There are many possible ways to celebrate Australia Day. Barbecues and a couple of drinks is very common, and that would follow, but I started the day with a run.
As part of a new series of night trail runs organised by TrailsPlus, the Australia Day Midnight Rambler offered running options from 5 km through to 6 hours. All of the events were based on a 5-km loop, providing a great way to practice trail running at night, which is a very important skill for long-distance races. Opting for the longest option I would set out on January 25th at 23:00 for an hour of running, and then would continue for the first five hours of our national day. The plan wasn’t to run flat out, but to get in a solid six hours of training to end a week that involved good mileage, as well as a new 5 km PB at my local Parkrun.
I set out on the first lap behind a few guys setting the pace up front. Since I wasn’t racing I had decided to run down the batteries already in my headlamp rather than starting with a fresh set, but immediately realised that they were already nearly flat. I pulled out my spare hand torch but generally ran using just the dim light from my headlamp. At the end of the first lap I stopped to replace the batteries before leaving the aid station, now gapped by the runners ahead. I would run almost entirely solo for the remaining 5.5 hours.
I had been hosting friend and fellow runner Tamyka since Friday evening, as she had flown in from Queensland for the long weekend. Our race preparation had involved a few nice runs plus plenty of eating, not all of it ideally suited as pre-race nutrition (including a spicy pizza at lunch). As I thought ahead to the nearing toilet block halfway around lap four I missed sighting a rock and the resulting fall involved some grazing on my right hand and knee. On the following lap I noted the exact rock that had caused my fall, and I glared at it on each subsequent lap.
My running time for each lap was consistent at 25-26 minutes, with extra time for toilet stops, restocking at the aid station, and a couple of brief chats with the race director Brett. The race rules allowed runners to set out for their last lap no later than 15 minutes prior to the six-hour cutoff. At the end of lap 8 I projected my splits and determined that I could comfortably complete 13 laps, but would need to really push the pace if I wanted to make it through for a fourteenth lap. I eased off the pace, completed lap 12 with twenty minutes remaining, and then set out for a final lap to complete 65 km for the evening.
After driving home and managing a few hours sleep, a barbecue put on by my parents provided a more typical Australia Day celebration. The barbecue provided some much-needed protein for recovery, and some much-needed wine for … well, hopefully at some point medical research will show the great benefits of post-race wine.