Thursday, 23 July 2015

2015 Salomon Trail Series - Race 2, Plenty Gorge

-3 degrees C. That was the lowest we saw on the trip to Lower Plenty Gorge on the way to Race two of the Salomon Trail Series. The kids were fascinated by all of the frost on the ground and cars, I got excited when we arrived and it had warmed up to plain ol 0 degrees C.

So if race one started on the coldest Melbourne morning in 10 years, and race two started on the coldest morning in twenty years, I'm tipping snow and the 100 year freeze for race three at Silvan....

Back to the race recap. Of all the mornings to forget a long sleeve top, this morning was not the one to do so. At least it was a great reason to proudly break out the Generation Run singlet that I'd been so keen to race in If you've followed my posts you'll know how much of an inspiration Bex and Steve, the team behind Gen Run are to me, my friends and my family.

After catching up with Bex and Steve, and Colette McShane, AKA The Hiit Mum for some happy snaps and pre-race banter it was time to strip down and warm up.

This time I made sure I was well prepared and commenced my warm up about 20 minutes before the race start. It was some gentle jogs along the car park, followed by squats and lunges and repeat. The jog intensity slowly increased each time.

Phase One:

At 9:12 we were off. My goal was another top ten finish, so my first km was ran at a speed where I pushed down the road to keep the lead runners in sight, but not so fast that I'd fade near the end of the race. Although the graph shows a fairly neutral elevation gain, the severity of the ups and down meant that finding a regular pace was proving to be a challenge. The sharp left hander here just before we hit level ground was a real pinch.

Rocking #GenRun and the Skins A400 #equipmentnotclothing
Phase Two:

We dashed across the plain and as we reached the end of the first real rise the trail flattened out into that beautiful single trail that I enjoyed so much last year. We were ducking and weaving through the trees at a steady pace. Entering the 2nd km took us into my favourite section of this race, a free-flowing single/double trail through some beautiful old and young Aussie gum trees. Although the gradient and trail continued to climb, the pace continued to be hot and the field slowly spread. I played cat and mouse with a few of the other runners for a while before I made a move on the last brief dip down into the gully, and the following climb allowed me to break free from the pack and placed me just behind Mr Skins and Mr Green Fluro. I now had the rest of the race to slowly try and real them in.

Phase Three:

At this point we broke through the trees and continued to slowly climb alongside a wide open field. Everytime I thought I was making up ground, the gap between me and Mr Skins and Mr Fluro widened a touch before I reeled it in again. This was the section that perhaps allowed them to play to their strengths in the straight, I'd catch them on the next hill. Speaking of which, the wide open section you can see was a lovely, steep section of at least -12%. Here I bent the knees a little, increased my cadence and lightly danced down to the turning point. I though I was quick, however Strava's GAP suggests I should have gone faster!

Phase Four:

According to Strava, this is where I lost ground. The GAP compares your actual pace (if it were flat) to their algorithms on how inclines and declines should slow you down or speed you up. If your GAP is lower than your actual time, you are running strongly. If it's higher, you could have potentially been going faster. They do also state that it doesn't take into account terrain. This is good because this section was quite narrow and full of twists and turns - great fun! Maybe I wasn't so slow as I had managed to bridge the distance between myself and Mr Fluro Green and Mr Skins to about 20 - 50m.

Phase 5:

The 5th km was a tough one. The double trail we had been running soon came to an end and we took a sharp turn over a creek and onto a very slippery single trail that gradually rose and rose. It was one of those trails where you felt that one wrong step and you's slide down the gully and into the drink. I pushed as hard as I dared, and had my men in my sights. Through all the twists and turns, rises and falls of the cut backs I had them within 20m as we the trail plateaued and we merged with the long course runners. On a slower day this would have been wicked fun.

Here is where I made my mistake. I should have dug that little harder and pulled in behind them. I knew their was a long single trail section to come that followed the river, but I was hoping to nab them in the final 400m uphill Suunto Sprint. I had however underestimated the number of long course runners and my two marks were lost in the crowd.

Phase 6:

Before we started the fast and furious dash along side the river, we had one last, long descent to tackle. With the sun finally burning through the clouds and hitting you in the face, the narrow track dominated by loose gravel and tree roots, this was where you needed to be a mountain lion. Light on your feet and poised. 
I did pretty well, passing a few runners, hopefully aided by my 'Short course passing' war cry. We changed trails slightly onto a dirt track that was only just single trail, there was no room to pass and I had no idea where Mr Fluro and Mr Skins had got too. I was hoping they'd also got caught up in the mix. Finally the trail bottomed out and widened up again and I was able to pick up the pace heading up the gradual climb before the last little side track I call 'peek-a-boo' rise. 

This is where a number of runners came to a halt, catching a breath before hiking the hill. There was no way I was going to stop and I needed all sorts of high cadence, sidestepping trickery to keep moving past. At the top of peek-a-boo rise you seem to just pop up onto the road that we started on, and the long course runners turn left and the short and medium course runners start the final 400m 'Suunto sprint' up, and up, and up the hill to the finish line.  

Final phase:

The picture above looks a lot longer than 400m, and it felt it. This last climb was gruelling, and after being pinged at the post last year I was not going to slow down. I dug deep and headed for home. No one was catching me, but I think I'd past Mr Fluro Green at the bottom of Peek-a-boo rise, would I see Mr Skins before the last timing mat?

As I surged up the last of the road and turned across the flat to the finish line I saw Mr Skins gasping for air just beyond the finish, perhaps having finished 20 - 50m ahead of me.

I crossed the line in 30:30, good enough to see me finish 6th, 5th male and again, 4th in the huge 20-39yrs division. Bec had run and amazing 28:30ish, just behind the winner and Steve was 4th, also under 29:30. I was stoked to be within minutes of them.

Did you race the Gorge? I'd love to hear your thoughts on the race and how you handled the cold and slippery conditions.

Till next time, Thisfish   ThisFishCanRun@Facebook 

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