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POINT TO PINNACLE – TEST OF THE TOUGHEST

November 29, 2014

“The World’s Toughest Half Marathon” is the slogan that the Point to Pinnacle uses in their promotion. It’s certainly not far from the truth, given the environment that the race is set in, the course that it takes…and even just getting an entry into the event! To last 20 years as well is a testament to how the event has turned from novelty to bucket list item.

The shirt did say it all....

The shirt did say it all….

There was half a consideration to enter this event last year, but uncertainty over whether I can make the distance and a waning of interest after initial enthusiasm caused me to seek alternate events such as Run Sydney. This year however it was always in the pipeline, and I was lucky enough to register before spaces ran out. The event is so popular and limited in capacity (I learned there’s only so many buses that could transport the competitors back from the finish line) that even though the event is held in November the field is generally full by mid September. This year the WAITING LIST was full by that time, and the field itself was finalised at the end of August. The lesson here is to get in early and to not to wane on commitment to get to the start line.

But the rewards....

But the rewards….

This year was the 20th anniversary of the event, or as discovered at the pre-event dinner the 20th anniversary of the modern event. Just after the turn of the 20th century there was a run where competitors got to a certain point of Mount Wellington, then had to find their own way to the pinnacle as opposed to following a set path. Of the 20 runners that started, everyone made it to the top but only 18 made it back home with runners also needing to make their way back home. It was a nice event even though the food was a little dry (as opposed to post race recovery where the pumpkin soup hit the spot), and having John Maclean aboard to speak was a masterstroke. The value of persistence is what I’m sure many took away from his words of wisdom based on his life experience.

 

So to race morning, where despite the forecast of  ordinary weather there was little wind and no rain to greet everyone at the Wrest Point Casino car park. Hopefully this was a good sign of things to come once on the mountain. The format of the event  meant that the walkers started an hour ahead of the runners, and the walkers had to indicate upon entry if they were going to walk rather than run. The rules also indicated that they could walk, and only walk as opposed to runners who could run and walk as needed. It’s just another unique element to the event, for even though there was an overall time limit to complete the course (4.5 hours for the walkers, an hour less for runners), although the thrill of the chase isn’t exactly a major reason to complete this event.

After the walkers took their time to leave the start house, the usual pre-race routine kicked in with a dynamic warm up and gear drop (as you saw from the last post here, I decided to actually carry my camera along for the ride this time), although this was followed by a few group warm ups prior to the start. At almost precisely 8AM, the start hooter sounded and just over 1200 hardy souls were sent on their way.

It struck me on my first impressions of Hobart (given I had never ventured that far South in my life before) that the city had more elevation changes than I had experienced or imagined. There really wasn’t any stage where the course was purely flat, particularly before the last 12km climb up the mountain itself. Thankfully the training regime involving running up hills and even Mt Archer on three occasions put me in good stead. When asked in the weeks after the event by some colleagues, I joked that of the 21km event 19 of those were uphill, and the other 2 were basically downhill runs leading up to the next hill before approaching Mt Wellington.

Just after the 10km marker is the Pillinger Drive corner, a hairpin right that leads you onto the climb itself. But it wasn’t until you reach a part of the course known as The Springs where the mountain starts to take a toll. By this time we had caught up to the main body of the walking brigade so at least if the gradients became too much to bear we had decent company to have a chat to. Surprisingly it wasn’t until the 13km marker where I had to activate a plan I had set after my first training run up Mt Archer which was a smaller climb with a higher average gradient, take the mountain minute by minute. In other words it was a case of run for a minute then walk for a minute, which was the plan for many others as well. As you saw with some of the stills in the video, it was worth taking a moment to check out the views, just to give you an idea of how high we were climbing.

...and the view at the finish line were worth it

…and the view at the finish line were worth it

I started to feel a little seedy towards the latter stages of the climb, although my explanation for this wasn’t the altitude or tiredness but rather not being used to drinking water on the route as opposed to just sports drinks. It wasn’t until the 14km drink station that Gatorade was available which is different to many flat course events where there are fewer water only stations. It was also taking on board jelly lollies which I hadn’t done since the previous year on any race that may have made me feel ordinary. However by that stage not only could I smell the summit amongst the mist, I was well ahead of the schedule that I had set myself in terms of time.

Within the final kilometre I saw some buses ferrying the early finishers back to the Wrest Point, which at least spurred me on to run the last few hundred metres. Around the last bend were the “Mo Bros” (Movember being the official charity of the event), which at least dubbed me Ben Hudson given the beard was still intact and I was wearing Western Bulldogs kit (one of 4 clubs “The People’s Beard” played for). And not long after came the finish line, not too dissimilar to how some mountain stages at the Tour de France finish. As I walked towards the lookout to collect medals and refreshments I’m sure the on course commentators made mention of me wearing the zinc cream on a day where covering up usually was done with fabric, but I wasn’t exactly listening.

For once time didn’t matter to me as much as it usually would for half marathons. For what it’s worth I was hoping just to complete the course, and to finish under 2 hours 40 minutes would have been a great result. To learn that I finished in a tick over 2:21 pleased me, even more so after discovering the night before that Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson completed the same course in 2007 a minute slower. The time almost made being in the winds at the top bearable, but getting a seat on the bus and into the warmth was just what the doctor ordered.

 

Thus ends not only the hardest event I’ve ever done (and hopefully it won’t be the last time I’ll compete here), but also all the commitments for 2014. It certainly doesn’t mean I won’t be busy, there’s a 2015 schedule to create and sometime during December I’ll make sure this blog will have the details. Plus I’ll remain training lightly just to keep in some sort of shape.

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From → 2014 Events, ARCHIVES

One Comment
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