A couple of weeks ago now – I’ve been wiped out with the lurgy of the year for nearly two weeks now. Still have a lingering cough that leaves me gasping for breath every now and then, so no running as yet. Hopefully that will be rectified sometime this week!
But… the Turkey Trot. It was cold, just above freezing in fact, but it was clear and not a breath of wind, so the cool air wasn’t too bad. We arrived with plenty of time to get ready, have a snack and check out what we needed to do before starting. I took a couple of precautionary puffs on the ventolin, determined not being able to blame breathing issues on this run. The start was a good 10-15 minute hike from the parking (and finish) area – through some steep single trail, down, up and down some more. Spied a few controls around, not knowing if they would be in the final stages of our own event or if they were there for the short courses that would start later.
There was some sunshine at the start area, we were all checked in – about 25 of us there for the medium course – maps were spread out and we were told the direction we would start, but no viewing of the maps until the clock started. The walk over had been enough to warm us up enough to take jumpers off and put them in for collection as they would be taken back to the start for us. Not long to wait, then we were off. All trying to look at maps while running along a path and not run into each other. From Lapstone it was straight through the underpass, around the edge of the RAAF base and people started splitting out for different routes to the first control. By the time we got to the first control, it was just under ten minutes in and most of the pack had already left us behind.
With multiple ways to move on to the second control, Nick and I had a brief “discussion” of the best approach – not a great start to a joint effort event! On we went, starting to see a few other competitors around the trails – no idea if they were on our course or another for the most part and knowing we were well behind most, if not all, the others on our course. As usual, the first couple of kilometres seemed to be the hardest and I was conserving energy, knowing we would be out for a while. We made good time between controls three and four – some of the navigation was a bit tricky and we actually caught up to some people that had been well ahead of us. We made some mistakes getting to five though with a misreading of some map markings and then the quick run to six for a map swap and a water stop. Around 40 minutes in and only 4km gone.
Map two was same base as the first and while there was a little overlap in some of the trails, it also led us to areas we had never been before. The next control was about one kilometre off, and after a short climb it was an easy jog along smooth fire trails. We picked up pace, which I forced slower, again, to conserve energy that I probably didn’t need to do. We were still a good few minutes behind anyone else in our event, but it was a glorious day to be out for a run in the mountains, we were navigating well and the company was good.
From control eight to nine we took longer than we should – Nick had been having issues clearing his nose, while I needed another puff on the ventolin – but it had little impact on our position. This leg and the next actually had us moving up a few places due to some other competitors making some wrong moves and dropping back considerably. Nine to ten had us heading down the gorge. The contours were insane with possibly the scariest part knowing that what went down had to come back up again. We dropped 110m elevation in 700m. They were bush stairs, uneven for the most part and many of them had been washed out making the going precarious and very slow in places. We passed several hikers heading up the other way and let one fellow competitor pass us. We plunged from open, scrub on the top down into lush rain forest in the gully, passing under a high sandstone bridge back-dropped to a stunning blue sky.
The decision had to be made which path to take to head up, I chose the road over the trail and we set off. While heading up the long, slow hill, my achilles gave a tug. No – not now!!! I walked a few paces, slowed and modified my gait, testing for any tightness before picking up again. Phew – my physio exercises and hill runs seem to be paying off and my achilles didn’t bother me again during this run. Up the hill a little more and back through the underpass from Glenbrook to Lapstone to the start and the final map change.
The final map was small, the routes overlapped and trails went in every direction. Despite the short distances, this would probably be the toughest navigationally. We made our way back across the trails we had used to walk to the start initially and then Nick and I kept up a constant discussion of which direction to go and which route was best. There were some markings between control 13 and 14 we weren’t sure of, so we worked around them, only to find it was a small ditch and even had a bridge across it. Then a dash along some narrow single track, never quite sure we were on the right one. We were crossing paths with many others at this point as all events started overlapping. Heading along one section some vicious barking started chasing us. Nick was behind me and turned to face it down, while I just stopped and kept my back turned. The owners were around somewhere and we were left alone quickly enough, but I think that was the first time I’ve been chased during an event.
The next control was the busiest we had been to since the first one, and we recognised several people from our event. We must have caught up to a few others along the way! Only two more controls to go. I was starting to get tired, we had been out for around two hours now, with only water to keep us going and it was a long time since breakfast. After passing a competitor from another event, I stumbled at the top of a drop towards a dry creek crossing. Luckily I caught myself, only to stumble again on a stick on the uphill as we approached control seventeen. I reached out to steady myself on the control as my knees hit the ground, grabbing… part of a rusted out car wreck! Really not a good move. I took stock, as others in the area checked I was ok. My knees took most of hte impact, but seemed ok and somehow, miraculously, I haven’t cut my hand on the rusty car. Up again and moving on. Only one more control to go. The competitor ahead of us took a different route and I forced my legs to pick up the pace, we headed straight for the final control then it was across a car park, along the edge of the oval to the finish. I spied another medium course person ahead of me and pushed my legs as hard as I could. I passed him with less than 100m to go (I don’t think he was very impressed) and pushed on to finish in a little under 2hrs 15mins.
I checked in to record my results to be told I had just missed placing – what?! Given I thought there were 7 women competing in this event and I usually come last (or as good as), this came as a massive surprise. And I was actually concerned as to where the remaining competitors were if they were coming in behind me. Having taken longer than we expected, we couldn’t hang around and headed off to get back to our girls.
It was only later, when we checked the full results, that I could see that while the first two female finishers were well ahead of me, I had finished less than two minutes off the third place finisher. And the competitor who just beat us to the second last control, had gone off track again and ended up finishing two full minutes behind me. The final competitor had mispunched somewhere along the way, so her results weren’t counted.
Overall, a great morning out in the mountains. Our navigation was great and we worked well as a team. We were slow, as usual, but finished strong and recovered easily. I probably could have pushed more in the easy parts. In the end we covered 11.3km in 2hr 14min with over 300m of elevation. I had some impressive bruising on my knees from my stumble, a little stiffness in one for a couple of days, but no lasting impact luckily. A very enjoyable event, one day we will finish it a little more quickly!