Mount Macedon ultra

Yesterday I did the Mount Macedon 50 kilometre ultra for the second year in a row. This is a tough one, relentless hills with several particularly treacherous downhills, not to mention the effort required for all the steepish climbs. Last year we had near-perfect weather, unlike the cold rainy conditions that had prevailed for many years previously on race day, and when I finished the race I vowed not to do it again as the weather gods might not be so kind in future. But there I was on Sunday and the weather was not near-perfect, it was spot on perfect.

The race is set in a wonderful part of Victoria, lovely forest and fabulous views (which require climbing hills to gain the rewards). There's only one downside as far as I'm concerned: I like to stay near the start the night before the race and the only convenient place is the Mount Macedon Hotel whose rooms are cell-like and chilly even when you have the portable heater well positioned and going full bore. I survived a boring evening with the aid of podcasts and unscheduled napping.

Race morning was an almost freezing two degrees but clear and no sign of rain. I knew I would warm up quickly. This race has great aid stations and there's no need to carry anything but I noticed that every runner except for me was wearing a running backpack; some were bulging but I'm not sure with what. I had my car key and nothing else. Personally I like to use the race aid stations because they give a chance for a short break in activity, and if people cease to use the aid stations then race organisers will cease to provide aid and we will be left with unsupported races, in which case we might as well look at a map and then head out on a run of our own devising without having to pay a fee and be at the start line on time. If ultra running is an eating and drinking contest then I have to say provided is to be preferred over BYO.

So I was all primed for lots of hills. I hadn't quite remembered how many there were but let's say I was not disappointed. The most technically demanding hills are near the start and after 37 kilometres but there's lots of difficult stuff in between. Most of the run is in the forest. However, early on we were treated to a fantastic view from the Camels Hump over miles of foggy and frosty rural Victoria. I settled into a nice rhythm near the back of the field and took things easy, just enjoying being out there. It was a still morning, a few birds around but mainly silent. I had to watch my footing all the time for slippery mud, slippery leaf litter and rocks; I'm always banging my feet on rocks and almost tripping over. Luckily I only fell once, right near the end of the day, and I righted myself immediately without pain.

I was paying close attention to the route because last year I had gone wrong at least twice. I knew the mistake I had made at the 35 kilometre mark last year and I wasn't going to make that one again, but I didn't quite understand how I had managed to go wrong in the final kilometre (well, it should have been the final kilometre but it proved not to be that for me, I did an extra one or two). I got both these bits right this year but I did manage to go off trail about 48 kilometres into the run. Luckily I realised I was off course and was able to confirm this with a bushwalker who was looking for something that had a name he was calling out (dog?).

Apart from the hills there are several highlights to this run. There are a couple of small lakes or reservoirs, and a couple of short tunnels to run through. The first tunnel has big steps, which are a challenge to fatigued legs. Both are very dark.

I ran alone all day. After passing the start/finish line at 30 km I decided it was time to try and pass a few other runners. I managed to move up the field, which is always satisfying. But I always took the time to enjoy the aid station fruit cake. I got tired, of course, but it was a nice way to spend the day. After a while I was starting to say to myself, oh no not another hill, but they didn't seriously distress me. Most of the hills were short and sharp, apart from the final long climb up to the top of Macedon.

I think I finished a bit earlier than last year because there were still plenty of people around at the finish area and there was some fruit cake and chips left. I hadn't felt cold all day but as soon as I stopped moving I was cooling down. So I hopped in the car and left.


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