Friday, November 15, 2013

Lake Mountain Skyrun 2013 - Race Recap

Sunday, 20th October 2013.
Just a week after the Melbourne Marathon, we found ourselves once again, at a start line among a few friends and other participants. On a warm day with clear blue skies, our trusty pairs of Salomon shoes were raring to get down and dusty again.

The race location was located at the Lake Mountain Alpine Resort, almost a 2-drive from Melbourne. The road turning off from the main road leading up towards the resort felt so loooooong and winding, and I was worried that we would be late.

Race director, Paul Ashton briefs the participants before we were ushered out to the start line.

With half hour to spare, we geared up and collected out bibs and hung around Jon, Dion and Gregor. Both YB and I had no target for the run, seeing that our legs had just recovered from the marathon. Not to pressure our poor legs at all, but 31km on challenging terrain could just be as tiring as running the marathon!

Or more.

Participants of the 21km and 31km were flagged off together.

The first 10KM
We were flagged off at 10am. It was starting to get warm and I was so glad to have slathered on some sunblock (and nagged the other half to do so as well).

Everyone was so energised and fast that we soon lost sight of the front runners 1.5km into the run. 

It was like playing catch with Jon. He sped up just as he spotted us from behind. LOL!

KM4 - We came across some boot camp obstacles along the way.

We continued along Granite Grind trail (Blue Trail No. 7) towards Snow Hill car park. Running downhill the single track was fun, despite having to slow down every now and then to avoid tripping over strips of  tree barks and branches strewn across the trail.

Crossing Lake Mountain Road with the help of 2 nice ladies with their STOP signs, we continued on the Blue Trail No 7 continued which soon brought us onto a 4WD track, the Upper Taggerty Road. 

The Upper Taggerty Road or 4WD track.

Nothing interesting happened as we ran along the trails. I was gasping for air and had difficulties in regularising my breathing that I was very frustrated with myself.

(I prayed I wouldn't have an asthma attack, too!)

It wasn't pleasant, and despite it, I felt that I was doing OK by covering 9KM+ in an hour.

Or so I thought.

The second 10KM
At KM11, my mind slipped into the clouds just for a wee moment and crack, my left foot landed on the side, spraining my ankle.

Aaaarrrrgghhhhh, I flinched.

I flexed it slowly, turning it. It felt fine, and I could still walk. After a while, I continued to jog, albeit very slowly.

I'm not sure what it was. The ankle wasn't bothering me right after, but my constant struggle to regularise my breathing was the one which got to me. I felt tired, I felt lazy, I felt unmotivated, I felt like quitting.

I was tired of the strips of bark and twigs and branches scattered on the track, discouraging me from running properly and quickly as possible. I had to watch where I was placing my feet as there were occasional dips in the ground and hidden rocks.

One of the creek crossings.

It was also quite warm, now that the sun was high up.
Perhaps it didn't help that it was soon time for lunch and I was getting rather hungry. The water station felt so far away that it was such a relief when we arrived at it after 16KM into the run.

Aid station at Keppel Hut.

There were plenty of goodies like chips and jelly babies or snakes and my favourite was the M & M's. Oh it was a lovely aid station!

It also served as a checkpoint so we had our names ticked on the list.

Feeling a bit more refreshed and yay, halfway to go, we made our back onto the route energetically as possible until ...

A crazy climb which was not, that runnable, if you asked me.

We had to beat through the overgrown track as we made our way up, hoping that we would reach the top soon enough.

I think this was probably the fun part of the run!

At 18KM, my left foot landed awkwardly again, 'spraining' my ankle the second time. I was so mad at myself! Clumsy clumsy girl!

It took a while to test it and to be sure that I could walk and jog again. It seemed OK.

Thank goodness.

It soon cleared up onto a grassy track littered with twigs and small branches.

It was 20KM into the run and we started wondering whether we were nearing the resort once again. Those participating in the 21KM category would cross the finish line whilst the 31KM participants would continue back onto the first trail we started off.

Thank goodness I brought a banana. I should have brought an extra one!

Soon our watch told us it was 22KM and we kept telling ourselves and a girl who was with us (she was running the 21KM) that we were reaching the finish line any minute now.

Any minute now.

She was reluctant to pose for me. :)

Well, according to our watches it was 24KM and we took 3:45 run/walk that far. Seriously. I was that slow. *grumble*

It was this point when YB turned to me and asked if I wanted to stop or continue on. The lady at the aid station informed us that there was a miscalculation of the route distance, that we would in fact be running 34KM and not 31KM.  So we had another 9KM to go.

She also informed us that one of the participants had broken their ankle along the way *ouch* and advised us to be careful on the trails.

As much as I was tempted to call it quits and use my poor ankle as an excuse (and my mental despair), I shrugged at YB and said that with 9KM± to go, we might as well continue on and walked on if we wanted to.

The last 10KM
On hindsight, I suppose we should have called it quits if we had known I was going to be incredibly slow and take 2 hours for this final bit.

My watch died sometime then. It was so frustrating. I need a new watch!
Some stretching at 1433 metres above sea level.

This time, as we were running on the same route we first started on, we decided to go off the track to check out the lookout points for the scenery.

First, from Marysville Lookout.

Such a beautiful day for a nice hike, don't you think? Why do we always have to be on a rush, trail running? :D

Next, Taggerty Lookout.

The view looks quite similar, huh?

I know!

We came back to the road crossing but this time it was two different people directing us across the road. Kudos to them for standing in the hot sun!
So we kept moving as fast as we could and soon met a guy who was standing at a track intersection. He took our picture (but we haven't found it anywhere yet) and he informed us that there was one last person behind us. Once that fellow comes through, he was packing up to leave.

He advised us that we had about 3.5KM to go which should take us approximately 30 minutes.

Trail is littered with barks and twigs.

We kept moving with as much urgency I could muster, but I was stopping more to walk now. It was 31KM and gosh, why did 3KM seem so far away??

I still had to watch where I was going, with twigs and branches unknowingly scratching your legs, it was so annoying.

We discussed that hiking was so much better than trail running. How and why did we get into trail running in the first place, we asked each other. I'm not sure what was the conclusion of our discussion but it's always one of those conversations we'd have when we're trail running. :)

I complained that I hated being weak and unable to keep on running and I wished I packed that sandwich in my bag, instead of leaving it in the car. I didn't know I would take this long to run 30KM on trails!
I was hungry and thirsty and I told YB that I was going to have a can of Coke Zero after this and he agreed.

I was just rambling on now, but making sure my legs kept moving - be it running or walking.

 Oh gawd.

We were so relieved to spot the resort at a distance and estimated that we had another 1KM to go. It still felt like forever.

Once we came out of the clearing and headed towards an empty car park, we mumbled to ourselves, "Wow, we are last?!"

We spotted the arch still standing desolately in the car park, next to a picnic bench. Soon we heard someone cheering is on and we waved at him (later on I realised it was Dion when he came over). As we ran towards the little arch, Jon came hobbling out of the resort to capture our picture once we crossed what was left of the finish line. 

Photo courtesy of Jon. :)

A few minutes later the time keeper came over to ask us for our time and we were then joined by the race director who came out to give us a pair of MUND socks each and a La Sportiva bandanna. Not sure why but I guess they were part of the spot prizes.

After chatting with Jon and Dion, we all agreed that the course was a tough one.

And it dawned to both YB and I that we were REALLY the last ones to arrive after taking 5.5 hours to complete 34KM.

An empty car park.

We hobbled to the car to change out of our clothes and shoes, devour whatever food we had in the car (my sandwiches!) and rest up before heading home.

What can I say?

It was tough. 

If we found it tough, I'm not sure how the beginners would have found it. Earlier onwWe spotted some 21KM participants with only a 500ml bottle of water in their hands and on a hot day with the aid station at 16.5KM, I hope they were fit enough to endure the heat. Though I'm sure they were fine!

Thoughts about the event:

Location: Great. Set in the alpine forest, it was different than running in Dandenong National Park.
Difficulty: 2-3 out of 5 for technicality. Have to be careful not to trip over hidden stones or branches. Most of the time is runnable, save for the climb at 17KM±.
Weather: Dry. Hot. :)

1. Friendly road marshals and aid station volunteers. Smiley people.
2. Aid station was sufficient with food and water. 
3. Aid station at Keppel Hut (16.5KM) was also a checkpoint. Good to keep tabs on participants. (But strangely, no checkpoint at the 24KM/finish line for the 34KM runners.)
4. Two photographers along the course.
5. A small event without the course being too crowded.
6. A 10am start which meant that we need not get out of bed at wee hours of the morning to drive ourselves over to the race location.

1. The misinformation of the route distance. I'm not that bothered by it, but it may be important to those who plan their hydration and nutrition very carefully.
2. Crossing the finish line with no one from the organising committee in sight, just the yellow arch desolately waving at us in the breeze. If runners on the route were being accounted for, it would have been nice to have had someone there to jot our time down.
3. The timer clock had already been taken down, so we relied only on our watch for our completion time. If YB's watch had also died, we may not have known how long we had taken. Well, then it would be the time keeper's job in hand.

We drove home in muted disappointment, pondering about our accomplishment for finishing the race. We were feeling down when we should have felt elated (for not giving up). It was a grey cloud which continued to hover above us until we went to bed that night. Waking up the next morning didn't seem to make us feel better.

Chatting to friends, they comforted me by saying that there is no shame with finishing last as long as I finished the race. Thanks, guys.

Race recap and lessons learnt:
1. Regardless of what YB says the next time, I WILL pack sandwiches in my bag. You know what he said to me when I was about to put them in my bag? "We're not going for a PICNIC, honey. We're doing a RACE!"

But running through lunch time is the toughest bit for me. I need foooooooood. So I think some peanut butter / Nutella sandwiches will do just fine. I had 2 mini Snickers bar and one banana, 3 power gel and a bottle of electrolytes - I don't think they were enough on a hot day.

2.  Sufficient post race refreshments to be kept in the car. Thank goodness we always pack some out of habit. The cafeteria was closed and they refused to sell me a bottle of Coke Zero. :( (Clearly being last in the race has a lot of downside.)

3. There is no way to avoid blisters. No amount of band aid or body glide.

4. The altitude must have affected me somehow, hence the reason for me feeling weak after 10KM into the run. Must definitely train for this in the future (if any).

*More photos will be uploaded to my Facebook page soon. Stay tuned!
*YB's version can be found on his blog.

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