- Location: Flinders Peak, You Yangs, Victoria, Australia
- TIme: 04:57:03
- Overall Place: 1/9
- Full Results
When it comes to New Years celebrations some like to party, some like to have a BBQ, some like the beach, me however I like to run. To celebrate the end of 2019 and the start to 2020 I along with two mates entered the You Yangs’s New Years Eve Rock Around the Clock trail running event, held by Trails+. There was 6 races to choose from a 5 km, 10 km, 21 km, 42 km, 50 km and 6 hour, I entered the 50 km and my two mates entered their first 42 km marathon distance races. The event was held at You Yangs Regional Park and us the runners would be circumnavigating Flinders Peak via a 5 km loop, the loop runs along a combinations fire trails and single trails with non-stop, steep ups and downs. As I was doing the 50 km 10 loops had to be completed and for my mates who were doing the marathon distance 8 laps had to be completed with one of those laps being extended an additional 2.2 km to make the full marathon distance.
The event was held in the afternoon and continued through the night, starting off with the 50 km at 3pm followed by the marathon at 4pm, the 6 hour and 5 km at 5pm, the 10 km at 6pm and lastly the 21 km at 7pm. The cut-off for all races was 11:30pm so everyone had plenty of time to finish. As I was doing the 50 km my start was at 3. We arrived about an hour early and my first impression of the course and area of the You Yangs Regional Park was dry, rocky and quite warm with a great view. As this was a rather low key event everything was still being set up as we arrived but it was all on track for a great run.
At 2:45 pm all 50 km competitors were called for a rather simple race briefing on the course, it was a straight forward course that was very easy to follow so the briefing was over in about 10 minutes. Then at 3 pm we set off. There was only 9 50 km starters and for the first time ever I found myself in the lead. Although there was only 9 of us I’m not going to lie it made me feel good. Quickly I entered the runner high, I felt good almost instantly for some weird reason this prompted me for the first time ever in a race to play music, and not just through earbuds but on speaker, Logics Bobby Tarantino II mixtape was my music of choice. This combination of being out front, playing music, having my mates with me and running a course that was easy to follow made the run the most enjoyable ultramarathon I’ve ever run. The course though was pretty difficult, there wasn’t a lot of flats, it was constant ups and downs, some of which were very steep however it was all runnable, I never had to walk once during the race. According to my watch for the 50 km the elevation profile was 1,526 m of ascent and 1,550 m descent.
The course overall though was great, about half of it was fire trail with the other half being a single trail that takes you along the saddle of the mountain. Running on the saddle offered fantastic views and this combined with the variation of single trail and fire trail really broke up the monotony of running. Surprisingly I also enjoyed running the same 5 km loop over and over again for 10 laps, I think because of the variation of the course. When it came to performance running the same loop over and over again was beneficial. This is because it allowed me to plan when to drink and when to get in some calories, for example before a steep climb. Also having the same aid station every 5 km (at the start/finish line) allowed me to create patterns which kept me hydrated and energised. I refilled my 500 ml soft flask with electrolytes after every second lap and every lap I didn’t refill the flask with electrolytes I refilled it with water, so I was able to make sure to drink 500 ml of liquids every lap. As a result I kept well hydrated even with the sunny and warm conditions. I also made sure I had a couple pieces of fruit cake and watermelon every third lap, this combined with the lollies I carried on me led me to never bonking. This was my first ultramarathon were I didn’t bonk. I felt great until lap 6, from there I started struggling a bit, especially with the steep hills. However I was winning and was somehow maintaining the lead and it even looked like I had a chance of subbing 5 hours (a challenge the race director Brett Saxon set us). I knew it would be difficult though and if I was to sub 5 hours I would have to dig deep and push the pace. So that’s what I did or tried to do, with only 4 laps to go I felt I had the energy to push harder so I could at least maintain my pace. However although I was pushing harder I was losing speed and by my eighth lap my legs really started aching, to the point where walking down the steep downhills was very appealing. These steep downhills on the saddle where so steep and made me gain so much speed that it upset my stomach and made me out of breath. I actually started to grunt as I ran down. But down I went, and before I knew it I was on my last 5 km loop. I had 32 minutes and 57 seconds to sub 5 hours, my previous lap was my slowest at 33:03 so if I was to go this speed or slower I wouldn’t sub 5 hours so I knew I really had to find some reserves. Knowing this I made my last stop at the aid station and neglected my established patterns in an attempt to get an energy boost, instead of refilling my flask for the lap I stuffed down some fruit cake, electrolytes, lollies and watermelon whilst at the aid station to hopefully give me a sugar hit for the last loop. It hurt, it really hurt I was making my tired legs go faster, it felt like my thighs were being continuously punched over and over again. I just wanted to stop, I was also just tired and fatigued overall by this stage like I felt like I was about to bonk but that sub 5 hours was within my grasp and I wouldn’t let it go. When I came across the hills instead of anticipating to slow down, quicken my stride rate and lessen the load on my legs (like you would a bike when changing to an easier gear) I pushed harder like I was running on a flat trail. I went faster but the lactic acid was intense. Eventually I hit the steep down hills which really hurt, I was running down half out of control as my fatigued legs tried to keep up the stride turnover rate required to prevent me from falling on my face. Once down I took a breath and prepared for the final push up the saddle. I didn’t want to look at my watch out of fear from the disappointment of not subbing 5 hours or from the chance that I may become complacent if I was on track to make it. All I knew was I was definitley going faster than I had the past couple laps, I was passing quite a few other runners who were participating in the other events. As I made to the top of the saddle and onto the flat part of the course I knew it was really time to put on the after burners, I took off as fast as I could, pushing and pushing. Then it happened, I finished with a time 04:57:03. My last loop was 3 minutes quicker than my previous one and it was the quickest since lap 6. Not only had I subbed 5 hours but I’d won my first ultramarathon. Sure it was a low key event with only a total of 9 50 km participants and 192 participants across all 6 events but a win was a win and I ran my best ultramarathon ever, no bonking, no problems only the expected fatigue and soreness.
This wasn’t the end of night though my two mates were still running their first marathons and at this stage both were struggling but determined. I felt obliged to help them in anyway to finish, the trail running community is fantastic in this way, everyone wants everyone to finish. So I walked/ran with them as they got to the finish line. I’m not going to lie it wasn’t easy for me adding in an extra two laps but as the other two were digging deep to finish I was inspired to see there grit and determination to finish. Both being too stubborn to quit in fear the other would finish. So I sucked up my little struggle and encouraged them the best I could, not that they really needed me though. Either way they both finished.
Thank you Brett Saxon and Trails+ for putting on such a great event as usual. Brett and Trails+ always manage to find the best volunteers and staff who are the heart and souls of these ultra running events. The course was fantastic and so was all the participants. The aid station set-up was also great and had everything you needed but nothing you didn’t. The You Yangs Regional Park is a unique place to run and offers spectacular views, especially for New Years Eve. We didn’t stay but if you did I’d imagine the firework display of both Melbourne & Geelong would be a site to see.