My third attempt at The Guzzler 50km trail ultra in Mt Coot-tha Brisbane has long been one of my major goal races for 2022. It’s a race that I have a great affinity with after running the inaugural event in 2019 and then returning last year for the 2021 edition of the race. I had entered the race in 2020 however the border closures attributed to covid put a stop to this and I deferred my entry. It’s a race that has challenged me significantly in my previous two attempts and one that has drawn me back partly for unfinished business and partly because of the great vibe this race has.
Training had gone pretty well this year, despite a few minor set backs I was able to fit in the necessary training and confident that I arrived on the start line ready to give my best effort. In the days leading up to the event there was some significant rain over the Brisbane area and The Guzzler course. This lead to a last minute course change for the 100km runners and what promised to be a much wetter course then previous years. By race day the rain had cleared though and the Guzzler was underway under clear skies.
I arrived at the start area about an hour before the race, giving myself plenty of time to prepare for the start. The 50km event began at 7am with a much bigger field than previous years with over 700 entries. On the start line I felt good, I lined up towards the front of the field ready to go. the race began with a uphill section for the first 2km. Early in this section two runners had gone quite hard from the start, I wasn’t interested in going with these runners and settled at the back of the next group of about 8-10 runners. The pace set by this pack felt comfortable and I was happy to be in with this group. after this uphill was a fast and long downhill section which splintered this group slightly as some wanted to run fast and let the legs run on the steep downhills whereas others, myself included were more conservative. At the base of this section I was able to keep runners in sight and then have 3-4 others with me that helped keep a good pace, yet be able to run conservatively. Again the pace was comfortable, and i was very aware that I wanted to be patient and run my own race at this point. This next section from 5km to checkpoint 1 at 17km is the most enjoyable on the course, the terrain is relatively comfortable and of the more scenic of the course. There is a series of climbs, however nothing that is too difficult at this stage, however this year with the recent rain there was some muddy sections and a couple of creek crossings where it was necessary to get the feet wet. I decided to stay with the group I was running with and we traded positions over this sections as some runners were more comfortable on the hills and others preferring the downhills and flatter sections. My strategy at this point was to be conservative on the hills and keep people in sight on the downhills and flat sections. This worked well for me, I got to the checkpoint at Enoggera Reservoir running with a group of 4 other runners feeling very good. I stopped momentarily to use the bathroom and then proceeded down the trail. There was no need to use take anything from the aid station at this point.
The next section to McAfees Lookout at 24km is one of the more challenging parts of the course. It has been a section that has tripped me up in both my previous attempts at this race. Although it is only a 7km section of the course it is a series of steep up and downhill sections with very little flat running. I was determined to stay conservative on this section. In both my previous races here, I have been feeling great at checkpoint 1 to be feeling horrible at McAfees. I needed this to change if I was to have a better second half of the race. By using the bathroom at checkpoint 1 I had lost contact with some of the runners I was with, however wasn’t concerned about this as it let me concentrate on my own race. I approached this section knowing it was a crucial time. Continuing my strategy of being conservative on the uphills was a good decision, I was able to pass a couple of others in this section. The climbs in this section are particularly difficult, very steep followed by steep downhills, mostly these are small climbs but there is a very large climb not far from the checkpoint at McAfees. It is certainly a challenging part of the race but I came through this section feeling pretty good. I had started the race with 2.5L of fluid in my bottles and again at this checkpoint decided not to fill anything or take aid. I had been taking a GU gel every 40 min and this strategy left me well equipped to be self sufficient at least until the next checkpoint.
From McAfees lookout to the next aid station of Gold Creek has the infamous ‘Hell Hole Hustle.’ this is the section from 24km – 27km which includes a downhill section through the rainforest before another creek crossing, this one the deepest on the course. Followed by a very steep climb out of ‘Hell Hole’ and then an extended climb. On the downhill section I felt good, being able to stretch out and run well, I was conservative in places as it was muddy and quite technical. Focusing on my won race as the group was well and truly separated by now. Coming out of Hell Hole was as difficult as I had remembered however getting to the top meant another of the big hills on the course was navigated and I still felt pretty good. From here there is a mostly downhill section towards the Gold Creek checkpoint at 31km, running downhill I was able to stretch out and run properly however my calves and quads were showing pain and fatigue.
At Gold creek I took on electrolytes in my pack, filling my 1.5L pack with the tailwind product supplied. Within minutes of leaving this checkpoint it became aware to me how sweet the Tailwind mix was, not having trained with this product I was surprised just how sweet it was. Straight out of the checkpoint I noticed I had lost a position to a runner that hadn’t stopped at the checkpoint. I had yo-yoed back forth with this runner all day so I wanted to keep him in sight and try and close this gap on the lap around the Gold Creek reservoir. This section is another difficult part of the course, on paper it looks quite straight forward as it doesn’t feature any large hills but is difficult single trail and some short, steep hills in the second half that the legs don’t need at this stage. All in all I was happy to get through this section, I passed the runner who had previously passed me and started the climb out of Gold Creek feeling positive about my race.
The climb out of Gold Creek is another long and challenging uphill, however the support of other runners coming downhill is great to have. From here there is a long and somewhat isolated section, it’s a section where running started to become difficult especially uphill. My legs were fine on the flat and downhill sections, however I had little power in my legs when I went uphill and this made it necessary to hike even when the hill wasn’t particularly steep. I did my best to narrow my focus and make use of the times when I could still run well and focus hard on hiking with purpose uphill. Over this section I was overtaken by a runner I hadn’t yet seen before who was clearly running better than me, I was resigned to letting him go at this stage.
I made the road crossing at 46km before the last place to fill a bottle at a local water fountain. Here I decided to fill one of my flasks with water as the sweetness of the electrolyte was becoming unbearable. That and too many sugary gels had taken their toll on me palate. At the fountain I passed the runner who had only recently overtaken me and felt a small surge in motivation as I had thought he would be well clear by now. Another short section before the brute that is the Kokoda climb, which is the toughest of the course. Certainly not the longest but the steepest and most difficult because of it’s placement near the end of the race. I hiked this climb and it took everything I had to make it to the top, I was again overtaken by the other runner and at this stage was not concerned.
From the top top of Kokoda there is 4.5km of fairly easy trail, mostly downhill traversing back to the start/finish area. At this stage I was ready for my day to be done, Kokoda had destroyed my legs and more importantly left a mental scar that I wasn’t able to come back from. From here I made my way over the last 4km the best way I could, but I already had my mind at the finish line and wasn’t interested in raising an effort when another 50km runner passed me with less than 2km to go. It was another runner I hadn’t seen all race, who was running well. I was disappointed to lose this position but didn’t have the mental energy bro raise an effort.
I got myself to the finish in 5 hours 46 min in 9th overall. It was my fastest Guzzler 50km attempt by 4 minutes on a course that measured 2km longer. Overall I’m happy with the effort I was able to give. I’ve come back to this race twice now because I haven’t yet thought I’d left my best effort on the trails. This time I am happy I did for 48 of 52km with the last 4km section leaving me wanting a fourth attempt.
The Guzzler Ultra is quickly becoming one of the premiere ultra races in QLD. It is a great atmosphere, it is super well organised and supported by the Brisbane running community. It’s a race that offers a significant challenge for every runner, I’m looking forward to coming back to next year.