Are you racing the Pinnacles Classic this weekend or plan to race in the future? 18 hills over 18km's of trails, following the ridge line around Gold Creek reservoir. Here I'll give my tips on trail race preparation and the course itself so you give yourself the best chance of finishing strong and happy with your performance. Some reading this may be thinking, hey it's just 18km's how hard can it be? The trails in this area can humble the most experienced racer with steep technical climbs and descents so come prepared!
I'll mention here, I've run the course numerous time, but not in the race capacity held by TRAQ (Trail Running Association of Queensland). I've run the Pinnacles loop as solo run's and with a group of trail runners so I know the course well and what to expect. However I'm looking forward to putting the training to use in a competitive event.
As a trail runner entering races around the country (and overseas) I do appreciate the scenery and surrounds of the natural landscape where these events are held. As a local of Brisbane, I seldom research the history of the landscape and these events, however I decided to check in on history of Gold Creek Reservoir and found some very interesting facts.
^As the race tracks around Gold Creek Reservoir, I wanted to know a bit more about the dam and history. The dam was built in 1885 as an earth filled embankment to supply parts of Brisbane via gravity main until 1919. It was originally built to supplement Enoggera Dam but then in 1928 a tunnel was constructed to connect both reservoirs some 5km's apart so they now act as a single storage. It's an un-gated dam, so at 100% water flows over the spillway.
As for the trails, there are many fire trails and single track trails to explore in the area. Phone coverage is limited so best to venture in this area prepared and preferably with others. If you're new to trail running and looking for simple hints and tips for the trails, I wrote an article on this a little while back you can find here 9 things everyone should know about trail running . There you go!
I guess if you're into your dams you'll find the above interesting, otherwise read on for pre race and race tips!
^^TRAQ Pinnacles Classic overview
The Pinnacles Classic is a very serious 18km trail race around Gold Creek Reservoir in Brookfield, one of the backyards of Brisbane. It reaches an elevation as high as around 340 metres above sea level, following the ridge line around the reservoir.
A gentleman by the name of Peter Holles from Brookfield Runners came up with this tough off road race many years ago and it has grown in popularity over the years as it is timed well in the year as a tester of fitness, leading up to big name races like UTA in the Blue Mountains, the Margaret River Ultra and many other local and interstate races. There's an elevation gain of 750 metres over the 18km course, that's some pretty serious elevation over a short distance.
The course is straight forward and sticks pretty much to the fire trails around the reservoir so it can be fairly easy to navigate. However, there are some long steep technical climbs and slippery descents mainly in the first half of the race, trail running experience will weigh heavily in a competitors favour on this track.
Like any race, I like to prepare in the days leading up to the event both physically and mentally to toe the line as fresh and ready as I can be. Some simple things I do which work well are listed below. Some of the below you may be able to adapt right away, but don't try any drastic changes pre race, save the experimentation for training.
Pre Race - Fluid pre loading and food choices
I'm usually taking in lots of fluids and electrolytes through normal training weeks but this week I'll be sure to drink at least three litres of water per day and an electrolyte drink with essential minerals. Edge Electrolytes is my choice with this.
I'm really cleaning up my diet this week as well. Whole foods, beans, rainbows of fruit and vegetables and a mix of carbohydrates including brown and wild rice, quinoa, couscous, sweet potato.
The day before, I like to have a large meal for lunch instead of dinner. I find movement in the afternoon helps food digest easier instead of a loaded dinner. Energy is used to digest food so I'd rather that effort is done while I'm awake.
My got to dish: Split lentil dahl with sweet potato
Dinner will be relatively light with more of the same mentioned above. Enough to satisfy the cravings without overeating.
The race is a 7am start, so the morning of the race I'll drink a litre of water and some Edge Electrolytes. Breakfast will be light, maybe weetbix in coconut water or an oats/quinoa mix soaked the night before with some chopped fruit. I'll eat a banana about 30-45 minutes prior to race start.
Pre Race - Training and focus
If you're following a plan or working with a Coach, this week will be welcomed as the intensity in training should be dropping off to get the body conditioned for racing.
If not, a general rule is 2 weeks out from a race, drop back to 75% of volume and 1 week out, 50% of volume. This isn't for everyone and you may be using this race as a training run for other events so the intensity may continue.
If the TRAQ Pinnacles Classic is treated as a race and you are wanting to give a good nudge, your training focus should now be on rest, pulling back intensity, hours and distance for the week.
Here's what a typical taper week may look like for this event for a recreational runner.
Race planning and strategy
If you are fortunate enough to run the race track prior to the day, you are in a good place to really nut out your race plan.
I've run the track clockwise a few times so here are my top tips for race day.
It's a slow start for the first few kilometres so pace yourself for a fast finish. With 750 metres of climbing over the full course, over two thirds of the elevation gain is in the first half of the race! That's approximately 520 metres in 9km. If you push too hard at the start chances are the lungs and legs will not have the gas to push it home for a fast finish.
There is not much more demotivating than passing runners in the first half of a race, only to have them cruise past you in the final km's when you feel like your standing still.
There's lots of steep climbing and downhill in the first half of this race, so take your time and save your legs. Walking hills is not a bad thing as a lot of time can be made up on the downhill sections.
Once you've hit around the half way mark, there is still a bit of climbing but the South Boundary Road section is more of a rolling trail than steep hiking climbs. Still, power hiking this section is ok too. Just remember most of the climbing is done, so most of the race is now downhill.
It's at this stage of the race you can really shine and take some places. Break it down km by km. Along this section of South Boundary Road, you'll pass 3 tracks that take off to the left, Black Soil Track, Hell Hole Break and Centre Road. Once you've past the Centre Road intersection you're only about 2.5km's from home. It's time to open the jets.
If you've saved your legs on the steep ups and downs in the first half of the race, you hopefully have the energy to power down the slopes and take some places, or as Goggins would say 'taking souls'.
As for fuelling, according to the TRAQ website there is a checkpoint at the halfway point of the race with water, electrolytes and lollies. 750mls of fluids is the minimum requirement to carry for the race. How you manage that and how much you carry is up to you, and what you have trained with. If you're going to be out there for a few hours, take the appropriate amount of fluids and food.
I do suggest to never rely on checkpoint supplies as part of your core nutrition strategy. Too many times I've witnessed runners relying on electrolytes at an aid station only to find out it is diluted more than their expectation or not what they are used to. I've even experienced a 'dry' checkpoint, whereby volunteers and runners are waiting for a truck to arrive with water as they ran out. I'm not saying this will happen at this race, nor has it happened in my experience with the good folk at TRAQ. The point is, never rely solely on a checkpoint as a key part of your nutrition plan. Use the checkpoint as a supplementary fuel to your own supplies.
While we are on fuelling, Drip feeding your liquid calories is a good approach to taking on fuel and carry as much as you are comfortable carrying. I'll be running with 500ml of Edge Electrolytes and 500ml of caffeinated Tailwind Nutrition in seperate soft flasks. This means every few minutes I'll take a few sips of liquids from the bottles, never letting the lips or mouth dry out. This race is run in the Queensland summer, so be prepared for any type of weather, blistering sun or rain and thunderstorms and stay hydrated.
Post race recovery
It's easy to get caught up in post race banter and a cheeky local brew to celebrate our run. We definitely are spoilt with options in Brisbane with a craft brewery on almost every corner. While this may be good for your socials, make sure to refuel with plenty of fluids and solid food quickly after your run. Drink whatever is left out of your hydration packs or flasks and grab an orange and banana to munch on. A peanut butter sandwich is always good for a bit of fat and protein.
Above all else, have fun. We are privileged to be able to do this during the current covid-19 pandemic. TRAQ would have gone through many hoops and challenges to make this happen for us this weekend so be sure to say thanks with a virtual high five or elbow tap when you see them on Sunday.
If you're wanting to discuss your race in more detail specific to you or in need of some guidance with training and racing, hit me up!
See you on the trails!
^Source SEQ Water