Two Bays Trail Run – 56km 2020 Report

Two Bays Trail Run: Pre-Race For 56 km Ultra @ Cape Schank
  • Location: Two Bays Walking Track, Victoria, Australia
  • Time: 05:09:36
  • Overall Place: 28/393
  • Full Results

After my best ever performance for an ultra at the New Year’s Eve Rock Around the Clock 50 km with a time of 04:57:03 I was psyched to see what I could do next. Next being the Two bays 56 km Trail Run. Although it hadn’t even been two weeks since the New Year’s Eve Rock Around the Clock 50 km my body felt pretty good, I’d recovered well. After that performance and finishing my fifth ultra I finally felt like I could try pushing my limits and not worry about just finishing. With that in mind I set myself an ambitious goal, sub 5 hours and 30 minutes and place top 50 at the Two Bays 56 km. After looking through past results it seemed to me that the Two Bays Trail Run usually had a competitive field. The event itself looked to be one of the biggest and most reputable trail/ ultra runs in Victoria so placing top 50 was ambitious. With that in mind I told myself that although I had a specific goal I’d be happy just finishing.

The Two Bays 56 km Trail Run is an out and back course that runs along the Two Bays Walking Track between Dromana and Cape Schank. Besides starting at one bay and finishing at another the walking track is well known due to views during the steep climb over Arthurs Seat. 2020 was a special year for the Two Bays Trail Run, it was the tenth legal anniversary or in simpler terms tenth offical anniversary, the event has actually been taking place unofficially since 2005. As if the weather gods knew this the running conditions couldn’t of been better. The morning was cool and as the day went on it never got hot, it stayed consistently moderate. At times it drizzled with a light breeze and then at other times the sun was out. But the temperature was consistently around 15-20 degrees Celsius which in my opinion is perfect running conditions.

Starting time was 7:10am Sunday morning and I was happy to be driven to the starting area which was at the lighthouse at Cape Schank by my mum, it was nice to not have to drive myself so thanks mum. We got there at about 6:30am and there was already a lot of runners up and about. This was when I knew the race was going to be pretty packed however it wasn’t until 7am until I realised how packed it really was, 393 of us were huddled around the start area. When it was time to start lining up it’d be an understatement to say it was crowded. I’ll be honest, it was a beautiful mess, if you were in the middle or at the back of the pack you wouldn’t be running, it was too crowded.

After a couple minutes of anxiously waiting amongst the crowd of competitors the horns finally went off, it was 7:10am which meant go time. I was in the middle of the pack and for the first 5 km’s I was constantly stuck behind someone. The trail was narrow and it had to accommodate the large crowd, this lead to queues. Whenever I saw an opening I sprinted past the person in front, it took a bit of energy out of me. It was a good learning experience, if I want to be more competitive in these races I need to better position myself at the starting line. What annoyed me more than it should have though was a comment from a couple of blokes who I ran past. As I ran past I heard them say something along the lines of “it’s funny all these people trying to go fast at the start, we’ll see them later”, I then fell over as I stumbled on a root and they said “maybe sooner rather than later”. I wanted to turn around and give them my two cents but thought better of it. But how do they know someones experience level when it comes to ultramarathons? Why do they feel the need to indirectly put someone down who’s just trying to give the race a real crack? This type of arrogance really gets to me and I was happy I never “saw them later”. I was just trying to get ahead so I could run my own race at my own pace, not being stuck behind others. Anyway eventually I was able to start running at my own pace, pretty much once I passed Boneo Road. This also marked the end of the coastal part of the trail and was about 6 km in. Once at my own pace I really started to get into rhythm, I felt good both physically and mentally. I’m starting to notice the more of these races I run the better I get at staying in the moment and not worrying about what’s ahead. A lot of this has to do with running your own race and understanding that you’re going to have highs and lows and eventually you’ll finish. With this in mind the km’s flew by; 10 km turned to 12 km which then turned to 18. It helped that the Two Bays Walking Track (The Trail the race took place on) was pretty diverse. At times we were running on the coastal track, then we’d be running amongst The Australian bush with kangaroos and gumtrees, then we’d be running on dirt roads and across asphalt. There was no part of the trail that felt like it was the same thing for too long. There was also plenty of amazing, cheerful supporters and volunteers which made the experience more enjoyable and less tedious. In addition to this at around the 17 km mark we started passing the 28 km runners who were coming from Dromana and finishing at Cape Schank this also helped to make the running less tedious.

I was at the 18 km mark and so far the trail had been pretty flat, we’d had a few ups and downs but nothing steep, this made for some great running. However once we passed Brown’s Road at around the 18 km mark we did start getting some steep hills which in hindsight were nothing compared to the big one which was coming up, Arthurs Seat. At 19 km I was still feeling good, I’d been keeping my energy levels up by eating a couple Coke flavoured Frog lollies every half hour or so as well as keeping hydrated by taking sips from my camelback. I was also still passing people, which always helps with the ego and mood. I knew I was top 100 at this point and hoped for top 50, I was also on track to to sub 5 hours and 30 minutes. With this in the back of my head a little bit of anxiety crept in because I was afraid I could easily lose places and time if I started slowing down later on. I’d worked hard to be where I was and I was scared of the effort that would still be required to reach my goals and maintain my position. I forgot about being anxious though as I started chatting to a good bloke at about the 20km mark which was a couple km’s before the steep climb up Arthurs Seat. He was also attempting to sub 5 and a half hours, we talked and kept a good pace for a couple km’s. But as we got the to climb up Arthurs seat I started getting ahead. Being a bigger guy it was harder for him to run any parts of the hill so I eventually had to say goodbye. I power hiked the steeper parts of the climb and ran others, as a result it didn’t actually take me too long. When I got to the top of Arthurs Seat I was exhausted but was still feeling pretty good, I made sure to down a good amount of water and get in an oat bar whilst running downwards into Dromana. I loved the the steeper downward trail on Arthurs Seat. As I’ve gotten more experienced I’ve come to appreciate the feeling of falling over whilst skipping over holes, roots, steps and uneven surfaces. The key to downhills seems to let go, let momentum take you and be as light on your feet as possible. I’ve made a lot of progress with this but still have a long way to go. I ended up overtaking quite a few people though as they were more cautious on either saving their quads or watching their step. Once down it was only a couple km’s until the bell (the halfway point), this was all on road. At 02:28:16 I was ringing the bell, marking the halfway point and the turn around point I was on track for my sub 5 and a half hour finish. This was my first aid station stop, I guzzled down a couple cups of coke and a cup of electrolyte sports drink, then I head off.

The start of the second half of the race was the hardest part of the whole race. Once you ring the bell you make your way back up the road you just ran down. Eventually after a couple km’s of steady uphill road running you make your way back onto the trails on Arthurs Seat. From here it gets worse, it get’s really steep! I ended up power hiking majority of it. My quads really started to burn as I took one steep step after another. Other runners behind me where running down and as I put on the best smile I could I felt sorry for what they had coming up. Eventually about halfway up my quads decided they’d had enough and my hips started taking over, so now not only where my quads burning but so was my hips. However with stupid persistence I slowly made my way up Arthurs Seat for the second time of the day, my legs were no longer feeling fresh though. Every step started to hurt and that all too familiar feeling of sore, fatigued legs that I get at every ultramarathon crept in. Before I go on I want to add before I got to the top of Arthurs Seat I ran past a spectator taking photos or filming us as we made our way up the trail. At first I thought thats a bit weird but once I passed her I realised something. It was Lucy Bartholomew! One of Australia’s best ultra runners and a super inspiring and positive influence on the sport, I couldn’t believe it. If I wasn’t so determined to sub 5 and half hours I would’ve turned around to say hello, I was a bit disappointed I missed the chance but thank you Lucy for supporting us runners. Ok back to the race, yeah so my legs were sore and I was at the top of Arthurs Seat. With the sore legs I really struggled to get in rhythm whilst running back down Arthurs Seat as the impact was killing me with each stride, boy was I happy once I was down, goodbye Arthurs Seat!

Once past Arthurs seat their was no longer much steep ups and downs, this made me happy and although my legs were sore and I was constantly thirsty I was actually feeling good. For the next 10 km I pretty much held my position, no one over took me and I over took no-one. I was very much in my own world, running at a constant pace. I did start using aid stations at this point though, my 2 litre camelback had run out of water so I was left with my 500 ML soft flask, I didn’t want to bother refilling my camelback for a 50 km ultra. From leaving Arthurs Seat all the way to the finish line I stopped at 3 aid stations, each time having a cup of coke and refilling my soft flask with either electrolytes or water. Massive shoutout to volunteers at the aid stations here, you were all amazing asking me what I wanted and how they could help. 100 out of 10 stars, you guys are the heart and sole of ultra/trail running. By the 42 km marathon mark I was obviously exhausted and my legs hurt but I was still feeling relatively good. It was also looking like I was going to sub 5 and a half hours, this motivated me and gave me some extra energy. Just to be sure I make the time I decided I’d really start to push and make my tired legs go faster. It was a little risky but I thought f**k it, it’s only 14 kms. Lucky for me this tuned out to be the right decision, I started passing people again. I had a look at my watch I was running a pace of 4 minutes 40 seconds per km, how am I doing this I thought to myself. I kept pushing up and down root covered trails, across little wooden path bridges and up some steep steps. Don’t get me wrong my legs were aching but I started channeling some anger from within to keep me going, f**k this trail, f**k this race, f**k running I said to myself. I don’t know why but it helped me to keep pushing and before I knew it I was back at Boneo Road, only 6 km from the finish line. I’d finish the race along the coastal part of the track and take in the amazing views of the bay. I looked at my watch and at this point unless I really slowed down I was guaranteed a sub 5 and half hour finish. I’d achieved my goal however instead of reeling it in and settling on this goal I set myself a new one, sub 5 hours and 10 minutes. It would be close and I’d really have to push but I felt I had it in me, somehow I was still feeling alright at the 50 km mark. From there I ran and then ran some more trying to tap into any energy stores I had left, 50 km turned to 52 km which then turned to 54 km, I had 2 km left and sub 5 hours and 10 minutes was in site. I couldn’t believe it, I felt like I was literally running myself into the ground. If the race was much longer I definitely would’ve bonked I felt like I was running at a 5 km race pace, when in reality I was averaging around 5 minute 40 seconds per km which would be 2 minutes slower per km than my 5 km race pace. Either way I got to the 55 km mark and was greeted to the second best site you could ever see, the Cape Schank lighthouse this meant I was very, very close and again I pushed and pushed until eventually I heard it. The sound of cowbells and a crowd, it was the finish line the best site I could ever see. I’d finished however I didn’t just finish I finished with a time of 5:09:36 and came 28th overall out of 393 people. I smashed all of my goals and what made it even better was I was greeted by my mum, dad and little brother. I couldn’t of asked for a better day.

Thank you to the race directors, course markers and all other staff of the Two Bays Trail Run, everything was run and organised smoothly and the set up was fantastic from the start line to the aid stations and course markings. Thank you to the volunteers and supporters you guys are amazing and your presence and positivity is amazing, without you guys not only would the race not be as enjoyable but it wouldn’t be possible. Lastly thank you to my fellow competitors the competitive camaraderie is unique to ultra/trail running and as a result I feel like I make new friends at every race.

2 responses to “Two Bays Trail Run – 56km 2020 Report”

  1. hey Thomas, always good to read a detailed race report, and congrats on exceeding your expectations. regards Rohan


    1. Hey Rohan, thank you for reading and your kind words. After a bit of Facebook stalking I’ve just discovered your the race director, I knew I recognised your face 😂 So with that in mind thank you for your efforts and making the race such a fantastic one. Everything was perfect, the aid stations, the volunteers, the day as a whole, so thank you!! If I knew your name beforehand I would’ve made sure to give you a shout out, that’s more my bad for not doing more research. Anyway thank you!


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