A bunch of amateurs turned up to run my mountain on Saturday, so I had to defend it.
If you love mountains, then trail running, climbing and mountain biking are what you do in the off season whilst waiting for snow. This is a given in Europe and North America, but seems to have been slow to take hold here. We don't really have an alpine culture and I guess our beaches are far more enticing. Plus we can always just escape to Japan.
The Oz kids (and they came from everywhere this weekend) who are starting to get into trail running here aren't necessarily into skiing, or even that into mountains. Rather they are seeking fit, likeminded people on some beautiful and very technical running trails.
Since Beau Miles ran the 700km AAWT in 7 days a couple of years back, the sport seems to be getting bigger, with quality publications like 'Trail Run' and companies like La Sportiva stepping in with sponsorships and fantastic new races like the Mountain Series.
This year's Razorback Run had over 160 participants. With the Tour of Bright bike race down in the valley, the Vic Alps finally seem to be successfully campaigning as an alternative to the coast for those of us into fitness in great environments.
I scored a beautiful sunset on Friday for the drive up, and spent the evening carbing up with spaggetti and beers in front of the fire at Dinner Plain. Morry arrived much later and crashed besides the fire.
My only real aim for this run was to try and beat the previous best race time of 2:33. I figured that it usually takes me about an hour for the 11km to the summit from Diamantina, however I seldom turn around and head straight back without mucking around with my skis first. And never at the same pace.
We had our briefing and equipment checks outside Diamantina at 0730. Quite a few people had camped overnight. The air was freezing, with a bit of added windchill - or perhaps that was just my nerves. Everyone looked thinner and fitter than me, and I imagine Morry was probably thinking the same thing.
And then we were off. It was so awesome heading off in the front pack of 5 runners at a good pace on such a beautiful day. I frequently do this trail alone, so to be following closely in the heels of competitors in a pack was a real buzz. The front five were all obviously significantly younger than me, and I'm sure they were waiting for the old grey-haired codger and his crazy ski stocks to drop off. And maybe die. Perhaps they were worrying about having to do CPR.
But about half way along the Razor amongst the burnt stumps of the Bad Lands, just before the climb up to Twin Knobs, I was surprised to find myself hot on the heels of the leader, and still feeling good.
The others had dropped off, and it was going to be a 2 man race.
Chriss still had my measure on the climb up to the summit and we nearly collided in the turn around the flag. But then on the descent, my skiing prowess came to the fore and I was right behind him. I was just about to think about taking him when I lost a stock and had to double back for it - and then my water hose got caught in a snow gum and the toggle ripped off, draining my entire water supply. In the end though, it was Chriss's younger legs (and obvious superior fitness) that pulled away.
I still ran a PB, coming in at second place - 3 minutes behind Chriss who ran a pretty amazing 2:18.
The 44km was won by our very own Kilian Jornet prototype, Blake Hose, in an astonishing 3:57 - and the 66km was won by Tom Brazier, again in an amazing time of 7:30. There were a few tumbles (including Chriss who refused to shake my hand afterwards because his own was covered in blood), and one hospital admission attesting to the fact that these guys take their running very seriously. There were also a few seniors (even older than me) doing the 66km, which was a solid effort.
Chriss doesn't know it yet, but I've got him in my sights for next year.
Nobody beats me on my mountain - and he'll be another year older.
The first Mt Blanc Ultra took 7 months to sell out. These days it sells out in a minute. With the Alpine Challenge the longest and perhaps toughest run in the Southern Hemisphere, I figure it might be time to give it a crack next year before I am no longer able to qualify.
Thanks to Mund, La Sportiva, Bogong, Buff and Trailrunmag for the prizes.
The following are all iPhone photos, demonstrating the randomness of iO7.