Coast to Kosci 2013- Guest Blog- Kirrily Dear

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(Adam) Well Kirrily promised a 15 page post and it turned into an 18 page epic. Always over delivering, you should read this for a great insight into the mind of a determined woman who wears her heart on her sleeve. I couldn’t make it look as nicely designed as this, so it’s provided as a PDF- 7.1MB download. Great report-

 

Kirrily Dear C2K_Report_2013

Coast to Kosci 2013- Guest Blog Joe Ward

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(Adam) Those who know Joe are very lucky- they can call a happy, tough and thoughtful bloke a friend. And now a certified legend thanks to conquering GNW100m, GNW250k and C2K. Read on……

 

Joe’s C2K Race Report

December 2013’s C2K adventure started for me in December 2011.

As many C2K finishers have done before me, the first step before you enter the C2K is to get a taste of the race by volunteering to be part of an athletes support crew. Duties of a support crew member can consist of some running (but you don’t have to run to be in a support crew !!), handing out food to the athlete, keeping them hydrated, taking care of navigation, offering words of encouragement and generally keeping them moving forward.

I felt honoured to be asked to crew for an amazing man and now my great friend Kieron Blackmore. Kieron and I had met during the GNW 100 miler in November 2010 and e had instantly connected (translation – I couldn’t run faster enough to get rid of him). We had completed several training runs together and on one of these runs he discussed a 240km race in December called the C2K or Coast to Kosciusko. This was interesting to me because I’d never heard of this race before. All runners discuss their favourite races and you will often hear races like The North Face 100, Six Foot Track, Marathon Des Sables, Comrades and the GNW being spoken about almost as if they are mythical pilgrimages but I’d never heard of the C2K. Maybe the reason I hadn’t heard of it was because this is a race you cannot simply enter. The Race Directors of the C2K (two beautiful and amazing people, Paul and Diane) are very protective of their event and of the events competitors and rightly so, because they recognise the level of difficulty of the course. The race runs 240kms (149.1 miles) from Boydtown Beach in Eden to the top of Mount Kosciusko, the highest point in Australia. Runners are often subject to electrical storms, high winds, heavy rain, extreme heat, deep snow, blizzards altitude, flies, snake bites and potential dehydration or hypothermia issues. Paul and Diane want all of their participants to finish uninjured and safe, so they only select the best prepared athletes for the start line.

Wow ! So which Ultra Runner doesn’t want to be a part of an event as exclusive as that !! I told Kieron to count me in 🙂

The 2011 C2K was a steep learning curve for me to say the least. At the welcome briefing I was star struck to be surrounded by so many accomplished ultra runners. I was in a room full of my ultra running heroes and I left the event having learnt so much about being an endurance athlete just from speaking to them and getting a sense of their character. Sometimes when you speak to someone who is a tough mofo you don’t need to ask them if they are a tough mofo, you just know.

I made some amazing new friends and did my best to be there for Kieron throughout the 2 days he was running. Yes, that’s right, 2 days of running non stop !!

I was in awe of Kieron’s achievement when he finished. He pushed through barriers I had never seen anyone come close to before, it was real Forest Gump stuff. Kieron taught me that when you think you’ve given everything there’s still a little bit more left to give. He also taught me that even when you feel like crap and you’re at your absolute lowest you can still be a charming, cheeky SOB, good onya mate.

I witnessed more suffering, guts, determination and awesomeness at that race than I had ever witnessed in my life. As a support crew member you get a front row ticket to all of the mental toughness, the highs, the lows as well as a few of the not so pleasant aspects of ultra running (what happens out there, stays out there) and at the time I thought, why would people do this to themselves ?? This is INSANE !!

In 2011, I honestly didn’t think it was a sensible event, let alone something I was capable of completing. The athletes pushed their bodies to levels that it was hard for me to understand. This was a race where running through the night non stop without sleep, losing toe nails and vomiting was considered all part of the journey. WHAA ??

I completed a couple of 100 mile events in 2012. My first was the Glasshouse 100 in September 2012 and then the GNW 100 miles in 2012. Both were extremely rewarding but before running either of these events, I was already starting to think about C2K during my training. I ran looong training runs including a couple of all night runs and I fell in love with running through the night till sunrise. Nothing feels more amazing than running with a friend and watching the sun pop up over the horizon. The wildlife comes to life and suddenly you feel awake and your legs are filled with more running. If you’ve never experienced running through the night please please please take my word for it. It is beautiful 🙂

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I changed careers. I was inspired by these happy, motivated people that loved to run and share the joy of running. It was time to follow my heart and become what I have always wanted to be, ever since I ran my first marathon in 2006, a marathon coach. I started my own business coaching running, boxing, kickboxing, kids kickboxing and personal training. I was training everyday, getting fitter and stronger and loving it !!

I can’t remember if Kieron asked me to join him again in December 2012 for his next C2K or if I volunteered before he asked me but before I knew it I was back there with him, running beside him on the course and once again we summitted the top of Mount Kosci and took the obligatory photo from the top of Australia.

This time was a very different experience for me. Of course I had to make sure I did my best job to look after Kieron but the whole time I was crewing for him I was planning and strategizing. Could I enter this race ? Is it possible ? What nutrition strategy would I have ? How would I get to Dalgety and still feel fresh ? What’s the best way to take on these hills ?

Again, I was struck by Kieron’s determination, courage, spirit and character. He is still to this day, the best man I know. But could I do this ? I wanted to be like these incredible ultra runners but there was a lot of experience there. Maybe if I couldn’t be like them then I could at least share the same start line, that would be a good start.

Kieron achieved the impossible again in 2012 and at the awards ceremony after the event on Sunday morning, I listened to inspiring stories of strength and mind over matter. I told my then girlfriend Emma that I wanted to do this race one day and she said “You will !” … I had the bosses permission. I discussed a 2013 attempt at the GNW 250 Fatass (unofficial event) with a few friends after the awards ceremony. This run would be a way to prove to myself and to Paul and Diane, that I was ready.

GNW 250 in July 2013 was tough. 276 ish kms in 69 hours and 28 minutes. It was a hard slog but it was a respectable time and would hopefully give me the chance of being accepted when entries opened. I was right and my entrance was accepted and confirmed in October/November 2013.

THE RACE – Friday 5.30am

“5    4    3    2    1   GO !!”

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I barely had time to hug my Kimberley and Simpson desert running heroes Jane Trumper and Andy Bowen before we were off. I settled in just behind them and tried to relax. This was going to be a looooong day … no wait a looooooong TWO days !!

Superstar runner (and eventual winner/record holder) Jess Baker ran with us for a minute as we hit the first trail section and before I knew it she was gone. What an incredible lady she is ! Smiley and friendly on the outside but a warrior to the core. I was already feeling like running this race was a good idea. Just to be around these people is such an honour.

I kept just behind Jane and Andy and soon we were greeted by Mat Grills aka tattoorunner, an ultra runner from Queensland. We immediately struck up a conversation which lasted around 24kms.

What a legend Mat is ! A fellow vegan ultra runner that used to play in a hardcore band, he has some awesome tattoos all over his body. He looks a bit like a Japanese Yakuza except he’s not Japanese and much friendlier. He has a rule that if it’s above 13 degrees then it’s time to take his tee shirt off. He carries as little weight as possible, even wearing sandals on his feet instead of trainers. It’s amazing, whenever I think I’ve found a really difficult challenge there’s always someone raising the level of difficulty even higher. Go Mat !!

The first 24kms went so quick it was almost like they didn’t happen. A mixture of adrenalin, great conversation and a feeling amongst all the runners that the race really wouldn’t begin till the next day early Saturday morning.

24kms was the runner/crew rendezvous point. From this point onwards I would have my amazing support crew to cater to my every need and whim. Now it’s important to point out here that there are support crews and their are AWESOME SUPPORT CREWS. A support crew will help their runner run but an awesome support crew can make or break a race. If you have the right crew it can really make all the difference.

I had two of the best support crewers with me. Ultra Runner Toni-Anne Lee from Manly Beach Running Club. She has run 3 marathons, including a 50km and crewed for me during my 276km run. I also had my fellow hobbit and Ultra Runner Brad Smithers. Both are super positive, incredibly experienced and wonderful people. We said a quick hi, I told them all was well, we swapped over some electrolytes and gear and agreed to check in another 5kms down the road.

My support crew met me every 5kms or so to give me a banana, couple of dates, fresh electrolytes and anything else I needed. At 42kms, my support crew and I shared a couple of high fives. The running was well underway and the nerves were starting to disappear.

I still had a bit of dicky stomach from being ill on Wednesday night but that was slowly fading and the food I was eating was staying down so everything was going to plan.

At 50kms we hit Rocky Hall and reached the first Mandatory Checkpoint. My support crew sent a text message to let the Race Director know my time of arrival. Brad said I was on track and running at a good pace. I was comfortable and running at a pace that was still near my 36 hour A Target pace.

A few kms later we reached the first big climb at Big Jack mountain. A long 7km climb to the top. Brad walked with me up here asking me how I was going and sharing his yoda-like wisdom. When life is an uphill battle then Brad is the man you want by your side. Unwaveringly positive with a bottomless bag of motivating stories.

Several runners overtook me up Big Jack and offered words of encouragement and smiles and I was starting to settle into my own race and worrying less about my position. When I reached the top of Big Jack I had a quick sit down and massage from gorgeous Sarah-Jane. I’m always happy to see SJ, she is so full of energy and positivity, just what a grumpy ultra runner that doesn’t like climbing hills needs 🙂

At this point I had such a long way to go that the maths was starting to mess my head up. So I’ve run 65kms but I’ve still got 175kms to go !!! … That’s over 100 miles !!!

Brad kept telling me not to think about it and leave the maths calculations to the support crew. I agreed but it’s difficult when there’s such a massive distance ahead, you can’t help but think about it and try to break it down somehow.

So 175kms, that’s 7 x 25km runs. Wait, that’s no good. Okay 175kms is around 4 marathons to go. Wait that sucks !!

After a 5 minute sit down and a watermelon refuel I was back up and running and 5kms down the road I arrived in Cathcart for the second Checkpoint.

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I had some cold lemonade and pressed on. Note to self, cold lemonade during a long run is awesome !!

I was worrying less about time now and just ticking off the landmarks that I recognised from crewing in previous years. One big landmark was the dead tree at 102kms which I knew was coming up soon. I watch a lot of Lord of the Rings and as every good hobbit knows, the dead tree is a good place to be. Who doesn’t want to pretend to be the King of Gondor ??

Just before the dead tree I was greeted by the other three members of my support crew. Beautiful Sally Dean, kickass Jodie Hermit and Superman Robin Yates. Three more warriors to add to the fellowship of Mount Kosci. I was feeling very positive and a little dehydrated. I greeted them and slurred my words quite badly. So much so that I decided it might be time to ditch the beanie that was causing my head to overheat.

Once the orange Can Too beanie (Go Can Too !!) was handed over I managed to remember everyones name (including my own) I headed toward the dead tree (of Gondor).

I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived there ahead of schedule. My amazing support crew celebrated by letting off some party poppers and taking a few photos. I was finally in 3 figures !! Not quite half way but I’d made a real dent in the race and moved past the 100km mark so that felt fantastic.

Onwards to Snowy River Way !! (it really does sound like the Lord of the Rings Middle Earth doesn’t it ! – or maybe that’s just me)

It was around 8pm and starting to get dark so the head torches had to come out. This was a positive thing for me. The cool air of the night is always a welcome relief from the heat of the day and there’s something nice about running in the night when nobody can see you. It’s almost as if you are invisible and the pain can’t find you.

At the intersection Brad sat me down and told me that he was heading 40km down the road to Dalgetty and Team Silver car support crew were taking over for the next 5 or 6 hours. He told me to stop worrying about the time and focus on running. He assured me I was way ahead of schedule so there really was nothing to worry about.

The next section was 40kms to Dalgety and I was hoping to get there for 1.30am ish if everything went according to plan but I knew that I already had 100kms in my legs so anything could happen.

Brad and Toni-Anne went to Dalgety Hall for a sleep and I was left in the very capable hands of Sally Dean, Jodi Hermit and pacer Robin Yates. This was great. I had 3 new friends to chat to and I was looking forward to some night running.

This section is remote farmland with very little light pollution and it had been a beautiful clear sunny day so I knew it would be a good night for star gazing and we were not disappointed. After a few kms running on my own, Robin joined me and the night sky was breathtaking.

A crescent moon with the planet venus hung low in the sky which made the moon look enormous. The milky way seemed to fill with more and more stars when you looked at it and there were shooting stars like bolts of lightning every 15 minutes or so.

I ran well for 10 or 15kms but the sleep monsters (tiredness monsters) were coming for me. I delayed my No Dose (caffeine tablet) for as late as possible and managed to hold out until around 11.30pm. When I took my No Dose caffeine tablet I was able to keep running well for a while and eventually Robin and I arrived at Dalgety Hall checkpoint, a little behind schedule at 3am.

I was weighed and very surprised to find that I was 2.9kms heavier than my start weight but this was probably because I was wearing all my night gear.

I tried to resist the temptation of entering the warmth of Dalgety Hall but it pulled me in like a tractor beam and before I knew it I was inside eating noodles and receiving a massage from ultra running legend and race medic Andy Hewett aka Wippet.

After 15 minutes of refreshments and lots of encouragement from Brado, I was back on my way at 3.15am, crossing Snowy River Bridge.

It was cold. Freezing ! I had seen Kieron suffer here and I was convinced I was going through the same thing. It was encouraging to see my friend Kirrily Dear here looking so strong but I was convinced I wouldn’t feel right again until the sun came up.

My support crew car stopped for me every couple of kms and I felt like my energy was slipping away. I didn’t know if I could make it. My head started doing maths again. I still had almost 100kms to go and most of that was uphill !! … I needed to gain over 2000 metres in altitude and I didn’t know if my body could do it. Brad told me I was still looking good. We walked through the cold of the early morning and eventually around 5am ish the sun came up.

What a beautiful sunrise, incredible. Ok lets run !

I ran the flat and the downhills and eventually made it to the base of a very steep hill. Beloka range, yuck !

8kms up up up ! Even Robin my pacer was tired. Although that could be more to do with the 50kms of running he had done with me already. Congrats on your first ever 50kms Robin !!

At the top of Beloka range we passed a vehicle covered in American flags. It was the American support team. Go America !!!

I met with Brad and he told me that it was around 15kms to Jindabyne. My stops with my support crew were becoming much more frequent by this point so it was a relief that the next major checkpoint in the race was not that far. He said I had to get there before cut off and we agreed to do push a bit harder.

I was eating less and less and couldn’t seem to stomach any food and Brad was increasingly worried about my calorie intake. Half the problem was that my stomach was feeling queezy and I was concerned that if I ate too much it might get worse but I tried to eat as much as I could and bargained with Brad over the number of dates I needed to eat to keep some kind of balance and mitigate the risk of illness.

Onwards to Jindabyne at 182kms !

The sun was well and truly up and it was getting hot. I had to stop a couple of times to jump under some shade. My body was shutting down and I didn’t know what to do. Brad remained positive and was completely convinced that I would finish. I really wasn’t sure.

Eventually I reached Jindabyne where I was greeted by all of my support crew and a couple of familiar faces – Aussie 24hr champ Allison Lilley and Helen, who were both crewing for a Japanese ultra runner.

I was treated like an Emperor at this checkpoint. I was fed hot chips, massaged, put under some shade and generally given the 5 star treatment.

I composed myself, meditated on why I was here and what the point was and decided that this was a massive learning curve that was not supposed to be easy. I had suffered so much but maybe that was what I was here to do. To learn how to suffer and still manage my suffering. I’m sure that sounds crazy but I was surrounded by other athletes that were clearly going through just as much pain but they were still moving forward. I had to learn to just suck it up princess !!

So I did … and Brad and I left after 30 minutes of pampering with a renewed sense of positivity and a feeling that no matter what happens now I WILL FINISH !!

Back out on the road there was a sign that said 38kms to Charlottes Pass. Awesome, I thought. I can do 38kms and then from there it’s only 9kms to the top of Mount Kosci and 9kms back down to the finish. Finally the maths was starting to make sense !!

It was 11.30am, almost midday and the sun was beating down on us. Then the flies came. Flies like to try to get into orifices. Ears, mouth, nose was under full attack. To say this was slightly annoying would be like saying Darth Vader was slightly dark. Arrghh ! … I feel bad for being a vegan that hates flies but who doesn’t hate flies ?? … and why do they love ears so much ?? … Bug Spray, Bug Spray, Bug Spray … they are so persistent … One of my support crew Jodi said they couldn’t be that bad. Jodi, you are accompanying me on this section next year.

We ran a lot of the downhill section to Thredbo River at 189kms and managed to reach it 90 minutes ahead of cut off at 1pm.

Then we started the 10km climb (death march) up to the top. This seemed to last forever but Brad kept me moving and my support crew kept me updated with inspiring messages of encouragement and support from family and friends. Thank the running gods for the internet !!

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I also saw running legend Jan Hermann, who passed us going uphill and gave us some incredible encouragement and reassurance. Keep moving he said, if you keep going at this pace you will definitely finish. It was great to hear this from such an experienced athlete and one of my all time heroes. What a legend.

After lots of leg movement (and bowel movement) we eventually made it to 200kms where I had a 15 minute stop before getting back up to press on.

I had locked in the 200km mark and I was so pleased that there was only 40kms left in the race. I had slowed down significantly but I was going to make it and this was an amazing feeling.

Then, a car pulled up.

The support crew said, “There’s bad weather at the top of Mount Kosci so you won’t be able to summit so you’ve only got 22kms to go !”

My heart sank. I felt like everything I had battled for had been snatched from me at the last second. I looked at Brad and didn’t say a word. The car drove on, not realising the gravity of the message they had delivered.

I wanted the full course and chopping the last section off made me feel like I had not completed the full race. Brad reassured me that Paul and Diane would not make a decision like this lightly and the weather at the summit of Mount Kosci must be particularly bad for them to make that decision. He said we should stick to the plan and still keep going for the same time we had decided we would get to Charlottes Pass before the climb.

I was heart broken and angry and a mix of emotions. I felt like quitting there and then. If I finished then it would not be the finish I wanted and if I didn’t finish then would I ever be invited back for another go ?  … probably not. I asked him to give me a few moments and then we talked it through. I was disappointed but this was all part of the sport. When we are set challenges we have to face them. You never know what’s going to happen during a race, the best you can do is be ready for anything. I wasn’t ready for this.

I needed to be a good sportsman. I needed to finish.

Running was out of the question by this point. Whether it was the hills, the heat, lack of calories or the bad news (possibly a combination of all of them), my quads were destroyed and I didn’t have any running in my legs.

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I walked with Brado and was quickly joined by my mate Kieron. We let the support crew know we were finishing at Charlottes Pass at 222kms and they all tried to hide their disappointment.

Brad, Kieron and I marched together towards the snowy mountains. When we finally reached the snow my support crew had snowball fights whilst I pressed on. I just wanted this to be done.

I thought about what I would say when I met the Race Directors Paul and Diane at the finish line. Would I be angry that they stopped my going to the summit ??

Then I realised Paul and Diane had made the decision to protect not just me but all my running friends too and it’s far more important to be safe than to run an extra 18kms.

First world problems ! There are much bigger things in the world to worry about than running 18km at a particular time on a particular day.

After a few hours I finished at Charlottes Pass and thanked Paul and Diane for putting my friends welfare first. We drove home and went straight to bed, satisfied that we had given the race everything we had. Team “Just Done It” had done just that. We had gone out and overcome every battle that was put in front of us and conquered 222kms as a team.

I was proud of my team, proud of myself and proud to be a part of an event that puts people first in a world where people often take second or third place to money and numbers.

We drove home slowly and carefully, weaving between Kangaroos and wombats.

When we woke the next day we had breakfast with the other runners and went to the awards ceremony. When my name was called out and I received my akubra hat and pin, I had to pinch myself. I had finally completed a race I thought was impossible and learnt so much in the process.

At 2pm that afternoon, Brad, Toni-Anne, Jodi and I returned to Charlottes Pass to climb Mount Kosci.

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We climbed to the top and chatted the whole way. It was one of the most perfect climbs up Mount Kosci I have ever experienced. Perfect weather and incredible views from the top.

We met fellow runners, Marina Rob and Cassie on the mountain and discussed the race from the top of Australia.

I had to pinch myself again to check it was all real.

Thanks to my support crew who looked after me so amazingly well. I owe each of you a back massage at the timing of your choice !

To my fellow C2K runners. Thanks for being so crazy. You make me feel sane 🙂 To Paul and Diane, thanks for putting people before numbers and for creating this crazy beast of a race.

Joe 🙂

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Guest Blog- Fitzroy Falls Fire Trails Marathon 2013 FFFTM

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(Adam) I’ve done this race twice, and missed out this year as I couldn’t fit it in the schedule, but you might like to hear from Doug Richardson who placed 17th male this year! It’s a great race, stick it on your planner for next year……..

 

(Doug) It’s hard to believe that this time last year the FFFTM was my first trail race.  Two marathons (Hobart and 6ft track) since and a failed TNF50 attempt, here I was to face my demons of cramping with the inner quad muscles on race day for these long events (as some of you may know have haunted me in recent times).

 

The race last year at least gave me positive thoughts as I managed to complete that without the dreaded muscles spasms, maybe it was the cold weather or just being ‘super’ hydrated that time drinking plenty of electrolytes and water during the near two hour drive down to the Southern Highlands.

 

So I decided to repeat that strategy and keep the fluid intake up again this year and added artillery such as 3 ‘Shotz’ tablets (sodium and magnesium electrolytes that mix with water), many salt tablets and the standard gels (Second Surges) to take throughout the race.  The Rural Fire Service are the beneficiaries of this event and they again put a great effort in with their presence and water stations throughout the race, so I elected to take my palm held water bottle as the sole race hydration carriage thus avoiding the extra weight and restriction of a water pack.

 

Weather on arrival was clear and certainly crisp but that would not last long as temps of around 25 were expected. Runners were relieved it was not held the next day (Sunday) or a couple of days earlier when temps were in the high 30’s. A quick hello and good luck to Chris Johnson from NRG and I made my way to the starting line, allowing the elite runners like Brendan Davies, Ian Gallagher and Beth Cardelli plenty of space for a clear take off in the rather narrow starting shoot.

 

At the line I remembered I had forgotten something in the car …another potential remedy for cramps, “pickle juice”. Yes I actually drank this stuff at the Coastal Classic last month at the onset of cramps at 24km and it provided relief although for a short time, as they returned later in that event.  The starting horn went off at 8am so it was too late to worry about that delightful tasting remedy now.

 

The first couple of kilometres are a little ‘narly’, although on fire trail, you need to watch your footing.  Up until the first 8kms, the gradient is up and down but nothing to difficult and actually includes some coverage on a gravel and then sealed road for about 2km where you will find your fastest km pace for the race. Km’s 5-7 were in the 4:19 and 4:34 pace and I felt very comfortable including the climb up to the 8km mark where the real fire trail began and the downhill section to come.  This next section got technical with some sharp descents and the choice is there to either go leaping down many rocks (John Lewis style) or take the more cautioned option with smaller careful paces, the latter I chose, as I still lack the technical sharp skills of downhill rock running.

 

At the 10km mark, the downhill ceases for a short while, where you cross a small creek with some minor rock jumping and head back up in elevation before another drop down.  It was at this time I needed  a ‘nature’ stop so I knew I was at least well hydrated !  The first water station was about a further km on so I stopped again and that was where I took my second electrolyte tab (first was in the water bottle at the start).

 

Next 6km were uphill but with the recent hill training that I have been doing, this climb was actually reasonable and I was able to maintain a good steady pace, overtaking many on the hills that had overtaken me with my recent two stops.

 

At the 20km mark, the first out and back sections begin.  About 2.2km downhill to a turn around point and then back up hill to the water station that aids the marks of 20km and 24.5km. It was at the 20km point I saw Brendan Davies coming out of the uphill climb in first position looking in control and very comfortable and gave him some encouragement (not that he needed it) as he powered on with Ian Gallagher in close pursuit, so you can gauge how far the leaders are ahead of you – 4.5km already in my case !  Beth Cardelli was clearly leading the women’s race.

 

I saw Chris Johnson at the 24km mark and gave him a high five and he seemed to be travelling well as he headed down for the out and back section.  After that first out and back you make a right turn into another fire trail for about 3.5km and reach a small hill at the 28km mark where another aid station existed this time with electrolyte drink, fruit, lollies and coke.  Not sure actually why I stopped here at this aid point looking back at my race review (maybe it was the lollies – no jubes Rocco), but you then start a smaller out and back of 1km downhill (60m drop) to a turn around point and then the 1km back uphill to the same aid station.  Some magic views of Kangaroo Valley and the cliff faces can be seen during this section on a bright sunny day like it was as opposed to the mist from last year.

 

The return aid station was where I was to have my last electrolyte, another salt tablet, gel and some fruit and get set for the next section which I knew for memory was the ‘wall’ with 9km of gradual fire trail climbing in sunny semi-open conditions where the temperatures began to rise.  This section is not particularly scenic and I was beginning to think that I should be cramping about now.  So to help combat any chance of that happening, I began using the leg muscles by running in different stride lengths, lifting the knees up and higher kicks and even opening the stance of the feet so that you look like you are semi-waddling like a duck !  Anything really to avoid the repeat usage of the same muscles through the race and to just provide a different approach.

 

Definitely the toughest section of the course, but I was beginning to pass a few more people.  I don’t think I was getting any faster (in fact I wasn’t as my splits were in the low 5min/km range), it was more the runners ahead were hitting the wall.  Respiratory I felt great, although it was getting warmer, the heat was bearable and I poured water on my head from the hand held bottle where I could ration (although the number of water stations ahead allowed me to do this).  So feeling good, but my mind was clearly focusing on avoiding cramps so I needed to think of something to distract me and I just started to say to myself it’s just a training run – treat it like an NRG Six Foot Track long away run – no race pressure, just go with it.

 

Two more water stations passed and I reached a quick downhill section before another smaller 40m climb at the 39km mark.  Feeling okay still, I really wanted to give this hill climb a go so I tried some more powerful strides and then I could just slightly feel the beginning of the dreaded cramps again in the inner quads.  But I played it carefully and decided to walk this hill, stretching the legs considerable whilst I walked up talking to myself that just reach the top and then take off again.  This seemed to help as I felt the initial tightness go away as I was ‘stretch walking’ up that hill.  So I got to the top knowing that some of the runners behind may have caught up a little ground but I now felt comfortable to go a bit harder.

 

2,400m to go (6 laps of a running track I thought to myself) and I will succeed beating my demons.  Another sharp downhill section and then one final rise up to the finish to go, so I used quicker smaller steps to make sure I killed off any last minute concerns up that last climb.

 

I crossed the line in 3:39:15 net time and was relieved and elated at the same time if that is possible, (a) because the demons were beaten FINALLY and (b) I had some time goals with splits written on my arm with an ambitious sub 3:40 finish in this event (in fact it the desired goal was 3:39).

 

I then had a quick chat with Brendan and Ian and congratulated them on 1st and 2nd respectively.  Those guys are superb runners. Brendan asked how I went and I was just chuffed to say I took 11mins off last year’s time.  A look at the final results sheet whilst devouring the free and amazing ‘hamburger with the lot’ put on by the RFS and I was amazed that I snuck into the Top 20 positions.  The drive home was a pleasant one as a result and aided by some post race Endurox R4 chocolate recovery powder with milk (cash for comments there Matt Cherri – ching$ching$), the legs felt good.

 

Thanks again to the local RFS with their help supporting this race.  It really is a nice event and I will be back again hopefully next year for #3.

 

Chris Johnson finished with 5:05 but I didn’t get a chance to speak with him afterwards, well done Chris ! Said g’day to Michael McGrath who completed yet another marathon here and snuck into the Top 40.   Other names I noted were Jason Wheeler (aka Gater Bullant) in a superb 3:22, Justine Medin 4:24 and Jess Siegle in 4:31. Apologies If I have missed any other names.

 

Brendan won the men’s event in 2:58 and Beth in 3:24.

 

Course profile (elevation chart) included.

FFFTM Course profile

Kirrily Dear Guest Blog- Big Red Run 2013

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(Adam Connor) I’m very pleased that Kirrily Dear has agreed to share her experience at the Big Red Run this year. As the first ever guest blogger she has some interesting things to say, it’s a pity it has taken me so long to post this. She’s done some great writing and I might ask to host some more of it- including her incredible multi day epic out on the GNW. I have to add that I wasn’t really interested in this run until I heard about how much fun it was afterwards! Take it away Kirrily………

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A few people have been asking me to write a bit about my experiences so I’ll keep in nice and short and break it into a series of indisputable facts.

FACT 1: I HAD A BLINDER (FOR ME!)

3rd female, 7th overall, 33hrs to run 250km and plenty of time spent sight-seeing along the way. Don’t ask me where I managed to pull that from on my first multi-stage race but I felt comfortable and strong for 90% of the way. That last stretch on the 84km long day was a killer as always.

I had absolutely no interest in racing the BRR. I was there to enjoy the experience and take in the scenery. As soon as I got moving on the first day though I knew my body was feeling strong and my brain was in the right space. Each day I just kept getting stronger. I was pain free and didn’t have any sense of fatigue until toward the end of the 3rd marathon on the 3rd day.

Over the last 18 months I have dramatically changed the way I train and it’s really starting to work for me. The change has been fuelled by increasing understanding of what my own body responds to and also watching the large number of elite ultra runners that are now completely sidelined because they have overloaded their bodies with the wrong type of training. I may never be world champion at this sport but I plan to be taking out the 80+ year old age category in a few more years.

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So what’s changed? I no longer believe in ‘running through pain’. If there’s pain I get it fixed, early. I no longer believe that you have to be doing ‘the big km’s’. If I regularly go above 80km a week I end up with injuries and training becomes inconsistent. So I am keeping the km’s low and focusing on intensity instead and giving all I can to every training session. I am more exhausted after a session at Crossfit 2036 or Sean Williams Sweat than I was after any of the marathons at BRR and I back up 4 mornings in a row week in, week out supplemented with long runs on the weekend. It provides incredible conditioning and with good condition you can do just about anything.

Finally a wonderful run of this magnitude is only possible with incredible support through the vollies and medical team. They were everywhere and always unerringly positive and helpful. One of the greatest sights in the world was one of those little red checkpoint tents appearing on the horizon, shimmering in the heat haze like a mirage.  I had a minor incident on the long run that could have easily brought the whole game unstuck in such an extreme environment but with their outstanding support I was home safe and well. Thank you!

FACT 2: THE LANDSCAPE IS MONUMENTAL

The Simpson Desert landscape is vast and more diverse than I expected. It is staggeringly beautiful. I don’t have the words to describe the impact it has had on me. I’m a nature nut and have been on a lot of adventures in all corners of the world and the Simpson Desert ranks up there as one of the greatest. It’s a silent, vast beauty. It commands attention through its stillness.

The sand dunes in the ‘channel country’ part of the Simpson all run north-south with wide areas of flat ground in between. They are like waves in an enormous sandy ocean. At any point we were either running parallel to the dunes or crossing them. Running over the dunes was an absolute delight. The climb was one of anticipation, wondering what would be on the other side. Each crest brought with it vast, sweeping views and revealed the next terrain feast laid out on the desert platter for kilometres in front of me. As a dedication to 5 year olds everywhere, it was then essential to hurtle down the dunes as fast as my legs would take me.

Surprisingly around 80% or more of the course was completely flat so the challenge of BRR isn’t so much in climbing dunes but dealing with the technical nature of what is underfoot. Gibber plains, hard clay pan, sand moguls and mud meant constant variation in gait and pace. Tuft grass hid endless burrows ready to snap an ankle should concentration wane. Scratchy “grrr” bush (need to find out the real name one day) lacerated bare legs creating a stinging brew when mixed with sweat and sunscreen. We had rain, cold, wind and intense heat. The desert giving us just a taste of its true potential.

Navigation of the course also demanded attention. Much of the course was cross country with no trails. We ran from one pink ribbon to the next. It was easy to get off course. Every day people returned to camp with stories of unplanned detours and gut wrenching moments of realisation when they discovered they were off track, tired and alone.

The highlights for me? Every day was an incredible adventure although I have noticed there are a few scenes that keep replaying in my head a bit over a week later.

Day 2 – I had just worked my way through a field of sand moguls with burrows, bushes and all manner of challenges. A head wind was blasting whatever slow progress I was making. I was glad to see the pink ribbons cross up and over the sand dune knowing the terrain would likely change. Cresting the dune and the world opened up to a enormous hard clay pan. The red checkpoint tent was a kilometre or two away on the other side and there were people around. I ran like crazy down the side of the dune, the momentum propelling me across the clay pan. At last running at full tilt, it was pure bliss.

Day 3 – Running along the top of big red after the rain. It’s one of the iconic photos that has come out of the week. The sand was an intense red colour and the air fresh. The rain had firmed the sand so it was easier to get some pace.

Day 4 – Sunrise. It was a clear morning and the intensity of the colour is like nothing I have seen before.

Day 5 – Early morning I was running along the top of a dune. The wind was gusting and lizards scurrying. Overhead two wedge tail eagles circled watching my progress. I had a strange feeling that if I didn’t keep moving I would be on a lunch menu.

Day 5 – Crossing the vast moonscape of the gibber plains. I love running on gibber. The rocks are all highly polished from water rushing over them in the wet season and underneath is sand so as you run along the ground looks like it should be hard but it is spongy. I also enjoyed being out in the intense heat on day 5 on the gibber. Strange I know but it felt like a real desert experience. Heat waves distorted the horizon. Dry air sapping any moisture from your mouth.

BRR desert pic

Photo by Damon Roberts – Stellar desert runner

I miss the desert.

FACT 3: IT’S ALL ABOUT THE PEOPLE

I remember when I first met someone who had run 100km and it hit me how casually they talked about such an achievement.  It was much like other folk talk about going for a walk around the block; it happens, it’s nice to be able to do it, but for the regular doer it’s no biggie on life’s list of achievements.

 

Turns out I’ve become one of those people. A hundred kilometres on foot in a day barely even warrants a post except perhaps to mention you’re home, fed and relatively blister free. Every ultramarathoner knows how much of a privilege it is to do what we do.  It’s not something we take for granted but more that it’s just well…normal.

 

That’s where BRR was completely different to any other ultramarathon experience.  Many people on that start line were about to face their first marathon and then keep going for another 208kms.  It was an honour to bear witness to their journey.  Each morning it was awe-inspiring to see them overcome the fatigue and mental barriers to get to the start line.  Into the afternoon and sometimes the night we waited and watched the horizon for them to be making their way back to camp.  Each day while their bodies grew tired, their minds grew stronger.  Slowly they chipped away at the challenge and began to believe.  The last person across the line was out on the course 22 hours longer than me.  Close to an entire extra day.  I find the thought staggering.  The persistence and resilience it would take to keep going, the inner strength.

 

The transition to being an ultramarathoner is a life changing experience.  It redefines the boundaries of your world in the most profound ways.  To be in camp everyday with the true champions and support their journey is a memory I will hold dear forever.

 

 

Thanks so much to the BRR organisers, vollies, medics and the massage angels for making the journey possible.

Photo Provided by Big Red Run

Photo Provided by Big Red Run

Big Red Run

Clayton Crabtree- Sydney Trailwalker 2013

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(Adam Connor) This is actually the second guest post here, I’m still working on the first! We often say the true heroes of our events are the ones who spend those extra hours on the course. It’s very apparent here that Clayton and his team show an unusual amount of grit and determination. An amazing story…….

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Disclaimer: You know how it all ends, it takes a while to tell the story of a 45hr trek, so feel free to jump to the end (at times we all wished we could have), or trudge to the end and re-live the adventure with me…

Well, just what is it like to go on a non-stop 45hr trek through the Australian bush with a bunch of strangers and no sleep (for 50+hrs)? Especially when it was only planned to be 32hrs, with no specific Oxfam
training (i.e. long walks) at all, no special planning or preparation for 45hrs on the go, I was entering off the back of fitness from TNF100, some speedy training for the City to Surf, and two successful cracks at Oxfam 2 years earlier. Nothing can really prepare you for 45+hrs straight, except just
jumping in and doing it.

So, let’s start with the late last minute ring in request via Wilson from the NRG committee. Not yet met this famous NRG runner, but will be hunting him down on my next club run.

Cowan Station

Earlier on in the year I had considered doing Oxfam again, I began sniffing around the singles board, kept an eye on what teams were looking
for who, and who was looking for teams, what pace teams were aiming for that had lost team members. I was thinking 24hrs being a suitable goal.

But I was also battling sore ankles (& eventually black toe nails) that came and went mysteriously. I wasn’t prepared to commit to an Oxfam team
until I had worked out what was wrong and resolved it. Turns out my new shoes I wore on the TNF were half a size smaller than expected. Ankle and
other injuries now resolved I went for the bait on the NRG Facebook page and jumped into a team at the last minute (with my old shoes).

Sunrise Balmoral

Met my new team mates (actually two teams) at a restaurant in Crowsnest on
the Wednesday evening, less than 36 hours before the start. So no time to train with them, it was straight into taper, rest and carbo loading. They were the Adventure Angels Teams 1 & 2. Hailing from the personal fitness company “Fitness Angles” (clients, friends & other ring-ins), run by Laura.

I was looking forward to a quick trek with some fellow fitness fanatics and was happy to
offer my 2 x experience with various nebulous and random tips.

The day came, we had a civilised start at 10am. I caught the bus to Chatswood, train to Hornsby (was intending Berowra), another train to
Hawkesbury (that did not stop at Berowra), I arrived nice and early to enjoy some bacon and egg rolls, a good coffee, bit of a stretch, and a short wait for my 2 teams.

Off we went, start pace was relaxed, no fear of sweating too early on the first climb for me. Heading up the hill was the first of numerous amazing sights – another teams walker carry a back-pack hanging from neck height to less than a few inches off the ground & wider than he was; guess they did not meet their support crew first, they must have had the entire teams
support gear in the suitcase with shoulder harness (or he was a Ghurka).

Suspecting the latter there was no good natured ribbing as we trudged past, and then they trudged past us, and so it was until Bobbin Head with
these guys (we’ll meet up with them again later in the story).

A relaxed easy pace saw us arrive at CP1 around 2:30pm. Burgers all round; Elisha nailed two of them, just in-time as they then ran out of burger
buns. Hence an insentive to climb that first hill slightly quicker if you want more burgers. We left CP1 after half an hour; a quick turn-around from my previous two CP1
trips; time to make up time.

I made a de-ja-vue prediction earlier in the week: helicopters in the air halfway to Berowra waters. I’d been on that section of track 3 x and we’d heard noisey choppers all 3 x; so a fourth? Yes, another noisey chopper, just one, but bang on schedule & location.

CP1 to CP2 continued slow and easy, it’s the toughest stage of all. Ben and his sore knees were holding up well, playing it slow and careful on the downhills, a raging bull on the up-hills. We were treated to a
beautiful sun-set heading down into Berowra waters, it was going to be head-torch time by the time we got to the Berowra Waters road & ferry crossing. Much earlier on the trail than the last 2 x. But I figured that
the night would last just as long whether you walked it, ran it, or no matter how early it started. I was covered with head torches. I’ve done it twice and we were going with head torches this time much earlier, so the
suspicion of two full nights on the trail was beginning to dawn on me.

Sunrise Balmoral 2

Arrived at CP2 at 8pm to a near empty carpark. Less frantic than I recalled, more relaxed, much warmer, no change of clothes required for me
(wasn’t sweating at all), and they still had sausages this time (thanks for leaving some Adam but I was well fed by my support crew)! The Oxfam
volunteer lamented to us she had cooked over 2000~ sausage sammies that
day, and there was still plenty left over, but she was finished!

CP2 closed at 10pm, we left at 9:30pm, the first hint of the trail sweep monster closing in on us was becoming apparent.

CP2 to CP3 was dark and late. Tide was in and we had to take our shoes off to cross one section, brrrr. Woke the feet up anyway! Laura was playing tunes from her iPhone via a beat-box attached to her back-pack as we skirted around the swampy bits. Theme song for the trek (for me) was “Wake
Me Up” by Avicii. It’s still stuck in my head, I downloaded it from iTunes, sad I know!

We soon encountered our friends with the TMNT back-pack; only this time they had 2 torches between 4 of them, one torch was attached to a walking
stick (sharp pointy end almost getting me several times), the other was grabbed from the counter of a BP petrol station (or 2$ shop). But hey, they were ahead of us and (for some reason) not really wanting us to pass. The ultraristic side of me wanted to part with one of my spare torches and give them a boost, normally I would; but we’d be in for the long hall for
two nights ourselves and I hadn’t tested my Nao over one night let alone 2 so decided to keep my spare for my spare to myself or my team mates. In
the end they kept close by and sauntered into CP3 not far behind us. It was also a full-moon and plenty of ambient light.

Approaching Bobbin Head, we got to the bottom of the hill into Apple Tree bay. Was cold down at water level, I stopped on a flat top table and snacked on some chippies. My first mistake of the trip. Seems starch and
simple carbo-hydrates get snapped up and amplified by the melitonin the body uses to generate sleepiness. within 15 minutes I had gone from wide
awake to the “fog of dispair”, I was walking asleep. Kept awake by nailing the downhill into Bobbin Head, sat on some cold concrete steps to wait for
my team mates – who I could see at the top of the hill. I blinked and there they were, right beside me. Feigning the lack of suprise (as I tried
to work out how they got to me so quickly), we trudged into CP3 for a mighty fine dish of chicken soup and bread. It was 3:30am, only 6hrs to get here.

A good strong mocha from a sachet (sorry Paul, sacrilige I know, but it worked, blame Da) cleared my head for the new section of track for me, the
Gibberong trail. The team was holding up well, Ben hobbling along on sore knees still, Elisha making steady progress, our endurance cyclist hanging
with the peleton; and the rest of the crew, tired but still cheerful.

We headed off from CP3 at 5am (closing time was 7am), about 4-5 hours behind schedule now; but two hours ahead of my first Oxfam. Sun-rise somewhere along Gibberong; a climb up into Nth Turramarra; along to the
Sphinx where we were met by some fancy dressed Oxfam helpers with yummy dark chocolate, and then on down into Warrimoo creek. Tom, Meg and I took the quick / fast option up Warrimoo hill climb and then practiced our “bush hollahs” to communicate to our team taking the more leisurely pace. Dust and lack of air in the lungs made for a tortuous attempt at bush communication; more like a stuffed bush turkey than anything useful.

The constant “are we there yet”, or “we are halfway, aren’t we!” to CP4 were getting less easy to fend off with double-speak – “yes, only 4km to
go – and 3 hills”. Tom and Meg had gone ahead to stretch their legs again, I – with short legs and (normally) tight hamstrings can’t walk all that quick (which is why I run nowdays) – so gave them a head start and then
jogged to catch up, and onto CP4 where we waited for the rest of the crew to arrive “imminently”.

Somehow Oxfam Control decided to call me and ask where our team was on the
trail; “At CP4 waiting for the rest to arrive and we’ll check in”. He didn’t know there were two teams walking together; they had only noticed 3
of 4 people arrive at the CP but not check-in straight away, leaving, in their mind, one person alone on the trail. I was quick to add we were two
teams. Seemed to work, but either way these guys are great and onto it with looking out for the teams. Team note: stick together, we had only split on this end section to have a stretch and free the mind.

Time for a team talk. The trail sweep monster had been spotted earlier, St Ives was closing at 2pm, it was 1pm. We might be in danger of both teams DNF’ing. Elisha & Tom bundled themselves off to the first aid tent for a check and pit-stop repair job. I had to do my part to convince everyone to
delay any thoughts of dropping out with the promise that the next stage was 80% downhill… It worked.

We past the sweepers (they heading into CP4, us to CP5). The team with the two torches and the TMNT back-pack (shed earlier) cruised by, but were not
likely to beat the closing time, but hats off to their effort! We made CP5 just in-time to enjoy the warmth of the late setting sun. Trent and Ryan &
Annemarie arrived to cheer me on. Trent and Ryan did their reliable “don’t let daddy sit, sleep or eat” routine. Meg had decided to pull the pin, but
then I saw her putting her warm trail walking vest back on, so decided I did not need to try and convince her to stay with it. You tricked me & escaped!

CP5 to CP6 was a classic “death march”. Nite-time, familiar trails to me that just dragged on and on. A quick yell to Ben – “you have a ration of
12 strides before stopping again” – worked, we were off with big long walking sections between rests or stoppages. Arriving at the flat firetrail along Middle Harour creek before CP6 the dreaded “fog of
dispair” hit me again, this time it was un-shakeable, in-penetrable, caused probably by the chippies at CP5, no-doz had no effect. The only cure – which randomly entered my head (never encountered this ever, so had no set strategy) – was to run, fast, cold air-flow over my face, all the
way to CP6 with Tom. Was either that or fall to the side of the track (which might have been into the water) and sleep. The team was not too far
behind.

Again we were treated like kings at a banquet by our totally amazing support crew of Kate and co. We consistently gave them plenty of time to
setup, cook, layout the cutlery, wine glasses, pluck & bbq the chickens. Thank you guys for your patience!

“Fog of dispair” cure was still desparetly needed. If it returned my ability to finish the event was going to be in serious question. Physically I was solid. No blisters, no joint, ligament, muscle pains, nada. This time it was 2 x no-doz, a full cup of full strength sachet mocha, pieces of dark chocolate, held back on the amount of food eaten,
avoided simple carbs, dropped a layer to feel colder. But was thinking “was that enough”? Then I remembered one of my nebulous tips to the others
earlier in the week: when you cross a creek you might need to dip your head in to wake up. I looked around and saw a cold tap over in the distance. It was mid-night, 6deg, water was freezing, but never felt so
good! Wide awake, just like an eskimo after rolling in a glacial fed river. But I wasn’t convinced, so I drank lots of cold GU re-hydration
water. There ain’t going to be any sleeping with constant stops to water the trees every 12 strides, so I hung at the back on our trek to CP7. The
end was in sight, downhill from here.

Arrived CP7 around 2am after enjoying the Natural Bridge track and gloriously last single track uphill, we had a good 1hr rest and small feed, and we were off at 3am heading to the finish.

The walk along the tarseal streets was hard on the feet. A stop at Chinamans beach facilities was very timely, and then the stroll along Balmoral beach as the sun rose was simply amazing. The smoke filled haze provided amazing colours for lots of photos.

On my first Oxfam I ran to the top of Middle Harbour steps; this time I wanted to catch the actual sun-rise. Tom was with me, video in hand to capture the craziness, I turned by GPS / Strava app on for the first time,
and off we went for a quick & fast run up the 194 steps.

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Snapped the stopped button on the GPS just as the sun-rose and my iPhone went flat
before I could take the photo! Never mind, Tom and Chris had cameras to catch the majic moment. The team quickly joined us and the support crew
(who were not there really) for the team photo against the warm glow of sun-rise. Truely a magic moment.

All that was required was a short stroll basking in the warmth and glory of a well earned finish to the finish. Even with the clock counter ticking
toward 45hrs, the team held form and sauntered over the finish line in 45hrs and 5 mins.

Bloody awesome team and support crew, and well done to all!

& Yes, I’ll be back again.

The Journey Log