The Two Bays Trail Run offers two events each year – 28km and 56km. There are qualification requirements but once you’re in, you’re up for a great experience!
The course includes a the steep climb up Arthur’s Seat, the sharp and gravelly path back down, the narrow and technical sections, the sandy and undulating terrain, the 99 steps near the finish, all in the summer heat! And back again through all this for those doing the double distance!
Trail newbies like my husband and I, through to experienced runners and ultra runners, there’s something here for everyone!
Our first Two Bays Trail Run experience
After my first marathon, at Melbourne Marathon I was looking for that next challenge to tackle. Never having run a trail race, I set my sights on the Two Bays Trail Run.
On January 12th 2019, my husband and I were excited to be racing our first Two Bays Trail Run. Actually, this was our first trail race ever!
As newbies, we signed up for the 28km run. It was a beautiful morning, not too warm yet and the air was still. After a 15 minute toilet wait for a pre race stop, it was off to the start line. Get there early, the queues are long!
I loved the race dress ups! Some runners were decked up in board shorts, Hawaiian shirts and even swimwear, to earn their spot at the front of the starting area. We ran into a couple friends for a bit of pre race banter and laughs. It was such a fun, casual and relaxed atmosphere, a great way to start a race!
Trail race walking
Despite being a way faster runner, my husband had always set out to kindly chaperone me on the run and share this first time experience. As in our practice runs, he would run ahead and wait for me at certain points. I’m particularly weak on hills so I decided to start near the back of the pack and take the uphill start to Arthur’s Seat at a very slow and steady pace. Having being told that most people walk up Arthur’s Seat anyway, I didn’t see the point in expending all my energy racing up only to then start walking.
The concept of a mass walk in a race was something I had to get my mind around. I’d never seen this sort of thing in a race before. When does everyone just walk? Or in fact, plan to walk, any section of a course?! Well apparently this can be common in trail racing, at the recreational runner level anyway. The hills are usually much more significant than you would find in a road race, totally understandable and necessary I guess. So yes, I walked up Arthur’s Seat. No need to feel defeated, everyone was doing it! Honestly, it was so steep, I couldn’t have run up it anyway, even if I tried!
My first stack
With a practice run done on this part of the course a few weeks earlier, I knew there was an easy run down from the peak. My strength is definitely downhill. I don’t put the brakes on but just let gravity do its work! So I smashed it down the next few kms to make up for lost time.
There is a section of the course that leads down to McLarens Dam. It’s probably one of the widest sections of the course. But down one part, it’s very steep and with a tricky surface of small, loose rocks. From my practice run I noticed a small, narrow dirt path running parallel, so I aimed to move onto this section as I was flying my way down. The only problem was that there were others who were on the same path too but taking it at a walking pace. So with no time to shift my course back to the main trail, I slid to slow down and avoid smashing into them. So that was the first tumble for the day. Picked myself up, brushed myself off and headed back on my way!
The next part of the course headed through the streets. I did find parts of this challenging even though it was on the more stable surface of the road. I started feeling the heat in the open section, particularly up some of the inclines. In fact, it was pretty much a steady rise up for the next 5kms. Then there was relief back onto the shady trail through Green’s Bush for probably the most cruisey section of the course.
Hubby out of the race
Once again, the practice runs did help. Understanding how important is was to lift my feet to avoid tripping on the many tree roots was significant. In fact, I had sprained my ankle 6 weeks before having stumbled on these trails several times.
Even though hubby never seemed to find it a problem, he did trip this one time in the race. No fall, just stopped dead in his tracks and boom!…tore his hamstring off the bone! I could see that he was in so much pain. There was really nothing we could do. We were on a trail in the middle of the National Park! I decided to keep going to see if I could find help and ran into some volunteers who were assisting another runner. In fact, one of the volunteers was actually piggy backing this lady out of the trail! They kindly offered to head back to help my husband so I ran on to finish the race.
In the meantime though, many runners stopped to ask my husband if he was ok. There was amazing comaraderie on the course! Most suggested he head back on the trail which would be the closest road exit. So he managed to hobble his way to the last road crossing from where we came. Rohan Day (Race Director) saved the day and took him back to Cape Schanck to meet me at the finish. Thanks Rohan!
Stumbled into the finish at Cape Schanck
Coming into the last aid station at Boneo Road, I had run out of water. I was kindly helped by one of the fantastic volunteers who took my bottle and refilled it for me. The volunteers were amazing!
Not sure if I was distracted thinking about hubby or was just feeling exhausted now but I underestimated the last section of the course. Even though I had run it before, for some reason I had in my mind that yay, this was a quick run to the end. Not sure what I was thinking, but I actually found this the hardest part of the race!
Maybe because I was already fatigued. Perhaps it was that I was really feeling the heat by this stage – this section is mostly open to the sun shining onto the trail. Probably because this last section was so torturous by being continually undulating and sandy. And definitely because of those killer 99 very wide steps just 2km from the finish. Or it could have been all because I forgot to take my last gel?! Probably a combination of all these factors!
In fact, before I knew it, I had commando rolled my way onto the ground. Luckily I just missed a full frontal face plant! (Thanks no doubt to my taekwondo training from a previous lifetime!) I think it was just absolute fatigue. There was no time to brush myself off this time. Just popped back on my feet and stumbled my way to the finish line!
Looked like a pig in mud!
I must have been an interesting sight as I crossed the finish virtually covered in dirt! I was actually oblivious to all this and was wondering why when I finished the medics ask me if I was OK and to go into their tent to get fixed up. Yes I was totally exhausted but I didn’t feel injured in any way.
It was not til much later that I realised that I had dirt all over me, my knee was dripping blood and I had been wiping dirt all over my face after my first fall as I was clearing the sweat during the race! So happy to have run the race, so happy to have made the finish even with a few “stops” along the way, but definitely not a pretty sight!
Congrats to everyone else who ran Two Bays 28km and hats off to all that ran the 56km, you truely are amazing athletes!
My biggest tip for first timers
Practice on the course if you can
For me, it was definitely worth spending a couple of Sunday long runs to train on the course trail. I thought I would be fine trail running. On my first run though, I must have rolled both ankles about 10 times. And that’s not an exaggeration! After three training runs, I really did gain a better understanding of how to run a bit more safely on the trails. With two falls on race day anyway though, I obviously still have plenty of trail practice that I need to do!
There are training runs hosted by race organisers in the lead up to race day. There are also training runs you can join via the Two Bays trail Run Facebook Group, organised by a very generous and friendly local, Chris O’Brien. Again, another example of this amazing community of runners! Definitely worth the effort and time to make any of these runs.
Other things you might like to know
You may spot snakes!
It’s a trail run so to be possibly expected I guess. You are advised to take a compression bandage in case of a snake bite, both during the race and on practice runs.
Luckily, we never saw snakes on any of our runs. But I do know that others did in training. I didn’t hear of any spotted on race day though, probably too many people on the course at once.
If in doubt, look for the blue birds to guide your way
Again, less likely to get lost on race day as there are so many runners to follow. The course is also marked with orange markings, ribbons and cones.
But during training runs it can be easy to lose your way. Just keep a look out for the wooden posts with official markings of the blue wren symbol pointing the right direction. I did get lost a couple of times until I found out this handy tip!
So after all this, would we do it again? Absolutely!
This course had one huge hill, many undulating hills, uneven terrain including treacherous tree roots (there were many a fallen runner along the course that day), narrow paths, rocky steps, bridges to cross, sandy sections, rocky sections… there was loads to manage along the way! Tricky and challenging for the trail newbie, this is also what makes this race also so interesting and fun! It is also such a beautiful run and I loved the very chilled and lively mood of the race. So many friendly runners and encouraging volunteers on course!
Like my maiden marathon, I now have a much better understanding of what to expect on race day and feel like I can run a better race next time at Two Bays. Hopefully I’ll be fully fit too, with ankles strong and ready to take on the trail! Oh, did I mention… I just found out that the long time niggle in my ankle since my first practice run to race day and even now, is due to severe posterior tibial tendinosis with a partial tear?! Amazing how adrenaline can get you through anything!
For my husband, I guess it’s unfinished business. He had surgery post race to reattach his hamstring. His aim is to also be fit and ready to complete the race next year too.
12th January 2020 Two Bays, hopefully both injury free… here we come!