Two Bays Trail 28km - Race Report
This race has been on my radar for the last few years. With a prompt from some friends after the Surfcoast, I finally entered. Chose the 28km option, instead of the 56km. This allowed me to join in the Out Of Our Minds team. Plus, I would get more out of the 28km based on where my training is at than the longer option.
The event is a bit of a stand out. It crosses some amazing landscape. Hits a few iconic locations. Has a mixture of surfaces, some great hills mixed with perfectly flowing single track. Running from one bay over to another is just cool. The point to point aspect adds in an element of extra logistics, but it is more than worth it.
Race start was 0700, and being a good distance from home meant I had to be efficient with time. Alarm at 0400. Coffee and liquid breakfast consumed during the drive down to the finish line (yes, the finish line). Once there a quick use of the uncrowded amenities, followed by an easy 15 minute run to loosen up. Then I met the rest of the team, all into one car and it's a drive over to the start line.
On time, a low key count down had us on the way. Being only a few rows from the front meant I didn't have to worry too much about crowding. I wasn't wearing a Hawaiian shirt or board shorts so didn't have the right to be right up front (that is a real race rule). The first section is on bitumen before the trail proper begins. Only a 100m in the road starts going up. As usual there were a couple of people who took off at an absolute sprint. I refrained from asking them "why?" as I passed them within the first kilometre while they gasped for air and hunched over.
The biggest climb of the day is at the beginning. Straight up to Arthur's Seat. About 260m gain in altitude in about 3km. I knew the steepness would push up the intensity anyway, so I made a point not to hammer it here. It's too easy to sabotage the rest of the day. Even so, during the steepest section I found my breathing and heart rate skyrocketing. To keep with my strategy I power walked a short distance and found I was still passing others.
Once things leveled out I was concerned about how my calves felt. They had taken a hammering already. My left foot had gone numb. It's been a few years since that last happened. It occurred more during triathlons and I suspect it is some sort of nerve impingement. Problem was it slowed me down on the next lot of descending. I couldn't feel the ground with my left foot, so I had no confidence in keeping my footing at any sort of speed. Gradually my foot came back to reality and my calves lost that initial pain.
Now I was into the race proper. For pacing I just stuck with what felt right. The ever changing ups and downs and varying surface, dirt road, grass, rutted single track, rocky ground and sand made picking an exact speed impossible. Different techniques were needed. Some climbs I could get a good drive through the toes on hard pack, but on others it was gravel or loose stones where a a strong drive would cause too much slippage. Down hill varied between twisting, gnarly root covered, tight, single track requiring a high cadence and good amount of dexterity to wider, easy trail where you could just open up the stride and speed along. Studying my heart rate profile afterwards, I got the effort level about right. Averaging at 158bpm, the variance was mostly a small 3bpm either way depending on whether I was traveling up or down. Of course I lifted it up a good dose in the closing kilometres.
For me it didn't feel like a usual race where I had concerns about my place and time. I was absorbed in just the actual act of trying to cover the distance as quickly as I could (yes, that is still very race related). Maybe it's because I knew the calibre of the front runners. There was no chance I'd see them. Maybe it's the nature of the course where you can't see others except those really close. Maybe it's just the overall feel for the event. There is a strong push from the organisers that it is to be a fun and friendly run over some awesome trail. Whatever it was, I was loving it.
The kilometres ticked along. After about 15km I was feeling smooth. The legs were moving nicely. From here the hills gradually started hurting a bit more, and I started to feel the impact on the descents. That was more than expected. I was working quite hard, but it seemed right. Nothing much (except for the scenery) changed. After the checkpoint at about 22km, the body was feeling battered, but was still doing what I asked of it. In these latter parts I was passing a few runners. Each of them looked like the race had given them a good thrashing. Now I was hurting, and it was easy to just slack off. Without only a little extra concentration I was able to keep moving. The body wanted to hit a shuffle, but if I held form, I could still maintain my speed.
After 24km the breaks out for a fantastic view over Bushrangers Bay. It's the point you know you're almost done. I was thankful here. The trail was mainly soft sand on a narrow track, mixed with plenty of small tree roots. Trail I love, but I was struggling to hold it together. A short, set of stairs then took the course down a few metres and somehow I flew down here. I think I would have taken them slower if I was thinking clearer. Apparently, what goes down must come up. That up was with a vengeance. I remembered this staircase had been talked about prerace. Now I knew why. After about 26km of tough running, this was just nasty. No need to hold back now.
Forcing my legs into a overdrive, didn't seem to gain any speed. It felt like I'd left the handbrake on and put the accelerator to the floor. Plenty of grunt and smoke, but no real result. What I managed to do was not lift my feet enough and fall up the stairs. Not bad I thought, as I discovered I was still passing a couple of other runners. One of which I've kept an eye during so many races over the years because he's always in front of me. Not today. That concept gave me the boost I needed. The steps returned to trail. The final, small rolling couple of kilometres seemed to take so much longer. But the lighthouse just past the finish line was the perfect beacon. It was getting closer.
I crossed the finish in 2:16:39. Before the event I had 2:15ish in my head without a good basis. I was happy with that. That also put in 47th place overall out of 753. Not too bad for the ego. I savoured the moment and enjoyed cheering in the rest of the team. Of course I am always looking to go faster. Could I have done better today? At most I would only be able to scrounge 2 minutes, but even that might be pushing it. The early downhill, was a little slower than I wanted, but that wouldn't have cost anymore than a minute. Maybe holding back here, delayed the beating on my legs. Could I have gone just a little faster over the middle of the course? Based on how and when the race caught up with me, I don't think so. I think pushing the speed up a little would have brought the fatigue in earlier and cost me time overall. Looks like I got an almost a perfect result based on my current fitness.
Current fitness is where the question leads. I know my nutrition was fine. Two gels (at about 10 and 22km), along with just enough water. The fatigue wasn't nutrition. It was muscular fatigue, or just down right muscle damage. That's conditioning. Now I am far from complaining about any lack of fitness. My running is now consistently up around the highest levels it's ever been. Part of that comes from always looking for ways to get better. How do I improve if want another crack at the 28km at Two Bays? Quite simply improving the base aerobic fitness, raising the anaerobic threshold, etc. that comes with consistent running. As with all distance running this same stuff applies. So if I can avoid the gaps in training over December, then that alone should make some difference. Specific training? Improve my steep down hill technique. Moderately steep slopes I feel are one of my better skills, but past a certain point, the really steep stuff lets me down. That's just practice and technique. The only other change I would add if I was to focus on this race, would be to include long and steep hill repeats. My hill technique is a lot better than it was last year, and I've now developed a good dose of power into my hill running from the drills and sprints I've been doing on the up. I just haven't had any extended hard running up long hills and I think this caught up with me a little up Arthur's Seat.
Check out the Two Bays Trail Run site for more insight into what it's all about.