Today I ran "The 37th Great Train Race", against the steam train Puffing Billy in showery but mild conditions.
The family dropped me off at Belgrave about 30 min before the start to a carnival atmosphere, the MC was doing his best to get the crowd up, music was blaring and the mood was great.
I wandered up to the bag drop off area and deposited my bag before loosely joining the area where I was seeded hanging out soaking it all in. Then with about 10 minutes to the start time we were called to form up and move forward. The MC then called over the train driver giving him some stick which the crowed lapped up in good fun. The race rules and directions were communicated before the national anthem was sung and a final 10,9,8 ..... before we were away.
The race has just over 380M (1,290 feet) of gain through the Dandenong Ranges over a distance 13.5km. Its a varied course on both bitumen road, loose dirt road and track.
The first Km of the race is down hill and you can get carried away and go out like a startled gazelle before you approach the first long hill that catches lots of people out. About 15 minutes in it started to lightly rain which persisted for another 15 min or so but it was not to be seen again though it rained more heavily at the finish area.
I ran the first 6km at a good pace and to my complete and utter surprise I beat the second train to Menzies creek but only just. I was the last person the attendants at the train crossing to let through before it was closed for the train to pass. Boy it was great to hear the sound of the trains whistle knowing you were ahead of it, just mind you but still ahead. It was about now that I started to be come aware of a painful blister on the side of my left big toe. I found out later after finishing that a seam in the toe box of the sock had caused a blister the size of a 5 cent peace. Feeling great that I had beaten the second train for the very first time ever, I pushed as hard as I could with a troublesome toe giving me more and more grief.
As I approached Clematis running a steep up hill section I could hear the train whistle echoing through the valley not being exactly sure of exactly where it was I pushed hopping against hope that I wasn't too far behind. I thought to myself at least I can hang my hat on the fact that I'd beaten the second train to Menzies Creek. The road to Clematis and the next train crossing seemed to be less steep than I remembered but maybe I was basking in the glory of beating the train and not thinking about the hill I was running. Then to my great surprise as I ran towards the Clematis station I heard the train and it was just behind us, one of the volunteers said your just in front, and I mean just in front. A hundred meters past the station the train came through and past me it went but boy oh boy how good is this how good it felt.
I continued to pushed as hard as I could over the last 5km with the final hill being just before you enter Emerald station. This is followed by a flattish section before a 1.5 km down hill section into the Emerald Lake Park where the finish is. Unfortunately the blister on my left big toe was making running down hill very uncomfortable but I pressed as hard as I could. It was almost a relief when the track kicks uphill again over the last 500m as my shoe wasn't pressing on the blasted blister as much.
As a result I finished in 1:25.09 still passing countless people despite my bloody blister in the last km & a half. When I crossed the finish line and looked at my watch I couldn't quite believe it at first, but there it was 1:25.09 and it felt amazing.
About 150m from the finish I saw the family yelling support for me as I ran past and on to the finish line. The adrenalin had kicked in and over the final 200m I didn't feel the blister at all but once through the finishing Kite and walking I was hobbling so bad it took forever to walk the 200m or so to pick up my gear and then walk to meet the family. We walked to the coffee shop where we had a coffee and I devoured a egg and bacon roll before changing into dry clothes.
I'm very happy with my race and the fact I beat the second train all the way to Clematis is incredible, in fact I said to my wife as we were driving in I had a feeling I'd run well, and well I did indeed run.
Right on, choo choo for a big 1:25:09. Congrats and thanks for charing your great story.