Badwater 135 Miles 2017

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Contains many words, some of them a bit sweary. Grabbing success from the bits left over from my mistakes…….

Firstly, I have a lot of people to thank- while I may be the one wearing out shoes, there’s no way this would have been possible without these people-

  • Mum & Dad- they had no idea why I wanted to do this, but supported me anyway
  • Wife & Son- Sarah understands, doesn’t particularly like it, and supports me anyway. Is this a pattern?
  • Mile 27 & Andy DuBois- He’s managed to get a grumpy old bugger across the line of some epic runs. I don’t know how he does it, but I’m impressed
  • WTFitness & Dominic Cadden- Dom has forgotten more than I’ll ever know about strength training. He’s quietly spoken and has a will of steel- great guy to have on your side
  • Jen Carman-Chart & Enliven Fitness– Massage- who felt my calves and said ‘er, how long have we got?’
  • Chris Kostman- I would not have been financially able to do the other races in your stable, and thanks for recognising that normal runners should get a chance….
  • Lauren Dustin & Sarah C Smith who both helped with US arrangements
  • My crew Damon Roberts, Neill Webb and Jon Luff who all gave up their time and sacrificed a lot to help me realise a dream. Thank you a million times over, then a million more

Super Crew- often a bit blurry

Although I was the only Aussie living in Australia who ran this year (Grant Maughan seems to lead an adventurers life- never sure where he is although it’s usually somewhere on the edge of sanity), I am far from the only Aussie who has done this race. Have a look at these names- I want to acknowledge the amazing people who stepped into the unknown and tackled this race in years gone by, what a list!

Ian Adamson
Jonathan Blake
Adam Connor
David Eadie
Dave Graham
Susannah Harvey-Jamieson
Jan Herrmann
Glenn Lockwood
Kelvin Marshall
Brendan Mason
Grant Maughan
Pam Muston
Ross Parker
Jason Rita
Jim Schroeder
Sandy Suckling
Mick Thwaites
Catherine Todd
Sam Weir
Nikki Wynd

I’m proud to say that I’ve met many of the people on this list and even prouder to be on it. So that makes me the 19th Australian to finish (there is a DNF on that list- pity we are 1 off a perfect finishing record!)
Will you be number 20?
BTW- there is no order to the list- that’s how it came out of the database.

Shaggin’ Wagon. Soon renamed to ‘Fartmobile’

Now on to the race-

Badwater Basin to Furnace Creek- 17 miles

It’s raining. How the fuck can it be raining? It’s like 40 degrees and we’re in the middle of the freaking desert. It CAN’T rain. I’ve been gleefully telling people for months that I chose one of the only races on earth where I didn’t have to take wet weather gear…..

Luckily it’s only a few spots, but unluckily isn’t actually wet enough to take any of the sting out of the heat. It’s 8:30pm at night and hot as balls, maybe 40 degrees . There’s about 30 people in my wave (the middle wave) and most of them have taken off like they’ve got somewhere they’d rather be. I’m trying to keep my heart rate down, knowing that the start of the race is likely to make it spike, but no speed decrease is making my heart go under 152bpm. I’ll just have to ignore it and let it fix itself.

I’m running Badwater baby! It’s one of those races you think is just dumb when you first hear about it. Many people never get beyond that, but I was lucky enough to crew last year, so I’ve made the transition to ‘maybe I could do this….’ and then subsequently finished with ‘hell yes, let’s do this!’

Simply getting in to the race is a big thing, and I was super lucky to make it on my first attempt. I trained my arse off to make the race easier to cope with, and to be truthful I was pretty relaxed about the race as the start time got closer and closer. Perhaps relaxed is an understatement- I made so many rookie mistakes it’s a wonder I got far off the start line. I’d hate to put down my success to luck, but I’ll take anything when the chips are down. The only unknown factor is the heat, and I’d done as much as I could to mitigate that (er, apart from actually acclimatising. The science calls for 4 weeks of heat acclimatisation in a sauna, I got 2.5 weeks. Another stamp of ‘can do better’. But back to the start….

Neil, Furnace Creek, the day of the race….

After 16km the rain had stopped and been replaced with a vicious wind that changed direction at will. We were being pushed around like a fan forced rotisserie with the added benefit of a bit of sandblasting. First and second challenge for the crew- we both had different ideas about how to prepare the ice filled Buffs, and had not sorted this out before the race- they had to change on the run. Then I asked for my sunglasses with clear lenses to combat the sand. And at 16km a magical thing happened- I finally started feeling like a runner again. I’d had a long taper and been unable to fit even short runs in before the race, it was nice to get some flow back into my legs. I started passing people, having a little chat as I went past- Joel Livesy the type 1 diabetic, Keith Straw the guy who runs in a pink tutu, the German couple who decided they wanted to be known as Swiss. Constantly wondering if I should be slowing down, but knowing that it would be pointless. I wasn’t spending much energy running, to slow down would cost me more.

The first turn is at Furnace Creek, approximately 17 miles where I had a short chat to Bulgaria (Krasimir Nicolaev Gueorgiev) – lovely bloke who I later tried to friend on FaceBook, but FB told me he already has 5000 friends!

Furnace Creek to Stovepipe Wells 25 miles Total 42 miles

The next big goal is Stovepipe Wells at 42 miles, so we settled in to kill some distance. I kept on reeling in people in front, so much so that I was worried I was eating into the people in the wave before me.

This turned out to be true as I said a few words to a guy I was passing and it turned out to be MARSHALL ULRICH. Holy shit I got to meet him in the middle of the desert with no one around and shook his hand! I could have peed myself I was so excited, but then I’d have to report the colour of my pee, so perhaps not in front of such a legend.
I was massively upset to hear that he had retired at Panamint Springs but he had stated that he just wanted to be anonymous during this race, so I guess he had a lot on his mind. I can’t even imagine the pressure you’d have on yourself after starting this race for the 20th time. I also caught Catra Corbett during the early twilight- you should follow her, she has an interesting life. Before the race I’d decided if I had any competitive spirit I’d try to beat Catra because we appeared to be around the same pace. I don’t know who I’m kidding- I don’t have any competitive spirit, but hey after a while it’s all mind games right?And around dawn I spent a bit of time with Amy Stratton Costa and Bulgaria, but they were pushing a bit hard for me so I let them go.

Yeah though we walk through the Valley of Death, we will fear no mans gas

I found this race odd for one reason- no one talks to each other! I was trying to pump Keith for some tips but he was very conscious of the rule that we are meant to run single file. I kept having to fight my natural inclination to slow down beside him or speed up to chat. I’m sure this is a National Parks rule but it does stifle the conversation somewhat. I wonder if others were unwilling to chat because of this but I didn’t find the race as ‘friendly’ as expected. Or perhaps I’m just expecting too much of my fellow runners- or maybe I’m an incorrigible chatterbox. Oh, yes I am!
*edit- I didn’t mean this to sound like people were rude- they definitely weren’t! I had added some Facebook people who were doing and crewing the race but didn’t get to chat to any of them, it is just one of those weird observations.

As mentioned I made loads of mistakes in this race and in some ways it’s a miracle that I made the end, but none of the mistakes were earth shattering, and mostly not worth correcting- but I’m going to write this report as though you want to do the race, and not make the mistakes that I did. Here’s a few-

I hate carrying a bottle, it makes me feel uneven and slows me down, but my thirst was ferocious- for the first 6 hours or so I was drinking a 600ml bottle of Staminade (with ice) every 2 miles- that’s 3.2km. Then I was drinking that 600ml bottle AND a 250ml bottle of iced water over the same distance. Because of the ice content I wasn’t really drinking 850ml of fluid every 30 minutes but it wouldn’t have been far off. Because I hate running with a bottle I was coming up to the car and drinking the whole thing essentially in one go. But I had to stop to do this, which meant that other runners would get past. I tried to walk with the bottle and drink quickly, but under the rules my ‘bottle supplier’ isn’t meant to be pacing me until the 42 mile mark. This meant that my crew were very nervous about following me or walking with me to take the empty bottles, even though I feel the rules do cover this action. This meant that I was generally stationary while fuelling up and I think overall this could have made a difference of at least 30 minutes. This is NOT a criticism of my crew- if anything it’s something I should have sorted out. I am still super happy with the way things worked out, but if you were doing the race, you might do it differently.

I also failed to get my race nutrition right. I often tell people that I eat cheap muesli bars and party mix lollies during ultra marathons, but I also supplement with Accelerade and Perpetuem. Unfortunately I didn’t have either for my trip as I was concentrating on other things, which was very dumb. I was lucky I had the Staminade in the cupboard and that started my race off nicely. But it only makes 9 litres so I polished it off pretty quickly. My appetite for real food was quite poor during this race so I should have planned to have most of my calories from liquid. After the Staminade was gone we moved on to Orange/ Vanilla flavoured Perpetuem- it’s as odd tasting as it sounds. I’d supplement that with a BCAA mix that also tasted odd, and seemed to give me the most ferocious wet farts you’ve ever encountered. This was ok for about 15 hours, and kind of funny, but after that they turned noxious and seemed to follow me like a black cloud coming up the mountain- deadly to wildlife and small children. And perhaps crew. If there had been any vegetation you could have seen it turn black after I passed….

I hadn’t been past this point yet. You can tell because the vegetation isn’t black

Tiredness and sleep- I failed here too. It’s relatively easy to go from Aus to USA and deal with the ~18 hour time difference. But I hadn’t told my crew about how I NEED around 10 hours of sleep per night. I seemed to be dealing pretty well with 7-8 hours and the attendant hangovers from being in Vegas. But one day I got back to my room at 3:46am and had the vague thought that I’d really better sleep a bit more, but by then it was getting a bit close to the race. It’s really obvious from the photos and video taken outside Furnace Creek how tired I was. I can’t overstate how dumb this was and how much it affected me during the race. In Coast to Kosci I’ve never needed more than 1x 15 minute nap each race. This race I had at least 3-4 naps longer than that, and I’d estimate maybe 2-3 hours in total asleep. Was I subconsciously trying to sabotage myself? Well it worked, I could have easily gone under 40 hours if I hadn’t needed that sleep.

On the other hand (and you’ll hear this a lot) my primary goal was to get to the end- ‘whatever it takes’ so having a sleep was ok as long as it got me going again. I slept way too much during this race. Another factor was that I’d only discovered about 6 weeks before the race that I only have one kidney. I refused to get any direct advice from a specialist about the race in case they told me not to do it, but it seems reasonable in a race where the temperature goes from 32-52 degrees, there will be a fair strain on your kidney. It also meant I could not touch any NSAIDS- no Ibuprofen, nothing. This meant that I had to ALWAYS err on the side of caution and keep my promise to Sarah to come home healthy. Every little thing that came up in the race simply made me go slower. Frustrating, but to finish first, first you have to finish. Er, I’ll never finish first!

Just before sunrise I noticed that I seemed to have a rash coming up on my legs. The only explanation was the radiant heat from the tarmac. I had not put on suncream because it was night, but I guess night had other ideas. I stopped to put on my calf guards and we sprayed the gap between them and my shorts with SPF50 and hoped it wouldn’t get worse. It did.

OK so we got to Stovepipe Wells and this is the first point in the race where you can have pacers. We had briefly discussed the pacing strategy and I’d told the guys I wasn’t worried and to work it out themselves. There was a significant queue for the petrol pumps here so they sent me on my way with a bottle and waited to fill up. Another mistake- If I’d been more awake I would have asked them to have someone come with me, and leave when the car caught up. Again, not a big deal but it cost me a bit of running time while I was still capable. The boys had apparently decided to start pacing around the 100km mark until the end, giving the 2 runners on the crew around 50km of pacing each. That’s a nice do-able amount and I think they made the right call.

Stovepipe Wells to Panamint Springs 30.7 miles Total 72.7 miles

The next section out of Stovepipe is a big climb out of Death Valley into Panamint Valley. Somewhere around there I’ll make 62 miles and my first 100km. The plan for the race was pretty simple- don’t go under 14 hours for the first 100km, don’t go over 40 hours for the entire 217km. It’s morning now, but not too hot because we are climbing, the tough bit is going to be descending into the Panamint Valley with the full sun.

yes that says 53 degrees. I’ll post the one that says 59c if I find it- just for laughs, I know it isn’t right…..

And so it turns out- running a mild downhill should be an easy, low energy stroll but the sun is vicious and unrelenting. We’ve got a device that shows the temperature Gaffa taped to the wing mirror and it shows up to 59 degrees celsius- it stops working at 60. That’s obviously not correct- the highest temperature ever recorded on earth was about 56 degrees in the valley we just left, but it means I can’t do anything but walk the downhill when I should be able to run. I lost a lot of places here to people who seemed to be able to glide down the hill, just like I couldn’t. Oh, and I needed to occasionally duck into the van when I overheat. I really feel like I’m risking heatstroke here, so I get extra careful. Then suddenly near the valley floor I need to poo, so the guys make a mad scramble for the Biffy Bags.

You’re required to carry 2 Biffy Bags per crew member, but they had a special offer on lots of 10. I’d never seen anyone use one before, and you guessed it- had not read the instructions. So I’m sure it was highly comical watching me drop my daks in the middle of the desert and try to hold up this ridiculous bag, then squat and poo, all the while wondering if I’d be able to get out of the squat because my legs hurt. Anyway, moving on- let me just say the Biffy Bags are a really good design- they include toilet paper, antibac hand wash, stuff to treat the waste and a heavy bag to contain it all. Neill gave me an extra dose of hand wash and I deposited the nuclear waste bag in the van with a deep ‘thunk’ sound. Lucky boys, they get to drive the next few hours with that in the van.

The long, long road to Panamint Springs

Unfortunately dropping about 5 kg did not help my running and I was holding on to the hope that once things flattened out in the valley I might be able to run again. Well that was a highly optimistic and not very smart thought. I have lots of those. It was brutally hot in the valley, and while I could see Panamint through the heat haze, it just didn’t seem to get any closer.

Sometime along here I saw my first 100km come up, and at almost exactly 15 hours I still felt I was on track despite all of the dumb things I’d done.

Panamint from the other direction- just after Father Crowley

Panamint Springs is a deeply odd place. It’s like someone can’t stop themselves from buying discounted building materials on eBay, and the place is basically a collection of unfinished sheds. This year however there was the addition of a massive marquee that didn’t seem to fit any purpose. However Badwater is a big deal for the 5 or 6 people who live in this deeply inhospitable place and they make a big effort to help out- thank you!

I was feeling tired again and the crew seemed to be having the usual problems of a huge queue of cars trying to get supplies so they agreed to let me have a sleep. they took me to the medical room and I was assigned the upper bunk- unfortunately I didn’t have the presence of mind to take off my sun gear and the next thing I knew I was trying to rip my shirt and arm sleeves off as I was lying next to the stifling hot ceiling trying to breathe. Sleep didn’t last long so I got up and sat with Marie Boyd, an Australian living in the areas who helps out each year fixing blisters etc. It’s great to hear an Australian accent!

I got a bit bored watching Marie slice and dice some poor blokes feet and kept looking at my watch wondering what was happening with my crew. What I didn’t know is that Panamint had run out of ice and their petrol bowsers were broken. This has sent them into a bit of a tailspin, wondering whether they should go back to Stovepipe to get more ice or push on. They were trying to keep this ‘disastrous’ information away from me but again I had made the mistake of not running through this before the race. If they had told me about the problem I would have said to push on- we can survive without ice but we cannot survive without water. They came to the same conclusion, bought as much cold water as they could, and we pushed on. Again, this cost us a lot of time because I had not prepared us for the problem. But again, my primary goal was to finish, and being careful about your supplies is a good thing- ultimately it helped me get there, so I’m cool with spending the time to do it. I’d be more organised if I ever got to have another go at this race. No Sarah, I didn’t just say that.

Sadly, we couldn’t get this lost puppy into the van

Panamint Springs to Lone Pine 50miles Total 122.7 miles

By now it was afternoon again and we were heading into the second night. I’d pretty much given up hope of a good time, although I had made good progress up to this point I just couldn’t push my body on any more than it was doing. In keeping with the prime directive I needed to do it easy and let shit happen around me. No pushing, no breaking down, no getting soft. That meant I was pretty much confined to walking. This section is an incredibly harsh lesson in mental anguish. You can sometimes see Mt Whitney and it doesn’t get any closer. You can sometimes see the lights of Lone Pine and it doesn’t get any closer. There’s very little to look forward to- even the biggest feature of this section- the town of Keeler- is like a bug bite on the arse of the universe. I made my 100 miles in 28 hours. That’s ok considering the incredible amount of time we had wasted, and I knew that the difference between surviving and getting a good time depended on me keeping my shit together and simply putting one foot in front of the other. I didn’t have any excuses for sobbing and rolling into a foetal position, I’d studied Mick Thwaites on video absolutely cranking his walking and demolishing his competition into a podium position. I had mentally prepared myself for this section and it still got the better of me. It just never ends.

BodyGlide- oh sweet relief

I suppose the thing that killed me a bit here was my Garmin. I’m really good at setting little targets and making them happen when I can do little bits of mental arithmetic based on what my Garmin says. I’d used this Fenix 3 previously for several long runs and it works well simply attaching a USB battery pack to the charging cable and charging the device a couple of times during the run. This time was different- even when the battery pack was connected, the Garmin charge would only go up by 1% every 30 minutes or so. I actually had the battery pack connected (and was holding it) for about 9 hours as it went from 9% to about 53%. Even swapping the battery pack did nothing. Eventually a crew member took it off me and I resigned myself to doing the rest of the race without data- a horrifying thought for me! I worked out later what must have been happening. I had been squirting water down my sleeves to keep my arms cool, and it looks as though a bit of water had seeped into the charging cable- evidenced by the rust accumulated at the connector.

This led to my next mistake- I’d been getting tired again and told the crew I would have a nap at Keeler. Then I managed to make the town of Keeler magically appear -as far as I can tell now, we were still about 20km away from the actual town! When I woke from my nap I was properly energised, but that all disappeared in the grey sunrise when the real town of Keeler appeared. Bugger.

We had also been warned about flash flooding in this area- in fact some runners who had chosen to stay in Lone Pine were worried about getting to the start line because of this issue- I think the road was washed out or at least impassable, but the local authorities got it open in plenty of time. The other unusual problem was that the unexpected water had created a heaven for little flying insects, which started to bite us before Keeler and well on the road towards Lone Pine. Annoying, but again I’d have to say Australia is worse for that kind of crap.

Ernie, our team mascot. And some bloke with a ridiculous hat

And of course it got hotter and hotter as the sun rose- and the roads go dead straight into the far distance. Again I should have been able to get up an easy shuffle, but my attempts during the night had been almost comical- I’d get about 100-150m before my heart rate went up too much and I’d have to walk again. This must have been incredibly frustrating for the crew (well it was for me!) but nothing else could be done. I was super fit and should have been able to do more, but it just wouldn’t work. With a little less at stake I may have been able to push through, but perhaps I would have blown up too? I’ll never know- this was my one shot at this race and I can only be happy about the way it went, second guessing myself now isn’t going to help.

Lone Pine couldn’t really be seen until you got to the end of a massive straight (one where we’d seen an actual real rattlesnake, but I was much more interested in why the bloody town was hiding from me). Finally crossing the bridge and turning into the main street I decided I needed to have another look at my burnt legs. The pus filled blisters were getting quite large now and I felt bad for anyone who may be in the firing line if one of them decided to blow, it could be like the head twisting scene from The Exorcist with gore everywhere. We stopped and the crew fixed me up with some safety pins holding Buffs over the exposed skin. It was nice not to be a pus filled time bomb, and people could safely walk beside me again. The boys found The Grill cafe and asked me if I wanted any breakfast, but I rudely shouted

‘NO, I WANT MY FUCKING BUCKLE’

Apologies for that, but I’m sure they’ll have the last laugh, because I think they got that on video….. Anyway, we passed the Dow Villa Motel checkpoint (not sure what happened in Lone Pine but I remember getting antsy because it was taking too long- if I’d known what was ahead I wouldn’t have been so keen to leave!) and then we headed up Whitney Portal Rd for a bit more torture…..

Lone Pine to Mt Whitney Portal 13 miles Total 135 miles

Going up the Portal Rd there’s several distinct environments. you start out in the baking sun, then move into various other areas of baking sun, with differences in vegetation and incline just to keep you on your toes. Did I mention the baking sun? I made the first 2-3 miles ok, but the sun got so hot I had to retreat to the car again. And promptly fell asleep. Five minutes later Damon said ‘you’ve had 5 minutes, do you need more?’
My reply was pretty rude, but boiled down to ‘yes I need more than 5 bloody minutes’ but I dutifully got out of the car and started shuffling again, and Catra Corbett turned up. I thought she’d be well ahead by now, but I was glad of the company even if she was trying to mow me down. It was like a snail race, everything happening in slow motion, until she brought out her secret weapon- her pacer had a speaker playing Skrillex. I had no answer to that and she drifted off the front, and I drifted back into the car. At that point I was happy to let her have the win, all of my competitiveness having buggered off hours ago.

Anyway, the next time I got out of the car, something had changed. I knew I was just being dumb continually getting into the car to cool down, I needed to find some way of making progress and keeping cool without stopping all the time. The answer turned out to be logical- getting my back sprayed with water. It kept me cool enough to stop me getting in the car constantly and allowed me to make painfully slow progress up the mighty big hill.

Yes- we came from down there!

And it was painful- I’d lost my Garmin to the battery Gods hours ago, and because my mind had fucked off as well, there was very little glue holding me to reality. I knew I was just making shit up as far as my progress went, but I couldn’t help it. I kept asking ‘how much further?’ which is exactly as annoying as you’d expect from a toddler. Except I was the toddler and my crew had been putting up with my tantrums and dirty nappies for over 40 hours. Still- there are times when the training kicks in. OK where Neil’s training kicked in- he remembered me asking to be always told the truth- ‘don’t simply make shit up if you think it’s what I want to hear’, so he jumped in the car, drove to the top and back down and told me to the nearest 50m how far I had to go. My mind went ‘I’m not even mad, that’s amazing’, and I trudged along even though the answer was not one that made me happy. Skip (a local friend) turned up in his monster truck, and I felt bad that I couldn’t put on a burst of speed and finish this thing.

Eventually we came to the trees and things started to look familiar- big picnic areas and parking spots. I still couldn’t see the shop, and I knew the finish was near the shop- then Marie Boyd came down the hill in a car and cheerfully told me ‘it’s not more than a kilometre from here’, and ‘there’s only a few nasty switchbacks to the end’

Well fuck, there goes my last piece of hope. It was totally the right thing to say, but it’s like finding a rat in your bar of chocolate. He’s alive, hungry, and wants you to die so he can eat your chocolate. I hate poles, but I soooo wanted some poles to help me up this last bastard set of curves (they are banned in this race). I’ve since spoken to people from home who cheerfully told me that they estimated my pace and realised they could attend a meeting or two before I finished. It’s true, empires rose and fell, glaciers spat out dinosaurs and solar systems experienced heat death while I swung my legs one way and then the other, occasionally leaning on my legs and groaning about my own lack of progress.

And there it was- I heard something say ‘runner coming’ (without a trace of irony) and a whole bunch of hikers got in my way, but I could see a finish line. I had a little think- ‘how do you feel?’ are you going to cry? And the answer came back- no, I just feel satisfied. This is the culmination of a long held dream, it’s been as epic as promised, I feel good, satisfied. Not emotional, not wanting to scream, just fulfilled, content.

And then I saw Alex running towards me, and I knew Sarah would be there too and I burst into tears. Every bit of numbness was washed away and the tears flowed freely. Until Sarah yelled ‘hurry up and finish the bloody race!’, so I wiped them down a bit and trudged to the finish with my amazing crew- running was out of the question.

One of the people in this photo was unexpected, and it isn’t me!

We all got in the finish photos and the buckle photos which is totally appropriate- to get to share the event with those 3 guys in particular was very special. I hope Damon gets in next year, and I hope the universe rewards all of them for the selfless job they have done for me. Crewing is a great experience if you have great crew members (and makes being the runner easier), and these guys got along like a oil refinery fire.

Sarah noticed the Buffs tied over my knees and asked to have a look, but I wouldn’t show her in case she went into nurse mode. I’m glad she didn’t push the issue, but I had to concede some ground when Neil looked me in the eye and said ‘we need to get medical attention for that’. So back at the Dow Villa I popped into the medical room as they were packing up and put on a blister show. Luckily they agreed with my wild guesses and told me I’d be fine. Because well, I’d kind of forgotten to get extra medical cover for the race.

Lone Pine beer and meat coma- so good

So how was it? I worked my arse off to get into, and get fit for ‘the worlds toughest footrace’- and in that context it wasn’t too bad. If I had unlocked a bit of pace in the middle section (which should have been possible) I wouldn’t have been ascending the final climb in the hottest part of the day- that should have had a knock on effect on my time. Badwater is a (slightly) shorter race with less vertical than Coast to Kosci, but the heat makes a big difference. Despite making huge mistakes and lots of them, I still managed to finish and by the last checkpoint I was 8 hours in front of the cut. Sadly 20 runners didn’t make it this year- there were 95 starters out of a possible field of 100, and 75 finishers. Speculation is that the unseemly amount of moisture in the air may have claimed a few scalps- it’s usually about 2% humidity and the rain made it over 28% humidity. This is discussed further here, seems the humidity did affect some runners quite badly. Truthfully I didn’t even notice as it’s been pretty wet in Sydney, but the amount of mucous I produced during that trip shouldn’t really be discussed- but I will. I have a new asthma medication which reduces the amount of snot, but it seemed to go into reverse as soon as we hit dry weather- I truly felt my head would collapse when some of those boogers came out.
If I was to do the race again I would spend less time on figuring out how to get cellphone reception in the desert and more time going through the race. Me not being organised  really did cost a lot of time, and I was lucky to get away with it. Would I do it again? Yes, I do feel I have unfinished business, so apart from the eye watering cost I’d love to have another crack.
However- this was a one shot deal- I got to cross of a bucket list item that very few people will get to do, so I am super happy with what I’ve done. Like the tattoo says ‘no ragrets’.

I didn’t have as tough a time as I could, and I think this was partially driven by my mental attitude. I had no intention of ever giving up. There was no possible scenario in which I could see myself stopping, and I think that helped a lot. We were there to suffer, we had a time limit and there was nothing more to worry about. Apart from me mis-reading one of the cutoffs, there was never a point at which we felt we wouldn’t make it.

And there’s how you finish a race at a blistering 1.75mph

Interesting- this year we had rain, driving winds, flash floods, bugs and humidity to contend with. It did seem to affect the field. For instance the winning time was a couple of hours slower than last years course record, and Dave’s time last year which gained him 14th place, this year would have been well into the top 10 in 7th position! We also appeared to have 50% more DNF’s than last year- 20 vs 13. I can’t blame these things, but I was slower than expected because of being a dumbarse rather than being able to blame external influences. I ‘beat’ Catra by a whole 47 seconds but because she was in the wave in front of me she actually finished about an hour and a half before me. Sorry Catra.

Recovery
I’m kind of ashamed to admit that apart from the ugly blisters, I was walking OK the next day, and NOT walking like a gay cowboy* within about 48 hours. I guess this means I could have gone harder, but I did get good value out of my entry fee…..
(*nothing wrong with being a gay cowboy, I’m just providing the mental images)

So here’s the motivational part of the post, the bit where I ask you to ask yourself if you could do something like this. I already know the answer- of course you could!
I deal with the cons of having small lungs, no running talent and one kidney by simply having a crack. I’ve gone further than I ever thought possible because my friends have redefined possible.

Sometimes you don’t know if you’re going to get there, but I’m glad I tried. And I’m super glad of the people who rallied around me to help. It’s not an individual achievement, it belongs to the team who made it possible. Thank you.

Gear
Kathmandu shorts with liner
Nathan Hi Vis vest with lights
Injinji socks (inner layer)
Wright socks (outer layer)
Hoka One One Clifton 3 shoes
Outdoor Research Legionnaires cap
Serfas sunglasses
BodyGlide. Lots of BodyGlide
*in case you’re interested, I didn’t change shoes or socks during the race

Photo credits- Jon Luff, Neil Webb, Damon Roberts and Sarah Connor- thanks!

Ultra Trail Australia 100km UTA100 2017

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So my race prep was easy, training went well and everything was perfect for race day…..

Pigs arse!
It actually went more like this-
Had a cold 3 weeks ago- still trained but didn’t really make progress
Started strength training 2 weeks ago, made great progress but missed a box jump a week ago and my ribs hurt like a bastard.
Because of the ribs I hadn’t really tapered as much as just stopped running.
Focussing on Badwater meant that I had done ZERO stair training and had run mostly on road, except when I ignored Coach’s plan and snuck out.
An ultrasound on Monday before the race seemed to show I was missing a kidney. WTF?
And on the morning of the race I locked the house keys in the house, meaning we may not have anywhere to sleep after ~20 hours of running.

All good then.

 

The morning of the race came, and the weather was expected to be ‘challenging’. in fact it pissed down when we left the rented house in the dark and my mood was nearly as black. Then a funny thing happened when we got to Scenic World- the weather lifted. Pity my mood didn’t!

The gun went off and we settled in for the first few km of road. I should have been happy and fast here, but everyone in start group 3 seemed to be running up the hills and determined to kill themselves before we hit the bush. I ran with Jen and Martyn and had a great chat, it was a bit like old times! Good to see them both coming back from injury. Not much to report until we hit the landslide- there was a huge conga line. I reckon to go sub 14 hours you really need to be in group 2 or 1 to have a good chance at hitting your goals on section 1.

I had no particular goal except not to hurt myself, so I was happy to let people go- as soon as we hit single track gain people were pushing past quite aggressively. I’ve complained about this before, but we really need some documentation about trail etiquette- it’s very simple people- if you want to go past yell ‘passing left’ ‘passing right’ or ‘passing when safe’ and the person in front can decide which side to let you go. Although this might be difficult- there were a lot of international runners and they seem to have a different system- they simply wait for the person in front to indicate a side to pass, nothing is said.

Going up Golden Stairs was a bit of revelation- it’s the FIRST TIME IN 7 YEARS that I haven’t needed to stop at least once (and usually multiple times) to let people past. I cannot emphasise how important this is- it’s massive for me. I don’t know how much each thing has contributed but a combination of weight, my new asthma drug and strength training has definitely brought this result. I was still puffed, and still hitting quite a high heart rate, but often in this race I will lose 30-60 places just going up these stairs……

The fart jokes started early this year, one guy wondering who as ‘cropdusting’ going up the concrete climb just after Golden Stairs. I wouldn’t say the name, but his initials are Martyn Dawson….. later there was much regretsy about biological functions, but I digress.

Anyway I got to CP1 in about 1:42 I think, meaning I was looking at a 19 hour finish time- ouch! Can’t worry too much about that so early on, so I filled up my bottles and headed out on to Narrowneck. Again, I should have been fairly fast along here but I just felt really out of sorts- not sick, just a bit of general malaise. This isn’t uncommon for me in races, I can ignore it and risk going to those dark places again, or I can try to ride it out. It was going to be a loooong day. Thankfully I had hooked up with Damon Roberts and Neil Webb- 2 of my Badwater crew, and it was fantastic to run with them. Also a tiny bit stressful- I am aware that it’s possible to tell too many poo jokes- what if I turned them off coming to the USA?

Thanks to Hailey for this pic

There was another long-ish queue for Tarro’s Ladder, but I was happy to have a break and not worry about time. I heard someone call out ‘Leah!’ around there and wondered if it was my friend having a great run bitch was going to beat me again.

Going up Mount Debert I thought about Michael Milton- he was doing the 50km race- with one leg! The last minute course changes meant that he was going to be coming this way without preparing for it. It’s rough country, hard enough with 2 legs that (mostly) work. Doing it with crutches was going to suck and blow. Massive props to you Michael, what a bloody legend.

We hit CP2 with no major issues and I got out of there hoping that the rumours were true- no Ironpot Ridge this year! We headed out in the same direction and as we got closer and closer I was afraid the rumours weren’t true- but then we hit the spot where you would normally start climbing and there was tape across the course. I was quite relieved even though I could have compared my ascent with previous years to see if my performance really had improved as much as it seemed up the stairs. But of course this now meant that we were several km short, and suddenly we didn’t really know where we were vs expectations.

Coach Andy DuBois had sent out an email communication the night before asking us not to worry or even use pace charts etc. But I really can’t help it, I love information. I decided that we were about 4km short and that this was about 1 hour. Made it easy. Wrong? Probably, but I wasn’t really racing either…….

The ascent up Megalong Valley Rd wasn’t pleasant, but again I didn’t lose as many spots as I might have in other years. My mind still wasn’t happy and when we got to the flat I felt I should have been able to push harder, but I didn’t really want to answer that question- would I feel better, or feel worse? If I felt better, that might commit me to racing the rest of the course, and I was specifically NOT supposed to do that. If I felt worse, well, there’s no benefit in that is there!?

I ran with Damon again and occasionally Neil would appear out of the bushes pulling his pants up. Not sure what was so interesting in there but he was pretty keen on the experience. Or so it seemed. We arrived at CP3, did a gear check and all went our seperate ways. I put some music on and shimmied up towards Six Foot Track in a good mood- I was finally feeling mentally better, but still no explanation of why.

Several km up Six foot Track I felt a disturbance in the Force. I could hear one runner behind me but the ones up front were too far away, so I ripped off a baby killing fart of planet busting proportions. I hadn’t looked around to see who was behind, because well- what are the chances of it being someone I knew?

‘Hi DJ ADAM!’
And yes it was Kath Carty on her way to an amazing result in the 50km race. Kath, I apologise for the attempted murder.

Going up Nellie’s Glen I was able to impress/ disgust a few runners with my knowledge. ‘How many more of these f@cking stairs are there?’ Someone exclaimed in frustration. ‘Only 350 more!’ I was able to reply confidently. Lucky there were no sharp knives around.

Getting to CP4 is always great, and even better with 4km less in your legs and (perhaps) an hour earlier in the day. I’d forgotten to bring my charge cable for my Fenix 3, and I knew it would run out of battery within the next few hours- luckily Damon had one and was prepared to lend it to me while we ran together until he needed it. So I was happy to take a few minutes extra and rest until his wife had gone through his CP checklist. I got to go to a real toilet, and it’s the last time you can do stuff while it’s light, and it’s warm and inside- bliss!

Somewhere in section 4 I ran a bit with Dr Alex, a lovely bloke I’d first met last year during GNW. He’s a GP from Tamworth (er, possibly?) and we had such a good time chatting at GNW that we happily went off piste quite substantially. Anyway I promised I wouldn’t ask him any more medical questions but I did mention the kidney issue and his first response was ‘no NSAIDS for you!’ (These are frowned upon in races anyway so I won’t have any trouble avoiding them…….

Thanks to Akiko Akashi for this pic

Heading out of CP4 we didn’t have to cross the swamp this year, and course changes meant it wasn’t straight down the Giant Staircase. I don’t really know how much vert was taken out of this section, but it’s still pretty soul destroying to head down the valley so many times- Gordon Falls, Wentworth Falls, etc. It’s also kind of difficult to get any running rhythm going. We’d left CP4 at almost exactly 3pm and knew that if we could get to CP5 and out by 7pm we wouldn’t have to carry our fleeces. It doesn’t really matter, but it was a goal to focus on. Pace chart said a 14 hour runner could do it in 3.5 hours and a 19 hour runner in 4.5 hours, so we had a chance…..

Oh, no we didn’t! Remember the bit we missed at Ironpot Ridge? The Race Directors decided to make us run past CP5, down to the Water Board Gate and back again, making that section 3km longer. We ran past CP5 at 7:03pm so it didn’t really matter anyway, but some people found this bit utter torture. I felt it was pretty fair- there were plenty of other places the could have made us go that were much more horrible.

I’d developed a rough plan to run the rest of the way with Damon (and hadn’t told him) but I was ready to leave the CP pretty quickly and in order to not annoy him I went over to the other tent- there are tents on either side of the CP, one for runners and their support crew and another for unsupported runners.

We were in good spirits heading out of CP5 and back down on Rocket Point track I got to see Sarah! After a quick hug and a kiss we shuffled off and Damon said ‘you could have been more concerned about her’ (paraphrasing, can’t remember exactly) and I said ‘Pfft, she’s tougher than me’ then a lady in front replied ‘I was just about to suggest that….’ and thus started the Legend of the Kellys. It turns out that both ladies in front are from Newcastle and called Kelly. We passed a fun few hours running through the bush and talking, they were exactly the pace I needed to go- just gently running the flats and making good time up the stairs. Of course my mind was getting a bit loose by then and I was terrified of saying something truly offensive, but I think I managed to pretend to be relatively normal for long enough. One of the surprising things was my ability to go up stairs- I managed to keep my place without getting puffed out and at one stage even led a group up from Wentworth Falls without much difficulty. Somewhere around there we lost Damon- I called out to him and didn’t get a reply. I was a bit gutted but it would be dumb to wait for him and I knew that if I started to falter he would catch up without problems.

At the Fairmont I started explaining to the Kellys that the race used to finish there, and I could just see myself walking into the bar with the tall glass windows and having a cocktail while watching runners come in. But it was all fantasy- we still had a few hours to go! The Kellys stopped to top up and I went on. Getting back on the road was good for me- I got more upright, swung my arms and improved my cadence and passed heaps of people- a few were looking pretty despondent!

Throughout the whole day my mind hadn’t been cooperating but my body had been ok. Later my mind came to the party and things started to click, but at about the 91km mark my mind fucked off again and my body started to feel the effects of the day. I truly felt like if I’d stopped at 80-90km I would have been able to run again the next day. It was like all of the damage was in the last bit! I suppose it always is….

Vacuum packing gear worked well

I started to hope that the course was a few km short, but things just don’t work that way. With 4km to go I gave up and started walking, counting the people getting past me. I’d had a good day, slowly passing plenty of people but now 4-5 people got past. At 2km to go I heard a familiar voice and turned around to see Rob Mattingly- it was terrific to see him, and almost gave me back some fighting spirit. Almost!

Finally getting to Furber (Fubar!) Stairs I started to count my way up, but my new found energy for getting up vertical had gone. I lost another 6-8 places in the 20 minute climb. I count the stairs down- there’s 935 stairs if you only count the ‘up’ ones. Near the top I heard another familiar voice and I abandoned counting at step number 865 because it was Damon! He’d caught me and we decided to finish together. I found out later that the Kellys had gone past me on the stairs too, but fair play to them, they looked strong the whole time. Rob had beaten me by nearly 10 minutes in the last 2km- nice one Rob!

I’ve never been able to walk so well at the finish of this race- I wouldn’t say I was unaffected but a combination of strength training and the low/ easy effort meant my body was in better shape than most times I’d finished.

I looked at the UTA app and found that Sarah had passed the Fairmont at exactly the same time I finished, meaning she was only 13km away. So I relaxed, had a couple of shandies and talked rubbish to anyone who would listen. Roger Hanney came past holding his phone out, so Annabel and I decided to do a race report filled with expletives- he went a bit quiet (unusual I know) and said ‘this is being live streamed!’ so I guess I owe apologies to anyone watching that too….

Unfortunately the last 13km took Sarah about 4 hours, so by 4:10am things were getting a bit loose. Someone had come across the line and their runner profile said ‘one day I want to run a marathon naked’. Apparently the person who did their entry thought it would be a bit of fun, and that started a downhill slide of bum jokes and requests for the RD’s to draw dicks in the wet windows of the organising shed.

Luckily Roger was distracted by Sarah reaching the Furber Stairs, and when she reached the top there was a huge reaction as you can see here-

A very emotional and well deserved finish. Congratulations honey!

Nutrition
This is a pic of all of the solid food I ate during the race-

No beer?

Not a lot is it? However it was enough- I never felt hungry, and my energy levels were fine until the last 4km. There is one thing missing- I had an SIS liquid protein gel like thing at CP3. I’d been sent 2 of these as sample, tried one, liked it and tried to order more. SIS said they weren’t bringing them in anymore as by the time they arrive their use-by date was too close. I remembered that when I was squeezing the tube into my mouth and it was all lumpy. Oh well, I figured that I wouldn’t get sick during the race so it would be ok……

Race Analysis
Not much to report here except- try to get into Wave 2 if you want a sub 14 hour time. Slowdowns at the Landslide and Tarro’s Ladders weren’t a problem for me, but would seriously impact your pace early on if that’s your goal. This year I didn’t spit the dummy like last year at the Fairmont, which is lucky because I didn’t have Jane to yell at me (is that lucky?)
I felt like I had someone standing on the left side of my chest all day from the bruised ribs, so that may have had a small impact on pace, but overall I’m very happy to have completed a difficult race without specific training in a halfway decent time. if you can read the pic below, you can see that I improved my place from 849 at the 3km mark to 439 at CP1 (update- it seems that the CP1 timing was not working for either Wave 1, Wave 2 or both- that would explain the weird numbers). Then most of those people got past me again before Little Cedar Gap where I was placed 787. This reflects a couple of things- I suspect that the holdup at Tarro’s meant that a lot of people went around when I was happy to have a break, and I also think that many people who were held up tried to make up a lot of places on Narrowneck. I was pretty slow and not feeling good there so they did, but you can also see that some went out too fast there- as I made back 200 of the 400 places I’d lost by the end……(ok maybe I didn’t based on the above)

Health
You may have noticed above I mentioned the possibility I have only one kidney- how did that come about? My Doctor insists on a blood test every year. I hate blood tests so I put it off as long as I can….anyway I’ve had 3 tests in a row with elevated liver enzymes. In medical terms that’s chronic. I am absolutely convinced that it’s due to my endurance running, but Dr isn’t happy and wants answers, so he sends me off for an ultrasound. They would be looking for signs of liver damage, fatty liver disease, lumps etc.

While they didn’t find any problems with my liver, the ultrasound tech could not find my left kidney. So the Dr called me up and asked me to have another test- a CT scan with dye. I’m not keen on needles but they injected me with some Iodine based dye and took pictures of my guts on the Monday after the race. Anyway, apparently I was born with only one kidney. This is somewhat of a surprise to find out when I’m nearly 50 years old……

I had another shock a few weeks back too- an online test said I am highly autistic. I haven’t fully absorbed what that might mean, but in a lot of ways I don’t care. I could use it as an excuse for being brusque or a bit in your face. But I never want to do that- I’d prefer if you just thought I was a bit of a dickhead, that’s fine. On one hand this could give me more freedom to express myself, but I’ve already grabbed that- I am happy to be judged in the same way as everyone else- and also happy if you point out that I’ve crossed a line.

So if I’ve ever beaten you in a race, you’ve been overtaken by a previously fat, old autistic man with tiny lungs, asthma and one kidney- how does that feel?

Actually it’s hilarious, I’ll try not to mention it again but to finish on a positive note- how good could we all be if we ignored our limitations?

 

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Andy DuBois from Mile27 for Coaching
And Dominic Cadden from WTFitness for Strength Training
Thank you!

Tarawera 102km 2017

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I’m still disappointed by the way I let myself slack off during Coast to Kosci in December, so I was hoping that I’d be able to concentrate on pushing hard while tired. let’s see how that went…..

Months ago Sarah said ‘should we do Tarawera? Entries open next week…’

Before I’d had a chance to reply (I’m not a fast thinker) we had flights, accomodation and 2 race entries. I’d been fascinated with the race for a couple of years and this would be my first international race!

The flight over the ditch was uneventful, pity I couldn’t say the same about work. I had a few items lingering on my list that just wouldn’t die, resulting in a fair bit of lost sleep in the few previous days. At Auckland airport we had a nice surprise, Sarah had ordered a small car from Avis and we’d been given a Commodore SV6 with all sorts of bells and whistles. It was pretty bloody quick too, I nicknamed it Vlad, destroyer of continents. Except it was a horrible grey colour. So she then became Brad, destroyer of continence.

Kath and Camille- Winners!

Our first night we stayed in Auckland and had dinner with my sister and her family, they took us to Epolitos Pizza and it was awesome- I managed to annihilate nearly and entire 18 inch pizza and we killed Sarah’s diet that night too (sorry Hailey!). Sarah had booked us into a reasonably priced hotel, it was the hotel Surrey, decorated like an Elizabethan guest house. Got to be honest, despite all of the quirky and interesting bric-a-brac around the place it really didn’t work as a theme. But despite me being horribly bitchy the room was a lot larger than expected, had great facilities and friendly staff. Pity there was only 2 hours free internet…..

I used my 2 free hours to watch a live FaceBook video of Chris Kostman, the race director of the Badwater 135 race, as he was reading out the names of the 100 lucky people who would get to run the race this year. He started by talking about all the talented runners who he’d had to leave off the list and my heart sank. I mean, if he’d left off the talented runners then I had no chance right? Well it turns out that he read my name out, about 90th into the list!. I’m running Badwater baby, yes I am!

We saddled up Brad for a 3 hour drive down to Rotarua the next morning. Nothing much to tell about the drive except that a lot of New Zealand roads seem to merge from 2 lanes into 1 with very little warning and there may have been one or two brown trouser moments before I got fully used to it…..we weren’t really in danger, I was just remembering the Avis rep say ‘ ……and there’s a three thousand dollar excess…..’

Off to the Holiday Inn Rotarua which was race headquarters for the weekend and we had a quick look at the expo, found Jill and made our way to the AirBnB that we had for the weekend. Then back to race HQ to collect race kit and weigh in. Unfortunately I had suggested 4pm for an NRG meetup and team photo and didn’t finish getting weighed in until 4:20 (or perhaps much later?) Anyway, in combination with some work things I completely had the shits and really just wanted to get ready for the race and finish my work. So we headed back to the house and I became a computer hermit while the others made a huge meal of spaghetti bolognese. Leftovers went into the fridge to be reheated after the race.

By the time I’d finished getting ready it was nearly 10pm and I was exhausted, so of course my body decided that staring at the ceiling for a while would be appropriate punishment. I don’t normally have issues sleeping, but when I do it can be properly irritating.

Rising at 4am local time is actually 2am Sydney time and of course it felt like I hadn’t slept much at all. I’m not good with less than 10 hours a night (you read that right!) so after several nights of this I was a bit gaga.

(Look away now if squeamish)

Continuing on with the poo theme, it wasn’t at all surprising that I had no luck ‘dropping the kids off at the pool’ at 2am Sydney time. It’s always a good idea to spend a couple of minutes before a race in quiet contemplation in the smallest room of the house, but this time my body said ‘it’s fucking 2am, fuck off’

(Welcome back squeamish people)

Walking by myself to the race start in the dark I came across an older kiwi gentleman wearing thongs (er, sorry jandals) so I started chatting with him. Turns out he s a former 24 hour track runner who is going to see the start. Choice bro.

Of course it’s a very big race so I hardly saw anyone I knew at the start, but after the gun went off I settled in and found a few mates. Of course having found out about Badwater only 18 hours ago, I was compelled to tell everyone in the entire race about it. This led to a few interesting realisations- firstly, only about 30-40% of people had any idea what I was talking about (they smiled and nodded their heads), but also that the people who did know about the race must have thought I was joking. Yeah, I might have to lose a couple of kg before the race!

And then we were off- I started my Garmin on gun time so I’d have a few seconds up my sleeve if needed, and checked as I crossed the start- 50 seconds had elapsed. I put my head torch away as it was perfectly easy to run with the light from other people. I was loving the gentle uphills and spongy trail, but I knew that wouldn’t last!

I’d printed a pace and elevation chart off the website and filled in the checkpoint times from a couple of runners- one for 14 hours and one for 16 hours. Pity I didn’t have time to check them because they both turned out to be horrible choices, and we’ll see why a bit later.

Most of the first 60km of this course is single track- it varies from very easy, sandy tracks through scrub to gnarly hand over fist climbing. The run has ‘only’ 2500m of climbing but the main difficulty with the run is the many km of little climbs and descents over tree roots. So you can put this down to excuses but I have fairly massive feet, my eyesight isn’t perfect and I’m reasonably tall- these things make it very difficult for me to put my feet down easily and glide over the roots. Or perhaps I just didn’t do enough training on tight, technical terrain. Anyway, it gets VERY tiring having to concentrate, and I really had the shits after about 40km of this. I know it sounds like I had the shits the whole weekend but that isn’t true- I still hadn’t done my morning poo!

I’d actually managed to stick to the 14 hour plan up until the 50km mark- my chosen runner had done the first 60km in 8:55 and had blasted the last 40km in 5 hours. What’s wrong with those numbers? Well, it means that he took it really easy for 60km then worked his arse off for 40km. I was 25 minutes behind his time by the 62km mark and things were not looking good, especially when I looked at my 16 hour guys times. I realised I was only 15 minutes in front of his times, so suddenly I was battling for a 16 hour finish? What I hadn’t realised was that my chosen 16 hour runner had done decently well for much of the race then crashed horribly somewhere around where I was- I should have studied those times better!

I had bonked pretty hard at Coast to Kosci and I was looking for a bit of redemption here- so I was pretty happy to ease into the first 60km and then make it hurt for a while. So when I left the 60km check point I was primed for some running but it looked like there was more single track!

Luckily around the next corner we were greeted with some wide fire trails covered in soft pine needles that looked like they went forever. I was in heaven. But I was also pretty sore and a bit grumpy from the previous 60km, so I got out my headphones, put on some music and did The Robot. This is when I focus on my running form, trying to keep everything nicely upright, using my glutes and doing a very easy, low energy run. It worked, and I started passing heaps of people. Side note- some dickhead told me not to call them fire tails, as they are actually forestry roads. Sorry buddy but whilst you may be technically correct, I don’t care, and I’m too old to change.

It was time to start calculating finish times. As I’ve explained above, this was an exercise in extreme frustration. For a while I had no idea whether I was possibly able to push for sub 14 hours or if I was going to have to fight for sub 17!

Analysing the results above you can see around the 40km mark where I kind of lost interest- I was also worried about going too fast and not having enough energy to finish strong. For me, nailing those next 2 sections would be key to getting a better time. Er, and also losing 5kg would undoubtedly help!

This left me at the 62km mark in 9.5 hours- a sub 14 wasn’t going to happen without a 4.5 hour next 40km. Rested and on the road in good conditions that eminently possible, but even on lovely groomed trail it wasn’t likely after 62km!

Several times over the next few hours I nearly gave up, and several times I decided to keep pushing based on my wish to have a good result at this race. You can see how I was steadily making up places but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Finally deciding that sub 9 minute km’s would get me under 15 hours, I was pretty happy and from there it was all about making sure each slow km was balanced with a faster one. I had to make sure that every 10-20 minutes I pulled out a lolly to keep my energy up, and I started playing mental games to keep moving at the required pace. And then disaster.

I’d stolen a chart off the race website that included stats on checkpoint distances and expected times for leaders and BOP, and I was using this on the run to figure out my pace. Running towards the last checkpoint I noticed a small problem- the checkpoint at 100km showed that the distance to the end was now 0km. Which is a mistake- it’s a 102km race! FAAAAAARK! I still had another 2.4km to go! So I bolted, trusting that I had enough strength to not collapse…..

And so I did- I felt a bit of a bastard passing people towards the finish line but my calculations paid off and the clock was showing 54, 55, 56 seconds as I was rushing though the finish chute, for a final time of 14:44:57. That first 14 is super important to me, a huge result considering my fitness and lack of experience on the course.

I’m really proud of the fact that I kept up the pressure, passed a lot of people in the last few sections and even did one or two sub 6min/km! The secret in this case turned out to be Jack Links soft beef jerky. It was kind of hard to chew and swallow, but I had one strip at 40km and another at 60km. This had the effect of making my legs feel much less trashed- I’d normally like to have an amino acid like Taurine but had forgotten to arrange it.

From 487 starters in the 102km category, there were 455 finishers and thus 32 DNF. And for the curious-  I finally dropped a load off in a nice warm bathroom next to the finish line.

Results thanks to Leigh Reynolds-

62km
Matt Carroll 5:18:52 – 3rd (4th overall)*
Joe Gallaher 7:02:16 – 25th (in his first run longer than 32km!)
Victoria Watson. 8:24:13
Teresa Liu. 10:11:55
Sarah Connor 10:34:43

*Chicked! Ruth Croft had an amazing performance, 1st woman by nearly an hour and 2nd outright, just 6mins behind Majell Backhausen

87km
Allison Davies 15:38:09

102km
Katharine Carty 10:27:57 – 9th (29th overall, in a stacked international field!)
Hugh Mander. 13:31:21
Blas Mex. 14:12:33
Adam Connor. 14:44:57
Leigh Reynolds. 17:12:06
Kenneth Low. 17:12:06
Nadia Ackarie. 18:29:06
Zoe Howard. 19:32:01

 

Coast to Kosci 2016 C2K

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img_3827C2K weekend is basically a hippie love fest for self flagellators and their mates.

There, I’ve said it. Now that I’ve said it, I’ll also state that I never want to be anywhere else on that weekend in December.

This story started in September last year when I found out I had missed out on a spot in the race. It was a harsh but fair decision and I decided to redouble my efforts to get into the race. Luckily five of my other friends from NRG had earned a spot but unluckily only three of them made to the start line- but all three did exceptionally well and the bug was working it’s way round in the minds of other NRG’ers!

This year when the invitations came around another five NRG’ers were picked and luckily I was one of them. The bad part was there was suddenly scramble for crew members. But my secret weapon was Piera Kohout who had been asking me for race dates since before the race date was even announced. I also managed to get on board Tanya Carroll who is very calm, a great organiser and a great runner. The final member of the team was Tex Whitney who is a mate from a long time back, and I knew he would fit in with no problems. All three of them are very well organised, experts in their field, calm under pressure and exactly what I needed in team.

As none of my crew had crewed before for this race, I tried to make sets of instruction so that everything would be easy for them. In fact I probably make things more complicated than they need to be, and didn’t spend enough time training them on the use of all the bits and pieces. Apparently I sent them into meltdown when I asked for an espresso- I’d provided a machine that works in the car but the instructions aren’t all that clear……

 

The trip down was uneventful and quite fun through Berry and had some fresh doughnuts. Dinner with Jane Trumper and Hailey Maxwell and their respective crews was fun, although sitting in a pub and drinking soda water was an experience I could probably improve upon.

Thursday we started packing the car and organising things and suddenly it was time to mark the course for Cossie To Coast, the 7km fun run for the teams. Went down for a nap and asked to be woken up at 4:30pm for a 4:45pm race start, but didn’t realise until we got there that about 60-70 runners had assembled. True to form there were some appalling costumes, but since you can’t have fashion without victims I will state for the record that Lucy Bartholemew looks better in that dress, sorry George…..

After some stern words about running over Billy Pearce’s C2K race markings I sent them off in a colourful and chaotic cloud of dust.

garth-being-shy

Sorry no names for this one!

But you came here for a different race, didn’t you? OK after the crew race we went to the Eden Fishermans Club where the pre race event was held upstairs for the first time- I think this worked really well because we didn’t wait too long to get fed and the food didn’t appear to run out before being replenished! Well done to the organisers, I’m not sure why a move from downstairs to upstairs made a difference but it did appear to work.

Home to our cabin for an early night but of course I couldn’t sleep. And then I dreamed about not sleeping- to the point that at 4:15am when my alarm went off I was actually dreaming about being on a bus and late to the race. At least I knew I had been asleep because I vividly remember the dream, but I didn’t feel rested. We headed down to Boydtown Beach, Got our prerace photos and at 5:30 AM after a quiet countdown by race director Paul Every we were off.

img_3971

My planning 2014 have been very simple. I knew that if I ran the first 100 km in under 14 hours, that I could walk the rest of the race without being too close to the cut-offs. This time I had a very sternly worded email from my coach (that included a few swear words so I knew he was serious) that said ‘don’t allow yourself to think that you can simply walk from the 100km mark’ Great advice. The new plan was to do the first 100km in about 14 hours and push on a bit harder during the night where is there are some very boring bits. But I had kind of forgotten about the death march up from Thredbo River…..

img_4067

And that’s the way we did it. A very easy first 100 km came up in 13 hours and 50 minutes- just about perfect. I was very pleased about the way we pushed on during the night time sections where I would typically have walked. And we made it to Dalgety (148km) in good time in good condition. Whilst I wasn’t overall any faster in this first 100 miles (to the bottom of Beloka Range), my body had held up much better than in 2014. I did getting very tired towards the end of the night I’m told my crew that I wanted 30 minutes rest in the car before it got light. They weren’t happy about this but I jumped in the car, had a short rest, and got up again feeling great in only 15 minutes. I had agreed to have some noodles going up Beloka range which was a mistake in the first place however what made it even worse was the water the noodles were made with was merely warm and not hot. Poor Tanya had to deal with me saying ‘this is possibly the worst most disgusting thing I had ever in my life’. But we got a laugh out of it and perhaps some poor hungry piece of wildlife has a better opinion of half crunchy noodles than I do. At the top of Beloka there is only about 17km into Jindabyne but it does seem to take forever, we went from brisk early-morning sunlight to full on daytime while still approaching Jindabyne.

Jane always says the race starts at Jindabyne. We got refreshed, had a couple of coffees and set off for Thredbo River. I had refused the offer of deodorant from my crew- which was a bad mistake I was to later learn. Probably a bad mistake for them to accept my refusal! Through the river I had a little mental collapse, I was just unprepared for the next 10 hours of climbing, however I decided to break it up into smaller chunks and that did make it mentally manageable. 5 km to the park entrance, 20 km to perisher, 9 km (ish) from there to Charlotte pass.

img_3989

The grinders start grinding, all the way to the grim peak…..

Not much to say about this except it became grim and grimmer during the day- and we really needed our fly nets. Tex stayed with me for a good part of this and we manage to communicate communicate via grunts for hours on end. We had a few bright moments when Rebecca, Gavin, Jess, and the Tailwind bus came past and decided to try to cheer it up. It didn’t really work but there were a few moments of hilarity in amongst the terrible grind. Of course Rogers team getting past meant that Roger got past as well, luckily by that point his brain was only going about five times the speed of mine because I didn’t have the strength to murder him for his terrible jokes.

It was fantastic to finally get to Perisher, Because from there it is only around 10 km to Charlotte pass. Unfortunately around here I lost any ability I had to run and it must have been pretty horrible watching me grind out those last few kilometres. I think I still have a lot to learn about keeping up the pressure later on in these long races. Poor Piera and Tanya had the job of keeping me company in these sections and it must have been horrible. Piera was entertaining and trying to get me moving faster, Tanya was quietly encouraging. I’m not sure either method worked because I was being a stubborn old man but thank goodness they were there to stave off the mental buzzards that were circling above.
At Charlotte pass my crew sat me down for 5 minutes, got me changed had mandatory gear ready and went about things like Formula One pitstop. It was fantastic to watch. Joe Hedges spotted me sitting down and blew through like a man on a mission. He been in all sorts of trouble overnight and was now looking like coming good. I knew he would, but there also went my chance of not being the last NRG person….

img_4003

What rhymes with ‘truck’?

We left Charlotte pass at exactly 7 PM. We slipped down from an approximately 39 hour finish to around a 40 hour finish. And then it all went Pete Tong. Only a couple of hundred metres from Charlotte pass I found that I couldn’t lift my left leg any more. We had to send somebody back to get my poles because I hadn’t thought I would need them. When I got them all I could do was rest on the polls and use my hips to swing my left leg forward. I was going as fast as I could but kept on looking down my watch and seeing 24 to 26 minutes per kilometre. I can see my crew in front having quiet conversations with each other urgently discussing what to do. I have to admit I’m not very flexible and some of these situations every time they came up to me and said ‘you’ll have to go faster if you want to finish’ I’d reply ‘you just want me to go faster so you can be off the mountain quicker’

Sometimes I’m not one of the worlds fastest brains hey…..

At one point I was only travelling at 1.2km/h and it was starting to look like becoming a very long night. I never thought I wouldn’t make it, but later calculations showed just how close we were.

Piera had decided I needed drugs, but in the rush to make sure we had all of the mandatory gear, nobody had thought to pack any. So they were desperately asking other runners coming off the mountain if they had any. Wayne ‘Blue Dog’ Gregory once again became my saviour when he admitted he had Panadol Osteo. I think Piera may have ripped them out of his hands while demanding I take 2 immediately. Now I don’t typically take headache tablets or anti inflams etc. so I didn’t really expect these to do much. I stand (walk) corrected- Tex says that within 7 minutes I was walking better and within 20 minutes had almost regained full motion. It’s a miracle!

So we pushed on to the summit and met a few more runners on the way. It was like Pitt St trying to get across the ice and line up to take our summit shots.

img_4011

on the way down I actually handed my poles to Tanya and could almost run! We had summited at exactly 11pm, meaning it had taken us 4 hours to ascend. If it had taken 4 hours to get back to Charlotte Pass we would have finished at 1am, only 30 minutes before the cutoff. While I NEVER thought I would not finish, doing those sums on the way down was very sobering. The injury had come out of the blue, but it was real- it took a few days before I was able to fully engage my hip flexor again.
Garth Mcinerny suggested that I may have caused it by engaging my glutes up the big hill and some weakness pushed my toes out to the side causing the flexor issue (I think). This does make sense because in some video you can see my left toes flick out- I’ll have to watch that in future.

Doesn’t look comfortable hey? Check left foot flicking out…..

On the way up I was having some minor hallucinations- the ice underfoot was moving (interesting rather than dangerous) but on the way down those carefully constructed walls in my psyche were crumbling down at an increasing rate. I had issued a number of crew commandments in my guide, one of them being ‘don’t lie to me about time or distance- if it’s 5km of 50km, just give it to me straight’.
But we had one person join us for the final ascent who hadn’t read the notes! I was very grateful that John had come along but I’d been trying to hold in my lingering madness and despair. Unfortunately after about 50 ‘nearly there’ ‘not much longer’ and ‘not far now’ some of them escaped and I whimpered ‘I NEED to be asleep. I can no longer be conscious’ and in the last 4km the trees started to turn into faces etc. The bonus being some quite interesting art installations that apparently were put there specifically for me. Anyway, the worst was when we got to the finish line- I turned my headlamp off so Tex could get nicer finish shot, and of course the lack of light suddenly meant that my mind could make up whatever the fuck it liked, and so it did.
There was a bit of Keystone Cops with ‘Adam, the finish line is over here’ then me heading off in the opposite direction, I thought we had it all worked out when I did finally spot the finish line, but of course I then had to try to climb over the invisible barriers. Someone on the finish line very helpfully showed me that they weren’t there and I shuffled across the finish line at 1:08am Sunday, 2 days after starting. Four hours up the mountain, 2:08 down. A quick hug from Paul and Diane (yes those hugs make it all worthwhile!) and we made the long drive down the mountain to a well deserved sleep.

I need to point this out- Was never in danger from the hallucinations, the bad ones were merely a product of me turning off my light and I had a team of people around me to prevent problems. I’m relating the story because it is funny, not dangerous.

The next morning was filled with people telling me how terrible I looked and how worried they were that I wasn’t going to make it- just as well I didn’t have them as crew!

Anything I can say about my team will be inadequate but I will try anyway- they dealt with every situation with grace and equanimity. I basically promised them a sub 40 hour finish and when it all went to poo, they went above and beyond in trying to keep me moving. I suspect Piera probably suffered from my bloody mindedness the most. She obviously took my health very seriously and I knew that if I did as she said I would be ok. But she also tried to make me go faster when my lizard brain was saying no, and no matter what logical explanations I had for slacking off she’s probably seen it so many times in her job- I should have tried a little harder!

I finished in about the right place- if I had pushed a little more, not had a hip flexor issue or any number of other excuses I could have finished with Damon, Jane, Roger, Matt, Joe or others. As it happened, I needed to suck up my pride, admit that sub 40 was just a dream, and get it done. I’m proud to have done that but I’d be absolutely nowhere without that crew- you were wonderfull and I thank you!

Here is my splits, I’ll try to update when I track down my 2014 times-

40 Adam Connor M NSW Finished 06:37:00 09:20:00 14:53:00 21:45:00 29:00:00 35:08:00 43:38:28

Could I do it better? Yes absolutely. Getting a bit of mongrel back in those later stages, not making so many rookie mistakes and I think I could take a few HOURS off that time of 43:38. I just need to get permission from my wife…….

Photo Credits- Thank you so much to Tex Whitney, Billy Bridle and Rebekah Markey for the pics!

Great North Walk 100 miler GNW100 2016

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The lady in the weighing room yelled out ‘Seventy nine point seven kilos!’

Oh shit, this race is going to be more painful than predicted- I’m carrying a food baby or something. All of the other runners in the room are muttering ‘that can’t be right!’ when their weight is called out, including Jess Siegle, who must only weigh about 30kg  dripping wet anyway….

I’ve been wandering around telling anyone who would listen that I hate this race, it manages to suck and blow at the same time, I don’t want to be here, rather pull out my toenails with pliers etc. But realistically all of this negativity was coming from my subconscious. I didn’t feel ready, although the last few weeks of training had gone well, this isn’t a race you can fluke. On the plus side, I had a finish in 2014 and that gave me the confidence to believe I could do it again. So the race plan- no heroics, get the job done, get your qualifier for C2K and hopefully have a little fun along the way…..and coach Andy DuBois had told me ‘you’ve done enough, not a lot. But enough’ and so I clung to those words!

And the instructions from my wife about not picking up any randoms too. Let’s see how that worked out…..

He's not a random. But he can be pretty random....

He’s not a random. But he can be pretty random….

This year I didn’t see everybody on the start line, but there was a huge crew of friends and soon to be friends….. the start was pretty cool and had some light rain. I commented to someone that it was only supposed to be 2mm of sin and finishing around 9am. They replied that it was going to last until around lunch time. I wasn’t very happy about that but I was never uncomfortable- I’d had the choice to fast pack with my 120g rain jacket assuming I wouldn’t use it, or to take the 450g jacket for comfort. In the end I went light and that was a good decision.

Not much to tell about section 1, it’s a powerfully gnarly introduction to GNW. But like I said to a few people- you’ll feel like shit when you get to CP1 and wonder how you can possibly go another 145km, but you…. just can. I was amazed to get there in 4.5 hours, about 30 minutes before my estimate. I think the cool weather definitely helped there!

On the way out of CP1 I hooked up with 2 people- Alex the Doctor from Mudgee and a lady whose name I don’t remember. We spent some lovely time chatting, so lovely that we sailed straight past a turn and descended quite a long way in the wrong direction. Then the ladies husband came past in a car and gave us the bad news- oh well, could have been worse!

We carried on in good spirits towards CP2 and I had to let them go as they were doing the  100km race- OK, I admit it- they were too fast for me!

I had made a bit of a miscalculation with water on the first 2 legs- I didn’t actually run out but I did make a slight diversion to get water from 2 tanks along the course. This wasn’t helpful, as the water looked pretty vile, but I kept a bottle of it in case of emergency.

Best memory of this leg- a man in a pink skirt hugging a man with a pink iPhone cover and yelling out ‘so are you gay or what?’
Predictably, there was no answer to that question except ‘AAARGH, you broke my fucking nose when you hugged me!’

Despite all the stopping and lack of actual racing, I was pretty happy and on time to CP2. Sarah was there and I made the most of having ‘crew’ in my uncrewed race. I ate a can of dolmades (my tradition at this CP) got my water and stuff filled up and made my way out. I wanted to get my gear check done (you had to show everything which meant unpacking my whole bag) and I was pretty shitty when told that if I went to the gear check I wouldn’t be allowed to go back and sit down. But it does make sense to keep people moving in one direction so if you’re the vollie that I screwed my face up at, I’m sorry!

This was actually at CP2. Just before I told Roger 'get that f/ing camera out of my face!'

This was actually at CP2. Just before I told Roger ‘get that f/ing camera out of my face!’

I had picked up my headphones at CP2, and wandered through the farms towards the communications tower climb in a pretty good mood. A note about these climbs- I’m still trying to figure out what exactly is wrong with my body, but I typically lose a lot of places when climbing. In 2013 I think I lost 35 places just going up Heaton Gap! But somehow, in the 2016 version of the race I was climbing well. I could hear Hailey and her entourage behind me and expected them to catch me before the top, but I just kept a steady pace with few rests and made it before them!

Of course we all had to have a bit of a rest on the log at the top, and it became an instant party! Nick Barlow and Kirrily Dear turned up and we had a fantastic chat along the fire trails until they decided to take it out of first gear, and disappeared….

Party Log!

Party Log!

Time went fairly pleasantly for a while, and we did eventually catch Kurt topper, who looked happy to have some company. And all of a sudden we had the band back together! Hailey, Leah, Kurt and myself have all run together a fair bit so we settled in and enjoyed the moment. As we came into the CP, Leah had drifted off the back with some war injury issues, but we all made a pact to leave together, which meant being organised. That was great in theory but we used too much time, then I made it worse by needing a bathroom just as we were packing up to go. Anyway, long CP time but nothing to be done about that. Special thanks to Lea Marsh who helped me out here. I’m so sorry for not recognising you but I was a bit gaga by that stage!

The next section has some vicious ups, downs that never end, and an 11km road section that heads slightly up and is difficult to run if you aren’t in good shape. But we were all pretty happy and picked up a new friend- a guy called Ian who we chatted with and ran with into Yarramalong. We did really well here, someone would yell ‘run to the second pole’ and we’d all start jogging to the indicated spot. And because there was a few of us, we never really felt like we were pushing too hard or making the group suffer. It worked really well. Again, coming into the CP I was keen to make a new deal with my mates to keep running with them, and although CP4 is a major stop, I didn’t think we’d be too long. Oops, chasing socks, shoes, hunting down food, chatting to people. we spent way too much time at that CP as well, we’d had about an hour up our sleeve at CP2, pretty much all of that had evaporated by CP4. I think- well that’s how it seemed to my fevered brain.

Hailey picked up her pacer Brad Smithers- talk about a dream team- she also had Sally Dean as her crew! So we all got out of Yarramalong and hoped Brad would guide us through Dead Horse Creek- I have nightmares about that section because in 2012 with Jane Trumper we almost got hopelessly lost! Luckily the path is a lot easier to see these days.

Anyway, Ian and I drifted out towards the front, but I was trying to stick with Brad because he knew where to go, but something seemed to be going wrong. Hailey was having a tough time and slowing down. I’d been very careful before and during the race to make ‘short term deals’ with people, ie. ‘let’s run together until the next CP, the we can re negotiate’. I had not promised to get anyone to the end or stick with someone if they had a meltdown. So now I was looking at my watch and seeing all of our time advantage slipping away, it was decision time. I needed to get moving, and I knew that Brad was the best possible person to help Hailey, and me hanging around was not going to help. So I had a short word and took off with Ian. He’s a good runner, very strong and confident. After about 10 minutes I looked behind me and Kurt had decided to come with us too- excellent!

 

Yeah, I don't know what i was thinking either

Yeah, I don’t know what I was thinking either

 

I knew that this section was going to take  6 to 6.5 hours and we needed to hustle. In 2014 I had left CP5 at 7:48am and made the finish with no issues, so that was my new target. During this leg we lost Kurt, so for a while it was just Ian and me. Then after coming out on the fire trail at 40 Acre Farm and getting nearly to the gate near where the houses start, I found a runner going the wrong way! He seemed really confused and asked me about which direction Gosford was, but in our sleep deprived state I finally worked out that he was a runner, was in the race, and simply needed help with directions. So I told him to tag along with us. His name was Jim and he turned out to be great company too!

Getting to the top of the hill where you meet the road coming in to CP5, I rang Sarah and yelled out a few instructions- I knew I’d be pushed for time so I made sure I made the most of having ‘crew’ at this CP! I wasn’t really thinking clearly by then but I reminded myself that I had not made a deal with these guys so I told them I’d be making a quick stop and getting out ASAP. I arrived at 7:48am to be handed a REAL COFFEE! Sarah had found a friend of hers who had a capsule machine and so I got a real espresso.

Her friend said ‘you look familiar’ so I said ‘do you watch a lot of porn?’

So um, sorry Sarah’s friend.

I was out of the CP in 4 minutes (my fastest one of the race) and popped my headphones on and settled in for the ‘flattest’ section of the race. At the end of the road section Jim caught me and although I was only alone for a few minutes it was nice to see him step up and push on. I’d calculated that we needed to average 11min/km along this section- it’s 18km so keeping up a gentle trot should do it easily. Unfortunately it can be quite technical and as I am tall, it doesn’t take much to make me slow in these bits. Then we came around a corner to see Andy Hewatt (Whippet) having a sleep!

He picked up his stuff and said ‘I’ll get you to the next CP in X:XX’ (I can’t remember the time but it was about 5x as fast as I’d ever done it before) and he started skipping along the tops of rocks and weaving in and out of the bushes. It really is poetry in motion just watching him run these technical sections. So there was me dragging my sorry carcass behind like Frankensteins monster following his master- and we made good progress. No, we made GREAT progress! Half way into the section we had been averaging 9min/km, meaning I could blow out to less than walking pace for the next half and still make my target. About 2km from the creek crossing Andy kept on looking around so I yelled at him to go ahead- he was keen to stick with us to help but he’d already rescued our race simply by pushing on for a few km. Thanks mate!

(some time later we came across Andy again. He was weaving all over the tail and when I called out to him he was startled. Because he’d been walking in his sleep!)

It now looked like Jim and I were good to push each other to the end. He’d done very well running all night by himself but I think his confidence in the maps had been shattered by going the wrong way, so I basically said ‘if you can keep up, I’ll show you the way’. I needn’t have worried, he was pretty much unbreakable. Funny story- I told him about how there’s a photo of me running along the beach in 2014 with a guy clearly behind me. But because you get the same time if you finish in the same minute, we were allocated the same time but he appears ahead on me in the results! Jim looked at me very seriously and said ‘I will wait a few minutes before coming up the beach so that doesn’t happen again’

And I said ‘Bollocks. I don’t care about that. Simply finishing is all I want and need.’

So we got into the final checkpoint at Mooney Mooney (what’s with the new approach and extra uphill Dave Byrnes you sadist?) spent too much time there again and wandered out feeling happy with progress, but not super relaxed. Why? Because in my race report from 2014 I hinted that the random runner I picked up had made me slow across the last few sections. This turns out to be a dirty lie. The reality is that you have to keep pushing pretty much all the way unless you have a great first half. Spending so much time in CP’s early on had cost me relaxation time in the back end. So to my random runner from 2014, sorry!

You get a lot of time during these races to think, and unfortunately I was thinking about those behind me. I was pretty sure that we had lost Leah at the Basin. She’s had a lot going on and a rough preparation so that was perfectly understandable. But I was also worried about Kurt and Hailey. Kurt has a habit of getting the full value out of his race entries- he’s had some of the most tear jerking gusty finishes in history. Seriously, he’s amazing. But I knew he wanted to pull out, and I think he was just lucky that Sarah and Sally pushed his partner out of the way and gave him some tough love. Anyway I’d been wondering whether either or both of them would miss the Staples Lookout cutoff at 3pm.

Sometime on this last section Ian caught up to us. I’m not sure if it was me who mentioned the Staples cutoff, but he was obsessed by it- he kept on saying ‘we’re not going to make it’ and I would reassure him we would. After the 3rd or 4th time I said ‘Ian, in 2014 I made it by an hour. I guarantee if you stick with me we’ll be there an hour early’. That seemed to placate him, although to be honest my brain wasn’t working so well, and my calculations all seemed to come up ‘inconclusive’. So I suppose being able to say things with confidence is the key, even if you’re unsure if you’re bullshitting.

So we made it with 1 hour 20 to spare, giving us over 3 hours to make the last 10km or so. The rest was uneventful except for a couple of things. I discovered a data screen on my watch that told me how far to go and how long it would take as well as my estimated finishing time. And it was scarily accurate! At 3.26km to go, I got a slap on the arse and Hailey and Brad trotted past. I thought for a moment about chasing them, it would be fun to see who could get down that last descent fastest without major bone breakage. But then I remembered that there was a couple of tricky turns to go and I figured I should show Jim the way. I know that goes against what I had done the whole race but I was also very grateful to him for pushing me up the horrible rock stairs around Mt Wondabyne. Anyway, once we got to the single track descent to Patonga I told Jim I was going to run and had an awesome time skipping down the rocks and across the beach.

kissing-the-post

And my parents were there! It was really nice to see them turn up to see me finish, I hope they enjoyed watching people come in too.

A special note about the amazing people from NRG. In 2013 when I first talked some victims into running this event I got a cautionary email from Dave Byrne questioning the sanity of having so many club members enter the full fat version of the race. I replied that we were all super human and not to worry. That didn’t work out so well, with only 2 out of about 8 people finishing due to the extreme conditions that year. To their immense credit, they all came back and finished in subsequent years and the tradition has grown- to the point where some Trotters were complaining that NRG have dominated their race!

How dominant? Well, how about a new female course record, 1st, 2nd and 4th female, and I was the last NRG’er- all the others had finished more than 6.5 HOURS in front of me!

100miler results
Robyn Bruins (1st lady) 3rd overall; new course record
Time: 23.49, PB of 5.15 hours
Kath Carty (2nd lady) 5th overall
Time: 24.40,  1st miler
Tim Lyndon (6th male) 8th overall
Time: 25.27, PB of 3:07 hours
Adrian Murdoch (7th male) 10th overall
Time: 25.37, 1st miler
Chantelle Farrelly (4th lady) 11th overall
Time: 25:49, PB of 3:01 hours
Adam Darwin equal (13th male) 18th overall
Time: 28.23, PB of 3:29 hours
Joe Hedges equal (13th male) 18th overall
Time: 28.23, PB of 5:19 hours
Adam Connor (30th male) 39th overall
Time: 34:53, PB of 4 mins

100km results
Tanya Carroll (8th lady) 25th overall
Time: 16:58

So my final time of 34:53 is only about 1 second per km faster than 2014, but the finish was a totally different beast. I felt 1000% better than 2014, where I’d basically been crying for a chair to sit on and almost had to be carried to the car. This year I felt great, never felt that I couldn’t go further and never felt like the task was hopeless. A lot of this had to do with the kinder weather we had this year. But interestingly the race still had a 49% DNF rate (it’s usually around 50%). I suspect this might be because people pushed harder early on due to the weather, and it bit them.

So, I only did this race to qualify for Coast To Kosci, and went around telling people that I hate it with a passion. How do I feel now? I must be mellowing because the hate is slipping away, to be replaced with a grudging respect and slight awe of this stupid fucking amazing race. Thanks Dave Byrnes and the Terrigall Trotters- I still think every swear word was well deserved, but I won’t say ‘never’ to coming back.

Full results here

 

Last
First
Event
Age Group
Checkpoint 1
Checkpoint2
Checkpoint 3
Checkpoint 4
Checkpoint 5
Checkpoint 6
Finish
Race
Name
Name
In
Out
race time
position
In
Out
leg
race time
position
total
race time
position
In
Out
leg
race time
position
total
race time
position
In
Out
leg
race time
position
total
race time
position
In
Out
leg
race time
position
total
race time
position
In
Out
leg
race time
position
total
race time
position
100 mile
leg
race time
position
total
race time
position
No.
Cut Off Times
600
1200
dif
overall
overall
1700
dif
leg
leg
dif
overall
overall
2300
dif
leg
leg
dif
overall
overall
400
dif
leg
leg
dif
overall
overall
1000
dif
leg
leg
dif
overall
overall
1300
dif
leg
leg
dif
overall
overall
1800
dif
leg
leg
dif
overall
overall
CONNOR
ADAM
100M
M40-49
1027
1033
427
04:27
93
1408
335
3:35
111
808
8:08
98
2011
2041
1411
14:11
95
0048
0127
407
04:07
82
1848
18:48
85
0748
0752
621
06:21
33
2548
25:48
38
1039
1049
247
02:47
21
2839
28:39
36
1653
604
6:04
44
3453
34:53
39
31

Sorry about the way those results look, I’ll fix it later.

Although I have thought of a good way to make it harder- at every checkpoint you must consume 1 full strength beer.

Who is in for the GNW Beer Miler?

family-at-finish

Photo credits- massive thank you to George Mihalakellis, Roger Hanney, Sally Dean and Jill Hennessy

Ultra Trail Australia 100km UTA100 2016

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Yes I did run this race in a tutu, and because it caused quite a stir I’ll address this first- it has nothing to do with running so feel free to skip…..

I first ran the race in 2011 and I was utterly shattered, it would be the second and last time I would do a 100km race (first being Trailwalker). But of course after a couple of weeks the pain and scars faded and I started to cook up schemes to convince Sarah that I should be able to do it again. The most foolproof plan I concocted was to promise to run the race in a tutu if I raised a certain amount of money for charity. As it happened, Sarah was very supportive of my running and making excuses to run didn’t come up. I can’t express how awesome she has been over the last few years, when I come home and say ‘honey, I’d really like to do xxx race’ she makes sure I can, even if my body says otherwise…..

So fast forward to 2016, and since I got injured I didn’t have any time goals or any desire to do anything but finish. And Sarah suggested I wear the tutu. And I felt this was a fun thing to do.

Warning, politics incoming>>>

Shortly afterwards I figured that if I was going to dress up I could potentially use it to help certain people. I don’t consider it a big deal (remember I had thought about it for years before doing it) and it has been done before- Gordi Kirkbank-Ellis totally rocked TNF100 in Skirt Sports a couple of years back. So not terribly controversial, but my mind did wonder about those people who for one reason or another, can’t express themselves the way they want to. Imagine being gay and feeling you had to hide it? Imagine feeling like you had been born the wrong gender and not being able to dress the way you want? It’s pretty easy for us ‘breeders’ to do what the hell we want within the strictures of what society deems appropriate. But there are many many people who don’t fall into these ‘appropriate’ categories, and by insisting that they follow ‘our’ rules, we can make life impossible for them. Honestly, it’s taken me many years to get to this point, so my only goal is to make people aware. I’m not going to bark on about it forever- just until equal rights are a reality.  I’m sure the level of acceptance is growing daily, but a little push can’t hurt…..

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OK, but what about the run?

I was kind of worried because I wasn’t worried. Lining up at the start for the 6th time I knew I was too blasé, but by then it was too late! We took off up the road and waved and yelled at the others coming back, deliberately trying to slow the pace but not really succeeding because I’d had a really strong coffee! At least being at the back of Wave 3 there wasn’t a lot of suicidal runners willing to kill you to get past- it was almost civilised until it all stopped at the Landslide. I really do think that a sub 14 would be very difficult from the back of Wave 3, you would really need to be in Wave 2 or up the front of 3 to make a good time because of the delays here.

Up the Golden Stairs I was pleasantly surprised to only need to stop a few times- my present level of fitness showed, but the best I’ve ever done here is to not lose many places, so that’s a decent result. A bit more cautious up to CP1 and I was already 30 minutes behind last year but pretty happy.

I was lucky enough to catch Hailey Maxwell at CP1 and ran with her for a few km, but got to Tarro’s by myself. I had thought to take the diversion this year but since all competitiveness had gone I thought I’d do the ladders and enjoy myself. Claire Northrop turned up and seemed to be enjoying herself! Across Mt Debert and down into the fire trail to CP2 was good but slow. I ran a bit with Jon Lim, but he was having a hard time and I could see his mood getting worse- I tried briefly to talk him into continuing but saw later that he had pulled out. Jane and Peter Trumper caught me from the wave behind about 1500m from the checkpoint, I was to try to keep up with them all day, that was a nice challenge- I know that Jane is super consistent and if I could keep up with them I would be ok. Seeing Mike McGrath at CP2 was nice, it’s been a while mate!

On the way out of CP2 I met a bloke who said he was only there because he’d failed to sell his entry! I hope he enjoyed his race…… a few KM later came my nemesis- the climb up to Ironpot Ridge. Again I didn’t lose as many places as I could have, but that’s about the best thing I can say about that!

The descent off Ironpot is scary and not fun. The talc like surface feels so slippery and the hill is very steep. I know I sound like one of THOSE people but yeah, it used to be worse. A few years back when the track was not as well defined it felt more dangerous. I had figured that because it had rained the week before this would pack down the surface a bit, however it hadn’t rained in that spot!

I managed to give away a salt tablet to a woman who looked like she was having a bad day (I always carry spares) and we ran past the farm and up the next big climb. The run downhill towards cp3 is good fun, but this year I tried to keep it nice and smooth. Over the stile and into cp3 I saw Wayne ‘Blue Dog’ Gregory whose OP had flared up badly and sadly for him, his race was over. I emptied some stuff out of my shoes, grabbed that Coke I’d been fantasising about for the last few hours and headed out.

The extra caffeine didn’t give me quite the boost I was expecting up Six Foot track, but I kept it tidy and ran when I could. I yelled out the stair count to some Chinese runners behind me going up Nellie’s Glen (must have thought I was nuts) and soon enough we hit the top and spent a few pleasant km hitting the single track before the road into cp4.

The indoor sports centre is usually where I would see all the people with glazed looks of horror- the ones who went out too fast, didn’t train on the course or hadn’t realised how feral it actually is. But this time it seemed more calm- maybe I was so slow I’d missed all the victims?

There were no pre made noodle cups- disappointing because that’s my traditional noodle stop. And there was no way I was going to hang around for some to cook and then get cool enough to eat. So, another 600ml Coke, empty rubbish and put my headlamp on (it was still light but the next stage can take > 4 hours) and off I went.

I know the next section fairly well, but this time I had a big slump- maybe because I knew it would be dark before I hit CP5? Anyway, I just can’t seem to make good progress in this section- lots of stairs and single track, very difficult to make smooth progress. This year the water stop had been moved to the Fairmont so there was nothing at Gordon Falls. Sure enough it was dark when I hit the Fairmont (by the way, welcome back to supporting the race!) and I’d pretty much had enough. During the week I’d seen another runner talk about buying a smaller phone to fit in their pack so I had spent a huge $14 on an android phone that was on sale. I put some music on a memory card and spent another $10 on a recharge for it and carried it during the race. I sat down and thought to myself the quickest way to get yelled at for considering pulling out would be to call my wife. She doesn’t have a lot of sympathy for weakness, and I wasn’t feeling strong. I rationalised that I didn’t really need to finish the race and I wanted to be at the finish cheering my mates in, not running for another 6+ hours.

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Then 2 things happened- firstly my phone call failed because I hadn’t actually added the credit to my phone, and secondly my Ultra Wife, Jane Trumper (who incidentally has even less sympathy than Sarah) came over and said ‘WHAT ARE YOU DOING?’, to which I mumbled a few excuses and got the full force of that large personality in a tiny package. Words were spoken, yelled, ejected and spent with an aggression that you don’t often see, especially 10 hours or so after a race has begun.

It was just what I needed, so I meekly promised to carry on and got myself ready for the next section. It’s only 11km, possibly only 8km of bush before Hordern Rd, but I was really loathing the very idea. Anyway during that section I came across Taras Mencinsky and Roland Hassal and had a great chat to them. Funny- that took a lot of the sting out of that section and I actually had quite a good time! Really interesting guys and I hope I can run more with them in the future.

We arrived at QVH (CP5) and it was a full on party! They had a DJ, announcer, disco lights and a huge amount of people- what a change from 2011 when Keith Hong saw me trudge up the hill into the CP and chased me away from the fire so I could finish the race. I got my bag, swapped a few things, finally got some noodles, stuffed my face, filled my bottles and………. nothing. We just sat there at the table. Jane was feeling sick, Peter looking for batteries, Taras and Roland taking their time -I couldn’t figure out what was going on! That’s the longest I’ve ever been at CP5, granted it was nice and warm but we weren’t even required to take our fleece- first time that has happened. So I enjoyed the serenity for a short while then buggered off.

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Conscious of needing to save my legs I didn’t push too hard down Kedumba, and weirdly got to cross Jamison Creek without needing to use the bricks. Being a fat bastard I suffered quite a lot going uphill to the helipad which was very well lit and only a few bodies, and then again up National Pass to the old Sewerage Works. Getting across the huge mud field required some balance, but finally I was on the home stretch- well at least I wouldn’t look like I was going backwards compared to other runners!

There’s nothing much to say about ascending Furber Stairs except that yes I counted them down in lots of 100, interspersed with my favourite F word. At the top I girded myself for the final push to the finish line and as I came into view the crowd mae a huge noise. Thank you, whoever you were, that was awesome! And my wife (who last year was very grumpy at the end and forgot my beer) was there to run up the finish chute with me and wasn’t very grumpy at all! And there was beer……

Huge thanks to George Mihalakellis who sat with me for ages after the race for a chat- I didn’t achieve a special time but the race itself is special, hugely difficult and very gratifying to finish. OK it was 18:23 if you must know.

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Sri Chinmoy 24 Race 2016

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Campbelltown sprots stadium

Since I’ve given up making excuses, here’s a list of reasons why I failed in my attempt to make it 2 from 2 making 180km in 24 hours at this race.

1. Apx 3 marathons in 4 days only 10 days before this race
2. Some mild but undefined plague the week before the attempt
3. Carrying 5kg (ok 6kg) more weight than last time
4. Not as fit

The weather was expected to be atrocious, and running around a 400m track for 24 hours in this could easily be described as ‘character building’. Lucky a few characters turned up….

It poured down while we were setting up, and had a few moments early on, then the rain cleared and they used a broom to clear the water from lane 1. And then it didn’t start raining again until literally 2 minutes from the end. We were VERY lucky…….

So, how did it go?

The strategy was to run 21 laps per hour for 12 hours, then 17 laps per hour for the last 12 hours. Making 22 laps good, making 20 or 23 bad. I managed to make a comfortable start, and by the third hour I was right on target/ slightly in front at around 66 laps. But shortly after that I fell apart. It was way to early to have these kinds of issues, but I had to walk off the course for a massage. This meant I pretty much blew the plan- you can recover one or two laps, but as the deficit gets bigger your task seems to get exponentially harder. Each lap that you should be doing in 2:40 to 2:50 then needs to get a little faster to claw back.

Adam Kurt running

I went back out on the track and things seemed to be going better, I even felt like I the fat lady hadn’t sung yet. For the next couple of hours I had visions of simply sucking up the pain and making it, but then I started getting flashbacks of 2014 when I did push on and plumbed dark corners of consciousness that I hoped never to see again. Never mind- I was quite prepared to do that to make my goal as long as my body would cooperate.

But it wouldn’t. The fat lady was clearing her throat, ready to mock me for being so over confident. Here’s my stats from last time-

Marathon:   4:39:57
50K:           5:35:42
50 mile: 9:32:44
100K: 11:55:17
150K: 18:33:40
100 mile: 20:03:46
So my plan was to go a bit slower through the marathon mark, easier through 50km. About the same for 50 mile, exactly the same for 100km, then I’d be quite happy to slip a bit for 150km and add up to 2 hours on to the 180km time. But that was apparently some sort of wild dream. And not one where I got to spread honey on naked ladies. Oops sorry for that mental image…
I got through the marathon in apx 4:47 which was perfect. But yeah, BOOM! Sometime around hour 6-8 I realised that my body would not cash the cheques my mind wanted to write. I wasn’t injured, sick or disabled, best guess is I had not recovered enough from the BUMS marathons. I settled into ticking off the laps without struggling. I fell way behind my mates- Taras was looking great and Kurt Topper and Matt M were pushing on, and Kieron Blackmore might as well have been in a different race, he was so smooth.
adam running
I promised myself a nice long rest at 12 hours, and sure enough I spent over an hour in the pits just watching everyone lap me! Sally Dean turned up with a bunch of coffees and since Hailey Maxwell hadn’t turned up to claim hers, I drank it. That was a mistake for 2 reasons- I’d been cutting down my caffeine intake before the race and had already consumed way too much. Also I have developed a bit of a lactose intolerance in my old age, so I was really asking for trouble later…….
So suddenly I was so high on coffee I could taste colours. And nipped out for another hour and had a good one. Alas it wasn’t to last but I did develop a new strategy- my running laps had gone from 2:40 to well over 3:30, so I figured that I could walk 10 laps per hour at 4-4:30 minutes per lap and still have enough time for a 5-10 minute rest each hour. And so it went.
an artists impression of lactose intolerance

an artists impression of lactose intolerance

My estimate for 100km had blown out from 12 hours and I watched 14 hours slip away. With a bit of concerted effort I made it in 15 hours, but I was now increasingly appalled at how little progress I was making. Taras, Kurt and Matt variously had long pit stops, and Kieron did some blister treatment and changed shoes then set off again like a shot duck.
I began to focus on my position, because in these long events its the stayers that do well. Last I’d looked I was in 24th position out of 34 starters, and I knew that I would make up a couple of positions simply through attrition. The next time I looked I was up to 22nd, and over the next few hours I picked off a few more just by not quitting. Remember I was going slower than a giant tortoise on xanax, but I was still clocking up laps……
Over the grim night hours I made a mental game of seeing who I could pick of if I kept pushing my expanded arse around the course a bit more. While I would never call the performance inspiring, at least it kept my mind working. Or maybe that was the coffee.
For most of the day/ night I was pretty sure Sara Jaques would beat me but she succumbed to the sleep monsters late at night- but she’s got bigger fish to fry in a couple of months. However I was super impressed with her walking speed- I couldn’t keep up!
and then I was briefly in 11th position- WTF? I grabbed my phone off the table and had a look at the live tracking, there was no way I would catch 10th (Kieron Blackmore with a fantastic 157.555km), and some bloke who I’ve never met was dicing with me for 11th and 12th position. That was a great motivator but I knew that 12th was better than I ever could have expected with my level of competence. In the next couple of hours he made an extra 3-4 laps on me and cemented his lead, congratulations to Paul Mahoney.
And then it got light, and then it was over. And the rain came down…. Massive congratulations to all of my friends, old and new who braved this epic and silly race. I laughed, I cried, I hurled. OK I didn’t hurl, but Malcom Gamble did, then smiled and kept running on his way to first place with 222.656km. Also huge congrats to Sharon Scholz who ran over 200km for a total of 201.931km! Wow.
Here are my provisional stats
6 hours      48.4km
12 hours    84.8km
18 hours    108km
24 hours    133.087km
Marathon 4:53:13
50km       6:11:35
50 Mile    11:18:32
100km     14:54:44
I have no idea why this particular race broke so many people. The weather was not as bad as expected, it wasn’t brutally cold- but I was affected mentally seeing some of my running heroes come to grief- Brendan Davies, John Pearson and Bryan McCorkindale all had nasty things bite them while on track. I made a joke about ‘beating’ them on Facebook but it wasn’t very funny as those guys are all in a completely different league to me. I hope they all recover quickly. To give you better idea of the scale of the ugliness- in 2014 when I ran exactly 180km that was only good enough for 9th place overall, in a much smaller field. This year that would have got me 6th place. There was easily 6 or 8 people on course hoping to make a C2K qualifier, how many of us made it? None. But Kristy Lovegrove got closest, only 12 laps away and she fought hard for that result. Respect.
Maybe I should apologise for my fashion choices too

Maybe I should apologise for my fashion choices too

So I walk away a little smarter, a little more experienced, with a slightly battered ego and a lot more muscle soreness. I also have a lot of people to apologise to- I can’t tell you the details but the filter was definitely stuck in the ‘off’ position for that 24 hours. All of the place getters were offered a chance to speak at the award ceremony and all of them remarked about how helpful the vollies were and how well organised the race was (and they were all correct!), but when asked to speak all I could say was
‘Thank god that’s over’
early morning
*Photo credits- thank you to Sarah Connor, Stephen Bowers, Sally Dean and Hailey Maxwell. If I have accidentally stolen your pics or you want them removed please let me know

Coast to Kosci C2K 2015- Crewing

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When you’re running this event, your whole body hates you.

If you’re crewing, it’s only your liver.

At around 9am on Wednesday Jane Trumper and Sally Dean arrived at my place and we made a few last minute decisions about what to take and leave and headed off. Then headed back again because I had forgotten my laptop. Sometime much later we arrived at Hailey Maxwell’s place and added her stuff to the amazing assortment of crap in the car.

The trip to Eden was uneventful except for 2 things- somehow we didn’t go via Berri- and hence missed the fresh donut van, and we managed to talk openly about bodily functions for quite a long time. It became obvious I was going to enjoy spending time with these lovely ladies…..

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A quick stop to dump our crap at the caravan park and it was off to dinner at the Fisho’s- Eden Fisherman’s Club. It’s like going home. Well, a gaudy home that sells delicious fried things. And beer. Wayne ‘Blue Dog’ Gregory was there with his team so we added Mick and Bernadette along with BD, coming back after 4 long years in the injury box.

Getting back to our new waterfront trailer, we were pretty happy and took a few selfies with beer and decided to head off to bed. At that moment Wayne turned up with a bottle of red wine, and the ladies ran away and shut the room doors. So Wayne and I sat up and talked about nothing, nursing a few middies of red. Nice way to finish the day.

Thursday morning and strangely I wasn’t feeling 100% but I wasn’t worried about getting sick, as alcohol kills bacteria. We popped into town for breakfast and met Joe Ward and Anderson, who would both be running. After that we hit Coles for supplies and everything looked delicious. Poor Jane was made to pay for our soft drink and chip habit, then we handed the big job of re arranging the car to Sally while Hailey and I checked the course for Cossie to Coast.

If you’ve never seen this race it is hilarious- the crews all wear a swimming costume and run 7km from near Boydtown Beach back to the caravan park. This year we had 29 starters, and for some reason I ended up as the RD, but it went smoothly and we didn’t have to send out a search party for Annabel Hepworth like last year. She was in a gorilla suit so I’m not sure if she’d have been able to hunt down any food……One person this year wore a ‘Gafkini’- a bikini entirely made from Gaffa tape. Just be glad I’m not posting a photo of that one…..

Back to the Fishermans club for the race briefing and pre race dinner- it really is Christmas for ultra runners- almost every ultra runner you know is in that room. Handshakes, backslaps and sandbagging is the order of the day, before an early night and even earlier morning for the race start.

We shuffled down the beach in lovely mild conditions to start the race. This year my running club (NRG) had 5 runners accepted into the race, but sadly 2 were out with injury. Would have been an amazing thing to have 10% of the field, but alas it wasn’t to be. On the upside we did have Robyn Bruins, Chantelle Farrelly and Rocco Smit- all of whom had amazing performances at GNW. I snuck in for a pic with team NRG, got one with my crew + runner and suddenly they were off!

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The last few years there has been a rule that everyone must head off to the Pericoe Rd meeting spot directly from Boydtown Beach. Makes a lot of sense, and prevents runners breathing in heaps of dust from cars going past. We arrived there to see the locals making coffee and bacon & egg rolls. They were delicious, but I had a few things to set up too….. I planned to be the only car on the road with wifi, aircon, and an espresso machine. OK air conditioning isn’t that special in a modern car, but I figured good coffee and access to Facebook would make the crew very happy……

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At Pericoe Rd we ‘serviced’ our runner for the first time and started to get into the rhythm of the race. Jane had been a bit worried about a niggle she had picked up during her race in Manislu and had brought her own moon boot. That’s a new level of sandbagging. I hoped. However she seemed to be moving well when she came through. In the early stages of the race you get to see pretty much everybody, and it’s a real party for the crews before the field starts to stretch out. Trevor Allen came through first at warp speed, followed closely by Joe Ward and others- not sure it’s a good idea to make your 10km pb in a 240km race but I have full respect for those who can ‘go out hard and hang on’!

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From there the next major moment is at Rocky Hall, 50km in and designated Checkpoint 1. Jane made it here at 11:55am or 6:25 race time. This was 19 minutes slower than her PB in 2013, but the day was getting hot and certainly no reason to worry.

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We designated Hailey to walk up Big Jack with Jane, and I went up in the car with Sally. It’s the first time I’ve been up there in a car- twice pacing Jane and once running the event. At the top, we figured we had enough time to sneak into Cathcart. It puts the odometer out of whack, but we wanted to buy lunch, get ice (we were using a lot in drinks etc because of the heat) and make sure there was something good for Jane (she likes a mango Weiss bar at Cathcart, but we already knew they didn’t have any).

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Back to the top of Big Jack and no one was any wiser, except for the pie stains on my shirt. Jane checked her feet, and it was here that we started to hear about the carnage unfolding on the course. Jan Hermann (11 time starter, 9 time finisher and bloody legend) had pulled out at Big Jack- we found out later that he had recently been knocked off his bike and was still injured from that. Tough guy but poor luck this year. It was a big blow to all of us to hear this.

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Another to pull the pin was Billy Bridle. I really wanted to see him finish, he’s worked really hard for his place and lost 50kg over the last few years. Alas it wasn’t his day but I hope he’ll be back.

Into Cathcart and it turned out that the earlier trip was worthwhile- they’d run out of ice! It would bean extra 20km into Bombala to get some if you needed it…… Jane was now running 45 minutes behind her PB but still looked comfortable. Blue Dog had his game face on but looked like he was in pain, and Sabina Hamaty was way back in the field and looking unhappy- but 240km is a long way and like someone said ‘if you feel good during an ultra marathon, don’t worry- the feeling will pass’.

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Jane asked us to meet her 4km up the road outside Cathcart, so we went out 4km, I laid back for a nap, and the ladies sat at the rear of the car and talked quietly. Just as I drifted off I thought’ we haven’t seen any runners or cars for a while’ but it wasn’t enough for me to wake up…… and shortly after this my mobile rang and it was Andy ‘Whippet’ Hewatt the race medic using Jane’s phone to find out where we were……. she had run 6km and figure we had gotten lost. Oops. Yes, we’d missed a turnoff.

Back on track and Jane came up to the window and absolutely tore strips off us. The air turned blue and all I could manage was a weak apology, then I looked around and Damon Roberts crew (who had helped Jane while we were indisposed) were filming us! We’d been set up!

So I called her a bitch and she variously said she was fine and we were a bunch of er whatevers, and we all trundled merrily down the street. Next thing I’m being interviewed by Damon’s team again about our ‘mishap’ and Billy Pearce (race medic) comes up to give us shit too. It seems runners can’t keep secrets….

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It’s a bit of a slog from here to the dead tree at 102km, and we were all a bit sombre after getting lost. Your runner really does rely on their crew to be on top of everything at all times, it could have been much more disastrous than it was.

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We’d decided that I would be first pacer and would start at CP3. Cup noodles were ordered from the finest chefs in the land but unfortunately our stove kept on getting blown out in the wind. They eventually solved the problem by using hot water we had in a thermos from the morning. Nice!

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By this time it was obvious that Jane was not having an easy time and it would be a matter of minimising losses rather than killing her PB. I saddled up for a 6 hour shift and we headed out into the night. Previously we had done a big 8 hour shift to start, but this time we had only 2 confident runners on the crew (Sally would have been fine but our job was to keep Jane moving, and Sally more than makes up for not pacing by being super organised and nice to be around!)

I like the night shift, it’s quiet and you can see stars and reflect. The trip into Dalgety can be a bit soul destroying because it is pretty long at 42km but there’s nothing for it except to keep going. I insisted the ladies get a bit of sleep as I was carrying everything that Jane needed for the next few hours. So we left the clipboard on the windscreen of the car and I wrote the time we went past, allowing them to get a bit of sleep. I did turn into a bit of a Nazi though, yelling at Hailey for not being asleep! Sorry Hailey!

Hailey took over pacing around 2:45am and I settled in for some sleep. Amazingly I was pretty relaxed and actually slept for a while- massive win!

Somehow I managed to arrange things so that Hailey had to pace Jane up Beloka Range. I awoke in the early morning, and as men do, needed to wee. First problem- there was about 5 cars up there! So I spotted a tree a discrete distance away, but just as I was about to drop trou, Damons team command parked right in front of me. Given their previous treatment of us I was pretty tempted to urinate on their nice clean car, but figured it wouldn’t really make things better. You’ll keep, you cheeky bastards.

In another stroke of brilliant luck, Jane told us to go ahead to Jindabyne and get coffees, breakfast and supplies. So I got a couple of hours sleep, coffee, breakfast and plenty of rest. Heaven.

I took over pacing duties again in a car park on the outskirts of Jindabyne, and we headed out of town towards the big climb. It was around here that we heard about an issue that had come up. I don’t really want to go into it here but several teams were warned about having too many crew cars serving their runner (you are allowed only one), and subsequently a time penalty of 2 hours was issued to Nikki Wynds team. It must have been gut wrenching for both Race Directors and runner (and crew), but anything that jeopardises the running of the race must be dealt with harshly. I can’t imagine that the race would get approval in todays nanny state environment, and we must do everything to preserve it’s viability.

Jane is typically very strong on the hills, and we started catching up to Kirrily Dear- eventually passing her by the side of the road with her legs in the air. Sorry that didn’t sound right- her all female team were attending to some nasty blisters. I’m sure Kirrily thought ‘game on!’ but when she got past again a few km later Jane told her there would be no contest and she could have the race placing with her blessing.

This made us aware of how badly Jane was hurting. You always hurt during these races, and Jane has a higher pain threshold than most humans I’ve ever met. And probably most I haven’t. However she was getting slower and slower. I’d paced her in 2012 to a PW and 2013 to a PB. I’d seen her really sick in 2012 and still finish. This year she was in (slightly) better physical condition (i.e. not spewing for 8.5 hours) but much more pain from a back issue. There were a few worried looks from the other crew so I had to chat to them privately about our strategy. Which boiled down to- don’t mention the injury, get Jane to the finish. We never discussed the option of pulling out in front of her, but it was quite distressing to see her like that. It became a task to make her as comfortable as possible, with loads of massage and stops, which she normally wouldn’t do.

Hailey had another stint at pacing and I took over again at Perisher. We had a long stop at Perisher to massage Jane, get some food on board and make the last 9km to Charlotte Pass. We had a couple of runner service stops and sent the crew forward to get our mandatory gear checked off. I’d spent a fair bit of time schooling Jane so she could pass a cursory medical ‘just stand up a bit straighter and make sense when they talk to you’. I went to Paul Every to ask if we could allow Jane to hold on to our packs to keep her a bit straighter but he wasn’t keen and said ‘you have to ask if you need to keep your runner upright if they should be going up the mountain at all’ and looked pointedly at Rhiann Blackwell, medic. Luckily we had already convinced Rhiann that she was ok. So, she’ll have to do it herself then, no problem. We were super organised but somehow it all turned into a complete clusterfuck once we arrived. Nobody could get their shit together for the final assault on the mountain. Even me. In fact the NRG’ers waiting at the finish line laughed when I yelled at the team to get moving and then spotted Ngaire and had to run over for a hug.

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……. And then it got very, very ugly. If you’re in good condition you should be able to do the 9km up and 9km back from the summit in around 3.5 hours. It took us nearly 6 hours. We’d been explicitly told to get assessed by Andy ‘Whippet’ Hewatt at Rawsons Hut. We were lucky enough to get (for Jane) a more professional massage and hot chocolate, which she promptly threw up. But I was very glad that she’d had it- I’d been pushing her to eat and drink for hours with little result.

With 1.3km to go I asked Sally if she would go ahead and get the car- bring it up towards the finish line and out the heaters on full blast. It was pretty cold and I wanted to bundle Jane into the car as quickly as possible after crossing that line.

And so it happened- 42 hours and 39 minutes after leaving the shores of Boydtown Beach, Jane crossed the finish line for the 6th time. She’d been telling us that this was her last time for the last few days, let’s see what happens next year when entries open….

I drove us all down the mountain, not as fresh and awake as I’d hoped, but still ok to get us back to Jindy. Once we got inside we were all so shattered that showers were about all we could manage, and the thought of going out to the car for another pot noodle filled us with dread.

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The next morning we all attended ultra runner church- the presentations. While the entire event is special, there’s nothing quite like it when Paul stands up and gives a little speech about every single finisher, and yes, while we’ve heard most of the asides there’s still not a dry eye in the room. You wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

After this I had planned to have a sleep but somehow got caught up shopping and drinking. This went long into the night- in fact when I flamed out and went home, Jane stayed until she got kicked out at closing time. Maybe I’ll have to develop that kind of stamina for next year!

IMG_2348

Monday morning breakfast was quite sombre, at least until Roger turned up and started doing jokes. Somebody at the table said ‘Roger, what’s going on in that head of yours?’ and 4 other people at the table simultaneously screamed ‘DON’T ASK!’

Final word goes to Paul Every. As I was leaving breakfast he asked

‘So, will we see an application from you next year Adam?’

‘try and stop me!’

Paul ‘Oh, we can stop you…..’

“OK, PLEASE don’t try and stop me!’

 

The North Face 100 2015 TNF100

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The night before the big race.....

The night before the big race…..

 

Well, I’m not sure what makes me turn up year after year. I know it’s the people, but there’s always the small matter of the trail demons from this race using their sharp teeth to gnaw at my soul. And laughing at me.

If you’ve read the other posts, you’ll know that I was gunning for a sub 14 hour time this year. I won’t keep you in suspense- it didn’t happen, but I got closer than ever. Yes Brian, I now have 5 bronze buckles……

I was unusually well prepared and very zen like at the start, until some bloke walked past and snagged his bladder tube on my gear as he walked past. This pulled off the tube and water went everywhere about 60 seconds before the start. Oh well, it couldn’t get worse…..? Yep, Lise Lafferty walked up and said ‘my bladder is leaking, do you know anyone with a spare?’ Um, they’re starting the 10 second countdown……. ‘Lise you have to run across the start line or you’ll be DQ’d, but come right back and see if anyone can lend you something. My friend Gillian brought all her gear hoping for a run, she should have a spare’

‘What does she look like?’

I survey the thousands of people at the start line and confidently say ‘She’s Scottish’

Apparently Gillian needs a T-Shirt with this on.

….And we’re off! The first few km are on road, and unlike last year everyone is very quiet (maybe because I stated in Wave 4 last year- less serious, more fun!). They’re also a bit faster and show no signs of walking the hills. I hope this does not come back to bite me later, but I know I have a little bit of extra speed so I’m not super concerned. We settled down into a bit of light banter- it didn’t last long as we saw a runner down after the landslide. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was ultra legend Kevin Heaton. He’d torn something important and was obviously in a lot of pain. One thing you must do in an ultra is to offer assistance needed to ensure the safety of those around you. The other thing you should do is get the hell out of the way if others have the situation under control. As the medical director of the UTMB was right there I figured it was time to stop clogging up the trail. He was later taken out by chopper and had scans, an operation and trip home all within a couple of days. He’s a really interesting bloke and won’t be running for a long time but perhaps that will give me a better chance to talk to him if he can’t run. Yes, look for the upside.

At the Golden Stairs I could still hear Adam Darwin and Joe Hedges chatting, but as expected they were getting away from me. I didn’t lose too many places up there, and trotted comfortably into CP1. Race plan said 1:15- 1:24, I got there in 1:22 and grabbed a couple of mandarins, filled my water bottle and got out. Note- when I write target time of 1:15-1:24 I mean that the average time for a sub 14 hour finish was 1:15, and the LAST person to go through that checkpoint and still make sub 14 hours was 1:24.

The next section down Narrowneck is the most pretty part of the course and possibly the best running. I tried to assume a comfortable pace without talking to randoms too much. In every previous year I’ve spent time meeting new people or talking to friends, but this year I had my game face on and probably didn’t speak to more than 5 or 6 randoms. Good job Adam.

The shoes felt great (Hoka Challenger ATRs) and I got to Tarro’s Ladders in pretty good time. There was quite a lot of people here, and lots chose to do the 400m long way around. I chose to have a rest and eat the 2 mandarins I took from CP1, knowing that this was one of the only places I would get rest today. That was my slowest KM of the whole day 17:52 min/km so I was probably stationary for about 5-8 minutes. To put that in perspective- taking Duncans Pass to go around would have taken nearly that long and I got a feed and a rest. Time worth spending. Being in Wave 2 probably would have cut down the time waiting but I think this is the only part of the course that being in a slower wave really impedes your progress- we had a nice, flowing pace across the landslide this year which is the only other place where you can get held up.

Robyn Bruins at Gordon Falls

Robyn Bruins at Gordon Falls

We had a little push across Mt Debert and then down on to the fire trail leading to CP2. I knew that I needed to run as much and as fast as I could along here to eat up some deficit. I wasn’t feeling great but no time to feel sorry for myself, we’d only covered <30km!

In to Dunphys Camp Ground for our second checkpoint at 3:43 race time. My goal was 3:24-3:37 so still no reason to panic, I know I can finish stronger than most people so a quick transition is needed, and don’t get mentally crushed by Iron Pot Ridge!

I filled my bottle, grabbed some watermelon and a couple of snakes then mentally girded my loins for the big climb. It’s actually a series of climbs that seem to get steeper until you hit the big wall of dirt and rock. It’s a delicate balance for me- I’m not good at going up these steep hills, but I am getting better slowly. Just before the race I asked Andy DuBois if I should stay out of heart rate zone 5 and he replied with a very big yes…. so I looked at my watch and saw I was up to 5.4. Bugger, didn’t feel too bad and pushed on. Unfortunately by the time I got to the flattish bit at the top I needed to rest before I could run again….. in retrospect I suspect this was the point at which my race turned.

The out and back along Iron Pot is a great way to see how you’re going against your mates- there will always be a surprise or two in front AND behind. This year I was surprised by Adam Darwin (he should have been further in front) and Tanya Carroll (she has been beating me a lot lately and should not have been behind), but I was able to see that I was doing pretty well, and possibly still in with a chance of sub 14 if nothing went wrong! The descent off Iron Pot is always tricky but I figured it would be easier this year because it had rained recently. Well, the talcum powder dust was a little thicker, and in the last 5 years the trail has become more defined, but I can’t say I flew down there! Crossed a few creeks, handed out a few salt tablets and caught up with Mal, Paul Garske and Bruce Craven on Megalong Rd. As soon as this flattened out I took off the handbrake, clocking a sub 5min/km (OK, it says 5:01 on Strava) and going through the marked 50km point in 6:22 race time. I felt great until the stile to get into the paddock to approach the Six Foot Track checkpoint. Yes, my legs locked up in cramps but I told Kurt Topper to hustle on ahead as we were ‘about 20 minutes off our 14 hour target’.

Richard Bettles at Gordon Falls

Richard Bettles at Gordon Falls

Into CP3 in 5:51 against a target of 5:24-5:40, so I’d lost another 8 minutes against the average time. My goal was slipping away, but I also knew that CP4-5 was likely to be 10-15 minutes faster this year. I need to keep the pressure up to CP5 because anything could happen!

CP3 is the first where you get access to a checkpoint bag, and I guzzled down the 600ml Coke I had stashed in there, oh it was sooo good! In previous years CP3 had been relaxed, but this time it was swap and fill bottles and get the hell out. I knew that I needed to do the next section in about 1:40 to make the average time, but I was already 30 minutes behind so a quick section might restore some confidence.

Unfortunately it was not to be- drinking that Coke all at once gave me some minor stomach problems, and I couldn’t run the bits I needed to. Kurt Topper played it nice and steady and started getting away from me. Up Nellie’s Glen I was pleased that I didn’t have to stop more than once (this has been a problem for me for years) and it was great to see legend Natalie Watson at the top of the stairs, but I couldn’t talk! I just couldn’t put it together running the technical bits afterwards. Luckily there is a bit of road into CP4 and I came in feeling fairly good, but knowing that the big test was about to start.

Arrival at Katoomba Aquatic Centre in 7:36 meant that I was drifting farther from the 7:05-7:21 times I needed but as mentioned before, I felt there might be a chance to make up some time to CP5. If I’d taken the full set of figures provided by Ian Rowe I would have seen that I was heading for a >15 hour finish. Lucky I didn’t!

I didn’t bother having any noodles here as is my habit, I was getting all the nutrition I needed from Perpetuem. Not wanting to make the same mistake again, I stashed the Coke bottle from my bag into my pack to sip on while running. Rob Mattingly was stuck to a chair at CP4, it probably made him miserable to see me get past him here- we both know he’s a much better runner than me, but if it’s any consolation I didn’t take any pleasure out of it either! The next section is a bastard- on the elevation profile it looks relatively flat and perhaps runnable. In reality it’s a constant grind of up and down stairs, closed in single track and mud puddles. It’s very difficult to get any flow, more so for me as I am quite tall. But this was my chance!

Or maybe not. I passed and was passed by quite a few people on this section and just couldn’t make it happen. Recurring cramps were making me over cautious- pretty difficult to fully commit to a step when you don’t know if your leg will get stuck motionless in the air before it hits ground. I’d had a single Panadol tablet (yeah I know) at about the halfway mark to see what would happen, and it did make my legs hurt a tiny bit less, but did not help the cramps at all. For the amount of stress the experiment caused, probably not worth it. I was just begging to hit the road and get to CP5 and a runner said to me ‘will we get to CP5 in day light?’

Chantelle Farrelly at Gordon Falls

Chantelle Farrelly at Gordon Falls

I said no because we had yet to go past Wentworth Falls and up Rocket Point Track and it was close to 5pm. Sunset was officially 5:06pm so we’d probably have to use our head torches before CP5.

We finally hit Rocket Point track and got up to the road, where a marshall was waiting to tell us to put on out hi-vis vests and get out our torches. The marshall was kind enough to help me with this so I was ready at the same time as Michael Hanavan and we trotted off together down to Queen Victoria Hospital.

Last year I had needed my head torch shortly after Gordon Falls on this section so I was deeply impressed to get as far as Queen Vic without needing to turn the torch on! Arrival time of 11:07 race time was still way behind my goal of 10:32-10:53, but wow, what a journey! Only 22km to go, 8.5km of that roughly downhill, but I knew that getting under 4 hours for this section would be tough. Remember according to those stats, the last person to do sub 14 arrived in 10:53. Which means the fastest time I could get would be about 3:10, and I’m not very fast at all. Bugger.

Gordi totally rocking the pink Skirt Sports- Thanks Natalie Watson!

Gordi totally rocking the pink Skirt Sports- Thanks Natalie Watson!

It was here at CP5 that one very odd thing happened. Michael Hanavan had left the CP and I filled my bottle and was about to leave when a marshall called out ‘have you got your fleece?’ I replied that we only had to carry it if it was after 7:30pm as per the rules but he insisted I had to take it. So I went back, got my bag and took it with me. I should point out that it was before 6pm! And the only reason I even had access to a fleece is because I had put one in CP4 bag and one in CP5.

I caught up to Michael and we began the downhill run to Jamison Creek. I was very grateful of the company but there wasn’t much conversation beyond ‘I’m stopping for a wee, I’ll catch up’ and ‘it hurts to pee’ so I’ll leave the rest of that out….. by this stage every single step felt like my quads wanted to burst out of my skin. They were revolting and not in an interesting way. My feet were really good though- the combination of 2Toms lubricant powder, Injinji socks and Hokas was wonderful. I still had bashed up my little toes a bit but that’s mainly because I hadn’t wanted to stop to re do my shoelaces tighter. I might try that heel lock lacing system in future.

Once we hit the hills I knew I had to push on otherwise I’d go over 15 hours, and I didn’t want to waste all my effort. Surprisingly I was able to go up hills ok, at only the slight cost of nausea. I felt bad about leaving Michael as he’s always been so nice but I’d expect him to leave me in the same circumstances. I got to pass two people- correction- one person- the other one slightly lengthened his stride and nearly broke me! Yes I’d caught up to ‘Tall Geoff’ Evison. I didn’t have any energy left for speaking and luckily he had earplugs in so we walked uphill in companionable silence for a while.

Of course I’d been doing maths in my head for hours trying to make sure I wouldn’t miss a major time target, but at one stage I lifted my watch up and was about to make a comment on our pace and Geoff said ‘I don’t want to know’, so the watch went down again. I was going to say that we were good for sub 15 hours but as long as I knew that was good enough. We pushed through the old Sewerage works with Geoff leading and once or twice he had me take point- he wasn’t going to allow me to latch on like a zombie as I do….

Ngaire at CP3

Ngaire at CP3

I was watching my Garmin like a hawk to see how far I could get in 14 hours. The answer turned out to be ‘within 3km of the finish’. Wow. I briefly pushed on ahead of Geoff and a couple of minutes later clipped small rock and went arse over tit. Of course both legs went into spasm and I felt very sorry for myself to get so far without an accident then BAM! Geoff came around the corner and said ‘get up, I’m not leaving you on the ground’ I tried to protest ‘just leave me here, I’ll be fine’ but to his credit he helped me up, bloody knees, blood dripping out of hand and wounded pride. You’re a solid gold legend Geoff Evison!

We walked again for a little bit, me encouraging Geoff to leave me, even while a couple of people snuck past, and then we hit the base of Furber Stairs. Time to suck up the pain and make those legs work again. In the absence of legs that would extend, I opted for full body contact on the stairs. A couple of people got past, but I used my arms to push and wobbled my core to get some upwards action happening. A couple of minutes later I heard Robert Rigg behind me say ‘I did/ didn’t think I’d catch up with you again’. I can’t remember exactly what he said because I was deep in the hurt locker. I’d completely lost the power of speech and the only non physical activity I had going on was counting stairs. There’s 933 stairs here (976 if you count the down stairs as well) and I count them in lots of 100 to keep from going mad. Sorry Rob, I had nothing…….

Not sure if I managed to acknowledge David Brown and Clare Northrop at the top of the stairs, but I spied Geoff who seemed to have slowed down so I caught up and we crossed the line together in 14:45:07. 21 Minutes from the base of Furber seems ok.

That’s a 45 minute PB for me (2013 was 15:28 and 2014 was 16:28) and I’m a very happy man.

Brad Smithers,  Sally Dean at the finish

Brad Smithers, Sally Dean at the finish

So, what could I have done better? Well a sub 14 would have required a 100% perfect race and a bit of divine intervention. I reckon I had about a 98% perfect race, and Divine is unfortunately dead. The fall at ~98km definitely cost me about 5 minutes, and I suspect the cramps are worth 15 minutes. I probably can’t completely get rid of cramps but I suspect that if I train harder they may not be so bad. I felt perfectly well hydrated all day but my wee was a bit darker than normal later in the day. There really wasn’t anything wrong, but I didn’t feel 100%. This is pretty common for me in hard races and I can usually get away with ignoring it. Getting into Wave 2 would potentially gain me a couple of minutes at Tarro’s Ladders. I had pretty bad nausea this year, it’s always present in a long race where you go hard, but this year it was a bit worse than usual. Not enough to make me chunder, but enough to be uncomfortable. Again it’s possible that training harder will mitigate this a bit. Laser hair removal- I decided to take one for theta but didn’t do this early enough and it started to grow back a bit before the race. I may have it done again so I don’t have to worry about chafing in races, but boys be warned- it’s like being stabbed repeatedly in the scrotum with a red hot knife. Yes, I once had a girlfriend who would have enjoyed that. Actually most of my exes would probably enjoy that.
So I’ve still got about 30 minutes of other gains to get under 14 hours, but a big fact has been unveiled- it IS possible!

So in summary
Don’t fall over
Train harder
Get in Wave 2
Train harder
Don’t be soft
Train harder

Yeah, that sounds about right.

Getting my bloody knees seen to- still clutching some mandarins that I had carried for 43km and had fallen on. Thanks for your sacrifice mandis!

Getting my bloody knees seen to- still clutching some mandarins that I had carried for 43km and had fallen on. Thanks for your sacrifice mandis!

I still have to follow up an issue with my lungs. it’s possible that if I get that fixed I’ll be ok. Quick fixes, who knows?

 

What went right? My nutrition was just about perfect. I had bottles of Perp and muesli bars in CP bags along with Coke and Powerade. This meant that the only thing I had to do was fill the Perp bottle with water and (I think) my CP transitions were super quick. Apart from drinking too much Coke at CP3 I don’t think I could improve this.
Feet- also great. probably should have stopped to tighten laces before CP4-5 as certainty of foot placement would help here but I reckon 8-9/10.
Weather- couldn’t have been better. I got hot for a few minutes then the clouds came back- awesome!
Clothing- double singlet, arm warmers, merino gloves, buff, Patagonia shorts, gaiters all went really well.
Shoes- the Hoke Clifton and Challenge ATR’s have a very flimsy inner sole that can shoot out the back when you run. I bought some Selleys Quick Grip Spray Adhesive and sprayed the inner soles before inserting into the shoe. Worked like magic.

Another slightly odd thing- at a couple of the checkpoints I went to where the bags were kept and they couldn’t find my bag. This was because it was already out and on a table for me. I’m not sure if they did this for everybody or even how they knew I was coming in but it was a bit confusing and slightly annoying. It’s obviously aimed at getting people though faster but I got a bit confused. Probably only cost 10-15 seconds but I’m not sure if this was covered in the race briefing- does anyone know what happened with this?

Finally a special thank you to those who made it possible- my long suffering wife who managed to leave the event 5 minutes before I crossed the finish line- I STILL think you’re awesome!

And to super coach Andy DuBois- you really know how to get an old man moving. I’ve gone from about 85km a week of training last year and going backwards (I was an hour slower in 2014 vs 2013) to a much more achievable volume- around 65km a week- just more closely aligned to the race. Yep, nearly 2 hours off last years time. I still think I’ll have to do a lot more but you really proved that race specific training works.This one’s for you- BOOM!

*Thanks to Doug Richardson and Sam Rossington who I think supplied most of these stolen photos.

 

 

North Face 100 Race Plan 2015

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I’m not sure if I’ve done one of these before but it is definitely needed this year, as I have an aggressive target that will be difficult to achieve without a plan. Hell, it will be difficult WITH a plan!

Currently I’d rate my chances at about 20% of making sub 14 hours but I’ll give it my best. I still can’t go up hills like normal people but my confidence has improved recently because  I’ve been hitting a few pace goals and my hill sessions are getting better. The other big thing is that until last year I had never done sub 14 hours for 100km in any race but last year I did it twice and both times as part of a much longer run- at the Sri Chinmoy 24 hour and during Coast to Kosci. So now I know I can do it, I just have to slot in 5500m of vert as well…… um.

Because of course changes, the only year I have reliable data for is last year. In 2014 I had a LOT of problems- I forgot my Ventolin, forgot my sunglasses, missed my start wave, my shoes were too loose (lost 3-4 toenails) and I suffered from cramping for about 70km. So my 16:28 finish wasn’t too bad, but keep in mind when you read the following, that I did have a bad year. And if you read it and think ‘this guy has no chance, we’ll be waiting for him the following morning’ you might be right, but a girl’s gotta dream, right?

Here goes. Note, all of the time figures mentioned here are from the spreadsheet compiled by Ian Rowe from the Noosa Ultra and Triathletes (NUTR’s) linked here. Thanks Ian!

North Face Splits for 14-16 hour finishes

North Face Splits for 14-16 hour finishes

Start 6:30am (wave 3)
The first 4.5km is along the road and is intended to spread everyone out before we head into the bush. This year for the first time the rules say that your result will be based on gun time rather than net time. I’m not sure why this change has been made but it does mean that there will be a lot of insane people elbowing others aside at the start line. For a 14 hour finish the stats say I need to be at CP1 in 1:15. My time last year was 1:25 which means I need to be 1min/km faster, but I’m not going to stress about this because I do tend to pick up a bit when others get tired. The fastest here was 1:08 and slowest 1:24 so as long as I’m a bit faster than last year I’m still in with a chance.

Goal-
Split time 1:15
Race time 1:15
time of day 7:45am

CP1 to CP2
Last year I was 2:33 over this section, but in 2013 (my fastest ever year) this was slightly further into the race and I did 2:41. This year I will need to do 2:08. The spread here is getting much more consistent, times of 2:07- 2:12 predominate.

Goal-
Split time 2:08
Race time 3:24
time of day 9:54am

CP2- CP3
This will be a critical section for me as it includes Ironpot Ridge. Coach Andy DuBois emailed me last year and noted I could do ’20 minutes better’ in this section. This was before he was coaching me. I think he’s right!
The goal here is to get to the Ironpot turnaround in 34 minutes (3:58 race time) for a total time on the section of 2 hours flat. I’ve done 2:27 (2014) and 2:38 (2013), time to put my big girl pants on!

Goal-
Split time 2:00
Race time 5:24
time of day 11:54am

CP3-CP4
This section is only 11km, but if you can’t run, you will suffer terribly time-wise. The stats say you need to do this section in 1:35, my best is 1:49 (both 2014 and 2013). Although this seems like a monumental task, I was actually able to go up Nellie’s Glen without stopping for the first time recently. If I can keep my pace up on the flat, not stop up the stairs and have a gentle jog to the CP I’ve got a good chance of getting this time.

Goal-
Split time 1:35 + 6 minutes at CP3
Race time 7:05
time of day 1:35pm

CP4-CP5
Probably the toughest section of the race, it’s a brutal set of ascent/ descent which never seems to get anywhere. But I’ve been training stairs a lot this year and hope to bring back some of the time I lost last year to cramps. Because of course changes the only year I have stats for is last year when I did 3:52. The spreadsheet say I will need to do 3:16 this year. Gulp. But it IS possible. Sunset is 5:06pm on race day so you most likely will not have to use your head torch to get to Queen Vic hospital. Nice.

Goal-
Split time 3:16 + 10 minutes at CP4
Race time 10:32
time of day 5:00pm

CP5- Finish
Last years time to get to Leura Forest was 2:50, this year I need to make that 2:22. I felt good at CP5 last year but as soon as I left the CP I was unable to run, even downhill. With a bit of luck I can do it this year.
From Leura Forest to finish is 4.7km and the target is 55 minutes. Last year was 1:13 and I was feeling very sorry for myself. A good part of that time is going up the Furber Stairs. Speaking to Tim Lyndon yesterday I found that he was able to go up these in less than 10 minutes, but it takes a normal person 15-25 minutes!

Goal- to Leura Forest
Split time 2:22 + 11 minutes at CP5
Race time 13:05
time of day 7:35pm

Goal-
Split time 55 minutes
Race time 14:00
time of day 8:30pm

Now- the only way I can give myself some breathing space if running behind is to do the checkpoints quickly. I know I can do this- last year CP3 was 2:06, CP5 was under 4 minutes and CP4 was still under average at 9 minutes (even though I stopped to have 2 lots of noodles and couldn’t untangle my headlamp). If I simply stuck to the same times I would be 11 minutes in front of the average 14 hour runner. Now I just need to find another 80 minutes! Let me put it this way- I’m pretty sure I am on track for a PB finish. A half hour under my PB of 15:28 would not be surprising. Getting those extras to go under 14 hours is going to be the fight of my life, but let’s see if I can do it!