Brooks Trail Run Fest | Mount Baw Baw

After a big month of work I had been desperately looking forward to escaping to the mountains as a chance to relax and breathe in some fresh air. I had become a wound up ball of stress and I was struggling to find perspective and unwind each night when I came home from work. My patient, loving and supportive fiance (Dr Dan) watched as I furiously packed my gear after flying back from Sydney and commented that this weekend away was exactly what the Doctor ordered.

The running joke in our house and now amongst my running friends is that I have a manual car which I cannot drive. I say I have been too busy to learn this new skill (of manual driving) but I think I probably enjoy having the chance to tune out as I get driven around. Because of my incompetence I had put up a plea on the Brooks Trail Run Fest facebook page for a lift to Mount Baw Baw. Jono Stiberc was super kind and offered to pick me up from my place and we spent a fun car ride as we chattered the whole way, got lost, went to a bar in the middle of nowhere to ask for directions (Jono drank a beer because he was scared not to) and arrived quite late on Friday night.

Chris Ord had organised for a crew of us to stay at Frosti Lodge in Mount Baw Baw and I was so grateful to be looked after and to share accommodation with old and new friends. I had been so frantic with my packing that I hadn’t prepped any of my gear for the mornings race, so I spent the next hour getting my race nutrition sorted and laying my clothes out. The alarm went off at 6am and I felt like I had hardly slept a wink as I walked over to the bus that was taking us down the mountain – so we could run from Walhalla to the top of Mount Baw Baw.

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Despite not feeling race ready I was so happy to be there that as I spoke to good friend Nikki Wynd before the race begun I felt a few tears well up in my eyes – I couldn’t quite explain or understand why I was so overcome with emotion. After a detailed pre-race briefing we were off or should I say we were up.

We started on the road which inclined up before leveling out and entering the windy and slightly undulating trails. I got myself in a steady rhythm almost entering a meditative state for the first 10 – 12kms. After this point thing became progressively more challenging. We took a left hand turn across a bridge and had to navigate along a very narrow single trail with overgrown roots. The heat was really starting to beat down and I couldn’t smoothly transition from running to power walking to running – I felt very clunky.

I was happy when we left this section but the next 12kms became steeper and my legs felt like lead and sluggish. I was fatiguing far more quickly than normal and my body was doing a few things that told me this wasn’t going to be my day. As I neared the midway checkpoint I saw Dave Eaddie and asked for his advice on what I should do as I described what was happening. He confirmed what I was thinking that it was probably best for me to stop a few kms ahead, have a rest and if I felt better head out for another run in the late afternoon. Despite having this in the back of my mind I decided to continue a little longer past the checkpoint but there was a voice in my head that kept telling me it was a bad idea – so I ran back to the checkpoint and after getting some more fluids in I took a ride back up the mountain and straight into bed.

A few hours later I woke and felt like a whole new women, I couldn’t believe it. I put on my running shoes and bumped into Beau Miles who came up to present his documentary on running the entire length of the Alpine Walking Trail. He decided to head out with me and we went out on the trails for over an hour and chattered about adventures, study and relationships. I couldn’t have been a different person or runner than when I woke this morning. From here onwards the weekend offered every bit of happiness and delight that I could have asked for. Our Frosti Lodge crew was made up of myself, Deanna Blegg, Darren Clarke, Jan Saunders, Nikki and speedy Daniel Wynd, Dave and Lucas Eaddie, Matt and Martin Coops, Rich Bowles and Vickie Saunders. We enjoyed our communal living and became a supportive trail running family.

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Sunday morning we had a leisurely wake up and made our way to the start of the 12km race. Nikki said she wanted to run together which I was pretty stoked to do as we have been meaning to go for a run together for the past six months (clearly poor planners). The sun was shining, everyone was beaming and the trails that followed were superb. I will agree with Coops when he says some of the best single track I have also been on. I felt bad for the fellow that was running behind us because Nikki and I chatted the entire way even though we were pushing relatively hard. We finished the run hand in hand and with a welcomed spray of water.

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The rest of the afternoon was spent basking in the sun, eating and cheering other people as they finished their run.

Rich Bowles and I presented to our running friends about our past & upcoming expeditions.

Matt “Grasshopper” Coops took a big group for a technical uphill and downhill training session.

 

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You can tell why his adventure camps are such a hit as he has some great thoughts on running and everyone completely committed to what he was saying as we ran down a technical hill and back up it and back down it and back up it.

The final event for the night was another 12km event over the same course as the mornings run. Deanna, Darren, Jan & I decided to enjoy the nighttime running experience together. Off the back of Coops’s training session I kept thinking of his words of running “light” & with “flow”. Focusing on lifting my body upright as I went up the hills & descending with trust that my feet would find the safe path down.

I had forgotten to take my ay up lights so I stuck on the heels of whoever was right in front of me to benefit from their bright lights. I had one of the most enjoyable running experiences and relished moving in the darkness with such great company. Darren, Deanna and Jan are superb adventure racers and are fierce on the trails. There is such a team focus in all of them and I can see myself getting into the adventure racing scene down the track.

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Monday morning saw us put into practice technical downhills running with a 400m descent over 1.5kms. Being able to “let go” isn’t a particular strength of mine and although I started with legs open and light,  the middle section which consisted of uneven ground and big rocks had me tighten up and become conservative in approach. Once we got down to the bottom the final run for the whole long weekend was the 1.5km uphill.

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Thank you to Mount Baw Baw Alpine Resort, Brooks, Trail Run Magazine, NUUN and Moxie Gear for hosting and supporting a fabulous long weekend trail running festival. Thank you to my supporters Juice Plus+, Brooks, CW-X and Ascend, who enable me to do what I love to do, with people that I love sharing it with.

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