Running Wild's Razorback 65km race report
After living through the longest lockdown in the world down here in Victoria there is immense gratitude every time I get the opportunity to head to the mountains again. Just leaving 5kms from home gives me a sense of freedom - and also a sense of escape from the rat race.
I have lived in Victoria for 4years now and I have made some incredible running friends who often now join me on my running adventures, whether they are running or volunteering or just in it for the weekend away. My recent race, however, took me away for a weekend of solitude. I had no friends running the same race, I had no one travelling with me. After being back to face to face meetings with work, and even travelling to Brisbane for a week I was looking forward to a weekend of solitude in the mountains. I was keen to connect with my 'why'. I was keen to spend time in my own head.
Thanks to a fun night out at the theatre on Thursday night, my drive up to the mountains was done at 5 am on Friday morning - getting to Harrietville at about 9 am and setting up for my workday. I was working Friday and I had set up my laptop in the back of my car with my swag rolled out nearby. Thank goodness for virtual backgrounds as none of my clients would know I was actually working from the bush - and I surprised myself with how much work I achieved with little distraction such as a load of washing, or a dog wanting to be walked!
The first time using my new swag and I was VERY impressed with the night sleep that I had. I was up and ready at 4:30 am to hit the trails and excited about the day ahead. 65kms of trails and mountains and perfect weather to face the day. I felt so relaxed going into this run. I had meditated by the river the day before and visualised getting up the mountains with ease. I was the most relaxed I had ever felt going into a run - I was up for an adventure and nothing more.
The start of the run was 14kms up the 2nd highest mountain in Victoria. 14kms of just plodding uphill. It was still dark and a snake of head torches climbed up the mountain before the sun started to break over the horizon of mountains and we could enjoy the endless view. I enjoyed the plod up the hill, up to the summit and whilst my post-Covid19 lungs screamed at me I looked around me at the incredible view of never-ending mountains and relished being back in my happy place. I could feel the air thinning as I climbed, the temperature dropping and I felt the cloud wrap itself around me as I reached the summit. Whilst the lungs complained about the hard work I could not help but smile - there is a feeling of vulnerability, of being so insignificant in this big world when you are standing on top of the mountains. It's a feeling I relish.
From the summit of Mt Feathertop, I headed down the Diamantina Spur. This is a technical 3.5kms section of steep downhill. It's tough - but I loved it. Technical downhill is my strength and I made up some time and enjoyed the challenge. I was then off to Blair's Hut and whilst I was loving the time in my own head, this caused me to completely miss the turnoff and end up going up and down the same hill trying to find the path. I pride myself on my navigation so getting 'lost' really rattled me and when I finally realised the turn-off was further back (and also signposted) I cursed myself and took a moment by the river to fill up my water and regroup my thoughts. It was then up and up and up to Weston's Hut and then onto Pole 333 and my lungs just didn't comply with this section. I had to continue to stop and catch my breath and I was feeling really nauseous. I felt like I was sucking in oxygen and it just wasn't going anywhere within the body. I knew that I was in the middle of nowhere and I had no choice but to keep going so I put my head down and focussed on one foot at a time. Every puddle that I passed that looked remotely clean had me bathing in it to cool down, such as the direct sun exposure causing me to really feel the heat.
With about 1km to go into Pole 333, I was seriously considering my options of pulling out at this aid station - however, I knew that this aid station was manned by a sole volunteer who hiked in so I would have to walk out either way. Then I looked up and in front of me was a herd of wild brumbies, casually grazing on the top of the mountain range. My breath left me at this moment and I was taken away with the beauty of the moment. Here I was, alone on the top of the mountains and looking at mother nature in all her glory, joined by the most beautiful brumbies you could imagine. I slowed to a walk and got very close to them, cautious of walking behind any of them and getting kicked. They were curious but cautious and as I talked to them and approached they decided I was too much and they all took off at a gallop together. Once again taking my breath away. This is why I love solo running on the trails - for these moments.
With renewed energy, I was soon at the checkpoint and once again laughing and smiling. It's amazing how Mother Nature can change your mindest so quickly. I was in a new mood now and ran down the hill from Pole 333 to the river with a smile on my face and a skip in my step. At the river, I topped up my water and started the climb up to Mt Hotham. Again the lungs slowed me down which was frustrating because the body felt great but the lungs would hold it back like they were pulling on the reigns of my own horseback. They didn't want to push too hard and often wanted the body to stop and catch my breath. Having only recovered from Covid about 6 weeks ago I knew that I had to listen to the lungs this time and take it easy. I also knew, having had my wrong turn earlier, that I was going to be cutting it fine for cut-off at the Diamantina Hut aid station. I pushed those lungs as much as they would let me and I made the bodywork hard on the flat and downhill sections when the lungs didn't need to work as hard. With 15mins to spare I came into the aid station with a smile on my face - I had made it. The best part of the course, the bit I was most looking forward to laying ahead of me. The razorback.
The razorback takes you from Mt Hotham to Mt Feathertop across the top of the mountains. The view is of mountains in every direction as far as the eye can see. The terrain is undulating, the weather can change in a second and it's one of my favourite trails in the Alpine region. I smiled and sang to myself (sometimes out loud) as I skipped, ran and hiked across this magnificent trail. I knew the sun would drop soon and I basked in the last light of the day, enjoying every moment. As I got close to Mt Feathertop I got even more excited - the next 10kms was all downhill and runnable trail and some of my most favourite. I love the thrill of downhill trail running - the technical aspect that you could trip and fall at any time so you must concentrate and the speed of the downhill - the thrill of it all. After over 12hours of being out on my feet all day I was feeling surprisingly fresh - the body felt amazing and apart from the lungs still complaining slightly I felt like I could easily run another 12hours.
As I dropped from Federation Hut and started my descent down Mt Feathertop I could not wipe the smile from my face. I was totally in my happy zone - alone in the bush, with an incredible sunset before me, the sound of the bush settling in for the night around me, the cool breeze starting to drop the temperature around me. My headtorch decided it was going to go to sleep early and I went to change the batteries before it got too dark. Rookie mistake - I had bought the wrong size batteries. I knew I didn't have much left in the headtorch and I cursed myself for not putting new batteries in it to start with. I had plenty of phone battery if I needed to use my phone as a torch but it was not ideal. I picked up the pace, determined to finish before my headtorch died. I had a few stumbles due to the dimming light, but as the light really started to fade on me I hit the bitumen road and knew I could run that in the dark for 700m to get to the finish. I almost sprinted into the finish line and was overjoyed at making it! For 15hours I had been out in the mountains enjoying all her beauty and I had finished the run feeling strong, energetic and even took away 3rd place female. If my lungs were not complaining so much I would have gone out and done it all again - and if I had spare batteries for the head torch!
I couldn't wipe the smile from my face as I walked the 20m to my swag and camp set up. I showered and cooked some dinner and sat in the dark, the only light being the full moon above me, relishing the joy of being out in the mountains once again. I stumbled into bed, happy and slept soundly full of contentment and joy.
Another adventure in my happy place, another adventure with Mother Nature setting the tone, another test of endurance where my incredible body once again showed me what it's capable of. This time it was the body that inspired the mind.