Thursday, November 5, 2015

Wonderland Run - Race Report

The inaugural Wonderland Run (37k) was held at Halls Gap, in the Grampians National Park at the end of August, and is the latest event created by the team at Big Long Run, who also put on Two Bays, and, until its recent sale to Mountain Sports, Roller Coaster Run.

The BLR events always get a great turn out, are terrifically well organised, have unmatched course markings, and of course - a theme. As you may have guessed, the Wonderland Run theme was Alice in Wonderland, which made for some interesting costumes, especially the assistant Race Director dressed as the White Rabbit.

The run itself follows the Wonderland Trail which starts from the Halls Gap caravan park and goes up and over Mt Rosea. There is also a 20k event which starts at the same time and follows most of the same course, but without the Rosea ascent. The landscape has to be seen to be believed - the rock formations that surround you, squeezing through crevices, climbing cliffside staircases. It really is quite stunning.

Course Map

Because it is such a beautiful place, we made a long weekend of it, staying for 3 nights at the caravan park, and taking in some of the sights while we were there, including a visit to the incredible McKenzie Falls on the Saturday before the race.

McKenzie Falls

As it was really just supposed to be a last solid hit out for Surf Coast Century in 3 weeks time, I didn't really taper for the race, but just had a slightly lighter week. As a result, I was a little heavy in the legs off the start, and got caught behind the train on the first ascent, and quickly lost touch with the top 5.

The landscape was spectacular
Photo: Matilda Iglesias

From there, I had to fight a lot of traffic for the first 5-6k, before finally getting some clear air and attempting to make up some ground. I had to use a lot of petrol tickets in the chase however, and by half way up the Rosea ascent I decided to conserve some energy for the run home. The descent off Rosea was super fun, and something I would have struggled with a year ago. But with heaps of practice my technical skills are slowly making progress.

Arriving at Borough Huts in 6th
Photo: Kathy Thurling

I arrived at the Borough Huts campgrounds (21k) in 6th place, and thought I still had a good finish left in me, but struggled in the run home as the hard recent training took its toll, and faded somewhat to finish 8th overall in 3:42, but taking first place in my 40-49 category.

At the finish with Sul
Photo: Andrew Bearsley

We had a fantastic weekend with the kids taking bushwalks, roasting marshmallows, and had two amazing meals at the Kookaburra Hotel. The Halls Gap Caravan Park is right in the centre of the township and has all the great trails right out the back door, including just a short walk to the popular Venus Baths.

Campfires at the Caravan Park

The Wonderland Run is now locked in to my yearly calendar as the first race after my winter break. It is the perfect timing and distance to allow a rest after Ultra-Trail Australia, and then work on some speed and short, sharp climbs - a great way to kick off the summer racing season. And I would certainly place it with UTA and Yurrebilla in my top 3 most beautiful runs so far. Combine the perfect timing & distance, spectacular course, and ideal opportunity for a family getaway, and the Big Long Run guys are on to another winner!

End of a great weekend!