Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Sydney Trailwalker 2013

Originally I had intended to write this race report reflecting on how Sydney Trailwalker 2007 was my first foray into the ultra trail world, having only ever walked/jogged Woodford to Glenbrook (25km) prior, but I had too much fun on the trails this year with my team and crew to do that. So instead this is a light hearted reflection written in jest and is no way to be insulting or critical of anybody. Enjoy...

I've been known to say, "I'm not doing Trailwalker again," but that was three Sydney Trailwalkers ago. In the lead up to entries opening again for this year's event I was adamant that I would not be doing it again, but that was before Shane Simpson (a running mate from the Blue Mountains) asked me to join his team. Shane had already lined up Ewan Horsbugh and Paul Robertson. When asked I said "yes" straight away as I new it would be a fun day running with those guys.These three guys are my friends, training buddies, competitors, and now my team mates. It was probably overdue that we all came together to compete in a team event like Trailwalker. As it turned out Sean Greenhill and Melanie Parry of Mountain Sports had kindly offered to sponsor the team of Blue Mountains runners, with an invite extended to myself being a transient resident, on the condition that we get the course record.

This year's Trailwalker course was supposed to revisit Crosslands Reserve, but the bridge to the check point broke. Depending who you talk too (Grant and Marcus), it was my fault. So the course reverted back to using Berowra Community Centre as the 2nd checkpoint.
'The Bridge'. I swear it was broken before I got to the middle.
After returning from my trip to Europe the team went for a training run together. We did a run around the middle section of the course and I was surprised to discover how strong and fast the guys had become as I struggled to keep up with them and I started having doubts about my ability to stick with them come race day. Apparently what Sean and Mel had said about winning had been true and the boys had been training hard. Any thoughts of pulling out were put to bed as the team was locked in when the t-shirts were printed (GetShirty).
Team t-shirt. Can you pick the team members?
At the start line there was the usual buzz and excitement of the event ahead. Although I lived closest to the start line I still thought we could have spent more time in bed.
A quick nap before we started.
The pre-race plan was to put me in the front to dictate the pace as I'm the slowest starter. So when we started running the boys all took off and left me to chase. The team to look out for on the day was GUNN Runners GU_Newton-Nathan consisting of Jonathan O'Loughlin, Damian Smith, Ian Gallagher and Paul Gillan. Another surprise package was Steve's Holiday Xperience consisting of David Overend, David Wilson, Justin Garrett and Paul Cuthbert, who we discovered on the day had already won Trailwalker events in Brisbane and Melbourne. It all made sense as at the start they set off at a blistering pace, leading for most of the first leg. Coming into the Cowan checkpoint (CP1, 15.6km) we managed to pass Steve's Holiday Xperience to gain the lead with GUNN Runners just behind us.
Coming into Berowra checkpoint.
We maintained our lead for the next leg, which traverses bushland around Berowra Heights that I consider to be my extended backyard. At the Berowra checkpoint (CP2, 27.5km) both GUNN Runners and Steve's Holiday Xperience dropped a runner each.

As we were nearing the Bobbin Head checkpoint (CP3, 42.5km) the GUNN Runners, now consisting of 3 runners, had caught up with us. So they should as they are a bunch of very talented trail runners. In our team Shane was starting to struggle with cramps, Ewan had a spew and I hit my thigh on a tree. Paul might have done something too, but no one noticed as we were dealing with our own issues at the time. We ran in and out off the checkpoint with GUNN Runners. We pretty much ran together up until checkpoint 6 having a chat and cracking jokes at each other. It was good to run in such a big group during a race.
Coming into Bobbin Head checkpoint.
Between checkpoints Ewan was usually bludging at the back of our team. He could also have been looking after Shane and his man cramps, but we'll call it bludging in this race report. At checkpoints however Ewan wanted to be at the front to show how strong he was. We all knew he was hurting deep down.
Heading out of St Ives checkpoint. Note that Ewan was in front, intentionally.
After leaving the St Ives (CP4, 58.1km) checkpoint we were behind the GUNN Runners boys. We managed to catch them near the Cascades on our way to Macfarlane Reserve (CP5, 70.6km). In what we suspect to be a cunning ploy to sabotage our team they inentionally ran off course and in doing so took us with them. Our fault for following. The extra k's were not needed at this stage of the race and the detour was starting to take it's toll on our team both physically and mentally. Points to you GUNN Runners.
GUNN Runners explaining to Sean and Marcus how they sucked us in.
Practicing walking in a straight line. Silhouettes for next year's t-shirts?
  Although we had lost the outright lead, we still had a full team so were effectively still in first place.

Every runner had a crew member at checkpoints (Macfarlane Reserve).

Marcus showing us the way to our gear at Roseville Bridge checkpoint.
Heading out of Davidson Park checkpoint (CP6, 81.3km) we donned our head torches and headed back out onto the trail. I didn't get very far before I realised that I was running in the dark. It appeared that I hadn't charged my battery. Luckily there was a spare one amongst us and we carried on to Ararat Reserve checkpoint (CP7, 88.8km).
Last checkpoint, Ararat Reserve.
At the finish line, just before the fatigue set in.
The last leg was filled with a bit of excitement when we managed to loose the markers and orientation. This is the last thing we needed at the end of a race; to use our brains. It was hard enough to use our bodies let alone composing ourselves for rational thought. With a bit of incoherent conversation we set ourselves right again and headed for the finish.

We all ended up crossing the line in 13:24. Not quite the course record we were aiming for , but for me that was a 1 minute PB. All up not a bad day running with friends.

A big thank you needs to go out to our 'cast of thousands' support crew:
Sean Greenhill
Mel Parry
Andrew Lee
Grant McFadden
Marcus Warner + 2x Dish Lickers
Bec Horsburgh
Jackson Horsburgh
Mr and Mrs Horsburgh
and of course Brian Cardelli
Crewing can be exhausting, no matter how fit you are.
It's important that crew keep occupied while waiting for runners to arrive at checkpoints. Such activities include polishing your Western States buckle, posing for photographs, arranging each other in order of height or perhaps speed, to name just a few.

Sydney Trailwalker 2013


  1. Very amusing Beth nd spot on with our crewing shenanigans

  2. great report Beth and well done on the win! It was good fun running with you guys for most of the day.

    p.s. sorry for the detour!