The Wandi Cross slogan is pure mountain running. Never has a slogan been more fitting.
It’s hallmark event is 27kms long with 2,250m of vertical gain and loss. To put that into perspective, the recent World Trail Running Championship was 44km with 2,200m of vert!
I am currently in the midst of some heavy training. The past four weeks, I'm averaged around 100kms a week with a lot of vert. The Wandi Cross was an opportunity to do something a little different for my weekly long run, plus I wanted to support a new local event.
2019 is only the second year for the Wandi Cross. Run by two Wandiligong locals, it features 4 events – a 5km (550m vert), 14km (1,150m vert), 27km (2,250m vert) and kids 2km (81m vert). It’s a great, grassroots event where all proceeds go towards taking the kids from the Wandi Primary out on an adventure day. How cool is that!
For the past week, I’ve been battling a sore hip. Thankfully I was able to get it checked out by the physio on Thursday morning. The cause - weakness in my left hip and glute, and I have been prescribed some strengthening exercises to fix it. I had a similar flare up in the lead up to the Melbourne Marathon in 2018 – the same diagnosis and exercises were prescribed which I did until the pain went away. So naturally, it has come back. Stick to your exercises people! But in all seriousness, I am lucky to have not experienced too many niggles thus far and want to keep it that way.
My plan for the Wandi Cross was to simply enjoy the day and hopefully score myself a spot in the top 3. It wasn’t an “A race” so I was really relaxed and didn’t have any nerves. The hardest thing in the week prior was to decide whether or not to use poles. I recently bought my first set – a pair of Leki Micro Trail Vario – and am still getting used to them, which means I look a bit like an out of control skier most of the time. But I bit the bullet and decided I would take them – the worst that could happen is I carry them the entire way.
Man, I am glad I took poles. Check out that elevation profile.
The race started at the very reasonable time of 8am. We ran about 500m on the flat before we started going up, and up, and up! First winding along the residential roads of Wandi before cutting up what is called “Goldmine Spur”. A gnarly 1.8km climb with over 500m of vertical gain. What a way to get the lungs and calves burning!
We then barreled down the Wet Gully Fire Trail before jumping onto a sketchy motor bike track, which took us further down into the Ovens River Valley. And whaddayaknow – we had to go back up! A longer (3km) climb with lots of false summits and then back down a very dodgy fire trail with slippery mud and rocks!
2 climbs down. 2 more to go.
We cruised 3km back to Alpine Park, where the race had started and which marked the halfway point. By this point, I had been running for 2 hours and had only had one gel. I downed another one and I grabbed some muesli slice from the aid station, before starting climb number 3 – The Goat Track.
Being a Bright local, I knew what I was in for with the Goat Track. But I have never had a real crack at Goat Track and pre-race I naively thought I would be able to get a PB. Not a chance. To be fair, I only missed my PB by 7 seconds but by the time I got to the top, I was gassed.
I devoured some more muesli slice at the top of Mystic before heading down into Bakers Gully via Mick’s track – a hairy 0.5km track which descends 220m.
By this stage, I was getting pretty tired. But I knew this was the final climb and just wanted to get to the top asap. I got myself into a great hiking rhythm with my poles, counting my steps.
I was wearing a long sleeve thermal as it was quite chilly when we started. But after 3 hours of ascending and descending, coldness wasn’t an issue. I was roasting hot! But I was wearing a hydration vest and couldn’t be bothered taking it off to then take my long sleeve off. So instead, I rolled up the sleeves as much as I could, cutting the circulation off to my arms in the process. Get me to that finish line!
I looped back through the aid station at Mystic, not bothering to stop because I just wanted to get to the end. I headed down the fire break before jumping onto a ridiculously steep downhill mountain bike trail aptly named Graveyard. I was half running, half sliding my way down from tree to tree. My quads were trashed and had zero breaking power. Talk about the nail in the coffin. *insert drum punchline sound here*
I hit the bottom and ran what felt like the longest, slowest 1.5km to the finish line. 2nd place in a time 4hrs 25mins. I was cooked!
To be honest, whilst I was treating this as a fun race, I had secretly hoped to go under 4 hours. But the legs just didn’t have it in them! A couple of days later, my quads are still sore which is testament to how tough this race is!
I don’t have any more races in the calendar with the exception of putting my hand up to be a pacer at Melbourne Marathon. The next few months will be focused on getting the body NZ ready, including a couple of big 3- and 4-day training weekends. So stay tuned!