New Year’s Eve Rock Around the Clock – 50km 2020 Report

Photo Credit: Brett Saxon from Trails+
  • Location: Flinders Peak, You Yangs, Victoria, Australia
  • Time: 04:24:00
  • Date: 31/12/20
  • Overall Place: 1/12 (9 Finishers)
  • Full Results

What a better way to end the year than with another ultramarathon? Even better an ultramarathon with Trails+! The Brimbank Park Running Festival back in March 2020 was the last Trails+ event run before the COVID-19 pandemic. Coincidentally that was also my best ultra running performance, running the 50km in 03:55:25. Now 9 months and a whole lot COVID-19 later I was especially looking forward to this years New Years Eve (NYE) Rock Around the Clock. Not just because I loved it so much in 2019 but also I could compare my performance to my 2019 performance. In 2019 I managed to get my first ultramarathon podium finish with a time of 04:57:03. The goal in 2019 was to sub 5 hours, this year it was to sub 4 hours and 30 minutes.

NYE Rock Around the Clock is a low key, grass route event, very relaxed. I really enjoy these vibes, it makes the event feel more intermit, personal and less stressful. The course itself was also very simple, all distances were run on the same 5km loop and in my case for the 50km you run the same 5km loop 10 times. You’d think that’d make you go crazy but for some reason it doesn’t feel repetitive, the loop can be broken down into 3 different segments which I feel breaks up the monotony of running the same 5km loop 10 times. The loop was run around Flinders Peak at You Yangs Regional Park. Starting at Turntable Drive carpark you make your way along Rockwell Road which eventually connects to a track called Saddleback Track which then connects to Branding Yard Trail, all in a nice clockwise loop. The whole circuit is undulating, it’s all pretty much up or down, not much flats. The route was a combination of dirt road/4WD drive track and single track, nothing super technical however there was some steep descents which sent quite a few people on their a**es. Your also constantly above the tree line so the views of You Yangs Regional Park and beyond is quite special.

NYE Rock Around the Clock is not your standard trail run, its not a morning event. Instead it takes advantage of the afternoon and night as you start to countdown to the end of the year. The idea is you can get a great view of the Melbourne New Years Eve fireworks from Flinders Peak/You Yangs Regional Park as you either finish running your last km’s or are relaxing after a good run. The view of Melbourne city from Flinders Peak is pretty damn good, however this year due to COVID-19 there was no fireworks. I wasn’t too fussed about that though, I was there to run! The 50km started at 3pm so I was hoping to be finished by 7:30pm.

The NYE Rock Around the Clock has a special place in my heart as it was a couple of my mates first marathons. Back in 2019 Cam & Tian both completed the 42.2km distance and I was blessed enough to pace each one to the finish line on their last lap. One was cramping real bad and the others knee was f**ked, watching them push through and get to the finish line was inspiring. On a more selfish note as I mentioned above it was my first ultramarathon with a podium finish. It was a small field (less than 10) but nonetheless I placed, and making it even better was I even cracked the sub 5 hours for 50km barrier. On a super personal note and maybe a more important note it was the first thing I’d done with other people in years! Im a huge introvert so unless with family I would always go to these events by myself, I’d never socialise and hadn’t “hang-out” with mates since high school. Since then I’ve become much better at socialising, so on a super personal note NYE Rock Around the Clock is significant. I bring this up because this year (2020) I was once again going up with Cam and Tiaan, however this time they were competing in the 50km race with me, and also Mel (Cam’s Mrs & another good friend) was coming up with us to race in the 6 hour race (complete as many 5km laps as possible in 6 hours). We all left Cam’s at around 11:30am to make the drive to the You Yangs.

We arrived at Turntable Carpark, Turntable Dr, Little River (You Yangs Regional Park/Start Line) a little after 2pm, perfect timing. It was close to perfect conditions for running; dry, warm enough to wear a t-shirt and overcast however it was a little humid. Brett (Trails+ Race Director) along with his amazing group of staff and volunteers had already set up everything (starting arch, registration tent, aid station, medical tent, etc). I should mention here another great thing about the event was you ran past an aid station every 5km, be it the same aid station. It was located at the start/finish line which also doubled as race registration and medical tent area and was equipped with all the essentials (sports drink, water, lollies, fruit, etc). Anyway we said our hello’s and grabbed our race bibs from the race registration tent before heading off back to the car to get everything ready.

After getting our gear ready, walking around a little bit and having a few chats it was time to get going. Brett got all the 50km runners together for the race briefing at around 2:50pm and after a quick go over the course and breakdown of the afternoon/night along with a welcome back to Trails+ events it was time to get going. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, GO! All 12 of us head off, a small but excited group, I was keen to see how fast I could run this course so went off pretty hard and quickly took the lead. The first 2.5km of the course takes place on a wide fire trail like track, my assumption is cars can drive along it because it’s very wide. Anyway we ran along the track in a clockwise direction around the summit of Flinders Peak, the track was pretty busy with lots of walkers enjoying the afternoon out on the trails. The first 2.5km is undulating with some short but significant climbs and descents, nothing major but enough to take the wind out of you on the way up and to give you some momentum coming down. I focused on keeping a consistent running cadence and heart rate whilst running up the hills, I didn’t want my heat rate to spike too much but also needed to maintain a good pace. After 1-2km I couldn’t see anyone behind me which made it easier for me to focus on my own race and not anyone else and before I knew it I was running up perhaps the largest/longest stretch of hill. Getting up the hill marks around the 3km mark and the end of the large fire trail like track, once on top you start a steep descent down a single track. I managed to get a 3:10/km coming down that hill but at times it feels like your falling rather than running and the front of my toes hated it. This is one of those steep descents that starts to take the toll on the knees, quads and toes as it accumulates over time. Once down you make a quick right turn (heading back towards the start line) along single track. The next 500m-1km is the flattest part of the course however it doesn’t last long and before you know it your running up the most technical and at times steepest part of the course. Lots of rocks to jump over and the track is quite narrow however the ascent doesn’t last long and before you know it your at the top, and running the last 500m stretch to the finish/end of loop. I’d finished the first 5km loop a little over 22 minutes which surprised the s**t out of me. I was stoked to finish one lap that quick, each 5km lap had approximately 168.5m of elevation gain, so taking that in consideration along with the fact that I was running 50km made me really appreciate I’d just run one lap in 22 minutes for. I knew that wouldn’t be sustainable though.

Mandatory Post Ultramarathon Oak

To be honest the subsequent 9 laps weren’t very exiting, I had to stop at around lap 6 to give a couple the direction to the car park which was a little frustrating, I overtook my fellow competitors a few times with the exception of second place, the 5km, 10km, 21km, 42km & 6 hour competitors all entered and most had left the course before I finished, I had to go to the toilet twice, I think because I was using Christmas cake as my fuel whilst running (the one with the sultanas), Cam was crushing it, Tiaan was struggling and Mel was enjoying herself. I only refilled my 2L camelback once at lap 8, I didn’t need to use the aid station for food and I appreciated Brett’s support along with the volunteers who cheered me on as I passed the start/finish line after each lap. I didn’t have any crashes the whole race, the whole time I felt pretty good, no bonking. The first 4 laps felt quite humid especially for the first 2kms of the course whilst on the wide track, which was exposed to the sun and for a while I thought it might’ve caused me some problems but luckily a breeze kicked in and it cooled down as the night got closer. The whole time I was comfortably making time, subbing 4 hours and 30 minutes never felt impossible even when my pace did significantly drop after lap 6-7. The atmosphere on the course was great, everyone friendly and happy to be out there, encouraging each-other and there was great views on our left side for most of the 5km loop. I will say my quads, upper hamstring and toes started aching at around lap 7 which definitely reduced the enjoyment of the run and I started holding back, giving in to the pain whilst descending the steep single track which I regret now whilst reflecting. So after 10 laps of keeping the head down, staying consistent and pushing were I could I crossed the finish line for the 10th time in 4 hours and 24 hours, in first place and 6 minutes clear of my goal! After collecting the finisher medal and handing in my timing chip I had a good chat with Brett whilst waiting for Cam, Tiaan & Mel to finish. I also went and grabbed the mandatory post ultramarathon Oak chocolate milk which Cam actually bought for me and kept cool in his esky!! Cam was first to finish out of Tiaan & Mel, finishing 18 minutes after 6 hours, Tiaan got quite sick, throwing up and had the shivers and decided to pull out after 40km. Mel was last to finish as she started at 5pm and was competing in the 6 hour, she completed 6 laps (30km) and I was fortunate enough to pace her for her last lap. By that time it was completely dark so headlamps were required which always makes running more fascinating. We had a good chat and actually walked most the lap which took 30-50 minutes but before we knew it we crossed the finish line 20 or so minutes before 11pm and called it a night.

Thank you to Brett, Trails+ and all volunteers and staff for holding a great event. Very low-key and relaxed atmosphere which was nice, it was all about having a good time and enjoying time on the trails. Couldn’t think of a better way to end 2020!! Bring on 2021!!

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