Mt Difficulty Ascent Extreme Marathon: 11th June 2016
We had a perfect weather window for the race, cool, sunny and not too windy, just a wee bit chilly on the tops. This race has no flats, when they say flat they mean undulating. I was really glad that I ran with poles which definitely helped spread the load on the ascents and descents. Other must haves were grippy shoes (I used Mud claws, X-Talon would also have worked) and mini gaiters.
We started from Mt Difficulty vineyard with a so called flat (undulating) 5km before climbing nipple hill which had a lovely technical descent. Soon after we started the real hills with an ascent of 500m in 1km which is basically straight up! While scrambling, hauling yourself up rocks, through matagouri and rosebushes you were accompanied by strong wafts of thyme. On reaching the tops it was time to whip the legs with some runnable downhill before the really technical descent started. This required good balance, sure footing and if you were freaked out there was even a rope to grab onto for one section.
That was just 16km in around 2hr30min already gulp! the big climb was still to come! A few km later we started the 1020m ascent over 3km up another ridgeline. More or less another straight up, accompanied by more wafts of thyme plus a bit more sweat, blood from the matagouri and rosebushes . It was a full body effort involving a bit of crawling to get to the summit of the aptly named Mt Difficulty. BUT there were breathtaking views all the way (or maybe that was the exertion/hallucinations). From here we followed an undulating track along the tops that was runnable if your legs were still talking to you. Then guess what?? another climb! Not so steep but it sure felt steep by this point in the race and the legs were now seriously jelly like. Here it was time to remind yourself that you were doing this for fun and it was a toptastic day so SHUT UP LEGS and enjoy the view.
Finally just after 35km appeared a great looking downhill 4WD track, I say great looking as you still had to convince your legs that they were not jelly and they could run fast down the last 8km or so and negotiate climbing the odd fence/gate! (ha ha). The winery gradually got closer but there was a final tease of several kilometres zig-zaging through the Bannockburn sluicing before reaching the winery finish approximately 45km & 3270m of ascent/descent later!
If you are into big ascents, technical running, stunning views, sore quads and slow marathon times this is the race for you!
Training Tips for Mt Difficulty
Good sense of humour
YES, I will be going back to run it again!