As a runner, I’m always looking for new races to run. Sometimes short, sometimes long, sometimes near, sometimes far. But for me, my favourite races are when I can combine a run with some general travel and adventure. And my recent trip to Mt Gambier in South Australia was a great example of being able to do just that. There was snorkeling in crater lakes, exploring caves, trail running, and a road race around the region’s famous ‘Blue Lake’.
By Sputnik, ioCrew Member and Australian Trail Runner & Adventurer
I’d wanted to do the Blue Lake Fun Run for the past few years, but never quite managed to make the 4.5hr road trip there for various reasons. This year I was teetering when my run and adventure buddy Sarah showed some interest which was all the encouragement I needed to pack the car, book a cabin, and hit the road.
It was going to be a lightning quick trip, but I was optimistic we could still squeeze in a fairly big chunk of adventure, and despite at least one fairly monumental navigational error, we managed to do just that.
We drove the 400+kms to Mt Gambier from Adelaide Friday afternoon, taking in a pretty awesome sunset along the way. Most runners are at least reasonably healthy, but anyone who’s seen my considerable heft will know I’m partial to crap food and nudging an XL in my beloved ioMerino. And road trips are the perfect excuse to scoff all sorts of ‘sometimes foods’ along the way. So the sugar-infused drive went smoothly enough and we arrived in time to check in to our cabins on the outskirts of town.As we’re both training for an ultra at the moment, our Saturday morning run had to be a longer one – around 25kms. So we made plans to run about 6kms to the local Park Run (a regular Saturday morning 5km run held at various locations around Australia), run that, then run another 15kms. Rather than race the Park Run, we thought we’d just cruise it knowing we still had quite a few KMs to clock, but the competitive nature in us both came out as soon as everyone took off and we both ended up running sub 25mins. Not lightning quick, but not bad. As usual, ‘Smurph’ had my measure but I was happy enough to at least have her in my sights most of the way.
We then bashed out some awesome trails courtesy of some directions from local runner and ioMerino customer Phil who was gracious enough to let us in on the best trails to hit around the Valley Lakes. We’d met Phil, who was wearing his ioMerino Altitude T, at Park Run, as were we! It really is the perfect running T for cool mornings that keeps you just as comfortable at a chilly start as it does when the temperature rises.
With the run done, rather than rest up before the main race the following day as common sense would suggest, we hit the road to explore the nearby Piccaninnie Ponds. This wet land has world class snorkeling in crystal clear water and contains a massive underwater cavern.
Cave diving here is strictly controlled so we only snorkeled, but it was great to explore this amazing ‘underwater world’ from the surface. The water filters through the surrounding limestone for thousands of years before entering the ponds and by the time it gets there it is ridiculously clear making snorkeling there pretty spectacular.
Full length wet suits are mandatory all year around in the ponds as they are famously icy cold so both Smurph and I wore a layer of ioMerino underneath and were pleasantly surprised at how warm we were, especially considering it was a particularly chilly day for this time of year.
Come race day, we were already pretty worn out, but managed to knock over the 10.4km race in reasonable time. Even though the distance is relatively short compared to what we’re used to, it’s never easy as the shorter the distance, the harder you run. And there’s nothing like a crowd to bring out your competitive spirit. Surprisingly, I managed to stay in front of Smurph for almost the entire race, but sure enough in the last km or two she reeled me in, and in a rare display of sportsmanship, we ended up crossing the finish line together. I’d like to say I did it as a goodwill gesture but the truth is, my tank was empty and I couldn’t have pipped her at the post if I’d tried.
From there it was a quick trip to see some of the local caves which were mind blowingly amazing, before heading home the long way taking in some of South Australia’s finest coast line along the way. If ever there was a trip that showed how versatile ioMerino clothing can be, this was it. From exploring caves to snorkeling in icy cold ponds and running roads and trails, we were comfortable every step of the way.