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.

Finding New Music- Guest Post- DJ Dan Rowntree

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Note from Adam- this blog was always meant to be a personal collection of stories about life and music. If you read the stuff here you’ll see that running has taken a lot more of my time than music in the last few years. One of the things that is very difficult to do is find good music- there’s so much out there and you could go crazy just searching for stuff that you really like. So I sent a cheeky email to a mate who is completely steeped in music all the time with one question- how do you find the good stuff?
I’m very pleased to present what might be the first blog post about music on a site that should have been partially dedicated to music!

Take it away Dan-

So as a DJ I get asked all the time how I source my new music, new artists, new labels etc etc so I thought I’d write a few quick little paragraphs about this very subject! I’ll use Beatport as an example but this also works across Junodownload and some functionality in iTunes as well.
Step 1: Start with your current favourite track in your library or on Vinyl if you are making the switch to digital. (I’ll use Sonny Fodera as my example).
Put that Producer into Beatport Search and what comes up are not only all the tracks that the Producer has made and is available to buy but also the label that said Producer is on along with his remixes as well!

Labels are usually pretty good at releasing tracks that all have a similar sound, in turn if you like a particular producer/artist it’s more than likely you’ll also dig whats on that label.

In the above image I clicked the defected record label and a whole bunch of tracks and producers has come up. I’m good here now for about 45mins! I’d start with “Purple Disco machine” or “Claptone” from the right hand side column…
Step 2:
It is also good to click on and search producers that remix your favourite artists work or in turn tracks they’ve remixed. This opens up many options and to be honest it naturally turns into a free for fall of new music to access.
In this image I clicked on “Colette” and it takes me to her artist page and then that opens up a whole bunch of new labels, producers she’s worked with and the list goes on…from here I would click on “Lawnchair Generals” or “JT Donaldson” in the right hand column and repeat previous steps, as there literally 100,000 plus house tracks on this site it can soon turn into 3am and have racked up 300 tracks in my cart!
So as you can see, once you get started and just keep exploring you can build a 25,000 track library in about a fortnight if you have the time and budget!
I hope this has helped some of you, I’m happy to chat further anything music related especially if you need some music for your Yoga studio, Hotel, Bar, Salon, Retail Space, Restaurant etc etc…
Have an epic day.
Dj Dan Rowntree
Editors note- in addition to DJ’ing across the world for luxury brands ( I’m not jealous, sob) Dan has played at venues in Sydney like Ivy, Hemmesphere and events like Dinner en Blanc. If your venue could use some seriously cool music, check out his music service Dusk Music.

Race To The Stones- 100km Guest Report- Richard Bettles

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Race Report

100k “Race to the Stones” June 2014

This race was going to be interesting after a 4 week preparation diet of Belgium beer, French wine and goat’s cheese. Essentially Louise and I had been eating our way through Europe and arrived in England 2 days before race to 30 degrees and a forecast of thunderstorms for race day. Probably not the best idea to bolt on a 100k race at the end of a holiday but 2 pts were on offer. They would complete my required tally of 8 to qualify to enter the ballot for the UTMB.

The unique race is a 100km route following the footsteps of Romans, Vikings, farmers and traders along the 5000 y/o Ridgeway path. Passing Iron Age forts, ancient burial chambers, crossing the Thames and the mystical down-lands of Salisbury plain on the way to the finish line at the 3,000- year-old stone circle at Avebury (older than Stonehenge!)

Race day: Having stayed in a country pub we woke to predicted torrential rain at 4am. I wasn’t too concerned as this was due to clear and make way for a 25 degree day with afternoon thunder storms and a typical English Summer day.

6:30am we headed to a field in Chinnor in the Chilterns where 1500 competitors were going about their business of registering and final prep. I found my mate Jonny who had driven from Devon the night before, arriving at midnight to sleep in his bivi bag in a farmer’s field. It had leaked during the 4am downpour but Jonny was in good spirits! Despite being a fully supported race the organisers hadn’t secured a sports nutrition sponsor. So as well as mandatory kit one had to think about carrying gels and sports drink for the whole race (or trust you could get by on flapjacks and coca cola!). For me I didn’t want the gut to shut down so I loaded up with tried and tested gels and a tube of SIS sports drink tablets surprisingly sourced from a small local village.

By the 8am start the rain had cleared and the gun went off. Louise, my #1 support crew waved me through. I thought this would be the last I saw of her until the end due to the checkpoints (Pitstops) being in undisclosed hard to reach National Trust locations, the locations were kept secret so supporters wouldn’t congregate. I’d been advised to make a good start so as not to get caught up on single track for the first few K’s. But this wasn’t a sprint race so casually I eased my way through the field and was in a comfortable place for the tight start.

First 10k came and went in a cautious 50 min

We were through the 1st Pitstop with ease and shortly after greeted with the first significant hill. I shot up it overtaking several runners and losing Jonny for a while; clearly the North face training and some training I did in the French Alps between wine and cheese sessions was paying off. At this stage I felt really strong but then again I was only 17k’s into a 100k race.

This race is renowned for its beauty and stunning trail and we had the first real glimpse as we ran through a valley of White Poppy fields. Ah, the Chilterns, the Opium capital of Europe!

Second Pitstop Jonny caught up to me, I grabbed some bananas and a bag of Jellytots (any English reading this will remember Jellytots, once a child hood staple, now sports nutrition!) Shortly after, Jonny and I led a group of runners up a path which turned out to be a driveway to a farmhouse! The farmer kindly pointed out we shouldn’t be in his garden and we returned to the ambiguous arrow marker and the correct path. That would be the only wrong turn in what turned out to be a very well marked course

Here we entered a few K’s of woodland trail and we cautiously opened our legs up conscious it was early days and we were averaging 5min low k’s. The trees cleared and we ran along Grims Ditch, a long flat excavated pathway dating back to the Iron Age

25k’s in I started to cramp in my right butt and my whole right side was struggling to keep up with the left. A strange feeling and I was really running with discomfort. By 30k I was thinking there was no way I was going to make it and my mind was floating the idea of pulling the pin. I had another 2 salt tablets, kept up the sports drink and hung on to Jonny who I could feel was starting to hit his straps.

We ran through a very pretty village, crossed the Thames and hit the marathon distance in 4.10h. The cramps had receded however the quick pace across trail and muddy bridleways was taking its toll and I was tiring.

We hit 50k in 4:58h, it was 1pm, the sun was fully in the sky and England was turning on a sultry summer’s day in the mid 20’s. The humidity was really kicking in and I sensed this would be a game changer for many competitors…..but this was the point where the hardy soldiered on and a majority of the field called it quits for the day, a rest, a night sleep and completion of the second 50k on the Sunday. I was wishing I could join them and be part of the “2 day” racers. Alas I was in the 100k nonstop and there was no getting out of it.

The support crews at the pitstops were great, taking your water bottles and filling them up whilst we refuelled with butter flapjacks, chocolate cake and for me bananas and half a dozen cups of Coke. It was humid and I was drinking like a camel.

At this stage in a 100k race I find it’s all about the mind because the body is telling you it has had enough. The pace gets slower and I’m aware of every K. Jonny couldn’t eat any solids but despite not much fuel going in, I could sense he was feeling strong and I struggled to keep in touch with him from 60k onwards. The terrain was mixed and tough, rutted bridal ways, long, long sweeping downs and long gradual climbs. The scenery was stunning and I was having to make a conscious effort to take it in.

72k another Pitstop was looming. I knew this because markers were placed before the stops “1km until Pitstop”. It became clear someone’s Garmin wasn’t working or the organisers were getting km’s confused with Miles. By the 3rd 2km trot from marker to Pitstop we realised you could only take the markers as a rough suggestion of the next Pitstop. They were screwing with our minds!

And then I saw some people, in fact I saw a t-shirt I recognised………..it was #1 support crew (wife!) who had just worked out where a checkpoint was and literally just arrived. The planets were aligning! It was great to see her and she ran with me in her Haviannas for a km. Louise had heard I was in somewhere near 25th place. This was all I needed and the competitive spirt was awakened. A few salt tablets, some paracetamol a few more cups of coke washed down with some blackcurrant drink and I was out of the checkpoint with renewed vigour.

At 80k I felt good and started to pass a few runners who had passed me earlier. Jonny had gone and I wasn’t to see him again until the finish. Strewth it was getting hot and the air was thick with humidity. Big black clouds were on the horizon and as I ran atop a sweeping dale torrential rain could be seen in the distance. And then a thunderclap like a bomb going off broke the tension and it absolutely pissed down. I ran along like Fred Astaire lapping up the cooling rain.

Last checkpoint at 91k. Instructions were given to the end – we were told the race didn’t end at Avebury Stones but 2k after at a nearby farm. The Stones were at 98k and we had to double back for

a k and turn left off the track up a hill to a 400m road to the finish. I was briefed, fuelled up and ready for the final push. I was also feeling nauseous!

At 96.5k according to my ever reliable Garmin I had 3.5k to go, that is 1.5k to the Stones and then the home straight. Psychologically I was ready. I passed an English runner (#843) with whom I had exchanged positions for some 15k’s. A sign appeared in the distance; surely it would be the sign that said 3km to go……………..but no, ”5km to the Finish!” it read. The straw had broken this Camels back and like a Tsunami I threw up a mixture of bananas, gels, coke and blackcurrant. Adding insult to injury the English chap seized the opportunity and passed me as I fertilised the pathway without so much as a “are you alright old boy?”. He thought I was broken. I thought I was broken but the surprise vomit relieved the nausea and I now had my sights on the finish and finishing ahead of runner 843. I had passed a 110ft high, 1000 y/o “The White Horse of Uffington” carved in the hillside and not even noticed it. I had white-line fever and new found drive to run down 843. Pass him I did

Finally Avebury Stones were in sight; I was ushered to weave through them and return along the same footpath to the final straight home. I passed 843 again on the way out of the stones and gave a quick nod of respect.

A big inflatable finish arch welcomed me in, #1 support crew and Jonny among the cheerers. I had finished a really incredible race in 36th position in 11:20h

Footnote: Jonny had never run further than a marathon before the event and finished in 27th place and 10:48h!

Footnote 2: recovery = bowl of pasta, 4 pints of beer and a live band down the local pub!

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.

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.

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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

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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 50km UTA50 Sarah Connor Guest Post

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UTA 50k 2016

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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Photo credit- Rebekah Markey

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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Photo credit- Jo Brischetto

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

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

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

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

Gear worn

Patagonia undies – gotta have good undies

Moving comfort sports bra

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

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

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

Patagonia cap.

Nathan Vapour Shape 2 L/&l hydration pack.

Hoka One One Stinson ATR Trail .

 

Nutrition:

BBQ shapes

Protein balls

Food to Nourish green envy balls

Muesli slice

Peanuts unsalted

Almonds unsalted

Salt

Choc mint M&M’s

Hammer Enduralytes

Pre made rice cereal with apples –Farex brand

Pepsi

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

 

 

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

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What a day.

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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Leaving CP3 in front of the NRG Cheering Squad

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

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

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

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7 Ladies’ worth of Support Crew

 

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

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

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

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Nursing a bloody knee at CP5

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guest Post- Russell Evans- Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc UTMB 2105

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The Loop UTMB 2015

 

Rather than start from the beginning, I want to start from a place where it almost ended.

I was in a public rest room just outside the check point of Courmayeur, throwing my own pity party. My legs felt like they were shot, my chaffing was cringe worthy and it was 28 degrees and climbing; not the ideal state when one still has 93km to go.

It didn’t start off that badly. I had arrived in Chamonix on Wednesday afternoon with the start being on Friday night. My strategy was to make the jet lag work in my favour; I was going to be awake at night and sleepy during the day. For those that don’t know, Chamonix is in the foothills on the French side of Mount Blanc. Everywhere you look there are great vistas of the Alps, and every view is a postcard. The tough thing about being in a new place is that you want to explore, but walking around endlessly would ruin my 6 months of training, so I basically stayed at the hotel only going out for food and registration. One observation when I got to registration was that everyone nibbling on a baguette, perfect carb option I think I went through 3!

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The race starts at 6pm, forcing the elites to go through one night section. I had strategically taken Stilnox to knock me out till about noon on race day. I left the hotel about 5:30pm and started to walk to the start. The town was buzzing! People notice your bib and yell “Allez! Allez!” with passion, for today I was a rockstar.

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Getting near the start line I found a patch of grass and sat down in the shade and only got up when I heard the countdown. It’s hard to describe the start, but the streets are lined with 6+ people deep. The announcer gives words of encouragement, some along the lines of “Once the body gives up, the mind takes over. When the mind gives up the heart gets you to the end”, (which I quite liked)…… You hear the theme music in the back ground (Vangeelis Conquest of Paradise), which still gives me goose bumps, then the gun goes off and you basically walk the first kilometer till you are able to get a slow gait happening. Even after 3k’s there are still people lining the path cheering you on.

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Basically the whole course can be described as: go up a hill, go down a hill, go up a hill, go down a hill, then run some flat area………..just kidding…..there are no flat areas, you go up another hill and repeat!

La Houches is where things start to get pretty messy. You start climbing up a ski hill, basically 800m of elevation in 4km, (this was a baby compared to those that followed). I pulled out my sissy sticks, put my head down and started the climb. The thing that really surprised me is that the hill was lined with supporters all ringing cowbells; reminding me of the scenes of the Tour de France. I understand the race is a big deal for these small towns, as the UTMB gets more popular so do these small towns.

The encouragement was appreciated and before long I had made the pass of Le Delevret. One down, seven to go! (Croix Bonhomme, Col De Seigne, Col Des Pyramides Calcaires (new this year), Arete Du Mont-Favre, Grand col Ferret, La Glete, Catonge and the monster Tete ux vents).

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So far the trail was a mixture of single track and fire trail with nothing too technical. Being not the most coordinated of runners this was a good thing. The trail up to Croix Bonhomme was more or less a test of strength: one foot in front of the other repeat until you reach the top. Soon enough I had made the second summit and began the decent, this time the decent was very technical and steep. Many runners that I had passed coming up the hill were overtaking me on the way down. A general observation about European runners is that they are great at descending tough technical trail even when they have ran 120km.  The tough single trail decent gave way to an easy fire trail and I was able to make up the places I lost. As I came into Champax-Lac, spirits were high as I was running well and had an overall feeling of well-being.

A little note about the checkpoints: They are filled with water, coke and a drink similar to tailwind (called Overstrim). The food is a mixture of salami, cheese, and crusty breads. I found them extremely easy to navigate and the volunteers were extremely helpful provided you were polite.

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I stayed away from salami and cheese but in hindsight I possibly should of given them a go. There was also a clear distinction of which country you were in, based on the types of cheese, salami, and bread. For what it’s worth, I had the best time in Switzerland’s checkpoints. They were so pumped to see you and nothing was too much trouble for them.

The climb to Col Seigne was epic. A fair amount steeper than the previous climbs and for the first time I noticed the altitude. I was becoming short of breath when above 2000 meters. The chit chat among runners was fairly scarce, however I did come across an American runner who I exchanged a little banter with and who had some great advice for running at altitude: sharp short breaths in. This seemed to help a little, as I was able to maintain a good pace up the climb. Once reaching the top, the next point is only about 500 meters away; you can almost reach out and touch it. However you have to descend about 400 meters, and then climb about 450 meters to reach Col Des Pyramides Calcaires, which is a new section of the course. This section was not friendly and the most technical of the course. It was to take about 2 hours for around four km, it didn’t really feel slow but that is about a kilometer every 30 minutes!

 

 

This peak was the second highest (about 2550m), and the toll of the race was starting to show. It was about 5:30 in the morning and I saw numerous people asleep on rocks at the top. When I asked if they were ok, they said they were just going to take a nap for 20 minutes and continue to run. But I guess the truth was, their race was done. The next decent was where things started to come unstuck. On unstable and rocky trail, basically I had to navigate this terrain on all fours. What’s worst was that my calves were starting to cramp and I decided not to take gels – WTF? (I knew this was bad but for some reason my brain said don’t take any more gels – I still question why my brain said “No”).

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The only blessing on the decent was that the sun was rising and I had survived my first night! The trail into Courmayeur was pretty much the same one epic accent and some brutal down hill segments. My condition continued to deteriorate; I had stopped taking gels, I was cramping and I had developed some nasty chafing in my nether regions. To make matters worst the temperature was climbing. Being a ginger, I tend to think of the sun as the devil, and anything over 25 degrees means I basically stop, find some shade, some beer and pass out. But I still had 93 km to go and for the first time I thought that I wasn’t going to finish. I still went into the checkpoint with the best intentions: go through my drop bag, get what I needed, and get rid of what I don’t and get out of that checkpoint. Courmayeur had everything though: beer, pasta, soup an array of snacks and just 2 male toilets for 2000 male runners. The queues were massive and although it wouldn’t have bothered me so much, except that I had to make some adjustments……….. But I will say a little nudity is ok in ultras.

Out of the Courmayeur checkpoint and into the frying pan, it had risen to 28 degrees and it was still climbing. I took refuge in a public toilet barely 500m out of the checkpoint.  It was time to make the call to tell my wife that my race was over. When she answered, she was full of praise and letting me know how well I was doing. But I was broken, and I was only 90 minutes above cut off and I was falling apart.

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Everyone should have Leah as a ‘phone a friend option’ in an Ultra. She is specialized in the craft of having an answer to every excuse known and also (a little unnerving) she said I was “skirt” if I didn’t continue. Ouch! With that I gathered what was left of my soul and started the climb to Refuge Bertone. Before you get to the nasty part of the climb you get to walk through the public square of Courmayeur, where I kid-you-not some guy announces your name and what seems to be the whole town gives you cheer. I remember the announcer said “It’s Russell and he’s all the way from Australia, Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!” He expected a retort with “Oi Oi Oi”, but I just kept my head down and thought that he could go screw himself, (gives you an idea about how low I was at this point of the race).

On the way to the base of the climb I saw people turning back, hopes and dreams were being killed off with the 30 degree heat and a relentless gradient of the climb. When things were at their toughest, a little sign of encouragement came in the form of a gentle cold breeze, which gave me hope of making it to the next checkpoint. I thought to myself, I would just go on until I didn’t make a cut off. (I could live with that excuse.) The cramping had gone as soon as I got onto stable ground and the only thing that was slowing me down was the pain from the chaffing, which I was maintaining through applying ultra glide every hour (advice from Leah on the other side of the world). Randomly the night before the start I had spoken to a guy that had been timed out at the last check point, he told me it was devastating for him but I kind of liked the way he was back to give it another shot this year.

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The next 75km were purely about putting one foot in front of the other. I still hiked the hills and shuffled along the down hills and flats, (coach Andy would be proud). Highlights included the climb to highest peak at Grant Col Ferret where I had a really pure feeling of just existing.

The massage I had at Champex-Lac……. I popped my head in the medical tent and asked for some deep-heat, next thing you know I’m horizontal on a massage table with 3 physio’s working on my legs, two on my quads and one on my calves. I really did enjoy the Swiss side of the race.

By about 9:30am I had survived my second night and made it to Vallorcine, the checkpoint before the last climb to summit Tete aux vents. When you get to the tent, it kind of looked like a treatment facility for Zombies. The run had made our skin flake, various cuts and bruises having had a chance to weep and swell, and the sleep deprivation had completed the look. The cure was easy either finish or pull out.  Strangely though, this checkpoint is where a lot of people pull outWith only 21km to go, you are so close – why would you pull out?!

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For the first time in 24 hours I thought I could finish. I got out of the checkpoint and started the walk to the foothill of the climb to Tete Aux Vents. It soon dawned on me the reason why people pull out at Vallorcine: they know what is to come. I remember reading a race report from Anton Krupicka and even he said that the climb was pretty messed up. On this climb you don’t count stairs, you count switchbacks. It’s also completely exposed so one is forced to do battle with the elements. Climbing these monsters one learns there is a certain etiquette to the climb. You try to tag on to a group and hope that they are going slightly slower than your pace. Groups form and disappear throughout the climb; you do your best to drag along people who are suffering. At this part of the race there is a kinship between the runners where not a word is exchanged but only a passing glance or a slight hand movement to let people know to overtake you.

 

Up till this point I had been pretty good on the climbs. I would find and maintain a good rhythm, but for this climb however I decided to make myself hurt. I flew up the first 10 switchbacks only to realize that I had made an epic schoolboy error and blown up. The climb should of taken me 1 hour, instead it took me 3. I would try to cling on to groups but I would always fall behind and before I knew it I had 10 runners behind me wanting to pass. Throughout the run I was constantly trying to repress thoughts of finishing and try to stay in the moment. You have never finished this race until you’ve crossed the line in Chamonix. The last check point La Flegere you can see Chamonix below, only 7km to go with 800 meters of decent on technical terrain – oh so close!

I shuffled my way down and lost a couple of places on this section as once again my downhill technical skills were being shown up. I did see a girl roll her ankle badly on this section; she got up instantly and didn’t cry, didn’t yell out in pain but just continued to throw her body down the mountain. Acts of courage were the norm on this section and I really hoped she finished.

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With about 3km to go the path begins to line with people and the great thing is, these people worship you! Yelling praise, offering you food and water; one girl even offered to carry my bag! She was hot and French and sadly, I had to politely decline. The sacrifices we make!

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1km to go and all I could do was call Leah to let her know that we had made it. I really mean that, had it not been for that ruthless pep talk on the phone from Australia 28 hours ago, I would not be on the streets of Chamonix approaching the end. My mind turned to how I would celebrate crossing the line. I looked at my poles and remembered the song that was tormenting me for the whole run: Y M C A. Pretty sure I could turn these poles into larger than usual letters? Awesome, I would become a Youtube sensation! However, I got to about 10 meters till the end where it is six deep and people are cheering you on. All I could think about was what a privilege it was to be able to participate in such an event and how lucky I was to be there. All I ended up doing was bowing and I’m happy I finished it that way. I crossed the finish line met the announcer; for those who know him from the net cast, yes he really does look like he is on speed! I shook the hand of the runner who finished behind me, grabbed a beer (free for finishers) and sat on the same patch of grass I had sat on 45 hours ago and just enjoyed the moment.

For those of you even remotely interested in this run, it is a must. Get the points and go into the lottery. Just make it happen! One of the hardest and most satisfying things I have ever done.

 

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What I learnt and what worked for me:

Napping
I had 3 naps: 10, 20 and 15 minutes at Arnuva, Champex-Lac and Trient. Without these naps I wouldn’t have finished. When you start talking to living wooden sculptures, you knew it was time to take a nap.

Maintenance of the body
I think I could of run a 40 hour-ish time had I not got chaffing. My cramping was unfortunate but was overcome with a change in terrain.  Once you are running for 12 plus hours its time to lube up again. Just do it, even if you don’t think you need it, this mistake almost cost me my race. Also, look after your feet and legs as much as you can. Be careful with compression, I wore compression Injinji socks, it almost been a month and I still don’t’ have all my feeling in my big toes.

Caffeine
I used it sparingly and only when I was broken. It was like having an escape route every time I got in a bad situation.

Panadol
For the first time I had used painkillers in a race but it really helped manage the pain from the chaffing. I’m not a big fan of taking painkillers as part of me thinks it is cheating, but under the circumstances I did what I had to do and I don’t regret the decision.

Food
Although I never did this during the race, get used to eating bread, salami and cheese, which was at every check point. This would help break the monotony of taking gels ever hour. Make sure you indulge in the soups and pasta, custom made for the run. I remember have a Bolognese at La Fouly and feeling like superman afterwards.

Training
Coach Andy at Mile 27. The training gives you every chance to finish the run. I would also recommend paying a little extra and getting the strength exercises as well to help run more efficiently.

Gear

Kicks: INOV-255 rocklites

Socks: Injinji Compression

Shorts : Speedo Board shorts over skins

T Shirt: Nike Dry knit

Sun Glasses: Julbo Powel

Hat: The Northface Sun-visor from finishing the 2013 100km

See you on the trails!

Guest Post- Tanya Carroll- GNW100 2015

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GNW Race Report

I thought it might be therapeutic to write down my learnings from the GNW miler on the weekend. Perhaps it will stop me from rocking in a corner in a foetal position for the next 12 months. Which surprises me, because yesterday I was REALLY REALLY HAPPY with my first ever choice to DNF a race, at the 132km checkpoint. I secretly congratulated myself for making the best bloody decision I have ever made in my entire life.

What a difference a day makes

Indulge me as I summarise the 25hrs leading up to my decision to pull out.

Nervous, started cautiously, enjoying running with friends, getting hot, bit hotter, really hot, SO DAMN HOT, I HATE THE HEAT! WHY DID I ENTER THIS HOT RACE!! HOW DID PEOPLE EVER DO THIS RACE WHEN IT WAS IN NOVEMBER AND IT WAS EVEN HOTTER!!!! Head spins, nausea, vomiting (on constant rotation), got a bit disorientated and tried to go back down what I thought were the Basin stairs, met Kirrily who turned me round again. Got mobile reception – woo hoo! Rang my pacer Leah to tell her she would have a much better time staying in Sydney and watching TV, rather than drive all this way – oh and I could also stop at the 100km mark like those other more sensible people. Devastated that she didn’t seem to be listening – she said my story would have to be a lot better than that to convince her. So work on my story I did. I worked on it for the next friggin 12 hours.

I will say the lows were interrupted by amazing support at Checkpoints where heavenly creatures put ice packs on your neck, poured you Coke, salted your potatoes, asked you questions to check that you weren’t as delirious as you appeared, and gave hugs – I didn’t want to ever leave.

Somehow I made it to Yarramalong (also the 100k finish line) where with Leah and Russell’s help I carried on. After turning onto the track at Cherry Lane I had really had enough. I tried everything to persuade Leah to go back to the road. But no-one in Yarramalong has phone reception so who would pick us up? What sort of place is this!! Dumb ass town. Who came up with this GNW course anyway? I thought about setting off my personal locator beacon without telling Leah but decided it would be a bit (OK a lot) frivolous. Leah worked her magic and got me over the hump and with the cooler night air I was feeling much better. Our spirits were boosted by seeing Marty, Jen, Ross and Justine and we loped along together.

Got to Somersby not long after the sun had come up. I said in a very calm and sensible voice that I was keen to pull out, but that I would follow advice I had given to others and first lay down to nap and decide if that was the right thing to do. Ha-ha I fooled them – I’m never going to carry on, I just need a final few minutes to work on my story. 30 mins of snoozing and scheming. So up I got, confirmed that I was going to pull out, everyone argued, I ignored them, THE END.

Tanya GNW100 2015

Key learnings from this simultaneously sublime and torturous experience:

  • If you are going to do a race, have an absolute water tight reason for doing it – one that is going to pass the test when you are at your lowest possible point. My reason for doing GNW was to get points towards UTMB. The trouble was I knew once I had passed through Yarramalong that I already had secured 3 points, so I could no longer see the value of getting one extra point for another 9 hours of pain. I should have had a much more robust goal – to finish THIS epic race, not only to qualify for another.
  • A whole lot of little excuses cannot be added together to justify why you should quit.
    If each one isn’t reason enough to stop, then discard it, don’t combine it with all of your other floppy, sucky, limpy, saggy, flaccid, feeble and risible excuses. At the time I quit at 132kms I wasn’t injured and my nausea had subsided significantly. My excuses, and why they were crap are as follows :

 

Snivelling excuse # 1 to 6 Why they are crap What I should have been thinking
I can’t cope with hot temps I don’t get to choose the conditions. Don’t enter the race if I’m not prepared for whatever is thrown at me. Yes it’s hot. If I take my time at checkpoints I still have enough buffer to fast hike the whole way home if needed
I have been sick all week Probably the closest to a valid excuse. Yes I’ve been unwell but another 9 hours won’t kill me
I don’t want to feel like I did yesterday How I felt yesterday is irrelevant to how the rest of my race will pan out Stay in the moment. I feel good* right now – lets keep soldiering on.

*good is a relative term

I won’t get home until about 10pm by the time I finish the race, have a sleep in the car and drive home If I was worried about late nights/ lack of sleep I shouldn’t enter any ultra’s. Think this gets top prize for most wretched excuse Won’t my kids be chuffed when I wake them in the morning and tell them I finished.
I’d rather be with my kids right now. The few extra hours I will be away from them will be nothing compared to the hours of training Í will need to do if I decide to enter this race again to get even See left and above
My legs are sore Of course they are!!!! What do you think they are meant to feel like after 132kms you moron. This is tough but I am tougher
Rotated between :

–        I already have 3 UTMB points by getting to Yarramalong

–        I don’t even need points for the next draw

–        I don’t want to do any ultras ever again so you can stick your stupid points

My goal of gaining points was too easy to dismiss when the going got tough Have a goal that still works no matter how low you feel. With the wonderful and absurd benefit of hindsight, one motivator could have been “Do you want to be the only NRG runner not to finish?” I’m pretty sure this would have had me kissing that finishing post!

 

So with all that said and done I still took a lot of enjoyment and learnings out of the race. And so many amazing people helped make my experience what it was. And before you ask – no I really don’t need to go back to even the score!

 

Photo credit : Pip Candrick