I love trail running. I used to be a road runner before I transferred over to the dark side, and I must say I love it much better over here. There is something about a trail that makes me feel at peace. I think the art of running a marathon on a trail is so much better too. A marathon in itself is a LONG WAY. I have run countless road events that see to the relentless grind to the finish line, but it just doesn’t do it for me like the journey a trail marathon takes me on. For one, the trail will dictate how I can run. So it isn’t an all out slog to the finish like on the road. Yes, you have to work hard, and I do work hard, but the fact that you can mix it up with single trail dancing, stair climbing and even hiking thrown in makes it much more enjoyable for your body and your mind in my opinion.
The Running Wild Glenbrook Marathon had been on my mind since the beginning of the year. I had already run two ultras in March and May and a half marathon in July at the Gold Coast, and again a 25k event at centennial Park Ultra. This year for me is all about building on my legs to be able to tackle the big dance, UTA100 in 2017, so when I was looking for another trail event that was around marathon distance, Glenbrook sounded perfect. Close enough to home so that I could train on the course a few times and hard enough that I would get some good gains from it for the 56k ultra in SA that was to follow.
A few weeks before the event I went up to the course and did some training runs on the course itself. One 18k run and then the 34k course with some friends. The only section we didn’t do was the out and back section the marathoners do, so I felt much more confident in tackling the event than if I hadn’t seen it at all, and both days I had good runs which boosted the confidence.
My aim for this event was to run strong. I didn’t really have a goal time as it is hard to determine what that would be with events like this, but I did want something around the 4.5hr mark give or take knowing that I could definitely run a sub 4 hour marathon these days.
If you are looking for an event in Sydney that is on a trail, this would be a fabulous one to do. The event had a few distances. A shorter course, 25k, medium course 34k and long course 42.2k. Running Wild stage low cost events and so they are free from crowds, have lovely volunteers and you even get an amazing BBQ at the end as part of your entry. This appealed to me. 🙂 Oh, and the marathoners get a medal. Even better. ( I hear the RMA cheer already)
The morning of the race was fresh. Absolutely freezing. I drove up to the start line with another RMA friend Bron who was running the short course (and subsequently came 3rd female!). We milled around for a bit chatting to the other runners that we knew. There was a few RMA about and the vibe was exciting. I threw my bag for the finish in the drop bag area. Because it’s so relaxed, this just happened to be “back there behind the tent”…easy. I fought with the idea of wether to leave my long sleeve top on to start, but decided against carrying the extra weight and just went with my RMA top and my pack. Im glad I did as it did heat up quite early on in the race. I decided to fill my bladder with only 1litre of water and use my tailwind in my 500ml bottles this day, and had about 7 gels in the pack. Normally I put my tailwind in the bladder, but I didn’t want to have to stop much so I thought it would be much easier to refill the tailwind from the front, and I kept spare tailwind sticks in my pack. I also didn’t want much weight which is why I only filled the water 1litre. I figured if I needed more I could refill at an aide station if I had to.
Before we knew it we were off and running around the Euroka camp start area and up the goat track to the top of the ridge heading to Mount Portal. I hiked the climb up strong and ran where I could ran on the single track, making sure not to get stuck behind any slower runners. Off the top of the goat track the road turns to fire trail and heads up Mount Portal. There are a few steep climbs. I decided to hike and run the climbs instead of just hike and this proved a good move. I ran strong to Mount Portal Lookout and turned around and headed back down towards the first aide station. I was feeling good.
I didn’t need anything so I made the right hand turn onto the next single track section heading down to campfire creek. I loved this section. I had a lot of fun winding up and down the single track , down stairs, around rocks etc. It was fast and flowing. Im getting much better at this now that I run trails most of the time. I had a few guys behind me which eventually went past me and I used them to pace me through for a while. From here the single track comes out for a very short road section which I saw some of our RMA girls who were volunteering on the next checkpoint before the red hands cave track. I gave a shout and a wave as I ran past into the next single track section.
The red hands cave section is my favourite on this course. The single track weaves along the creek and is quite technical, but beautiful, rainforest in nature and you can hear the trickle of the water in the creek moving over the rocks. I took my time to run strong but to notice my surroundings. I passed a few people along here but mostly I ran on my own. I was feeling okay, albeit a little tired, but overall well. I made sure I fuelled up in this section along the way with my gel ready for the climb out to come. I ran past the cave (no time to look today) and up and out of the valley, climbing the stairs and weaving along the trail to the top, hiking where needed and running mostly.
At the top there were some other gorgeous RMA on the checkpoint. I stopped briefly to have a bite of watermelon, throw my gel wrapper and have a quick breather after the climb out. I was feeling okay, but there was a little uneasy feeling I was having. Tracey told me that I was fourth female to go past at that point. I knew that I probably wasn’t going to hold that lead for very long, and I was right.
The next section is a long firetrail climb to the oaks fire trail. I find this section really hard as it is so long and lonely and climbs all the way. I was feeling like my heart rate wouldn’t go down no matter how slow I was trying to run, then my ears started ringing. I felt a little alarmed at this, so I spent some time trying to get my heart rate to drop down to a respectable beat and managed to feel a little better. During this time however I was being passed by numerous female runners. The spirit didn’t feel great at that point, but I was determined to make that time up later on.
When I finally made it to the top we turned off towards the Nepean Lookout. It was along this undulating section that my running pal Hailey came up behind me. She is training for some almighty ultra and I knew that she would eventually catch up! We ran together to the lookout and back to the next aide station chatting along the way. At the next aide station the 34kers keep running straight down the oaks fire trail towards the finish, and the marathoners make a right and head down Pisgah Ridge Fire trail. This was the part that I hadn’t done in training. THANK GOD. It was a 4k out and 4k back section and it was horrendous. It was a wider single track to start, but there was so much leaf litter, rocks and sticks poking out everywhere it made it really technical and hard to run. Plus it was going downhill for 4km so I was really mindful of not rolling an ankle. Hailey took off down the trail and I took my time making sure I wasn’t going to go over. The more it went down and down the more annoyed I was getting. I wanted out of there! I could see runners coming back out and I just wanted it over with. It felt like it went for 10km not 4 to the turn around where there was two lovely volunteers camped on some chairs in the middle of nowhere! I said a quick “hello, that was awful….” and kept going, climbing out. The climb out was almost as hard as the run down, but I made sure I ran where I could and the parts I couldn’t I hiked.
I eventually caught up with Hailey and at the top at the aide station at 31k I took a breather to down 2 cokes and refill my tailwind before heading off for the final 11k. I took off like a rocket and knew that the next section had a little climb to it initially but that I had run all of that in training so I was determined to do the same here. I made sure I paced myself and passed numerous runners who were walking on the hills out. I had had a gel coming out of the last climb and so my legs felt quite fresh and strong at this point and I knew that there was only about 11k to go and about 8 of that was going to be downhill, so I kept moving.
Just before I got to the last aide station where it turns into Bennetts Ridge Fire trail with about 5k to go I took another gel as I was feeling a little tired. This worked a treat and, although my legs felt like they had certainly ran a marathon, they felt strong and I was determined to push the pace down this descent to the finish and pass as many people as I could. I passed quite a few runners on this stretch. I am not sure whether they were doing the marathon or not, but most of them were walking. I didn’t really care, it gave me a mental boost to see me pass them feeling strong and to keep this feeling up until I reached the finish line.
The hardest section was the last 1k when it flattens out to Euroka Clearing and you run around the camp ground towards the finish line. You can hear the cheers of the finish, but you can’t see it and I didn’t have the energy to look down at my watch to see how much further it was. I still felt like I could push the pace and bring it home well, so I did and I didn’t stop until the finish line was in sight. I ran towards the finish flags with a huge smile on my face and crowd of RMA girls who had stayed to see me finish after running the shorter events or volunteering. Once I stopped I realised I was done. EXHAUSTED. I felt sick and my legs were like lead. I was helped straight into a chair where I was united with my hubby and daughter Hannah who had come to see me finish. The best feeling.
With all the races I had done, this one felt like one of the best. A great course, lovely people, tough enough, and I had fuelled up and ran well. Apart from the middle of the race where I had that slight hiccup, I knew to keep going and all would come good. So if your looking for a lower key trail event, perhaps add Running Wild, Glenbrook Marathon to your list for 2017.