Climb mountains not so the world can see you, but so you can see the world.

David Mccullough Jr

4 days from my first my first trail race of the year, last race of my preseason, and first chance to really test these legs out in competition over a somewhat decent length (10 kms), and I’m yet to actually know anything about the race.

I mean, I know the race I’ve entered, in that I know what it’s called and that it’s a trail race, whereabouts it’s roughly located, and my starting wave time but that’s it. Literally.

No race program yet (although as I type this, I’m half expecting it to arrive in my inbox), no idea about parking, about what time the other distance starts, not even the faintest idea about the course, other than it’s approximately 10 kilometres in length, and there’s about 300m of vertical gain over the distance.

This is definitely different. Most races I’ve entered, perhaps all, to date have at the very least had course maps available on the website and some kind of rough idea about the program of events on the day – what time registration opens, bib pickup, that kinda thing. This time, nothing. It’s really odd.

All of this, however, didn’t stop me from heading in the general direction of the race to get some training on what I’m guessing will make up part of the course over the weekend.

As a reconnaissance mission, it went well. I covered a lot of terrain, and got a feel for just how gorgeous this part of the Central Coast is, and what it’s going to be like running it this coming weekend. As a training run, it was pretty ordinary.

Firstly, most of my training so far has been on flat road and paved paths, with only a tiny amount of trail work so far. This has been great at building up my general aerobic fitness and VO₂Max, but terrible for my ability to run uphill. My ‘mountain legs’ don’t really exist.

If I was doing road racing, this would be mostly fine, depending on the course profile for the races i was training for. But for trail running, this is a sure-fire way to ensure you are not ready for what is going to come on the trails.

The training consisted of two halves – a 6.5k trail run, plus a 5k hike back to the car – the second part of which was completely unplanned on account of not being able to find the trail once I hit the 6.5k part of the run, and deciding that instead of wandering around to try and find it, it’s probably best to cut my losses, hike back out via the way I came in, and at least put my safety as the priority. The last thing I needed was getting lost in dense bushland looking for a path that, in my mind at the time, may or may not actually exist.

The 6.5k run itself wasn’t great – although parts of it were amazing. My pace running downhill was probably slower than I wanted, which was then just as slow on the flatter sections, but it was the uphill that really threw me.

The larger uphill sections were fine, if a bit slower than I would have wanted, and hiking these bits is not a huge issue. But the moderate uphills that, if I was better trained, should be more comfortable and largely runnable, were a real effort and hiking, both quickly and slowly, became my default position before too long.

Add into it a 1 kilometre stretch of beach running on not-quite-soft-but-also-not-hard sand and it soon became apparent just how under trained I was for the terrain and challenge of trail running.

But I suppose that’s exactly what a training run on-course is for – to iron out those kinks before the event so that you become better and perform better on race day.

I also have to remind myself that this is a preseason race, was added to the calendar late, and isn’t what I’m focussed on for the year. It’s a way to get more training in under race conditions whilst practicing nutrition and hydration strategies – and having some fun along the way.

And isn’t that what running is supposed to be about, after all?

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