Cradle Mountain Run 2017- Guest Post Leah K

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Cradle Mountain Run, Tasmania 2017

 

I’ve always wanted to do this run for a few years now, I mean c’mon – Australia’s Oldest Ultra Marathon, who wouldn’t wanna do it! Especially since it’s a one day traverse over the infamous Overland Track (who has time to hike it anyway?!)

After being sad that CMR was cancelled in 2016 due to the devastating bush fires that were raging in the North Western parts of Tasmania, I was even more motivated to secure a spot for the 2017 race. Fingers ready on a Sunday night in October, I scored a spot!

Fast forward to February 4th 2017, I was lining up at the crack of dawn (6am) in a small asphalt area outside our Waldheim Cabins in the freezing cold. While Sydney was getting blasted with a 39 degree heat wave, it was about 10 degrees in the Cradle Mountain National Park – PERFECT!

Two roll calls from the Race Directors and a quiet count down, 60 of us runners ventured out over the iconic chicken wired duckboard and off into the untouched Tasmanian wilderness.

And what a wilderness!!! It is a beautiful, prehistoric and really, really untouched wilderness! Photos and descriptions really can’t portray how amazing it is to wind your way past ancient mountains, bluffs, and flora that seems to go on forever.

The only real climb in this course is Marions Lookout. Once you’re up there, the VIEW!

Anyway, long story short, it is a visually spectacular run!

Something incredibly deceiving about this run is that it has a lot of beautiful images depicting

runners cruising along the duckboards. I think these photos I took sum it up perfectly (but it did get much worse than the pic on the right!!!):

This run is a battle. A long, 78km battle along tree roots, rocks, tree roots, rocks, more tree roots, wait is that duckboard?! NOPE! Just more rocks, and an awful lot of time being spent in ankle deep mud. OK, I lie, there’s about 12km of duckboard, but the rest of the 66km route is tree roots, rocks and mud. It’s slow going and by the end of it, the soles of my feet felt like they went through a meat mincer.

Once you’re out of the open plains and into the forests (there’s a lot of that!) you can’t get rhythm either. As soon as you get some sort of pace going, you’re forced to stop and delicately pick your way across super narrow but very broken down duckboard / tree roots / rocks / mud. It’s all ankle breaking stuff!

That said, I’d do it again in a heartbeat!

Here’s the break down of my run:

Start to Pelion Hut: Cruising along duckboard, trying not to freeze, until about 20km in and took a massive stack, majorly bruising my left knee and spraining the front of my left ankle. Nice work Leah. Frog Flats is horrendously technical as was Pine Forest Moor. Slowly slowly!

Pelion Hut – Kia Ora Hut – Du Cane Hut: Able to get some pace along here and enjoy the views. The historical huts are very cool to look at and seem to pop up out of nowhere.

Du Cane Hut – Narcissus: Back to technical trail dancing with my new friend Deb Nicholl for about an hour before she scooted off into the distance. It seems never ending and exhausting. Narcissus popped out of nowhere with the time keepers yelling “Welcome To Narcissus!!!” They had a small amount of fruit and coke (blessed coke!!) This was the only thing that resembled half and aid station and I was so thankful for it! Did I mention this was a fully self supported run? Surprise; it is!

Narcissus – Watersmeet: Good lord the rocks and roots!!!!!!! Turns out, running around the edge of Lake St Clair and into Cynthia Bay is verrrrrrrrrry long and soul destroying. It’s around 16 – 17km to Watersmeet (where all the rivers join up into one giant rapid) and took me around 3 hours to do this final section. The trail kept disappearing too, making it hard to find the clear trail path again. I really had to concentrate once the trail disintegrated and ensure I scanned the entire area to find the trail start back up again usually around 20 – 50 metres ahead.

Watersmeet – Cynthia Bay: Approaching Watersmeet was salvation! I knew I was about 2km away from the finish line. Time to get a wiggle on! Too bad that this still took me around 30 min to quietly shuffle my way to the end…… But the finish line popped up out of nowhere! I saw two timekeepers, Deb, another finisher who offered me a soft drink and no one else around. Nice! While it seemed like an uninspiring finish, it was really cool to have a quiet finish line – it kept it inline with the casual vibe of the run.
The great news was, I finished in a time that allowed me to bus it to the Derwent Bridge Hotel, shower and still have 5 minutes to spare to order dinner and a pint before the kitchen closed – winner!

The Next Day: Breakfast time was a time to huddle in and receive our participation awards and our Huon Pine Coaster (very cool). I may have to run it another 5 times to get a set of 6 coasters.

During the presentations, I think the winner of CMR (Damian Smith) summed this race up really nicely when he accepted his award: “The dickheads seemed to have not discovered this race yet, and I hope it stays that way”. Yup, me too.

 

Overall, pretty happy with my splits:

 

For anyone wanting to do it, a few things to note:

•This thing sells out quicker than 6FT Track, so have your fingers ready at rego time to be one of the 60 lucky runners to score an entry.

•I highly recommend adding in the accommodation and bus tickets during registration, this was an excellent way to meet other scallywags heading to Cradle Mountain for this run.

•Immediately call Derwent Bridge Hotel (or other nearby accommodation) to secure your bed for the finish line. Otherwise you’ll be stuck paying $300-$400 / night when these all sell out.

•For the race itself, I highly recommend only taking two 500ml flasks to fill up at the creeks and rivers during the run. There’s so much water available on course that you don’t need to be worried about carrying too much. I used ‘Aquaprove’ to sanitise the water. It works in 5 min and I had no stomach trouble. (Thanks Dom Gallagher!!!)

•It’s actually 78km, not 82km as stated on the website. It’s also 2400 metres of elevation gain.

•The cut off points: Pelion Hut is at approximately 32km, and Narcissus is at 61.3km.

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

Western States Endurance Run 100 Miles 2016 Richard Bettles (Guest Post)

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25th June 2016

Western States 100miles

Note to self: “Do more down hill training next time you do Western States, your quads will thank you” Well at least I can say there could be a next time.

Here is my WSER 100 race report

A 100mile race report starts well before gun goes off. The training and support of people around me deserves a report of its own but so this isn’t war and peace, let’s get in to the business end. There’s a whole lot to think about and months of admin to get to the start line. I wish it was easy enough to rock up to the line and start running when the gun goes off but in the months’ prior the following has been outlined with last minute tweaks and decisions

– Race nutrition strategy
– Crew Strategy
– Pacing Strategy
– Gear Strategy
– Hydration Strategy
– Race week plan
– Race plan

Sorting the admin is more stressful than the race itself
The alarm went off at 3am and I slipped straight into my race gear neatly folded on to a chair. Months of gear choice anguish sat in a small pile on the chair. I had decided on:
–  soft flasks
–  a lightweight race pack (as opposed to hand helds),
–  Hoka Speedgoats (shoes)
– NRG singlet
– North face shorts
– Arm sleeves with gel pouch
– Injinji inner sock
– Features outer sock
– Trucker cap
– Buff (to start)
– Squirrel Nut Butter (Californian for Lubricant!)
– Sunscreen

My crew would have ready
– Ice scarfs
– Nike Kiger shoes to change into
– change socks
– Half buff (for headtorch)
– Ay-up head torch w/ spare battery
– Petzl Tikka heard torch
– Petzl mini (back up) head torch
– Sunglasses
– Hand helds with hard bottles

 

Louise, Marc Phil and I piled into the Chevvy and drove the short distance from Tahoe City to Squaw Valley at 3.30am. I felt pretty calm as we pulled up to the Olympic village. It’s funny how there are far more nerves at the beginning of a half marathon or marathon where it’s on for young and old right from the start. In a 100miler it’s all about preserving yourself in the first 50k’s or so and I feel less angst.

A Breakfast of coffee and pastries is served and athletes are milling around putting on race numbers, tweaking their kit and wishing each other well. We find Andrew Tuckey who is very relaxed, has a couple of handhelds, no crew and a strategy of relying on food at aid stations! I’m thinking he’s a little too relaxed but then he did come 9th last year so maybe the rest of us have just over thought?

Suddenly these 5 minutes to go before the start and we make our way to the line. There’s no point in jostling for a position as we’ll all run the first 50meters for the cameras and then start walking up a steep ski slope!

The starting gun goes off at exactly 5am. It’s the same hunting rifle that’s been used for the last 43 years and is one of many traditions the race adheres to.

I pinch myself at the realisation I’m actually racing in western States then buckle in for a 24hr ride For the first 8k’s we weave our way uphill. I know when it’s the top as I had listened to the “Ginger Runner” podcast from Australia and knew he would be there to greet us at the top wearing Lederhosen and playing alpine horn.  Runners run/walked, taking it easy settling into a powerhike. I was intent on running to feel as we hit snow level and slipped and slid our way through patches of snow and icy streams. I found myself running with a number of the favoured female athletes and chatted to a number who had ambitions of top 10.

bettles

We were in the high country and the trail was simply beautiful.  When the sun came up there was this sudden warmth and the morning chill dissipated. It was a warmth that was to get a lot warmer. We ran 11k of single track to Lyon ridge, and  was startled by a huge deer jumping across the track. I felt incredible at this stage and echoed the comments from runners as we chatted “I wish we could feel like this for the rest of the race” but we just had to enjoy the good times on the fresh legs for as long as we could. Just be in the moment and enjoy the trail; pinch and remind yourself that you’re on the WS course – it could be a once in a lifetime experience

At Lyon ridge aid station I grabbed some watermelon, re stocked gels and  as checked out of the aid station by  two lovely volunteers in bikinis. “Enjoy the beauty”, one said. I was still lucid enough to reply, “Ladies, I just did” = giggles and cheers – this race is going to be fun!

The trail was nice and runnable to Redstar ridge where we enjoyed another speedy pitstop thanks to the expert volunteers. Let’s talk about the aid stations and the volunteers for a minute – They make the race the most fantastic experience. Each aid station has a captain and between the captains there’s 300+ years for experience. Seeing as there’s only 360 competitors and some 1700 volunteers, the competitors are made to feel incredibly special. Their brief is simply to look after the runners, whatever it takes. A typical experience at one of the 23 aid stations “Runner number 94 approaching”
“Hey Richard, I’m Jess, I’m here to help you” “and I’m Bob, can I fill your water bottles” water or sports drink” “Food is over here, we have chips, water melon, gels, candy etc etc, what would you like” “Can I take any trash?” “You’re going great; 5.5miles to next aid station, 2.8 climbing and 2.3 down hill”
“Do you want ice- in your hat, your arm sleeves or in your water bottles”

You want an ice “carwash” ?(iced water sponge bath – trust me, it’s fantastic).  Sometimes you would have the attention of 5 or 6 volunteers

bettles3

More of the same to Redstar – enjoying the trail and feeling the heat starting to rise.

2 mile climb and some nice down hill to Duncan Canyon – trying not to over do it on the quads but, hey, I felt good so just opened up the legs and enjoyed the feeling of being fresh and race fit.

We ran through wild forest that was obliterated by the 2008 wildfires .  There was little cover and the sound of woodpeckers could be heard tapping in to the hollow trunks. We really were in wilderness and it was stunning.

It was all downhill to Duncan Creek and then 7k pretty steep trail to Robinsons flat. At 47.5k (29.7mile) I was looking forward to seeing my crew for the first time. Now the crew have, on 24hr pace, just over 6 hrs to get here which is easier said than done. The time  flies pretty quickly for them as they have to get on the road after the start and travel 3.5 hrs on freeway, almost all the way to Auburn (the end of the race) before taking a trail road back up to Robinsons flat. My crew had the additional hurdle of dropping Andrew Tuckeys car off in Auburn……………and I was ahead of schedule. Louise had planned the crew strategy  and with the help of Phil and Marc had a military style plan to follow. So I arrived at Robinsons flat………..whilst Phil was parking the car Louise and Marc were running in at the same time. It was a bit of a mad dash but they were true professionals and handled the pressure – it was great to see them. We refilled with Tailwind and I was off – no time to hang around and chat.

(Incidentally Robinsons flat was like a circus with many 100’s of crew and volunteers – incredible and moving).

I was still running with some of the elite females, mainly Sally Mcrae who I had been reading about in pre race reviews. She was striving for her 3rd consecutive top 10 finish and an automatic entry to the following year. She would get extra cheers running through aid stations which made the energy even more electric.

Steady descent down to Millers Defeat, a blend of single track and dusty firetrail. Continuing down to Dusty Corner – I was working out a system for aid stations.  I would be a sign a certain distance out and then a volunteer who would radio my number through: “Number 94 coming through”. I’m thinking: ‘Got the softflasks ready, now what do I want? Do I need a gel? I need to eat something. Remember to drink…’ (you would be surprised how easy it is to forget to drink at aid stations and just fill your flasks!)
‘…Ice in the arm sleeves, Ice in the hat. Refresh my ice scarf (rolled up special fabric bandana tied together with one of Louise’s hair bands) with new ice, ice wash down’ I’m asked: “Do you want ice water down your back?” “You bet ya I do” – OMG, it was heaven…………………Did I say it was heating up – would have been at least 35degC by now

More dusty trail, up and down through a few canyons and creeks. I’m starting to  be aware of the heat but the “cover me in ice” at the aid stations strategy is working well. My hat dripped with cold water but the ice melted quickly. My arm sleeves stuffed with ice, initially my fingers go numb with cold and I get “the burn” but 5 minutes later cold water is delightful. Ice slips from my scarf down my top and into my shorts – BLISS.

We have done 69k, I’m still running and feeling pretty good

Now it’s time to descend into the first big Canyon on the way to Devils Thumb. The down reminds me of UTMB i.e. 4 miles (6k) of steep down hill. Ouch, the toes are taking a battering in the HOKA Speedgoats and I decide that a change of shoes is definitely on the cards at Michigan Bluff. Every step I’m banging my toes against the rigid toebox of the shoe. My 2 big toe nails are going to be black and swollen. I can feel the pressure building under the toenails. That was a 550m descent.

Thinking there was no aid station until the top of the ascent out of the canyon I conserve my fluids only to be greeted at the bottom by another friendly bunch of volunteers and a very well stocked aid station! I grabbed a can of Ginger Ale, more ice and straight into 550m ascent. I had been keeping my place and yo-yo running with a number of runners I would see throughout the day. I pass them, they pass me and so-forth. Incidentally Sally Macrae had got her A-Game on and had left me after 60k’s. I did however pass Magdelena Boulet (Ranked #1 female and last years winner) and offer her some assistance. She was not in a good way and her race looked over. She wished me well in the race and I left her to pull out at the next aid station.

bettles4

I was enjoying the uphill, more than the down. I can just grind out the uphill with the knowledge I typically go slightly faster than similar competitors. One guy did however charge through and I realised there was still work to do in strength conditioning for future races – how can he go that fast?
36 switchbacks later I was at Devils Thumb, an energetic aid station with bubbly helpful volunteers and some pumping music.

From Devils Thumb it’s 8k of quad busting downhill to Eldorado Canyon. I was starting to cramp and my toes were killing me. For the first time a negative thought came in. If I’m cramping at 76k’s how and I going to do another 84? Do I need to re assess my goals just to finish? Just run through it was the answer; I’ve done it before. Don’t stop, just take the pain. My stomach was also starting to shut down and I knew I needed to get a gel inside me. When I get to this point, it’s a 5 minute build up to prepare for the gel. Open packet, get water ready, squeeze a bit out and consume with water. Gag, try not to vomit and repeat until consumed.
The downhill went on for an eternity, every step slightly torturous. El Dorado aid station was a blessing, the end of the descent but I didn’t feel too good. It had to be 40+ degrees. I ate some water melon then a half can of Ginger Ale. One of the volunteers noticed I was going to burp “He’s going to burp” came the call. I then proceeded to vomit like an 18 yr old who’s just had his first 10 beer session – Gels, Ginger Ale, Banana, Berry Shot Bloks, it was all there………..and now I’d cleared the system I felt a million $$’s. Excellent, press the reset button and go again – I grabbed a can of Ginger Ale, a handful of Watermelon, a quick gel and I was ready for the biggest climb of the day in the  hottest temperature of the day, to Michigan’s Bluff.

It’s important to note, I had been taking 2 x salt tablets at least once an hour and dipping fruit in salt at aid stations – The salt goes straight in to the system and for me is my antidote against cramp.

If I thought the climb to Devils thumb went on forever, the climb to Michigan’s Bluff went for ever and a day. OMG, it refused to end but the reward was triumphant. Here I will see my crew and they will have been here for hours preparing. I was about to experience a Formula 1 Pit stop.

Louise & Phil were  there to greet me and tell me where they were set up (the crew area is always beyond the aid station).  Went through the normal aid station ritual and then I got to my crew. Marc changing shoe and sock on one of my feet, Phil on the other. My big toes were throbbing and swollen. The nails were already going black and the skin was stretched tight and bright red with the pressure. I winced as the pitcrew changed my tyres but this was no time to complain. I was asking a lot of these brave men to go near my feet! Louise was taking care of the top half of by body with ice, rub down and fresh sunscreen. New socks, running shoes, ice scarf, massage, rest in chair. Filled up with coconut water in one flask. Some words of encouragement and I’m out of there. I’m well ahead of 24hr pace and been running for 11h48mins and 90k.

The next section to Bath Rd and Foresthill starts on a dirt trail before descending in to Volcano Canyon and ascending to Bath rd where I will meet my pacer John. I was running on my own again. I hit some single track that turned into firetrail, all very runnable. In a world of my own I kept descending, ticking off the k’s one by one. What happened next was a pivotal point of the whole race. From the trees above the firetrail a woman’s voice called out “you’re going the wrong way, the trail is up here” Somehow I had missed a marker and was off the course. And then she was gone so I bush bashed my way up to what looked like a single track and continued along it moving away and upwards from the firetrail. I didn’t see that woman again but had she not have caught site of me I would have kept running on that trail and heaven knows where I would have ended up. I dread to think. “Ok, that was a lucky break. Time to recalibrate, remain alert and concentrate” I thought. I hit the dusty trail, descended into and ascended out of the canyon which was beautiful (and freaking hot!).

At Bath Rd 1.5hrs later crew member Marc and Pacer John were there to greet me and run  into Forest Hill. This is one of the only parts of the course crew are allowed to run with their runner. They said I was doing well and ahead of 24 hr pace and I thought to ask what position I was in?………65th came the reply. ….65th??? I thought I would be in the top half of the field but I had no idea I was in the top 20%. This gave me a real boost of confidence and I found energy to charge the hill and up the pace to Forest Hill. “Ok, it’s on – let’s do this thing”.

Forest Hill is on a main Rd before you enter back on to the trail and consequently there’s 100’s of spectators and crews who clap and cheer every runner as if they were their own. I had a cheer squad of Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oy, Oy, Oy – it was amazing and I felt strong. My crew were there ready for another Ferrari pitstop. My hat came off, replaced by head band and Head Torch – it was about to get dark.

This is where Pacer John Zerbe, 3 x silver buckle and 3 x pacer came into his own and took control of the strategy – I just now had to run, eat, drink and not fall over – John would do the thinking for me.

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John had all the splits in his head and had calculated how much time we had to do each section. We had 10 hours and some change to run 60k’s. I had run the first 100k in 13hrs. John advised we could run for 4hrs and powerhike for 6 and make Silver Buckle cut off easily. Now I was thinking top 50………..but only briefly! As we started running again, I took check of the situation and reminded myself of my race goal which was sub 24hrs and every minute less a bonus. Now is not the time to blow up, cramp up, bonk or fall over. Stick to plan but go confidently and assertively.

We began the descent into the American River Canyon, the infamous California Street. This 25k section of the race is one of the most important and deceiving sections of the course. While it is, indeed, true that it is “all downhill,” it is the uphill sections along the way that make this the crux of the race.

On the way to Dardanelles (Cal 1) aid station I popped 400mg of Caffeine as tiredness was starting to kick in. We were passed by a few runners and their pacers and despite feeling ok I was amazed at how strong these runners looked. I was content with running the flat and power hiking any gradient. These 2 runners came up behind us and tailed for a few 100m’s before we let them through. 10 minutes later we arrived at the aid station. The normal fanfare, not so much ice as the temperature was dropping but this time we got extra encouragement to run strong through the next section “Lance Armstrong is just in front of you guys………Go get him!” Lance must have been the last runner to pass us and turns out he was pacing Eric Byrne the Baseballer.

Looks like the race was back on again!

John advised he had us planned at 1hr 5 min for the last section and we were 1h3min. He had us at 50 min to do the next section……………The caffeine tablets kicked in and I also kicked, with a really strong few k’s. If John had me at 50, we were going to do it in 40 and put 10 minutes in the bank.

We hit a short exposed climb and powered up it. John would just tuck in behind me. If I ran he ran, if I powerhiked he powerhiked. We shared some good conversation, although I did draw the line at discussing Brexit. It just wasn’t the right time or place and I needed to stay calm! But for the most part we were in the zone, only speaking when necessary. Cresting this hill, we ran 2.6k’s of relatively flat terrain before beginning “the rollers,” a series of 15 short climbs that I was told would kick you in the teeth if you’re not ready for them. If you’re not too brain dead, you can count these rollers and when we got to the “red roller” (so named because the soil there is red), we ran one more before we hit the Elevator Shaft. The Elevator Shaft is a .3-mile steep descent on rugged trail that can drain the quads out of just about anyone.

The next section is a bit of a blur. It got dark as we ascended Six Minute Hill, we passed a couple of runners (unfortunately not Lance) and I was feeling a bit rough. John would tell me we’re on track with some time in the bank. I was now confident we were going to make it.

We descended to Cal aid station where I thought a quick vomit would help with the nausea. I stuck my fingers down my throat and had some good reaches but alas no diced carrots. John kept an eye on me and just let me get on with it – I admired his easy attitude and felt he had me under control. He’d seen it all before and this was just what happens in a 100miler. So we just moved on and started the 8k section along the river to Rucky Chucky, just grinding it out. No one pulls out after Rucky Chucky, so I had been told. This was a pivotal aid station to get to. As we neared Rucky, we were in pitch black – I had chosen to use my Petzal Tikka XP head torch. It’s powerful with reactive light but I wasn’t sure the battery would last the night. My other option, the Ay-Up would light up a runway with better battery life but the torch itself was much heavier. I hoped I had made a sensible choice!

We passed another female elite, Nicole Kalegoropolous the US 100mile record holder who looked to be struggling with cramp.

As we neared Rucky Chucky, it was lit up like a football ground and we could feel the energy. I was looking forward to seeing my crew. “Runner # 94, Richard approaching” announced our arrival. Marc was there and I got a hug and a kiss from Louise – it was really great to see them. By now my stomach had pretty much shut down and I could only get liquids and soft fruit inside me. Ginger Ale had become my life force! It was 10pm and I had been running for 17hrs. Phil was taking photos and offering encouragement…………and there was Lance – we had caught him. Everyone was telling me there’s Lance Armstrong, “you have to get him” – I sort of felt a bit sorry for him!

Rucky Chucky is the famous river crossing .  Depending on the level of the water they put you in a raft or let you wade across. This year we were wading through chest high river. There are 10 or so Marshalls in wetsuits hanging on to cables and light sticks on the river floor highlighting holes or rocks to step over. After 125k’s it’s difficult to negotiate holes, rocks and moving water – every step I was worrying about cramping. It was pretty damn cold too! We put on life jackets and took good instruction to hang on to the cable and follow the calls of the marshals.

Across the other side I could hear my crew and random volunteers calling out my name “Go Richard, you can do it”

A number of runners seemed to have come together at Rucky Chucky – this is game time and the busiest hour for the finish line is 23 – 24hrs. All these runners were now running/walking/powerhiking/stumbling, just putting one foot in front of the other to get in. We’re all in pain and gritting it out.

We went straight into a 3.5k climb, Lance was just in front and it was now time to take him. We strode past, wished him and Eric G’day and never saw him again.

Less than a marathon to go

John had asked me how many times I had peed during the race and I had only gone to the toilet once. John was slightly alarmed as I had been drinking gallons and when you stop peeing it can lead to Hyponatremia, where the body stops being able to release liquid, i.e. you stop sweating, peeing and get a build up (sometimes fatal) of Potassium/Magnesium in the body. I sweat a lot and often don’t pee in races so I wasn’t too worried………….until about now when I realised I wasn’t sweating and I still didn’t need a pee. I upped the pace a little to see if I could start sweating and there was just the slightest hint of moisture. I checked my wrists weren’t swollen. They were not which was a good sign. I wondered how long it took to get Hyponatremia and whether I could just get to the end of the race and jump straight into a medical tent. There was no way I was going to mention “my condition” to anyone in case they pulled me from the race. I had Summit Fever!! Was I really going to run another 30k with a potentially fatal condition? Simple answer was yes………….there was no way I was stopping!

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The next 10k’s were fairly gruelling – across creeks, grinding short ascents. We passed a small memorial, (created in memory of a woman who was attacked and killed by a mountain lion here back in 1994 on a training run) and arrive at Auburn Lakes Trail (Mile 85 or 136k). I am stuffed and feel nauseous. I shoved my fingers down my throat again but can’t bring anything up. I have now stopped drinking purposely so as not to compound “My condition”. I filled up one soft flask with Ginger Ale to sip occasionally. This would be by fuel source and my hydration to the end. John was great and just let me do what I needed to do – he seemed to have a knack of not being overly attentive but his calm nature gave me confidence all was ok. We just had a job to do and we were getting it done.

The 7.5k stretch to Browns Bar is very runnable and on another day we would have skipped across it. Now every small stone was a hurdle to trip over and every tree root could bring on a cramp. My head lamp was weakening and John ran behind me to give me more light.

We reached Browns Bar. We were passing some runners and others were passing us – often we would pass and then get repassed by the same runners. It just depended on who felt good when. In my head I thought I was a net 5 runners down from Rucky Chucky – it didn’t matter. It was the time that counted and I just needed to get to the finish in under 24hrs. It was here I really knew I had this in the bag. We could powerhike in from here and still have time to spare. If I wasn’t running for a few hundred meters, I was powerwalking with purpose. I took a moment to stretch my cramping quad. This was a bad idea as the stretching action caused my calf to go into full cramp. I was going to have to tough this one out and just run through the pain. I had a mantra going on, over and over in my head “Pain is temporary, failure is forever”

Next stop Highway 49 and the last time I’ll see my crew before the home stretch. The California Highway Patrol guide us across, it’s 2:30am and the local bar has just been kicked out. Apparently in years gone by drunken young lads have hidden in the bushes to scare runners but not today thankfully. It’s mile 93.5 miles (149k) and I feel like the Death March is coming on. The crew is there to greet me and like true professionals have the full crew kit laid out, ready to give their runner whatever he needs…………..what I need at this point is to keep moving and finish! I acknowledge and thank my crew but don’t stop. Only 2.5hrs to do 11k’s but I’m hurting.

We head straight into another 1.5k climb that leads to the Cool Meadow. After 150k of dusty firetrail, mountain single-track, wild forest and canyons,  the Meadow is exactly that.  A beautiful grassy pasture. I made a point of gathering my thoughts, forgetting the pain and putting myself into a positive space “How lucky am I to be able to experience this” I stood tall and regained my form “let’s enjoy these final 10k’s”

Pacer John told me he too had done the death march through the Meadows on a previous Western States with less time to get to the end than we had up our sleeves. I knew we were going to make it but these little anecdotes from John were always inspiring and he seemed to know exactly what to say to keep me going.

We now had a 300m descent over the next 4k’s to No Hands Bridge. 4k’s going down hill was torture. I felt like my legs were going to cramp with every step. The treeroots were becoming hurdles and small stones were becoming landmines! But with every kilometre ticked off we were 1k closer to Placer High School running track.

We cross No Hands Bridge and start a gentle climb which steepens and crosses 2 creeks. John tells me we have 1 qtr mile to the top and as we near I can hear the good folk supporting at Robie Point where it is only 2k to the finish, the famous Mile 99. I can hear Marc calling my name, there’s hollers and whoops as the partying crowds become aware another runner is coming in. Louise had joined us and the next 300meters are a steep incline and hands on thighs I start my final push and catch up to a runner and his crew. It’s a guy I’ve been yo-yoing with for 40 odd k’s. I pass him on the hill and then turn my power walk into a jog, this increases to a run which took my crew by surprise. Time to leave nothing on the track. In front of me I can now see down Brook Rd as it undulates into Marvin way. There are another 4 runners and their crews and it was now time to make up a few places. I just keep increasing the pace and my crew are running hard to keep up. We pass one runner at a time until all 4 had been reeled in. The Voice of God (or Norm Klein) can be heard commentating on the track. The flood lights of the track are a heavenly site as we make our way to the corner that once turned will show me the entrance to the track……….”And heerrree comes Richard Bettles from Allambie Heights Australia, he’s a sales manager in the coffee industry and is supported by his long suffering wife Louise” It’s 250meters of joy as I forget any pain and charge around the track to the finish line. I had read that this 250m is the most memorable ¾ lap of a track I’ll ever run and had been envisaging this moment for a long time – It was. I was elated to cross the finish line under 24hrs and joining a relatively small club of Silver belt Buckle owners. I finished Western States 2016 in 23h:21m:42s in 79th place and 1st Australian (Andrew Tuckey was registered under GBR!) It was 4:21AM and after watching Howard Norton come through in 23:46 I could only think of bed as we planned to be back at the track for the Golden hour, 29 – 30hr finishers. As my legs were now going into full cramp I suspected sleep was going to be difficult and it proved to be so as every time I moved my calves, quads, hip flexors, glutes and feet, muscles would contract with stabbing pain. I had a strange feeling of elation, pain and acute tiredness but all things said and done I would not trade this feeling in for anything. I had experienced something very special and even in this delirious state I rationalised I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Richard Bettles

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Message from John Zerbe my outstanding Pacer: “I received your message and I appreciate it.  It was a pleasure running the final 40 miles with you. Our running styles are the same, “keep moving and don’t complain”.   If I do not get in next year and you do I would enjoy pacing you again.  I felt your pain on several occasions and I never heard a complaint from you. It was inspirational, you are a strong and tough runner.”

Richard Bettles WSER 2016

Ultra Trail Australia 100km UTA100 2016

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

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

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

Warning, politics incoming>>>

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

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OK, but what about the run?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ultra Trail Australia 50km UTA50 Sarah Connor Guest Post

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UTA 50k 2016

 

 

This race is awesome. Whether you race, spectate or crew, there is something for everyone.

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Was overly anxious about this race all week leading into it. Number 1 son had been unwell and my sleeping patterns had been quite broken. Work was insane all week. My right ITB had been giving me grief just walking down stairs and all wanted was for the race to be over by the Wednesday beforehand.

 

I worked at the UTA Expo the day before the race. Whilst it was great fun, it may not have been the best idea to stand up all day, the day before a 50k race. Dinner was very late, but I was hydrated through the day, which turned out to be a good idea as race day was quite warm.

 

Thanks to the Noosa NUTRS, we had accommodation very close to the start. Race morning dawned after a terrible sleep (perfectly normal for most runners I hear).

The start was heaving by the time we got there at 6am. Such a great sight to see!

 

Anxiety levels were peaking and after some wise words from Summit Sister Bek , took myself off to watch the 100k runners come down road to see Adam and all the others that were running. Did some warm ups while chatting Belinda Allison in the car park. A few yoga moves later, anxiety was done to more manageable levels and I was taking off my jacket in preparation for the start.

 

I was really happy to be in start wave 4 this year. Started at the back with some of the Summit Sisters, took off a bit too fast through the crowd and up the hill (Note next year start in the middle of the wave and listen to what others say!).

First 5 k is on road to spread out the field before going down the Giant Staircase. It’s a bit of a killer as its quite hilly. Good warm up though.

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Photo credit- Rebekah Markey

Passed back through the start area and waved to all my friends were crewing and spectating this year – such a boost to the ego to hear your name called! Gavin Markey made me giggle using the road cone as megaphone!! Classic. That image stuck in my head for quite a while.

 

Through to the Giant Staircase via Clifftop walk – again probably a bit fast. I don’t know if it happens to everyone, but there was a runner who kept running and walking and just annoyed the crap out of me. I suddenly realised that it was not their fault and soon settled down into a good rhythm. Top of the Giant staircase and no lines, just a few people making there way down at a good pace. Had the lovely Tom behind me, who talked too me all the way down the slight scarier bits (I’m not good with heights). He was fantastic.

 

Running through the Leura forest (my favourite bit!) and a guy in front came down.

Everyone stopped to see if he was OK, he said he was fine, so the conga line kept going. I mentioned to the vollie and the medic a bit further on, that he had come down and may have done an ankle. I heard a bit later on that someone had shattered their kneecap and had to be airlifted out. Hopefully it was not him.

Stomping up the stairs out of Leura Forest and I start to see a few Summit Sisters ahead. The single track of this part of the race, I love but today my legs were very heavy and it was a struggle.

This part of the race was the only place that I experienced a slight delay with the stairs. Other runners were very good about letting you past.

 

Through Gordon Falls to the cheers from Bek, Sharon and other Summit Sisters who were being the world’s most awesome support squad.

Got caught up with a much faster runner and stuck with her for about, oooh 500m, and then let her past. She was fast.

 

The highlight of this part of the race was getting to use a proper toilet at Conservation Hut. It was nice to sit down too…. Got some lovely support from the Melissa Caslick Cheer squad here!

 

Chugged along until Wentworth Falls where I had to empty the stones out of my shoes. (Note to self – buy some Trail Gaiters). Had a lovely chat to a guy who had run the Pace Athletic 22k and was waiting for a friend to appear.

 

Through to the Fairmont where the Ellen Braybon cheer squad was waiting. Grabbed a handful of chips and kept moving.   Ran into Tom again in the next section. Really thought he looked familiar… more on that later.

 

Got to the halfway point and my left knee/ITB was unhappy. Stopped on Tablelands Road and did some running repairs with my dodgy ankle tape.

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Sailed into CP1, got a quick hug from Selena, another conversation with Tom, grabbed coke, watermelon and banana, filled up with water, more repairs to the left knee and sailed out again. And then discovered that my little water bottle had been leaking coke into the pocket. Sadly had to drink all the black gold in one go.

 

Struggled down Kedumba with ITB /knee pain – but at least this year I was mostly running rather than walking. There were a few other runners in the same predicament.

 

Got the Jamieson to discover no water in the creek. I was planning to wet my hat here. Walking up the hills I started to pass some of the runners who had passed me on the downhill. Started to crave ice cream at this point.

Just before the Leura Creek – I hear – “hey, you’re Adam’s wife Sarah!” It helped that I had my number around to the back…. Had a chat to Byron about how Adam was my husband and left him to it. (It’s a running joke in our house – training one day on the UTA course and about 6 people said – “Hey you’re Adam’s wife Sarah”).

 

Get to the 41k mark, rattled my backpack to check if I had enough water – it felt like it. BIG mistake. About a 1k later, wondered why water did not come out of the hose….. No water. No coke. No watery foods. Dismissed the idea of going back.

After about another 1k, finally bit the bullet and asked if anyone had any spare water, and Marco came to my rescue by sharing his electrolyte. We power walked the course through the old sewerage works and the mud. Linda, who I had met during training out the back of Belrose one day, came to my rescue too and filled my leaky bottle with water, which lasted for about 3 k. Marco and I were having a grand old time chatting along this part of the course. Discovered that our kids go to the same school!

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Got passed by the winner of the 100k – he was very polite and very fast. Then about 30 mins later came the 2nd guy. And then the 3rd, 4th and 5th males … hmm those guys can move.

 

Took my salted caramel GU with about 2 k to go. Marco was making sure I was well hydrated too. And then appears the Furber stairs. Now I’m not a fan of stairs and I knew this was going to be tough. For the first time ever I cramped, which meant I had to put my heel down first on each step to keep my calf muscles long.

Finally got to the top and could hear the crowd. The lady next to me was emotional, so I grabbed her hand and checked on her – it was her first 50k! I managed to run about 2 steps with her and then the cramping started again. It was a walking finish for me.

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Photo credit- Jo Brischetto

Sat down on the finish line, not quite sure what to do about the cramps. The ever-amazing Jo came and picked me up and got a medic to advise me what to do. So 2 electrolyte tablets, 2 glasses of the Hammer Fizz and a chicken soup later, I was feeling much better. Marco and his family were there and it was lovely to meet them. Marco’s wife checked my time and that was when I discovered I had done a PB by 8 mins.

Linda was also there and then all of a sudden, Tom finished and I worked out how I knew him! I had met him with Linda that day in the back of Belrose.

Thanks to all my running friends who supported through out the day – it would not be such an awesome race with out the fans !
Thanks to my family who put up with my cranky runner impersonation whilst tapering. Thanks to Julie, my long run partner – she suffered for this too !

Love the ultra running community! Love this race. If you are thinking about doing an ultra or just want to have a go at the 22k , this is the race for you.

Gear worn

Patagonia undies – gotta have good undies

Moving comfort sports bra

Unknown brand of socks that I got from Pace Athletic and I love.

Lulu lemon singlet – in hindsight could have done without it.

Summit UTA 2016 Sisters Buff and UTA 2016 t-shirt.

Patagonia cap.

Nathan Vapour Shape 2 L/&l hydration pack.

Hoka One One Stinson ATR Trail .

 

Nutrition:

BBQ shapes

Protein balls

Food to Nourish green envy balls

Muesli slice

Peanuts unsalted

Almonds unsalted

Salt

Choc mint M&M’s

Hammer Enduralytes

Pre made rice cereal with apples –Farex brand

Pepsi

And boy did I get it wrong this year – could have done the whole course with Coke and chips and baby food.

 

 

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

Ultra Trail Australia 100km UTA100 Jeroen De Graaf (Guest Post)

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What a day.

UTA100 was my first ‘proper’ ultra, and I couldn’t be happier with it. In fact, even going into work on Monday morning couldn’t wipe the smile off my face!

 

Running an ultramarathon started as an idea in my head about 2 years ago, coming off a heal spur injury which sidelined me much longer than it should have, and with my 40th birthday (and surely midlife crisis!) slowly approaching I made a resolution to be fitter than I had ever been. What better way to prove this than by running 100k through the mountains?

 

Once I signed up for UTA and 6foot, I started seriously preparing. This involved watching a lot of Youtube videos while ironing my work shirts. And having a pretty dedicated training regime in the NRG 6foot training sessions was excellent. The hill sessions were killers but I did them pretty religiously. Closer to race day, I started doing a lot (A LOT!) of stair training, getting to know Curry Mountain very intimately. A few times, I actually loaded up a backpack with 12 kilos worth of dictionaries and did Curry Mountain reps at 5 am. I admit I got a little kick out of having some guy ask me how many reps I was doing one morning and telling him as casually as possible that I was ‘at 35, but may do a few more’. As soon as he was out of sight I fell into a quivering mess 🙂

 

Just to spice things up a bit, our daughter arrived just after 6foot and this changed my plans a bit. Originally I had been planning on running a lot of the UTA training runs with the NRG groups on the course, to find out how tough the course was. But now I felt I couldn’t really justify spending extra time away from the family driving out there & back. So for my long runs, I settled on local trails only. Which meant that I was not going to see the course before race day. My original plan of logging 100k per week went out the window as well. Instead, I decided that 60k was the new 100k. On the bright side, that left me incredibly fresh come race day. My plan (based on nothing more than kind of wanting a silver buckle), was to run the course in 14 hours, but I would still be happy with just finishing considering this was my first attempt at this distance.

 

The morning of the race I woke up excited. I just wanted to get this thing started. Looking back, I would have liked it to start differently though! I was in wave 2 and it took about 100 meters of running when I felt my shorts getting wet. Then my hands and my shirt. I looked down and I immediately wished I could start the day again: BOTH my water bottles were leaking. Every step I took, drops of water were flying all over the place. After 1k, there was only half of my water left. And to make matters worse I then realised that basing my nutrition plan on using Tailwind meant that apart from my hydration, it was also my nutrition plan that quickly evaporated. Oh well, only 99 km to go!

I spent the rest of the trip to CP1 thinking about what to do. Luckily, I had brought 2 soft flasks of 1/2 a liter each to make up the 2 liter capacity requirement. These would have to do until CP3, where I had left a spare bladder with my crew.

 

I was pretty worried though: I would have to run the 20k from CP1 to CP2 on 1 liter of water, and I had to start taking gels instead of Tailwind (I tried, but couldn’t manage to get my tailwind to go from my zip lock bags into the tiny opening of the soft flasks). Then, there was another gruelling 15k from CP2 to CP3 with the same worry. I was hoping it wouldn’t get too hot too quickly!

Annoyingly, I found out at CP1 that I couldn’t fit both leaking bottles in the back of my pack. I also didn’t dare to throw out the leaking bottles at the checkpoint, afraid of breaking the 2 liter water capacity requirement. So this meant I had to hold 1 of the soft flasks in my hand for the entire 35k until CP3. It took a few minutes at CP1 to get organised and ready to go (including eating some unripe bananas, yuck!)

Start to CP1 – 11k – 1h17 (Planned: 1h15). Time in CP1: +- 4 minutes

 

Even though I left CP1 a few minutes behind schedule, I started getting comfortable with the new situation pretty soon, and it was such a gorgeous day that I just loved being out there. I even started passing a few people again on my way to Taros. I only had to wait a few minutes at Taros, and I bumped into an ex-colleague. We ran a few km together which was really nice. My spirits really started to soar here. I was feeling great, running well, and passing people. Unfortunately, Doug was one of them. He seemed to be hurting quite a bit. I pushed on and made CP2 with water to spare, and took some time there filling up again. I was happy to see that I had returned to 14hr schedule.

CP1 to CP2 – 21k – 2h03 (Planned: 2h08). Time in CP2: +- 3 minutes.

Start to CP2 – 32k – 3h20 (Planned: 3h24)

 

The run from CP2 to CP3 was possibly even better: I was in the zone, running took almost no effort at all. It was a beautiful part of the course, going up Ironpot Mountain and doing the out & back along the ridge. For the first time, I passed the didgeridoo players that I had heard so much about. I took some time to inhale the views from the top while listening to the sounds. It was pretty amazing! On the out & back, I saw Rocco and Geoff just in front which gave me a little boost as I knew they were chasing 14 hours as well. It was good to know they weren’t too far ahead after I saw them speed off ahead of me at the start! Going down from IronPot mountain was super hard. I like running downhill, but this was so steep and slippery that I was afraid of ruining my quads here and I took it easy. After the IronPot descent I started running really well again, and I ended up passing some NRG runners. Geoff, Rocco and Tim were all running within a few minutes of each other. I was still a bit worried about running out of water, but as it turns out I was able to stretch it until about the last corner before CP3. I was so pleased to get to CP3, my crew, and the NRG cheer team! On top of that, I was surprised to see that I was now starting to get close to 13:30 schedule, and I was still feeling very good. It took some time to grab my bladder, fill it up & fit it inside my pack, but I was always planning on staying here at least 5 minutes.

CP2 to CP3 – 14k – 1h44 (Planned: 2h00). Time in CP3: 8 minutes

Start to CP3 – 46k – 5h04 (Planned: 5h24)

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Leaving CP3 in front of the NRG Cheering Squad

At CP3 I seem to have made my second big mistake: to make up for my perceived lack of calories taken on the first half of the course, I ate a peanut butter sandwich which I had prepared but wasn’t planning on using. Coming out of CP3 I started feeling pretty bad very quickly. Suddenly, the energy in my body had disappeared, I got annoyed at things like my bib falling off and having to redo the pins, needing a bathroom break, etc etc. As a result, going up Nellies my mind was in a terrible place. After having some Shot Bloks, my stomach was even worse. I was back on tailwind now though, so it meant I could at least keep up my calories. The lucky part about getting my anticipated ‘bad section’ here is that it was during an uphill section that you’re supposed to be walking/hiking anyway, so I didn’t actually end up losing much time compared to if it had happened during a runnable section. I just kept plodding along, and towards the top of Nellies my nausea suddenly disappeared, and I ran into the Aquatic Centre to a great reception. Steve, Nicola, Alison & Ava were all there, and it really lifted my spirits (that, and a magical can of coke).

CP3 to CP4 – 11k – 1h39 (Planned: 1h39). Time in CP4: 9 minutes

Start to CP4 – 57k – 6h43 (Planned: 7h03)

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7 Ladies’ worth of Support Crew

 

CP4 to CP5 was amazing. I knew this was the toughest part of the course and was expecting pain and misery. Instead, I loved it. Sure, the stairs were tough, and there were a million of them, but my legs just didn’t seem to get tired. I was joined just after the Giant Stairway by 2 other runners and we ended up running together for an hour or so, which made the time go faster and the stairs less obvious! Once at the Fairmont I filled up again, said hi to the NRG crew and was well on my merry way to the silver buckle when I must not have lifted a foot up high enough… and smacked forward into the gravel. First came the initial shock, and then my legs started to cramp up. I was able to just avoid terrible pain by stretching my legs upwards. A group of passing runners helped me get up and when we looked at the damage, I could breathe a sigh of relief: my left knee and hand were bleeding, but it didn’t seem race threatening. I told them to go on, and swallowed my final salt tablet. Yes, my final one. I had bought an enormous tub of salt tablets before the race, and bizarrely had decided to bring only 4 in my pack?? I had taken the first one going up Nellies. The second and third I had given away an hour earlier to a guy that I passed as he was cramping up. So when swallowing that last salt tablet I made a mental note to make sure to ask my crew at CP5 to replenish them for the final leg. I then cleaned the wound out with the water dripping from the rock walls (not sure if this was smart?) and started running again slowly. After another clean at the baths of Wentworth Falls I realised that all seemed to be working well again. In fact, in ran into CP5 feeling great, still energetic, and about half an hour ahead of schedule.

CP4 to CP5 – 21k – 3h15 (Planned: 3h25). Time in CP5: 7 minutes

Start to CP5 – 78k – 9h56 (Planned: 10h28)

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Nursing a bloody knee at CP5

 

CP5 did nothing to dampen my spirits with the pumping music and friendly faces. I left feeling refreshed and I knew from talking to Danny earlier that I was going to get the silver buckle unless I made another stupid error.

It took me about 1 km to realise that I had made another stupid error. Basking in the glorious attention of my crew and Robyn & Laura at CP5, I had completely forgotten about replenishing my salt tablets. And when I started the descent into the depths of Kedumba, my knee started hurting. Not too much, but enough to make me realise how dumb it would be to end up with cramps in the middle of nowhere when all I had to do was take more pills that weigh about 1/2 gram each. I hobbled the downhill and was happy for the climb to start. At least walking the uphill didn’t hurt (yet!). It was now getting dark, and the darkness dampened my mood a bit. Also the fact that everything was just going so slowly now! This part of the course seemed to never end. I kept trying to tell myself to relax, but now I just wanted it to finish. It took an eternity before I finally got to Furber and it was only then that my mood lifted again. I’d done it! Running through the finish chute and getting cheers from wife, crew and NRG was amazing. It easily ranks as one of the best feelings ever 🙂

CP5 to Finish – 22k – 3h27 (Planned: 3h38).

Start to Finish – 100k – 13h23 (Planned: 14h)

 jeroen4 jeroen5

 

 

Looking back, I realise how lucky I’ve been. There were a few screwups there that could easily have cost me a lot of time or even the race. So I’m happy that it turned out the way it did. Having said that, I did my training well, and I think the biggest reason I had such a great experience has to do with those hard yards. Hard, but so worth it. I am forever grateful to my wife for allowing me to keep following my dream during a very turbulent family period, to Steve & Nicola my fantastic crew for their incredible efforts to keep me on track, and to all NRG runners who have helped and inspired me along the way!

jeroen6

Steve, my loyal crew. His expression shows there is still room for improvement 🙂

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!’