We arrived in plenty of time for the start and I was able to collect my 2013 Salomon trail series shirt, drink bottle and free mag as part of the series entry package. We met B and Steve - the in-law that had been playing on my mind all week. How would this all pan out?
With the inov-8 Trailroc 235s laced up and the inov-8 tee on, number 163 eagerly toed the line. I'd seen a couple of other Dandy runners but as the family had been there part of the warm up routine was entertaining the kids. It was a nice distraction.
As Steve waited for the Suunto watch to find the satellites Camoman did his best to entertain the crowd. 3,2,1 the countdown finished and we were off.
Steve and I had found our starting point at the front of the field and rand together for the first 2-3km. Steve was running well and I had settled into a comfortable 3-2 breathing routine and was enjoying the run.
The first section of the race was around the park and then along the road for a while before turning alongside the golf course. We were both running well and Steve started to pull ahead of me. I was passing a few runners and a couple passed me. I was happy with this as I know that generally once I find my place I run fairly true.
At the end of the golf course we turned off for the trails. We rushed down the first slope and under the bridge before hitting a well paved running track. Not a true trail in terms of what the Dandenong Ranges had challenged me with but very serene and calming. The field was pacing well and there was minimal place shuffling going in.
I was really enjoying just running under the gums and alongside the river. After a short section we turned up a short series of steps to cross a bridge and head onto the other side of the river. The track here was equally as nice, a few rougher sections and you had to watch your footwork but nothing to untoward.
At this point we were mingling with the slower 5km and long course runners so there was a lot of 'passing right' and 'coming through' being called out. Everyone was great about it.
At some stage the track became single file and a lot more technical. It was a real blast. I had a couple of guys breathing down my neck but they were happy to pace with me. It was a lot harder passing along here but everyone running ran well and everyone except the numbats with earphones and music were really obliging with moving out o the way.
This was essential as two steps of the track and it was a 3-5 meter tumble down the banks of the river was an early morning swim...
The track carried us along the river before turning away from it a little. Eventually we hit the 'stairs' which took us back down to the river again. I skirted down the very narrow track on the side rather than going down them. I don't know if this saved time but it felt easier.
Back on the trail and the pace was lifting with the slight descent and again a lot of skill and care was needed on the single track - keeping your pace and footing and trying to navigate the slower runners and the Sunday morning runners as well.
Eventually we hit the second lot of stairs - up them. This threw me a little and I shot past a couple of people. I hesitated briefly for a one step walk but then got running again. We finally hit the top and turned onto the road - The Avenue. This was a minefield.
There were slower course runners to navigate and more Sunday runners to navigate, both going with the flow and against it. I found out the hard way just how many were going against it.
Hoping we were nearing the last few kms I put in a harder effort and started to pull away from the guys behind me and pick a few places (well, it was possible, they may have been long or short course runners...). As we neared the end of this section I pulled out on the left to pass someone as he was running close to the fence and BANG!! I ran smack right into a Sunday runner. Somehow we both managed to avoid smashing into the parked cars and kept our feet. I looked back and he was on his way and so was I.
We turned back onto the trail for the final stretch home. This section was again mostly single track and was very tight. It had a few good turns and smaller trees that lined the track quite closely so you had to keep your wits and watch your step. People were starting to tire here so there were lots of moments of daring and care needed as I tried to keep up the pace. After one last turn and course photographer who gave us the '100m to go!' spiel I heard the buzz of the timing mats and the crowd so I pushed it hard for the final stretch home. I saw and heard the cheers from the family and the look of surprise as I raced past them. 10m, 5m and the race was done. I had crossed the line in... ???? I forgot to look and had started the watch late!
B and Steve were at the finish line and B was surprised to see me finish so close to Steve. She was in fact amazed at both of our results. Steve had finished in 47 something and she thought I was about 2 minutes behind. It looked like we had achieved the 44-50 minutes that I was hoping for.
I checked in with the family for sweaty kisses and cuddles and tracked down some of the other Dandy Runners who had also been very successful. All of us agreed that running the hills and learning to control your speed and footing on trails was a massive strength.
So how did I finish and what were my 2013 Salomon Trail series race 1 results... Overall time was 48:14, tick. Across the line I came 34th, big tick! I was hoping to run 44-50 minutes. I was hoping to run top 10% and top 50. To finish 34th out of 486 odd runners gave me a massive buzz. And the brother in-law. I should have stuck with him. He finished an incredible 18th. Well done Bro.
The day had been brilliant. Big thumbs up to the 2013 Salomon Trail Series course organisers. The trails were indeed very easily followed thanks to the coloured tags and surveyors tape. The displays were informative and the buzz of the crowd was very cool .
One whinge - Folks, DO NOT WEAR HEADPHONES AT A TRAIL RACE!!!! On tight trails you really need your wits and senses. Enjoy the sights and sounds of the trail and be at one with your running.
Cheers for now, but stay tuned for the photos I hope to put up :)
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