Bogong to Hotham Race Report 8 Jan 2012

Bogong to Hotham is a great classic mountain trail race that has earned it’s reputation as the toughest mile-for-mile trail race in Australia.

Starting at Mountain Creek Campground runners climb the massive Mt Bogong, descend T-Spur to Big River before the next big climb up Duane’s Spur to reach the Bogong High Plains. Passing through the main aid station at Langford Gap, runners continue across the high plains before dropping to the Cobungra River and climbing Swindler’s Spur on the way to the finish at Mt Hotham summit.

Having run this race in 2011 as my first true ultra I was looking forward to returning to face the tough course with a few more kms in my legs.  We head down to Mt Beauty a few days early to enjoy a family break and some beautiful warm weather in the mountains.
Whilst some rain and moderate winds were forecast for race day, all was looking good for a nice race at a coolish 12 degrees top for Mt Hotham.  The course includes large sections of walking tracks that with the good weather in lead up to the race, Vic Parks staff had managed to get in and clear of some large (very) fallen trees that would have made interesting obstacles.At race briefing and check in on Saturday there were plenty of fast times being talked about with some serious talent in the mens field. There were also plenty hoping they would be able to get to Langfords Gap (35k) inside the 6hr cutoff and then struggle on through to the end.  Great to catch up with some now familiar faces and meet some new ones before heading off to try and get some sleep.Race day dawned overcast and drizzly, and waiting for the start there were already plenty of waterproof jackets being worn despite the upcoming initial climb.  I elected to start just in t-shirt as knew I would be heating up very quickly on the climb up to Bogong.  After roll call, a quick ‘go’ and the pace was on from the get go with the leaders making the most of the flattish first 2k to the Staircase.

The start of Staircase Spur

I settled in to a steady pace getting warmed up ready for the slog I knew was coming.  Steep climbs are definitely not my strength thou I have been gradually improving. It took me a few kms of the climb to get into a good rhythm, but then just marched and jogged the flatter sections until we got above the treeline and at that point needed to pick up pace a bit more to keep warm as the winds were high and sleet stinging as it hit.  Plenty of runners were stopping out in the open to put jackets on, but knowing that I handle these conditions fairly well as long as moving (plenty of hiking & snowboarding in worse) I stuck without it, instead focussed on getting quickly across the plains and back into the trees after summiting.  Through this section re-passed a lot of runners who were slowing to try and keep on the path in the buffeting winds.  I made up about 6mins on the climb on last year, so obviously gradually improving on climbing.

Enjoyed the run down to Big River, though was a bit slower than last year as was being careful in the muddy conditions (though still seemed to be overtaking people).  Lots of groaning and crashing from the trees whilst heading down to the river and then on the next big climb up Duane’s Spur reminding you of the high winds & keeping me moving to get out of them. Duane’s is steeper than the first climb, but established a rhythm quickly and was happy to get thru the climb without any rests needed and overtake a couple of guys on the way.

At the hut at the top of the climb (23k) we were then informed that the race would be ending at Langfords Gap (35k) for safety reasons. Hearing this I stopped for longer than planned to add thermal as well as put on my jacket in readiness for the run across the High Plains, electing to look after myself thru here rather than try to race hard.  While doing this Steph Gaskell came back past me, so was aware I would be either in 3rd or 4th (unsure of exactly who I had passed coming off Bogong in the sleet!).  I chatted to a male runner and then to Steph briefly on heading out to discuss the race stopping decision – having run the course before I was aware of how windy the course beyond Langfords would be and agree this was best decision for safety of the whole field. (even with warmer gear the wind would still have been a massive challenge and potential for trees down etc high).

The High Plains on a good day

The High Plains on a good day (two days prior to race)

Along the High Plains the winds were really gusting.  When behind me I had no choice but to run as it pushed out forward so hard, when a cross wind I struggled to stay on the path, and if headwind just moving forward was a struggle.  Rain was also fairly steady now and plenty of water to run through on the trail just to add to the fun (and yes, it was actually quite fun, I was in a good headspace, feeling strong, and humming away – lucky no one could hear).

Once again I really enjoyed the single track section thru the trees before heading along the aquaduct track to Langfords, although again in the winds was hard to get into a good consistent tempo.  Once on the aquaduct trail there was plenty of headwind to face for the final kms, getting worse for the last few hundred metres into the checkpoint – no sprint finishes!

So race stopped at 35k – 5:22 to this point, 2nd female (again) with Beth Cardelli 1st in 5:00.  I took 5:32 to the same spot last year, so an improvement in time, with the time picked up on the climbs, not the descents and open sections where I normally would have expected.

Andy Hewat the Race Director and his team had done a great job of setting up extra gazebos at Langfords (and manually holding them down) so we could keep out of the wind while they organised lifts to get runners off the mountain as quickly as possible.  A huge thank you to the volunteer who had got her husband to come up to ferry runners down, as really appreciated being straight out of the wind and on way back for a shower. The way that they ensured we were told the race was cancelled asap and then dealt with getting everyone of the mountain quickly and safely was exceptional.

Mt Bogong leading up to the Race vs Race Day

Mt Bogong view day before vs day of race

Great footage showing the race upfront, runner comments and conditions thanks to here :

Afternoon spent relaxing with family rather than another punishing 29k of trails, then nice catch up and chat about the conditions at the presentations.  Seeing my 5yo daughters face when my name was read out for 2nd was priceless, so excited and loves ‘our’ trophy.

Legs have recovered well this far, despite some ‘new’ discomfort around left knee for a day or two – a result I think of all the running trying to hold myself against the wind hitting from one side.

Lessons learnt:

I am getting better at climbing, once I got focussed on rhythm I stopped losing time.

Mix of nutrition was good, stuck to ½ hourly intake throughout race.
Need to watch electrolytes even in the cold – hands started to swell, but couple of S-Caps and all better


Happy with all the gear used!!

Salomon S-Lab12 pack is awesome and using bottles in side pockets in addition to bladder was great.

Mix of Perpetuem and Accel gels sits well for me.

Inov-8 Talons once again performed brilliantly – just need to find a road shoe I like as much!

Also still really liking the wear-ability of my Proskins compression tights for the few days post race, nice to have compression without looking like it : )


About brymcconnell

Ultra running mum to two young girls who loves to get out on trails any chance she gets.
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6 Responses to Bogong to Hotham Race Report 8 Jan 2012

  1. cathyn61 says:

    Great commentary Bry – sounds like your running is coming along nicely.

    • brymcconnell says:

      Thanks Cathy, gradually getting stronger mentally and physically. Find it also is helping to take the time after races to sit down & blog just to make me work through the race and learn from it.

  2. Steve says:

    The year I did B2H it was so hot, I had to wait for a snake to get out of the way on track after Big River crossing. I wouldn’t have handled those conditions at all, way too cold & wintery for me.

    • brymcconnell says:

      Definitely not good for those not liking cold, and was bad for the few who had to slow thru injury too. Decision to end the race was definitely the right one. Was cool last year, cold wet & windy this one, so I guess next year we will be back to very hot, so back to looking out for snakes.

  3. Sara says:

    Bry you continue to inspire me. I was laying in bed this morning thinking of shirking on my tiny 5km run due to the windy conditions here, when I remembered your race!!
    Needless to say I ran my 5km & thought of you the whole time!

    • brymcconnell says:

      Thank you Sara! Mornings are always hard, I still struggle (esp with the ones that aren’t super early for some reason). Having a program to follow really helps with ensuring I plan to fit it in around the kids – I know you will find the same 🙂

      Great work on your own return to running, here anytime you need me!

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