On the weekend with a few other Striders I experienced the Pinnacles Classic Trail Race. With its main selling point (or deterrent) being 18 hills in 18kms I knew I was in for a tough baptism. The event was originally scheduled for the 2nd April however due to damage done to the area by cyclone Debbie it was postponed to the 30th.
Having to pull out of what was going to be my first trail run earlier in the year due to injury I was keen to do one prior to the road races I have planned later in the season. The race organisers have implemented a strict carpooling strategy to help with the lack of parking near the start. It was for this reason that Yvonne and myself cautiously jumped in Stan’s Stepzmobile with the possible threat looming of Stan’s personal playlist consisting of Nickleback and Shania Twain ready to begin at any moment. To our delight this was put on the back burner and it was a nice drive out to Brookefield to Brisbane Forest Park which was a part of Brisbane I never knew existed and along the way I found several properties that will suit nicely once I win the lotto.
We arrived at the race at about 6:15 and opened the car doors to find we had driven through a portal and had been transported to Alaska. It was freezing and through chattering teeth our breath steamed out as we went to register and collect our numbers. We then shedded the extra layers and suited up in our performance enhancing Striders singlets. Except for Stan who believed due to the temperature his Striders shirt was the optimal attire.
Back up at the start we watched some fellow Striders take off in the 1st wave 20 mins early. A short wait later and we were treated to a race brief and instructions on where to go and what to look out for. After a few more minutes of Arctic conditions the gun went and we were off and running. The start was very good and even though the 100+ runners had to condense over a small bridge it was done with little to no pushing and bumping (friendly bunch these trail runners). Round the corner and up we went on the first hill which was a good introduction. It was not easy but from far being the hardest.
The good news was that at the top of the first climb we popped out of the valley and into the sun which was welcomed with open arms at that stage. It was on the 2nd hill that I caught up with Stan and he expressed his regret in wearing the shirt as the heart rate and temperature soared nearly as quickly as the elevation. This 2nd climb was one that just kept on giving. As the trail turned round corners I was sure I would see the top only to see more hill and so it went on for a bit over 2km straight up. It continued on this rocket like trajectory upwards with a few small descents to break it up all the way to the peak at about the 9km halfway mark.
We were instructed that when passing the officials at the half way mark to call out or number as they may not be able to read them all quick enough to write down. It was because of focusing on this that I completely missed the refreshment table with fruit, water and lollies and continued on what I thought would be the last climb. Being a loop course and finishing back where we started I knew what goes up must come down and figured it would be a nice easy descent back down. How wrong I was. Turns out that trail downhill running is an art form and I am but a mere finger painter. I tried to walk down the first really steep one only to start sliding so I adopted the out of control kamikaze approach which had my life flashing before my eyes in an instant.
The second half also saw what I think was the steepest climb of the race which came at the point where your quads felt like they were already made of a jelly like substance that somehow against all laws of physics seemed to weigh more than lead. After the heart rate maxed out on my garmin and I crested this mini mount Everest there was a good bit of downhill running towards the finish. I don’t know if it was the fact that I knew there must only be a couple of km’s to go or if it was the smell of the bbq at the finish line but I managed to put in a good hard push in the last 2km and pass a few others I had been chasing for a while.
Crossing the finish line I was very happy with my performance and gave it everything I could and managed I think a respectable 14th overall in 1:35. There was a great spread put on for all entrants that was included in the very well-priced $42 entrance fee that had not just fruit but also a delicious fruit slice that I may have had 2nds and 3rds of and also a bbq burger. To put the cherry on top we also had a Strider on the podium with Yvonne taking out 3rd place in the women’s race.
All in all I thoroughly enjoyed my first ever trail run and loved the difference to the road. I found that with no time goal or expectation I was able to just run to feel and I didn’t have to worry about checking my watch for split times along the way. I do encourage all Striders to try this event out next year not just because it is one of our championship events but because it is a really beautiful run and you can get your years’ worth of hills training done in one day. Even if there may have been many expletives come out of my mouth during some of the climbs and descents I will be back next year for sure to tackle the course in the reverse direction.
Submitted by Michael Holmes