It was during my first half marathon (Run for the Young 2018 – Lilydale) where I met fellow RMA Jo, that I first heard of Two Bays trail run. Jo mentioned that she was aiming for a sub 2.15 half to qualify for the 28km run at the popular trail event. I had never heard of the event before, but as I finished that run in a time of 2:05:19 I jokingly said to my mum, ‘Well we qualified for Two Bays!’ and thus a tiny seed was planted……

It was almost a year later, after a bit of research and a few wines that I suggested to Mum that a ticket to Two Bays would be a fabulous Christmas present to ourselves. We had both ran qualifiers, so with a couple of clicks of a button we were signed up! We were both running the half marathon at Melbourne with different groups of friends so we thought it would give us plenty of time to build up time on legs and do some hill training that would be required to get through Two Bays.

As race day loomed closer I became aware that with my long runs on a flat rail trail, and my lack of hill training meant that I had no idea how my body would cope with the varying terrain and challenges that the Two Bays course would throw at me. Whilst I was consistent in running 4 times a week, I had been incredibly slack with strength training, and most of my long runs were around 2 hours with just 1 long run of 2.5hours.

Being me, I spent hours on the internet reading recaps, looking at previous results, watching youtube videos of the course and asking as many questions I could of people that had come before me, in the hope of gaining some confidence and alleviating my anxiety. It didn’t work! My goal was to finish the course within the cut off! (which is 4 hours and far longer than I had spent on my legs previously).

The day before Two Bays we headed down to Dromana, where we were staying at the pub. We walked down to the start line and collected our bibs at the expo. Despite all the anxiety I had felt in the weeks leading up (mainly in regards to my ability to finish within the cutoff), I felt instantly relaxed once I had my bib and began to feel excited. We wandered back to the pub where we had a few glasses of wine, then our favourite pre race meal of chicken schnitzel, chips and veg. I definitely felt full and relaxed after that! (So relaxed that I left my handbag under the table and didn’t realise till the next morning as we headed to the event! I got it back after the run thank goodness!). We set up our ‘flat me’s’, had some electrolytes and headed to bed early.

Before the event with mum

After a night of not much sleep, we woke up to perfect conditions. It was cooler than previous years, overcast and the smoke from the ongoing bushfires had cleared. We got dressed (we added Hawaiian skirts to our racing ensemble because we love a theme), I downed a clif bar and half a glass of apple juice, then we walked the 1.5kms to the start line. Mum jumped in the toilet line but those lines almost seem to move almost backwards at these type of things! After a lengthy wait, mum was still about 5 people away from her turn when the MC called that it was 2 minutes till start time. Mum left the line and we headed with the crowd to begin. This would later prove to be a mistake when we lost 5 minutes at the first aid station waiting in the toilet queue.

As we moved with the crowd over the start line I felt that familiar feeling of relief I get at any event when you actually start moving. We swished away in our Hawaiian skirts and I was grinning from ear to ear observing all the runners in their various dress ups. There was even someone dressed as a banana!

We were warned that the climb from the start line up to Arthurs Seat gets challenging very quickly and that we should take it easy on the way up as there was still over 20km to go once you got to the top, So it was no surprise when we were just over 1km in and people began to walk. We followed the cues of those around us and did the same. We walked and chatted and I felt surprisingly relaxed. It felt like going on a training run with a big group of friends, trail runners truly are the friendliest people.

mum and I

When we finally reached the top of Arthurs Seat the views were spectacular. I wish I had of got out my phone and taken some snaps to really soak it in. We were met by a support team cheering us on which spurred us to get running again. We were cautious not to push too hard as there was a long way to go and obviously training had not been ideal. In hindsight there were plenty of parts I probably could of ran and definitely pushed the pace a little harder, but I’ll just have to save that for next year!

We ran/walked along before stopping at the aid station at 7.5km. Mum jumped in the toilet queue while I used the time to have a clif blok, cheer on my fellow runners, check in with my hubby and send a snap to my sister. I have never stopped in an event before or even walked, but in a trail run it just felt so relaxed and comfortable that stopping didn’t bother me. After the 5 minute delay we were off again.

The terrain of Two bays really gives runners a bit of everything. We ran on sandy trail, jumped over logs and tree roots, through narrow clifside tracks, over wooden bridges, up uneven stairs, on road, over rocks, and through grassy fields. It truly is something else and gave me an even greater appreciation for our Australian landscape. 

Enjoying the day

Around the 10/11km we passed the leaders of the 56km Ultra event. Those guys and girls are something else. We cheered and clapped them on while they smiled and thanked us, one guy was even thanking and cheering each person individually and reading the names on everyones bibs! I don’t know how he had the stamina to run that fast let alone read and speak at the same time! They were all absolutely amazing!

For the next 10km we ran, we walked, I may have even galloped down one of the steeper sections! We chatted to our fellow runners, we took in the scenery, we thanked the amazing supporters and volunteers on course who helped make the event so great. It truly was like unlike any event I have ever been a part of. I expected to struggle a little more with the terrain, but it changed so quickly and when it got hard we just walked which was a nice break and a chance to prepare for the next time to run.

At Borneo Road aid station (22km in) we stopped for some coke and the best jelly babies I have ever tasted! Spirits were high and we had just over a parkrun left to go (FYI the 28km course is actually more like 27.4km). It was somewhere after that I realised mum was no longer behind me (her bad knee was playing up). I waited about a minute but couldn’t see her. Since we were wearing matching skirts (and vests and shoes) a fellow runner let me know she was fine but still a few minutes behind and walking with her sore knee. I looked at my watch and realised I was right on target to hit the secret time we had decided was possible the day before (sub 3.30) so I made the decision to keep going. 

As I continued I glimpsed the Lighthouse and felt the ocean breeze. Again the views were just spectacular and they spurred me on towards the finish. I could hear the cheers of the crowd before I saw them which pushed me to run as fast as I could. I was surprised by how much I still had in me, but its amazing how having people yell your name and clapping for you can give you that boost needed to push through to the finish. I crossed the finish chute with a triumphant smile, and happily received my medal and can of coke before running back out to see mum finish. She was only 2 minutes behind me in the end, and I was so bloody proud of us for not only finishing, but finishing well before the cut off!

It was such a fantastic run and I’m pretty happy that I’m now qualified for 2021! I hit that secret finishing time with an official time of 3:29:20. It was the friendliest event I have ever been a part of and truly was something special. The course was well marked, volunteers and supporters were super encouraging and the terrain was diverse and challenging, but also totally do-able (even for those of us a little undertrained, as long as you don’t expect to run it all). I have to say this event has really given me a desire to get off the road and onto the trails more often.

If you’re a road runner wondering if you should give Two Bays a shot my answer is YES AND YES! 

My advice for those who sign up:

*Get your name on your bib – there is nothing like hearing the crowd shouting your name to put some pep in your step.

*Train on the trails if you can, failing that focus on time on legs, hill work and strength training.

*Get in the spirit and dress up – it makes for a great conversation starter*

*Take your cues from those around you, walk when needed, it’s a run, not a race!

Recap By Jess Rouget