The fog became thicker and thicker as Dad I drove towards Lake Manchester for TRAQ’s 22km event. Having chosen my races for most of the year according to principle of “more vert = more fun”, I was heading into the race eager to test myself on a flatter course in preparation for Surf Coast Century (SSC) in September. As far as I was aware, the Lake Manchester course contained 7 bumps known as the “7 dwarves” (TRAQ seem to love creative names for all of the hills in their events) at the start and end of the race and the rest would be completely flat running around a lake. I was in for a pleasant surprise!
As soon as the gun went off I was in the lead and the course headed along a short grassy stretch before climbing up to the top of the dam wall. I already had a comfortable gap by this stage so focused on simply enjoying the run and not slacking off too much on the flat sections. It wasn’t long before hitting the 7 dwarves that consisted of a series of short but steep up and downs as the route continued along the lakeside fire trail. The flat stretch that followed led to the first creek crossing of the day and it was along this section that I realised just how much more comfortable I feel on an incline/decline. I simply feel that I just can’t turn my legs over quick enough to feel as though I am working as hard as on hill. Perhaps the feeling of “going too easy” will be welcomed at SSC but during a short 22km outing it can be a little frustrating (having said that, there are much worse things than feeling “easy” while running beside a beautiful lake!). Although there hadn’t been too much rain in the preceding week, there had been enough to create a couple of short muddy patches. There is something about my running technique that ensures that even just a little bit of mud on the course results in my back will be covered in flicked up mud!
Despite naively thinking that the rest of the course would be completely flat, the largest (though very gradual) climb of the day lead up to the start of, and begun to wind around, the clockwise loop through Brisbane Forest Park. This certainly eased any frustration I was having and the steeper downhill was a blast with the looser dirt with a few scattered rocks in between a welcomed change from the hard packed fire trails that had made up the course so far. At the bottom awaited the flatter terrain I had been expecting, as well as more mud and series of creek crossings in short succession.
Climbing towards the end of the loop, I knew I was close to return leg when I could hear voices and was suddenly greeting by the cheers of several other runners about to start the loop themselves. Their kind words of encouragement spurred me on to pick up the pace on the gradual descent (I guess there really is no excuse not to pick up the pace on such terrain!) before hitting the final creek crossing of the day (by this stage I had lost count of them!) and commencing the final stretch. The fog that had not yet lifted made for an eerie sight looking out across the lake.
I was checking my watch far too often, trying to work out how far I was from the finish. I remembered Caine mentioning he had set the course record at 1:4x and was going off that to judge how much longer I would take. I heard a fellow competitor describe those final hills as “Not being the 7 dwarfs, as all of them were Grumpy!” and they certainly had a little bit more sting in them the second time around. I thought I had heard at the race briefing that there would a marker at 3km from the finish but I could have sworn I should have passed it already! If there was one I must have missed it because the first marker I noticed was marked with 2km to go and I knew then that sub 1.40 was likely.
As I came around the final couple of hundred meters it was wonderful to be cheered on by all the kids who had taken part in the 5km event and were now lining the course. I crossed the line in a new course record of 1.39.04. My Dad came through a bit later in 16th place but after a short rest waiting for presentations, was off again on a long run home in preparation for the Glasshouse 100 miler on 7-8th September (he’s said that he just wants to finish a 100 miler before I do!). As is always the case at TRAQ events, it was great to chat to the many different runners as we waited around after the race. I’d like to say thank you to TRAQ and all the volunteers who make these fantastic events possible and I look to my next event with you!
Thank you to DreamSport Photography for the great pictures!