Keen to continue to make the most of the flexibility of postgraduate study, I had jumped on some Jetstar sale flights to Melbourne and when I looked optimistically for an event to coincide with a couple of weeks in Australia (during the sale dates…) I was stoked to see something from the ANZ skyrunning calendar pop up! I had an awesome day at the super challenging Mt Oxford Odyssey mountain marathon in May and then saw the Mt Difficulty Ascent was 3 weeks later (which looked epic too), but I wasn’t up for such a short turnaround and Achilles niggles following Oxford would not have made that a fun day out! So by now I was really keen to get stuck into an ‘official’ sky running event! The Bright 4 Peaks offered a heavy serve of elevation gain over the 4 days and was right up my alley.
Getting to Bright from Melbourne was so easy and when I arrived at Camp Crusty / Bright Outdoor Inn Caravan Park I got a warm welcome from Alex and was very happy with the cabin. Such a beautiful spot! Lucky for me I met a couple of young guys from Adelaide at the park who were also there for the event (shout out to Brayden and Gabe!). They were great company during the week I was in Bright and also gave me a ride to the events. It turned out that it would be a fun little battle between Brayden and I over the course of the four events.
A short run on the evening of arrival out to Alpine park from the camp was the perfect little stretching of the legs and confirmed the start location for the first event (always useful). Everything had come together for a great 4 days of running! I was anxious to see how I would go with recovery between events, since I was not used to running consecutive days.
Day 1 – Mystic Hill
It was a chilly morning as I got a lift with the Adelaide boys to Alpine park. Check in and bag collection was pretty fast and relaxed. The atmosphere was super relaxed and community feel. I just made it back from the loo in time for half the race briefing, but didn’t miss anything too major I hoped. “If you go more than 50 metres without seeing any orange tape, do not keep going.”
We were underway 1 min early and it was pretty hard to pick the pace. It was not long before coming to a steep climb – definitely not runnable. Bit of a grind here, but I knew there were 2 main climbs like this and a small one just before the top. Knowing the elevation profile helps you to be patient with the really steep stuff! Picking up the pace between the two climbs felt good, and the second climb was even steeper. The narrow track made it easy to get a little impatient here, but there was no real damage to the time.
I was looking forward to the undulation before the final short climb. My Suunto Ambit 3 Vertical was pretty spot on with the distances so I had a good idea of how far to the start and end of each climb. The last short climb was alright, but there was nothing at the top! I thought there was going to be an aid station haha. I had far too much food and water with me so it wasn’t an issue, but it was an anti-climax. The first section down was super steep and so quite slow. Lots of tiny fast steps! I was worried about the downhill for destroying quads or ankles or knees, but it went pretty well and the gradient got more friendly making for a pretty fast, and more fun than expected, descent.
The weather was pretty bomber and the winner took about 30 seconds off the CR. I was anxious to feel good for tomorrow, but it was a pretty good day, 1 hr 16 for me. Even so, Brayden took a comfortable 10 min lead after the first of four events. This was a tough course for Gabe’s first trail event and he was stoked to get back and enjoy a ginger beer.
Day 2- Mt. Feathertop
I was feeling a little unsure about my quads and HEAPS of people passed me on the first flatter section getting out to the trail. Once on the single track it was about trying to get into a rhythm with the steady, relentless grade. This was hard with so many people to pass and from maybe 2ks in there were a lot of people slowing down. The walkers had been great both days now with making plenty of room for you to pass. Beforehand I thought 2 hours might be a good goal. About 4k in (⅓ of the way) it was looking like 1 hr 30 could be possible if I kept up the same pace, which seemed seriously unlikely.
Passing 6k (½ way) was a good boost and I was traveling OK. The steady grade, which I couldn’t manage to run all the time, was difficult to pace when to walk and when to run. It may have been near the efficiency boundary haha. Near 9k I was walking quite a lot, which was OK but felt a bit weak and disconcerting. That k was quite tough. Near 10k we passed a hut and campsite and the grade was a little friendlier. This helped me to burst back to life a bit! It looked initially as though this nicer grade may continue to the top, so I was keen for a final push. It was nice for a while. However, the final section before the summit was real steep and much walking ensued. One guy passed me who was running it all the way in. Kudos to him, but I did not have it.
1 hr 40 in the end and I was happy, confident I had made ‘the front page’ (first 50) of the results today. I made up a few minutes on Brayden at Feathertop and it was really beautiful up there! There was a great panorama and you could see the peak for the next day at Mt. Hotham. I heard from Thierry (who was always miles ahead of me) about a 7500 metre miler in the area, and I must say I thought it would be an epic spot for it. After soaking in the surrounds, an easy run all the way back down wasn’t really what the body wanted, but everyone was doing it due to the lack of road access and it was fun to chat a bit with the always friendly trail / vertical crowd. Great weather and views had everyone buoyed!
Day 3 – Mt. Hotham
I was feeling a bit better than expected on day 3! Had a chat with Thierry before the start and he said today is a “take it easy day” day, “hard core people only” haha. Tomorrow was to be “give it everything”. The start was interesting with 6 flatish ks to get you out to the bottom of the climb. 40% of the way through the distance without any real climbing haha. I started pretty near the back and managed lots of passing in that first 6ks. Conservative habits aye. It was not too easy to get past sometimes with the narrow track.
The river crossing just before the first main climb went well, especially considering I just found out about it on the day! Seeing one guy taking off his shoes and socks made me chuckle a bit. The first climb lasted for about 3ks. I passed a bunch of the always friendly walkers in this section and it was pretty steady grinding here. After this, it was good to get going a bit faster and make the most of the undulation in between the 2 climbs. My hips were not feeling that great at times on the climbs today. Bit of a worry. Soon the undulation started to become gradual ascent, and before you knew it you were into the second climb! This was pretty brutal and I was struggling to run some of the less steep parts that may have otherwise been run on fresher legs.
Pushing on, you come up out of the trees. This was exposed and getting pretty cold so I got the beanie, neck hugger and gloves on, but didn’t bother with the jacket. From here it was close to the finish and you wanted to run it in, but I had to grind (sweet jargon for walking up hills) until I was up at the top. The final rocky part along the top was fun and pretty fast. An incline on the last 50 metres was not that steep, but by then felt pretty tough. Fortunately the ringing of cowbells got you home! No one wants to walk over the line haha. I was home in 2 hours 13 and Brayden had put a couple more minutes on me today.
The finish was at a nice spot and there was no rain, but it was very cold today, so when the next minivan was leaving and the driver mentioned the next one could be an hour away, Brayden and I jumped on board. Three down, one to go and I was feeling surprisingly good later that afternoon. Maybe the downhills from Feathertop and on Mystic were the worst part recovery wise?! Running uphill is not so bad!
Day 4 – Mt. Buffalo
It was the last day, and I was feeling pretty good! The first 3.3k or so was meant to be pretty steep, not so bad after that, and 2 fast flat ks at the top. Again, I might have started a bit far back. There was a bottleneck at the bridge 150 metres in, and on the steep stuff after that everyone was moving at the same pace. What I was calling ‘human centipedes’ were starting to form, where a chain of people were moving together. Might as well be at the front rather than the back when everyone was moving at the same pace haha. There wasn’t much running early on.
About 2.3ks in there was some runnable stuff and this just continued, so we must have been into the pretty steady middle section. This was a challenge of on-off-on-off running as I was not strong and fresh enough to stay at a run, but not so weak as to need to walk all the time. It really is challenging in this scenario to judge it just right. Just after 8ks it was the fast section. Just 2ks left in the whole 4 peaks, so keen to make it count! It was fun to pick up the pace. A few nasty big rock stairs in this part made for a last challenge. They were really tiring by this point, but you were keen to run them as you knew you were so close! Cowbells beckoned and the flight of stairs up to the Chalet tested what you had left. It was hot up top, but a little exposed.
Watermelon, chips, coke – nice! After the presentation the ride back to Eurobin creek picnic area was fun. This involved cruising down a windy road on a sunny day, with some 80s hits jamming in a minivan driven by a friendly volunteer.
With a time of 1 hour 23, I managed to beat Brayden today, so 2 from 4 there, but he was still a few minutes ahead in the general classification after the 4 events. I saw recently that he was the youngest finisher in the Ultra Trail World Tour this year with his completion of Ultra Trail Australia! Awesome job Brayden, he will be one to watch!
No rain on course, 4 from 4 reasonable days considering the altitude, and really 3 from 4 crackers. The events really were great fun and the atmosphere around Bright was great. A while before this event I had told myself I want to train enough to be ‘semi-competitive’, whatever that means. I’m not sure if I made that goal, but I had fun and I’m super keen to crush some big events in 2018, namely the Shotover moonlight mountain marathon and Mt. Difficulty Ascent extreme marathon. Now, what to do with one last day in Bright? Bonus level time!
For some reason I was thinking more about snakes on this run, since I was by myself… Didn’t see any snakes, but there was some other wildlife around to give a uniquely ‘Australia’ feel to the run.
It was definitely a different felling to be out all alone after 4 days running with a horde of vertical lovers. This run took my elevation gain from running in Bright to 5k! Woo Hoo! To summarise my week in Bright: beautiful spot, great weather, friendly people! Given this is a hub for many great running and other sporting events, I feel that Bright has not seen the last of me!