pal.
I can’t tell you how much I love this event and I can’t wait for next year but I’ll be keeping the cabin this time!
I’m super chuffed with my improvements, especially on the climbing sections and especially given my injury ridden year.
Next up, Kosciusko I guess!