“How good was that!” was locked in my mind as I headed home after the Sydney Trail Series 20k at Kurnell.
Where trail running is becoming increasingly focused on big climbs and descents, the Kurnell course heads in the exact opposite direction. The course is flat, flowing, fast… And fun! Like maple syrup on a pancake.
It was just what I needed seven days after Sydney marathon, and less than 2 weeks before the Hounslow Classic.
Maybe a flat 20k isn’t the wisest prep 2 weeks before a big, max vertical, race but the reality is (weak self justification follows!):
- I am definitely under the line in terms of preparation so I am more winding up than tapering down.
- Back to back lead in races work well for me (eg Buffalo/Mt Solitary built to UTA100).
- It’s all about fun. Sydney marathon proved that going out and enjoying myself yields better result than going hard to chase a goal. If I go into Houslow too serious I will inevitably cook myself in the first 20k like last year (albeit I was sick). Fun = finish.
At least these are my theories. My legs still have plenty of residual conditioning from my UTA100 and Lavaredo, so I am feeling pretty confident about a good (but not fast) Hounslow.
But back to Kurnell. Overnight rain had fallen, but it stopped abruptly five minutes before the 7am start. The racecourse starts inside Botany Bay, with a 4k out and back along the beach, before heading across the headland to the oceanside and proceeding south along the rock-shelf. It turns on itself at 11.5 k and we head back to the start. It actually works out to be about 18.5k, but this is trail running, so who cares?
At the start I managed to slot straight back into my stride from last week (only my legs were pretty tired) and knocked out a few solid k’s on the flat beachfront. There were some speedsters in the field – I exited the beach in about 13th, with 2 other guys and the leading female a few meters behind.
Almost symbolically, my running mode changed gears the instant I hit the trails. This was good because this is what will be needed in the next few weeks. I let the other guys go, and after another few k’s I was passed by the lead female. From this point, I held my position comfortably rest of the way.
The challenges on the seaside were definitely varied and provided heaps of fun. Running on the rockshelf, trying to navigate an efficient route through the undulations, through rockpools and hoping they weren’t ankle breaking holes, along winding singletrack, over the solitary sandy climb with fun bounding descent, and the muddy shoegrabbing bogs were all good.
I did get briefly lost in a huge muddy pond on the way back. One moment there were clear footsteps to follow and then there were none. I must admit I got a little dejected as I waded along. For a moment I thought I had wasted a really good effort, but suddenly I emerged from the scrub, saw some course markings and the short course runners on their outbound leg. One of the guys who had been ahead of me also appeared at the same moment, asked if I was in the 20k, and said he had also lost the track. At which point we started running again for the final few k’s to the finish. I decided not to contest the place with him as I just wasn’t sure if I had massively cut the course or he had simply been more lost than I was.
My official time was 1:34:27 and I was the 15th male (16th overall, 9th in the 30-39 AG).
The STS organisers are getting pretty slick at running these events now and the whole event went really smoothly (apart from my little detour). I am looking forward to the next round of the series back on my home trails at Manly Dam.