Sunday, September 20, 2020

2020 Sri Chinmoy Canberra Trail 100

This was my second running of the Sri Chinmoy Canberra Trail 100, my first being in 2018 when it was 105km. Since the race's inception in 2013, when it debuted at 100km, the distance was increased by 1km every year. By 2018 though, at 105km, the event organisers saw the challenges that this was producing (both for athletes and organisers), and decided wisely to bring it back to 100km permanently from 2019 onwards.

In 2018, it was also the first of a big ultra double header for me - running this race and then following it up the next weekend with the Hume & Hovell 100km Ultra. It was a very enjoyable fortnight in fact, seeing family down at Canberra and then camping at Tumbarumba for the H & H with friends. Winning and setting CRs at both too was, as they say, the gravy!

It was fortunate on many levels that I was able to toe the line again this year in Canberra. I should not have been after all, running around the trails of the Nation's capital, but rather bashing along the roads of Winschoten at the IAU 100km World Championships in The Netherlands at the targeted sub 4min/km. But with COVID-19 cancelling so many events on the racing calendar this year, including the World Champs, it gave me the opportunity to once again participate in the ACT. A silver lining for the disappointment of missing out on wearing the Aussie singlet at least!

Leading into the race, I didn't have the opportunity to taper with work keeping me on my feet and clocking up 120km or so already for the week. Although the desire was there, I wasn't sure I would be able to emulate my 2018 effort when it was 105km, and ran 9:38, even though this year's distance was 5km shorter. The lead in to the race with my sister's family at least did give me a few days of rest and relaxation, and some walking around with my nieces Geocaching was the most taxing activity I did if you don't include the multiple 375mL/g right handed bicep curls I did with my brother-in-law Steve on Friday night, but that's another story!

Race day afforded us the most ideal conditions for running and at there was a really good vibe at the start line. In fact, the vibe at this race has been similar both times; calm, relaxed and runners nervous but anticipating the day ahead. Perhaps it's because this race hasn't the bells and whistles of other big commercial events, no expo, no merchandise, no bullcrap. Those that were there knew the task ahead and perhaps the lack of things to distract them in the last couple of days has meant they are much more relaxed and circumspect about what lay ahead.

The 100km runners took off at 6am at first light and the relay runners took off at 6:30am. In 2018, I was caught by the first relay runners during Leg 3, but lead cyclist Dave Osmond advised me during leg 1 that it would be a different story this year. Right he was.

After 5km of urban running and sussing out the field, we approached the first turn off from the concrete and onto the dirt for the first time. I took the initiative here and heading into the single track, took the lead from the bunch of 6 or so other runners to give myself the clear trail that no one else seemed to want. Just me and Dave now and we chatted a bit about some of our former glory days as well as sharing our experiences summiting Pikes Peak in California. Me running, Dave on MTB. I'm sure biking up there is much harder than running, so hats off to you Dave! In any case, it wasn't a topic of conversation I would have predicted given that this happened all what seems an age ago. but also because I've been talking to one of my athletes in the Blue Mtns quite a bit about my experience there lately too.  I've been talking to him about the race, but moreso the exploits there of Matt Carpenter whom I rank as one of the best Mountain runners of all time, he wasn't Killian-esque but not too far behind and a man before his time really. He has definitely earned the title of King of Pikes Peak and will hold that for a very very long time. Anyway I digress.

Hitting the dirt for the first time

The course then started proper, Red Hill and Mt Taylor were summited strongly and I felt that the cool weather was really on all runners' side today. Leg 1 has some amazing views and on any other day I'd be stopping and taking some photos, but race day is for racing :-)

Tim Berriman had my back at CP1, taking care of my drink swap as he waited for Steve to arrive so he could set off in the relay. Steve was running Legs 1 and 4 and Tim 3-4. Thanks Tim for your assistance!

Leg 2 then starts with a very nice pine forest cruise for a couple of kms followed by a steep climb of Mt Arawang - I'd forgotten about this climb! Then a cruisy descent (see pic below) followed again by many flat kms leading into Mt Stromlo Park. The relay runners were now passing me quite frequently and wow...they were flying. Definitely thought that some of the records were going down this year!

Descending Mt Arawang

Mt Stromlo was next and the tide of relays runners was slowing down as I seemed to have found the spot between the teams looking to smash the daylights out of the records and those that were in it for a good time not a crazy time! The running attire at least was becoming more 'trail runner' like the longer the leg went on from the relay runners too! Split sided road running shorts, lightweight singlets and Nike Vaporflys have no place on the trails...

Leg 2 is a long leg with the run after Mt Stromlo feeling like eternity but eventually I came to CP2 and Nadine on duty. I felt pretty relaxed, and was focusing on just staying that way. I had no idea how far anyone was behind and neither did I ask, as I can only control what is controllable and I didn't want any other thoughts creeping in.

Leg 3 takes in Black Mountain and the big long lead up to it. The trails were easy to run, but the headwind was just a bit past 'refreshing' and could have been done without, especially through the exposed, tree cleared urban fringe section which is seemingly encroaching further and further into nature in the ACT. Once back in the bush, it did give some protection and the climb this year to the Telecom Tower (showing my age) was different to previous years; on a path rather than a singletrack. Seemed a bit easier this way and I was able to run all of it. The video below takes in some of this footage.

Not sure where but I was hamming it up!

The last bit of this leg is urban running through the streets which essentially just cuts across Canberra rather than around it, and heads towards Mt Majura. Nothing much to report here; a few roads to cross, a few drains to run in being being the highlights before we come to CP3.

At 888m, Mt Majura is the highest peak on the course and perhaps this is why it is placed in the last leg. A really hard way to finish off an ultra but ultras aren't ever meant to be easy. I struggled on this leg and my split times evidenced this, losing time to the field here for the first time during the race. I also got cramps in the same left calf, at the same point on the course that I got them last time. It was just after the singletrack section, once on the road to the summit. Perhaps running all of this is not the best strategy and hiking this perhaps would have been safer? To overcome the cramps becoming completely debilitating, I smashed the water and electrolytes and ran it out the best I could. Not knowing where the field was behind me, I just had to keep doing the best I could and once back on the foothills leading up the last climb of Mt Ainslie, things had almost come good again.

The End!

Once up and over Ainslie it was a couple of kms of road up War Memorial Drive and I was home, finishing in 9:34 and pretty dead on my feet. Glad to have pulled 4min off my CR, although at only 100km, the 2018 run was obviously a better run. Strangely though I thought today's run was a better run, but not reflected in the time. I guess I must be just getting old!

Thanks as always to the Sri Chinmoy team and all volunteers for another great event!

Interview on ABC Breakfast Radio

Video courtesy of Sarankhuu