My last Running Wild event was the Kedumba Half late last year. They put on a great event and I was looking forward to my next one. When I first looked at signing up for the Wentworth Falls race I did a bit of searching around the web and found Brendan Davies great race report. That got me pretty excited!
Brendan’s words, as good as they are, simply cannot capture just how amazing the course really is. But more on that later.
A quick Weekly Recap
Before I get into the race report this is a quick recap of the week (in lieu of my normal recap). The Race would make it a 11 day training streak for me. Admittedly Saturday was an easy MTB ride with Ned down to Manly Dam but its on Strava so it counts! This week I managed a couple of commutes on my bike including a new PRs on both my main climbs of the day. Parriwi in the morning and up to 5th overall on Seaforth Hill in the afternoon.
I also decided to try lunch running in town for a change. This was kind of nice except on the first day I forgot my Garmin so run with my phone using the Strava app. This was my first time with the app and it worked OK but it seems as though it doesn’t use the built in barometric sensor in the Galaxy S5 and instead takes altitude from the GPS… which is less than accurate!
In other news, the Six Foot race reallocated the wave allocations. I had been in Wave 2 but with the reallocation I dropped to Wave 3. My qualifying time from the Southern Highlands Challenge 50k put my right on the cutoff between Waves 2 and 3. I had never considered at the time that the race would be my qualifying race (I ran the SHC purely to get into the Bogong to Hotham) and I find myself wishing I had squeezed out an extra minute. On the other had its possibly a good thing as I can confidently seed myself at the head of wave three and not get too caught up in traffic. No matter what I will undoubtably enjoy myself and maybe I can catch the tail of wave 2 (they start 10mins ahead) and know I am in for a great result!
And now the Race
I cannot say this enough, this race is spectacular. Spectacular in every conceivable way. Several times I just wanted to stop and soak up how amazing this place really is!
I left Sydney at about 4:45am for the drive up the mountains. Possibly a bit early for the 7:30 start but I am still figuring out exactly how long the drive takes and I was awake in any case. After quite a bit of fog heading up into the mountains the sky was just getting light as I arrived. The place was sparkling after a little rain overnight and clear crisp skies welcoming the new days sun.
Checkin went smoothly with the only issue being whether I was certain I wanted to be in Wave 1. “Will you be under 1:50?” I was asked. At around 15k that time should be easy but during the week I had scoured results from previous races and other runners Strava files and at least part of me was thinking more like 2hrs. “Sure sub 1:50 is fine” I responded. The profile gives some clues as to how tough the run really is.
Waiting for the start it was cold (for me) I was wearing one of my winter running jerseys and managed to find a patch of sun and went through my usual ritual of cycling my Garmin on and off. I don’t know why I do it but I get in this cycle of not caring about battery use and then deciding to save power for a few minutes. This usually happens 3 or 4 times in the half hour before a race.
For the race I was wearing my Running Wild singlet (paying homage to the organisers!), Gore tights, Injinji toe socks and Salomon S-lab XT5 shoes. My trusty red Inov-8 hat was on and I was carrying an Ultimate Direction handheld bottle which has a convenient pouch in it for gels etc. My plan is to use the handheld bottle in the Six Foot race. I chose the XT5 shoes for this race as I had read about the boardwalk sections of the course and knew my Salomon S-lab SG shoes would be less than ideal with their much larger lugs.
Th race starts in a park close to town centre of Wentworth Falls and continues down a mix of single track and timber boardwalk following a creek. It was important in the first filtering section through the park to get a good position because passing in the next couple of km’s was pretty much impossible. I did an OK job getting in a good position sitting on the back of the first main group and dropping the following group of runners. The leaders were of course well and truly off in the distance before long.
The only thing I don’t enjoy about bunch running on single track is inevitably I seem prone to roll my left ankle at some point as I seem to struggle to be able to see enough ahead to run with my natural stride (if you can call it that). The XT5’s are especially prone to rolling for some reason. As comfortable as they are for long runs, I think I prefer a lower profile. Interesting goal in picking my next pair of shoes.
Sure enough at about 1km I rolled my ankle. Shook it of and kept going. Not long after, trying to play it safe with my steps, my feet slid out from under me on a bend in the boardwalk. A combination of the rain overnight and earlier runners had created quite a slick. We had dropped the group behind at this point and I was straight back up and on the tail of the runner ahead like it had never happened.
At about 2.5k the course turned left and crossed the creek (I got one foot wet and kept one foot dry!) before a long steady climb up an old firetrail (more like 2 parallel single tracks!). This enabled everyone to clear into their own space. I picked up a few of spots on the climb and maybe was passed one other. The course then turned and headed back down slowly at first before suddenly plunging down stairs cut into the escarpment. We were now in a zone where, put simply, you could quite easily slip and die! This is trail running at its best!
I descended like a bit of a chicken and let a couple of runners through, the second one promising I will pass him immediately once the course turns back up. At the bottom of the stairs we were now running along with the cliffs on our right. The course itself cut basically halfway up the escarpment at times almost like an open sided tunnel with 100m of clear vertical above and below. At other times the course passed amazing waterfalls (all flowing really well thanks to the rain) and rainforest valleys.
Running along this section I passed a walker who told me I was 21st.
What goes down must come up and it was now time for the stairs. Sure enough I passed both runners almost immediately. I was in the top 20!
As the stairs kept on going and going another runner caught up from behind and after a few hundred meters finally passed.
After an eternity the stairs ended and I got back to running. I was quite pleased I was able to get back into a good comfortable rhythm. I passed through the 10k aid station without stopping and entered a mad section of rutted out trail and exposed roots. More trail running at its best!
Before long I was being directed by marshals back onto some boardwalk. This was the same track we had run down at the start. The run had gone all to quickly! Frustratingly another runner approached from behind and was on a charge. I let him pass about 1k from the finish.
My finish was about 1hr 46min. At a guess I came 22nd (results aren’t out as I write this). I am very pleased with the result and the only lesson… need to spend more time going up and down stairs. yuk!
I can’t say enough good things about this race. The course has everything you could want in a trail run. Running Wild are brilliant organisers and the course marking was fantastic with marshals in all the right places and giving great instructions.
I can’t wait to go back to Wentworth Falls for some walks and really check the place out!
(Photos of me are bought from Geosnaphot, Other pics are from Running Wilds Facebook page.)