Thursday, 3 June 2010
With possibly no overseas races this year i had slightly different goals this year and the Melbourne Trailwalker was probably the one race to the forefront.
With 5 previous starts (for 3 frustrating podium placings) my ambition was simply to finally win one and then i could retire gracefully from team races, not so much because i didn't enjoy them (which i do) but simply because i find them so hard to exert control over, i can run as well as i can but can't do anything about the whole team getting through and there is nothing to me more frustrating than spending a couple of hours walking during a race as team mates have bad patches.
So in short a win in a race of over 700 teams (admittedly with a "pointy end" of around 20 teams) always seemed the appropriate swansong.
Our team had one change forced upon it in February with Michael Lovric being unable to run due to National World 24 Hour race commitments, but we had picked up a worthy replacement in Bryan Ackerly a member of 2008's winning team and teammate in 2007.
I flew down to Melbourne on the Wednesday afternoon looking to have a rest before the race on Friday but all came apart that night when reading emails before heading to bed found that team organiser Rob Hall with injuries sustained 2 weeks prior was a very unlikely starter.
To be honest i unravelled somewhat as i tried to find a worth last minute replacement eventually relying on Facebook and when confirmed that Rob would not be running (15 hours before race start !!!) was fortunate to get Sydney based Keith Hong.
Come race day we had a team kitted in matching uniforms and looking fit and by 20K's we were in the lead, from then on until over half way we ticked along perfectly running easily and steadily and i admit i was feeling confident particularly as i had been running at a very conservative pace and really hadnt needed to worry much about food intake.
Then my least favourite part of the course, the Warburton Rail Trail and Bryan was beginning to have reflux problems (a problem he's had little success with in other events after a certain distance).
Once we hit the school checkpoint we had lost lots of ground and with a bit of waiting necessary i decided it was time for some sandwiches and more food wanting to use this as my last fuel stop with less than 30K's to go.
We now had a new bit of course and looking around at times could see the next 2 teams not far behind, Bryan was gamely hanging on but trying to solve his problem by picking up speed to get the race over and done with as soon as possible was always going to be a risky gambit.
Ultimately around 87K's in he slowed to barely a walk and Mal stayed with him as me and Keith (beginning to feel the oncoming cold dusk) kept on moving steadily.
This was a long section without crew access and it wasnt till 90K's in that we reached our crew vehicle and all getting cold sat in the front of the car.
Bryan was looking deathly pale and shivering and wisely decided that his race was won, we'd spent 20 minutes at the car and two teams had passed us, as far as i was concerned there was only one aim, get across the finish line first and as far in front of those teams as possible.
The last checkpoint was around 94K's and we were around 8 minutes behind those teams by then as we had ran maniacally downhill once the decision had been made, either we'd get there real fast or else end up real injured !.
By now it was pitch black (later in the year than last year when we finished in daylight) and probably my greatest weakness running on trails by headlight but adrenalin was pumping through and we took the others before the summit of Mt Little Joe and crossed the line in 12:24:16 at least 5 minutes in front of the next team. I'd be pushing to actually call this a win but i was rapt to actually be first across the line and i think it's very possible this may still be my last Trailwalker, unless made an offer i "can't refuse", overall a bit of an empty feeling but i was very thankful that Saturday morning i'd be back home and heading off for a 54KM race, maybe that would bring greater joy.