Tour de Mountain (Training Begins Today!)

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With essentially no training for over a month, it may have seemed foolish to commit to the John Harding Production of the Tour de Mountain around the suburban ridge-lines of Canberra. The organised event nevertheless provided Bob and I a good impetus to get out of bed, and out of the house, early for the 6:30 am start. Starting at a satellite shopping centre, there was plenty of parking and access to toilets - always a good start. We got underway on time, and although I had not done the event before, was only concerned with following those in front of me, and the fluorescent orange and yellow arrows.

I stuck at the back as many runners flew up the roadway in their starting sprint. So underdone, if I could do about the same time I took in the 20k run leg in the Triple Tri (1:55), I'd be happy. If much slower, I couldn't really worry about it ~ ideally, I didn't want to come last.

The first of the road crossings took us over a thankfully quiet Yamba Drive, and then through the suburb of Isaacs (after the first Australian born Governor General, Sir Isaac Isaacs - about the time have an Australian Head of State, not just an Imperial representative!) to Isaacs Ridge and the start of the trails, real climbs and fantastic views. Even though we had only travelled around 2.5kms, the field had already spread out enormously, so that only a few runners were visible on the long track ahead. Fellow six foot track slow version trekker Ewen passed me at this point, as the track began to rise precariously and I slowed to a snails pace. Wombatface walked up the worst of the hills, and was gaining on his lead with every step. I must learn to walk up hills (faster than jogging, and less tiring).

As the track continued to climb to the first of the Trig Points we were to tour, the ground was blanketed by both the fields of golden grasses which had so rapidly changed from their lush emerald growth, and the surrounding meadows of bright yellow flowers which were knee deep as far as the eye could see. The first of the welcome descents meant that I could make up some time on the female runner in front of me, although a few more climbs and declines were necessary for me to finally make up enough distance to pass her.

The views over the heads of the yellow flowers was spectacular, and I wished I had a camera with me (although the likelihood of me actually stopping to take a shot is very slim!). To the north was open grassland and a scene pastorale, whereas to the south and west, the suburbs of Canberra spread out like Lego set at the base of a dramatic backdrop of the brooding mass of the Brindabellas and countless local hills and mountains in the middle distance. You got to love living in Canberra when you are part of an event like this. We are so lucky to have so many wonderful places to run, right where people live and work.

A descent through the pine trees and across the romantically named Long Gully Road provided access to the first water station and onto Wanniassa Hills. I stopped briefly for a sip of water, not wanting to spread the cups too far and wide for the hard working volunteers manning the table. Here I passed a guy who was running around Ewen's pace up until that point as he stopped and spent longer drinking and chatting. A more forgiving climb to the next Trig Point followed, and long stretches of an orange single track cutting it's way through vast open stretches of native grasses already displaying a far more sun-bleached image of the golden fronds than those on the more sheltered Isaacs Ridge.
Tour de Mountain
An underpass provided an easier route to cross the next road, and we crossed into Farrer Ridge, briefly skirting the rear of some houses. The guy who had stopped at the drink station trundled past me steadily here, and I doubt that I saw him again, even in the far distance for the remainder of the event. Once over Athallon Drive and on to familiar tracks at the base of Mt Taylor. At one early stage here I could see five runners in front of me, winding their inexorable way up the track before it turned to an all-weather concrete track up the eastern face of Mt Taylor. We had run down this path in the second leg of the Triple Tri , and I was pleased that we were doing it in this direction today.

There were quite a few Sunday morning walkers out on this narrow track, although we were able to pass without too much drama, and the dogs were well behaved. Early on the sealed section I saw Ewen in front of me, and another runner in a sweat stained grey T-shirt. I set myself the goal of catching up, and hopefully passing, the grey T-shirt by the 15km mark. This was a seemingly luxurious 2.5k away, however I knew of my weakness on the climb, and how long it can take to make up relatively small deficits. The path changed to wide, shallow steps and I changed to walking, there being no real alternative going up with my short legs. I kept walking, as fast as I could, for most of the way to near the summit, passing another woman at the same time as Ewen. It was only when the descent started on the old roadway (a bugger to run up), that I managed to pass Ewen, although I knew that if there were any more climbs he would be far in front.

I was on a roll, literally, but my right shoelace had loosened it's double knot and was adding a dangerous dimension to the fast descent. Another woman was in front of me, and I reluctantly stopped at the next fence-line to tie it up, fumbling childishly as the fingers did not wish to obey me and taking far longer than I could have thought. Thankfully, I caught up to the other woman before too long and then spied a guy in front. I enjoy the feeling of running on my own, but with people around to push me from behind or to realistically chase. Around the base of Mt Taylor, I saw a a line of runners making their way up the mountain. For one brief, but disconsolate moment, I thought that we were to climb to the summit again; analysis of the Forerunner indicated that there was only around 2.5kms to go, which put that idea to rest. Thank Heavens!

The final drink stop, and the turn off the trails to rejoin footpaths and road running. I caught up and passed the grey T-Shirt, even later than I had hoped, and enjoyed the ease of running relatively fast on a quiet road, essentially downhill. I spied a guy in the distance, and managed to just reel him in near the final, and most dangerous road crossing. From his breathing I could hear him breathing hard and managing to keep up with me (and not be passed by a fat duck in a skirt). Around the final corner to the home straight - we both sought to go well. There was a large crowd at the finish - I could see Bob standing at the line with his camera yelling - and I knew that I wasn't going to make a pretty picture as I threw myself over the final few metres. I think I may have taken him by a nose, but it doesn't matter, I did myself proud, even if I was running myself Ugly!

A finish (by my watch) of 1:55:02 was a poor time, and so far behind the leaders, but one I was fairly happy with. It was spot on what I had predicted, not knowing the course, and once I had warmed up (about the 10k mark), just felt better and better. Love the trails, love the long stuff. The dark side is singing it's Siren's song.

Afterwards, a good social occasion and chance to catch up with some people I see all too rarely. The unintended break will probably do me good long term, and as Diana said, my Training Starts Today!

3 Responses to “Tour de Mountain (Training Begins Today!)”

  1. Anonymous Aki 

    Da da da, dum di dum, dum di dum,

    Not too much of the darkside Flashduck, patience and you will be the greatest the dark side has to offer yet.

    Congrats on the run, sounds like fun...apart from the downhills...

    Da da da, dum di dum, dum di dum.

  2. Anonymous ewen 

    A good detailed report FD! You remind me of how superb the views are on this run. What about that cool breeze! Also, I couldn't believe how reckless you were on that last downhill. You left me floundering and demoralised.

    A good beginning of the training!

  3. Anonymous Gronk 

    Nice run FD. Good to see your feeling good and back into it.

    Wishing both yourself and Bob a very Merry Xmas & HNY.

    Gronk :)

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