Race report by Doug Richards

I was in the Victorian Alps last weekend for the Mount Buller Skyrun (22k). For anyone interested in trying alpine trail running, this is part of the Running Wild program for 2014. The Skyrun has 3 options (22k, 36k, 45k) and includes two major summit ascents, Mount Buller (1805m) and Mount Sterling (1749m). Lars and I picked out the 22k event as part of a training plan leading up to the Six Foot Track (45k) in March, but as Lars is still recovering from injury he volunteered and helped out the race organisers and I ran the 22k event.

The best way I can describe this run is… survival with a view! I suffered and enjoyed 3:26hrs of grueling and spectacular trail running. My average moving pace of 8:38 min/km tells the story, the ascents/descents were very tough and the weather hot. The total elevation gain of 947m is roughly the same as our own Lightning Strike (30k) event at Stromlo, but squashed into 22km. The Mt Buller climb was fine, it’s first up while you’re still strong and the shorter of the two major climbs. However, the second climb up to Mt Sterling was very hard, this was the meat of the 22km event, as you can see from the Garmin elevation graph it was almost double the vertical ascent of the Mt Buller climb. What the Garmin does not show you is how treacherous some of the descents were around Mt Sterling, very steep with sliding scree that gave way under your feet on the way down and made it very tough to find good solid footing on the way up. Unfortunately one guy broke his ankle on a descent. For all your hard work on the climbs you are rewarded handsomely with some surreal mountain trails and truly spectacular views from the top of the world (see photos below).

I had a “moment” on the final climb at the 18km mark, this was the toughest ascent of them all. I ate a Hammer energy bar on the descent of Mt Sterling (never had one before), this didn’t agree with me, I started to feel nauseous by the time I reached the base and began the final climb home. To make it worse, as it was so hot, there were flies everywhere, including large nasty biting March flies, as I began the climb one flew into my mouth and I swallowed it, I tried to wash it down with a drink but couldn’t prevent a prolonged gagging reflex which ended up with me projectile vomiting … twice … it was like a scene out of “The Exorcist”. The good news was that it got rid of the fly and the Hammer bar and I immediately felt a lot better, the bad news was that it must have also got rid of some of my hydration and electrolytes, which I paid the price for after the race was finished, I felt terrible for about 20mins at the end of the race. So I’m thinking Hammer energy bars and March flies are definitely off the menu for Six Foot Track.

It was amazing finally crossing the finishing line back at the Mt Buller alpine village, everyone there including all the finished runners applaud you across the line, very nice. I think I ended up in 14th place out of maybe 20 odd participants (more girls than boys, a first for the race), no results published yet though. I’m in awe of those runners able to complete the 45k event through those mountains, just incredible. Overall it was a fantastic experience (fly incident excepted) and one I’d highly recommend, it’s a wonderful area to spend a few days in with family and friends, and the small trail running community feel of the event was very enjoyable. It is also great preparation for the Six Foot Track.

 

2014 Report Elevation Map

 

2014 Report Picture

 

2014 Report Picture