After the 4 Peaks i had decided to stay in Bright an extra couple of days and do a couple more mountains, first of all Mount Bogong (Victorias Highest Peak and probably my favourite trail run up Staircase Spur) and the next day Mount Porepunkah which had been day 1 the previous 9 times i raced here and deserved a 10th outing
In theory i was either going to be superfit for my next race or worn out, as it turned out i was somewhere in between. Running (maybe that's an overstatement - walking quickly might be more accurate) a steep uphill 0n Porepunkah i disturbed one rock and the one behind it crashed onto my left ankle, nothing much but i seemed to get an immediate bruise and bit of a "sting" from it, not enough to worry me at the time but just enough to remember it and two days later begin to feel it when do two laps of the Tan (at the Monthly Victorian Road Runners Tan Time Trial, that would make this twice here this year probably more than when i was living in Melbourne !!).
With a 9AM start it meant we virtually had a sleep in before Marysville, i was driving my car giving Robert Boyce a lift as had plans o drive straight back to the Gold Coast from there (and Robert to get a lift home), with the shorter races not on till much later was somewhat shocked to find large crowds at the registration area (whilst there were only 90 in the marathon there were 2,000 pre entered in the other events and ultimately another thousand entered on the day).
Still got my number and ankle chip quickly and still had an hour before race time, walked over to the start area (a few hundred metres from the finish) and had a chat with a number of familiar faces as we waited for the race briefing.
Lachlan (who was not only Race Director and inspiration behind the event was also competing in it) gave the race briefing but when asked about how we would do the extra 2.8K's to complete the Ultra came up with, what seemed to me, a vague "it will be obvious when you get there", certainly the rest of the course sounded good but i now had lingering doubts about the Ultra.
Soon we were off, with the race started by a set of Bells, one of two sets that were all of remained of Lachlans' Marysville House, and was comfortably away on a good road, settled somewhere in the top dozen and still continuing my chat from the Tan with Steven Barker (we'd ran together most of those 8K's to finish in around 35:10 the previous day where i just outsprinted him at the end), with the obvious leader Traralgon Harrier John MacKenzie (a 2:30 Marathoner) leading a pack of 3, and more surprisingly a runner with a running stroller (and child) making good time a couple of places in front of me. Also saw early starter, walker, Brian Glover coming towards me, we had a good 11K before the turnaround, only problem i had was having to stop at the first drink station as the Sports Drink was at the back (water in front).
Once we turned i lost Steve and was making ground on the two in front and feeling good, was definitely going to be a warm day so it was best to make use of the easy running on the road whilst i could as apparently the course would get harder.
8K's on the return and we then turned onto an unsealed road, a bit like the Melbourne Marathon a month back i ended up running straight into a herd of Half Marathoners but with a much smaller field this wasnt a great problem, soon the unsealed road had deteriorated into a road with large rocks and my ankle wasnt really appreciating this, nevertheless i was beginning to make good ground, last drink stop before the other runners turned and it was too crowded to make the effort to get a drink so i was relying on our turnaround not being too far after. Can't say it was that far away, but with heat and no shade i was beginning to struggle and really look forward for the turnaround and was relieved to get there, was soon back to the drink station and had a much easier go at getting a drink as well as now passing the runner with the stroller (hardly a bit of road for a stroller so he was doing it hard).
By now i was regularly passing the runners in the Half and getting a good pace going was just looking forward to getting of the rocky road and soon enough we were, grabbed a GU although at that point didnt see the drink station just needed something and then it was a run towards the oval where we would finish complete with steep downhill section.
By now it was very hot and with the bushland decimated by the fires there was no shade to be found, best thing was the sight of the creek as we ran along, i had no idea where we were heading next as i knew that although we would be passing the finishing line we still had at least 10K's to go.
We were sent along the road towards Steavensons Falls and again i was confronted by a herd of runners, the 3 & 10K events, thankfully with witches hats in the middle of the road i simply stuck to the wrong side of the road with no one returning yet i had a very comfortable run.
I'm sure years ago i'd been to Steavensons Falls but with a totally different landscape now nothing was familiar and every time we went around a corner i was dismayed to see still more runners ahead, reached a drink station where i was informed they were out of water but had sports drink (what a relief!, other way round and that would have been a disaster in my eyes) and still we kept on going, soon we could see the beautiful, refreshing falls in front of us and so knew where we were headed (only wish it was possible to run under them !!), now it was just a case of heading back, thankfully mostly downhill, i'd seen the leaders in the marathon and also had a good idea now of who was around me, so it was a case of run as hard as possible then see what was needed to make it an Ultra.
As we hit the oval i was passed by a runner who i was pretty sure was in the marathon but with only a few hundred metres to go didnt want to take him on as i knew i still had 3 or so K's to go and conserving what little energy i had for that was my plan.
Ultimately i crossed the line in 3:24:59 or thereabouts by the clock (which doesnt seem to agree with my chip time of 3:25:14), far from fast but when you consider John won in 3:02 (A PW for him) you can see this was no ordinary Marathon !!!.
The question then was where do i go for the Ultra ???, and that i asked and the officials didn't know, i thought i should at least have a drink while someone found out but even that was thwarted as they were just getting water in (hot weather and the bigger than expected on the day crowds made organisation very difficult), eventually speaking to Brett Saxon (who was there as photographer rather than runner and who took most of the above photos, thanks) i was told to continue out so decided the logical thing to do was simply add on the 3K run although in theory that made the 45KM Ultra long, so it was back up the hill to Kevin Cassidy's turnaround and i then found a new lease of life as tried to chase down Trailwalker Team Mate Robert Hall who was finishing the marathon (after winning the 50KM Upstream Challenge the day before !!).
As i reached the oval it was announced that Malcolm Gamble had just crossed the line to win the Ultra, so a few muffled curses and i crossed the line in 3:47 and went straight over to the timekeepers to lodge a protest.
Spoke to Mal straight after and seeing that he'd run two minutes slower than me in the marathon and been given a totally different extra run to me decided i was the winner, even more curiously Robert then finished his Ultra by running laps measured by his Garmin until he had 45K's up, so ultimately as first 3 had all done different courses after the marathon.
Despite the very strange finish after the Marathon (and i have yet to find official times for the Ultra in theory it really shouldn't exist on the records ???, but yes i will take the win), this was a great run and a triumph in terms of support for Marysville and congratulations to Lachlan and all his team, will definitely try to make it back next year.
Certainly one of the hardest marathons i've ever done made harder by the weather conditions, ultimately not making it home until Monday evening (was worried by reports of flooding on the Mid North Coast of NSW but thankfully rivers had subsided over my next day of driving), and as i type still troubled by the bruised ankle, still got to commit to my next start.