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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