After my work trip to Australia was extended and I found out that I was not going to be able to run the MK festival of running on 6th March I started looking for local races to join instead. This is where I found the Perth Trail Series and Perth Trail Runners.
There was an event on the same day as MK Festival so it seemed perfect, the only problem was that entries were now closed. I sent a quick Facebook message to the RD to ask if I could register on the day and received the blunt reply ‘no rego on the day’. I asked if there was any way to register now even though entries were closed, the next reply asked me to call and gave a phone number, this one had a smiley face; I was getting somewhere. I called straight away and spoke to Melina the RD, more about Melina in a bit but safe to say she is one of the nicest people I have ever met. I spoke with Melina for a few minutes and we hatched a plan for me to sign up for the following race and she would transfer my details to this one. I was in.
Melina added me to the Perth Trail Runners Facebook group and suggested I try and carpool in order to minimise the number of vehicles going to the event. I posted that I was a late entry staying in Fraser Suites and would anyone like to carpool, an hour later and I had a couple of offers; I agreed to carpool there with Fridja who was staying in the same hotel and back with Nicolas who was going to be hanging around a bit after the race. I loved their willingness to help another runner even though they’d never met me but this is how runners are and Perth Trail Runners are no exception.
Qi Gong, Wungong Regional Park – 6th March
I woke up at 0500 and was at the hotel reception by 0520 to catch my lift, the race was not that far away but due to the heat they all start at the crack of dawn. I met Fridja for the first time and we jumped into her friend Teagan’s Holden; in all there were 5 of us in the small hatchback, me and 4 fit women, I wasn’t complaining. I was sat in the back with Fridja and a Kiwi who’s name escapes me, we chit-chatted all the way and Teagan and the other girl in the front who’s name I also can’t remember navigated and drove us to the event. I wasn’t paying much attention to where we were going until Teagan announced that we were lost, we weren’t the only ones however as a ute coming the other way slowed and asked if we were looking for the race too. He told us that he had driven the length of the road, the road that was named in the race instructions and couldn’t find it. The girls did a bit of googling on the only phone with reception and after a quick u-turn we were off again. 10 minutes later and we were greeted but the reassuring sight of hi-vis vests and runners warming up, this was the place; it turns out that in the same park there were 2 roads with the same name.
After giving my name at the ‘rego’ desk (the Aussies love to abbreviate and ‘rego’ pronounced ‘reg-o’ was their abbreviation for registration) and handing over cash for the race I was handed my race number along with a small branded water bottle and collapsible cup; the entire event was disposable cup free as to have less of an impact on the environment and plastic bottles were to be banned in the next series of events. This save the world vibe was to continue throughout the event and is a cause I can definitely get behind.
I hadn’t brought my race belt with me so I pinned my race number to my shorts, emptied my bowels and applied lashings of Striderm (an Aussie version of Body Glide) to my inner thighs and I was ready to go. Melina gathered the masses with her megaphone and began to give the race briefing. Melina and her partner Vince run Perth Trail Series; Vince is shaggy haired wiry runner and exudes friendliness and warmth, Melina is a small, beautiful, Earth Mother kind of woman who with her laid back Aussie drawl makes everyone feel welcome whilst juggling the thousand tasks necessary to run a successful running event. We all hung around the start line in a gaggle as Melina explained that Qi Gong meant energy work and to find or Qi or Chi on the trail and enjoy ourselves as we made light work of the race ahead, she also asked people to bring back stories from the trail to share with others at the end and offered ginger beer to anyone who picked up rubbish whilst they were running. This all sounds a bit hippie and it is but by the end I was on the same wavelength as Melina and loving it.
I didn’t really hear the go signal but I was soon shuffling over the line trying to start my music on my iPhone and hit go on my Garmin at the same time. The first part of the course was a short uphill followed by a long straight, I passed plenty of runners and continued to pass them on the next uphill; many runners were walking already on the uphills and I powered past these weak people. It wasn’t until about half way up the second climb that I noticed why they were walking, this climb went on for ages and I would soon discover that there were plenty more to come. I slowed to a walk and the weaklings I passed earlier walked on past and gave encouragement as they did; I had gone out too hard and I was beginning to realise that now. From here I walked to uphills and ran the flats and downhills just as everyone else around me was doing, I was wearing a visor and sunglasses but had to turn the visor backwards so that I could look up and see what was in-front of me on the steep inclines.
At this point of the race I wasn’t enjoying myself, the inclines were burning my quads and my sweat was pressing against the screen on my iPhone making me skip tracks on my playlist, I had listened to Starship – We Built This City for the second time when I decided to turn the music off put my visor in my race vest and run with the sounds of the trail and other runners beside me; I had realised that I was here to complete not compete and I decided to enjoy myself. Not that I was ever in with a chance of winning or even coming anywhere near the front of this race. I took a few race selfies and some scenery shots and spoke to runners on the gruelling uphills, I was now loving it. In the words of Melina I had found my Qi.
I was taking it all in, enjoying the beautiful scenery that the high peaks offered and the array of different trees and plants lining the route. I had just passed a sign warning of snakes on a long flat drag when a crazy woman with a pair of flip-flops in her hand ran past me barefoot, I later learned that she was a forty-odd year old South African called Dale Lynn and a bit of a legend in the running community. in the latter stages of the race I began chatting to some ex-pats who were extolling the virtues of emigrating to me, not that I needed much convincing, it’s definitely on my radar; Imagine being able to run these awesome trails every weekend.
I finished the race in 1:32:10 which is not much quicker than my half marathon PB and a little longer than I originally expected but I am more than happy with the result; the lesson here is that when trail running times and splits are not as important as enjoying yourself.
After the race and before the prize giving Melina invited people to share stories from the tale and one particular tale I remember was from a guy who had seen a mob of kangaroos cross the path in front of him only for one of the joeys to get stuck in a fence, so he and a couple of others paused their runs to help free the little tinker. After the prize giving I met up with Nicolas and his wife and daughter who had offered me a lift back via a nice albeit a little hipster coffee shop for a touch of breakfast and chat. Obviously Nicolas and his wife were awesome people and not only that but Nicolas was an amazingly humble athlete that actually won the race.
Swissmurdie, Lesmurdie Falls Regional Park – 20 March
Well done if your still reading this, I didn’t expect this blog post to be so long.
I didn’t expect to be in Perth for the first race and I definitely didn’t expect to be there 2 weeks later for the next in the series but once I found out that I would be it was a the top of my list of weekend activities. Once again I had missed the date for online entries so I took myself along to one of the Perth Trail Runners weekly Kings Park runs and pleaded my case with Melina face to face, obviously she agreed and I handed over my money there an then before she could change her mind.
I arranged to drive this time and would pick up Fridja en-route, obviously with me at the wheel there was no getting lost and the journey was quite uneventful. Again I queued at rego to get my race number and mingled with the other runners waiting for the off; I recognised a few of the runners from the previous race and again was blown away how friendly everyone was. The time came and with zero messing we were off and running, I had dispensed with my music this time around and even toyed with the idea of losing the Garmin but if my Strava addiction wouldn’t let me.
As with the first race the scenery was beautiful but it was soon hotting up, and the hills were just as brutal. On one of the long climbs I got a whiff of menthol and was sure someone was sucking down a halls soother, it kept hitting me though and no-one was close enough to smell what they were eating. I soon realised that this was every Koalas favourite snack, Eucalyptus and the scent along with the lung busting terrain did wonders for my respiratory system.
I didn’t make the same mistakes as the first race I just took my time and enjoyed the scenery and the company. Towards the end of the race there was a pretty technical downhill section but being slightly gung-ho I just threw myself down the hills and soon caught up with the girl running in front of me; as it was single track she stopped to let me pass but I declined telling her that she had been in front of me for the whole race and it would be rude to pass her now. After the last tricky downhill there was a sharp left onto a wide flat track and a marshal told us that there were 400 meters left, I turned to the girl who was no next to me and said that now was the time to race. We both sprinted like mad and I really struggled to keep up with her, but I stayed on her shoulder only pulling back just before crossing the line; I’m too much of a gentleman to not let a lady win.
This race was just over 17km and I finished in 1:58:25 over half an hour after the winner Nicolas who also won the previous race.