Monday, April 25, 2011

Mt Solitary 25km


4th male finisher (from 44 starters)
6th overall (from 63 starters)

Easter Sunday, the 24th, was a beautiful sunny autumn day. When I went out for a run I thought to myself - if the weather stays like this tomorrow will be a great day. Later that night I saw that the forecast for the Blue Mountains was to be 10-15 degrees with showers. This threw me a little. It meant that I would have to have some wet weather gear and something to carry it in. I have had a North Face backpack for a few years but don't think I have ever used it running. Originally I was hoping just to use my imitation camelbak and stuff my phone, bandage and gels into the two minute pockets. That weighs about 2kg. Once I sorted my back pack with bladder, gels, phone and jacket it weighed in closer to 5kg. Well, maybe it wouldn't rain and I could stick to the plan.

Start at Old Queen Victoria Hospital, Wentworth Falls
I woke at 4am Anzac Day to the sound of torrential rain. Guess I'll be running with jacket and pack. Left around five and listened to the dawn services on the radio whilst driving through the rain up the highway. Arrived at Wentworth Falls around 6:15. I've been reading 'Fixing your feet' and its primary message is to not let your feet get wet. So as soon as I stepped out on to the wet grass I could feel the water through my shoes immediately. I had packed a spare pair of Injinji toe socks to change into if needed during the run and hoped I wouldn't blister too quickly.

Got registered and got my nifty Mt Solitary Ultra shirt and then stood in the rain and fog for 40mins waiting for the start. The organisation at the Running Wild events has been great, really quick to get registered and sorted out. They've put on a great series of races and deserve to be congratulated. At 7am the last post was played by a bugler and after a minutes silence we set off down the road.

At first I was running in my gore-tex North Face jacket and within 20mins I was starting to feel really warm. I stupidly had attached my race number to the front of my jacket which meant that when I wanted to take it off I had to undo the safety pins and then re-attach it. Rookie error. The first 8km or so of the 25km course was all pretty much downhill until we hit a creek. Along the way I had passed a few people going downhill which I found unusual because the last race everyone was passing me on the downhills. I was trying to be much more controlled in my descents. Then a quick pee stop and those same people caught up. Got away from them and stopped at the creek as I needed to get a gel out (so it must have been about 40min in) and I was thinking this was the worst scenario because there was no way of getting through the water without getting soaked feet. Oh well, see how we go. If I start hurting I'll change my socks. Surprisingly, I had no issues with my feet the entire race.

Fire Trail I had just come up
I think we must have started the uphill part of the course. I was power walking but also trying to run sections where I could. I felt quite good and had a gel at about 50min mark and was still passing people occasionally. Came down to another creek crossing and someone had caught up to me we started having a bit of a chat which not only slowed me, but my body temperature started to drop as well. Had a talk with a couple of guys about the Six Foot Track and then we hit the 13km aid station. (Around 1:25 I think) Had a glass of coke and some lollies, but didn't think it was that necessary as I felt pretty good. At this point I ditched the guys I was talking with and caught up to a few more people. Saw a girl duck behind a big rock, when I looked down there I saw her peeing.... standing up!!

Was pretty much on my own after that for a while. As I had the phone I took a few photos. It was a shame it was so foggy because every now and then I could get a glimpse of some enormous mountains and valleys.

For a while I thought we must have just been going to follow fire trails but then we came to this clearing where the wide track ended and a single, technical and muddy trail began. This was where it started getting fun. Caught and passed another runner along here. It was nice to see someone because it had been a while. Quite often had to slow to a walk along here.

Single Trail
My memory is a bit hazy but it felt like I was on this bit of trail for a while. Eventually I caught up to another runner whom I tailed for a while as he was travelling at pretty much the same pace. Around the Scenic Railway I passed him and hit more single trail madness before hitting a section of track which was complete mountain goat territory. Had to use hands to manoeuvre. I stopped here to take a quick photo, which meant taking my bag off to get my phone out. the runner behind caught me here and, despite taking a picture of me (which didn't turn out), scurried off quickly and it was a while before I saw him again.

From the landslide
Eventually got past the rocks and onto more single, easier, trail. A hiker coming the opposite way told me it was about 4km to go. Watch said 2:25 I think and I ran easily along some trails until catching up with the runner who passed me back on the rocks. I ran behind him until we hit the bottom of the golden stairs where he allowed me to pass. This was nightmarish. After running probably 24km we hit these crazy steep stairs that absolutely burned my muscles. Once or twice I felt like I was going to go down backwards as I had jelly legs. I had to let the runner behind pass me. Kept climbing for what seemed a long time before hitting a semi flat and jogging on to the finish.

Running Wild hospitality
800m is an estimated 30min walk

Awesome little post which was serving as an aid station for the ultra runners where I was given some baked potato, orange drink and quiche. Turns out I was the 4th male finisher as well, which might reflect that the quality was mostly concentrated in the 45km race. But I'll still take it! I felt much, much better than any of the previous trail races I've done. Hopefully the fitness levels are starting to get better.

This is a really great course and I'm looking forward to doing it when its dry and clear.

Elevation profile

Check out these fantastic shots taken by coolrunner sammo72. They tell you why I love running up there far more than my words can express.