Stepping outside my comfort zone I guess is what you call this one.
On Saturday 24th June 2017 I travelled down to Box Hill with my friend Mollie as she and a bunch of other friends of mine were taking part in the Salomon Sunset Series race. This is a 10km trail race which starts at the bottom of Box Hill and finishes pretty much at the top.
We arrived on site about 6:45pm. I said hello to a few friends who where already there. My original plan was to support those I knew running this thing. I don’t know what came over me but after a few minutes or so I felt like giving this a crack. I traveled down in my running kit anyway just in case I decided to run and my decision to do so was very much a last minute thing.
I had not fuelled to run 10km uphill or otherwise and the only thing light enough to stomach with 30 minutes or so before the start was a sausage roll and a couple of shot bloks. Not the ideal pre race fuelling strategy but hey.
It was almost time to start but not before Mollie led the warm up from the stage.
So onto the race. We set off shortly after 8pm. The first couple of kilometres were relatively flat. Then came the first of the climbs. This was the first of two climbs which involved stairs. Now, I’m no mountain goat and this climb really did put my lower back to the test. It felt like it was going on and on and on. I’m not gonna lie, my back really did start to hurt.
Thankfully a downhill section emerged and I could relax into my running again trying to keep a controlled descent as I was keen on staying upright as it was a little bit dark through the woods and also wanted to get my breathing under control. Mission accomplished! The water station soon became visible. I took a couple of minutes here to take some liquid onboard before the second climb. The other climb which involved stairs.
This climb didn’t feel as bad as the first. I think because I learnt some lessons during the first climb. Once at the top I seem to recall the trail levelling out a little bit and I could get back to running again. I recall seeing a marshal and saying ‘surely there’s a downhill bit soon’. Sure enough there was. With the light continuing to fade I was once again trying to make a controlled descent as not wanting to stack it anywhere. I felt much more comfortable on the section than I did on the first descent.
The final climb with about 2km to go was definitely the worst one for me. The weather was turning for the worse at this point and the rain was making the ground a bit slippy in places. Somehow I managed to catch and overtake a few people who had gone past me earlier in the race. I powered my way up the hill. I was getting wet and this was giving me the incentive to get this thing done as soon as. I was beginning to slip where the ground had gotten wet. A fellow runner came past me just after the 9km and said ‘just a kilometre to go’ which gave me the extra push to get going again. He was wearing a head torch so I decided to latch on to him which made a world of difference in those final stages.
I crossed the line with around 1hr23 on the clock. Given the amount of climbing involved I was pretty happy with this and happy to finish without falling over.
Normally I wouldn’t have even entertained the idea of entering a trail race on a whim. I guess I put this down to the confidence I have in my running. I’m certainly no expert at trail running but this experience has definitely sparked something. I may have walked about 95% of the uphill sections but I made it to the finish line. I’ve done trail events before but this was by far the toughest trail course I have completed to date.