I ran the You Yangs 50 km trail race back in 2011, securing my first ever podium by finishing in third although I had arrived to complete a training run. Setting off easily I slowly picked up the pace as I went, gaining places and eventually realising that a podium position was a real possibility.
I returned to the race in 2014, once again as a training run. However this time I was arriving on the final day of my 6-day running week with 154 km already completed. As I had been doing with all of my trail runs over the previous month I would carry the full mandatory gear list for my upcoming race at the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB). While I would be unlikely to require the two torches I was carrying along with spare batteries for a race starting at 8:30 AM that I would complete around lunchtime, it was about helping me get used to carrying the pack and would assist in determining the best places for carrying certain items.
While I should be used to it by now, I was still surprised by how many people shot off in front of me from the start. Even at a training pace it was unlikely that 20-odd people within a small field would finish ahead of me.
I set my own pace, passing a number of people on the first notable climb when I continued running as most slowed to a walk, and then passing more on the second major climb. The course follows a clover leaf pattern, passing back through the start/finish area a few times throughout the race. With 15-km, 30-km, 50-mile and 100-mile races also taking place you would often encounter other runners either heading in the same direction or occasionally in the opposite direction, which I really enjoyed. Despite the potentially confusing nature of the route, it was brilliantly marked and extremely simple to follow.
After 15 km we passed back through the start/finish area for the first time and commenced our ascent of Flinders Peak, the highest point in the You Yangs Regional Park. The climb was quite gradual so I decided that I would run the entire ascent, only stopping briefly at the top to enjoy the great view of the surrounding area.
We passed through the start/finish area again after 30 km, once again ascending Flinders Peak. As an out-and-back trail to the top I decided to determine my position by counting the runners heading back down. I overtook three runners during the climb and counted four runners descending, meaning that I had improved from 8th position to 5th during the 1.5 km ascent.
I headed out for the final loop still feeling strong and running well, and therefore I expected to encounter slowing runners ahead of me. However after 45 km I was still running in 5th place with no sight of other runners. Then with 4 km remaining I caught a glimpse of the runner ahead of me on a section of course that loops back on itself, and with 3 km to go I was able to time the gap between us at almost precisely one minute. I would get to enjoy a rest day the following day so I decided to lift the pace and attempt to gain the extra spot.
In the last 2 km we started to ascend as we climbed back to the finish area, and with just over 1.5 km remaining I suddenly encountered not just one but two runners ahead of me. I wanted to ensure that neither attempted to hold on so I picked up the pace further, receiving a literal pat on the back as I overtook into 3rd place. I put a gap on both runners and then cruised through to the finish line, crossing in a time of 4:27:52.