As with last year, the 8th running of the annual Blacksnake Trail Race took place in perfect running conditions; dry, sunny but cool. Runner numbers were down considerably this year due to a triathlon on the same day and just a week after the popular Speewah Legend.
However, it was a quality event which saw a 5km race added to the regular 10km, 21km and the gruelling 34km. It also saw a new record set with John Schreuder obliterating the men’s 21km record. There were more women runners (57%) than men (43%) and the 21km race was the distance of choice with 41% entering this event.
All runners started (and finished) at the rotunda at Copperlode Dam Recreation Area, crossing the dam and ascending steeply for about 2kms. Soon after the wide, dirt road levelled out, the 5km runners turned and backtracked down the hill. The 10km, 21km and 34km runners continued on through shady rainforest until the junction with Bridle Creek Road was reached. Here, the 34km runners headed south. In recent years, the 34km event has been run in the reverse direction to protect our valuable volunteers manning the checkpoint at the junction of Bridle Creek Road and Vievers Track.
The 10km runners only had to cross one small, almost jumpable, creek before turning for home but the half marathoners had little choice but to get their feet wet with four more creek crossings to navigate before reaching the Fig Tree Checkpoint. Here, Dave OBrien attempted to record arrival times and photograph runners (alas, my digital camera doesn’t like moving mammals in dim light).
The 34km runners were faced with an additional challenge this year. A huge tree, with associated landslip had crashed across the track on a bend. This proved too much for one runner who turned back at this point. Steep ascents and descents and a deteriorating track finally gave way to a well formed dirt road that led to the ever-reliable Rod Fearon, manning the Bridle Creek Checkpoint. From here, runners joined Vievers Track. Seven kilometres of narrow and sometimes technical track with steep ascents and descents, deep ruts, rocks and finally a wide creek before joining Clohesy River Road. Soon after, the Fig Tree Checkpoint is reached and it’s homeward bound.
The inaugural 5km race attracted just a small field but I’m sure we’ll see this grow in the future. This race was a classic example of “just show up, and you’re a winner” Rachael Young set the benchmark time of 39:15 to take home a gold medal with Jessica Morel just a few steps behind taking the silver in 39:21. Liz O’Connor also picked up a medal for her 47:45 finish. Matt Jacob also set the benchmark time for males with a 32:01 finish and a gold medal. Well done 5km runners! Tell your Park Run friends to join us next year.
The 10km race was contested by 9 runners with Clare Lonergan backing up from her 2nd place in the Speewah Legend to take gold in the women’s event in a time of 58:53. She was followed by Rebekah Curtis in 1:01:36 and Louise Renton took out the bronze with a 1:09:41 finish. For the men, Luke Muccignat’s 56:34 put daylight between him and the others, and earned him gold. Morgan Flockhart picked up silver for his time of 1:02:11 and the Lonergans were amongst the medals again with Kieran taking home a bronze for his 1:02:18, just behind Morgan.
The women’s 21km event shaped up to be a cracker with some really powerful runners footing the starting line. Four of them competed in the Speewah Legend just a week before.
Akane Goode arrived at the Fig Tree Checkpoint first, just 30 seconds ahead of Speewah first placer Jeralyn Pickering, but fresh legs prevailed and Akane cleared away to win in 1:55:56 only a minute outside the race record. Fabulous run, Akane! Jeralyn showed great resilience in crossing the line in second place with a 1:58:55 time earning her a silver medal.
Alina Mitchell, a previous record holder for this event, was again amongst the medals with a 1:59:00 finish to take home bronze. Great running ladies and especially to the other Speewah Legends, Karen Arthur, Rowan Wilson and Jill Shepherd.
The men’s Fig Tree Half Marathon. What can I say? Spellbound? Awestruck? Just a week ago John Schreuder destroyed the Speewah Legend race record for 17kms. A one off? Nope! This week he obliterated the men’s 21km record, knocking an astounding 11 minutes and 23 seconds off Tim McGrath’s record set last year. The man wasn’t even breathing hard as he passed me at the Fig Tree Checkpoint! For the record, his finish time was 1:28:56 and he was 23 minutes and 9 seconds ahead of his nearest competitor. Craig Langdon (1:52:05) and Euan Shepherd (2:14:26)…you guys just picked the wrong race! Well done anyway!
The 34km Blacksnake is about resilience, tactics, knowing the course and knowing yourself. Six men and three women started this challenging race in 2018. This year, after 24kms of tough trail running, Alena Scurrah and Sonya Alba-Miller were only a minute apart as they arrived at the Fig Tree Checkpoint. However, Alena (“I love hills”) powered away over the last 10kms to win in 3:41:46 and take gold. Sonya was only 5 minutes behind after 34kms, finishing in 3:46:27 to take home the silver medal. Thankfully, Amanda Hales made it safely back to the finish line.
Robert McWilliams (2nd in Barron Gorge last year) arrived at the Fig Tree Checkpoint in 2:12, with daylight between him and last year’s winner Robbie Hendrickx (2:21), Dave Von Senden (2:22) and Neil Thomas (2:31) but things can change in long distance races. The cagey, older (not old!) maestro showed his genius once again in turning a 1 minute deficit at 24kms into a 6 minute win at 34kms to take gold in 3:19:38. Another great performance DVS! Last year’s winner and record holder for the reverse course, Robbie Hendrickx, retained second position to cross for a silver medal in 3:26:51 while Neil Thomas upped his position at Fig Tree to take bronze in 3:38:36 Well done to all runners. We hope you enjoyed your day!
Volunteers are the salt of the earth and we can never have enough …..and usually don’t.
Pre-race, Sarah Dart and Marian Webster looked after website and Facebook promotion with help from the ever-reliable Colleen Harisson (she also organised registration and the shiny new race bibs you got to wear on race day). Permits, medals, gift vouchers, shopping, track marking, organising the Council required port-a-loo and manning the Fig Tree Checkpoint(Dave). Dave Von Senden and Alena Scurrah were also involved in marking Vievers Track.
On race day, Michelle Traill cycled up Lake Morris Road in the dark to join Colleen, Marian, Ryan and Sue Houlihan (also towed the equipment trailer) in setting up at Lake Morris. Sue’s husband Jason was Masterchef for this event.
I would like to commend Rod Fearon as one of our special volunteers. He’s usually one of the first to put up his hand to help, and consistently does so. For this event, he volunteered to man the remote Bridle Creek Checkpoint. We need more people like him.
I’m sure all you runners would join me in profusely thanking our volunteers.