Badwater 135 Miles 2017

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

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

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

Super Crew- often a bit blurry

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

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

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

Shaggin’ Wagon. Soon renamed to ‘Fartmobile’

Now on to the race-

Badwater Basin to Furnace Creek- 17 miles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Furnace Creek to Stovepipe Wells 25 miles Total 42 miles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stovepipe Wells to Panamint Springs 30.7 miles Total 72.7 miles

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

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

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

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

The long, long road to Panamint Springs

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

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

Panamint from the other direction- just after Father Crowley

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

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

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

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

Panamint Springs to Lone Pine 50miles Total 122.7 miles

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

BodyGlide- oh sweet relief

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘NO, I WANT MY FUCKING BUCKLE’

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

Lone Pine to Mt Whitney Portal 13 miles Total 135 miles

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

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

Yes- we came from down there!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lone Pine beer and meat coma- so good

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ultra Trail Australia 100km UTA100 2017

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

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

All good then.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to Hailey for this pic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to Akiko Akashi for this pic

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vacuum packing gear worked well

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

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

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

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

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

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

A very emotional and well deserved finish. Congratulations honey!

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

No beer?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

UTA100 2017 Guest Report- Sarah Connor

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#UTA2017 Race Report.

(Disclaimer – I have still only had 3 hours sleep so pardon the swearing).

It was very fucking hard. The end..

Yeah right – thought you would get away with a short report! Ha! Never.

 

The race had course changes due to the weather this year. I was very Zen about it (very un-like me) as you cant control the weather or decisions that the RD’s and the authorities need to make to keep people safe.

 

It was cold and wet when we started, but eventually it became beautiful and sunny and clear. The night was perfect running weather.

I stuck to my race plan that Andy had sent me – slow in the first half and concentrate on passing others in the second half.

Start to CP 1 – just went with the flow –

The landslide had a conga line, but it was a chance to eat and rest.

CP1 – CP2

Tarros Ladders – there was a 10-15 minute wait just to get down to the ladders. I get vertigo, so opted to go around on the diversion track, which turned out to be the same time. Plus I had warmed up again.

The 50k men’s pointy end of the race tore past us just after Tarros ladders. Holy shit they can move.

The didgeridoo players were just before CP 2 – this was one of the only reasons I wanted to do this race, to hear them play in the race. Chills down my spine hearing them. So cool! Had a headache that was getting worse, but could not get any pain relief until CP 3 so had to suck it up.

CP2 – CP3

Had a really low spot because of said headache, running along Megalong Valley Road. Was hanging for the CP for panadol and my running poles.

CP 3 was a good quick transition.

CP3 – CP4

Left the checkpoint with Jen and Ingrid, which was lovely. (No cows in the field this time). Ingrid and I hiked up to Nellies Glen together. It was hard work, but everyone else was suffering too! Heard some interesting burps…. So decided to rate them – as you do when you need to keep occupied. Some random lady in a blue onesie was handing out choc chip cookies just before CP 4 – oh they were awesome. Going to have those again in a race!

 

CP4 – CP5

Ingrid’s support crew of Bek, Janis and Sharon helping me out with massages and checking that I had what I needed made transition easier. Thank you ladies!

 

Now this is when I knew it would be tough. The course changes affected from CP4 – finish. I was heading towards the longest distance I had ever run, and was not sure how my body would cope. Left the CP very positive and moving in the right direction. Sunset was happening just as I came around Echo Point, so the views were spectacular.

Came into Gordon Falls Reserve and got the best group hug ever from Bek, Janis and Sharon- seriously that was awesome!

Hailey and Roger, said that they would meet me on course – and there they were at Gordon Falls Reserve with liquid black gold – a can of coke. My ITB was beginning to act up, Roger gave me some tips on how to deal with it and off I went into the darkness.

Ran into Tim somewhere out the back of the golf course and he walked up with me back to his car and we had a great chat.

There were runners coming from both directions and I felt obliged to let the faster ones who were returning from the out and back loop, go past first. I think this slowed me up quite a bit having to always get off the track.

Coming out of Wentworth Falls, I had been looking out for Adam (actually looking for his trail gaiters as I was looking at the ground most of the time) and I found him! It was lovely to see him and get a hug.

Then it was the slog down the road to CP5.  It was at this point (apx 72-73k), that I knew I would be reduced to walking the rest of the way, due to my left ITB, so I made sure I was really power hiking and not just walking.

 

I could hear the CP before I got to it and was really looking forward to sitting down! Except when I got there, there was a 3k out and back before you could enter the CP. There were many swear words at this point. That was mentally tough. So I sucked it up and got it done.

The Summit Sister cheer squad were there and it was lovely to hear them! Saw a snake crossing the road. Yes a snake, it was 8C.

Sally met me at the CP and looked after me very well and made sure I was compos mentis. I was very surprised to find that I was 2 hours ahead of schedule. Threw on my warm clothes, my toes were aching, but there was nothing I could do, so gave them a quick massage and walked off into the night.

I spent most of this leg by myself, which suited me just fine.

Then my headlight died with about 8k to go.  I had forgotten to check my back up light batteries, but it was working so I dropped it to low lumens to conserve the batteries and kept moving. I had forgotten to pack spare batteries into my pack at CP 5. I turned my phone to flight mode, to conserve its battery so that I could use the torch I my phone if needed.

The stairs were horrid. I could only go down diagonally with the right foot first and am now sporting a large blister on my left foot.

I have never been so glad to see Leura Forest. It was then 4.8k of just slogging it out. Furber stairs were hard. There were a few tears shed here.

You can hear the finish line before you can see it. It’s torture. Roger was working the microphone at this point, and when my name was announced, he started up a cheer, which I could hear but legs just would not work. Eventually after the last 5 stairs, my brain engaged that it was the finish and people were waiting for me, so I started a jog and eventually crossed the line in 21hours and 6 mins.  It was just after 4am (I had no idea of real time as my watch died at 76k) and I was not looking at my phone. It was so lovely to have people I knew around me.

More tears were shed, Roger has video that is not repeatable here, which basically said I’m never doing it again. Nothing could top that experience.

I felt in the early stages of the race that I could go under 20 hours. Apparently I was on track for that most of the day, but was de-railed once the legs died. I think with a longer training base, it would have been achievable for me, even with the extra stairs.

 

Now for the bit that is most important. I would like to thank (and in no particular order) the people below for helping me to achieve my goal.

 

Andy DuBois of Mile 27 – 10 weeks ago, after Tarawera Ultra, I contacted Andy for coaching and he got me to this race. I can’t thank you enough. The training you set me, made a hell of difference.

Mile27

Garry Luke of Muscle Therapy Australia – best masseuse ever!

Muscle Therapy Australia

Kathy Widjaja of Aequilibrium – all those body movement classes – my glutes thank you!

Dr Adrienne Leahy of Spine and Health Crows Nest – my spine thanks you!

Spine and Health Crows Nest

Paula Shingler of Running Right – last minute physio and scones and jam and cream really helped.

 

Julie – my running partner and therapist.

Cass – Friday mornings have improved out of sight thanks to world peace and coffee.

Summit Sisters community – you all rock!

Bek, Janis, Sharon and Sally – you are the best support crewers ever.

Hailey – for the texts and the liquid black gold AKA Coke.

Roger – the shiatsu massage really unlocked my back – it was the best. Can I have another one please?

AROC Sport – without you guys, this legendary race would never exist. Thanks for the superb organisation, in what would have been one of the hardest situations to work in this year. Your volunteers and staff are the best.

My friends and family who all support from near and far via Facebook .

And finally, my husband Adam and son, Alex. Thanks for putting up with me, early mornings, early nights and a sometimes tired and crabby wife and mother.

 

What I wore

Summit Sisters t-shirt

Moving comfort bra

Fabletics ¾ pants with handy pockets down the sides of the legs.

Zensah calf guards

Feetures socks

Hoka Stinson 3 ATR’s

Patagonia cap

Buff’s of varying different styles

Patagonia R1 fleece jacket

Salmon Bonatti waterproof jacket

Nathan Vapour wrap pack

(Sheesh I’m not very loyal to one brand am I?)

 

What I ate from my pack

Carmen’s muesli bars – mostly the more nutty ones

Chicken in a biscuit

BBQ shapes

Clif bar

Chips

Farex pre-made baby food

 

From CP 2 I had Nuun or Hydralyte in my water.

Panadol osteo at CP3 and after CP 5 – said headache was gone with about 13k to go …

From the checkpoints – Banana, watermelon, soup, bread, cheese and ham scrolls, a lolly, a chocolate chip biscuit, a bit of brownie, pot noodles, a chocolate bar from a random runner at a CP, coke, black coffee with 1 at the Fairmont , chips.

 

Recovery (so far its 24 hours in)

2 magnesium tablets before the race

Soup and chocolate milk at the finish

Blister popped at First Aid so I did not have to deal with it

Shower as soon as possible

Sleep for an hour – gentle rolling with the stick

Trying to move normally rather than the ultra lurch

Car drive home – stayed awake and kept my legs in different positions

Warm Epsom salt bath and then icing the knee

More good food and some chocolate

9 hours sleep – means I’m awake at 3am but hey that’s when all the best race reports are written.

 

Thames Path 100 Miles- Guest Post- Taras Mencinsky

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Thames Path 100 – Race Report by Taras Mencinsky

I’m not much for writing Race Reports, mainly as my races are not worth writing home about. But as this one was part of an international campaign of running and fell walking, I thought I’d bundle it up as a mini running odyssey.

First up was the London Marathon, a race I had unsuccessful entered about a million times. On running the race, I understood (a) why it is so special, and (b) why it’s so hard to get a bog standard entry. The answer to both is the same. It’s that the London Marathon is a charity marathon, where the majority of places is for participants who will probably never do another marathon in their lives, but do this one because they raise money for others. And every supporter lining the route is there to cheer for someone who has raised money for months, is carrying a tumble dryer on their back or dressed as a Mr Men character (I mean full timber frame and canvas skin). So, with all that incredible social spirit, the scene was set for a cruise around London, enjoying the sights and sounds and simply revelling in the moment. It was a great event to compete in, and I will keep trying in the ballot in future, simply because any chance to run this race is worth taking.

In the time between London and Thames Path, I travelled up to the Lakes District to check out some fells. I’m fascinated by the fells and fell running. The history of fell running is something I think any long distance runner can relate to. It’s all about the solitary runner. The terrain, environment, weather and conditions constantly change, making every run unique. And the concentration of fells and valleys in such a small geographical area makes it different to running in the vastness of the Australian bush. There are 214 Wainwrights (fells), 15 lakes and a dozen valleys, all contained in a small, craggy part of northwest England, measuring only 50km wide and 60km top to bottom. It is simply magical. I walked from Keswick in the Northern Fells, and climbed Skiddaw (931m), Lonscale Fell, Little Man and Carl Side. The views from Skiddaw were amazing. You could see the complete Helvellyn ranges in one direction, and Solway Firth and Scotland in the other.

Finally, the day arrived and I made my way to the start of the Thames Path 100. This is a flat 100 mile run from Richmond, London to Oxford along the Thames River footpath. Total elevation was only 400m (amazing how flat it was!), but this presented more than its fair share of challenges. Because it’s flat, it’s hard to find a natural time or occasion to walk and recover energy. You feel compelled to keep going and keep your rhythm. This worked well for the first 30 miles and then ok for the next 30, but once serious nightfall fell (about 10pm – 12 hours after the race started), the night demons descended. From there on it was a slow grind. The checkpoints were evenly spread (about 6-7.5 miles between) so thankfully it wasn’t too bad, but that may be because two weeks after the race, I have conveniently forgotten the worst of it. Thankfully, I had lots of company, if only in my head. To all those who gave me silent, and not so silent encouragement I thank you from the sole of my shoes to tip of my head.

So, for the next 7 hours I walked and micro-slept, and shuffled when the micro sleeps went over 2 -3 seconds. While the terrain wasn’t challenging, the proximity to the river at times was close, so last thing I wanted to do was slip in for a midnight dip in the Thames.

Thankfully, dawn finally arrived, but unlike Australia, where you’re greeted by the dawn chorus of raucous cockatoos, kookaburras, galahs, bellbirds, whip birds and crashes in the bush, dawn in the UK is more subtle and while I didn’t feel as if all my energy returned, certainly enough did to know that the end was achievable, if not in sight. I continued to shuffle slowly through checkpoints and struggled to eat or drink, which is my perennial problem. It seems that when you go as slow as I was, you can keep moving with little external energy consumption and use internal resources. Sorry darling, but that’s why I have no cheek fat. I didn’t stop at the 89 mile checkpoint, thinking it was time to get this over with and ground through to the last checkpoint on course at 95 miles. I sat down, exhausted, and thankfully, as was the case throughout the race, the volunteers were runners and knew what I was going through. They coaxed me gently into having a strong coffee and some watermelon, and once I started moving again I could feel the energy return. I vowed to finish strongly, as you always have to look good at the finish! So I picked up the pace and started to breathe better, and very soon I was hitting 8 minute km’s, then 7 minute km’s and finally I was motoring at 6:30 minute km’s with 5 km’s to go. I maintain this pace and passed several runners who were feeling the hurt but resolutely moving, and by the time I turned left and entered the finish chute I was floating on air. After 25 hours and 23 minutes, I had finally conquered a 100 Mile race. While I missed my Centurion target (finishing under 24 hours), I was ecstatic to have finished and finished strongly.

In summary, the race was a great opportunity to exorcise some demons and give me the belief that maybe, just maybe, I can call myself an ultra-marathoner and be in the same room with so many people I admire. At least stand in a corner of the room quietly and discretely!

If you ever get the chance to run the Thames Path 100 or any other Centurion race in the UK, I would highly recommend it. Great organisation, great volunteers and wonderful courses that are as different from the Oz bush as you can imagine.

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.

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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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