Salomon Trail Race #1 Yarra Bend

First race since I started the program for the 100km. So I've had 5x8-day weeks of base training. The training has been going well, and I know my general fitness is good. Yet there is a big difference between training fitness versus racing fitness. I was curious to see what I could pull off for a 10.8km trail event. Details here.

The weather was perfect. Cool and sunny. With all the recent wet weather there was a lot more mud on the course this year. Enough to add time on the clock. How much is up for argument, but I'll suggest between 30-60 seconds depending on technical running skill. Last year I wore my Brooks T7 Racers which always feel fast, but they were destroyed by the terrain. Clearly made for the bitumen. This time around I opted for my Brooks Cascadia which don't have that go fast feel, but are built to withstand the course and have that extra grip for the mud.

The plan was to not go out ridiculously fast like last time. Just run out at what feels like race pace and bring down my overall time in the latter half of the race since I should have a little more in the tank. The field was much bigger this time, but the 3 tier staggered start allowed enough space. A brief initial section on bitumen and gravel path allowed everyone to find their place before we hit the true trail.

My legs felt great as we hit the more technical stuff. Clearly all the recent trail running was working. I made up plenty of positions that I'd allowed get ahead of me in opening section. Before the drink stop at 4.5km I made a point not to go nuts uphill, and keep something in reserve for the bigger uphills in the second half. Of course going up still raised the heart rate, but I was happy to see I wasn't giving away any places this year. I even gained one or two going up. A good improvement. Downhill was where I excelled. No longer does it feel like a controlled fall. My technique is better, I just feel fast and natural.

The race continued with the ebb and flow that comes with the varied terrain. Those around were running a bit better on the smooth sections, but any time trail went down or the footing became technical I was the fastest. It was impossible to tell where I was positioned in the race, but I knew it well ahead of the main pack, and likely in the strung out runners that tends to follow a small lead group.

Just past the the drink station at about 4.5km was a downhill section on a sealed path before concrete stairs. Despite all intention I just couldn't get the cadence up in my legs and I knew I running below par here. Then on the stairs I just couldn't find the rhythm to match those around me and I gave up a little ground. Maybe the stairs needed to be less formal and rougher. Back into the single track and for the most part we all seemed to have sorted out our position in the race, at least for the next couple of kilometers. There weren't many more changes from here.

There's no way to truly know what pace you're at, which is part of the appeal. I did feel as though it was going to be a bit slower than last year, purely because the surface sucked speed out of the legs more. While I was clearly running at race intensity and there was good deal of pain reflecting that, the suffering was much less without an over-the-top fast start. The problem is I just didn't use that extra I'd held in reserve. This I only realised with the hindsight that comes after the race is over. Overall I ran quite well, but I know I didn't tap right into my potential. I seemed to put a ceiling on the level I was prepared to suffer at.

It was the latter stages that showed some areas that need improvement. Guess the weaknesses show up when fatigue hits. I hesitated a lot on some of the bigger drop downs, which robbed me of momentum and time. There was a real lack of pushing up through the top end of steep climbs and taking that over the crest. The couple of sections of stairs slowed me drastically in the downhill. I just didn't have the confidence to make then more than one at a time. Areas for improvement, but the average was good.

Into the final section of single track and I pulled away from the couple of guys near me. I love this section. A drop off on your right down into the Yarra River with a steep embankment bordering your left. The track is uneven, rocky, muddy and slippery. Back on my game and I felt like I was flying. My legs adjusted without thinking to absorb the up and downs, I found myself out on my own and it felt good before ducking under the swing bridge and crossing the grass to the finish line.

The scoreboard gives me a time of 45:13and 25th overall out of 730 finishers. A result I'm pretty happy about. A bit slower than last year in slightly slower conditions. If I could have lifted and really pushed some sections I believe I may have been able to scrape a whole minute off my time. But I didn't. Looking towards bigger fish I am definitely on track for the Surfcoast Century.


  1. Enjoyed the read

    Good luck for the SC100 - I want to get into ultras one day, but for now it will be some trails, then a half and a couple of marathons before going bigger!

  2. Sounds fun. Would love a series like that up here. You ran well considering the tougher going this year. Holding back early is a fair tactic if you can use that energy later on - sometimes difficult with single-track running if you're in a group.

    1. It is a fair tactic if I use it later. It wasn't any other runner holding me back on single track, I just didn't push the pace up when I had it in me. Still there is a lot to be happy with the race.


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