Gold Rush off road Marathon, Babinda North Qld
Distance: 42.0 km
Time: 5 hrs 0 mins 5 secs
Rate: 7' 09" per km
Weather: cloudy, temp range 20-26 degrees, humidity 75-80%, wind calm
Very early out of bed, 4:30 am to be ready for the 45 minute drive south from Cairns to the start at the Babinda Boulders. It's a recreation area next to the river, very fast flowing during the wet season which has now finished. Biggest surprise was how dry the area has become in a few weeks. My brother & few others ran part of the track 3 weeks ago in muddy, rainy conditions with creeks overflowing, thereby creating a perfect environment for leeches and other nasty bitey insects.
Arrived at the start area just as the sun was rising, the White boys as organisers still with headlamps on. Slowly the car park filled as the hard nuts rolled in, that's those doing the full marathon. I think they had 21 entries, whittled down to 14 as some opted for the shorter 23 km event. As well one, started but turned at half way, I presume finding the going a little tough.
And a little tough it was. After a quick race brief, making sure we all had the compulsory two bandages & whistle in case of emergency, and a proper hydration plan, off we went.
After a short 300 metres tour of the car park, to make up the full distance & separate the field, the track goes from a narrow bush track and runable to a messy rocky, tree rooted, very undulating goat track. Trail shoes essential to gain grip on the wet surface although drying, still needing good traction to climb the many short steep slopes. Getting down not much easier, plenty of care required.
I had tailed out to 2nd last early, mainly saving myself due to the warm conditions and the high humidity under the rainforest tree canopy. The hydration plan for me was a 3 litre back pack with sports drink & 600 mil hand held bottle of water to be refilled from the many creek crossings. Probably a bit of overkill, but I'm not used to running in such humid conditions. The plan worked well although I didn't drinks as much of the sports drink as expected.
The field had disappeared by the time I reached the top of the climb at a saddle between Mt Bartle Frere & Mt Belenden Ker, the two highest peaks in Qld.
The down part to a causeway crossing was easier, at least runable, but still care required. The White boys had cleared parts of the tracks, cutting up a few logs, eg Maroondah Dam run this year, and clearing some stinging trees & wait-a-while, another vine that catches clothing with big barbs. Still plenty of creek crossing so filling the drink bottle not a problem.
I finished up drinking almost 7 litres of fluid during the run, needed it all as I didn't cramp or suffer from dehydration as did some of the locals.
The causeway crossing was a bigger version of Vanities Crossing at the Cotter, this time may be 100 metres across. Water level on me just under knee height, but not flowing too fast. Certainly not cold water, no signs of crocs. The 23 km run turned here, distance so far then just over 11 kms in 1 hr 26 mins.
We had a name check as we exited, then a nice forest trail, bit slippery in parts due to a shiney surface, but at least a bit of pace. Reasonably flat still under tree cover but a bit more open, nice part of the course. Finally made an open section heading to the Kearney Falls car park & camp ground. A beautiful red belly black snake on the side of an old sugar cane plantation caused a stir, apparently no one else saw the it, a nice well fed specimen.
We had arranged a car to have some supplies meet us here, we had to do a couple of out and backs to make up the full distance as the car park was at the 19 km mark. A short run up to the falls was quite nice, water coming over smooth rocks dropping about 50 metres, good views from a platform, but I didn't have time to stop.
As well, the leaders were on their way back so at least I had a chance to say g'day and work out how far behind I was at this stage. A rough calculation about 30 minutes behind the leader, about 15 mins behind my sister-in-law Anita, a maybe 10 minutes behind my brother. But I was feeling good, I knew my recent training would help in the second half.
Replenished as off again on the return journey, finally caught my brother a couple of kms in, he had upgraded from the 23 km on the day, and was feeling the pinch. We ran together for a while until a small up slope appeared and away I went. Very comfortable back to the causeway river crossing, still 17 minutes behind Anita and no chance to catch her. But I was looking at sub 5 hours so pushed on as best I could, a few nasty slippery up and down slopes didn't help, but I was full of food and well hydrated with nothing to hold me back.
As well catching a few of the slow 23 km runners, and finally a couple of 42 km runners inspired me push on as well as the clock.
I need to average 7 min per km for the last 8 kms, that blew out a bit with the up hill climb to the saddle. Still going Ok on the top that signalled 6 kmss to go and about 35 minutes to finish under 5 hours. It was going to be close so no time to eat or drink any more.
The trail gets more runable in the last 3 kms, but even so maintaining 6 min km pace is not easy after hours of hard running, walking and climbing.
Didn't look at the clock or even have a chance to acknowledge Anita who had finished and was 500 metres back up the track on a bridge crossing, just going for it. I had forgotten where the finish line was, rounded a corner and there were a few markers and the finish line. Very pleased to have finished so well, but a bit disappointed at the time, 5 seconds over 5 hours.
Anita ran 4 hrs 38 mins, me 5 hrs and my brother 5 hrs 25 mins, we were all happy although very tired at the finish. Drying conditions meant no leeches or bitey insects, we were smothered in repellent from the start.
It's a great event, I hope the White boys continue to put on these type of events that we down south have enjoyed for a long time. However, it's not easy although the male winner, Chris White, did run about 3 hours 45 mins, a great effort. The main group ran between 4:30 & 5 hrs, the drying track helping, but the weather conditions, especially the humidity a worry to the unfamiliar.
All up numbers in the two events around 50.
Looking forward to their 56 km event in October from Jelatten up the Mt Molloy Road, should be easier on proper fire trail & 4 WD tracks.
Great day had by all, I would certainly recommend the event to any one interested in something a little bit different. Good preparation required, but well worth the effort.
Going to the beach this afternoon for a swim & recovery, perfect day here in Cairns.