Run Forrest 2017 – race recap

Every now and again, it’s good to do something that scares you a bit. To stretch yourself, revise what you believe you’re capable of and remind you that life is full of opportunities and rewards for those willing to embrace some risks. In short, being brave, not perfect (Thanks to Jade Hameister for this one – I’ve adopted it as a personal motto).

Run Forrest has been on my wishlist for a while but has always scared me. Even though this year I felt more ready to have a go than ever before, it still took me until last Thursday to sign up. I’m not exactly sure what I was scared of – hills? Trails? Not being able to finish? The unknown. As much as I love trail running, I tend to stick to familiar ones and get nervous when I strike out somewhere new, in case I come across something I can’t handle. Thus my nerves when I thought of this event.

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The morning didn’t start too well as the fog was very heavy on my drive over and just added to the nerves. I arrived safely, parked up and stopped for a toilet break then faced the next issue – how to find the event village. There had been some information on the website but I had expected perhaps some signs however couldn’t see anything obvious (I later saw arrows on the road but had obviously missed them going in). To get to the event village, you follow a little path on the edge of town and wind your way down to trail heaven. There I found a great little event village, complete with fires to warm ourselves as we waited and hay bales to rest on.

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Having managed to slot in another toilet break, I added my bag to bag drop then ambled to the start area. My nerves were still there but I just wanted to get this thing started and face whatever demons I found out on the trail.

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From the start line, we headed out, around and back past the same area before running behind the event village where we were confronted with the first hill. A significant hill. Some people around me could even be heard muttering ‘Silvan’ under their breath (refer to this blog post for that particularly gruesome hill). Having this so early in the event did make me falter a little – I’d already been nervous; was this the evidence I needed to prove that my nerves had been justified? Would it be too hard? I’m pleased to say those thoughts moved on pretty quickly – I’m not in love with hills but I’m much better friends with them than I ever used to be and I knew I just needed to put my head down and get on with it. So I powered on.

At the top of the hill, we moved onto a narrow trail through the beautiful bush with undulations but nothing unrunnable. I instantly felt better, stronger and happier – I could do this. Of course I could. I also noticed I wasn’t alone, with a fair bunch of runners both in front and behind me which made me feel better as well.

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The scenery we were running through was, simply, stunning. The Otway Ranges have long been a favourite place of mine, even before I took up running. I couldn’t help but feel very lucky to get to run through this today, in the most perfect running weather you could wish for (especially in a place well known for rain). As well as getting to run along narrow trails, there was also a tiny bit of road as we headed up to the West Barwon Reservoir, adding to the impressive views. A woman running nearby and I were chatting about our ludicrously large smiles which seemed permanently etched to our faces – despite the sore and hard parts of running, this was one of those runs that just made us smile.

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We headed back onto the trails, past the drink station and up through the turnaround loop for the 10km. This was definitely my sort of running – gentle ups and downs, soft (and slightly slippery) paths and blissful serenity all around. The faint sounds of the event village could be heard through the trees but not close enough to worry about the run being over yet – I was happy for this one to keep going for a while.

As we continued to weave through, we hit more of the technical mountain bike trails with banked corners and a sticky clay surface – both a bit of a hazard but easily dealt with by my fabulous trail shoes. Not sure I would have coped in road shoes for this event. I could have run on this stuff forever – I felt strong and more like a mountain goat than I have before on the trail, ably picking my way around tree roots. But it wasn’t to be as we emerged out of the trees and back on the final stretch before the finish.

I actually think I managed to take a bit of a wrong turn in the last section as I followed runners ahead but then found others converging with us on the path further up. This might have contributed to me pulling up a bit short on distance although I think that’s probably more to do with the general difficulties of measuring trail runs – very hard to work out the line when you’re dodging all sorts of natural obstacles.

There was one last uphill then a downhill jaunt through magical tree ferns – a perfect prelude to the finish line. As always, the finish chute seemed to go on for a long time although I wasn’t as ‘done’ as I normally am and ran it fairly strong. To see the run for yourself, check out my link on ‘Relive‘.

This event really is a one of a kind in many ways. The location, the scenery, the trail, the diversity of runners it attracts, the vibe of the event village – it all builds to a very special package.

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Trail running in the Otways

 

I haven’t done much trail running and, as much as I love being out in the bush, I still get a bit nervous about my capabilities out there. On Saturday, I took myself off for a little, tame adventure – part of the Old Beechy Rail Trail from Beech Forest to Ferguson.

I headed first for Colac then south through Gellibrand Рa gorgeous little town nestled in the forest. The winding road to get to Beech Forest is dramatic and stunning, taking you deep into the heart of the Otways. Beech Forest itself is a very small hamlet, gaining some popularity years ago as the home of shuffling marathoner Cliff Young.

20160326_125722.jpgIn fact, the trail starts near the Beech Forest rest stop and crosses over the road to the Cliff Young Memorial Park with a gumboot as a fitting tribute to this character.

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From here, the trail weaves along beside the road but, for the most part, a million miles away as you run through fantasy movie worthy scenery. Trees and ferns provide cover and a green corridor to run through with a wonderful soft trail underfoot. Simply magical.

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After running through this corridor, you run up a short incline and are among farmland with open, dramatic views across the rolling hills with the ocean just tantalisingly out of sight beyond the final hill.

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At this point, the road is alongside but you don’t at all feel encroached on and I didn’t see anyone else on the trail, either cyclists, walkers or runners.

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The scenery is constantly varied and always beautiful – one minute having open views, the next being accompanied by tall and imposing trees in a plantation. With a kilometre to go, you cross the main road and run down and then back up the only real hill on this part of the trail (and nothing like those you’ll encounter on the rest of it!) then you’re in Ferguson. Here, you can stop for a drink and some food at the cafe – I turned around and headed back towards Beech Forest but it certainly seemed popular.

20160326_133708.jpgOn the way back, the rain started to roll in and I was lucky enough to get a sprinkling just when I needed it, helping me cool down from my run.

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An absolutely beautiful trail in an stunning part of the world. I feel so lucky that it’s a mere couple of hours drive from my house and I will definitely be back.