If ever the was a race that was the most apply named it is the Rollercoaster Run. Coined as ‘Melbourne’s Mountain Run’, it takes place in the Dandenong Ranges, one of only a few ‘hills’ in Melbourne that could be called (and are actually named) mountains.
Mt Dandenong sits at around 633 metres above sea level and is located only 40km or so east of Melbourne. On a clear day you can see the city from many of the trails on the western side.
I signed up for RollerCoaster a week or so before the event. It was in a perfect spot in my schedule for a Super Sunday long run. I thought it would be great hill training for future events and I was hoping to wake my hammies up again after they seemed to completely vanish at Surf Coast Century.
My morning started super early, but only about 20 minutes earlier than my usual weekday go to work alarm. I had some coffee and some oats and headed out towards Mt Dandenong, a 90 minute drive from my house.
It was a perfect morning. The city was deserted, and reminded me of the pandemic days when the city was in lockdown and only a select few were allowed to move about. It was crisp and clear. Perfect conditions for running, but this is Melbourne, don’t want to jinx it!
The race started at 7:30 am for folks doing two laps of the course and 8:00 am for the single 23km loop. Parking was limited and pricy at a $10 premium.
As I was using the event as a training run, I really hadn’t looked too much into the course. I had a DNF one year, maybe 2017 or so, where I only completed one loop when I had signed up for two and at the time I was new to trail running and any sort of hills and cried ‘never again’ at the finish line. All I knew going in was that it was two 23km loops and I could count on an ‘aid station’ for a water/electrolyte top up every 7-8 km.
I had all my race day nutrition with me planned out, two cameras packed in and was ready to go.
The race kicked off on time and we all headed out. It seemed like a small field but it was hard to tell with all the people around for the 23k and the other races afterwards.
It started with a quite runnable section before we reached the steep gravel track known as Dodd’s track. It was super loose gravel and fine sand and was hard to get traction. I focused on why I was there, hill training, and just kept moving forward. Unfortunately my hiking legs were still not co-operating so on any undulating terrain it was quicker and more efficient to slowly run up rather than slow to a hike.
At first it was hard to keep focused on the task ahead of me. It was hard to enjoy the downhills knowing that I would have to come back up in on the second reverse loop. I tried to focus on just going aid station to aid station and counted the kilometres as I ticked them off. I just counted the beeps of my watch because the pace was depressingly slow with all the climbing.
Most of the course was really ‘runnable’ with only a few really loose gravel downhills that you would be risking life and limb to try to run down. It was mostly under the shade of the Dandenong greenery whether that be tall gums or leafy green fernery so it didn’t get too hot, even though at times it felt warmer that the maximum temperature of 26 degrees C.
It took a while for people to warm up and start chatting but when they did I ran with some super cool people. I met Sharon, an American who had flown in from Canberra who works at the US Embassy, Chris, an aged care worker from Baw Baw trail runners and Cat who I finally got to meet in person after talking to on Insta for ages.
It was nice to talk to people and take some focus off the relentless climbing.
I was worried about the turn around point, the start/finish line, after pulling out here last time. You had to go all the way along the finishers shoot, under the arch and around a sign and head back out.
It was noisy and people were cheering and yelling and I had no idea what was going on! I just wanted to fill my bottles and get out of there before I changed my mind. The announcer was yelling my name like I had finished the thing. But I made it out in one piece and headed out for loop two.
The next few kilometres flew by, probably because it was downhill but it was great to cheer on all the folks heading to the finish line. They all looked as beaten down and done as I felt.
I wished I was them.
Surprisingly the second loop wasn’t as horrible as I had built it up to be. Most of the time I had no idea where I was or what was the come. I just went aid station to aid station.
I was alone for a huge chunk of the second loop.
“A hill, just for something different” one volunteer marshal said to me as I headed across a road and up a narrow path. I was glad to see a smiling face, but that sir wasn’t helpful!
He wasn’t wrong though, but by this point I really didn’t care.
The long climb up to the top seemed like it took forever. I refrained from looking at my watch but I would be surprised if I was moving at faster than 20 minute pace! It felt like I was standing still.
With just a few k’s to go, I ran with Cat and Chris all the way through to the finish. It made k’s click over and I always love hearing about other people’s running adventures.
I crossed the line about an hour slower than I had hoped in 6:56.
It was a tough day but I accomplished what I had planned. Two loops, 46km, practice my fueling, hill training. I ticked all the boxes.
I even made a video! I missed the finish line though on account of running with Chris and not wanting to ruin it with my GoPro!
But if you made it this far, here’s the link