Two Bays Trail Run 56km - Race Report

My race reports for Two Bays over the last three years start with a mention of going in with big goals. Each time I certainly fell well short of those goals. This year I've tempered my expectations and changed my mindset. Even put in a few more kilometres and extended out some of the long runs.

Process versus outcome focus should give me a better outcome.

A big part of the process is getting my pacing right and not smashing my legs and falling apart in latter stages as I have done previously. As a result I had to get the balance right and try to avoid the initial fast burn with achieving the fastest average time over the 56km. The main strategy here was to choose the right gear. I needed the fast, but not too fast race outfit. Red was just too dangerous. Since red goes faster, it was going to be too fast. Rather than speed, the smarter move was to focus on first place and wear something more maillot jaune. With the main colour sorted the next biggest influence is definitely the shoes. The choice was between the go fast bright yellow and orange, or the more subdued blue of steadiness. I chose the safe conservative route and went with the blue.

While all the above was good, I did fail to take into account my race number. The name on it didn't come about due to my speed, it was still likely to have an effect. Maybe I should have worn the go fast bright yellow and orange shoes to make up for this...

An early morning breakfast, coffee and drive brought me down to Cape Schanck for what looked like a day of perfect running weather. At least my day started better than the guy who refuelling his car on the side of the highway or the two who tried to fit their cars into the same spot at the same time.

It was good to see Whitey here again, he looked ready to finally have the race here he's been searching for. I wondered if we would run a portion together as has happened the other years. A bit of family and some friends made the time pass quickly. I felt the right sort of relaxed. Time to start.

Chilled and relaxed almost to a meditative level were my opening moments. I felt light with every step and more like I was observing everything around me while moving forward at the right speed. It was interesting to vast variation of ways people ran out from the start. Some were almost walking, others settled straight into their normal pace, and a few others were almost sprinting, well above anything that anyone could maintain for 56km. Through the single file bottleneck, down stairs, a few undulations and then it was onto the sweet single track with some amazing views along the coastline to our right. Somewhere he my mate Paul didn't look to be running so well. He'd rolled his ankle, but assured me he would be fine.

Working through my dashboard and all was good. Everything was running optimally. Just in the opening kilometres I was noticing the difference with getting my training together compared to all the other years. I flicked a look at my Garmin to double check the distance and pace I was moving at. Hmmmm, it was telling me I was slow. That didn't match, in fact I knew I was right and the Garmin was wrong. I really did feel that in tune with my running right now. Maybe the GPS was off, it was only 3.2km in anyway. I gave it a few minutes and checked again. Still on 3.2km. A few minutes later, still 3.2km. Looks like I've lost GPS. Not a problem, this year it was more just to use as a record for afterwards. I'll just take my 5km splits as per the course markers. Keep on running by feel.

Through 5km and my split was faster than I planned, but I am convinced it is placed 700m short as were a few other runners. We're probably wrong, but so what, it's a trail race. Somewhere around here Paul catches back up and seems to be running alright. He says he's cruising to make sure his ankle survives, but I'm sure he's just making use of the find the best ass and follow it pacing strategy. He tucks in behind me for a bit. After some kilometres he decides to up the pace. Must be some spectators due soon I think. Paul claims his ankle feels better.

Through 10km and I am on track with my conservative approach. This is the time I need to be careful. My legs are feeling great. My nutrition seems to going great. Here is when it becomes easy to  inadvertently increase the speed. In fact it soon tempting. A voice in my head tells me I'm better prepared this time so I should see if I can smash it. That's supported by another voice telling me I need a buffer in case my legs fall apart anyway. Random voices in your head are probably never a good thing, so I decide not to take their advice. Best to stick with the plan. After all it isn't just about this race, I want to see what I can do if I get the pacing right. Patience young grasshopper.

Sand, single track, grass and dirt over some hills. It's all good fun. On all the smaller climbs over through the first 15km I've been able to run them without feeling like I've increased my effort level. That is a first for me in this sort of race. Technique and conditioning seems to working. The down hill have been my strength over many years, but have also been my undoing in the last three. I've really been working on my technique on the steep descents recently and the adjustments seem to be working. I've managed to remove a lot of the big impact down-hilling hits me with and I've upped my level of relaxation and lightness. Gravity does the work, I'm just guiding it. Looks like my hamstring might be safe now. Helps that I'm passing those around me too. After all the descending fun it is a case of what goes down must come up. Past the dam and then its the first real steep climb.

When it gets steep the smarter move is to walk. Just because I'm walking doesn't mean it's a stroll. The legs get a bit of a break from the pounding of running, but the heart and lungs are still working. Technique and intent had me gain a few places on the up. Once over the top I felt like I'd had some recovery leading in a nice flowing, moderate down hill section. It was tempting to speed up, and it took a good deal of discipline to hold back. Reminding myself I still had to go up and over Arthur's Seat from both sides helped.

Not long and it was time for the first main ascent. This first side of Arthur's Seat is a bit easier and was mostly runnable without having to push it. Gaining a few more places was good for the confidence. I caught up with Paul again who looked determined but was clearly running under a bit of duress. I pulled ahead as up gave way to down. Long and steep, with a mixture of rough steps thrown in. The other years my legs have been hurting when I reach this stage. This year they were feeling pretty good. It doesn't matter how you approach this down hill, the legs will always take some level of bashing. It's long enough, steep enough and some of those steps really are small jumps. Fast, light feet, fast light feet.... a good section of fun was contrasted by the expressions of pain on the faces of those ahead of making their way back up.

Into Dromana, a ring of the bell at the turnaround and it was time to run back across the Peninsula (it's not even across the skinny bit). The initial kilometre is on road with an increasing gradient leading back up to the steep side of Arthur's Seat. I actually felt comfortable running this road section which is a first for me. Then it was back onto the climb proper. Running had to give way to hiking. I caught up to the group in front of me during the ascent and once again over the top I starting pulling away on the down hill. Some stiffness and pain was starting to seep into my legs here. It took a bit more to keep the agility in my foot work to avoid tripping over the rocks and tree roots. The mild technicality, concentration and flow of this descent was the type of running I love.

A brief climb, that I expected to walk up, but found a basic run worked better. Now my legs were beginning to stiffen up. Not an unexpected problem, and seemed to be overcome with making the effort not to ease off. Then it was time for the steepest descent of the day leading down to the Dam. I kicked off the gravel trail and onto the dirt and grassy side section which allowed for much better traction. I broke past the stiffness and my legs spun underneath me, using gravity to go down nice and quick. It was almost a ride to the bottom. Roughly 39km covered and it was back into the more minor ups, downs and mixture of trail.

Beyond 40km it was getting a bit more difficult. The challenge moved from holding back my pace to trying to keep up my pace, which for the most part I was achieving. It was around 48km that it truly started getting hard. I'd lost all of the natural spring in my legs, and my foot lift was becoming lazy. Especially since someone decided the make the steps on the stairs stupidly big. Tripping and falling upwards is a weird concept, but I managed to do it. For about a 5km, I struggled to hold my pace. I was still running, but it was slow a combination of losing power in my legs, but I felt like I wasn't absorbing my nutrition. I'd been taking it in, but it wasn't converting. Thinking it may be influenced by concentration I switched to just plain water and hoped this with time would help.

It did help. At around 52km I started feeling a return of my energy levels. My legs were now hurting, and the quads threatened to cramp on the steeper down hill or steps, but I was able to pick up the speed. Trying to make the most of it I pushed the pace and managed to get it up some of my fastest kilometres for the day. This took me through to the finish. Crossing the line I pleasantly stuffed but far from completely destroyed. Adding to that I stopped the clock at 5:53, a personal best on this course by 14 minutes, and way, way, way better than last year where I fell apart.

Focus on the process, and sticking with made the difference. There is something said for patience in the long distance stuff. There is still plenty of room for improvement, and I believe I am a long way off my potential for this race, but I'm happy. The conservative first half helped. I gained 20 places for the return journey. I still slowed down, but many slowed down more.

This is definitely one of my all time favourite races. The organises get so much right and the culture from all involved, the runners, volunteers, supporters and everyone else in any other category make this one of the friendliest and feel good events out there. A big thank you to Kylie, Al and Grace for making the trip down for some amazing support. Plus Al put together this video of the day...


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