The Lamington Eco Challenge was held over the weekend of 5th and 6th August 2017. The weekend offers a double header of challenging, yet doable, trail runs. Entrants could choose 2 x 42km; 2 x 21km and 2×8.5km. For the event’s fifth year anniversary, you could also run a combination of these. I ran the 42km on the Saturday and backed up with the 8.5km on the Sunday. A truly fantastic weekend of trail running in a stunning location, with a great community atmosphere.
According to the organiser, GONYA Adventures:
“The Lamington Eco Challenge is a trail running event featuring some tough terrain in the Scenic Rim Hinterland in South East Queensland, including four wheel drive tracks, grassy paddocks, bush and a couple of hills as well as having to negotiate creeks, gates, cattle grids and the potential wandering livestock.”
While mostly accurate, I would say that there are a few alterations to be made here team. Firstly – swooping magpies; you forgot the onslaught of a double bird attack which led me to helicoptering a stick around my head while quietly, or not so quietly, screaming “leave me alone” or something along those lines possibly beginning with an “f”. And secondly, “a couple of hills” – bahahahahahahaha… Yes, there were a couple of hills, in the first 5kms and then just a few more on the way home – 1700m vertical gain over the 42km course equated to a couple of hills indeed! At one point I distinctly remember singing to myself, “the only way is up… baby…” – sorry if you were around to hear that; after all, I was in the Primary School choir but told I could mouth the words if I wanted; my choir selection was apparently mainly for my smile… On all other accounts – you were correct; the terrain was wonderfully varied and there was wandering livestock aplenty!
I took a lot of footage on my GoPro Hero Session over the course of Day One and therefore, if you’re not big into reading, just click on the video and treat yourself to a nine minute summary of the 42km course! Apologies in advance for any motion sickness – I’m still saving up for the gimbal to stabilise the image. Best to view this on a mobile device to reduce the effect, and the upload resolution sadly isn’t amazing. Also, while I promise I did run too (!) a lot of the footage is while I was walking, because it’s generally easier to film while walking and towards the end, I was clearly starting to lose my mind a little…. Enjoy the insight into a stunning 42kms around the Scenic Rim!
With this event being five weeks out from Tiree Ultra, it was the perfect place to test out my race nutrition and get some good time on the legs. And oh, I certainly hit some good time on the legs! With the majority of the first half being downhill, I hit the turnaround checkpoint at around 2 hours 40ish, to be greeted by a bunch of cows (actual cows; I’m not being rude) and some friendly volunteers, where I refilled my flasks and was feeling great. That’s not to say the downhill had been easy – I’m horrible at descending and there were rocky sections; scrubby sections; vines underfoot and some uphill amidst the down. The whole marathon ended up taking me a hearty 6 hours 19mins as much of the way home was uphill and tough underfoot!
I was however feeling pretty good as I hit the more runnable rocky track on the way home and started to run the hills harder and lift the heart rate, having just run the first half at low (T2) heart rate as per Coach’s program. That is, I was feeling good until I hit 36km and a little twinge I had in my thigh earlier on turned into HOLY CR*P MY WHOLE LEG IS CRAMPING FROM MY INNER KNEE TO MY OUTER HIP. I gave Morgan (my husband, who had run the 8.5km) a call thinking, as a Doc, maybe he could shed some light on what was going on. Maybe he could reassure me or tell me how to stretch it out as I was stood dead still on my own in the bush in so much pain, scared to move an inch for fear of it getting worse, if worse was even possible! However the phone call from his end mainly sounded like “oh hi…. where are you…. are you okay…. I can’t hear you…. I’m in the spa bath… you’re breaking up…. with a beer….. no I can’t really hear you… see you… bye….good luck… bye….!” All I could do from 36-40kms was shuffle the downhill and hike the uphill and (as you can tell from the video), spend a lot of time crossing my fingers the cramp didn’t come back on. Later, Stacey, a more helpful Doc and friend who we spent the weekend with, cleared it up – it was the sartorius muscle cramping up. Fortunately from 40-42kms I was able to get running again and Sally the Stick and I were on our way to the Finish feeling super excited after a fabulous day out in the hills!
Within moments of crossing the finish line, I saw Meredith who asked, “what’s with the stick?” Well, Sally the Stick and I became great friends over the course of the day. Seeing many of the leaders running with poles gave me the idea that while I had sadly left my fancy Black Diamond folding poles safely tucked away at home, improvisation was possible – and Sally the Stick was born. She was actually Mark 2, as number 1 was more of a log than a stick and slightly cumbersome to actually run with. As lovely and natural and organic as Sally was, next year (I hope there’s going to be a next year!) I may well sling some poles across my back for the return journey!
Having formed a Wilson like bond (think Tom Hanks, Castaway) to Sally the Stick, I did take her out on our Day 2 adventure where I had a brilliant start to the day running the beautiful 8.5km course with Morgan (now out of the spa bath and not onto his first beer, quite yet). With a 7am start on the Sunday, an hour earlier than the day before, we arrived at Luke’s Farm to be greeted with a stunning cold and frosty scene. I have to say, the 8.5km is an absolutely cracking short course and if you don’t want to run any further, you will still be greeted with a fantastic trail running experience. Not to mention, we were finished by 8.10am and had the morning to chill in the sunshine and cheer on the rest of the finishers, including Simon who ran a cracking 2x21km.
It’s safe to say we had an absolutely amazing weekend at the Lamington Eco Challenge. With around 80 runners (I think?) the event had a wonderful community feel and by the end of the two days and a combined 7 hours and 26 minutes running, I had met a tonne of friendly faces and had the pleasure of meeting Meredith and her trusty team of exceptionally friendly volunteers. These encounters included meeting an Instagram friend, Lois, for the first time – there’s nothing quite like running along and hearing “ALL THE GEAR NAE IDEA” (my Instagram handle) shouted out behind you while on course!! Heyyy Lois!! Being a fellow Scot, it turns out that we also have a friend in common – the very friend who’s wedding I’m going to the week after my first ultra – Tiree, in Scotland, next month. Aye, it’s a small world ken.
Also, a big hello to Lauren – who went onto win the double marathon (no, Lauren, it was more than a Stephen Bradbury moment; it was incredibly well earned!!) and who on Day One I had spent quite a bit of time with traipsing around the hills. I managed to take a massive stack as I wedged my ankle into a pothole and went flying akin to a very ungraceful, sweaty, Superman – and Lauren kindly nipped back to check I was okay and offer help. This is what trail running is about in my experience so far – the camaraderie, impromptu chats and looking out for each other, which you just don’t experience the same on the road.
All in all, Lamington Eco Challenge, we had a blast. A wonderful opportunity to have a weekend away with friends; stay at O’Reillys Rainforest Retreat; choose a distance to suit and run some beautiful countryside; not to mention hop in the spa bath after your run with a glass of champers – I couldn’t recommend this event highly enough. We loved it, thank you!
Day One and Two Results:
Day 1: 42km: 6 hours 19mins – 6th female on Day 1 (link to my Strava run here)
Day 2: 8.5km: 1 hour 6mins (Strava run) = Overall 2nd place in the 42km + 8.5Km combo event.
Gear I used over the weekend:
- Ciele Athletics Cap
- Salomon Slab Advanced 12 Hydration Pack & the smaller 5 set on the Sunday. A review of the larger pack is coming soon and I’ve reviewed the smaller pack here.
- Oiselle luxe tee. Zero underarm chafing hurrah.
- Julbo Powell Sunnies.
- SOAS shorts. Zero bum chafing hurrah. I’ve reviewed these shorts here.
- Injinji Compression Toe Socks.
- Hoka One One Challenger ATR shoes. ATR 2 on the Saturday and the original model on the Sunday.
- Garmin Fenix 3 – Rose Gold.
- Knee strapping provided by RockTape and good old fashioned electrical tape!!
- Oh and please, let’s not forget Sally the Stick.
More info on the event on the GONYA Adventures website.
We stayed in a lodge at O’Reillys Rainforest Retreat, where the event started and finished from. It’s quite a drive up the road from Canungra to O’Reillys, so I would definitely recommend it!