Marysville Marathon Festival – 50km 2021 Report

  • Location: Marsyville, Victoria, Australia
  • Time: 04:39:23
  • Date: 07/11/21
  • Overall Place: 1/39
  • Full Results

Finally! We’re back out of lockdown….. again….. Another restart to racing! The Marysville Marathon Festival was the first event containing an ultramarathon since Victoria came out of what felt like its 1000th lockdown, this one having us stuck within our 5km home radius for over 3 months! It felt so good to be out amongst the ultra and trail running community, catching up with old faces and meeting new ones, everyone sharing the same passion….. Spending time outside, amongst nature, on the trails, whilst pushing their mind and body to its limit. Can’t think of a better way to restart racing, 50km’s of beautiful trail at Marysville with Brett and crew from Trailsplus organising/holding the event.

For me the week leading into the event wasn’t ideal, due to working nightshift and having other commitments I’d only managed 5-6 hours of sleep over the 48 hour period leading into the event. I tend to make a habit of taking on too much before a race, which leads to really poor preparation for said event (for example. my nutrition for the race was whatever I could get at the petrol station on the way up, which on a side note can be pretty good!). I don’t know how but somehow I manage, and things end up working out, this event was no different! The other thing was it wasn’t the only event I was getting ready for, it was the first of 5. I had 5 consecutive weeks of ultra racing; Week 1 – Marysville Marathon Festival (50km), Week 2 – Great Southern Endurance Run (100mi), Week 3 – Afterglow Trail Run (21km) + Mt. Macedon Trail Run (50km), Week 4 – Roller Coaster Run (12km + 46km) & Week 5 – You Yangs Trail Running Festival (100mi + 50km). So I wasn’t focused on trying to pull off an amazing performance anyway. My main aim was to finish with a decent time, but still feeling mentally and physically fresh, which (spoiler warning) was exactly what happened!

The drive to Marysville Sunday morning had myself and my partner up at 3:30am, leaving at 4:00am. The 50km had a 7am start with race registration starting from 6:00am, the drive would take us 2 hours. The morning was pretty unfavourable, rain coming down from the night time sky above. At least it wasn’t that cold, would’ve been nice to see a sign that the sun would be making an appearance some time during the day but hey, its trail running, it is what it is, rain, hail or shine we’ll be running. I felt pretty horrible driving up, only getting 3-4 hours sleep the night prior and not having any the night prior to that, due to working nightshift. So I was driving up on 5-6 hours sleep over 48+ hours…..that explains why I felt so horrible. I will say there was a silver lining though, driving up with my partner, a McMuffin and an orange poppy seed muffin in my hand cheered me up.

Marysville is such a beautiful place, driving along the winding roads surrounded by huge trees and ferns is breathtaking as you make your way to the town centre. By 5:30am the night sky lifted and daylight appeared, revealing a dark and gloomy morning, however that was irrelevant, the beauty of the area made up for any adverse weather conditions. Not long after, my partner and I were at Gallipoli Park, Marysville, the starting place of the race which doubled as the race registration area.

Marysville Marathon Festival 2021 (50km) -Race Briefing

It was so nice to see fellow trail and ultra runners out and about again, talking and shaking hands. Everyone so excited to be there and to be together again, sharing the trails. Familiar and not so familiar faces all around. At 6:30am Trailsplus race director; Brett Saxon called us all over for the race brief. The briefing reminding us how and why the Marysville Marathon Festival started, to raise funds and bring about community involvement to aid with the recovery of Marysville, after the devastating 2009 bushfires. Once the race brief was over it was time to get to the start line, only 5 minutes to go. Waiting at the start line I got to chat with some awesome people, one person I remember well was Craig. Craig was so full of energy and ready to go, it was contagious. We talked a little bit about ultra running and his future races, he mentioned he was doing the Surf Coast Century (50km) in a few weeks! Good luck Craig! Bring the same energy to that race and you’ll smash it! The 5 minutes past quickly and before I knew it, it was 7am, race time. And like that Brett sent us off, 39 runners off to run 50km.

First descent down Red Hill

I took off at the front, trying to remind myself not to get carried away, I was running 100 miles at the Great Southern Endurance Run the following week and didn’t want to kill myself running 50km! With that being said, fighting ego isn’t easy and although I wasn’t going 100% I still pushed more than I planned and should have. The course to start is undulating, with a few little climbs as you make your way out of Gallipoli Park and into Marysville State Forest, off the bat I nearly took a wrong turn/missed a turn and tried running straight forward, right where a big “X” don’t run here was marked! Luckily my fellow competitors were awesome people and called me back! After that little error it was smooth sailing and I settled in, leading the first couple km.

That didn’t last long though, after a few small climbs and descents at about the 6km mark some runners started passing me. They were catching me on a wider stretch of flat fire trail, being much quicker runners than me. A couple people who passed where familiar faces; Liam, someone with whom I ran a solid 5-10km with at Surf Coast Century (100km) passed me after a brief chat and catch up, Dan was another runner who’d passed me, with whom I ran with in the past. Dan and I had run parts of the Prom 100 (100km) together and ended up battling it out for first and second that year. It was great to catch up with these guys after lockdown, so good to see people out and about, smiling. I also got to chat with some other runners who I hadn’t run with before, shout out to Stuart and to Craig again! After 3-4km the flat trail ended and we started a long gradual climb. Heading up we were surrounded by tall trees, green ferns and bushes, the area was looking vibrant and healthy. Now I think about it the whole course really showed off the beauty and seemingly good health of the Yarra Ranges/Marsyville area.

5-10km, Being passed along the flat fire trail by faster, better runners!

I surprised myself as I ran up the long, gradual climb. With no added effort and just keeping the legs turning over, focusing on speeding up my cadence and staying light footed I was able to catch everyone who had past me only 10-20 minutes prior. My climbing legs must be better than I thought?… After a couple km’s of climbing I was back in the lead by myself, with 700-800m of climbing on the legs. I felt good and was ecstatic with how effortless the climb felt, I didn’t even have to walk which surprised the s**t out of me. I seemed to have entered “the zone” as everything felt effortless, my head was in the race and the km’s just seemed to tick away.

About 14km had passed now and the major climb was out of the way. A nice combination of off road single track and fire trail had been the terrain so far, nothing too technical, and the trail and surrounds had been beautiful the whole way. The next 4-5km was undulating as I made my way to the turn-around point.

I wasn’t in the lead for too long, although I was in the zone it wasn’t long before Dan and Liam both started catching me. Dan caught me first, however instead of running ahead he stayed with me and we started chatting. Dan and I chatted about a whole range of topics; training, upcoming races, DNF’s, covid, you name it! It wasn’t long before we reached the turn around point together, turned around and continued our chat. Theres nothing better than getting into a chat during an ultra, time just seems to fly by and as we ran back the way we came 18km turned to 19km, which turned to 22km which turned to 23km. Liam passed us somewhere along here too, don’t remember where but I thought I wouldn’t be seeing him again until the end of the race, he looked strong. We also passed the other 50km runners as they were making their way to the turn around point. This is why I love races with out and backs, you get to pass other runners on the return, the less isolation the better in my opinion!!

Now mostly downhill Dan and I continued chatting, running at a steady and consistent pace. Time just seemed to get lost, and by the time we ran 31km we were nearly back at the start line. We’d ran back down the climb and along the flat fire-trail, we’d also passed a couple aid stations manned by the awesome volunteers, thank you!! At 31km we hiked up a small but steep hill, Red Hill I believe it to be called, at the start of the race we actually run up the other side of the same hill, and then down the other side, neither were as steep as the part we hiked up but it was cool to traverse the same hill from numerous sides! Anyway, making our way up we passed quite a few other runners, who seemed mostly to be running the 21km and before long we were at the top and descending, once again. Now this was a slippery descent! The ground comprising of mostly rock hard but greasy and slippery clay. My shoes couldn’t grab any purchase, it was literally like ice skating, somehow I managed to keep my feet the total descent as I trotted down at a steady pace. Dan on the other hand…. he went flying into the bushes as we made a turn! Luckily he was okay and we set off again, but damn was it slippery. The trail pretty much took us back to the start line, which marked 35km. Only 15km left now! From memory the last 15km were quite difficult as you make the ascent of the second biggest climb of the run, Keppel Lookout, before running back down. Last time I completely blew up; legs burnt out, tight back and gasping for air! So I was looking forward to giving it another crack with a little more experience under my belt, it’d been two years now, you’d hope I’d learnt something.

I dumped my pack at the starting area, only taking my 500ml soft flask with me. The sun was now out and it had turned into a perfect day. The chances I would need my rain jacket or thermal was now looking pretty small, and no mandatory gear was required so I took the opportunity to run with nothing on my back for once!! Dan and I were still together, only stopping to grab some water and lollies from the aid station. Then we set off….running away from Gallipoli Park once again, however this time in pretty much the opposite direction and up the road! The only road running part of the course, which lasted 100-200m, all of it uphill leading to the trail that would take us all the way up to Keppel Lookout. It wasn’t long before Dan and I were once again immersed in the beautiful Marysville trails, passing and greeting other runners who were running the other distances. Moving slower as the gradient of the ascent got steeper, Dan and I continued to chat away. 36km, 37km, 39km…eventually we reached the real steep part of the climb and the trail became less immersed in the bush, and turned into a narrower single track that was more technical and exposed, but opened up to some beautiful views! Just before reaching Keppel Lookout Dan and I passed Liam, he looked completely deflated, and by looking at the back of his forearms and knees you could tell he’d taken a tumble. Liam though being tough was continuing on with no complaints. A couple minutes later Dan and I, who were now first and second reached the top of Keppel Lookout and were rewarded with the amazing view that overlooked the Yarra Ranges and Marysville. We were also rewarded with an aid station where we could refill our water and grab some lollies (Thank you again volunteers!). After refilling and taking a quick look at the breathtaking view on a perfectly sunny and clear day Dan and I head off, now running down, it was all mostly down now, all the way to the iconic Stevenson Falls and then the finish, we were about 40km in at this point. The downward trail towards Stevensons Falls was mostly single trail and quite rocky at places, a fun way to run down!

Dan had mentioned earlier he was going to take off and put on the gas for the last 5km, as you can get some real speed. We were now coming up to the last 5km and as we made our way down his pace started to pick up, or I got slower… Either way it was no longer an “easy/steady” pace to keep up with him. I had no intention of pushing hard as I had The Great Southern Endurance Run (100mi) next weekend but…. my ego just couldn’t let him go, and also who wants to run by themselves? Anyway, so with Dan creeping forward we descended from Keppel Lookout towards Stevenson Falls. It was damn fun running down, picking up a little bit of speed. Dan would start to gain on me on the more gradual descents whilst I would catch up a little on the more technical, rocky descents. For a solid 4km or so it felt like we were playing a friendly game of cat and mouse…. to me anyway.

At around 44km we made it to Stevensons Falls, it was here Dan and I got separated, however not in the way I thought it would happen. During the first little out and back stretch which took you to a lookout from the falls Dan cramped!! I couldn’t believe it! I made sure he was okay, he gave me the okay and to go on, this was the point he was supposed to take off, and were I thought he’d leave me behind, but apparently the universe had other plans! I completed the little out and back part by myself and then started the last steep descent down to the base of Stevensons Falls, lots of rocky single trail and steps, a fun descent that had you switchbacking all the way down. Now I’m not going to lie, I started to really push here, by chance I was in the lead with 5km to go, I wast going to waste this opportunity to win the race. So I put on the accelerator. Once at the bottom of the switchback descent I completed the other little out and back segment that took you to Stevensons Falls once again, from there it was a gradual descent along a well defined, non-technical walking trail all the way to the end. The perfect stretch to push the pace, or to get overtaken! I elected to push, somehow mustering up a 4:10 min/km pace for parts. There was a lot of other runners from the 10km out and about too, so along the way it was great to show some encouragement and cheer eachother on. I really pushed this last 4-5km, feeling Dan would be hot my tail (he was), 46km, 47km, I was getting close and I couldn’t see Dan behind me but still the anxiety of being caught was pushing me along. 48km, 49km, I could now see Gallipoli Park and the trail had connected to the trails I’d run on earlier from the race. Then I turned the familiar corner, the same one I’d run along twice over the course of the run, now it led to the home stretch! The finishing arch now 100m from sight, I pushed for the last 100m and crossed the line in 1st place with a time of 04:39:24, I was stoked with that time, more than 40 minutes faster than my time 2 years ago! And somehow I’d won too!

A huge thank you to all volunteers who came out and made Marysville Marathon Festival 2021 possible, thank you to all other competitors including the 42km, 21km, 10km and 4km, without other people they’d be no event, and the atmosphere wouldn’t be what it is! And thank you to Brett and crew from Trailsplus for putting on these awesome events, and sharing your passion of the trails and ultra running with us!

(All photo credit goes to a combination of photographers from Trailplus or myself, photos bought from https://trailsplus.zenfolio.com)

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