Event: Warburton Trail Festival
Date: 12-14th March 2022
Distance: 50KM / 25KM / 21KM / 14KM / 9KM / 5KM / 3KM Lilo Derby / 100M TTT (Three Tong Thang)
Where: Warburton, Victoria
Event Partners/Sponsors: Salomon, Suunto, Tour de Trails, Tailwind, Warburton Adventure Co, T8
It was 1989, I was 9 and I was in grade 4. This would be my first visit to Warburton for a school camp.
Funnily enough, one year later in 1990, I went to the same camp, but with a different school.
I remember loving Warburton back then. It would take another 30 years before I would revisit. This time for the Lumberjack 50km ultra at the Warburton Trail Festival.
We chose to stay in a quaint old church Airbnb in Yara Junction (the halfway point between Warburton, and the start of the Lumberjack in Powelltown).
It had all these antiques that really suited the place, but with a modern kitchen and bathroom.
The old church was just off Warburton Hwy, which we discovered could be quite noisy with traffic during the day.
It was also situated along the Warburton Rail Trail. This rail-trail was thoroughly used, by walkers, runners, and cyclers alike.
A short trip into Warburton to pick up my race bib, things were starting to get real.
I laid out my kit, double-check all my gear, and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon.
One of the places we stumbled upon was the Redwood Forest.
You could spend hours in the forest. It’s truly special.
The Lumberjack however does not run through this forest (the Redwood 25km event does, however). So I was glad to enjoy it while I could.
Starting in Powelltown, it seems fitting to start a race called Lumberjack, at the back of a timber yard.
Even more unique was that there was no starting gun. Instead, adventurer Beau Miles (who I think I went to uni with in Gippsland?) started the race by chopping a log of wood.
Did you know that the world record for a Standing Block Chop is 12 seconds! Yeah, 12 seconds! That’s insane!
It took Beau about 4 minutes.
Needless to say the heckling eased my nerves.
Once the block of wood hit the ground the race began.
Track and weather conditions were ideal, and it would be predicted that course records would be set.
While this would be my 2nd ultra, it didn’t stop the nerves and anxiety. I placed myself at the back of the pack. I was not there to win, I was there for the experience.
The first 10km of rolling hills follow an old lumberjack rail trail. You are among a fern and mountain ash forest. It’s truly beautiful.
It would be 12km before wet feet would ensue, then we hit the climb.
There is no running this. You have no choice but to hike. Photos just do not do this track justice. It was a slog. I was so glad I had my poles and was surprised that I passed a few people on this hill. Was it the poles or was I just more efficient on the hills? Not sure. Either way, it was hard work, but I was loving it.
At about the 18km mark was the turning point for the out and back towards the Ada tree. Got to see most of the lead pack. They were flying. There was no doubt that course records were being made. (3h:45m for the first male!)
The Ada tree was just magnificent. At approximately 300 years old, this mountain ash was a thing of beauty. While not the tallest, it is one of the oldest mountain ash trees in Victoria.
It never occurred to me during this run, that there would be no “viewpoints”. Running through dense forest was just magical and something that you can easily take for granted. So while there were no views per se, passing through such a beautiful forest made up for it.
Sterling Gap Campground was the 32km checkpoint. Runners need to arrive here by 1:30 pm to remain in the event. I was tracking well and was hoping to get to this aid station by 5 hours, which was roughly 12:30 pm.
In this type of dense forest, you don’t have to worry about rocks tripping you up. Instead, it’s twigs and bark. Mountain ash can expel large pieces of bark, that can be wide as well as think. It’s easy to get entangled in one. This is what happened to me around the 25km mark. My leg got wrapped in one of these mountain ash barks, and I went down like a sack of potatoes.
Luckily it was a soft landing with a roll. Checking myself over, no blood was drawn, I was simply a little dirty and embarrassed.
Trying to get up, however, without cramping was hilarious. Ended up having to do it via downward dog. Regular yoga sessions for the win!
Unfortunately, a hiking family witnessed my gravity check. The dad asked me if I was ok. I assured him I was and I plodded on.
I noticed I was starting to get some pain in my uterus. Yes, it was day 2 of my period. But I didn’t know if I had slightly dislodged my period cup or if I needed to pee. I figured I’d wait until the aid station and go from there.
Got to the 32km aid station bang on 5h. Filled up my bladders ate a hot cross bun, and some pineapple then went to the loo (helped the uterus problem). I was sad that the aid station didn’t have sandwiches or cakes. But I had enough fuel on me to get by.
The next 8km we’re all downhill and thankfully not too much of a quad killer. I did notice however I was starting to get a sinus headache.
Not knowing if this was a sign of dehydration, low sodium levels, me not wearing glasses, or because I was trying, I decided that I would regularly sip on my tailwind and water, and choose the sodium gels and chews for the next few kilometers. It helped but only a little.
There was a medic at one of the camping spots. At the start of the event, Chris (event director), advised us, to check in with them, no matter how you are feeling. Better to catch issues early rather than too late.
Giving him a quick run down he told me was pretty doing everything I needed to do he told me that an aid station was about 4K away, and check in there if I needed further assistance.
Once I reached Big Pat’s Creek Rd, I was met by some lovely volunteers. They offered me a coke. I gladly took some in my reusable cup. It actually really helped. I also found out how to correctly drink from the cup. You use the side like a straw! Don’t try to use it like an actual cup or the contents will go everywhere (I’ll have to do a video, I can’t believe I never knew how to do it probably).
Now in a residential area, I notice that my phone was still on SOs. I rebooted my phone and service was restored. I sent a message to Tom telling him where I was. He was on the top of Mt Donna Bugang with the kids.
I also replied back to my running friend Chrissy (a photo of my watch cause you know my brain not working).
It was now just over 6h and just shy of 42k. Just a river crossing and home stretch to go.
At the aid station, I ate more pineapple and a bag of twisties. Delicious!
While running along the road, I passed by a farm that bred mini-belted galloways. Let’s just say they were adorable!
Now it was time to get the feet wet at the river crossing.
One of the volunteers was dressed up in a mermaid outfit and was in a giant shark floaty. Rubbing the shark and high-fiving the vollie for good luck I crossed the might Yarra river.
The water was cold but refreshing, only going just past the knees.
Now on to the home stretch. It was time to put the headphones in and just got into the zone.
With my tunes playing, I was singing along, not caring if anyone heard me or not.
It was however strange to run through the caravan park. Spectators still cheered you on, which was nice.
Exiting the caravan park you run under the Warburton Hwy bridge, and continue running along the Yarra river.
Two suspension bridges later, lots of “behind you” call outs I crossed the finish line in 7h27m46 (my polar time was 7h26m42, I believe because I didn’t start it at “gun” time).
Either way, I bettered my first ultra time at Surf Coast by roughly 10 minutes, and with nearly triple the elevation.
There were no tears this time, just pure elation.
WTF did not disappoint. It was a beautiful course and I had a great time. I look forward to returning to do the Redwood Rush.
Don’t worry I’ll make sure it’s not another 30+ years before I visit Warburton again.
Top: Solbari Long Sleeve
Bottoms: Boody Motivate Shorts
Shoes: Brooks Cascadia 16
Fuel: Water, Cliff gel/chews, Trailbrew/wind, Golden Circle fruit pouch, salt vinegar chips, twisties, pineapple, hot cross bun