Monday, February 24, 2014

Snowy Mts Half Marathon

The Australian Off Road Multisport Festival is held each year on the beautiful grounds of the Lake Crackenback Resort and Spa. This whole weekend event involves the Off Road Triathlon Championship on the Saturday, followed by stand alone MTB and Trail Running Races on the Sunday. I was down to 'defend my patch' at Lake Crackenback in the Trail Half Marathon. I had run on these trails many times in my role as Ambassador at the resort hosting the Trail Running retreats with Hanny Allston. I knew them well and there was certainly an element of 'no one beats me at my game on my turf', especially a triathlete ;-)

I was probably in the poorest shape fitness wise I have been in a long time. I have been trying to rest my body and not rack up massive mileage totals so early in the year. With my main goal race this year being Western States, the high mileage training doesn't really kick off until late March. So this race would be one thing, a good indication of where I'm at! I had also taken out a big group for an UP Coaching TNF100 Preparation Day the day before which included a 40km (albeit leisurely) training run! So I had a few excuses already messing with my mental prep for this one.

Crossing the Little Thredbo River
The title of 'Dirt Master' would be given to the male and female athlete who could complete the fastest combined long course triathlon on the Saturday, the 75km MTB on the Sunday AM and finish it off with the PM half marathon! Surely there wouldn't be anyone that could back up that well to blast around my 'home away from home' and beat me to the finish? Enter Ben Allen.

This guy is just a machine; an ex pro triathlete who now travels the world on the X-Terra World off road triathlon series, usually winning most of these. He monstered the triathlon on the Saturday, won the 75km MTB and no doubt wanted to head home with a clean sweep by taking out the trail half marathon too. I had my work cut out for me! I was introduced to Ben before the race and his partner Jacqui too. Just a lovely couple but I could see from the glint in his eye he was there to race.

The race started in the mid afternoon, at the hottest part of the day and it was blasting rays down. I was glad we were in a dry heat though. There is nothing worse than humidity! The trail was an interesting course, taking us along side the Thredbo River on the first lap and then out to The Diggings Camp Ground on the second lap. There were also some trails around the resort utlised. It could be best described as a flat, singletrack course that had a few surprises, namely a couple of river crossings across the Little Thredbo River!

Away we went and I was thankful to have most of the first lap to myself. I was feeling comfortable out in front until I hear the quick footsteps of someone behind me approaching the end section of the first lap. It was Ben and he was on a mission. The way he came up from nowhere was pretty impressive and in any other race I would have just moved to the side and let the faster man pass. But not today. These were my trails and I had some pride to defend!
With Ben and Jacqui

We ran together for a bit and I was running on near full throttle but threw in a little extra that I had in reserve. Still Ben matched me and we went through the start/finish to start the second lap basically together. I had a real battle now. Starting the second lap, the little extra effort I had put in seemed to take it out of Ben and on the first couple of little lumps that we went up and over and I had stretched the elastic band a bit. This little breathing space was what I needed and I felt again like the race was in my control until that is if Ben surged again.

Along the Muzzlewood Track out to the Diggings, we ran along some twisty MTB track and it was flowing fun! I had managed to really break away from Ben by now and I could breath a sigh of relief knowing that I would take this one out on my home track! In the end, I'd managed to get 3 minutes in front of Ben, who obviously felt the effects of the big weekend in his legs. On fresh legs I would think the result may have been different!

The whole weekend looked like a really great event and I'm really pleased it was such a success with many triathletes, mountain bikers and trail runners combining and united together by the spirit of adventure. You just can't find a more stunning location than Lake Crackenback either!