Thursday, 29 May 2014



June 2013


The Glow Worm Tunnel Marathon is not just a run - it is an experience.  Everything about it is special.  For starters, the drive up is a great trip (especially if you go Bells Line of Road).  Then dropping down into Wolgan Valley, you are greeted by incredible sandstone cliffs.  However, at some point you realise "I have to run up those tomorrow" which starts the butterflies in the tummy.

A gang of Berowra Bush Runners departed on our epic adventure Saturday morning.  It was like a school camp for grown ups, complete with tents, packs, stoves, way too much food, and some secret stashes of wine and beer.  There was also lots of giggling, but I suspect that was because I was travelling with Bek and Justine (they asked me to stop but I was too excited - hee hee - us girls).  I joined the Bush Runners to meet some folk as crazy as me, and I think it has worked out well.

Upon arrival in Newnes, we parked at the camp ground and headed off to register.  Maybe the big difference between Glow Worm and other events became noticeable here.  As we wandered along, the 6km runners came around the bend, but there was no fanfare as they ran between folk out for a stroll.  There were kids everywhere.  Wombats and kangaroos were wandering the camp ground.  Ruby Muir (next days Women's race winner) was having a quiet beer and Bek simply wandered over and had a chat.  Folk were sitting on the verandah of the pub drinking.  It was all very relaxing and communal.

After registration we wandered back and set up our tent city as darkness fell -  and so did the temperature and the mist. bbbbrrrrr. Very chilly.  Good thing we had plently of food and wine.  We also took the time to apply our PEK - Performance Enhancing Kokopelli temporary tattoos from "Trail Runner Nation" (a website filled with amazing info for runners of all kinds).  Kokopelli are deities associated with trails and travelling throughout the Americas.   They are also associated with fertility, but what happens on the trail stays on the trail.  Do they really enhance performance ? Again, what happens on the trail.........
At about 9.00 we all suddenly announced "I'm off to bed" - a decision shared by many, as the whole campground suddenly went from noisy to completely dark and silent.  

6 am.  Alarm goes off in the dark, and time to rise and shine and shiver, and whip up hot coffee.  At this point I will confess to trying something new race day.  A sin, but forgive me Lord.  The previous night I had been introduced to the famous Lynette Hodder fruit cake, and I woke up wanting more.  Jeff kindly allowed me to cut off several big slabs, and I was ready to run.

Did I mention the cold ?  Tip for next year, sleep in race gear.  Stripping down to change was quite an experience. 

Then off to the marshalling area.  This was the pointy end.  There is a bunch of mandatory gear to carry if weather bad, but weather was good so that reduced the need to carry a bunch of heavy bulky stuff.  Dumped it all into a drop bag. An instant mood enhancer.  We lined up.  Hooter sounded.  Off we went. 

I had been wearing a warm top, but Ted West told me to strip it off and leave it.  I was reluctant, but about 2km into the race I was thanking him.  We hit those hills and I was surrounded by endless complaints about having dressed too warmly.  I like to research a course before running it, and I knew there was a lot of climbing, but had no appreciation of just how much and how steep.  Thank goodness for all my love of bushwalking, and a passion for hills, because I needed all of it.  Straight up using hands in some places.  Some eager folk were keen to power on, but other folk like me were happy to let them pass.  Some days it pays to be older and wiser.  
the first big climb

Eventually I reached the top, and was greeted by spectacular views.  A small "out and back" took us to the cliff edge, where some took time to take in calories, fluids, and the amazing scenery.  One of the many reasons this course is special.  Some rushed through as if saving two minutes was that important.  A handy tip is that if you arrive at a check point at the same time as me, you ain't gunna be in the lead, and you ain't gunna win.  So relax and enjoy the view.
the out and back section

At this point I began overtaking some human trail wreckage as the steep climb began to take its toll.  I also began to match pace with a lovely lady.  It is amazing how you can spend a whole day with an unknown trail buddy in longer events without a single word being spoken.  We leap frogged the entire course until at 33km she finally introduced herself, we laughed about running together the whole time, then she dropped me like a hot potato and beat me by miles.  Talking to others out on the trail, I was amazed at how many first time marathoners were in the event.  I was having a good day, so if my race report makes it all sound easy, it wasn't.  I'm just a good liar.  I can't imagine what tackling this course would be like for a first marathon.  I cried during my first one, and it was all flat.  Some seriously brave people were doing this run. If this had been my first marathon I don't think I would have finished.

At the first turnaround at 10km, a polite voice said "hello Rob. Having fun ? Touch the post, and then you can run back"  It was Kevin Heaton from the BushRunners in his Race Marshall role.  I politely thanked him, and began the return.  It was a long uphill walk at this point, so time to nibble and sip for a while.  I did get yelled at by a Race Marshall for going the wrong way. Man, I get lost anywhere.

On the return trip I encountered a fellow I shall call "Marathon Man".  Marathon Man has run over 100 marathons.  I know this because he told everyone repeatedly as we formed a queue behind him on the downhill run.  He also regaled us with endless stats about all his marathons as the queue grew longer.  No one could pass Marathon Man, and I was concerned that someone would eventually shove him over a cliff, yelling out stats as he plummeted to his doom.  Eventually, however, the trail widened and we sneaked past him.

At the halfway aid station I took the time to enjoy some banana and watermelon, have a drink, and fill my bottle.  Quite a few ripped past me, splashed acrossed the river, and disappeared.  Let me modestly say, that they too became trail wreckage I easily passed soon after.  If you seriously think that saving 2 minutes in the course of a five to six hour run is worth it, think again.  It helps to eat and drink during a 6 hour run.

views over Wolgan Valley on trail up to the Glow Worm Tunnel
the trail up to the tunnel
I had a few race goals.  Sub 6 hour would be nice.  Halfway in 3:13 had me pleased.  I knew the first half was way slower and harder than the second, and I still had plenty in the tank. My other goal was to really enjoy the run.  I did not want to finish like a train wreck.  I was really trying hard to operate at a certain level of effort, and I felt really good so far. That had me pleased too.  I was taking photos and chatting along the way and having a great day.  I was even stopping bushwalkers to take my picture.  I'm sure they loved being accosted by a small sweaty hairy stinky man.
The Glow Worm Tunnel

Climbing up to the Glow Worm Tunnel is fairly steady - old rail lines are like that !  I do enjoy hills, and this is a goody.  The Tunnel was cold and dark and spooky and fun.  A bit more uphill running, then straight down to the last Checkpoint at 35km.  At this point the steep downhill sections started to hit the quads, so I backed off a touch until the checkpoint, where I had a last drink.  Then just as I was leaving the CP, I heard a loud yelling. OMG.  The return of Marathon Man.  He caught me up and began shouting about his 5:02min/km he had just run, compared it to last years time, and began spouting countless details about last years run legs compared to his times this year.  I offered to let him past, but he stuck on me like a tick.  Finally we hit an uphill and I gave decide to give it everything I had, and managed to leave him behind.  His 5:02 downhill sprint didn't help much at that point.

This left 6km of absolute serenity to finish.  The last stretch down to the finish was easily the loveliest running I have ever enjoyed in my life.  Flat trail, soft grass, warm sun, running beside a beautiful river.  Hurting, yes, but good hurting.  I could have run all day at this point (once again, I lie).  Saw Kevin sweeping the course, looking happy to be alive.  FYI, a sweeper runs the trail last to make sure no one is left out there, and to inform some runners that they have not made the cut off, and are out of the run.  I was sure he was going to have some clientele.  Eventually I crossed the river, was greeted by my screaming wife who had driven up for the finish, so I cracked it for a big sprint finish to show off.  As usual I forgot to turn off the GPS, but apparently I had run a fruit cake powered 6:01:55, so was delighted with my days work. 

After several minutes of cuddles and chatting with the lovely wife Caiti, and tracking down my lovely trail buddy who had beaten me home by a long way, there was a shout as a runner crossed the line and collapsed.  Marathon Man had arrived, but was beyond speech (for a while at least). 

Looking forward to Glow Worm 2014 already !!

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