Nuts and bolts before paint and trim, right? 2nd female and 16th of 85 finishers in the 50k event. 5 hr 32 mins. Garmin gave me 51.0k +1941 mtrs -2034 mtrs.
Okay, now for the paint and trim part.
It was an absolute treat getting to leave Perth's 36 degree days and head into the Yarra Valley where I got to say, "I'm cold" more than once. Race morning was about 12 degrees and overcast, with more threat of rain. It had rained all night.
Since the bush fires of 2009, the Morley Track from Fernshaw Reserve (Start) to Dom Dom Saddle carpark (Aid 1) has completely overgrown in ferns and some kind of razor sharp stinging nettle and has been laden with long strips of tree bark (i.e., major tripping hazard). It's leech country big time. I got my first leech ever in my whole life just walking 200 mtrs from the start line while reconning on Saturday. I can't say I took it well. I found it crawling up the inside of my jeans when I turned them out to check back at the car - it hadn't even latched on yet and I was freaking out.
The race director and other volunteers spent many weekends trying to clear the first 7 kms of the course, but it was more than they could do. The first few kms were as good as this photo and then it declined over the next km or so until it was just a mass of bush, over my head in places. We just kept our eyes peeled for blue ribbons and slashed our way from ribbon to ribbon. It must have been quite the sight with 100 runners emerging from the bush at the top of the steep climb, covered in blood! I even had slashes across my face that made it painful to eat the next day, due to the pulling on the scabs.
Around the 8k mark one female passed me. At Aid 1 (10k) I was told she had won a marathon before but this was her first ultra. I reminded myself to run my own race, but stay really strong, as it was going to be tough. There was a long way to go yet and the big climb of Mt St Leonard was still to come (Mt St Leonard is the tallest hill in the photo, with the communications tower just barely visible from the town of Healesville - that's the 38k point of the race).
Through the Dom Dom Saddle loop I was passed by another woman and that's when I started to get a bit miffed! ;) She was another unknown. Coming out of the Dom Dom loop, a relatively flat but very muddy, slippery, puddles-the-size-of-the-road 10k section, I was told I was down 6 mins and 4 mins. I tucked in for about a 2 hr push to the summit, which was at a height of 1,024 mtrs according to Garmin. I hoped I'd make some ground up here on a long hill section.
The aid stations weren't exactly as advertised (as things go usually with trail races), so I started to worry my Garmin was giving me bonus mileage and couldn't rely on it. I rolled past 25k aid station at over 27k and 30k at 33k. 35k was 38k. It was here I was told the girls were 6 mins and 2 mins, so I was closing in on one of them. One more really steep, rocky ascent took us to the summit of the mountain at the tower. It was in this section I passed one of the girls. Although she wasn't looking good, I knew that things can change quickly in a race, so wasted no time in trying to bank some distance between her and me.
The descent is 900 mtrs over about 9k - with one short climb in the middle, which was a reprieve, as I got to use the hamstrings for a minute instead of the quads! It had started raining again on the downhill, so was rather treacherous, but my xTalons helped me be gecko-like. The rain really stung the nettle wounds, which proved a bit of a welcome distraction from the massive quad hammering I was getting. Gave me new respect for what some of those 100 Milers would be like.
The other mystery girl had done at least as well on the downhill and I would guess she was stronger on the flat 4k to the finish, as she managed to gain another 4 mins on me to the finish line. I learned later that both my podium mates ran 3 hr 12 marathons in 2010. That's serious stuff.
Overall, I'm very pleased that I came within 11 minutes of the female course record (which is online as 5 hrs 21 mins), considering the loss of time in the bush-bashing section. I'm also pleased considering I've never seen the course and could only calculate my race time based on a profile map online. I've raced this amount of elevation before, but never in such a "short" race. I struggled a bit with nausea at the beginning, which took a while to get ahead of, but that was because of the "late" start (8 AM) - I had under-fueled in the morning. So I learned from that one, too.
The event was really well organised, in a very pretty part of Victoria, and I saw my first wombat. How much better could it be?? (Well, with the win, of course...but we'll just have to settle for silver, won't we).