Mt.Misery and Mt.Abrupt in more ways than one

After an off week to charge up for the Belair Marathon this week was always going to have some more kilometres in it to get back into the final heavy training phase before the Pichi Richi Marathon I have planned on June 26.

Belair Marathon was at the end of Week 22 and this is a recount of Week 23.

The start of the week was pretty quiet and allowed me to roll around Belair and Shepherds Hill for a few runs. The running was good, but I was a little flat from getting lost frequently in the marathon and having this affect my outcome on the day. To rectify this and make sure it didn’t happen again I made sure I did a course reconnaissance (reccy) of the Mt.Misery course for this weekends first Trail Running SA Series Race.

In AFL if a team gets beaten at the contest by being too weak or insipid the coach makes sure that doesn’t happen again and tells them to ‘bring their mouthguards to training’ which is code for ‘get ready for a big week of tackling and bumping’ at training. Running around Mt.Misery in the cold, looking at my phone constantly for directions felt like the equivalent. I expected it to take me 2.5 to 3 hrs max. It took almost 4 hrs. It was much harder than I thought and I felt very lonely out there stumbling around. I’d run about 50kms on Monday and Tuesday and was expecting to get this reccy done nice and quick. Being out there for that long set me off into a world of negativity and frankly, the course chewed me up. Great preparation… I sulked my way around home for the rest of the day and was glad I’d done it but boy I was in a foul mood.

From one reccy to another though, I jumped in on the Scotch College Outdoor Ed team’s reccy of Edeowie Gorge and Mt.Abrupt to fill in my Thursday and Friday. With nothing on my schedule, a free invite and the chance to explore Mt.Abrupt a bit more with some like-minded people this was a good way to leave the black dog behind that had jumped in my Ute at Mt.Misery.

Scotch Reccy Crew in serious mode. From L-R: Jimmy, Chad, Me, Rob

For this reccy I went in with no expectations of timeframes so I didn’t suffer the same consequences from Reccy No.1 of the week. Walking/running through the Gorge on Thursday arvo was great and I was even shown a second way to negotiate Kanalla Falls. This area of Wilpena Pound is the most underrated, unheard of feature in the whole Flinders Ranges so to be just casually running through there with mates at a relaxed pace was great medicine. It’s also a location I’ve bushwalked with my Dad (A.K.A Papa Kym) allowing me to reconnect with some old memories of Papa Kym managing his way around the waterfalls.

Rob negotiating Kanalla waterfall. The drop below him is about 50m.

Day 2 of the Scotch Reccy was an adventure to the summit of Mt.Abrupt. I was lying in my tent in the morning wondering if another big day on the legs was a good prescription for the race on the weekend. But I also didn’t want to miss out on a summit attempt in some cloudy ominous looking weather. Looking around at the campsite as we packed up, there was no fence to sit on. I either had to speak up, tell the other guys I was going to cruise or keep my mouth shut and find a new way to approach the challenge in my head of another day on the legs, a parkrun the following day AND then a race on Sunday… A quick consult of the big picture and I realised that to be a proper Outdoor Athlete and a true master of trail running, more experience wandering around Mt.Abrupt and risking a bit more fatigue was a better outcome than just relaxing for the race.

Waiting for the others at the saddle below Mt.Abrupt

So off we went, the others were none the wiser of my internal dilemma and I settled in to the back of the pack on our little escapade. As we climbed up towards Mt.Abrupt we entered the aforementioned ominous looking cloud and became wet. A snack break at a saddle just below Mt.Abrupt had me questioning whether or not we would actually make it to the top. I was the only one out of the four us who had summited previously and I knew the way I had made it up would be very wet and scary and I was not so keen on it. Claiming to be a realist I told Chad, the most optimistic person I know, I didn’t like our chances. This is like Red Bull for Chad. His brain hears my scepticism and it just doesn’t compute. He was now going to sniff out any way that would take us to the top like a junkie looking for their next hit. Chad’s not one of those aggressive summit junkies though, I don’t want you thinking that for a second. Nah, Chad’s method is more like one of those charity workers asking you to stop for a second and give a donation at the shopping centre. They simply have to ask to do their job properly and Chad simply had to try every possible way of getting to the top in the most polite and optimistic fashion. Despite it being quite cold and quite wet and a little scary.

A little bit of bush bashing and rock climbing led us to the section of Mt.Abrupt I travelled up on my previous visit, and true to my suggestion earlier, this was very wet and scary and none of us were keen (even Chad). Chad suggested another option instead, us others said it looked alright and the hunt continued. Almost 2 and a bit hours later we made it to the top to be greeted by the most glorious looking fog ever and a logbook to record our visit. Despite the fog being so glorious and cloudy it did obstruct our view which was a little sad but at least we made it! Positively though, the 2 and a bit hours on my feet had been at a very low intensity so I wasn’t too worried about the fatigue build-up from the day’s journey. As we descended the summit via a different route again (I now know 3 different ways of getting to the top, winning!) it felt like the longest victory lap I’ve ever been on. The temperature increased and by the time we reached the car it was only 12 o’clock. I would make it back in time for Friday Night Pizza Night, a staple of the Darcy way of living!!!

All smiles at the summit! And just look at that fog/cloud!

But did two days of galivanting around the Flinders Ranges push me into a zone that was unrecoverable from? Especially considering I wanted a hit out at Parkrun on Saturday morning? Only time can tell the answer to that question so all I had to do was take up a pew in the waiting room, stretch and rest as much as possible.

In that resting period I escaped home for a quick burn at the Seacliff Parkrun to see where my fitness was at since last running a quick time of 16:22 in January. Feeling a bit tired but still ‘ready to go’ I went out hard off the start line listening to some AC/DC Thunderstruck. I was hoping for sub 16, ‘that’d be a nice feather in my cap from all my training’, I thought. Coming through halfway at 8:15ish I realised that dream was in trouble. I put the hammer down a bit more in the second half and ended up in 16:18. Initial thoughts was yeah, it’s quicker than 16:22 but not too much quicker so it wasn’t the confidence boosting run I had imagined. It did feel a lot easier than I thought, showing my aerobic system is able to deal with lactate better these days at high speed but my little legs still struggle to turn over as quick as I want them. Too much slow-twitch muscle fibre maybe? Anyway, it doesn’t matter right now, what does is that I gave it a good effort and it’s a little investment in my future speed for the Pichi Richi Marathon. What also matters is I now needed to enter the ultimate rest day to get my legs nice and fresh for Mt.Misery on Sunday. The way to know you’ve spent a rest day resting is whether someone calls you lazy and Papa Kym kind of gave me that ‘compliment’ by day’s end.

At Parkrun.

I’d done all I could in my mind to prepare well for Mt.Misery given my imposed constraints of; an Abrupt/Edeowie reccy, Parkrun and heavy training week. That gave me some confidence, knowing that I’d done the best prep I could, but to be honest I was a little worried about the race. The conditions looked heinous and the other racers that had signed up intimidated me. Maybe they’ve put all their eggs into the Misery basket and would be feeling like fresh daisy’s? It took me almost 4 hours to get around here on Wednesday, how can I possibly run it in 2 hours to challenge for the win?

Driving out there I was also a little peeved off about the weather and my Parkun time from Saturday. I felt I deserved more. It’s dangerous to think you deserve things in life in my opinion. But when you commit to as much training I do you want to see more improvement than just 4 seconds between now and January…

Some times I run at my best when I’m relaxed and everything is filled with sunshine and rainbows in life. There’s no tension and everything flows. I think this works best for ultras.

When I’m peeved off though can also get me running at my best. There’s a few instances in my outdoor career where I have gotten into a foul mood and have taken my anger out at whatever I’m doing. No-one can hear you yell and scream in Belair so it’s a nice place to get some aggression out and I feel better after clearing my head and my lungs with a good hard run. Climbing mates, especially Brodie, have seen me climb really well when I am in full beast mode and wanting to rip the rock off the wall. This might sound a little dark and scary but do not worry Dear Reader, I think it’s merely an ingrained response in my brain from playing and watching tennis so much. Everyone knows a good tantrum on the court, throwing the racquet, screaming some swear words is typical superstar behaviour and usually works out in their advantage. I’m the same and I’m guessing you are too (or you just haven’t tried it yet…). This scene from Point Break is another representation of the benefits of getting a little mad with life and directing that anger somewhere.

Feels good to be mad sometimes!

I chose to direct that anger at 24km of trail running at Mt.Misery. Off the start line I went, like a bat out of hell. After thirty seconds I snuck a glance over my shoulder and already had a gap on the next runners. From my reccy I knew the first half was very runnable terrain. I was hoping to run this half hard, and try and open a gap between me and anyone else following. I also knew that there is no real open section on the course for people to see far ahead of them. I was hoping that if I got a lead of around a minute, I’d never be in sight and so anyone who was following, i.e. everyone else running, would lose hope of chasing me and just try to only beat the people around them instead.

In front and focused.

I attacked the short uphill’s of this section and bombed the long down hills. The immense amount of rain had softened the trail to a point where you could commit to the steep downhill section and would be welcomed by soft mud, not a jarring impactful thud onto hard compressed dirt. Just beautiful. And an invitation to a runner like me, hoping to get some anger out, to really attack the downhills.

Halfway through the course I was still in front and wasn’t too cooked. The second half had some long uphill’s in it where I was planning on conserving my energy as much as possible in case anyone bridged the gap over to me. That way I’d have something in the tank for the final kick. I consumed the only gel I brought with me, a nice chocolate flavour from Clif (available from Snowys), and got stuck into it.

Very tasty very nice.

Rolling along in my own world with my music on this was my type of race. Every now and then I’d see people at the drink stations or directing me to stay on course but apart from that I was able to relax into my own private world for 2hrs of ‘me time’. Some people relax with 2 hrs in a bath or at Endota Spa to escape life. Or maybe 2 hrs at the pub. For me, if my mood is right in the sweet spot, a 2hr trail run is a bloody good method. It’s even better when it’s wet and muddy and I can pretend in my mind that I’m either a hard working wet weather specialist or a pig in the mud (pigs love mud). Either way, despite thinking the conditions were going to be heinous as I drove out there in the morning I ended up embracing the conditions to work in my favour which was definitely a beneficial mental trick.

As I cruised up the last major uphill and still couldn’t see anyone behind me I knew I was in for the win. I didn’t let up though and pushed right through to the finish line like the good former footy player I am who ‘pushed right though to the cone’ during drills. It was nice to finish and hear some people yell words of encouragement over the top of the rain and wind but it was a lot nicer to keep running back to my car and get changed as quick as I could! On this little jog I celebrated my win with a few fist bumps and felt very relieved.

My worries throughout the previous few days that I would be too fatigued or not good enough to win did not eventuate. Is this amount of pre-race stress good? The fear of failure does drive me to train hard but sometimes I slip into a pattern of thought where I base my identity on the outcome of a race or time. As such, a second place finish at Belair and a slower time than I hoped for at Parkrun can be damaging in the lead-up to a race. However, without those experiences and those feelings would I have just relaxingly jogged around Mt.Misery as opposed to demon-ing (yeah that’s a verb now) my way around? How would that have gone for me? An interesting topic I’ll be debating with myself on my drive back to Quorn. What does alleviate my stress is when I refrain from such single minded focus on results and consider the big picture I’m trying to achieve in my quest to be the best outdoor athlete I can be.

In the last week I’ve gone some way to investing in experiences that will lead to me being a better outdoor athlete. In an earlier post, When In Doubt Refer to Friends, I listed several outcomes I was hoping for by the end of June in place of slaving away in a lot of Outdoor Ed work. So far, as an update, I can put a tick next to:

  • Completed the Belair Marathon race and learnt about the course marking strategy of the Heysen 105 organisers.
  • Completed the Mt.Misery Race and have my hat in the ring for the Trail Running SA Winter Series (held over 5 races).
  • Practiced nutrition strategies for the Pichi Richi Marathon. Gels are good!
  • Finished my climbing wall.
  • Added a bonus tick of more knowledge about Edeowie Gorge and Mt.Abrupt (and my ability to back up quickly from races!)

I’m still working on getting fitter and faster for the Pichi Richi Marathon. There’s only 3 more weeks to go and the focus now is to try and do all my running on flatter roads/fire tracks that mimic the course profile (no more technical single tracks). Plus. I’ll keep working on some more speed specific sessions. I’m also working my way through consuming lots of sport and have enjoyed following the French Open over the last two weeks as I completed my own little tournament of running (Belair Marathon + Scotch Reccy + Parkrun + Mt.Misery = Trail Running Tournament). Fittingly, that wraps up tonight as well so I’ll have less distractions going into the final phase of training before the Pichi Richi marathon. I’m getting excited that my next race is the Pichi Richi mara’. Finishing at Quorn it’s one I want to do well in so I’ll be applying all of my nous gained so far this year and in my life to ensure I have the best 2 and a bit of hours of running I am capable of. But again, that’s 3 weeks from now so I’ll have to be patient for now…

Listen to Yoda I must.

Thanks for reading through to the end of this week and post. If you’re enjoying this content, please subscribe so you can get any updates sent direct to you via email.

And like I said once before, if you’re not enjoying this content stop reading it and go do something else that is more productive to society. I enjoyed it when I said it before so thought I’d put it in again! Any feedback as to why you’re not enjoying it is also welcome too!

Also, thanks to my sponsors Snowys (the place I get my nice bright Orange shirt, gels and anything outdoors related) and Tarkine (the makers of my nice hat and road running/general training shoe). Get around them!

4 responses to “Mt.Misery and Mt.Abrupt in more ways than one”

  1. Craig McAuley Avatar
    Craig McAuley

    Frase, you have got me to a point where i look forward to your next post and your next post and the next. I’m excited for your next challenge at Pichi Richi and wish you all the best and look forward to reading your race analysis.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m in the same boat too, I’m almost starting to like writing the report as much as I like running the races!


  2. […] that stage. But that info came post race and in my mind I was being chased by someone who I beat at Mt.Misery and maybe he wanted to get one back over […]


  3. […] of winding down, it was good to chat with a few people after the race including Rob (of Mt. Misery and Mt. Abrupt fame) who was pumped after completing his 33km on the back of a 20km the day before and my Port […]


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