Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Big Forest Run April 2014

Fast, furious and fun. That’s how I’d describe the first 9kms of the Big Forest Run, an 18km trail run that I ran in on Saturday 19 April, 2014.

The BigForest Run was a new event for 2014, and it was held pretty much in my backyard. Two distances were offered. You could tackle 42kms from the start, just out of Powelltown, an old mining town in the Yarra Valley, Victoria. Or for me, it was the 18kms from Starlings Gap to Warburton.
I entered this on a whim, it fell on a vacant weekend and the location and event distance seemed perfect. So, after checking the event details and mandatory equipment list (more to come) I signed up.

Event morning came and I checked in.  I was surprised to see an open book with a check list – your name and proof that you had the mandatory equipment of: 1.5l water carrying capability, high-vis vest, beanie, thermal tights and top and a good quality rain jacket. I was surprised as although the weather was a little overcast and cooler (11 C) it was not too harsh. Listening in on other conversations around the room, when you hear that in some sections of the track help could take over an hour to get to you in case of an accident. Suddenly the gear makes a lot of sense. 

I was soon found by Lauren, a fellow Dandy Trail Runner and we chatted away for the next 45 minutes until the bus left for the starting point: Starlings Gap. 

Beanie and jacket not needed
A long story short, the bus was full of atmosphere and it was getting me excited. The scenery the way was breathtaking. We arrived at the start with about 10 minutes to spare. A quick dash behind the trees was a common sight as nerves hit in and we gathered at the start. The event organisers gave us a final briefing, again reminding us of the need for the mandatory gear before the go.

The run started with a short 200m up the road before we turned off onto the Yarra Trail track. If you have a little #traillove in your veins, this is the track for you. The pace was fairly hot, and seemed even more so given the condition of the track. Here’s what we were expecting: 9kms of great trail, gentle downhill. 

A very cool atmosphere
It was certainly great single trail, although the recent rains made the track incredibly slippery. Throw in tree ferns lining the track at just at or above head height and a few fallen trees to jump, duck and weave through and this was the scariest run I’ve even undertaken. I love my single trail, but every stride had to be perfectly planted, every duck or weave perfectly timed, every reflex sidestep counted. It was fast, furious, fun and frightening. 
A flash of pink as you flew by!

I had gone out with the lead pack and it was very tight for the first 6 or so kms. These conditions suited me to a tee. As the track opened up a little more the leaders were able to pull away. I too passed a few more runners and was happy with my position. Although the lead pack now pulled away, I was confident that no-one behind me was going to trail me.

The track began to widen and dry out and we hit the Big Pats Picnic Area, check point 1 for us but check point 3 for the marathoners. From here we were expecting about 4kms of gentle uphill, and to run through an old tram cutting, from the saw mill days. So, after two short flights of stairs and a couple of turns the trail continued. This was a lovely single track section and I was able to reel in another runner. Through his admission the hill had cooked him. I had to grit my teeth and continue on. It was a gradual climb and it was tougher than I anticipated. I hit the cutting which was really cool. It was about 1m wide and you felt really closed in. It didn’t last long and I was again running through open bush. I wanted to take a walking breather but didn’t want to give up my position either, so I pushed on.

At this point I was running by HR, which was hitting about 170BPM. 170 BPM puts me in the 80%+ zone so I monitored my pace to keep this in check. At the end of the track we hit Big Pats Creek Road and I got a glimpse of the runners ahead of me. Spurred on, I hit the road and rode out the downhill section. From here, they always seemed to be just at the next bend, or over the next rise. The runner ahead must have sensed me, and kept checking back after each rise or bend. He too was just behind the lead pack. I could see them and it felt good.

My legs were starting to feel heavy and the finish seemed to be no-where in sight. The road rose and fell, curved to the left and right. Each little spurt I put in to peg him back he was able to get at the next bend. It was real cat and mouse. I’m sure he was thinking the same with the runners ahead.

After what seemed an eternity, we finally turned into Riverside Drive, Warburton. In the distance I could see my family and it was what I needed to get me through. My hips were talking and the quads and hammies heavy. I must have looked like a loon waving to them, but I eventually got a wave back from my little lady and mum. Emotions are funny things, and this recognition almost started a wave of tears, but I smiled through it. 400m, 200m, 50m. I charged down that road and hit the turn off into the paddock and the last 25m to the line. My little boy was waving and cheering through the barb wire fence – “move back!” were my internal thoughts, but ‘hello’ was what he was told.

I could see Mrs Fish to the side and I dug deep to power over the line. 

Pain, relief, surprise and crazy happiness were the emotions running on. I was stoked to finish 6th, as I was secretly aiming for a Top 10 finish. I was about a minute behind 5th place (or a good curve in the road) and 7th was about 4 minutes behind me. That perceived pressure certainly spurred me on and helped my time.

 I had hoped to run about 1:15, so I was really happy to have nailed 1:14:29.

The Big Forest Run was a great event, and I was stoked with my results.

Could the event be improved? Yes. A little more organisation was needed at the finish area. My family were there early and they weren’t set up. In fact, my fam took a run into Warburton to kill time and they still weren’t ready for the first runners as they finished. I think our pure speed on the trails caught them off guard :)

Personally, I’d also like a 2 or 1km marker near the end. Sometimes you just need to get home, other times you want to know if you’ve enough time to run down another place.

Will I be back? Yes sir e. I’d love to do it all again. And, it seems like the Big Forest Run (Check out their photos!) will be back in November!

Cheers once more, Lachie

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Wednesday, 9 April 2014

The Silvan Trails - Why I love running!

A picture is worth a thousand words... Please enjoy my most recent morning run!

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Sunday, 6 April 2014

Yarra Ranges Athletics Club - 5km Lillydale Lake Race

My first medal! Please allow me to indulge... 
Woohooo! Right, now that I've got that out of the system I can write up my race report.  

Sunday 6 April turned on the perfect weather for a 5km race. Normally two laps around Lillydale Lake is a comfortable 5km run. The trail is nice and flat bar a little rise if you go clock-wise around the lake. 

So, as having posted previously my desire to run a sub 20, sub 19 5km run I was feeling pretty good, and a little nervous. 

I had the inov-8 f-lite 252s laced up and was set to go. My amazing wife and kids came down with me and after I registered she took the kids off to the park for a play as I did a lap of the lake as a warm up. 

There must have been some nerves, as my HR was sitting around 165 - 170 BPM as I trotted around the lake at 5:15 to 5:30 pace. This was quite unexpected, but it had settled down to 145 BPM by the time I found the family back at the start line. 

After a few minutes delay, we set off at about 9:33. The plan was to hit out at around 4:00km pace. A few hundred meters in and a quick check of the watch and I was moving fairly quickly. The pace was closer to 3:45 but I was happy with that. The field was quite varied: Some younger, mid to late teens from the athletics club, some serious looking folk and the rest of us. I managed to pick and weave through the field and settled in somewhere near the top 10. 

Normally when you run the lake, you run the lake, but we turned left and onto the grass towards the main road.

A series of twists and turns, very nice!
We hit the first of the rises and this is where I picked up the pace a little and left the pack and slotted into 4th. I was running at a steady pace, and really used the slight downhill to pull away from the runners behind me. The lead runner mind you was doing exactly the same to me! We doubled back to the lake and followed it true for about 250m or an 1/8th of a mile before peeling to the right and up the hill be the edge of the lake estate fence line. The next 800m or so was a gradual uphill slog, and running through the grass made it all that much harder. The runner ahead of me stayed just out of reach, but I was happy to keep him in my sights. 

As we finished the paddock circuit and hit the lake track again I was starting to hit my limits. I was at a steady 4:05/4:10 pace as we tackled the km or so of rising gradient at the backside of the lake. Concentrating on my breathing I pushed on, slowly pulling away from the runner behind me. As we neared the 'wall' section of Lillydale Lake the course took us down to the off-lead play area for the local dogs and back onto the grass. We skirted along the park boundaries, ducking and weaving through the trees, just above my short head height. A short pinch took us back to the track before the hard hit of Hospital Hill. I managed to sneak a peek back behind me and saw that the runner behind me was about 75m away. I leaned into the hill, focused on the POSE lift and drop ad powered up the hill. I could hear the Marshall behind me giving him a spur on and the directions as I hit the downhill, about 100m of relief. 

From here you normally follow the track, but again we were diverted through the trees onto a very short single trail type track. Great fun! 

Busting through the trees I saw the 4km sign, the HR had to be sky-high as the end was sort of insight. No, we were again diverted half way up the hill in a bit of a zig zag before running onto the 'beach' area, which created about 250m of sand. This was brutal. It sounds simple but it was hard work and certainly slowed the pace. I had to chuckle at the tourists I heard nattering away. It sounded like they were encouraging me but they may have been very animatedly discussing the beautiful weather. 

Finally I reached the end of the sand and was allowed a short section on the path before again being direct onto the grass and away from the finish. Damn you! One final U-turn and I almost started on the 10km second loop before a marshal asked me what distance I was running. 5k I signalled, the breath was rapidly running out at this stage. 'This way' was her response and I made a quick turn into the right area. With 200m to go I found that little extra and headed for home, giving it my all. 
Powering home...
 I saw the family and allowed myself a big smile and a wave of relief washed over me as I crossed the line. 20:36 and I was told I had run in 3rd. I was honestly completely surprised by this as I was sure that I was 4th or 5th. 3rd place, it was an Athletics club run, I was not expecting this.  

We hung around for the 1/2 an hour or so that it took for the presentations and I was able to chat to Rohan, the race director for Two Bays and the Roller-coaster runs that I had also loved. 

Waving to the kids of course :)
I heard that the winner was about 90 seconds or so off his usual 5km time, so we were justified in saying that it was a tough course, and it was. I'd say nearly 75% was run on grass, where you have to work that little bit harder to keep the pace. There were hills at every turn and even sand. For those of you that run the lake, we have a real trail run right on our doorstep. You just have to think, and look outside the square, or at least off the man-made paths. 

A big shout out to the Yarra Ranges Athletics club for their organisation of the day. The course was well marked, the course was run between little orange and green markers and clearly signposted when you needed to turn. All the marshals had a smile on their face and were full of encouragement. 

And for the stats... My ave HR was 180BPM, right up there in the 90% plus range, with a peak of 193. My recorded max is 197. My average pace was 4:09. This was a little slower than anticipated, but given the actual course layout I was stoked. 

Well, finally I've done it. I've finished on a podium. Next up is a Skins A400 
Vs 2XU Elite tights review. Stay tuned and keep moving. 

Cheers once more, ThisFish