Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Duncan's Run - Race Report

I had been wanting to do Duncan's Run in South Gippsland for a couple of years, but the stars just hadn't quite aligned. In 2014, I was very fit, but decided to bypass the race to focus on Two Bays. And of course I tore my glute on Xmas Eve, putting me out of that one as well. Then last year, extreme weather had caused cancellation of the event due to fire danger, so the organisers had to postpone.

When the new schedule came out it was for 6 weeks before UTA and 3 weeks before Maroondah Dam, so it worked out well time-wise, however I decided to drop from the 50km race back to the 28km for an easier lead up. The postponement hadn't done the event any favours as the entries were fairly low due to so much else going on at the same time, but I hope it continues, as it is very well run in a beautiful location.

I had to get up super early for the two and a half hour drive out there, but fortunately the 28k race started an hour after the 50/100, so I had a little extra time. After check-in, I went on a little warm up run around the first part of the course, which is the rainforest loop from the Visitors Centre in Tarra-Bulga National Park. I had walked this loop with Allie and the kids when we had stayed in the area couple of years back, and it is definitely one of the hidden secrets of Victoria.

I began at a comfortable pace, and surprisingly found myself in the lead early, tracked by Gippsland running legend Ian Cornthwaite. We chatted for the first couple of k's until after we crossed the famous swinging bridge, when Ian decided I was going a bit slow for him, and put a little move on up a climb. I was happy with my pace, so I let him go, and he remained intermittently in sight for the next 5km, as he gradually built his lead.

Across the swinging bridge

After the enjoyable first part of the race, at the 6km mark the course joined some open logging roads through plantation areas where I continued to catch the occasional glimpse of Ian, and then at the 10km mark turned on to a dirt road for 6km of uninspiring downhill. When I finally reached the turn off at the 16km mark at the bottom of the road, I have to be honest and admit I was wondering why I got up so early after 10km of fairly boring solo running.

Last part of the loop before the logging roads

However, the pay off was huge. As I turned onto trail, I could see another runner closing quickly behind me, and about this time it also started to rain. After a short piece of trail, we started the homeward ascent up another dirt road, where I managed to hold off my pursuer in the now driving rain. After only 2km, we turned off the road onto trail again, and the final 10km of the race was absolutely brilliant fun. It got very technical, very quickly, and some of the downhill sections were so tricky I had to grab hold of trees to keep myself on the trail.

Losing 2nd place temporarily

The other runner (Greg Semmler) caught me pretty quickly, and we had a quick chat before he moved out of sight after a creek crossing as I hit a flat spot and backed off the pace a bit. Lots of the trail was quite overgrown in places, and it went up and down, with plenty of stairs, creeks and slippery rocks to negotiate, with the steady rain adding to the equation. I was absolutely having a ball, as I pushed hard on all the climbs, through my flat spot, and having a feeling that Greg hadn't dropped me by too much yet.

At about 21km, we hit what they call "The Wall". A climb that goes almost straight up and seemingly goes on forever. Perfect! I hiked hard, and very soon Greg came into sight, and I went past with purpose, putting as much gap as I could before the trail levelled out again. Every time there was a runnable section, I pushed hard and didn't look back, feeling probably as good as I had all day. The last few km were some of the most enjoyable I have ever had on a trail. The light rain made the rainforest spectacular as the sunshine peeped through, and everything smelt incredible. Lyre Birds ran across my path, and I continued to run as hard as I could while at the same time having a near-religious experience. Seriously, it was that amazing.

Finishing very wet and very happy

All too soon it was over though, and I arrived back at the visitors centre to the screaming cheers of, well nobody. That's how they roll at these community events! I trotted across the line, and wandered over to grab a coffee and get warm. I hung around for a while and enjoyed the sausage sizzle, watched some of the 50k runners finish, and the 100k runners coming through for another leg. I received a very nice engraved beer mug at the presentation for my second place, and then jumped in the car and headed home.

I summary, they have a great little event down there. I hope it continues for a long time, and I plan on being back to run the 50k if it goes back to its usual spot in early December.

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