Wild Horse Criterium

This small, really enjoyable trail race started in 2010, and runs on Easter Sunday.

There are 3 options: Single lap, 3 laps, 5 laps. Each year the length of the lap has varied between 10 and 12km. This year it was closer to 12. I’ve run the single lap each of the 3 years, and it has turned into a definite must-do race!

The course skirts around the base of Wild Horse Mountain, and varies between wide fire roads, sandy tracks, and lush pine forest single track. There’s one water station (at the half-way mark), and there is a requirement that everyone carries their own water. It is probably the flattest trail run that I have ever done, but some sandy sections feel like you’re going up hill! (See some course photos here)

(from the 2011 race)

This year, I went into the race with no expectations. I’d done a lot of km in the week leading up to the race (including 24km on friday). I decided to use it as a training run, not as a race. I went for a walk up the ‘mountain’ as part of my warm-up. The view from there is amazing on a clear day – you can see the coast line, plus the rest of the Glass House Mountains off in the distance.

The race started at 10am, which guarantees that it will already be hot by the time we start! One benefit of the later start time is that the crazy 60km runners started to finish in the hour or so before we started our race. I knew 3 of the crazies out there, and they all finished within 5 min of each other and about 20 minutes before my race started. Talk about inspiring! They all ran brilliantly (even if 2 of them got lost in the pre-dawn darkness). I tried to help them out after they finished with drinks/fresh shoes/whatever else, because I assumed they’d be stuffed after their run. They were all still fully functional and didn’t need my help too much…

It was finally time for my race to start. There were 97 starters in the 12km (70 in the 36km, 32 in the 60km) – the totals have been slowly increasing each year. I think 200 is the capacity of the current permit, which was exceeded about 2 weeks prior to the event. Given its success I think they may try to extend it, but I do really like the small community feel of the race!

As I had planned, I went out at a fairly steady pace. I knew there were a few females ahead of me but I wasn’t sure how many.

After about 2km I passed a young girl, who was just coming back from injury. She said that her back was a bit sore but that she was ok, so I continued on my way.

About 1km later, one of the pins on my bib came undone! While I stopped to fix it up another lady passed me. We had a brief chat, and then she pulled ahead. She told me that she did the 3 lap option the past couple of years, but that she is doing shorter events this year to try and develop some speed. I decided she’d be a good person for consistent pacing, and aimed maintain a reasonable gap.

We occasionally passed runners that were on their final lap in the 36km. It was difficult knowing who was in what race, but it was always nice to have a bit of brief company!

I can’t actually remember the first creek crossing, the water must have been low enough that I didn’t get my feet wet. The final crossing was a different matter. My ultra friends had suggesting balancing across a log to get through, but I was starting to increase my speed and I had a target in my sights – the lady that passed me back at kilometre number 3!

The creek crossing last year

After splashing through knee high water, the final  700m of the course is the most technical. It’s all rutted and there’s a little bit of a hill to get over, but then there’s a very short gravel road to run up before the finish. I was feeling strong, and the gap continued to close between myself and the lady ahead of me. After getting through the rough stuff (and not breaking an ankle) I managed to accelerate hard, passing my ‘pacer’ and cross the line in second place! The first place female finished 2 minutes ahead of me, and then there were 8 seconds between myself and 3rd place. That is my best result at this event – I’ve come 4th and 5th in previous years.

How have I only just discovered Photo Booth?

I’ll definitely be back again next year! Oh, and the best part? You get a chocolate easter bunny as the finishers’ gift!

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