The old phrase ‘move outside your comfort zone’, in all its variations, ran through my mind time and time again as I readied for the Two Bays Trail Run on January 11th 2015. To say I felt like a duck out of water is an understatement. A fitting comparison might be like you were putting a Toorak tractor at the bottom of a 4WD track in outback Australia. Oh, for those outside Melbourne, ‘Toorak Tractor’ is slang here in Melbourne for a large 4WD type car that would never ever see a dirt track in it’s life! I am made to run, but when I faced that start line, my shoes were clean… this was going to be the third time in my life that I had run on an actual trail.
My coach had suggested that after the Melbourne Marathon, Two Bays be my next major race. I remember sitting in my backyard, naively asking the questions of ‘where is it?’ and ‘how far?’… I had no idea. My background is mid-distance; half-marathons being the longest racing distance I had done. And flat. I do gentle undulation without a problem, but I wasn’t used to serious inclines.
After a very early morning, a lovely drive down to Dromana with a friend who was also running Two Bays & trails for the first time, multiple toilet stops and taking a moment to enjoy the view across the bay, the starting gun went off. It was akin to a stampede. The first turn was early, and fairly tight, and people were vying for space. As we rounded the bend, I looked up and there it was. Arthurs Seat. I had been told about this climb, and how ‘awful’ it was.
With a road racing background, I was taking my cue somewhat from the people around me, and was thrilled when the time came to walk. My legs were hurting and we were not even 3km in! How on earth was I going to manage another 25km. I had only ever run 28km once before in a training run… What had I got myself into.
Here, I knew that I had to beat my mind early on. I wasn’t going to let it take me down before the 5km mark! Indeed, I wasn’t going to let it take me down at all! But it was at the 4km mark I knew that this was going to be one of the most taxing runs I had ever made – it was tough mentally and physically.
As we rounded the top of Arthurs Seat and began to make our way down the back of it and along the ridge between the bays, I was able to pick up some pace again and feel like I was running as I normally would. This ‘Toorak Tractor’ was back on the ‘road’… The trail had lulled me into a false sense of security! Up and down we went, in and out of bushes, and brush, fields and small sections of road.
As we came through the first aid point, there was someone calling my name. I tell you what – I hadn’t expected to see anyone I knew out on the course. But what a lift it gives you. As Andrew from Oscars100 cheered me on, I quickened my step and felt a little more strength come into the legs. There were many moments like this as we went. There were a few people I actually knew along the way, but this is where having your name on your bib is invaluable!
I had no idea where I was in the scheme of things. I had begun the race with a rough time goal, but with no real concept of how realistic it was. And in honesty, I forgot to check my split times and total time until the 26km mark. I was engrossed in how many kilometres had ticked by and how many were left to go.
Feeling good between 8km to around about the 25km mark, I thoroughly enjoyed the trails. The views were incredible, the variation in scenery was remarkable. I was running mostly on my own, but would occasionally be passed or pass someone else. The atmosphere out there amongst the runners was like nothing I had experienced before. There was a camaraderie and social element that I had never encountered in any road event. It was beautiful.
As I came through the 24km mark, I began to anticipate ‘The Stairs’. Like with Arthurs Seat, I had been warned about ‘The Stairs’. In my mind, I had pictured these as standard beach type stairs: somewhat uneven in distance and height, but nothing too bad. I thought perhaps they got such a bad wrap because by 25km, the last thing anyone would want to do is climb any stairs. Oh how wrong I was. These stairs – if you can call them stairs – were incredible. Actually, I do remember commenting to a fellow runner that they were evil. I wanted to cry. They were unevenly spaced, some 10cm apart, others 50cm, but it was the height of them that hurt. The smallest one felt like it was knee height, and I could have sworn that one was close to thigh height. I recognise that by this point, I was fatigued, and my perception was seriously impacted by the amount of pain my quads were in. These stairs had well and truly earned their reputation!
Needless to say, I got to the top and wanted to stop. There was only 3km left, but I didn’t think I could do it. I was spent. Done. Nothing left. But then I thought of who was waiting for me at the end. It was the first race where all of my kids and hubby were going to be waiting for me at the finish chute. I simply told my legs to move – go legs go. I was overtaken by a couple of women, I had a lovely man give me a few words of encouragement. However, it was the knowledge that my family would be there waiting for me that kept me going.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.
I counted my steps for those last 3km in musical bars. And then I could hear the music of the finish chute. I had involuntary tears well up and spill right over. I had done it. I had run that race and given it everything I had. All goals aside, I didn’t really care. I caught sight of the face and eyes of my youngest boy, 20 months old. His eyes lit up and I heard him call out to me. From some place deep inside, my legs found something, and the sprint finish that I love came out of me. I made those legs turn over as hard as they could up the final incline and across the finish line.
I located the coldest drink I could, received my finishers medal and hunted out my family. I embraced them all and cried. And then was dunked back into the reality of ‘Mum I’m hungry’ like you’d have a bucket of ice over your head. But the joy of what I had accomplished was incredible, and two words were a staple for the rest of the day, ‘ Ask Dad’, as I revelled in what I had just achieved.
I would highly recommend Two Bays Trail Run as a brilliantly organised and well put together run. Kudos to Rohan Day (Race Director), Big Long Run and all the sponsors (including Mizuno and PowerBar) for a wonderful event. As much as I still love the roads, it has got me contemplating some other crazy adventures later this year… Wonderland through the Grampians perhaps…?
Had you asked me 12months ago, could you run 28km from Dromana to Cape Shank, I would have laughed in your face. But that’s exactly what I did.
Come Monday I felt like the tin man from the Wizard of Oz. I could hardly walk. And yet I call it fun and will likely do it again.
About the Author
Hannah Easton is a mother runner – a mother to 4 children (5 if you count the husband) between 8
& 20months. Traditionally a road runner, due to training with a pram much of the time, her favourite
distance is the half marathon.
2015 is a year where she will focus on increasing pace, and favouring some shorter distance races
also, all while spreading the love of living a healthy, active, full life. Running for Hannah is about so
much more than fitness. It’s about developing friendships and relationships, setting an example for her family and embracing the joy and wonder of the world around her.