With a few test runs under my belt since Race 1‘s ITB issues, I was feeling a bit more confident about a capacity to run the distance pain free. An easy mind makes for a much better race experience….not that being forced to climb fences, trespass on golf courses and contemplate deep river crossings don’t make for good stories, it’s just that it seems running a conventional race can be fun too. Who would have thunk it??
I’m a bit of a creature of habit and much prefer to arrive at a race early….how else am I supposed to find time to pace around, pack/un-pack/pack and check my gear 20 times? You can’t rush this process….it’s just not the done thing. So, up at 0600 to be at Grant’s place by 0630 then the 1-hour drive to Plenty Gorge, giving us the pick of the parking spots and about 50mins to chillax and tune in. Hoping to keep his dicky knees quiet, Grant even scored himself a free Rock Tape application courtesy of Bryan Optimus Health. This seemed to make a difference for the big fella…click here if you want to see the “how to” video.
As with all of Rapid Ascent events, the marshaling area was abuzz with activity and support for the incoming hoard of trail runners. These events are always extremely well put together….smooth and slick all the way through, yet with a relaxed and friendly atmosphere that just keeps bringing more and more people into the sport. It’s a good place to be on a cold, still Sunday morning.
This run was going to be a little different….levitated 30mm off the trail for the full 17.6km distance. I was testing out the latest noise in long distance footwear….the Hoka One One (pronounced Hok-a Oh-nay O-nay)…specifically the Stinson Trail model.
While these monster trucks have a modest 4mm heel drop, you are suspended 30mm from the floor with what can only be described as a “maximalist” approach to trail running. The intention aimed at providing a softer ride, extending mileage and improving recovery time. Now, while I am happy to report my own humble interpretation on these monster trucks, I have embedded a video below from the YouTube channel, The Ginger Runner. He’s a qwerky bloke who seems to know some shit about shoes…reviewing just about everything on the planet.
Can’t view this video on your mobile device? Click here.
The race was through the same course as last year…fine by me. It’s a great combination of single track, undulating elevations, water crossings (cold water feeling SO good…like an instant anti-inflammatory), fire trails and steep scrambles. It was a cold morning, but completely still with an overcast sky. Great conditions.
Starting off at a reasonable pace, I just wanted to stick with Grant. He’s a few years younger than me, and although his knees might be a bit dodgy, the guy is an experienced CrossFitter and has the engine to back it up. This definitely took me out a little quicker than I would have on my own, so I was grateful for that. It took me about 5-6km before I felt like I was tuning into the terrain and getting a feel for the Hokas. While there’s a disconnect with the ground when you’re that far above it, you still feel in control and the run was incident-free…no close calls, no slip and slides. However, the water crossings did have them feeling like house bricks for a short time and you do miss some of that feeling of responsiveness and connection with the ground underneath. However with an ITB inflammation only just barely in my rear view mirror, it did feel good to have a softer ride….I’m aiming for a sub-12hr Surf Coast Century so anything that promotes longevity is registering towards the top of my list. While my light, fast Ascis GEL DS Trainers and Asics GEL Fuji Sensors will be on my feet for Stages 1 and 2 respectively, I think the Hokas might play a role in the last 40-50km when my feet might need a softer touch.
What was a massive eye-opener is how fast these trucks can carry you downhill. I’m usually quite careful on the descents, with the impact just making it too hard for me to completely “let go”. The Hokas however were made for downhills….big, ugly pillows but rolling like two Sherman tanks with the brakes out….destroying every runner in my path. This new found capacity to almost sprint downhill nearly had me laughing out loud…I LOVED it. It’s gotta be good when you’re 16km into a trail run with 600m of ascent under your belt and can still clock 18.5km/h flying down a rocky trail. Ka-Pow!
While I will never be the fastest cat on the track I was happy to see I came through 2:30 faster than last year’s event, although I did drop a few places…seems everyone must have been quicker 🙂 Bastards. They’re not all bad though, I suppose….my beloved Mountain Raid buddies Claire and Jimmy smashed out 3rd (long course) and 8th (medium course) respectively….slippery fish, they are 😉 WIth a new course waiting for us all in the Dandenong Ranges for Race 3, I’m just hoping the 21km feels nice and progressive…no aches, no pains. Eyes on the prize 🙂