Ahhh yes, another weekend another Trail Running SA Series Race Report. A month ago I wrapped up the series with a win at Mt.Crawford. Between now and then I had an adventure on the Heysen Trail with Chad (SSSFFF) and was trying to focus in on the Heysen 115km race in mid-late October. The last race of the TRSA series, the Devils Nose 25km, was on my radar but more so in my peripheral vision side of my radar. Driving down to Adelaide, and then out to Para Wirra, isn’t cheap just to do a race that I’m not sure would improve my chances at the Heysen 115km anymore than a normal Sunday long run so I had to convince myself it was worth it…
Hand 1: Stay in Quorn, save some diesel money, stay in your good routine you had developed since the SSSFFF and stay relaxed. Even hang out with a mate who was staying at my house on the weekend.
On the Other Hand, Hand 2: Go to Adelaide, get some supplies for a few small jobs around Huia Park, do a Parkrun time trial, utilise the race as an easy way to get motivated for a good fast Sunday long run, check out some of the course for the Heysen too, soak up some Adelaide spring time weather.
Hand 2 won out in the end. There was just too many little ways of making it seem worth it to resist.
Testing out the effect of my latest training block was one of the bigger ways of making the trip worth it. My watch and I have been getting more used to each other and the data I’m beginning to analyse from it has, as I suspected, really improved the quality of my training. The consistency was always there but now the amount of quality sessions and long runs and even good sensible recovery runs I’ve been doing has been improved. Over the last two weeks I’ve finally had the two weeks of training I’ve craved for all year (not working helps too) and have smashed an average of 178km per week, with 3 interval sessions and 2 good long runs. That’s the type training I want to hold over a 6-10 week block at times throughout next year. That stuff is like pure gold bars in the Bank of Training.
So yeah, I wanted to see if some of those interval sessions had picked up my speed and would translate to a faster Parkrun time. The results were not conclusive on Saturday but an optimistic way of looking at it would say yes. I did not freshen up for this weekends worth of running so to pull off a 16:04 time on tired legs was good and was the quickest pre-TRSA race time I’ve had all year and equalled my PB this year so that was good but not great. It was very a busy Parkrun and a couple of occasions I had to slow down to get through the crowd, more so than usual, so to still scrape home with 16:04 is nice. But if I was really fit, I’d still be getting in around 15:30-15:50 anyway which is where I want to be. On that Parkrun course that has me flying around at just over 3:00/km’s (compensating for loss of time in the turnarounds) and that speed is fast and fun! More work is to be done on improving my speed and hopefully I’ll make time for that when I’m not doing any long races in November/December.
Let’s get to the main event though. The Devils Nose 25km. New course for me but not entirely new area. At school I participated in these 100km relay races where a group of 5 students ran 5km’s at a time to complete, yep you guessed it, 100km from Oakbank in the Adelaide Hills, through Birdwood, Williamstown, Para Wirra and into Banksia Park. These days were the absolute best days of my school year hands down. Driving out to Para Wirra on Sunday morning afforded me the opportunity to reflect on some of these memories which was a good way to build some psych.
Another psych building element was the fact that I was in a position where, having won all 3 prior races in this years series, I could go 4 out 4 and complete the TRSA equivalent of the Grand Slam (no-one else would’ve cared but me about this to be honest). Being in this position makes me appreciate how bloody hard it would be to be a Djokokic or Nadal or Federer in their prime when everyone expects you to win and keep your streak going and to actually keep pulling wins out of the bag even on days when you’re not doing too good. This thought was in my mind as I warmed up around the course. I hadn’t tapered at all for this race, my shins were starting to get sore and my stomach didn’t feel too flash either but I had made the effort to come down for this race so I bloody well had to give it a good go. Think of the training effect!
Off we went at the start, like the proverbial bat out of hell. The Race Director advised of a fast start and I took his instructions and logged a 3:10/km on the downhill fire track. Every race I start I worry if some unknown bloke is just going to appear and take off from the front and beat me at my own game. But when the race starts this narrative never eventuates and I relax after a minute or two when the status quo is returned. After a few km’s in I had settled even more and was going ok. I wasn’t trying to break any records with this race but just wanted a good decent hit out. Going through the first drink station I couldn’t see anyone behind me so thought I had a good 20 second lead. That assumption was either incorrect or the chasing pack sped up in the next section because when I looked back a km or so later, I had company! I don’t think I’ve had a race this year where my gap has gotten smaller throughout the race so this was unnerving. I played it cool and kept my head down but found it hard to go fast on the dicky little singletrails littered with rocks, creeks and overhanging bushes. A machete would’ve been helpful at times.
I continued in this slightly spooked headspace for a few more km’s. Coming over the top of the actual Devils Nose I began to relax as there was some fire track to open up the legs on. I knew I couldn’t be caught on any fire tracks due to my superior road speed so I had to make the most of them. Off I went, blasting away on them, had my music on now too to keep my mind occupied. My shins weren’t feeling too bad so that was good as well. My stomach was kind of iffy but not too bad. The worst was yet to come.
Coming through the 15/16km mark the course dropped into some very soggy single track. Slowing down, stomping through puddles and cautiously running along muddy sections was the nature of the game which was a little frustrating. Your vision on sections like this is always 2-3m in front of you as you’re assessing where the best section of Earth to stand on is. While your brain’s processing the future, your body’s in the present. I was reminded on this when I went whooska on some slippery mud and my left leg landed smack bang on a stick right across where my fibula is. It fucking hurt. To the point where when I got up to run, my body didn’t want to run and it was doing that very awkward limping thing where the body is clearly trying to protect itself by not properly working. This was not good. My instant reaction was, ‘this is a first, I’ve never been injured in a race‘. That slowly turned to, ‘shit what if this is really bad and I’ve screwed myself for the Heysen 115km’. Then it was ‘shit, what do I say if I lose this race because I fell over. That’s fucking embarrasing’. You can see that I was not approaching the situation with calm rational thoughts. I didn’t want to accept any of those outcomes so went full Dermott Brereton and got myself running (1989 Grand Final, Brereton gets his ribs broken in the opening minute and plays on anyway). The song I had on at the time was ‘Free your Body, Free your Mind’ which has lyrics emphasising your ability to essentially let go of what you think is possible and just live. A timely song if there ever was one as I had to believe my leg was ok and get myself back in the game. The lead I had built up to this point held me in good stead as I was not caught while I limped around. By the time I was back to full running speed I was back on a fire track and there was no fucking way I was losing now.
Running off anger and pain is pretty fun and gave me something to focus on as I pounded away on some really nice fire tracks. My stomach was beginning to turn a bit on me to add to my calamities but this just hardened my resolve to get this thing done. Song two of the day to get the fire really going in my mind was ‘Holiday in Cambodia’ by the Dead Kennedy’s. Most of the other races I had done this year have been fairly straightforward, run fast, come first or second. This one was much closer to a Holiday in Cambodia feel. It was not pleasant, it was hard, it was muddy and I had a bad case of gastro like symptoms going on. Yep, if this was a normal run I would’ve parked up beside a tree for a bit to relive my discomfort but this was a race goddamit so I had to suck it up.
Coming through the last couple of km’s I knew I had a good lead on me still so as long as I didn’t fall over again or have my stomach explode I was going to escape with a win. The last km in particular was a windy single-track that I had checked out for my warm up so when I hit this I really started to relax and enjoy those few minutes of quietness before the hullabaloo of the finish line. Crossing the line in 1st place, 4 minutes ahead of second, I had completed my mini Grand Slam but more importantly won the war against my body. The full injury report was: sore left leg, right nipple chafing, stomach digestion issues that resulted in stuff you mightn’t want to know about and sore shins. Good to battle a bit of adversity and still win but it doesn’t make for an enjoyable race.
To end my day on a more positive note I went climbing with friend of the Blog, Brodie out at Morialta which was very pleasant and took my mind away from the morning’s sufferings. It was also another box ticked in the reason I ventured down to Adelaide so that was good too.
From here, I’ve made all the deposits I can into the Bank of Training before the Heysen 115km. I can blow things up for myself by continuing to get some last minute investments in or I can just let compound interest take effect before I withdraw the balance of the account in two weeks time. I’ll be smoothing off the rough edges of my body, getting some course research in, plenty of stretching and still plenty of running but just easy running mostly. It’s very exciting to be able to finally look forward and see the next race on the calendar is the big one of the year. As opposed to the TRSA races where it can feel a bit like groundhog day, I am excited for the new challenge of going 70+ km’s in the one day. There are no expectation in my mind of going out for the win, feeling pressure to perform or anything which is refreshing. Sure, I’d like to do well and would like to beat anyone who I’ve already beaten in shorter races but I also know that you would never expect Usain Bolt to step up to the 800m at the Olympics and win first shot so I shouldn’t expect that of myself either.
Thanks for reading, thanks to my supporters (Tarkine and Snowys) and thanks to Mum and Dad too for building a new kitchenette downstairs so I can eat my breakfast without waking them up while I’m at my Eden Hills Residence…All those little things count…