*2000 KING OF THE MOUNTAIN* – by Steve Shephard, Texas (email that Steve sent to his running club in Texas and forward on to Harriers) Isn’t the Internet great? I’m sitting in my Houston office thinking it might be nice to get a race in while on our vacation to Australia in preparation for the Chicago Marathon. I do a search on Australian Road Running and a few short minutes later discover the Mt. Tassie King and Queen of the Mountain 30km being held while we’re there. Better still, it’s held in the Victorian country town of Traralgon, about 2 hours east of Melbourne and a mere ½ hour from Sale, the town we lived in during the 80’s and were planning to visit that very weekend. Sign me up! Everything about this race is splendid.
Cool Victorian Spring weather. The winds gust, but for this race they’re mostly cross or tail winds. Asphalt roads the entire way with very little traffic. Aid stations every 5km with water in plastic bottles, a nice idea. How about the price – $15 Australian, which is about $8 US. Start of the race was the civilized hour of 10 am. Lots of road monitors and directions painted on the road. Trophies for King and Queen, open and masters male and female. All details expertly handled by the sponsoring organisation, the Traralgon Harriers. So, with such a great race on hand, why were there only 21 entries?? I was soon to find out. Gun goes off, and I settle into a comfortable 7:20 pace. Half the field settles into their comfortable 6:30 (and fast pace) and soon they are out of sight. My, tough field. Good running, though; the entry advertises “undulating”, but it’s gentle and very pleasant. Beautiful pastures, woods, and sheep grazing areas. Barb and our Aussie friend, Marg driving along and stopping to shout encouragement every now and then. Suddenly, a hill. WOW! Up and up and up, 15 minutes of non-stop up. Up some more. I get to the top, but I’m spent. Gotta keep going though, the race is only ½ done. Suddenly. Another hill. Makes the first hill look like a piece of cake. 30 minutes of steep, perpetual up and up. No choice, gotta mix in some walking. 5km to go, and there it is – Mt Tassie! This race is like some kind of cruel joke.
Mt Tassie is about 2,500 feet high, meaning we’ve climbed maybe 4,000 feet in this race told. No problem for the locals – the King of the Mountain finished in under two hours. I finished in 2:27, just under 8 minute miles, 16 seconds behind the Queen of the Mountain whom I had been duelling with the entire race. 11th overall and, as the director graciously conceded, the 1st American. The summit of Mt Tassie is barren, cold and windy, but the club tent with hot soup, oranges and water provided welcome relief. After all the finishers were in, we all headed back to Traralgon for more refreshments, the awards presentations and hand written certificates for all finishers. The race strongly resembles some Houston Strider club runs like the Tour de Memorial and the Bear Creek 20km. The beautiful highly challenging course set it apart from our efforts, though. So, if you happen to be in Traralgon in the future by all means check out what the Harriers are up to!