Razorback run18 Mar 2018 | running ultra
I haven’t been back to Harrietville, a nice wee town at the base of the Vic alps, for a few years. Last time was running the Bright 4 peaks. That time I was pretty new to trail running and loved running up Mount Feathertop (nearly - a storm meant we had to stop at Federation hut) and on day 3 up Mount Hotham via Bon Accord spur.
This weekend Denise and I travelled down so I could toe the line for the 64k version of the Razorback run. As usual for a Running Wild event this was a largely self-supported, unmarked course run in beautiful country. Unfortunately the weather threw a few curve balls, with warm temperatures forecast, a lack of rain meaning there was only 2 places on the course where water could be found, and the threat of evening storms rolling through. I took heed and carried a spare 1l platypus “just in case” and was glad I never felt dehydrated through the day.
In the 6am brisk pre-dawn chill, we gathered at the Harrietville campsite. Soon we were heading up Bungalow spur in a conga of headtorches. I tucked in behind a Graham, a Canberra friend who was doing the 40k run. We all kept it pretty easy hiking up the days first big climb.
As we reached federation hut and continued up onto the exposed ridge and Mount Feathertop itself there was a brisk wind and the only part of the day that felt nice and proper cool. The trail up onto Feathertop itself and the views from the summit were spectacular. On the way down talking with a fellow runner who had done the race before, I described my goal for the day was to make it to Diamantina hut at 42k feeling good, and not fall and trash myself. Her aim was to finish in under 12 hours. I quickly reset my soft target of 10 hours to 12 hours.
This was the first long run using my new Suunto Spartan watch, and I had switched the GPS from ‘best’ to ‘good’ at the start to push out its battery life to 20hrs. I knew that navigating automatically switched it back to best, and so whilst I had set the route up on the watch, I assumed that only when I was on the navigation/map screen would it chew threw battery. I was unnerved as whilst half way up Bungalow spur I saw that in only an hour or so I was down to 87% already. I had a spare battery pack with me - but spent the rest of the day without navigation, only turning it on when unsure of parts of the course.
Heading down Diamantina spur was fun, some nice singletrack along the spur, and some steep little sections. The Kiewa river was the only sure fire water before Diamantina hut, so I stoped and had a brief chat with Mark (a fellow Taswegian) as we filled up. I took far too long because pouring Tailwind out of little glad bags into body bottles is a fiddly job.
The next section was heading up to Blairs hut (second hut in images above), then the real climb up to Weston hut (see first hut in photos above) and onto grassy high plains to pole 333. This was a nice section, but the day was heating up and the full legoniaires hat was a must. It was also the point when it was jut me and the landscape, and given I was a few hours in - time for some podcasts to keep me ticking over.
The running down to Cobungra gap was pretty easy, I kinda rolled my right ankle but was quick enough to move my weight that it was just an aberration and caused no bruising, I was keen not to repeat it however. Once at Cobungra I had a few campers cheer me on, and was happy with my hydration and supplies so decided not to search for any additional water.
The climb up to Hotham was hard. The third big climb for the day, and the sun was getting fierce. At altitude the air wasn’t too hot, but it was still a good 10 degrees more than my ideal. I had no great sense of how long it would take me to get to Diamantina hut, but my initial estimated 12-1pm was being pushed back. This was lucky as Denise had driven up to meet me, reaslised she had forgotten my drop bag, and had to return.
As I moved up through the Hotham chairlifts, I had my first gut rumbles, feeling queasy for a few minutes. I caught up with Mark again and we jog/walked the last 5k or so up over Mount Hotham summit and down into Diamantina. Fortunately I was slow enough that Denise was back in good time - and think I finally got there sometime around 2pm.
At the hut I changed out of my Arkasha’s, as the heel was rubbing on both feet, and I knew they would be a raw and bloody mess if I didn’t change. I might need crew socks and ankle gaters to cruise longer next time. I replaced the comfy and sturdy Arkashas with my goto inov8 trailrocks. After a few oranges, a swap out of Tailwind which was starting to taste sickly with some coke, and some ice in the hat to try and cool down Mark and I headed off for the last - easy - section.
The day was pretty hot now - even up on the ridge. There were a few tourists and hikers out, but fortunately the trail was pretty easy. I walked more than I should along this ridge - but with a fair bit of heat and rocks that were liable to cause me to come a cropper - I took it pretty easy. When I got to the Diamantina spur junction where we had peeled off many hours earlier I felt like I was truly on the home straight. It was all down hill from here.
The last 8 kms were all good downhill running, but unfortunately it was still hot. I kept the pace on trying to run it home in under 12 hours - unfortunately I was a minute late, rolling over the line at 12hr 01. Something like 3800m of vert. Longest run, longest day - and felt pretty good (albeit knackered at the end) all day.
This was meant to be a training and test run for UTA 100 in May. I’m confident now I can run the distance - and time on feet. Although it’s taken me over 24 hours since finishing to forget the suffering and be keen for the challenge.