The 7th running of the Blacksnake trail event was in perfect conditions; dry and sunny but cool. 71 runners lined up to compete on the 10km, 21km and 34km courses. The challenging 34km was back on offer after an absence last year. Numbers were also up considerably (more than double) and the longer distances attracted more runners. 59% were women and 41% were men.
This year, the start and finish were the same; between the rotunda and the BBQ area at the Lake Morris Recreation Reserve. All runners headed across the top of the Copperlode Dam wall and were immediately confronted by over 2kms of very steep forest- shrouded but wide vehicular track. This becomes the Clohesy River Road. Both the 10km and 21km competitors continued along this undulating and scenic dirt road. The 10km turnaround point was just before the first of several shallow creek crossings. 21km runners crossed these creeks on the way to the Fig Tree Checkpoint where the hardworking Jarrod Ausburn directed them around the short Fig Tree Boardwalk and past three magnificently huge strangler fig trees.
The 34km runners meanwhile, took a left turn and headed off down Bridle Creek Road. This rainforest-lined track is not for the faint-hearted with long sections of steep ascents and descents before crossing the crystal clear waters of Bridle Creek. Soon after, the welcome sight of the Bridle Creek Checkpoint was reached with volunteer Deb Drummond and partner Derek dispensing drinks, snack food and smiles. Then, it was through the waters of Bridle Creek again and more than 7kms of very variable and occasionally very rough, Viever’s Track. This narrow track links Bridle Creek Road and Clohesy River Road. On reaching the latter, it was on to the Fig Tree Checkpoint and finally the last 10kms back to the finish line.
A field of 19 contested the 10km, which could almost be called a ladies race with 17 women lining up at the start. And it was a lady who set the tone for the day too, with Zoe Delany eclipsing the long-standing record of Andy Hargreaves (set in 2012) to finish first in a time of 56:04. Louise McCallum also broke the previous record when running into 2nd place in 57:15. Helena Narywonczyk was 3rd in 1:01:36. Great running, ladies. The two men were guaranteed a male podium finish with Lachlan Boyd finishing in first place overall with a time of 54:33 and Chris Holliday crossing the finish line in 1:03:14.
The 21km race featured some notably quick runners with the smooth running style of Tim McGrath taking him to the finish in 1:40:19 (another record!). He knocked nearly 6 minutes off the record set last year by Anthony Ralph and a whopping 9 minutes off his winning time in 2012. Improving with age, Tim! He was followed by well known Cairns Road Runners stalwart Glen “Robbo” Robinson in 1:44:12 (also breaking the previous record). Victorian Ian Cornthwaite took a “sporting break” from his North Queensland holiday to take out 3rd place in 1:45:39 and, dare I say it, also breaking last year’s record!
I watched in awe as Sarah Thomas and Alina Mitchell ran past me like gazelles and close together, too. However, Sarah pulled away on the return leg and eventually crossed the line first in 1:54:58 and…yep..…another record….goooone! Must be something in the water! Alina’s 2nd place time of 1:57:58 put her just over 2 minutes ahead of 3rd placegetter Lesley Walker in 2:01:24.
There was drama in this race too, with Tim Hayes (running outbound) hearing a scream…and then another. Topping a rise in the road just before the 10km turnaround, he beheld an unbelievable sight. Runner Jill Shepherd, racing toward him with a cassowary chasing her! He saw her veer off the road and fall over, with him thinking “that cassowary is going to tag her!” Fortunately, the cassowary didn’t stop, either jumping over Jill or almost so. Fortunately, too, Jill was largely unscathed but I’m sure a cardio watch would have revealed an off-the-scale reading!
The 34km men’s race would have had the punters in high excitement, pre-race. Would Bryan O’Mahony pull off a repeat of his 2015 triumph? Would over 60’s ultra champ Dave Von Senden reel him in? Would the ageless Steve Cunningham pull another rabbit out of the hat? Would a dark horse emerge and steal the show? 34kms later, all was revealed. A dark horse, Rob Hendrickx raced across the line in 3:03:33 to claim 1st place and the fastest time for the “reverse direction” of this course. Bryan O’Mahony was close behind and set a PB for himself in finishing 2nd in 3:05:11. Dave Von Senden “ran hard” to take 3rd place in 3:11:19.
But wait, there’s more! The ladies did it again! Jennifer Damon, 1st place in the women’s event in a time of 3:33:45. Another record! She clocked the quickest time ever, in either direction, to take more than 12 minutes off the previous record. 2nd placed Alena Scurrah, 3:36:50 and 3rd placed Sonya Alba-Miller, 3:43:15, both also broke the previous record. Amazing running! Well done, all you runners!
Volunteers. Massive thanks! No volunteers, no race. Simple as that. Behind the scenes, IT guru Sarah Dart kept us informed (she’s looking for an apprentice by the way) with posts on the website. Ably assisted by Susie Houlihan, Colleen Harisson and Jarrod Ausburn (Facebook). Permits; Dave OBrien. Shopping and medals; Jarrod again. Course marking; “happy days” Ausburn, Deb Drummond and Jo Van Gorp.
On the day, Susie Houlihan was Race Director with help on the BBQ by “hubby”. Daughter Neve made it a family show, assisting Jo Van Gorp with timing and recording. Thanks to our checkpoint crew; Jarrod again out at the Fig Tree and Deb and Derek at Bridle Creek. Thanks to those who helped set up and pack up. You may have noticed that the same names keep popping up, time after time. We would love to have more people involved, even in just a small way. It lightens the load on individuals, presents new skills (with experienced “teachers” on hand)….and you get to know people.
Our next event will be the Barron Gorge trail event with 11km and 18km options. This will be the 6th running of Barron Gorge and will be held on Sunday September 24th.
Dave O’Brien | Committee Member