I think i’m still in shock!
Yesterday I somehow managed to score my first ever trail running podium and I was so overcome with happiness when I crossed the line that I burst into tears.
Last weekend while I was sitting in the car being chauffeured home from the Six Foot Track Marathon, Maria and I got talking about the Running Wild race in Lawson that was being held the next weekend. I had contemplated entering earlier in the week when I received an email reminder about the race letting me know that registrations were still open, but hadn’t fully committed as I wasn’t sure how my legs would feel a week later. Somehow Maria and I came to the conclusion that it was a good idea for me to enter and before I got home I was registered for the 17km event.
The Monday after Six Foot was tough. My quads and calfs were very, very sore and I was hoping that my massage on Thursday would help alleviate some of that before the race. Thankfully it did and by Saturday my legs were feeling normal again.
I spent Saturday morning taking the walk/run group at the gym where I work and training a few PT clients, then headed into Pyrmont for the Nike Training Club Tour Sydney, a day of fitness and fun. I took it pretty easy as I knew I had a tough run coming the next day.
Sunday I was up at 4.30am and heading to the Blue Mountains. I had convinced my friend Amanda to come and join me for the run too so I was looking forward to seeing her. We are both doing UTA100 in May so we have been trying to schedule some weekend runs together and this would be the first! (ha ha)
I parked at the Lawson Bowling Club and headed down the (hilly) road to the start/finish area and collected my bib. There weren’t many familiar faces but a few people said hi and asked me about 6 foot (I wore my race t-shirt). My plan was to take the race pretty easy as I knew my body would still be recovering so this was to be my long, slow run for the week.
Amanda and her friend Vicki arrived and we chatted as we waited for the race to start.
There were 2 distances being run on the same course at the same time, so the 17km (long) option were doing 2 laps of the course, and the shorter course was just 1 lap of the trail. We eventually started and the pack seemed to be very slow moving. I had planned to stick with Amanda for the first section of the trail, but as I started to overtake people I noticed that she wasn’t behind me anymore. I didn’t think i was going that fast but maybe she was still recovering from her run at 6 foot the week before, or perhaps she had decided to run with Vicki. I hoped that she wouldn’t be upset I had abandoned her as it was not intentional.
There are thousands of thoughts that go through my mind while running, sometimes they are run-related and sometimes that are not.
The first out and back section was short and brought us back past the start area where we made a left turn onto an uphill section, we would have to do this section 3 times. Most of this course was fire trail so it was quite wide and meant for easy passing, which I seemed to be doing without too much effort. I noticed that I still felt cold as we went up the first incline, my hands were freezing so I decided to keep running up the first hill so I could try and warm up. Normally I would have walked a hill that steep but I was feeling pretty good and was keen to get warm.
The trail was very rocky and I was thankful for my new Brooks Adrenaline ASR shoes, today was the first time I had worn them on trails as I was breaking them in and they felt really good. There were lots of ups and downs and I worked hard to overtake several people on the down sections as this seems to be my strength.
We passed through a gate and headed down another steep hill as I shuffled my feet in small, quick steps moving fast and calculated. My left eye kept watering which blurred my vision a little and make it tricky, but I didn’t let that bother me.
Eventually (after another short uphill section & a spot for a photo) we got to the turnaround point and I saw my friend Luke who is a volunteer for the Running Wild Club and he cheered me on. I made a mental note to grab food there when I came past next as I knew i’d be out of my drink by then. I was carrying a 600ml soft flask with Tailwind (grape) and it was already over half empty. I had started the race with a grumbly belly (even though I had eaten breakfast before I left home and had also eaten a banana as I walked from my car to the start line) so I had been trying to get the liquids in for my body to use during the race.
We passed back down the steep hill and along the trail seeing many runners coming the other way. I cheered them on and chatted to a few others near me too, it always helps make the time fly past.
As we went through the gates we were directed down a trail to the right and it was a beautiful downhill single track section, my favourite! I raced down there to try and make up some time and really enjoyed this section. I was already looking forward to doing it again on the second lap!
The single track ended and we were back near the start area and heading off up to the original out and back section. I saw many of the front runner as they motored back towards me and noticed that there were lots of females breathing down my tail. Little did I know that these ladies were all doing the short course and there run was almost over as they were only doing the 1 lap.
I got to the turnaround and headed back trying to keep up a descent pace on this flat section. My friend Kathy caught up to me and we chatted about Mile 27 and our coach Andy. I learned she was only doing the 1 lap as she was taking it easy and it got me thinking about how many other runners were almost done too, or were they speeding up trying to catch me too?
She motored off towards the finish line and I pulled up my socks for another lap of the course. I hit the steep first hill again and this time I power walked up that section. I kept trying to maintain a comfortable breathing pattern and staying positive. It was about this time that I met Dave and we chatted about 6 foot which he had also done the week before (and had beaten me by 10 minutes, ha ha). I ran with him for a while but he kept pulling ahead of me on the flats and the uphill. My plan was to try and stick with him as long as i could, so i kept him in my sights and caught up to him a few times on the downhills.
I got to the turnaround point and I had been pushing it a bit harder than the first lap so was starting to feel a little tired. I grabbed a piece of banana and scoffed it down as Luke cheered me off down the hill again. It was the last leg.
There was a lot of downhill here and I managed to catch up to Dave again so we chatted some more. I had been cheering on the runners coming in the other direction and if I was correct there were only 3 ladies in front of me, could that be right? Oh well, surely I was wrong and I should just stick to my race plan and enjoy the trails.
And then I saw the photo man again who confirmed it for me, he told me I was in 3rd place (but I knew he meant 4th place, surely I could not be 3rd!). How the hell did that happen?
And then the brain started ticking over….. would it be possible to get a podium? If i pushed it here and caught up to that lady I could see ahead would I be in 3rd place? Was it possible? Should I go for it?
I told Dave about my debacle and he made the call for me. He was going to help me get 3rd! (I owe him big time for that, thanks again Dave!). I told him I’d be happy with Top 5 but he said ‘screw that we are getting you 3rd place!’
And with that Dave motored me up the hills and told me that I would catch her on the downhills as she was slow and cautious going down. He was so encouraging and positive and his winning attitude seemed to rub off on me. The lady in front seemed to be pulling away from me on the hills but we had a lot of downhill coming and I hoped it would be her weakness (sorry Ros).
We passed through the gates and Dave cheered me on to “go for it”, so I turned right onto my favourite single track section and (with a hidden smile on my face) gave it my all as I headed down the trail and motored past the lady in front as she slowly clambered down the rocks. I felt like I was flying! I was now in 3rd place – far out! Really?!?!
Now there was the pressure of thinking about her creeping up behind me trying to catch up. I kept telling myself that she was closing in, that I could hear her breathing down my neck and it kept me pushing all the way down to the bottom of the track and also as i climbed back up the final stairs. At the end of the single track I turned right and just had the original out and back section to conquer.
I took a quick glance behind me to see if I could spot the other lady and she was nowhere to be seen. Could this be possible? Keep your head down Hailey, it’s not over yet. I knew I had about 1km to go so I tried to find another gear to increase the gap so she wouldn’t come flying past me on the last section, but I also wanted to leave something in the tank in case I needed to make a sprint finish. God this was stressful, but so exciting!
I’ve never felt anything like it.
We got to the turnaround and I anxiously kept an eye out for the lady runner behind me. Eventually I saw her and she wasn’t that far behind. She was smaller than me so probably much quicker on the flat sections so I had to keep up my pace and finish strong.
The trail went up and down and around and eventually I could see the finish line, this was it. I was going to do it. Oh my god!
I crossed the line and a lady walked over to me holding a wine glass and a voucher, she congratulated me and told me that i was the 2nd female. 2nd female! Was that right? Surely she was wrong. I burst into tears and bent forward as I tried to catch my breath and let my legs rest. She asked me if something was wrong and I told her it was my first podium, then she gave me a big hug and congratulated me again. Her name was Annie and she told me to go get a drink, some food and then come back for a photo.
As I wiped my tears I saw Dave crossing the finish line and I made my way over to thank him for pushing me and helping me so much, what a great guy. Trail runners really are a whole different breed of awesome humans!
After some food and water I walked bak over to Anne and we got a photo together. I think I was still in shock at the result, but you could not wipe the smile off my face! 😀
I chatted to some other friends Stephane, and Jill and then I found the ladies who had come 1st and 3rd and congratulated them on their race. They were both super friendly and really nice, genuine people. Below is a photo of us, there’s Ros (3rd) on the left, Alicia (1st)in the middle, and me (2nd) on the right.
I’m so glad i got to meet these 2 ladies, they were so kind and I wish them both congratulations again 🙂
A big thank you to all of the volunteers and organisers at the Running Wild event. They do an amazing job and it really is the quality people who bring it all together so well. Thank you for such a well organised and well supported event. I’ll be back for Series 7, see you then!
😀 😀 Happy Running 😀 😀