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.

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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…..

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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.

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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….

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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.

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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…..

IMG_6974

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.

IMG_6992

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.

IMG_7003

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.

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 4.54.07 pm

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 5.25.21 pm

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!

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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!

Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) 2014 Guest Blog Tanya Carroll

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WARNING – this might be as long and as tedious to read as it was following me online during the run!   However it could be really useful if you suffer from insomnia.

Looking up towards Mont Blanc and the Aiguille du Midi cable car

Looking up towards Mont Blanc and the Aiguille du Midi cable car

Until now my longest ‘race report’ has been a paragraph or so on Facebook, where I would usually claim that “I will never ever ever do <insert race name> again”. Within 2-3 days I would be on the phone trying to book accommodation close to the event for the following year. Such is the addiction of ultra-running.

It was this compulsion to enter more races that led me to the UTMB website towards the end of last year. I was initially surprised to see that I had the 7 qualifying points I needed to enter, thanks to two North Face 100km races and Mount Solitary 45km. Having the points however was only half the battle. There are a lot more runners wanting to do UTMB than there are spaces, so they operate a lottery system. I had heard it is pretty common to miss out multiple times before getting a chance to compete. So I put my name in the hat, thinking that in a couple of years it would be good to do it. Then in January I found out I had fluked it and got in first time. I was pretty terrified as this would be my first 100 mile race, and it is not really known as a beginners course.

Now fast track to Tuesday 26th August 2014. My 13 year old son Joel and I arrived in Chamonix on a train (actually 3 trains) from Paris. It was 10pm and we expected we could get a taxi from the train station, but there were none to be seen. However I had forgotten how small Chamonix town centre is, and it took no more than 5 mins to walk to our accommodation. I knew we were staying near to the finish but I was surprised to see we were only around 50m from the finishing arch. I did splurge a bit on this hotel as back in June it seemed like the only place still available, but as it turns out I needn’t have rushed. There are a lot of places within 5-10 mins walk and my sister was able to find an AirBNB apartment on the main street just a week before the race.

The view from our hotel over the start/finish area

The view from our hotel over the start/finish area

The next morning I joined a group run hosted by Sebastian Chaigneau and Fernanda Maciel . There were around 40 others and we ran for half an hour on some flat trails around Chamonix. I had been quite worried about a hamstring injury that had been niggling me ever since TNF 100 in May. Luckily it felt good, and this short jog helped settle my nerves down a bit. It was great to see Tony Williams who is also coached by Andy DuBois.

My training partner for the day – didn’t push me as hard as David Brown on a Tues night hills session.

My training partner for the day – didn’t push me as hard as David Brown on a Tues night hills session though.

I picked up my race kit and bib later than day. Queues were long and it took about an hour, but it was a good chance to chat to other runners. I saw Andrew Tuckey there and wished him luck, not that he needed it. He ended up having a fantastic race, finishing 6th overall.

I then visited the race expo which is huge, and where I managed to spend around AUD $500 on miscellaneous running gear, despite only really needing to buy an $8 plastic tumbler and $25 waterproof gloves!!  I couldn’t see Hammer or Tailwind products there, but pretty much everything else I could have possibly needed was for sale. I also chatted to Shona Stephenson at the Innov8 stand and she was determined to have a good race this year. Like Andrew she absolutely smashed it, finishing 10th female.

My sister Amy arrived Weds night and the next day the three of us went up the Aiguille du Midi cable car to have a look around. It is one of Chamonix’s main tourist attractions and it is the highest vertical ascent cable car in the world. The view was pretty cool, but I did get a shock when we climbed the stairs to the café on the top terrace. I really felt the effects of the altitude (3,842 metres). I was short of breath and had a headache which lasted until late that night. I had asked a few people whether you needed to do altitude training for UTMB, but they said it wasn’t really necessary. The highest peaks in UTMB are only around 2,500m, but I was nervous nonetheless.

Photo I took from the cable car as we were approaching the top station

Photo from the cable car as we were approaching the top station

The view back down to Chamonix

The view back down to Chamonix. The hills at the top of the picture are where you run in the final stages of UTMB

In the top café I was left to mind our wallets and cameras while Amy and Joel went to get food. As I was waiting Killian Jornet and Emelie Forsberg walked past. Like a true groupie I abandoned all our valuables and chased them down for a photo. They were lovely and asked me about which race I was doing etc. I felt like a bit of a dork asking for a photo but now I have a profile picture that I can keep up forever (sorry kids you won’t get a look in now). I crouched down a bit as they are so cute and little, so I have a hunchback thing going on in the photo.

3 famous trail runners - yeah right!

3 famous trail runners – yeah right!

That night back in the hotel I heard the crowds roar as the winner of the 119km TDS race was approaching through the streets. I bolted down the stairs, and got to see Xavier Thevenard as he crossed the finish line (he also won UTMB in 2013). There are around 7,500 competitors across all five races, so the town is pretty jammed with runners & supporters, and the cheers and commotion was unreal.TDS2

I wanted to get a good nights kip on Thurs night, but I didn’t fall asleep until around midnight, and woke just before 8am. I fussed around all day, packing and unpacking, and depositing my single drop bag across town. I tried to lay down and have a snooze around 2pm, but just couldn’t nod off.


Start to Saint Gervais

0 – 21kms
Fri 5.30pm – 8.53pm

Position out of 2434 starters:
– Le Delevret      1715
– Saint Gervais   1849

The beauty of being so close to the start/finish was that I stayed in my room, went to the toilet a dozen times (you think I’m joking), and then finally went down to the line right on 5pm as the briefing started. They started playing the Conquest of Paradise which is the race theme song, and I really did feel like I could conquer anything (except my nerves). I gave Joel and Amy a hug and kiss goodbye and joined the crowd of runners as we stood waiting for the countdown. I have never got teary in a race before, not even on  finishing, but I found myself feeling very emotional. All the adjectives I could think of to describe the start seem too cliched, but take what you’ve heard and multiple it by ten. Maybe “choice” in a really exaggerated kiwi accent would be the best descriptor.

Joel and I just before it starting pouring down at the start- when did he get so tall

Joel and I just before it starting pouring down at the start- when did he get so tall?

Light drops of rain had been falling, but I hate running in a rain jacket, so I had resisted putting on my waterproof gear. But now five mins before the start it was bucketing down. I didn’t know how cold I would get in the mountains through the middle of the night so I decided I would cover up. Finally the countdown started and we were off. It didn’t take too long to cross the starting mat, and whilst it was fairly congested at the start it was only a few minutes until we were running.

Still from UTMB Video captured by Adam Connor

Still from UTMB Video captured by Michael McGrath

Photo from UTMB FB page, credit Franck Oddoux

Photo from UTMB FB page, credit Franck Oddoux

It seemed like half the males in the field stopped in the first few kilometres for a toilet break. I then rounded a corner to see one female competitor squatting down in front of me, the last remaining sunlight bouncing off her completely exposed bottom. No ducking behind a bush, just right there on the edge of the trail. I wondered if that’s just what you do in European races. The other interesting sight was a guy in a sumo suit. I think it was one of those plastic ones, great for moisture wicking I hear. Fine if you are doing City to Surf or the Bridge Run, but 100 miles in a plastic suit!

I had been told that the only flat part of the UTMB course is the first 8 kms and this is pretty close to the truth. I was running at a steady pace, and was soon in Les Houches where I just grabbed a banana and soup and ate on the move. The crowd support through the towns was very uplifting, especially as the rain was still coming down. I loved high fiving all the kids who lined the streets.

I started the climb up to Le Delevret (the first of nine major ascents throughout the course). I chatted to a runner from the UK who had trekked the whole thing just 10 days before. He thought that this first climb was harder than some of the other longer ones to come, so I prepared myself. It was definitely tough (around 900m ascent in 4.5kms), and I did feel a bit breathless towards the top, but overall I was pleasantly surprised. It was really muddy (for those of you who did Buffalo Stampede think of the first two hills) and my feet were soaked as the rain was pretty heavy at times.

Then came a 6km downhill. I love descents but Andy had wisely told me to look after my quads during the first half of the race, and to run lightly. As a result a lot of people did fly by, but I wasn’t concerned. I came into the Saint Gervais checkpoint pretty close to my expected time, but which was only 37 mins before the cut off. I did think to myself that the cutoffs must be pretty tight as I thought I was running OK. Whilst I knew I was near the back, there were still plenty of people behind me (585 to be precise).

Despite feeling really positive at this point, a couple of key things had already gone wrong. For some reason even though I had trained using Tailwind, it just wasn’t going down that well. It tasted too sweet, and I really didn’t feel like drinking it. At this early stage I wasn’t too worried because I was getting some good calories from real food, particularly from the delicious chicken noodle soup they had at most checkpoints. But I was conscious that it was a long race, and that I would have to be careful if I wanted enough energy to finish this thing. As it turned out, this first bottle of Tailwind was the only one I drank for the whole race.

The best ever Chicken Noodle Soup

The best ever chicken noodle soup

What was more alarming to me was that my iPod had stopped working after only 20 mins of listening to music. “What the <bleep>, <bleep> < bleep>” Oh and another <bleep> for good measure. I had spent months downloading all my favourite songs, sorting and resorting them into numerous playlists. I had a high tempo list when I really wanted to get moving up some of the hard climbs, more relaxed songs if I was cruising along in the middle of the race etc etc. I was also carrying a charger to recharge the iPod on the run, and I had another one in my drop bag – that’s how concerned I was that the battery would run out.

If you’d asked me prior to the run to rank my kit in terms of importance, I would have said my iPod was second only to my headlamp. I guess it must have got water on it during the downpour, despite it being in a ziplock bag. For about a minute I thought about how terrible it was going to be to run for around 40 more hours without music. But there wasn’t much I could do about it, so surprisingly I was able to put it out of my mind pretty quickly.


Saint Gervais to Les Chapieux

21kms – 49kms
Fri 8.53pm to Sat 3.32am

Position out of 2434 starters:
– Les Contamines            1642
– La Balme                       1410 – not sure how this happened or if it’s right?
– Croix du bonhomme      1649
– Les Chapieux                1696

Notre-Dame de la Gorge - Photo from Flickr, credit Nick Ham

Notre-Dame de la Gorge – Photo from Flickr, credit Nick Ham

This section was one of the most memorable of the whole course. It started off very gently and again I felt good and thought that perhaps people had exaggerated how hard this race was (it was a bit early to be thinking this as it turned out). In the early stages there were again lots of people lining the course, ringing bells and calling out our names.

Photos from UTMB FB page, credit Franck Oddoux – as you can see it was a touch wet on Fri night

Photos from UTMB FB page, credit Franck Oddoux – as you can see it was a touch wet on Fri night

rain2Eventually I came to a long steady climb up through a valley, and because it was so dark I couldn’t really see the mountains that surrounded us. What I could make out were hundreds of headtorches in a big zig zag pattern in front of me. They got smaller and smaller the higher up they got. Then if I really squinted I could make out a couple of insy winsy dots up in the sky. I honestly thought that they were so high up that they must be stars, or a plane, maybe a UFO, just please tell me they are not runners. Of course a couple of hours later when I thought I had reached the summit I realised that these were more headlamps still climbing up to the heavens. All up there is just short of 2,000 metres in elevation gain in this section, pretty much all in this one long ascent. For comparison purposes this is three times as much vertical gain as the climb up Mount Solitary, albeit it wasn’t quite as steep.

When I felt like this climb was never going to end (which was often), I turned around and looked back down into the valley. There were hundreds of lights stretched out behind me, and it gave me reassurance that I was probably doing ok if there were people that still looked like they were down in the flattish section of the valley. I didn’t realise it at the time but I now know a lot of those runners would not have made the next cut off. When I looked at the stats post race, already 275 people had dropped from the race by this 49km checkpoint, although it doesn’t separate out who was timed out vs injured etc.

Source unknown

Source unknown

copy Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 11.07.08 pmOverall I only gained 19 places through this section, but was now 1hr 13 mins ahead of the cut off when I arrived at Les Chapieux. I did find it slow getting through the checkpoints, and was here for 21 mins according to the results sheet. In the North Face 100 I am usually great at getting myself in and out of checkpoints quickly (2-5 mins, with about 10mins at CP4), but I was incredibly slow throughout this whole race. I put this down to three things:

  • A lot of the checkpoints are quite large, and the stuff you want can be really spread out – the sweet food is usually at completely different tables from the savoury for example. They were crowded and it often took a bit of time to get to the front of the lines, or to get through to the other side to exit. They definitely don’t look like they appear in the elite runners videos where there is just a handful of people standing around.
  • There didn’t seem to be many toilets (or maybe I was looking in the wrong place) so the queues were long – perhaps you were meant to go on the trail like the lady at the start!
  • There was a really relaxed, party atmosphere. A lot of runners would sit down at the many long trestle tables, and it looked like a huge dinner party (one where some guests nodded off from time to time, their head nearly in their soup). I am sure it would be completely different if I was further up the field, but no-one around me looked rushed or stressed about cut-offs. I never sat down to eat, but I do think I was overly relaxed with a sense that I was part of one giant adventure rather than a race.

    Source unknown

    Source unknown


Les Chapieux to Courmayeur

49kms – 77kms
Sat 3.53am to 10.57am

Position out of 2434 starters:
– Col de la Seigne                1837
– Lac Combal                       1851
– Arete du Mont-Favre         1847
– Col Checrouit                    1840
– Courmayeur                      1839

There were some stunning sections of running through this stage. It did get pretty cold through the night, and I put on my mid layer top, rain jacket and buff. I am usually in a singlet top and skirt even in 4 degree temperatures in the Blue Mountains, so it was chilly. The mandatory gear is similar to the North Face 100 in Sydney, and I certainly wouldn’t be trying to skimp on any items, given how ferocious the weather can turn over there.

Arete du Mont-Favre - Everyone seemed to be getting photos here so I swapped cameras with a fellow runner

Arete du Mont-Favre – Everyone seemed to be getting photos here so I swapped cameras with a fellow runner

Arete2It was gorgeous as the sun came up, and quite surreal to be running in areas where there was nothing but snow capped mountains as far as the eye could see. The Italian section of UTMB was definitely my favourite part, but every stage of the race was quite different. I don’t think you could ever get bored of the views and overall time passed quickly (even 45 hours of it).

Courmayer in Italy is one of the main checkpoints (77km), and it is where you have access to the one and only drop bag you are allowed for the whole race. If you have particular food or drink requirements that are not catered for at the checkpoints, then you need to carry enough on you to last at least 15-20 hours. You can have a support crew, although it seemed to me like the majority of people didn’t. I think there are only 5 checkpoints where you can have assistance, and they are strict about having only one person with you in the designated area, anyone else has to wait outside this section. Having said this, your crew could watch you run past at other viewpoints along the course, they just can’t help you.

The view from the trail overlooking the Italian town of Courmayer

Amy and Joel had caught the supporters bus from Chamonix to Courmayer, passing through the Mont Blanc tunnel to get there. It was great to see them, and they gave me a big hug even though I was really muddy and smelly. Amy said she thought I seemed a bit flat, but I felt OK.

At this checkpoint I dumped the six or so zip-loc bags of Tailwind I had been carrying, given I had only drunk one bottle, keeping one bag with me just in case. I also mixed up a bottle of Perpetuem to see if I would have more joy drinking that. If I thought I was slow at previous checkpoints, I took it to a new level here at 31 mins!. This was partly due to me just chatting, something you don’t really get to do much on the run because there are relatively few English speaking people. I wished I had learned a few more French phrases so I could have intiated conversations a bit more, as I felt rude just launching into English.

I changed over my headlamp batteries and my shoes and socks which were still saturated from the rain. I did notice that they have a few checkpoints where Petzl provide free batteries (possibly just AA and AAA?) but I had the Ayup headlamp which has its own unique ones. One thing I’d add in my drop bag in future is a toothbrush as my teeth felt sticky from Coke and sweet stuff.

I had arrived in Courmayer just over an hour before the cut off, but after my extended stay I left with just a 32 minute buffer. A few runners said that the gap between the cut offs gets more generous towards the end of the race. I had in my head that if I had one hour spare getting into Courmayeur, that I should be able to double that over the next 90kms, and therefore hopefully finish in 44 hours or less. All good bro, no worries.


Courmayeur to Champex-Lac

77kms – 122kms
Sat 11.28am to Sun 12.19am

Position out of 2434 starters:
– Refuge Bertone                1680
– Refuge Bonatti                  1646
– Arnuva                              1650
– Grand Col Ferret               1679
– La Fouly                            1695
– Champex- Lac                   1595

Amy and Joel kept me company for the first stretch out of Courmayeur. They left as I started the steep climb up to Refuge Bertone which has around 800m of ascent over 5kms. I think we would have resembled the Zombies from Michael Jackson’s Thriller video, in a type of death march up the hills. I just didn’t have the energy to fast hike like I had been doing in training. Maybe this was because I wasn’t taking Tailwind or Perpetuem, and I didn’t have a gel for the whole race, but I’m really not sure. On the upside I was enjoying eating real food, felt mentally strong and I had no leg issues, so I wasn’t too bothered by this lack of oomph.

I was slowly ticking off the checkpoints, and kept thinking only about the next milestone. There were quite a few places where there were race officials at the top of a mountain pass etc where they would scan your bib, even if there wasn’t food or drink. These mini checkpoints also helped me break down the race mentally, so I was always reaching my next target within 2-3 hours at the most.

One of the mini checkpoints where they scanned your bib, and I guess you could shelter in emergencies

One of the mini checkpoints where they scan your bib, and they could provide medical assistance if required

I had laminated a card of motivational quotes or reminders that I could look at if I hit a really low point. But I never had a bad patch, and so only needed to think of one thing. If I did pull out, I could not have avoided the finishing chute because of the proximity to our hotel. I would have had to walk next to it, not through it, along with others members of the public. In contrast I thought about how amazing the crowd support was when I saw people finishing the TDS race. I envisaged myself running through the streets and across the line with Catherine Poletti the Race Director standing there as I have seen on so many of the UTMB videos. Pretty simple, but that was enough to perk me up every time.

I had also laminated my rough split times (for a 44 hour finish) and the checkpoint cut offs. But by around the 100km mark I had lost this card which was to become a bit problematic. At each checkpoint there were signs saying how many kms to the next stop, and the positive and negative elevation change. By asking volunteers I could also find out when the next time barrier (cut off) was, although I occasionally got given the wrong time. The biggest problem was that I didn’t know how long an average person would take to run each section, so couldn’t judge if the cut offs were going to be tough to beat, or if they were easy.

I eventually got to Grand Col Ferret, the highest point in the race and started the never-ending descent (never-ending = around 20kms in this instance). This is the cross over point into Switzerland. My Garmin had run out of battery so I was guessing how many kms I had travelled.

After running for a long time and expecting to get to the next checkpoint at any moment, I started to hear the cow bells that the crowds typically ring as runners approach. The bells were getting louder and louder, but after a while we started running away from the sound. Convinced we had somehow missed a turn, a few of us stopped. Some runners came up behind and said we were on the right track but a British guy was quite anxious and asked if I could please ring the organisers as his phone was dead. So I rung the number I had pre-programmed into my phone. When a woman answered I said that we may be off course and then went to explain the issue. The only problem was that because I’d lost my splits card, I didn’t even know the name of the checkpoint I was looking for, yet alone being able to describe where I was (on some trail on some mountain). I asked the other runner to speak to them but he went all shy on me and wouldn’t talk. I apologised to the woman on the phone, and hung up. I decided we weren’t lost (this was correct) and carried on when I couldn’t convince him. As it turned out the cow bells we heard were actually from cows, with bells on – who knew!

Source unknown

Source unknown

As time went on, and day became night again, I was getting more and more tired. I wasn’t unhappy, just struggling to stay awake. By 11pm (around 40 hours since getting out of bed on Fri morn), the sleep monsters were in full pursuit, and I now noticed quite a few people having naps on the side of the trail. Luckily I didn’t have any hallucinations, unlike one runner who was seeing Star Wars Stormtroopers.  Once we came down out of the mountains into a village called Praz de Fort I began to eye up places to rest. I resisted lying down where people could see me, as I didn’t want to be prodded by passing runners to see if I was OK. I was also worried some random weirdo might see me on the way home from a bar, so I started to watch out for safer locations to nap.

I won’t bore you with all the crazy options I identified (trust me there were quite a number), but I did arrive at a short list of two. The first one was a ute parked in a garage. I thought if I laid down in the ute, I would be hidden from view. What finally stopped me was the thought that the car alarm may sound and wake the owners who would have been in the house above. Less than 5 minutes later, and after trying to sleep while walking (quite tricky as it turns out), I found the perfect spot. A kids cubby house in someones front yard. Tiptoeing across their lawn I couldn’t wait to lay down and drift off into fairy land (or ultra runner land as the case may be). Imagine how devastated I was to see they had used it to store kids bikes, so there was nowhere left to lie down inside. THAT’S IT! I had to have a power nap at the next checkpoint no matter what. Plus I didn’t want to fall off the edge of some cliff when we got back into the mountains.

After what felt like 5 hours but was probably 90 minutes, I got to Champex Lac. I immediately asked where you could rest. I was ushered into a tent behind the main food marquee where they had around 25 thin mats laying side by side. There was only one spot left and I made my way there and lay down. As I did, I looked around and saw that I was the only female there. For a split second I wondered if there was a separate womens tent, but was too tired to check that out so lay down anyway. Only 8% of the UTMB field was female so I guess it wasn’t that surprising.

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 11.06.07 pm

Source unknown

Source unknown

There were no volunteers waking people, so I set my phone alarm to give myself 15 mins rest. I didn’t fall asleep because there was a band playing in the main marquee next door, but it was still brilliant. It was like I had pushed a reset button and I got up feeling a hundred times more alert. However the whole process was time consuming. I had to take my shoes on and off (they didn’t want to co-operate), find my phone (which had shifted compartments in my backpack all by itself), set the alarm (challenging when sleep deprived and I thought I hadn’t changed the time zone), and by the time I went to the bathroom and got food I was there 42 long minutes.

Despite my rest, my overall position improved by 244 places between Courmayeur and Champex-Lac. I am sure that this was largely because of people who pulled out or were timed out, rather than any burst of speed on my behalf. I had arrived into the Checkpoint 1hr 11 mins before the cut off, but left with only a 29 min buffer. This was becoming par for the course.


Champex-Lac to Vallorcine

122kms to 149kms
Sun 1.01am to 9.24am

Position out of 2434 starters:
– La Giete       1483
– Trient           1471
– Catogne      1462
– Vallorcine    1452

The energy boost I felt as a result of having a rest was soon to be replaced with a fear that I had completely stuffed things up. As I left Champex Lac at 1am, I knew I had 6 hours to get to Trient before the 7am cut off. The problem was a volunteer had just told me that the average time for this section was around 5hrs 40 mins, plus I needed time in the next checkpoint to get food and go to the bathroom etc. I set about trying to make up some time, and was at least buoyed by knowing I had ticked off 6 major climbs so far and around 7,000 metres of positive ascent.

Given how close it was going to be, you would again think that people around me would be looking concerned and/or moving quickly to make up time, but still they looked so chilled. I even saw a couple of people pull out their emergency blankets and lay down half way up a climb for a sleep. I don’t see how they could have made the next cut off, but I guess they were feeling like I had been earlier.

I passed a few people through these sections who were having stomach problems. One poor runner was on his hands and knees dry retching. I stopped to assist as did others, but he waved us on. I also saw a guy who was completely bent over to the left. Not just a bit, closer to 90 degrees (only slightly exaggerated). I had read about ultra runners getting this leaning problem just recently, but thought it was the writer just having a laugh, but no sir-ee, this was the real deal. Wish I had taken a picture but this may have been a bit mean.

I started to overtake a few more people. I was hiking the uphills but was pretty consistent at running the flats and downhills. As a general comment the downhills were way more technical and slow going than I thought they would be. Even when I was running every bit I could, sometimes the pace was still only around 10 -12 mins per km. Overall I gained 124 spots in the 17kms into Trient and arrived at 5.36am, about an hour under the forecasted time and 1hr 24 mins before the cut off.

So I had dodged a bullet, was feeling great, legs were still strong and I had made up lots of time. So what do I go and do……decide to have another rest because the last one was so good. With hindsight this was ridiculous. There was no reason for me not to keep going. There was only 29kms left and everything was going well. I didn’t feel that tired anymore so it was indulgent to stop. It was like I was trying to use up every available minute that I had. Not exactly smart “racing” strategy, but that’s what I did.

At the Trient checkpoint the sleeping area was inside a hall and they had volunteers who told you where to lay down and then wrote on a clipboard when you wanted to wake up. I said I wanted to be woken at 6.00am (20 mins rest) but they thought I said ten minutes to six, so I was woken at 5.50am. I think I fully fell asleep in that time. When I got up and saw the time I lay back down for another ten mins and am pretty sure I fell asleep again. Finally I put my shoes on and off I headed. I couldn’t be bothered walking the extra 50 metres to the food tent so left without topping up on solid food. I ran down a small hill before I realised I had left my poles next to where I was sleeping so that was a bugger as I had to trudge back to get them. This reminded me of Buffalo Stampede where volunteers twice had to chase after me to give me back my poles!

The second to last climb to Catogne and down to Vallorcine was fairly uneventful but it was getting pretty hot, and I hate the heat. We really did have all types of weather conditions throughout this race, although we were obviously lucky compared to some years where the course has changed or being cut short due to severe storms.

copy 22256987I made up another 19 places from Trient to Vallorcine and came into this Swiss village knowing I had less than 20kms and just one major climb to go. The most memorable thing about this checkpoint was the portaloos which had sawdust in them, and a little trowel rather than flushing water. Funny what you remember (or not).

Amy and Joel were originally going to meet me at Vallorcine but Joel didn’t want to get out of bed at the stupidly early time of 8.30am (you’ve got to love teenagers) and so they didn’t make it. I wasn’t concerned about that as I wanted to keep on moving anyway.


Vallorcine to Chamonix (finish)

149kms to 168kms
Sun 9.37am to 2.43pm

Position out of 2434 starters:
– Tete aux vents               1456
– La Flegere                     1505
– Chamonix (finish)           1427

Near the top of the last big climb. Source unknown.

Looking back at where we had climbed up from

I stopped to look back at where we had climbed up from.

After leaving Vallorcine I ran along a track which ran parallel to a major road for around 5kms. Then it turns into a very sharp climb (I think they saved the steepest to last), around 800 metres in 3kms or so. It consists of a series of fairly short switchbacks and you have a great view back into the valley. I came across quite a large number of people doing it as a leisurely hike. I was particularly impressed by one couple who were carrying a 2 year old in a backpack and a baby in a sling up this huge mountain. We were in full sun and I’d been moving for 40 hours so it was definitely getting tougher. After around 30 -40 switchbacks (I was counting to begin with but then gave up with a huff), I finally reached the rocky summit. We travelled along on a flatter section for a short while before it started to gently decline. However it was so rocky that we had to walk and I couldn’t get any momentum at all.

Source unknown

Source unknown

We then came across some volunteers who had a tent set up on a summit, and they scanned our bibs. It was 12.19pm and for some reason I thought that this was the last checkpoint and that I now had 8kms of downhill to go. I reasoned that I might be able to do this in the next 70 mins, and just scrape in under 44hours.

before Flegere

Tete aux vents mini checkpoint

Coming towards Tete aux vents

So off I trotted for the next few kms which was still really slow going because of the technical nature of the track. After an hour I was then horrified to see another checkpoint. What the hell!!! Ok maybe this is just a midway stop and there is only 4kms or so to go? Just as I was processing this I got a text from my lovely friend Emma Brown telling me I was doing great with only 8kms to go. NOOOOOO!! there really WAS still 8kms to go! For the whole race I had been very confident that I was going to finish it, and now at 1.23pm I had just over 2 hours to get into Chamonix before the cut off. Yes this should be achievable, but it definitely added a bit of pressure that I hadn’t felt (but maybe should have) for the previous 160.7kms. Apparently 4 people were timed out at this final checkpoint and it was shown on the live video feed – how devastating would that be!

So with that, I was off. I tend to run with my arms sticking out and Emma and Dominic (another running buddy) often tease me about elbowing people out of the way. I didn’t obviously do this, but I did think of their jibes as I screamed off down the mountain as fast as I could. I was lucky as my legs (particularly my quads) still felt fantastic and I was able to pass 70+ people coming down the hill. I had covered around 100,000 metres of positive ascent (including treadmill sessions) in my training, and I felt like this paid off. I laughed when I looked at my time for this section after the race, and realised I was only ten mins slower than Shona, and as quick as some of the females in the top 20. Pity I didn’t get that sense of urgency a little earlier in the race.

Once you come off the trails there is a short section on the road before you get down into the town. Amy and Joel met me on one of the final bends with around 1.5kms to go. We were all so excited and they ran alongside me until right near the end. At one point I had a quick walk as Amy and Joel were running quite quickly and I think I got a bit carried away. The last part of the course winds around the centre of the town which seems designed to get you in front of as many people as possible. It reminded me of the crowds you see at the Tour de France, with so many people cheering, waving flags and slapping your hand. People are shouting out your name and it is hard not to feel like a rock star, even being at the back of the pack.

Finally I was on the home stretch and it was fantastic to be running under that arch and to see the race director standing there – 45 hours, 11 minutes and 24 seconds after I had left. I didn’t get emotional like I did at the start, but that is not to say it wasn’t every bit as incredible as I thought it would be. Joel rang my Mum in NZ despite it being 12.30am their time. She said she could see finishers on the Live Feed so we worked out where to stand and waved to her on camera.

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 11.20.03 pmFor anyone who is even remotely considering doing this race I would say go for it. It was pure enjoyment from start to finish. With the benefit of hindsight, I do wish I didn’t muck around so much at the checkpoints, and think I could have also pushed a bit more, particularly in the second half of the course. However who knows if I had done that maybe I would have hit the wall, so I know I have to be happy with what I did achieve. It has definitely made me want another go at it though! (Ssshhhh don’t tell my family).

A couple of interesting stats. As mentioned earlier Shona was the 10th woman home in just over 30 hours. The next 30 females came in under 40 hours, and the remaining 74 finishers were all above 40 hours, with an overall DNF rate of 43%. If I was to finish exactly midway through the field of female runners, I would need to improve my time by 2.5hrs.

I got back to Australia just over a week after the race, to find out that my seven year old daughter had arranged for me to speak to her class about my run. When I arrived in her classroom she stood up and said “Good morning 2J, today my news is my Mum”. She beamed as she said how proud she was of me. She walked around the class carrying my pack to show how heavy it was, and interjected numerous times with all the bits of information she knew about the run. And in those moments I knew that it really had been worth it, and that it is an experience that I will never forget.


Thank you (yes this report will end soon I promise)

I know I haven’t won an Oscar or cured cancer, but I did want to thank a few people. I have been completely blown away by all the support and well wishes I received before, during and after this event. I am so grateful to be part of this running community and to have so many friends and acquaintenances who have helped me in so many ways. I know I haven’t listed everyone here, but I really appreciate what you have done for me.

With regards to coaching I was fortunate to have Andy DuBois develop my program and I was able to train with and tap into the immense knowledge of Joe Ward (aka Joey Joe Joe Junior Shabadoo, my Yoda), Matty Abel (so wish I could be as speedy as you) and Adam Connor. Adam might be embarrassed at having his name listed with these other runners/coaches but he has helped so many people over the years in setting up training runs, providing advice and generally being an all round fantastic bloke.

Thank you Tayebeh who I have never met in person but who was always happy to provide advice having successfully completed UTMB in 2013.

Big hugs and kisses to Emma, Dominic, Roger and Hailey for letting me crash their Oxfam team training runs, and listening to my endless dribble about UTMB. The leadup to this event would have been a lot more boring otherwise. Scott, I love the way you connect to nature and take such pleasure from your running. David Brown, what can I say. Tues night hills sessions would have been very quiet if it wasn’t for you. You have an amazingly positive outlook on life, and it really rubs off on so many people.

Thank you to my lovely sister Amy who flew to France to keep an eye on Joel whilst I ran, and holidayed with us afterwards. They argued like a brother and sister (even ringing my Mum in NZ in the middle of the night – I will be in such trouble for writing that), but Joel was still in one piece at the end! Thank you!

Amy & Joel on our post race holiday

Amy & Joel on our post race holiday

Also thanks to Dave, and my Mum who flew to Australia to look after the urchins I left behind, and to Tash, Lucy and Michele who cared for them during numerous training runs and whilst I was away. I owe you guys lots of reciprocal babysitting time!

Finally to my gorgeous cherubs – thank you for letting me chase my dreams. I love you xxx

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Great North Walk 100 Miler GNW100s 2014

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I know it sounds stupid to most people but I wasn’t worried about running 175km, I was worried about the sleep monsters.

I CAN RUN FOREVER*

*as long as I keep eating, drinking and moving forward there’s no problem. When I’ve helped out people like Joe Ward, Kirrily Dear and Jane Trumper I’ve typically taken the night shift and I’m quite happy run/walking through the bush at night and telling silly stories. These are the things that great adventures are built on. But some people get an extra buzz when the sun comes up and a new day starts. Not me, I get sleepy. So I had to consider the prime directive-

FINISH THE RACE

After the disaster of last year I had to take a long look at strategy and give myself the best chance of a finish. One of the reasons I do these long races is because you never know what is going to happen- a finish is never guaranteed. I am comfortable with a DNF, but I was pretty motivated to not collect another one this year. This year I have big plans. Yes kids, that means C2K. As far as I can tell, there are a couple of official requirements and a couple of unofficial ones. Officially you need to do 180km on road or a 100 mile trail race. Now I’ve done both this year. Unofficially you need to have crewed and have completed the GNW100 miler. Tick!

Normally I run with a head full of caffeine and breeze through the race. The major problem with doing this is my vocal filter (which isn’t very good to start) falls off completely. This means I say some fairly outrageous things but luckily I can usually get forgiveness from my friends! This strategy wasn’t going to work for this race. Even a 30 hour finish would mean kissing the post at midday- 6 or so hours after daybreak. I needed to be very conservative, assume I was going to just make the cut off at 6pm and try to make sure my caffeine intake didn’t spike too early or I was going to be spazzy with tiredness too early.

I do think that my subconscious was trying to destroy my plans though. by the week before the race I had not organised-

1. Transport to a hotel near the start
2. Getting to Warners for the pre race meal
3. Accommodation on Friday night
4. Transport to the start on Saturday morning

Australia’s toughest trail race? So, let’s see what we can do to make this a little bit more difficult….. how about we do it with no crew and have your pacer pull out with injury 3 days before the race? Now that’s a proper challenge!

I was gutted for my pacer as her injury has proven to be tough to shake, it was a little disconcerting when she dropped of a charging cable to hear her knee grinding as she moved it. Recover well!

I really wasn’t concerned about doing the race without crew, and the lack of a pacer isn’t as bad as it sounds. Yes it’s great if you don’t know the way, and you kind of need someone around in case you totally lose your shit, but I knew I could either pick up a pacer whose runner had pulled out or simply run with another runner for the last few sections. I know the way fairly well. Or so I thought…….

Massive thanks to Rob Mattingly who offered to share his room at Pippi’s. Luckily this was very close to the start. Unluckily it was Friday night and there were several bands playing. That’s ok, I don’t need sleep. Oh wait, yes I bloody do!

A Note from my coach. He expressed it a little differently......

A Note from my coach. He expressed it a little differently……

I also carried with me a note from my coach Andy DuBois. he said- ‘Believe a finish is possible until it is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that it isnt – ie you have missed a cutoff or have been told not to continue  – if neither of those things happen then keep putting one foot in front of the other’. Wise words.

We woke at 4:10am, ate and dressed for a big day out. I slipped on my new Hoka One One Mafate Speeds (review coming soon) and we ventured off into the night. Brand new shoes for a 108 mile run? Yes, I’ve done 2 or 3x 100km runs in new Hokas and never regretted it. Michael Delgarno from Northside Runners didn’t even bat an eyelid at this stupidity. Thanks!

David, Marty & Adam at the start

David, Marty & Adam at the start

It’s amazing to be around the start. We collected our t shirts, got our wristbands and were weighed in, and waited for Dave Byrnes to do the race briefing at 5:30am. It was a very different feeling for me this year- last year we had a huge group but this year we were missing Rocco Smit, Adam Darwin and Jennie Sharland- Riggs. Although Jen would be with many of us during the race doing support, and getting to hang around for a while speaking to my mates and running heroes before the race is amazing.

At 6am I didn’t hear Dave give the go signal (as usual) but suddenly everyone started moving forward and we were off…..

Start to CP1 Watagan State Forest (28.6km)
The first few km are on the road and we were all very careful to go easy, and I drifted along chatting to Kurt Topper and Damon Roberts, both of whom I had met through the Unofficial TNF training group. I had drunk 600ml of sports drink before the start and had 2x 750ml bottles on the front of my pack containing electrolyte. By the time we got to Heaton Gap service station at about 15km I didn’t need to fill up but I went and had a pee, this being the last real toilet for some time…..

As I was crossing the road Martyn Dawson caught up, and the last I saw of him until the end was his bum disappearing up the monstrous climb.

It was right here that I was reminded of a couple of things-
1. Having a massage before the race is absolutely necessary, and I had absolutely not done it. Having run the 240km Larapinta last month and had 3 races in 4 weeks this month, I REALLY needed a massage. Time had conspired against me and it didn’t happen, so my legs started to complain on the first big climb. Bugger.

2. I really do have something wrong with my lungs/ heart/ body/ whatever. I was running comfortably until that first big climb but I lost about 35 places in 800m. I was gasping for air, sweating bullets and needed to stop constantly. It was really obviously a problem, and something I’m looking forward to working out. Why on earth do I enter races with so much vertical ascent?

As we came close to the rainforest section I tried to get a group of us together because of the difficult navigation. We did go a little bit wrong however Billy Bridle managed to show us the correct way!

I came into CP1 a bit behind David Brown but honestly the competition here was in my head, not with other runners. I had planned to go easy on the caffeine for as long s possible but I had a cup of Coke there, grabbed a bottle of gel and a pack of dried bananas and took off.

Time: 4:51
Time in CP: 12 minutes
Position: 138

This was dangerous, because average time for a 36 hour finisher was 4:55, meaning I was dicing with the cutoffs and it was only checkpoint 1!

Kurt & Adam at CP1

Kurt & Adam at CP1

Annabel Hepworth before Golden Compass award

Annabel Hepworth before Golden Compass award

Kirrily Dear at CP1

CP1-CP2 Congewai Public School (24km, total 52km)
Luckily Kurt Topper came with me and we spent a very pleasant couple of hours chatting. He’s a lovely bloke, quiet and considerate. Did I just hear you say he’s the complete opposite of me? Harsh but fair. I pulled my dried bananas out of my pocket and suddenly realised why these aren’t sold in supermarkets any more. They look like poo. It’s pretty much impossible to make them look like anything else except dried turds. But yummy turds, and great ultra food!

This stage is significant because it looks fairly flat in profile. But that’s a damn lie. Although it does have a few km of fairly pleasant groomed road as you come into the checkpoint. Except that you arrive at that point in the middle of the day and there isn’t any shade over much of the road. Coming into Congewai was a very different beast to last year- there was a bit of a celebratory atmosphere rather than the last rites of the previous year. No bodies on the ground, very few people needing medical attention and loads of smiling vollies.

Another cup of Coke, and Jennie was there to help me, as well as Zoe Howard and Jill Saker. Thanks ladies! I also ate a can of dolmades, the Greek rice wrapped in vine leaves. This worked well last year, and I’m pleased to say the same this year. It’s very difficult to get a product with a decent amount of protein in a non refrigerated drop bag but this seems to work nicely.

Time: 3:31
Time in CP: 24 minutes
Position: 124

A long checkpoint because I ate and fixed a blister, could have been much faster. A 36 hour finisher would do this in about 3:36- I wasn’t making up much time!

 

Joe Ward at CP2. he would go on to make 12th overall and 10th male!

Joe Ward at CP2. he would go on to make 12th overall and 10th male!

 

Kieron Blackmore at CP2. Another cracking run by a lovely bloke

Kieron Blackmore at CP2. Another cracking run by a lovely bloke

CP2 to CP3 (the Basin Campground (29km, total 82km)
Kurt came with me and we battled up the communications tower climb and used the downhills after that for the occasional trot. We crossed the farm with the little stream as the sun was fading and climbed up to the first unmanned water stop where a few people were having a well deserved top up. The fresh water was delicious! We got out our headlamps and at almost exactly 6pm switched them on. I have a new headlamp and I’d forgotten to program the output and burn time, so I was very worried that it would burn out too quickly on the factory settings. oh well, at least I had a spare battery. And also a spare torch. And spare batteries for the torch…… in the end it lasted until almost exactly 4am, so 10 hours burn time and very bright is really very good!

Shortly afterwards we had a couple of guys come back towards us complaining that they had gone the wrong way. After arguing with them for a while I accepted that they were right so we headed back and found a turn off that we had missed. Then there was a tree across the trail causing a bit of a back up, but great conditions for a bit of running after. I noticed Kurt falling further and further behind and he finally admitted that an old war injury was playing up. I was a bit rude to him in the hope it wasn’t serious and he’d snap out of it, but it wasn’t to be. So I continued by myself which isn’t so bad because the last few km of this section you have people coming back out to head over the hill for the next CP. I got to see a few people who were in front of me but not Martyn, so he must have been flying!

I sat down in the CP and the lovely vollies brought me several cups of soup and some Coke. I dumped some of the food I’d been carrying since the start and hadn’t eaten and picked up a gel flask and a Coke to take away. I picked up my battery pack and cables and started charging. When you charge the Garmin 910xt on the run it keeps recording but does not display any stats. Charging it to 100% just before CP4 gave me enough juice to record the entire 35 hour journey. Sweet.

Time: 5:43
Time in CP: 11 minutes
Position: 107

Made up some time here, a 36 hour finisher would be 6:24. Also this is the only checkpoint I did without waiting for anyone. Seemed slow to me, but 11 minutes is ok!

Brad and Martyn

Brad and Martyn

CP3- CP4 Yarramalong Public School (24km, total 103km)
There’s a massive climb out of the Basin and I didn’t really know the way so I was determined that I should have someone with me to share the navigation. Well, hopefully tell me where to go, in a nice way. So I dragged a lovely bloke called Pat along and we managed to have our first disagreement at the top of the hill. Something gave me the powerful urge to make my mark on the trail, so a few minutes later I came out of the bush pulling my pants up only to surprise one of the international runners, a Cuban lady called Nahila Hernandez who is doing the 5 continents challenge. This race is the 4th of the year with only Israel to go in 5 weeks. She was understandably a bit reluctant to shake my hand but I did assure her that the other runners were ‘just down this way. Yes, into the creepy dark bushland….’

We caught up with Pat and after abut half an hour of her following us we started up a conversation. She’s obviously a very tough woman, having completed Badwater in 58 degree heat last year, but when we asked her what the hardest challenge of the 5 continents was, she didn’t hesitate ‘this one!’

There’s about 10km of road into CP4 and yeah, I thought it would never end. But we eventually got to CP4 which is the end of the race for the 100km runners. I had 2 sausage sandwiches (they’d run out of soup) another cup of Coke and grabbed some stuff from my drop bag. I’d made a deal while on the way into the CP that we would leave together, but we’d lost the Cuban runner, she was having nasty foot trouble.

Time: 4:23
Time in CP: 25 minutes
Position: 115

Actually lost a couple of positions here because I spent too long in the CP. It was a bit of a disaster because I lost Pat for a while in the CP and when I found him he still had lots to do. Not his fault but I should have been more on top of things. 36 hour finish time for this section is 4:30.

 

CP4 to CP5 ( Somersby, 29km, total 132km)
Pat and I left Yarramalong and headed up Bumble Hill Rd towards the GNW track head. We were quickly caught up by Sarah Highfield and her pacer. They were going at a fairly quick (walking) pace and I advised Pat that we should try to stick with them because we were about to hit the infamous Dead Horse Creek section and it’s navigation challenges. This turned out to be a great idea because her pacer had the notes out and was reading and understanding them, unlike us. We managed to contribute a little bit by pointing the right way a couple of times, but my power of speech wasn’t all that great. Thanks for getting us through that section guys! We surged past before 40 Acre Farm, but they decided to run when we got out to the road and we didn’t see them for the rest of the race. I should mention that I’d pretty much given up running before CP3. Why? Because I could! I’d gone from being behind the time needed to finish before the cut, to well in front simply by having a fast walk. I really needed to finish this race so the choice was to take it easy and deal with the sleep monsters, or speed up, risk bonking and still deal with the sleep monsters. Under almost any other circumstances I’d probably be trying to catch up to Martyn Dawson, but not this time…….

Doing some sums, I knew that last year I had arrived at Somersby at 9am, and I had 9 hours to do the last 42km, which was ok, but not a lot of time. I was pretty keen to beat that to give us a bit of a buffer- late in the race, the key target is to make the last unmanned water stop by 3pm. Whilst it is unmanned for most of the race, there is someone there who will DNF you after 3pm on Sunday. If you make it by 3pm, you have 3 hours to do the last 12km.

I’d noticed that Pat was taking a while in the checkpoints and so we had a little chat ‘you know mate, those checkpoints aren’t an oasis of food and rest, they are a fierce dragon that sucks time out of your race and destroys your chances of finishing’. I’m sure he silently called me names after that little speech but we agreed that the next checkpoint would be only 10 minutes. Poor guy was starting to suffer too, this probably did not come at a good time. We arrived at 7:34am and my family was there! It was lovely to see them but in all of the photos I look really cranky because I was trying to concentrate on my tasks to get ready for the next section. It’s only 18km to the next CP, so I dropped a heap of useless crap and re packed my bag. We got out at 7:48am and now had over an hour buffer on last year! Yay!

Time: 5:54
Time in CP: 14
Position: 49

This section would take a 36 hour finisher apx 6:50 so we were comfortably ahead. not competing anymore with the 100km runners made us jump many places too. Could have shaved a bit off this CP time, but not much.

CP5 to CP6 ( Mooney Mooney 18km, total 150km)
Not much to tell here, I assured Pat that I still wanted to finish with him, despite me being a bit of a prick about time in checkpoints. the terrain and navigation isn’t particularly challenging which is nice. There’s some rolling fire trail before we walk/ run beside Mooney Mooney Creek and we caught up to David Brown and his pacer Bruce Craven. I think it’s a good thing having someone with you who is capable of thought, so we spent a bit of time with them. Bruce is taller than me and called out a low hanging branch. However I had lost the ability to bend down so I smacked my head right into it and landed flat on my arse. It was a pretty big smack and there was some blood spilled, but overall pretty funny. Except when I tried to stand up again, which was quite a challenge. Around this time David was having a bit of a low point and we got slightly ahead. I wasn’t expecting this, David has been training the house down and had been in front for something like 28 hours, but I figured if he wanted the position he’d come back and take it!

My wife Sarah was at Mooney Mooney and Adam Darwin and Joe Hedges turned up too! Adam is one of the 31 tough people who finished last year and Joe was his pacer. It was lovely to see them but quite unexpected. I felt very relieved to get into CP6 as I knew we absolutely had it in the bag. We arrived at 11:01am, meaning that we had 4 hours to get to the unmanned water stop, only 12.7km away.

Time: 3:13
Time in CP: 6 minutes
Position: 47

Average 36 hour time is 3:36 so we made up a bit. Luckily this CP is small, boring and there is only one stage to the end, which equals a fast transition time. They should all be like this!

Martyn at CP6

Martyn at CP6

Rob, Ross and Martyn

Rob, Ross and Martyn

CP6 to Finish (Patonga 25.5km, total 175km)
There’s no getting around it- the last section is beautiful, but brutal in so many ways. We rolled on for the first few km, then I think Pat decided that our progress was not fast enough, and he put on a spurt. I wasn’t 100% happy, but I realised that our progress had slowed considerably due to the terrain. It was taking ages to cover each km, and it wasn’t because we could smell the finish. In fact we couldn’t even smell Woy Woy rubbish tip because that was still 10km away……

We finally reached the unmanned water stop at 1:40pm- nearly 90 minutes to spare! A few swigs of cold water was just bliss as it was very exposed out on the rocks, and Pat sat down for a couple of minutes to rest his knees. I wasn’t concerned because I knew that unless I had an accident I was going to get my long desired finish.

The last 12km seemed to go on forever. Pat asked me what the sequence was, and because I know the area really well I could name all of the landmarks. But he kept saying them back to me in a much more abbreviated form- leaving bits out in the hope that the end would come sooner! I had a lot of sympathy for that attitude but yeah, it doesn’t work like that.

In the last 2 hours we probably lost 4 places but I was happy just chugging along. On one hand if I’d been by myself I might have gone faster, but I was so grateful to have someone to share the experience with, even if neither of us could talk much. I think having a fresh pacer would help a lot, but remember the prime directive- finish!

We got up to the final road crossing and there was Sarah, Alex (my son), Adam Darwin and Joe Hedges again. Alex started to run towards me like he was going to jump into my arms and I screamed out ‘don’t touch me!’ I was terrified that I would fall over and be unable to get up! I’d also spent quite a while reminding myself not to take any outside assistance- i.e.. don’t hand your wife any rubbish etc if it’s outside a checkpoint.

We crossed the road, walked the single track, and even had a bit of a trot down the fire trail towards the car park at Warrah Trig point. I said to Pat we should finish together but as it was about 34:40 into the race we shouldn’t try for sub 35 as it seemed too difficult. He replied that his knees were giving him grief and I should go down the final descent without him. I wasn’t altogether cool with this but I thought I should do what he asked in case he needed to experience the moment by himself.

So I bombed down the vicious final descent (how often do you hear that at the end of a 175km race report?) and arrived at the beach only seconds after another runner. I had no intention of beating him but I realised I could actually go under 35 hours if I hustled. I ran up to the car park and an old man in a beat up car said ‘the trail is along the beach’ and I replied ‘mate have a look at the gate I just came through, there is a GNW symbol on it- the correct path is through the car park’ so he just shut up and drove off……

Back on to the beach at the next GNW sign and Alex ran towards me for the big finish and I was running quite well- feeling fresh and in control (might not have looked that way) I blew a kiss to the finish post just before the next runner and gratefully accepted the finishers medal from Dave Byrne. total time 34:57:51

Pat came in about 3 minutes later and promptly disappeared. All I can say is thanks for your company for the last 100km my friend!

Time: 5:50
Time in CP: N/A
Position: 41

6:07 for a 36 hour finisher, so we just beat that!

Rob & Marty- age group podium!

Rob & Marty- age group podium!

This photo shows me finishing in front of the guy who was pronounced equal 49th, but he appears in the results above me. Complain? Not me!

This photo shows me finishing in front of the guy who was pronounced equal 49th, but he appears in the results above me. Complain? Not me!

Adam & Alex finishing

Adam & Alex finishing

 

attempting to bend down and accept the medal

attempting to bend down and accept the medal

I reckon there’s easily 90 minutes to be taken off this time, perhaps a couple of hours if I concentrate. Sub 30 hours? That would assume I’m doing it again….. I think I’ll wait for the swelling to go down first thanks!

Now I have 2 qualifiers for Coast to Kosci, but I could not have done any of this without-
1. My wife. Thank you Sarah for letting me get in the stupid hours of training
2. My coach. Andy DuBois, for helping me to race smart
3. Northside Runners. For providing the shoes, sponsorship, and more reason not to DNF!
3. My friends. I wouldn’t run if it wasn’t for you

Great stories- Rumour is that Martyn Dawson had to flag down a cyclist and borrow a knife so he could cut a hole in his shoe to relive the pressure from his blisters. He still managed to finish equal third in his age group with Rob Mattingly. Amazing effort guys! Nahila the Cuban runner got out of CP4 barely 2 minutes before the cutoff and still finished the race- 2 minutes before the 36 hour cut!

 

Thanks to Jill Saker, Jen Sharland- Riggs and Sarah Connor for the photos, and thanks to Joe Ward and MBRC for the video!

UPDATE 18.9.14- get the raw results, and everybody’s progress times.
Final statistics for the miler-
91 Entrants
57 finishers
4 DNS
30 DNF

More stats for me-
Runner number 31
Starting weight 74.1kg
Weight at CP2 73.2kg
Weight at CP4 73.1kg
Weight at CP6 72.9kg