I did it! I completed my first 50km trail run today. And I did it the day after I completed the Conondale Range Great Walk so I am doubly proud of my efforts.
The Flinders Tour is part of the Glasshouse Mountains Trail Running series, which has a history dating back to 1990 when the Glasshouse 100 was the first 100 mile trail run in Australia. The Flinders Tour event, held every July, has a 10km, 25km and 50km option; I took the 50km options.
I took the early start option because I wasn’t sure I’d make the cut-offs. I was moderately confident of making the 7 hours cut-off for the finish but didn’t think I’d make the 3:15 cut-off for 27km. I also didn’t want to run with the pressure of time chasing me. I wanted the luxury of knowing that I could totally bonk and walk half the course while still finishing within the adjusted 8 hour cut-off.
The course started with a nasty run up Mt Beerburrum. While the mountain is only about 289m high, the trail is bitumen and heads straight up. All but one of us in the early start walked the entire bitumen section of the climb. The views of the breaking dawn creeping over the Glasshouse Mountains were a brilliant way to start the run.
After Mt Beerburrum the course followed fire trails and short sections of single track through the pine forest plantations that surround the Glasshouse Mountains. I traveled well for the first 18km. I ran all the flats and downhills, and walked only some of the hills. At 18km I hit a small wall because my feet started to hurt a lot from the sharp gravel that covered much of the fire trail. But I walked my way through it for about 500m and then decided I was going to run to the 20km mark. That was all I needed because just after 20km I reached the third checkpoint where they had Endura, watermelon and salty pretzel sticks.
After the aid station I decided to run to 25km, take a photo and keep running to the 27km turn around. And that’s exactly what I did. I ran. I wanted to prove that I could reach 27km in 3:15. While I would have missed the cut-off if I’d started at the actual start time because I left the turn around checkpoint at 3:20, I was happy to have made it to the turn around in 3:15 and to be feeling strong. Just before the turn around I passed all the 25km runners who were running towards us. There were a lot of them and passing each other was difficult but it was a lovely change to running alone (I ran alone from about 8km to just before the 27km turn around).
After the turn around I felt strong as I ran towards the 30km mark but then started to get a bit lost in the enormity of the challenge. I had to fight my mind telling me that it was silly to be out there. But I was prepared for this eventuality and simply kept reminding myself what a blessing it is to be able to participate in this type of event. Just after 32km we ran down a short section of single track. I knew it was coming so for the 2km I was struggling I waited for the checkpoint so that I could enjoy the single track. It was rough and grassy; a fun area to run.
After the single track we ran on more fire trail. I was finding the going tough on my feet. While the Vibrams are great for my form, my feet definitely aren’t yet tough enough to handle this type of rocky terrain. I think it’s because I couldn’t move my toes to change the way they impacted against the rocks; they were just splayed in the shoes’ toes. So I decided to buy a pair of Merrel Trail Gloves as an alternate running shoe for this type of longer run where the surface will be too hard for my feet in the Vibrams. No doubt I’ll be able to run this type of course in Vibrams in future; I just need to give my feet time (you have all seen my training reports and probably realise I don’t really do enough miles to have tough feet yet).
At 37.56km I hit the wall really badly. I had been running steadily more slowly since 30km with bursts of energy. I was still happy with my speed of 7.8kph. Fortunately, there were three ladies who were walking the 25km course who I came across as I hit the wall. I spent 2km walking with them. They kept me going by chatting to me. It was amazing. I was feeling horribly low and talking to them took my mind off the pain in my feet and the struggle in my mind.
And then I hit a checkpoint. I had eaten a Powerbar while I was walking, and stocked up on Endura, Coke, watermelons and salty pretzel sticks at the checkpoint. It did the trick. I started to run. And I felt so empowered and high that I took this short video clip to share with you all.
At the top of the hill I was walking up in that clip I had to navigate my way through an obstacle course of fallen tree trunks that were laying across the track. They were probably put there to stop dirt bikers from traveling on the trail but they also made life difficult for me. But not so difficult that I couldn’t keep going. After crossing the tree trunks I ran all the way down the next hill and then started to catch back up to the runners who had overtaken me when I was struggling with the wall.
And then it happened. I hit that sweet spot where I could keep running through my exhaustion. I caught up with and overtook five experienced ultra runners who I’d been trading places with all day (they had also taken the early start). And I just kept going! I decided that I wanted to finish the race in less than 7 hours. My mind took over and I was able to ignore the pain in my body (to an extent). The extra 1.64km over 50km was really tough but I pushed through. The mind is stronger than the body.
I took these two video clips with my phone to share the final stretch of my 50km trail run with you. Sorry about the quality though.
Total: 51.64km in 6:48.