Compare the Pair: Melrose 50km Race Report

And we’re back to regular programming folks, enough of this skiing tomfoolery or holidays business, it’s time for outdoor ed work and trail ultras. Cracking off the second half of the year’s racing schedule was yesterday’s jaunt from Mambray to Melrose. 50km long, 2400m or so of elevation gain and once again a race that I chose to enter because of my strong connection to the area. I’ve bush walked along the exact trails the race was held on at least once a year since 2010 and even completed my own mini-ultra along the course in 2020 before the race was even a thing (read why here).

Course Map and Elevation Profile. More info at the Adelaide Trail Runners website here.

Rather than walk you through how it all played out and what led to the event instead, let’s put the magnifying glass on what was different in my preparation for the first ultra of the second half of my year compared to the first ultra of my year, Five Peaks.

Difference No.1: Goals. For Five Peaks, my goals were to stay as aerobic as possible and not get sucked into a fast race, maintain good nutrition habits and I had three different time goals in mind. This time, I kept it very simple and my goals were to stay relaxed, have fun and get a good training effect. No real mention of time or pace and basically a very care-free approach. I still cared about my involvement but more so from the angle of ‘it’s great to have the opportunity to run a race where the bus drop-off to the start is organised and with other runners around, I’ll be kept honest enough with my pace.’ The training effect I was after was to run the first 25km, the most runnable section of the course, kind of fast for a proper ‘long run-aerobic effect’ and then to not damage myself too much on the hills in the back half so I could recover quickly for my next few races. A ‘do just enough’ type approach. At the end of the race I was very happy with how relaxed I stayed, happy with how I had fun along the way (thanks to some good music in the middle stages) and got some good training in. Only negative was I probably hadn’t been doing enough pounding on the hills and my legs felt a bit more cooked than I hoped for.

Difference No.2 Nutrition. I feel like I never stop learning about nutrition. I doubled my carbohydrate intake (60g per hour, equivalent to 1 gel and 1 honey sandwich) this race and water consumption compared to Five Peaks and felt pretty good the whole way through up until the last twenty minutes. The thought of eating a sixth gel was not appetising at that stage and is something to consider for when I go for the Heysen 115km in October. The other nutritional difference in this race was the pre-race carb load. Historically I’ve done the carb load that every runner loves by just eating more throughout the last few days and tailoring it to more oats with peanut butter or more wraps with whatever goes in them too. Bit of a rookie mistake there though because a better strategy I’ve since found out is to instead eat as many carbs as possible at the expense of fats in your usually daily habits. So what this looked like for this race is instead of Pesto Pasta with lots of cheese and olive oil mixed through, I was eating just plain pasta with a bit of tomato paste. Or just plain white bread or plain oats with no peanut butter. Did it work better this way? Yeah I reckon it did, amazing what happens when you trust science… I didn’t feel heavy and sluggish to start the race as I have in the past and I didn’t experience any stomach issues along the way which can sometimes be caused by eating food with too higher fat content (i.e. eating too much peanut butter).

During the race I smashed two of these chocolate bad boys, three lemon/lime gels, three honey sandwiches, two Powerades (600mL each), and 2L of high quality H20.

Difference No.3 Training. Obviously a major difference between my Five Peaks and Melrose races is the volume of training before each race. All the training I have done since February is just layering on top of each other, like creating one massive Lasagne. The quality of my training, the quality of the bolognese mix in between the Lasagne sheets, has also changed in the second half of my year. In these last two weeks I have focused more on running more purposeful interval sessions and less easy rolling trail runs and I believe my race benefited from this. I felt that those easy trail runs were good for preparing my body to handle a high running load but I’d cop out pretty easily when it came time to run them fast and get any sort of cardiovascular response going. In short, I was plodding along too much in training. By working a bit harder and faster a couple of times a week more in the recent month it meant on race day at Melrose, I was very comfortable in ‘cruise mode’ and never felt like I had to get out of third gear with my breathing/heart rate which was nice. However, this benefit came at the expense of my legs maybe not being as conditioned as well as before to the pounding of trail running but it didn’t impact me negatively performance wise too much. The exciting thing to look forward to, say next year, is being able to reflect on what a few more layers of Lasagne sheets and bolognese mix will produce results wise…

Race Fast Facts and Highlights:

  • I led from start to finish, no-one even went with me with for the first 100m so it felt like I was out there by myself for a lot of it until I came across runners in the 30km event which was nice.
  • I won in 4hrs 38 min, 27minutes ahead of second place. When I finished I surprised the people at the finish line by being there so soon that it was a pretty anticlimatic finish. The Race Director, in an apologetic tone mind you, even felt he had to ask me if I had done the whole 50km…
  • The elevation gain of 2400m was more than the Alpine Challenge (60km) and Five Peaks as well. It’s also more elevation gain than in the whole Heysen 115km. So, as a race, this is a pretty nasty one to try to run fast so I’m glad it’s actually my quickest ultra for the year!
  • Got chatting to a guy on the bus to the start in the morning and him and his family became my own personal cheer squad at the presentations which was very nice! He finished the race, his first ultra, in 6.5 hrs too which was bloody good for his first one!
Massive crowd at the finish line!

Wrap-up:

So in the end, I was pretty happy with how my run played out and a good way I know that’s true is because there’s nothing major I would’ve done differently in hindsight. There’s always little things to work on, I am nowhere near a master of trail ultras, but it’s promising to have results that show I’m on the right track to one day feeling very ‘mastery’… From here, I’ll be trying to keep my focus on my training pretty high for another couple of weeks including another short 20km trail race at Sturt Gorge next weekend plus some bushwalking work (I’m actually walking from Melrose back to Mambray this week by coincidence) before I taper things down to peak at the Adelaide Marathon (which I’ll enter provided I recover well from this Melrose race!). As always thanks to Snowys and Tarkine for helping me out with these races through providing me with some gels, shoes, clothes and helping out with my entry fee. If you want some quick laughs too, check out Snowys TikTok account for some content I’ve provided to them showing that there’s a bit of they scratch my back and I scratch their back going on which I like! Or, head to Tarkine and check out my name being mentioned on their Sponsored Athlete page…very fancy…Thanks for reading!

3 responses to “Compare the Pair: Melrose 50km Race Report”

  1. Great work Frase, Apart from my normal comments which are still valid for this race summary i have 2 new comments.
    1. For some reason after reading this, i feel hungry and only some lasagna could satisfy that feeling.
    2. I can’t unsee the pic of your bloody toes 🙂

    Until next race update!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. […] (Gladstone, SA, not QLD…) in the Mount Remarkable National Park area basically along the course of last week’s Melrose 50km race. Couple of extra little doozies though to keep things interesting […]

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  3. […] Willunga mate Brad and his son Chase who’d done the 10km (Brad was the guy I mentioned in my Melrose report). Chatting with both of these guys made me realise how proud I was of myself, because that’s what […]

    Like

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