Scheduled exactly one week after Gabby’s epic marathon performance in New York, we weren’t even sure whether we would both be lining up to start this one. Suffering from jet lag and post-marathon fatigue, you wouldn’t normally think “I’ll go and run the world’s toughest half-marathon”, but when we spoke on Friday morning, it was pretty clear Gabby wasn’t going to sit this one out.
Point to Pinnacle IS actually touted as the world’s toughest half marathon.
Starting at sea level at Hobart’s Wrest Point Casino, the course winds its way through the city towards the iconic Mount Wellington (traditional name Kunyani), summiting at an elevation of over 1200 metres, complete with incredible views over Hobart and the surrounds and an immense sense of satisfaction. Runners are then ferried back to the start line in buses from the summit.
However this year was shaping up to be different.
During the week, the Point to Pinnacle Facebook page posted a warning that the weather was forecast to get pretty hairy on race day and to be prepared with beanies, gloves, waterproof and windproof layers. On a normal spring day, while Hobart may be enjoying 20 degrees, the mountain can easily be just 3 or 4 degrees. Add into that the windchill factor of a summit exposed to weather from any direction, and stepping out of a car, you can easily be faced with what feels like -5 degrees! The forecast for race day was definite rain – lots of it, temperatures on the mountain close to zero, and expected wind gusts of 50km/hr plus, wind chill to -15!
There has been one other year in the 21 years of the running of this race when the race has had to be rerouted due to inclement weather – and this year there was a real possibility that would happen again. But a decision was not being made until 6am race day, so we had to be prepared.
Choosing our race day gear became a guessing game.
There were some purchases of new gear the day before (new running kit – yay!) to ensure we had the wind and rain proof layers sorted, but this race is unlike any others we race. You start out warm, and towards the end get colder and colder, all the time, running a road race in which you don’t want to strap on a pack pack or tie multiple articles of clothing around you. We talked through many combinations – and ended settling on starting out in our tanks, gloves and arm warmers (for Bec), and tying a lightweight weatherproof jacket around the waist to put on towards the top.
Fast forward to 3am the morning of the race and being wide awake – listening to wind howl and rain on the roof, questioning whether that gear we had painstakingly put together would cut it. What if the jacket we took up with us was drenched by the time we had to put it on? Add in windchill and we’d be freezing very quickly. We woke race day and eagerly checked the Facebook page.
An announcement had been made – the Pinnacle would not be reached this year.
The weather was considered too severe. Rain could likely freeze in the conditions on the summit forming ice, and making roads dangerous or impassable. Additionally high winds would make the summit road dangerous for bus travel. Not to mention the increased possibility of cold-related medical incidents.
The race had been rerouted to run 10.5km up the mountain and turn at around 500m elevation and run right back down again. We had 2 hours till race start, and had to reassess our gear and race tactics. We quickly decided that this was now no different than any winter races we had done. A bit chilly, wet and windy, but not life threateningly so. So we dressed accordingly.
Race morning preparation was simple – a banana for Bec about 2 hours before race start at 8am, Gabby decided to go with her marathon plan from the week before and went on empty. We had 2 glucose gels and 2 caffeine tabs for the half marathon length race. We decided to take one of each pre-race and have one at half-way.
By the time we got a parking spot near Wrest Point Casino, we arrived at the start line with just 15 minutes to spare, but with the weather conditions being cold and wet, we were relieved not to be standing around for too long.
Carrying on from NYC fundraising efforts for Movember for men’s health, Gabby was rocking the MObart MObros uniform and raced off to catch up with the team pre-race, while Bec found bag-drop and the all-important toilet stop.
It was cold lining up but once the gun went, just 1km in, we felt warm and were pleased we hadn’t worn extra layers. Gabby surged ahead getting swept up with the MObros team who really know how to support a race. Their unmistakable uniforms and constant support and positivity was infectious, and we couldn’t help but smile being surrounded by them.
Gabby’s swishing ponytail was in the distance as we started climbing. With pace ranging between 5 and 6 mins per k, depending on the grade of the climb, we steadily pushed towards the mountain.
At around 7km the gap between us closed as Gabby’s jet lag and marathon of a lifetime just one week ago caught up with her. We met up and fell into a familiar and comfortable rhythm together.
A surprise visit from our guys and kids at 8km in boosted our spirits and shortly after, we started to meet crowds of walkers (who had left an hour earlier) and the first runners on their way back down to Wrest Point. We both started to call out to people we know and those last couple of kms before the turn passed quickly.
We turned at ‘Bracken Lane’ at around 500m elevation and paused at the drink station to take our second gel and caffeine. Music was playing, many, many volunteers braved the weather to offer their support – and although everyone was wet and cold, the vibe was incredibly positive. We left the drink station and things got going. We relaxed, caught our breath and let fly downwards.
Dodging between walkers heading down and runners coming up, smiles spread across our faces as we realised how fun this was and it wasn’t hurting – yet.
We continued back towards the city at a steady pace breathing easily, feeling relaxed – only to be interrupted by Gabby’s mildly panicked realisation that the spectators standing in the wet bushes could be attracting leeches. Relaxed feeling gone! On a wet downhill road, you can pull up surprisingly quickly in the case of an emergency leech check. Gabby ground to an immediate halt and I followed quickly after, calf muscles screaming in protest.
We inspected (of course there was nothing there) but that didn’t stop Gabby looking down at her feet every couple of hundred metres for the next few kms. We really need to get professional help on that leech phobia!
The rest of the race went by quickly. Inside 3kms to the finish, the race ‘flattened out’ (only a gentle downhill) and we pushed towards home. Shoes were like buckets filled to the brim with water, making a sound like running in slushy gumboots. We were saturated from head to toe, with chafing from wet semi-dreadlocked ponytails repetitive slapping on shoulders.
A forethought to use waterproof mascara had been worthwhile – there would be no Marilyn Manson lookalikes across the finish line today.
We crossed the line holding hands, as always – after what felt like a very easy half marathon. The challenge for us was the climb of the first 10.5km, the second 10.5km was fun – and although descending that distance on tarmac has made the quads scream for a few days, the thrill of it was worth it. And although the race did not make the Pinnacle that day, credit to the organisers as the race itself was a success. The real time results and many (free) race photos courtesy of Raceatlas.com were an added bonus.
Freezing and cold, we stayed around as long as we could congratulating other competitors; but on noticing Gabby’s lips turning blue, we went in search of a change room and warm, dry clothes. After what seemed like an age getting changed with cold hands (near impossible) we left Wrest Point Casino, cuddled up against the cold and went in search of coffee and croissants with the family – a Sunday Breakfast well earned!
Race: Point to Pinnacle
Photo credits: The Mercury Online, Raceatlas.com