Event: Peaks and Trails
Date: 6th & 7th July 2016
Type: Off Road
Distance: 2km Kid Dash, 6.4km, 11km, 22km, 26km & 50km
Where: Dunkeld, Southern Grampians, Victoria
Event Partners/Sponsors: Corea Quarters, Southern Grampians Shire Council, Cafe 109, Steigen, The Running Company, Royal Mail Hotel
This event was previously known as Mosaic to Mountain.
In 2015 they introduced a trail option with a 21km or 26 trail run.
I was wanting to do the 26km event, but due to work commitments, I knew I wouldn’t get the extra distance or elevation in.
I made a promise to myself that I would tackle the 26km event in 2016.
When registrations opened back in March under the new name of Peaks & Trails, I knew that I was in for the 26km event.
Now I was registered, and I had plenty of time to get the training in.
In May, I made the decision to get a custom training plan made for this event from Chris at Go Run.
With his help, and 400 running kilometres. I crossed the line in 3h18m.
But let’s not jump too far ahead, every event has a story and so does this one.
So let’s begin!
Race Day – 7th August
A careful drive to avoid kangaroo’s saw us arrive in Dunkeld with the mountain range glowing in the morning sunrise.
Mt Sturgeon was illuminate in the glorious sunshine, and it was just stunning.
Collecting my race bib, I went over to purchase an event shirt, only to discover that past Matilda had already organised one. Thanks past Matilda, present Matilda really appreciates your forward thinking.
With my bib collected, waiver signed, stretching done, it was time to get to the event start line and get this run done.
The sun was gone now, and I started to have my normal pre race nerves. I was also a little cold, but I had my gloves on for that reason.
At 8:30am the starting horn sounded and the 22/26km runners were off.
I kept my pace easy. No point in going fast only to burn out in the end.
Other runners were passing me, but I made the decision to run my own race, and to enjoy every moment.
Setting my watch to a 15min timer was one of the best decision I made during training, and proved successful on event day.
I did this as a remind to take in my fuel of choice tailwind.
The other decision I made was not to look at my watch. I didn’t want to do the mental math and predict my race time and be disappointed in myself.
Leaving my watch face on timer mode meant that if i did look at my watch I would only see the percentage left on the timer.
After leaving the race village we set out on the various parts of the Hotel Walk, before joining the track to Mt Sturgeon/Piccaninny.
The course was clearly marked, and with regular marshall points, so it was hard not to get lost.
The first 5km, were through grass knolls, with various river crossings, we even ran through a vineyard. There were also plenty of sheep and kangaroos to keep us amused.
At the 6km mark, we hit our first hill climb. I ran/walked what I could, even passing some other runners along the way.
The 10km checkpoint saw the 22km runners turn right to continue onto the Piccaninny, while my adventure saw me turning left to head up Mt Sturgeon.
Now the real work begins.
Shortly after I began my ascent the race leader was completing his descent. Sam (who won Run Forrest, Run the Gap & Wonderland), is definitely one to watch out for, he is a machine.
The track is highly technical, and it felt slow going in some sections.
I thought it was never going to end. Just when I thought we were at the top, I would see more of the mountain range. At one stage I even asked myself “surely not up there?” Then I saw a bright fluro top, that was moving, and I knew yes that’s where I needed to keep going.
Along the way, I bumped into Derek the race sweeper (and one of the event directors) for the 50k Ultra. He told me I was doing really well and I was coming third.
Surely not! 3rd! No way. I didn’t want to believe it, so I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and just savouring every moment.The view from the top of Mt Sturgeon was worth every step of the climb.
I could see the Piccaninny, my next challenge. Further on afield Mt Abrupt, which I’m glad I didn’t have to tackle, but those in the 50k ultra would.
Getting my name check off this list, I made my descent down Mt Sturgeon.
I was able to enjoy more of the surrounds and greeted other runners making their way up.
Arriving at the Mt Sturgeon turn off Tom was surprised to see me, he told me I still looked fresh, which I felt, and my legs felt strong, but I still had the Piccaninny to traverse.
Parks Victoria has been upgrading the track to the Piccaninny, and while not finished, let me tell you it is a marked improvement.
It made the climb up to the Piccaninny a smooth experience. Ok so I walked the stairs and ran/walked other sections, however, it was a delight to run on, and when it does officially open, all hikers/walkers will appreciate the improvement.
At this stage, I now felt all alone out there. I had only crossed paths with two other runners, one going up the Piccaninny, and one going down the Piccaninny.
It’s hard to gauge where you are when the gap between runners is so vast.
At the 18km checkpoint, I took in some fuel in the form of lollies. When I saw the witchetty grub, I knew I had to have one, that and the teeth.
Essentially the hard work was done, but the race was not over yet, with another 6km to cover.
The Home Stretch
By the time I reached Tom, I was tired.
My legs felt like they were barely lifting the ground, but I was still moving.
I knew I was getting closer to the 22km mark. I knew no matter what that every step from now on would be a personal best.
Once I made it to the grassy plains I started to get emotional. Just the thought that I was nearly at the end was getting a bit too much for me.
Having just past another runner, I decided if I was going to make it I needed music.
Luckily I had reception and was able to play some songs on my phone. This helped immensely and it helped me to keep my focus on just putting one foot in front of the other.
The track was now a mud pit with multiple runners having traversed the course.
At one stage I slipped, but manage to stay upright, some runners didn’t fare so well.
With only 500m to go, I felt like someone was coming up behind me. A quick look over my shoulder detected no one. My instinct knew better.
It ended up being the winner of the 50km Ultra.
He powered on past me, looking like he didn’t just complete 50km and 1400m worth of elevation. He crossed the line in a time of 4h48m.
With the finish line now in sight, I powered on home.
Coming down the finisher’s chute, I could hear the cheers of other runners and their families.
Then I heard my name being announced, which helped spur me on.
I crossed the line in a time of 3h18m.
While this wasn’t the initial goal time in mind, I was happy regardless.
Then I heard that I crossed the line in 2nd place.
Wait?! What?! 2nd!
Not only did I complete my furthest-ever distance, and on a trail for that matter. I also placed it in a podium finish.
This race will always have a special place in my heart, and I look forward to coming back next year and improving on my time.