La Sportiva Razorback 64km

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30 Nov 2013, Vic Alps

The best views and rockiest single track (covering about 90% of the course) of any race I’ve done. Such a fun region for training and racing. Razorback is due to be run again on 15th March 2014, with 22-68km distance options – be there!

Last time I visited Harrietville was for year 10 camp. We hiked up Bungalow Spur to Mt Feathertop and it took a whole day. This time I would be going up, doing a marathon loop around Hotham then coming back down, hopefully in less than a whole day. ANU Tri/Friends buddies Jack Chenoweth and Alex Orme made the trip down from Canberra too.

The race start consisted of several shorter distance runners blasting off into the distance, smashing it up Bungalow Spur. I counted 3 of the 64km guys ahead of me on the climb to Feathertop – Damon Goerke, Mick Keyte and Sean Sweetman. We would end up as the top 4.

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The out and back from Razorback junction to Feathertop summit was pretty special. Firstly, we were tip-toeing along a completely exposed ridgeline, with patches of snow remaining near the peak. Secondly, we got to meet and greet all the runners within ~1km either side of us. An early chance to scope out the competition!

The next challenge was a tricky decent down Diamantina Spur. Steep, rocky and hard to follow the track at times, I was hitting 10min/km on a downhill which was a bit disheartening! Turned out I did ok relative to the others, catching sight of Sean and Mick when we reached the fire trail down in the valley.

After using our combined navigation prowess to find the most obscure turnoff on the whole course (a small track to the left, behind a big stump), we hiked up the 2nd major climb past Blair and Weston Huts to Pole 333 on the Bogong High Plains. The change in terrain was extreme as we transitioned from creeks and forests to grasslands above the treeline. I think Mick was slightly appalled when I refilled a water bottle from a (flowing) puddle on the side of the trail (that’s what purification tabs are for, right?). At Pole 333, Sean had dropped back a bit, but Mick was close behind me. A split from the volunteer suggested Damon had about 10mins on us (also we couldn’t see him on the horizon, which seemed to be at least a few km away).

We had hit the Australian Alps Walking Track! It comforted me to see the same little yellow triangles on posts that are littered along the trails at home in ACT. The descent through Cobungra Gap to Dibbin Hut was more open and flowing. Another creek stop for water refills, and we hit the 3rd and final major climb up Swindler’s Spur. A short trot past Mt Loch and some of the Hotham chairlifts and we were at Mt Loch carpark (with the big water treatment open pool).

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Mick and I grabbed some sunscreen and water refills from my Mum and Em (thanks guys!) then headed on via Hotham summit to Diamantina Hut. All the track choices and climbs were done from here and it was 10km back along the “flat-ish” Razorback to Federation Hut, then 10km down Bungalow Spur. So we were basically home free…

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We couldn’t catch a glimpse of Damon on the open ridge line so assumed he was out of reach. Mick and I pushed each other along the Razorback – I’d sneak away a bit on the descents then he’d catch up on the climbs. We made it to Federation Hut for a splash of water, then it was time to split up on the downhill. I took off like a maniac while Mick descended with a bit more control.

To my surprise, a couple of hikers mentioned that Damon had gone past not too long ago, maybe 6 minutes, and didn’t appear to be barreling down the hill like a crazy person. This gave me a sniff and I decided to take a few leaps of faith on the chance I might be able to catch him. Some of the 44km runners were still on the course, and as I ran past they estimated splits between Damon and I – 4mins, 3mins, 2mins. Now I could see him on the far side of each gully as we wound our way downhill.

It would be useless to catch him and then have nothing left in the tank, so I regained some composure, then attempted to fly past him and discourage any chasing. It was obviously a shock for him to see a fellow competitor for the first time since the 12km mark, and thankfully he didn’t latch on to me for a sprint finish.

Now I realised my watch had died, but we should have been around CR time. This was a useless fact to focus on, so I concentrated on not kicking any rocks and getting out of Damon’s line of sight. The final km dash down the main street of Harrietville was a bit painful but adrenaline had taken over. The finish line crew were surprised to see me, and I crossed in 7:34:48. Damon came in 3mins later, also under the 7:41 course record time, and Mick followed about 5mins later. Gill Fowler was next over the line to smash the women’s course record and take the win.

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Gear: La Sportiva Helios shoes, Ultimate Direction PB Vest

Nutrition: Home made maltodextrin/protein/electrolyte drink, ~200-250 calories/hr

Thanks to La Sportiva, Bogong Equipment and Paul Ashton for putting on an exciting race with beautiful views with challenging trails.

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