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Wonderland '18

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Third time lucky weather wise.  Wonderland 2018 had the best of the weather, making up for 2016(a couple of inches of rain during the run), and 2017 (bitterly cold with enough rain to feel it).  Both 2016 and 2017 still seemed to be great races, but after 2018 it was great to experience the race with great weather and dry shoes.

We (the family and myself) headed up on the Friday, longer trip than usual since our tree change but still an easy trip, 4 hours of actual driving (3 from Melbourne CBD) and we arrived.  We missed out on booking into the Lakeside caravan park this year and instead did the Big 4.  Stayed in a cabin and have to say while older, felt the cabin was more spacious, the only thing we missed was the heated pool that usually gets great use at Lakeside.  Saturday we did a bit of a jaunt, doing the first 3 of the silo art sites as far north as Brim, and took a trip down memory lane having lunch at Minyip where the 80s series the Flying Doctors was filmed, and onto the pink lake at Dimboola.  Halls Gap really is a great location for exploring the west of the state and each year we tend to drive a slightly different way.

I lined up for the 20km event again this year, like every other year I made myself the promise to pull my finger out and get a qualifier done to go into the 36km event next year.  Race morning I walked into town and soon found myself chatting with Rohan the RD and some others.  His advice was there were a few falling trees in parts, I asked him what the puddle situation was and he responded that there were still puddles, and unavoidable.  Turns out Rohan doesn't have issues with foot blisters (to go with his not knowing what lack of endurance is) - happy to say the puddles were minimal and very avoidable - great for someone that blisters quite easily.  Due to the dry conditions, I chose to race in some racing flats I've been doing a bit of speed work in and apart from one or two minor slips easily recovered found they were great for this years event.  With the great conditions I stuck pretty much to the mandatory gear of backpack, phone and compression bandage, not needing multiple layers and rain jacket felt great

7.03am and I was off in the second wave, just after the fog of the morning was lifting.  I spotted Ranga Mel a few rows ahead of me but didn't get the chance to say hello.  My plan was to push a bit harder at the start to the Pinnacle this year, ease back a bit to the lake and go consistent along the end stage.  I had a plan to be at the pinnacle (5kms in) by the 1 hour mark, I ended up there at 1.04 and was pretty happy with it.  I changed over to my sunnies which allowed me at this point for the first time to take in the view from the Pinnacle ever so briefly, standing along so many others with their phones out taking shots.  A woman near me made the comment "better take a picture as I'm not going through that again".  I'd been running with a 36km runner, Peter, doing his first event and wanted to ensure he made the split point in the course before the cut off so I quickly scrambled down over the rocks to catch up and keep us both motivated to get him to that point.  I didn't catch him, but was happy to see he made it by over half an hour under the cut-off.  You really do meet some great people on the trail runs.  The run to the pinnacle is alot of single file rock climbing and stair climbing, so for anyone doing this run, accept that 13 - 15 minute km pace does happen.

After the cut off / course split point, the down hill starts in earnest.  Again like all events over the last 5 years my left knee told me how quickly I could descend.  Turned out another runner near me also had the same issue so we discussed possible solutions as we descended the roughly 4kms down to the lake keeping each other going.  The trees across the track where alot more common in this section, with one requiring a bit more than just stepping over.  At the lake I encountered some fellow PTR runners but couldn't stick with them for too long, losing them around the 15km mark.  I was surprised at this point as the last 2 years I'd given way to the first of the 36km runners coming through as the 2 courses combine just past this point.

For the last 5 kms I was sure I would be hearing the stampede of the 36km runners at any point, so I kept pushing myself on, wondering when the heck was the 18.5km mark and the bridge for the turnaround back into town ever going to appear.  I was also half expecting my family to be at the bridge so wanted to get there, knowing my son would more than likely try to outsprint me along the home stretch to home.  No family though, so turned into a headwind that stayed pretty much consistent all the way to the end.  Just past the 19km mark and got overtaken by Captain America in full outfit, kudos to that guy for going the distance complete with the shield on one arm.

The crowds over the last km really cheer you on and there really is no stopping to walk through it, no matter how knackered you are.  The finish line appeared, and I crossed with another PTR member, however as he started in the wave after me he got me by 3 minutes in total.  Rohan's big smile is there to welcome everyone, and huge kudos to him for a fantastic medal - topped only in my regard by the 2 bays beer opener.  After a few cups of coke and chatting to some other finishers, rang my wife to see where they were - all still at the cabin still in bed.  After a quick trot warm down 1.5kms back to the cabin, had a great breakfast before heading back into town to see some more finishers

Wonderland still remains my favourite run of all, and I'm more determined to get qualified for the 36km run next year.  Depending on whether and if so what length the new run will be added next year, might even aim to do that one instead.  I couldn't help but leave just wanting to do so much more trail running, just don't tell anyone how close I was this year to doing the 36km course by stealth.  Laraptna is the only thing that will disrupt the plan

End result, 11 minute PB, dry shoes, finished about 50 places better than previous years, managed to finish before any of the 36km runners, and a great weekend in Western Vic.  2 days later and the body is also ready to get back into the training - 2 Bays in January is the next event on my calendar

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At the expense of the weather, yes indeed, it is better that in 2018 the weather was excellent, not like last time. Look at this. I will not say that I am confident in the weather for this season, but I feel that everything will be fine.

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