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So just back from an awesome 4 days in the Grampians around Halls Gap with the primary focus of running in Wonderland for the second year. Last year was a wet one, very wet with a few inches of rain from the night before through to after the event. We decided to make a bit more of a time of it and pulled the kids out of school for a few days, and headed off on Friday morning (surprisingly no complaints from the kids). From door to door in the South East of Melbourne it was right on 300km door to door, all up about 4 hours of driving with the stop start of the city for the first hour. Lakeside caravan park is awesome for anyone looking for recommendations, great heated pool (around 30 degrees) to relax in and great facilities. We left the caravan at home this time and went a cabin which was quite luxurious compared to many others we have had. The Saturday is all about the kids and family events, there is a 2km and 8km run put on, and an obstacle course is set up for the kids to go at as they wish. My kids went through it many times before we took them for a hike up to the pinnacle. We had a bit of bad weather as we got to the top, my wife and youngest (4YO daughter) stayed a bit below the summit while I took the older 2 to the top, only for the cloud to obscure all views. The night before the call went out that the race would be enforcing mandatory gear. For the 20km runs, this is basically 500ml of fluid, and a compression bandage , however it is strongly recommended you go with the list for the 36km run which includes rain jacket with minimum requirements, space blanket, food, whistle etc - so that if something happens you will survive until help reaches you. The forecast was possible showers, however as it had been like that on Saturday and it rained most of the day, the reason for the gear requirements was for good reason. I'd recommend everyone to at least get the rain jacket, my cheap one last year didn't do much, and after getting a good one this year was dry on both the Saturday hike with the kids and through Sunday as well. The race starts are 7am with a few wave starts. The wave starts are self seeding with 36 and 20km runners taking off together. The course for both distances starts off with roughly 1km of open trail / road until you hit the first climb, which is steps that are basically single file. The single file continues for the next few kms with little room to overtake, so when you get the chance you either let those behind you go past, or take the opportunity to go. The other runners are really great at allowing the quicker ones to go so it's not really much of an issue. Just before the 5km mark you hit the pinnacle, some take the opportunity to take a look, take selfies and update their facebook profile, however most keep going. It's hard in the first part of the race in good weather not to just take in the views, it really is amazing scenery and well worth going just for this. I hit this point at just over the hour mark. From the pinnacle the next few kms is downhill, over rocks mainly and again a few spots with limited overtaking. At the 7km mark is the first aid station in Sundial carpark, a quick scull of a small amount of coke (throat had a tickle from the cold going around) and straight back into it. Shortly after the aid station the course splits and the 36km runners head for Mt Rosea, being in the 20km we start the descent down to lake Bellfield. For the most part the descent is free from rocks, however it is still technical and again this year there was at least one case of an ankle injury. Not a great place to get one as you have either a few kms back up a steep hill, or a 3km downhill over steep terrain to get to help. At the 11km mark you come out at Lake Bellfield and the next aid station. I hit this just over the 2 hours mark. From lake bellfield, it is around 10kms on bike paths and forest trails, with a creek crossing (dry feet though) and undutlations on the trails pretty constant. The 36km runners rejoin the 20km runners over the forest trail and I had 3 fly past me in this section with a fairly large break between each. The final 1.5kms is along the path back into town, with the final couple hundred metres down the footpath in the main street of Halls Gap and across the finish line at the hall. The support of the spectators is great and I don't think anyone walks the final 500 metres with other competitors encouraging you on as well. I PB'd over 10 minutes from last year, which I was stoked with considering the 4 months training lost with kidney stones in the lead up and getting cold a few weeks out. This is an event I've already booked accomodation for next year and strongly encourage everyone to consider, even as I sit here with legs as sore as any event has left them.