In general I’ve stayed away from Multi-Sport events not because I wasn’t interested in mixing up trail running with mountain biking, kayaking or any number of other “adventure” sports. On the contrary, I’m well aware I have an addictive, binge personality and let’s be honest, there’s only so much kit you can buy for trail running. Mountain biking on the other hand, never mind paddling, would send me broke in an instant. That said, I’m feeling a move away from running for the sake of running toward running as means to travel efficiently through epic terrain; “Adventure Running” for lack of more marketable term.
Mt Baw Baw’s Seasons of Pain series (so called because they run four a year – Spring, Summer, Autumn & Winter) came along at the right time then! Designed and Directed by seasoned Trailite and Editor of Trail Run Mag, Chris Ord, there’s no escaping the heavy emphasis on sweet trails, beautiful scenery and an excellent course flow. While Ord loves to run, he’s no stranger to Mountain biking and other Adventure Racing mainstays. For a trail runner wanting to diversify, I can’t think of a better mix.
Driving up to Mt Baw Baw you pass through gorgeous Aussie Sub-Alpine country reminiscent of the Black Spur before climbing up an epic piece of blacktop rumoured to be Australia’s steepest. Jacinta O’Neill, Lucy Bartholomew and I arrived at the Alpine Ski Resort to blustery conditions, no rain but some fairly brisk wind. Starting at Midday allowed us to drive up the day of the event and for Jacinta to teach LB and I about Nutrition.
As part of their push to keep people on the mountain all year round, Mt Baw Baw Resort have purchased a fleet of nice MTB bikes and LB and I were quickly paired up with our trusty steeds. We sat through the Race Brief and learned that, unfortunately, weather exposure on some of the more remote sections of the trail run meant they had to be shortened. Apparently missed some awesome trails but it was good to see safety being taken serious, some times an issue in Grass Roots events like these.
Not long off a broken leg, Jacinta was confining herself to running (!) and had teamed up with a Baw Baw local so as to avoid the bike legs. However, come the first section of the Run-Bike-Run-Bike-Run course you couldn’t have convinced me if you tried that she was still recovering. I’m glad I wasn’t wearing a Heart Rate Monitor while I failed to keep up with her; it would have exploded.
The run started with a small, steep climb and then steadily climbed toward the summit of Baw Baw before running away with itself in the fire trails and single track that zig zag the top of the mountain. A short, sharp climb after about 30mins preceded a plummet down a lift-line and another short, steep climb into the transition point. LB, Chris Ord and I all left the Transition point at about the same time and headed out on the bikes. The first 3rd was shared with the run but then turned into a good mix of nice, technical single track and fast fire trails before we clambered our way back up to the transition point after about 9km on wheels. The 2nd run and 2nd bike legs were repeats of the first, which allowed us to learn from our mistake and compensate somewhat for 90mins Anaerobic.
Just before the final climb of the 2nd bike leg we turned off the course and headed down another fire-trail to reach the summit road for a few minutes of sweet 50km/h Tarmac before… The Sting. A super nasty, 20minute, 300m-ascent climb with about 6cm of flat the whole way. If you weren’t breathing heavily by the bottom of this sucker, you would be soon. After dragging you up and down the mountain four times SOP had already tenderised us, but this relatively small, intense section was definitely holding on to the majority of the poison and spat us out at the top of the Resort, chewed, softened and partially digested. At 30km and 2:24:22 for the Male Winner, this felt like a sprint to me, but I loved it none the less and was stoked to defy my long slow Ultra training and come home in a decent time!
One of the quirks of SOP is the finishing rule: Participants are required to sit on a Lounge located at the finish line until they have cheered and greeted the next participant, lest they be disqualified. This is a great way of building camaraderie, especially while participant numbers are still growing. It is this camaraderie that I feel sets SOP apart. Completely aside from how fun and well organised the race was, it’s the memories of sitting down to an awesome dinner and a few cold beers in an Alpine Resort with likeminded friends (new and old) that keep coming back to me. While the next event is set to be a Cross Country Ski & Snow Shoe (not quite yet for me!), I’d be stoked to go back and volunteer just to be part of the community and positive energy.
Results – Female
1st – 03:04:35 – Jade FORSYTH
2nd – 03:16:25 – Lucy BARTHOLOMEW
3rd – 03:19:59 – Aislinn PRENDERGAST
Results – Male
01 – 02:24:22 – Steve RENNICK
02 – 02:31:15 – Aaron DODD
03 – 02:44:26 – Tegyn ANGEL
Results – Team
01 – 02:47:22 – Team BRADY
02 – 03:05:50 – Team VAAN MOUSENHOUSENO’NIELL
03 – 03:07:27 – Team CARRSMITH