I woke and rose to a warm morning at 5.20am on Sunday 22nd of February so no jacket was required (pun intended), shirt, shorts, socks and runners would do. After a breakfast of 2 boiled eggs, a Banana and coffee I left the house to pick up Jeff, my friend and running partner just before 6.00am. The Warburton trail half marathon was due to start a 7.30am so this gave us plenty of time to make the 40 min drive and get to the start line. As it was we were being parked by volunteers around the oval some 500m from the start/finish line, 35 min after leaving Jeff’s place. The start/finish was the Warburton community oval in the shadows of the Warburton Ranges with a picture postcard vista spread before us. There were local businesses, coffee and food stalls setup around the boundary and through the centre of the oval. Even though still in full shadow from the Warburton Ranges it was warm the temperature was already in the mid 20’s (C) on a day with a forecast top of 38 Deg C (101F). A relaxed and carnival like atmosphere gave the prestart a fair like feel with competitors, supporters, and spectators mingling and enjoying themselves. Before we knew it the MC, with 15 min to start, asked for the competitors running the half to assemble at the start line. When we joined the throng we found ourselves, quite without realising it, near the front and it was as if we had all gathered for a chat and a laugh with the run being an incidental. The MC called out time markers, “10 min – 5 min” then when 1 min was called everyone was checking their watches and readying themselves but boy it was still very relaxed. It was as if the 120ish competitors were all friends, yes I said 120, gathering for a Sunday run.
Five, 4, 3, 2, 1…. we were away and after a lap of the oval we headed out into the main street of Warburton starting up hill almost immediately. It was a gentle rise but we had started the 400m (1,320 Ft.) of elevation gain we run before reaching the halfway turn around. I felt the pace was a little hot so I settled into running my own race running around a 6.00/Km pace with Jeff about 200m in front of me. About a Km in we turned right off of the main street with the sun still below the ranges. We were still running up hill, the gradient had increased a little but nothing that was of concern. The air was mild, not a breath of wind, the birds singing as we picked up and ran alongside the Yarra River and I was soaking it all in feeling privileged to be running is this wonderful county side. After following the river for about another Km the gradient began to increase then turning right we came upon the first aid station at the base of Mt. Donna Buang 1,285M (4,240Ft) and the climb was about to begin.
I took a cup of water walking for about 10m to insure I was able to drink it all and for the next 1½ Km we ran on bitumen before coming to a gravelled fire track at which time the gradient increased. I looked at my watch and there was just under 7 km to the turn around and my HR was 162 but I did not, as yet, feel laboured. There was an older guy who’s strategy was to walk/run he’d run for about 5 min the walk for about 2 and it seemed to be working for him. I’d catch and pass him while walking but he would the pass me when running. My HR 2Km into this 10-12% gradient climb was between 175-183 bpm, I was running on my own and if felt like I was stone motherless last. I relaxed my upper body and had Eric telling me on an endless loop in my head “the more you want it to finish the longer it will take”, so I focused on form and putting one step in front of the other. The track twisted its way up Mt. Donna Buang with the loose gravel and potted surface ensuring that concentration was needed not to slip. This actually helped me having something else to focus on other than my struggle against the gradient, a bonus was that we were not running in the sun as the temperature was already in the high 20’s. With 3 km to the turn around the front runners came flying past, 1st, 2nd and 3rd close together then 90 seconds or so to another group 5, another minute back came a group of about 20 runner’s with everyone else stretched out behind them. Jeff passed, high fiving me on the way down about a km and a half from the top as I continued up, up, up to the turn around. A runner on the way down said “you’re not far now, just around the bend” I didn’t quite believe him and I didn’t bother to look at my watch but sure enough there it was. Two volunteers, a table with cups of water and Hydrolyte and a 4 wheel drive vehicle completed the scene and I was spent. I took a cup of each and again walked to ensure I drank both of them, placed the cups in the bin and started down. The first thing I noticed was how loose the surface was and how easily my footing gave way if I did not concentrate so I ran a fast as I safely felt I could. The other thing that became evident was that I was far from last and as my confidence and/or concentration improved I was able increase my pace, using all of the track to navigate my way down. I pushed as hard as I could, I felt like I was flying and I was loving it, then there it was the track ended back to the bitumen and though still running downhill as the gradient had levelled out it felt like I was running on the flat.
At this point my legs were fatigued but I still pushed as much as I could and then I saw the first aid station, I’d done it I’d survived and the feeling of pride welled up inside of me made me smile. This was tempered however, as I passed a woman prostrated on the ground with dehydration in the hands of the medico’s and I was to come across another scene like this a little further on down the Rd.
At the aid station we turned right instead of left as the 5 and 10km competitors were streaming along the road and it would have been like a salmon trying to swim upstream to run in that direction. From now on I’d be running with others but I was fatigued, so I chatted with other runners, focused on the person in front, tried to not want it over. We turned left again into a park that I though was the oval but when I saw a sign saying 2km to the finish, the wave of fatigue that hit me stopped me in my tracks and I slowed to a walk. “Don’t stop now, keep going, your almost there” had little effect, my legs were like lead and I was mentally exhausted. I walked for about 200m then ran again, through a caravan park, back over a small bridge crossing the Yarra River, up one last rise then into the oval complex and the sights, sounds and smells of the finish. As soon as I came to the oval, Jeff and his family saw me and yelled encouragement, then after 1 last lap of the oval, there it was, the finish and over I went. Jeff came to me and we hugged, I received my finisher’s medal and I walked over to get some fluids, again Hydrolyte and water. While getting a drink I realised that I hadn’t stopped my watch and on stopping it I’d added just over 3 minutes.
I felt completely spent but very happy, and proud of what I had just achieved. By my watch I run just under 22km a little more than race distance and taking of the extra 3 and a bit minutes I’d gained after finishing, my time was 2:16.31. This made me even happier as the last half I’d run 2½ years ago, on an all but flat course, during the Melbourne Marathon festival, I ran 2:12.50. On top of this I had completed limited training in the lead up because of traveling for work with the longest training run I’d undertaken in 2 months previous being 10-11km.
Grabbing a banana and water we headed down to the Yarra to soak in the cold water where the photo that I posted last week was taken. Sitting in the river with 10 or so others Jeff and I started planning to come back again and run again next year and to, in a couple of weeks, run it again as a training run. Yes …… I’m hooked
Warburton Trail Half Marathon
My Placing 112
Jeff's Placing 39
Winning Time 1:16.15
My Time 2:16.31
Jeff's Time 1:46.46
Again, congratulations. Your time is amazing ! I'm aiming for anything under 3 hours for mine.