Back in March I ran the Barron Gorge Trail run up here in Cairns for the first time. There are 2 choices of distance for this run - 18 km and 11 km. I did the 11 km run and was so happy to win my first ever trail running medal, coming in as third overall female finisher!! Yippee!!
The run starts at Stoney Creek car park and you run back along the bitumen road for around 1 km before turning off into the bush and heading steeply uphill on a narrow track through trees and long grass for around 2 km. This was a hard slog, but it's a pretty steady gradient so I soon got into a rhythm. Just before the top my foot caught in a root and I tripped and felt flat on my face, winding myself a little and over-stretching my shoulder in trying to save myself! No lasting damage though so I jumped up again and after around 45 mins came out at the top where the track split for the 18 km and the 11 km run.
The next part of the run went along a ridge then descended down a steep and very slippery track (there'd been a fair bit of rain in the days leading up to the race) to the river crossing. The river was only about calf height and it was nice and refreshing to wade through it - much easier than trying to balance my way across on top of the rocks. This was my first time running after a river crossing and I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I forgot that my feet were soaking wet. No rubbing from wet socks - just nice cool feet, how nice!
The next half and hour or so was mostly flat along a ridge with wait-a-whiles and lots of branches and roots to run around, over and under. For this section of the run I was completely on my own - couldn't see anyone in front or behind me, and it was such a beautiful place. It was a peaceful and wonderful part of the run - and I had to marvel at the fact that I was 'alone' out in the bush, with my snake bandage and whistle 'just in case'!! Fortunately I saw no snakes, bush pigs or cassowaries and only got one cut on my ankle from a wait-a-while!
The last 40 mins of the run was when I really started to fatigue. Any vaguely uphill parts of the trail I had to walk - and it really felt like I was plodding slowly then. It was about then, just before the trail turned into it's final descent that I was overtaken by 3 ladies. They were slowly jogging uphill past me, and I just had nothing left to keep up with them. The final 30 mins of the run was from Glacier Rock downwards. I've done this section of the trail before and it was nice to be back on a familiar track.
The rest of the track was very well marked and every time I began to doubt I was heading in the right direction, I would look up to see another ribbon tied to a tree! Such a well organised race by the Cairns Road Runners! - Thank you! I enjoyed this last section of the run, even though I was exhausted. I knew there were no more uphill sections and was able to push knowing how far I had to go. I made good time going down, and was buoyed by a few hikers I passed who all stopped and cheered me on, stepping off the track to let me past! 5 minutes before the finish I overtook one of the ladies who had previously overtaken me on the uphill section. I knew how close the end was now, and looking at my watch saw how close the 2 hour mark was. I slipped and tripped, almost took a few wrong turns but pushed through that last section desperately wanting to get under the 2 hour mark. I was so happy when I crossed the last bridge over Stoney Creek, turned the final corner and saw the finishing line and timer.
I finished in 1 hour 59 minutes and 6 seconds! Exhausted but feeling very pleased with myself, I helped myself to some fruit and water then went with my husband who finished just ahead of me for a cool off in Stoney Creek river. Bliss! After a few minutes cooling soak, we were called back up for the presentations, where I was given my first ever trail run medal. 3rd place female overall - and only 5 minutes behind first place. I was so pleased with myself that I wore my medal the whole rest of the day! The Barron Gorge Trail run is incredibly beautiful and was so well organised. I'll definitely be back again next year - hoping for a different colour medal!! :)