Sunday, June 3, 2012

Glow Worm Tunnel Marathon 2012 - A Tale of Two Halves!

The beautiful surrounds of the Wolgan Valley, so often spoken about in gleaming terms by Mick, drew me today to the inaugural running of the Glow Worm Trail Marathon. What a great new event this is. Newnes, the location, is an old mining town which once boasted quite a settlement; all that is left is the (dry) hotel. The miners must have taken all the beer with them when the left!

Travelling down the muddy dirt road to Newnes, you are immediately feeling in awe of the landscape; big tabletop mountain, sheer sandstone cliffs and wallabies everywhere. It has the feel of wilderness and that is basically what the Wollemi is. So close to Sydney but basically untouched.

Now about the running. This is definitely one of the most beautiful and physically challenging courses I've ever done. It's also a course that can be best described in halves, a fast one then a not so fast one! The first loop of 21km (also the Half Marathon course) takes you along creeks, along easy to view single track but the course would be best described at undulating. The running is fast for all but 500m through the old train tunnel (race rules) that was once used during the shale mining days. The trains and miners have gone and the glow worms have moved in. And you wouldn't want to run through the tunnel either as the sight of hundreds of glow worms, glowing a bright green on the tunnel roof was simply spectacular.

I led the field out and was first to the tunnel; affording me the full light show of the little larvae. Apparently once disturbed by many head torches, they 'switched off' for some of the runners further back. A little bit past the end of the tunnel, Tony 'Fats' Fattorini caught me and we ran the rest of the sneaky ascent together before I let loose on the long downhill to join the course proper on the return to the start/finish (see course below). Mick wasn't too far off the pace either, running a smart race.

I reached the half way about 2 minutes ahead of Mick in second but knew the real running was yet to come. I didn't know much about the 'pipeline track' to Glen Davis which was the next 21km out and back (minus 3-4 km to get to it and back). It started off pretty moderate and I was running the rough single track pretty well. Just before the summit Mick eased passed which I thought was pretty good for me, he is in a different class when it comes to techy uphill climbing and I had held off Fats, a great hill runner. Things were looking good. That was until the descent started. This was one of the most tricky, technical descents I've ever done; ferns, roots, rocks all obscured the trail, mud, slippery moss, and big drop offs really tested my risk taking maneuvers. This was a descent for the experts, and Mick showed his class on this type of terrain and flew out of sight. I couldn't believe his technical skill. It was beautiful to watch for all of the 20 sec or so I could see him!

Reaching Glen Davis at the turnaround, I was only a couple of minutes behind Mick but was pretty busted up. My legs were screaming and I was running low on energy. I downed a couple of GUs and headed back up the torturous trail which was now going to bite me big time the second time. If I thought the descent was tough, the climb back up was horrendous. A little way up Fats passed me and this wasn't surprising at all. The other runners started to come towards me on their way down, surprisingly 3 females; No Roads team mates Angela Bateup, then Beth Cardelli and Shona Stephenson. All were having great races and it was game on there as well.

But the way I was going, I was thinking that being 'chicked' was on! I continued the struggle up; and finally reached the summit allowing me to stretch the legs out! I descended the final bit of the tricky track and ran the little way back to the finish to sneak in just under 4 hours. Mick and Tony finished pretty close in the end  but stayed in that order. In the womens, not even a detour taken by Angela could stop her (although probably saved me from being chicked) from taking the line honours, followed by TNF100 champ Beth and then Shona. A great result for No Roads; both outright victories, Beth's second and my third. All three ladies and Mick were backing up from TNF100 too.

I think this is a great event, and kudos big time to Sean and Mel and the gang at Mountain Sports for having the vision for a great new event in a challenging, but breathtakingly beautiful part of NSW. I will be back, but as I said to Sean at the finish, I'll definitely stick to the half next year!

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