The Road to Badwater Part 1

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You were meant to be reading this about 9 weeks ago, but don’t worry- it’s not you, it’s me.
I messaged Kirrily Dear and asked her if I could raise some money for Run Against Violence, and part of that was writing a couple of blog posts in the lead up to the race. She was pretty keen- I mean who doesn’t like free money- especially a charity? But I failed in that commitment- every week I had more things to do pulling me away from doing the things I had promised. I’m also late on 2 shoe reviews. Those may take a few years as I learn to use phrases like mid sole rocker stability and upper flange gasket peak pressure normalisation. I’m sure you’re gagging for me to make up 500 words about shoes. For now I’m writing this on a plane to LA…….

But anyhoo- let me talk about Kirrily’s thing for a sec. Kirrily has quite literally put her body on the line for this charity- she has run over 800km across NSW to raise awareness (and possibly a bit of cash). I hope you’ve seen the documentary about the run, it’s hard, emotional and brilliant story. This year she’s going even further, planning to run over 1300km to raise awareness of family violence, focussing on kids stories. And this time there will be a way for everyone to participate, as there is a ‘Virtual Challenge’ that you can sign up and run yourself.

So go to the website and hit the ‘Donate’ button. I’ll wait

https://www.runagainstviolence.com

That first run was brutally hot and I’ve had to lean on Kirrily’s crew for advice on how to deal with the heat of Death Valley. Brad Smithers and Sally Dean (as well as Kirrily herself) have given me some invaluable advice about running in extreme heat. See the segue? Brilliant hey?

So how did I get into this race? It’s one of those races you hear about even as a non runner- and laugh at the utter stupidity of running not only across a flaming hot desert, but from the bottom to the top of a whole continent.

I’d never even considered something like this but after dedicating a fair amount of time running, I discovered 2 things-

1. I’ll never be fast
2. I can go slowly for a long time

Number 2 is a consequence of hanging around with the right (or perhaps wrong) crowd. As I grew more and more amazed at the humility and capability of these incredible athletes, I began entering some of the same races and learning their craft. It’s simple and complex all at once- an eating competition with a bit of running sure, but tiny mistakes can take you out brutally.

Fast forward to last year and I’d done a couple of long and tough runs (still hadn’t finished the ‘long course’ at Coast to Kosci) and we went on holiday in the USA. We’d designed the trip around meeting some of Sarah’s friends and a few natural wonders along the way. It was a 10th wedding anniversary trip that started with renewing our vows in front of Elvis in Las Vegas, and went through Death Valley and Tahoe amongst other places. While in Vegas a friend announced on FaceBook that he had been accepted into Badwater. Maybe 30 seconds later (ok it could have been less) I asked Sarah if I could crew for him.

Understandably she wasn’t keen as we had blown our travel budget but I must have had that slightly pursed lip look of determination and she got that slightly pursed pissed off look, and we had a deal. I emailed Cpt Nemo and he accepted. Later in that trip I got to fulfil a lifelong dream of running in Death Valley. It was horrible. I’d brought some running gear and we had planned to let me out and have me run to the next town or whatever but it got to late-ish afternoon and so I jumped out of the car with my water bottle and took off. I only made it 6km as we were pressed for time, but honestly I was very happy to get back in the car. I’d taken a black water bottle. The outside temp was ‘only’ 32 degrees but within minutes my water was like drinking warm tea and the reflected heat from the tarmac was worse than from overhead.

Actually going back to Death Valley a few months to crew was fantastic. I had Gavin and Bec Markey as well as Matthew Holland to keep me company while Nemo suffered outside the car. But yeah, it was totally a recce run for me- to see if normal people could do this race. And maybe to see if me in particular could do the race. I wasn’t sure even a few months after crewing.

After being a bit aimless in my running for months I finally started to regain some fitness, Great North Walk was tremendously painful but I got it done. And while it was a real battle for me to finish Coast to Kosci, I was heartened by the fact that a lot of things went right. I’d had a plan to get to Dalgety at 148km and executed that perfectly. It’s a great shame I hadn’t considered what to do for the last 90km……

Anyway it came time to apply for Badwater in early February, and I had decent qualifiers- 2x C2K and a stint as Crew Chief for Badwater, I felt I had a pretty decent chance of getting in. We were actually in New Zealand for the Tarawera Ultra when Race Director Chris Kostman was doing a FaceBook Live stream of reading out the names. I was eating breakfast while Sarah packed the car and screaming at the laptop because Chris was taking so long to get the names read out- he adjusted his Gumby, showed the latest branded Badwater gear, talked about the sponsors- it was making me nuts because we only had 2 hours of free WiFi at the hotel!

He finally started reading the list, and I got chills just hearing the names of all these legendary runners participating, but as he went deeper and deeper I realised that I am totally outclassed by these people. I mean not even in the same stratosphere- and I started getting depressed. Sarah wanted to pack up and go, and as the list got towards the end I wondered if I should even listen to the rest, but we did and all of a sudden we heard ‘and all the way from Greenwich Australia, Adam Connor’

I jumped and screamed- I’d gone from confident to destroyed to elated in the space of a few minutes! my name was somewhere around 94th to 97th. Sorry I can’t remember exactly as my head nearly exploded from excitement. I reckon I can do a bit better than that in the race, gulp.

So I’m doing this race hoping to benefit Run Against Violence.
(And on a completely different topic)
But I’m also running this race in honour of my sister. She’s much stronger than she knows. Don’t bother asking me any more about this, it really is as simple as that statement. She’s great company, very smart, caring and wants the world to be a better place. I just want the best for her too.

Next post will be about the training, and the last one about the race itself

Your Race Report {insert here}

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A lot of people don’t know how to set up their own blog, don’t have time or the inclination. I would love to publish it here for you!
If you would like to see a few, click here

Make it easy-

  1. Send in the plain text file, Microsoft Word doc, or any text based format that can be copied. PDF is not so good because we can’t retain the formatting.
  2. Don’t embed your pics in the doc- they will look terrible when extracted
  3. Send your pics in the email with the text, and name them- with your name! Name them in the order you want them to appear in the blog post, ie. John Smith 1, John Smith 2 etc.
  4. Get permission to use the pics that you send, and tell me who took them so I can thank them in your post!
  5. How many pics? You should supply about 1 pic for every 3-5 paragraphs. It breaks up the wall of text into readable chunks
  6. I can also put a link to your Strava activity if you provide it. Go to the activity, select the weird symbol to the left of the Kudos button, select ’embed on blog’ and send me the embed code that pops up.

 

How to write your race report-

  1. Write down what happened, very basic, in time order i.e.. when it happened
  2. Turn those facts into a story that someone might like to read- you don’t have to do much, people will still read a bad race report- but you’ll get heaps of praise if they like it!
  3. Include details about your gear, food, who you talked to, what worked, what didn’t, how you fought out of a bonk, how you triumphed or how you got totally smacked in the head by the race. Remember- people read these reports because they want to know what it’s like to run that race, and they are looking for tips to make it easier, or at least not make the mistakes you did. Be honest about your mistakes so you can read the report next year and not make them again! Running is not glamorous- stories about poo, wee, blood & snot are ok.
  4. Go back and include links for anything important- the race website, gear website, blog of someone you mention, link to results etc.
  5. Don’t forget to thank- your sponsors, your partner, your crew, the vollies, the race director, and the lady at Gelato Messina who will give you an extra scoop because you look hungry…

 

Alternatives
– Some races publish race reports on their website
– You can set up your own blog on WordPress.com
– Your running club may publish it in their newsletter. NRG does this!
– You can submit to the AURA Ultramag or magazines like Trail Run Mag
– Other runners with blogs- Chantelle and Robyn for example

 

Mental Strength & How To Get Some

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yoda-do-or-do-not

I’ve been asked quite a few times in recent weeks about the issue of mental strength as it relates to ultra marathons. I’ve never thought of myself as particularly strong mentally, but if you know me well you’ll also know that I have been faced with some fairly tough life events.

It turns out that these really didn’t prepare me for the force of will you need to finish some of the races we enter. So how did I go from being an unremarkable runner to a still unremarkable runner who has done some gnarly races who only has 2 DNF’s to his name? (Let’s analyse those DNF’s later)

  1. Hang around people who have the strength you need. I was very lucky to meet Jane Trumper early in my ultra career. Humble, unassuming but with a will of steel- you can see she has the perfect temperament for being a nurse. Loads of empathy, but no sympathy for time wasters and laggards. And it turns out that all of the other super tough people I have met through running are the same. You never know if you are going to finish an ultra, but these people don’t have excuses- they occasionally have reasons– like ‘I had to get helicoptered off the mountain’ but no excuses. I will never be that tough, but I’ve learned that your feet being sore is not a reason to give up- it’s an excuse, and we don’t do excuses.
  2. We all trick ourselves into faking it- how many times have you heard ‘it’s not a 100 mile race, it’s a series of half marathons between checkpoints’. Breaking it down into sections isn’t just smart- it’s pretty much essential if you’re going well beyond a marathon. In essence, ALL you need to do is make it to the next checkpoint. And then the next one, and the next. It’s as simple as that.
  3. Somewhat less reliable is the reward system- having a lush snack in your checkpoint bag. I definitely run for food, but I no longer do it during races. Whenever I finish a race of 100km or more I get KFC, but that serves more to keep my KFC intake down rather than my finish rate up.
  4. Read race reports. You can learn a lot from the DNF stories, and you can learn what sections of the race are going to be diabolical by reading other peoples experiences. This can give you some insurance against chucking your toys out of the pram when it gets tough.
  5. Plan. Know how far between aid stations. Know the course profile, know the cutoffs. I usually carry a piece of paper in a waterproof sleeve with these details, all because of a mistake I made a couple of years ago (more below). I sweat the details because it works for me. I can’t imagine going in to a race without this but I guess for some people, ignorance is bliss. Doesn’t work for me!
  6. Be adaptable. Brendan Davies ran Coast to Kosci a few years ago and was on course record pace for much of the race. Then something went wrong and his suffering went from epic to off the scale. He could have chucked it in knowing that he’d already achieved a whole bunch of special things, but what did he actually do? He had a sleep, got up, dusted himself off and finished the race. That’s a superbly gutsy (and classy) thing to do!
  7. When you let negative thoughts have space in your head, they multiply. Chase them out by having food, changing the subject of conversation or simply smiling to yourself- it works!
  8. Don’t do anything stupid. If you look at my race history you’ll see that I have carefully picked each race and hopped from smaller to larger distances without going for the biggest race available. I recently made a post about Spartathlon on FaceBook, lamenting that I would never be able to do it. A whole bunch of people said ‘yes you can!’ and I’m grateful for the support, but when you look at it rationally I would have a VERY poor chance of finishing. I’ll take on monumental challenges, but I want a chance of success!
  9. Work on your mental positivity. Recently for the Great North Walk 100s I had missed out on a bunch of training while supporting at Badwater, and the people I normally train with had made such enormous progress that I could not simply pick up training with them when back in Sydney. I had to focus on finishing rather than excelling in this race, because I badly needed a finish to qualify for Coast to Kosci. I found myself making publicly disparaging comments about my own performance. I spent about 2 weeks turning that around before the race and telling myself that I could finish and I’d be fine. My Coach agreed- he said ‘your preparation hasn’t been perfect, but you’ve done enough’ and that became my catch cry- ‘you’ve done enough!’. Sure enough, I had.
  10. Do more long races. Familiarity might breed contempt, but it sure as hell makes you ready for the next long race too! I am not naturally an adventurer, but after 6 years of running I am now comfortable running through the bush at night alone. If I have to.
  11. Have someone take your keys, car or both to the finish line. If you don’t make it, you don’t go home. Brutal, dangerous, but effective?
  12. This one from Wayne ‘Blue Dog’ Gregory- where is your inner mongrel? Your feet are like fat sausages full of mince, your knees are an unnatural shade of purple, you’ve been throwing up for hours, the chafing is so bad you can no longer wear pants- what to do? Find the part of you that doesn’t want to give up. Make it angry. Tell it you no longer give a f@ck about anything but finishing. Run naked. Tell your crew you’ll kill them if they take pics, but be secretly proud when they turn up on Facebook…..

everything-hurts-and-im-dying

So, my 2 DNF’s? The first was at Great North Walk 100 miler in 2013. Yes, the ‘hot year’. I made a lot of mistakes but the worst was this- I had added up how far the last 2 sections were and got 52km. I knew I had 9 hours of race time left and I decided that I couldn’t make 52km in 9 hours. I was mistaken- it was only 42km and I could have made it. Bugger. And THAT’S why I carry notes on me now…..

The second was at Buffalo Stampede 2015. I had entered the 75km ultra marathon, and it was my first experience with ‘Skyrunning’. Damn those hills were steep. I got to the marathon mark and decided that it would be stupid for me to jeopardise my race at Ultra Trail Australia in a few weeks simply to go over a few more hills. I feel justified that I made the right decision there because I had a brilliant race at UTA, and a friend who went the whole distance didn’t. But I do feel kind of stupid because I should have entered the marathon in the first place.

As you do more races you’ll meet all of the superstars of the sport. All of these people are super generous with their time. It’s a sport where we can speak directly to world beating athletes, but don’t fuck them around. Don’t say ‘I’d love to do XYZ race, but I have a bad upper flange gasket…’, ask them about their experience with that race. Don’t ask them for a diagnosis of your injury, go to a doctor! Ask them if they loved that race last month in Borneo/ Albania/ Nepal etc.

If you just have a whinge about how your knee hurts they will probably find a sudden need to be somewhere else. No excuses.

Ultra Trail Australia UTA100 Nutrition Plan & Drop Bags 2016

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This post had 40 likes in 2012 so I think it’s worthwhile updating with what worked and what didn’t. As you can see, it’s an eating competition with a bit of running thrown in. The las couple of years I’ve been making my own gels, so where I write ‘flask of gel’ I actually mean apx 4x commercial gels, because each flask holds about 4. I’ll probably carry a few commercial gels as well, this will help fight flavour fatigue. Let’s go……

In 2015 I’ve been doing a lot of training without gels and using cheap no name brand muesli bars instead. Lately I’ve added Hammer Perpetuem powder and I think this works well for me. I may carry a flask of home made gel for a quick burst of energy but won’t be relying on these for race nutrition. Basically ALL of the nutrition plan is new for this year because I’m relying more on less sugary foods, but changes in strategy are highlighted at the bottom with the words 2015 update

2016 update– I’m not in the best condition for a quick time this year so I will be concentrating on race craft but trying not to destroy my body, so I can get back into training quickly and get ready for whatever is next.

What is Provided at Checkpoints?

Endura sports drink (pre mixed)
Water to fill bladders
Fruit
Lollies
Bread/buns (Not at CP1)
Chips (Not at CP1)
Hot water/ tea/ coffee (Not at CP1)
Instant noodles (Not at CP1 or CP2)
Gels are available at some checkpoints, but you can’t depend on them, and if you do, you might have to take grape flavour, which is quite vile tasting. Other items I will have to carry.

Running Start to Checkpoint 1- 10.5km
Drink 600ml sports drink at the start, discard bottle
At CP1- Drink 500ml Endura at checkpoint, fill 2x bottles when leaving.
Pick up 2x mandarin to eat while waiting at Tarro’s Ladders
I will have a couple of things to eat in my pack but not much. I will have 1 bottle empty but full of Perpetuem powder, and add water at CP1. The other font mounted bottle will have 600ml of Nuun electrolyte.
*Don’t need to carry much water on this section as much of it is on road and the section is short.

To Eat While Running Checkpoint 1 to Checkpoint 2- 20.5km, total 31km
A few sips of Perpetuem
2x Salt tablet
2x muesli bar

At CP2
Drink 500ml Endura at checkpoint,
Check bottles/ fill with Endura

To Eat While Running Checkpoint 2 to Checkpoint 3- 15km, total 46km
Eat a Growling Dog bar while exiting CP2 before the climb up Ironpot Ridge
*these things are too hard to eat while running- I will be looking for another snack that has some protein and maybe amino acids before this climb
2x Muesli bars
Sip Perpetuem
1-2 salt tablets

At CP3
Drink 500ml Endura
Check bottles/ fill with Endura- don’t fill up too much- only 11km to CP4!
Gel flask from drop bag?
Perpetuem bottle from drop bag
600ml coke from drop bag
HPLC bar from drop bag

To Eat While Running Checkpoint 3 to Checkpoint 4- 11km, total 57km
1x muesli bar
1x Fruit from CP
Sip Perpetuem
1-2x Salt tablet
Important- must eat at bottom and part way up Nellie’s Glen! See explanation below

At CP4
drink 500ml Endura
Check bottles/ fill with Endura <<21km to next checkpoint
Perpetual from drop bag
600ml Coke from drop bag
HPLC bar from drop bag
Eat a cup noodle while getting gear

To Eat While Running Checkpoint 4 to Checkpoint 5- 21km, total 78km
2x Muesli bars?
Sip Perpetuem
1x HPLC bar
1-2x Salt tablet

At CP5
drink 500ml Endura
Check bottles/ fill with Endura <<22km to Finish!
Perpetuem bottle from drop bag
600ml Coke from drop bag
HPLC bar from drop bag

To Eat While Running Checkpoint 5 to Finish- 22km, total 100km
2x Muesli bars
Sip Perpetuem
1x HPLC bar
1-2x Salt tablet

At the Finish
Need to make sure you eat something or you’ll be ridiculously hungry when you get back to your hotel room! I choose beer and pies, you can have kale chips if you want.

 Contents of Checkpoint Bags

This means I’ll need to carry from the start of the race to checkpoint 3-
1x flask of gel
4-6 Muesli bars
Loads of salt tablets

And I’ll need to pack the following

Checkpoint 3 bag
1 flask Gels
Muesli bars
Perpetuem in a bottle
HPLC bar
600ml Coke

Checkpoint 4 bag
1 flask Gels
Muesli bars
Perpetuem in a bottle
HPLC bar
600ml Coke
Proper headlights (will be carrying low weight versions during the day)
Clothing for night time- Fleece as per rules
Leave sunglasses in bag here
Pick up sunglasses with clear lenses for night running

extra mandatory gear if required

Checkpoint 5 bag
1 flask Gels
Muesli bars
Perpetuem in a bottle
HPLC bar
600ml Coke

Discussion
Where it says ‘Drink 500ml Endura’ that is about 3x 150ml cups. I can usually drink that much at once without bad effects, you may find otherwise. The instructions to eat more up Nellie’s and along Federal Pass are because these have been where I’ve had low points, and more food usually helps. Unfortunately I’ve given up on Perpetuem solids, I just can’t eat them- they stick to my teeth!

I’m going to do this race without a bladder in my pack. I will carry 2x 600ml bottles on my front and 2x  500ml Salomon soft bottles in my pack. This will give me the required 2l of fluid carrying capacity.
Gu Chomps- I also like the Cliff Shot Blocks, particularly the Margarita flavour, but really- these things can be easily and CHEAPLY substituted with bags of lollies from a supermarket. Sure they have electrolytes etc, but just shove a handful of lollies in your face and a salt tablet. Sorted. (2015 update– I’m substituting more ‘normal food’ in the form of muesli bars)
Fruit- they often provide watermelon, mandarins etc and sometimes I prefer these even though bananas are probably better race food.
Cliff Bars- These were a sponsor in 2014 but no longer….
Nellies Glen- I have found over 4x doing this race that I don’t have a major crash if I eat at Nellie’s Glen once when entering the single track (this goes for about1500m) and again part way up the stairs. There are about 511 stairs, so count them off in lots of 100. Each 100 stairs is about 20% of the distance. This makes it easier mentally. Forgot your count? Who cares? Just go again from a logical number. You’re trying to keep your mind off the task, not really counting stairs anyway! Same goes for Golden Stairs (xx stairs?)and Furber stairs (933 stairs if you only count up, 976 if you count down stairs as well) at the end.
CP4-5- This section will take a long time, must make sure to take enough fluids and food.
CP5-Finish- this section is even longer, but there is an emergency water stop at 91km, so don’t worry too much about fluids. Remember to DUMP YOUR WATER at the bottom of the Furber steps up to the finish- NOT on the trail. You don’t want to be carrying much up those final 933 steps!

Real food- I had some macaroni & cheese at CP3 in 2012, and to be honest that was a bit heavy, or maybe I just ate too much of it. In 2013 I did the same and ate less, but it was still too heavy on my stomach. Another suggestion has been potato salad- yum! This has some decent carbs and is easy to get down because of the mayonnaise- don’t skimp on the mayo! But what I really like is boiled eggs- I will probably boil, shell, then freeze a couple of these in a container full of water so they aren’t full of salmonella when I get to them at CP3. These were quite good in 2014 but too hard to keep fresh. 2015 update– I won’t be making eggs or potato salad this year, I’ll be getting protein from other sources so I’ll just see what is available at the CP if I’m hungry.

In 2013 I went a bit crazy and spent 2 weeks shopping for treats to put in my drop bags. This is not necessary and will cost you time because you can’t decide what to eat. Just put one or two things in there- you may not eat them but it will make you happy knowing they are there. Run for treats!

Ultra Trail Australia UTA100 Tips 2016

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2016- there isn’t much on this that needs updating, but new stuff will be marked
2016 update

Most of the tips in the first part of this post are also in the non mandatory gear post. If you want the new and interesting strategy tips, head to the bottom of this post.

Probably the thing I get asked most in person is ‘what tips do you have for me?’. Now truthfully I’m not a better runner than you. Anything I’ve got to share I’ve stolen from others or gained through studying the electrons on the internet. Terror will do that to you. Some of these things might work for you, some probably won’t. Be very careful about changing your race plan because of anything I write here- you need to be comfortable with your choices, and remember ‘nothing new on race day’!

Serfas Portal Sunglasses

Serfas Portal Sunglasses

I wear my sunglasses at night
This tip from Nick Weinholt was a big winner. I have 2 pairs of sunglasses, and at checkpoint 4 swapped my daytime pair for a pair from my checkpoint bag that had clear lenses. This worked really well for two reasons- in the cold it kept my eyes a bit warmer and stopped them streaming like a sad panda, and during leg 5 it meant I could run through the bush without worrying about getting hit in the face by branches. So in a way, it made me run faster! You’ll look like a bit of a wanker, but it’s night, hardly anyone will see you……

Papa’s got a brand new bag 
You should buy a bunch of blue cool bags from a supermarket- or even better get some that look different from everyone else’s . You’ll need 3- one each for checkpoint 3, 4, and 5. Each will need to be labelled clearly with your race number so the race crews can put them in order (so you can find your bag when you hit the CP). You should also try to make it look a bit DIFFERENT from all the other blue bags- tie something on to the handle, like a piece of ribbon or even another plastic bag- but MAKE THEM ALL THE SAME SORT OF DIFFERENT so you can recognise them. Inside the lid of each CP bag have a list of stuff you need to do. If you have crew, MAKE SURE they go through the list before you leave the checkpoint- in 2012 I forgot to fill my bladder before leaving CP4, meaning I ran out of water on the longest leg of the race. This was because my wife was there to help me and I hadn’t planned on her being there, so I forgot to ask her to check the list. Completely my fault and it could have been a disaster. My bag notes look something like this

Adam CP4 Bag

All that suff including the instruction sheet, goes inside the bag

The text is large so I can read in low light. I also have treats in each bag, so I’ll have a quick look inside to see if anything takes my fancy- WARNING- this did not work very well in 2013, I spent too much time looking at treats- just have one or 2 things in the bag that you would consider a treat and don’t buy the entire contents of Coles. Some of these items on the list are just guides rather than instructions- for instance there is no way I could have eaten fruit going out of CP3, but at least I got to consider it because it was on the list. Also dumping your rubbish in your drop bag will save you having to find a bin. Not a big deal, but could save you some time when you’ve completely lost your mind later in the race.

Bag Raiders
Pack a FINISH line bag. It should contain some food, warm clothes (your old trakky daks are FINE), a towel in case you get to have a shower, baby wipes in case you can’t stand the smell of your own body, deodorant, thongs or thick socks so you can take those vile shoes off, maybe some sparkling mineral water because you’re sick of soft drink, sports drink and water. Chocolate milk, first aid kit and a sick bag have all been suggested too….. Also include a couple of plastic bags to put your stinky crap in, if you’re really chatty a mobile charger or external battery so you can wake up your folks at 3am and tell them how you did. You may be too wired to sleep- hang around at Scenic World and chat to strangers like me. Don’t include anything valuable- I’ve never heard of anyone stealing stuff at this event, but it could happen one day. Stick 20 bucks in the bottom of your running pack so you can buy something at the end if you want.

Keep Warm
I thought I’d be really smart and use cycling style arm warmers for the early part of the race when it is often very cold. It’s a great theory, but didn’t work in practice because the arm warmers have some rubber at the top to keep them from slipping off, and this rubbed my arms raw. UPDATE- I used them again in 2013, and simply turned the rubber bit at the top inside out. This worked quite well and I am likely to do this again in 2014- actually this is part of my strategy every year now. Also the 2 bits of clothing you want to have in large sizes are your reflective vest, and your rain jacket. You don’t really want to have to take your pack off to put either of these on, and indeed the reflective vest MUST be visible over your pack, so make sure you haven’t got a midget version. I’m most comfortable running in a singlet, and can do this at temps down to about 10 degrees, but in 2011 the temp never got above 6 degrees even though the sun was shining. Have a plan, decide what you are going to do if it is cold and wet. My big problem is I hate having sweaty underarms, which means T- shirts are not ideal. Maybe I can wear a second singlet under my NRG top- I could use the 2010 Six Foot one, it’s about the size of a postage stamp! UPDATE- wearing 2 singlets did work well to keep my core warm. Test your clothing, you only need a tiny problem to make your clothes dig a hole into your flesh over 100km. Trust me, that’s not fun. For instance- I now know that the seam on my compression shorts will take bits of flesh out of my back after a 100km run, so I have to tuck my singlet into my shorts. It’s not a fashion parade……

2015 update– I will most likely wear 2 race singlets to keep my core warm and the arm warmers if it’s under 10 degrees at the start. I can pull them off and tie them to my pack easily and dump them at CP3.

2016 update- this works well and I discovered last year at the Hardcore 100 that being a little warmers does seem to help my performance. But wearing 2 singlets will depend very much on starting temperature and weather forecast.

The Race
Buy a race number belt, or even better a SpiBelt with race number holders. you may need multiple clothing changes during the race and it is a requirement that your race number be visible at all times. Having to move all those pins with freezing or tired hands is not going to be fun

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Energy 52
Eat early and often. Don’t let your energy levels drop. On a normal run I’ll probably have my first gel at 8-12km. Race day I will be eating at 5km and about every half hour after that. But don’t eat too much- in 2012 I ate quite a bit of macaroni and cheese at CP3, then couldn’t run some of the easiest bits up towards Nellie’s Glen- that mistake cost me up to 30 minutes. In 2013 I ate the same food, but less of it and still had problems. Will try boiled eggs in 2014, they’ve been good in other races like GNW.

2015 update– I’ve been training to run without a lot of sugar recently, so my main race food this year will be Hammer Perpetuem. I’ll supplement this with muesli bars, food from the course and a bit of beef jerky in my drop bags. It’s hard to chew, but comes in small pieces.

2016 update– I’ve been training in a sugar depleted state quite a lot. It still isn’t easy but I’ll be eating more real food this year. Hammer Perpetuem and cheap arse muesli bars will do nicely.

Silence
Later in the race you’ll probably spend a bit of time on your own. There’s always plenty of people around, but perhaps all the people going up the stairs are too slow for you. I will have my headphones around my neck and connected at the start of the race so I don’t have to fiddle around in the dark if I want some tunes. I’ll be listening to a few trance podcasts by John ‘OO’ Fleming. These can be downloaded for free from iTunes or choose something else that you might like more. One of the reasons to choose this style of music is because it has the right cadence to keep your legs moving a bit faster than normal. Warning- the RD has instituted rules around the use of iPods, make sure you read them and comply. No iPods at all in Leg 1, See point 4 in the event rules.

2015 update– I’ll be wearing cordless bluetooth headphones this year

2016 update– they’ll probably be Bluedio or Jabra

Fade to Grey
If you’re feeling like crap (and you will!) you need to have the presence of mind to recognise it and take action. This is the difference between a finish and a DNF. In my limited experience you need 4 things. Look at your fingers and repeat after me ‘sugar, water, salt, caffeine’. Attach those words to your fingers in your mind. Do not forget them. When you feel bad, look at your fingers and repeat ‘sugar, water, salt, caffeine’. You need at least one of these things. Have it and you WILL feel better. Usually for me it is sugar…….at a recent run I had a coke at the halfway mark and immediately felt better and went on to finish a run that I didn’t think I could. Think about it- Coca Cola has 3 out of the 4 essential ingredients!

Relax
Spend as much time as you need in checkpoints, but no more. In 2011 I got into CP4 and told my wife I was quitting. She told me not to quit straight away. After spending nearly an hour in that CP, I felt better, got up and went out and finished. The key thing here is that I would not have finished if I’d gone straight over to the desk and quit. I wasn’t really injured, and taking that time allowed me to get back some energy. But the biggest tip I can give is GET OUT OF CP4. That’s right- if you can get out of the aquatic centre you’ve just committed to the longest unsupported leg of the race (CP5-Finish is longer but has water), once you get down the Giant Staircase there is no turning back until you get to CP5, Queen Victoria Hospital. And of course once you get to CP5 you’ve only got 22km to go… this is going to be mentally challenging but go on, do it!

Welcome to the Pleasure Dome
When you get back to Scenic World, get some warm clothes on and EAT SOMETHING. I forgot in 2012 and my wife woke up to me looking for food in my drop bags in the dark. Congratulations, you’ve just completed the North Face 100, you awesome person you!

The actual running bit
(this extra stuff is from a second post last year, but it really belongs here…..)

All organised? Me too, sort of. However I’ve stolen a few more bits of running lore to share, and here they are-

I can run faster than Jane Trumper (sometimes), but why does she beat me in Ultras? Because she never stops! One thing I’ve learned very clearly is this- you can change your clothes, get food out, apply sunscreen, eat and vomit all while moving. Plenty of times I’ve been surveying all the great food at a checkpoint and Jane’s already gone. If you need an aspirin, get it out before you hit the CP, undo your pack as you cruise in, run through your mental checklist- but BE READY.

Once again- MAKE A PLAN BEFORE YOU HIT THE CHECKPOINT!

Clues you are about to hit a Check Point
CP1- at the top of the Golden Staircase you run up Narrowneck for about 1km into the CP
CP2- There’s a gate across the fire trail a few hundred metres before the cruel descent into CP2
CP3- You climb over a stile off Megalong Valley Rd and run through a field for a bit before hitting CP3
CP4- You exit trail and run along the road (civilisation!) before hitting CP4 (apx 2km?)
CP5- You’ll probably hit this at night, you’ll see it and hear it. You’ll be running down Kings Tableland Rd for several km and you’ll see light and a hive of activity

If you feel like stopping, run through your finger checklist- water, sugar, salt, caffeine. Usually having one or more of these will help you. Don’t slow down and feel sorry for yourself, take action!

Walk the hills- you need to run/ walk at well below your threshold. If you’re gunning for a sub 14 hour time I can’t help you because I’ve never done it!

Concentrate on your speed while walking. Jane Trumper walked up Kedumba with me in 2011 Mt Solitary race. Or I should say we started at Jamison Creek together. She walked with a purpose, I walked while feeling sorry for myself. She beat me to the top by 22 minutes over 8.5km- this can make a HUGE difference to your race.

Talk to someone. If you can push each other along, there’s no reason not to have a chat- ultra runners are very friendly people. But the moment you think you can go a bit faster, make a move- stopping to chat is now costing you time. As Nick Weinholt puts it- ‘I came here to race, not to chat!’

Dead Eyes Opened – Another Nick tip is not to look into the eyes of those who have failed for too long for fear you will be brought into their world. You can’t help the people in Medical, leave them to the experts.

Conversely, if someone needs help on the course, give it! In 2011 a guy asked me for electrical tape coming up Kedumba. What he actually wanted was blister patches, and I had heaps. It was like the best Christmas ever…….. Oh, and if you need something, ask! I ran out of water up Kedumba in 2013 and another runner donated a whole flask of sports drink. I’ll be forever grateful, and I still have no idea who that person was.

Are you injured? No? Keep going. ‘But I feel like shit’. Figure out what you need, have it and keep going. ‘My legs hurt’ Yes, well stopping now won’t make them hurt less, and they WILL carry you to the end if you ignore the pain. ‘But I still feel like shit’
Here’s a teaspoon of cement princess, now HTFU. Bernadette Benson, female winner of the 2013 Coast to Kosciuzko Ultra (yes 240km) said the thing that annoyed her the most was the medic kept coming up to her to ask how she felt ‘It’s irrelevant how I FEEL’ she said. I’ll never be that tough!

Repeat your mantra. You’ll see this one all over the internet, but the one I use is ‘relentless forward progress’. Just 3 words to keep you going. Repeat them, explore them, make them resonate, feel the power, keep going!

You need to run upright to make your breathing more efficient, so put your headlamp a bit further down your forehead so you don’t hunch over while running to watch the ground.

When you’re tired, concentrate on your running form. Work those arms back to front (not in front of you!) breathe a little deeper, head up, get your rhythm back.

I’ve talked a lot about how to go faster, but the key goal here is finishing. If you need to, take a break. You’ve got 28 hours to finish. Don’t stress about the time. If it will get you to the end, spend an hour or more in the checkpoint. Do what you need to do to finish.

That wasn’t a drop bear, you’re just hallucinating.

If you have any questions, please post them on the FaceBook page and we’ll get them answered!

Ultra Trail Australia UTA100 Non Mandatory gear 2016

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Again, this is just a rehash of my 2014 list with a few updates, I hope you enjoy!

Here’s a list of a few things I’ll be carrying in the 2016 version of Ultra Trail Australia, formerly known as  The North Face 100 Australia. They’re not on the mandatory gear list, but don’t make life hard for yourself- if it will make your race easier, take it! There is a bit of a balance between going super light and risking being uncomfortable and taking extra stuff and being weighed down. There is a lot of comfort to be had by taking extra gear, but you decide. I’ll be lining up for my 6th crack at this race, but for my first time I took loads of extras and it made things easier. Horses for (100km) courses!

Sunglasses- I’ll be wearing Serfas Portal sunnies, thanks to the local importer VeloVita for getting them in on time! Why wear sunglasses all day? Lots of reasons- you won’t get a headache from the sun, if you get hit in the face with a branch on the single track you won’t get an eye injury, and if you get photo chromatic lenses they’ll adjust to the available light.

Tip- I also have a second pair of these in a checkpoint bag for use at night. You look like a bit of a dickhead but in really cold weather it stops your eyes from streaming, and when going through bushy sections allows you to go a bit faster without needing to worry about getting hit in the face by branches. Your lizard brain wants to protect your eyes and will slow you down, you can overcome this by wearing sunglasses at night…..

Garmin 920XT

 

Garmin 920XT– how else will I know how slowly I’m running? Lots of people using Suunto this year which is also a good option.

Nipple tape– You may not need it, I do.

Spibelt– I’ll most likely have my 2 pieces of mandatory emergency food in the pocket, and hang my race number on the front using the optional elastic toggle thingys. You can put your race number on to your shirt, but if you put a jumper on, you’ll need to move it. The race number belt is great because you can have as many costume changes as you like and not have to deal with pins……

Injinji Trail 2.0

 

Socks- I’ll be wearing Injinji socks. The higher versions because I’ll put anti leech stuff under the socks so the little blighters can’t get inside- this really works. Yes the Trail 2.0 are nice and comfy….. I might be wearing Teko socks if I can find a new pair.

original_CW

Before a bush run I always apply a wide area of this from below the sock line to halfway up my calves. Since starting this I have not had an uninvited guest suck my blood, but they could be just biding their time for a mass attack.
Update 2014– I no longer need this because I will be wearing the BSc calf guards below

BSc calf guards

Skins- Depends on the weather. I wear long compression tights when it’s really cold or if I’ll be running through a lot of single track- it’s a small amount of protection. I’m not really an athlete that can tell the difference in performance from compression. Most likely I’ll wear Linebreak compression shorts under my running shorts, and BodyScience calf guards tucked into my socks to prevent leech entry. There is no science behind these choices, these were just the cheapest version of these things available when I needed to buy them. The compression shorts are good for preventing chaffing when my fat legs rub together.

Shorts with a pocket- I love the Patagonia Ultra shorts. Sadly unavailable now, however they are great because they have nice big pockets on each side. I reserve one pocket for rubbish and clean out at each checkpoint, the other pocket for stuff I need close to hand.

I have found it really difficult to buy running shorts with enough storage for long runs, but I’ve been recommended to try these, not tried them yet but have a look at Race Ready

 

Lifeproof iPhone case

Lifeproof iPhone case

iPod- I’ll use my iPhone 6 Plus with Lifeproof case. It’s big and ugly but the battery lasts a long time! Anybody who knows me understands that my first priority is chatting to other runners, but almost every year when leaving checkpoint 4 I have been alone and loved putting on some choons as I descended the Giant Staircase.

Headphones- the Sennheiser PMX-680i are very comfortable and pretty easy to route the cables. I’ve destroyed one set of these by using accidental violence, so I bought a second set. These have been replaced with the PMX-685i but I purchased the 680i cheaply from MWave.
2015 update– all of these headphones have been discontinued, but I have a new strategy. I hate having cords and it makes it messy to remove the pack, so I’m going with a pair of bluetooth headphones and I will use the music on my phone. I’ve ordered a pair of these– even though the battery life will not last the whole race it should be enough. I may use these as a backup, they’re actually quite comfortable to wear!

2016 update- I have some really big bluetooth headphones that have 50 hour battery life. Very comfortable to wear and I’ll probably stash them in my cp3 or cp4 drop bag, they are from a Chinese website and branded Bluedio

Bodyglide– it’s not fun to put lube where the sun doesn’t shine- but if you don’t, it’s going to hurt bad. Insert prison joke here.

 

 

Salt Stick capsules– this is very much a personal ‘feel’ thing. In a road marathon I’d have one at 20km and one at 30km to stave off cramps. During TNF I’ll probably have a couple more- 1-2 every 10km or so. I always take a few extra, because I ALWAYS see someone on the course who needs them. You should consider what you’ll be taking for cramps! By the way- the super huge ‘this will last me for 10 years’ bottle was only slightly more expensive than the ‘3 marathon’ bottle. Colin Jeftha- ex Six Foot Track Race Director, says ‘there is no proven link between salts (electrolytes) and cramping. He’s right, but in my experience if I have salt capsules they do relieve the cramps

Aspirin- I’m a simple bloke so a simple solution for headaches seems in order. Might be some Panadol in the first aid kit too but I’m mostly looking to follow Jane Trumpers advice and steer clear of drugs. Unless someone lights a joint up for the Kedumba descent, then I’ll try to warm my hands on it.

Compeeds– These things are like magic on blisters and hot spots. If you get a hot spot, stop immediately and slap one of these super sticky things on, the pain will go away and you can carry on- an absolute must in your kit. DON’T buy the ‘Band Aid’ branded copies- they do not work as well. I gave one to a guy on Kedumba in 2011 and I think he would’ve named his children after me. Poor kids.

Vlad the Inhaler

Vlad the Inhaler

 

Ventolin inhaler – I would never have survived childhood if it wasn’t for Ventolin, and while I’ve only had one asthma attack in recent memory, cold weather can cause EIA- Exercise Induced Asthma. I’d be silly not to carry it. I forgot my Ventolin in the 2014 race and had to ask medical at CP2 for a couple of puffs. This meant they had to fill out a little form, which cost a couple of minutes. Not really a big deal but in total this would have cost me some decent time for a silly mistake.

 

Ultra Trail Australia UTA100 Mandatory Gear 2016

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This is basically a copy/ paste of my 2015 entry with updates as required. Please let me know if you spot any errors, it was done in a hurry…….

The major changes have been noted as 2016 update, I really recommend you speak to one of the local shops like Pace Athletic, The Frontier, Fast Gear or one of the camping stores (mostly around Kent St in Sydney. As you know they are big supporters of ultra running in general. Go and see them or one of the other local shops for your gear and keep that essential local knowledge available!

-I also want to acknowledge the huge help I’ve gained from others. In 2011 I was crapping myself at the huge task I’d jumped into, and probably the best source of info was Nick Weinholt’s Enduroexplorer.com (looks like this is deceased, dammit) website. I’ve since found out that he’s a helpful and approachable bloke too. You should read the website and particularly the training and gear list he did for the 2010 race. And although the Ultra168 guys are a whole new level of crazy (er, I mean commitment) you should read their adventures too- lots of good info there. You should also check out the gear thread on Coolrunning for 2012. Pasty has put another good summary there, and you can ask questions too! Check out the Facebook groups- official, and training.

Ultra168 have added a post that takes in some of the gear (2014) here

 

I’ve seen a lot of discussion on various sites about the mandatory gear for UTA100, so I thought I’d share a few insights I gained over the last 4 years of doing this race in the hope that it will help some other competitors. Following is a list of the gear taken directly from the event website with my own explanations and links etc. It will be updated if the gear list changes, or if someone provides an interesting view that we should share here. Description of the mandatory item from the official document in italics, my explanation below-

 

Patagonia capilene mens long sleeve top

Patagonia capilene mens long sleeve top

1 x long sleeve thermal top (polypropylene, wool or similar). Cotton, coolmax, lycra and any compression garment will not be sufficient even if the compression garment is called a “thermal compression garment”. You may still use compression garments however they do not replace this mandatory item. Refer to this link for an explanation.

My wife went to Patagonia in Sydney and purchased for me a Capilene long sleeved top. In her words- the silk weight version probably does not comply, and the lightweight version is ok for summer but probably not a Blue Mountains winter. The Midweight probably best matches the polypropylene specified in the mandatory item description.
Weight 221g

1 x long leg thermal pants (polypropylene, wool or similar). Cotton, coolmax, lycra and any compression garment will not be sufficient even if the compression garment is called a “thermal compression garment”. You may still use compression garments however they do not replace this mandatory item. Refer to this link for an explanation.

I used a pair of polypropylene thermals I had purchased for a trip to NZ. Fairly lightweight, these were purchased from Kathmandu- they are from the Ultracore range- link
Weight: 173g

Salomon Bonatti WP

Salomon Bonatti WP

1 x waterproof and breathable jacket with fully taped (not critically taped) waterproof seams and hood. The jacket must fit the wearer correctly. A recommendation only for a good jacket is one that has a waterproof rating of over 20,000mm hydrostatic head and a breathability MVTR rating of 25,000g/m2/25hrs. (plastic rain poncho, wind jacket, water resistant jacket etc. not acceptable) 

This is probably the item that causes the most discussion. You should get a good one, as there is a lot of weight to be saved here. My Mont jacket weighs 450g, the Salomon Sense Flyweight is apx 120g. Race Director Tom Landon Smith has flagged that in future he wants to enforce a stricter international standard for ‘waterproofness’, but that has not happened this year. It must have a hood AND actually fit you. Yes, people have tried to get through check in with child sized items to save weight. Don’t do it. I can confirm that the lightest jacket that meets the spec is the Salomon Sense Flyweight Jacket at 120g. These are now hard to get as they were a limited release. I recommend going up to the Montane Minimus 777 which weighs 140g or the Salomon Bonatti at 190g. Why? Because the Minimus contains Pertex fabric which is much more breathable- and this will likely be the absolute minimum spec sometime in the future. I’m sure the Minimus will probably last longer too! In 2011 I used a Mont jacket (different brand) which weighs about 450g, so you can save a lot of weight here.

homer-hats-beanies-red

1 x beanie, balaclava or buff

at Trailwalker 2010 I was given a buff about the halfway point, and it was the most glorious feeling to be putting on something so warm- it has a drawstring so it can be made into a beanie, and I’m going to use that instead of the achingly expensive snow beanie. Remember you lose a lot of heat out of your head, and it’s going to be bloody cold. If it’s reasonably warm like 2012-14 you might get away with a light fabric buff, but in 2011 it was soooo cold!
Weight: 46g

Salomon Running Gloves

1 x full-fingered lightweight thermal gloves (polypropylene, wool or similar)

I have some Icebreaker Merino gloves for this purpose, in case it gets really cold! These gloves stayed in their packet, as I have a personal preference for non sweaty hands, and covering them up makes me very sweaty. The best compromise I have found here is some old leather weightlifting gloves that have an open mesh back- they are not full fingered so I have to carry the mandatory gloves as well. Lots of protection for your hands if you fall, but not too sweaty. Remember fairly early in the race you will be going down some stairs with nasty rusted iron hand holds.
Weight: 34g (nylon cycling gloves)

Safety vests

1 x High Visibility Safety Vest that complies with Australian Standard AS/NZS 4602:1999 -N Class for night time wear.

*I borrowed one of these from my wife’s work. You might have contacts who can loan you one of these, or you can buy them from Bunnings/ Masters Hardware etc. Not expensive, but make sure it meets the specs- and it needs to go OVER your pack so you can be seen from behind at night- get a large size. If you buy a running vest with reflective steps it probably won’t comply- remember this item must comply with the Australian Standard…… Remember it’s the reflective stripes that allow the night rating. No stripes= doesn’t comply. Weight: 155g

unboxed

Petzl Nao v1

1 x headlamp (test your headlamp on bush tracks at night prior to the event to make sure it provides enough light to both see the track and the course markings)

* My main light here is the Petzl Nao. The new version released in 2014 now outputs up to 575 lumens and has lots of options, the big bonus being it has regulated output- this means that as your batteries wear out it will keep a constant light output- your light doesn’t get dimmer over time.  And it can sense how much light is available and dim itself, saving batteries. At my favourite setting, the battery will last about 6-8 hours which means I should get to the finish without needing to change batteries, but I will be carrying a spare. The Nao will be in my drop bag at CP4, if you are a 16.5+ hour runner you will want to have your headlamp in your CP3 bag.

WARNING- if you use these Petzl lights, be aware that they are NOT fully charged when all the lights are on- you should either use Petzl OS to check or leave them on charge for a while AFTER it looks like they are full……

 

During the day I will carry 2 tiny ‘Keyring Mini Hand Torch‘, these are on the website for $7.98 each- ouch in 2014 they are now $19.98, but Kathmandu is always on special anyway…..
2015 update– those Kathmandu torches take a bunch of LR4 batteries which I haven’t been able to buy in bulk so I will probably use a couple of torches from a $2 shop as my mandatory carry items during the day. Weight is not significant for these.

2016 update– the official documentation now says that you must be able to use these lights to navigate at night. These Kathmandu torches output a surprising amount of light and should be ok, but make sure you don’t ignore this requirement.

*I have spoken to the Race Director about whether a hand held torch is ok rather than a headlamp, and he agreed it was ok. He couldn’t see why you would want to use a hand held torch if a headlamp as available (me too) however it will pass. Weight: 10g  (light until CP3).
Weight: 187g (Petzl Nao with battery)

1 x small backup light in case of headlamp failure but still bright enough for you to walk by and see course markings

* I will use a Petzl Tikka XP2 for my backup light. it is perfectly ok for an event like the North Face 100 as your main light, but I’m lucky that my wife works for the local distributor so these things breed like rabbits in our house. Weight: 10g (light until CP3).
Weight: 88g (Petzl Tikka XP2 including batteries)

1 x mobile phone (Telstra Next G is strongly recommended as coverage on the course is far better than any other network)

*Yes Telstra aren’t my favourite people either, but my phone is with them and the network is pretty good. Ouch- upgrading my phone means I am carrying an extra 100g of gear. Oh well, at least the battery should last until I finish! I will be carrying an iPhone 6 Plus including Lifeproof waterproof case
Weight: 278g

1 x compass for navigation in the very unlikely event that you get lost. While we recommend a good quality compass such as the Silva Field 7, you can bring any compass as long as the magnetic needle will settle quickly and will point to magnetic North. A waterproof watch compass is allowed as long as you can calibrate it and use it correctly. An iPhone compass is not acceptable as it is not waterproof and the batteries may be needed for making emergency calls.

Smallest compass I have been able to find is these at 12 for < $2 ,  Weight: <10g

UPDATE- got an email from the Race Director which says the following- Can I use an iPhone as my compass?  Answer is no.

1 x whistle

*most Salomon packs seem to have a whistle built in, so I have 3. You should either borrow one from someone who owns a Salomon pack, or buy one from a toy or sports store- Rebel Sport will have these, or order something like this which has whistle, compass and backup light all in one.
Weight: included with pack

1 x emergency space blanket, light bivvy sack or equivalent

* Salomon Advanced Skin 12 v3 packs have these inside, or I bought one for about $5 from Khatmandu last year. Hint- Khatmandu seems to always be on sale……
Weight: 55g (or included with pack)

bandage

This image lifted straight from the TNF100 website…..

  • 1 x compression bandage minimum dimensions 7.5cm wide x 2.3m long unstretched. If in doubt the wrapping should list ‘heavy weight cotton crepe bandage’ or ‘heavy cotton elastic bandage’ (this item is used for the treatment of sprains or snake bite). 

I asked, but never got to the bottom of what makes a suitable compression bandage- common sense says that it’s the elastic in the bandage that will provide the compression. Supplied by my wife from our medical box, but you can buy these from Chemists.
Weight: 45g

1 x full box of waterproof & windproof safety matches (provided by organisers)

1 x firelighter block for emergency use only (Jiffy Firelighter provided by organisers).  You will need to provide your own zip lock bag or container.

*pretty self explanatory- there will be a table at check-in with these items on it. Grab a small amount and stash them in a zip lock sandwich bag that you have brought along. You’ll need a couple of extras for this and following items. Weight: no idea, say 30g

1 x lightweight Dry Sack to keep your compulsory clothing dry (plastic bags or zip lock bags are fine but Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil dry sack is recommended)

*You don’t need to buy a Dry Sack if you put everything in individual zip lock sandwich bags. I also wrote on the outside of each bag what the contents were, and found that I never had to look far for anything. This is important and could save time when you are cold and mentally shattered.
Weight: 3g each, you’ll need about 10 of these

Capacity to carry 2 litres of water (water bladder or water bottles)

* My early version of the Salomon Super Advanced XT Wings Wooshka Skinbag comes with a bladder that holds 1.5 litres, so it doesn’t technically meet these requirements. I bought some Platypus bendy bottles and a 2l Platypus bladder and now I have more than enough capacity. Indeed, I could smuggle a cheeky red and some fine cognac on to the course. But won’t. <<<< The Platypus bladders have been updated for a lower depth profile and no longer fit in the Salomon pack. According to Ultra168 the Hydrapak should fit, but if you’re going to a shop, take your pack to try it.

2014 Update
– I now carry 2x 750ml mineral water bottles in the front pockets of my pack, so I am going to go over the course description to decide wether I can leave my bladder at home and simply carry an extra 600ml handheld which will take me over the minimum requirements. Benefits are not having to take pack off, and relatively easy to fill up each bottle when needed. Weight (not measured)
Weight: 2l water = 2Kg, Weight: 157g (bladder)

2015 update– I ran last year with 2 bottles in the front pockets and a 2 litre bladder in the back. I didn’t need the bladder at all so this year I will be using 2x 600ml Powerade bottles in front (they have a big mouth for filling and a great closure with nice high flow) and I’ll make up the rest of the 2l requirement either with collapsible flasks or more Powerade bottles. These weigh 31g each (could I get it down to 30g if I remove the labels?). Technically I could carry 2 of these and 2 Salomon Soft Flasks and meet the requirements at only 120g.  That’s a big saving over the bladder + tube + 2x bottles I carried last year. That makes up for the increased weight of my phone!

2016 update– I will be carrying 2x 600ml Powerade bottle and 2x 500ml Salomon soft flasks. The soft flasks will be folded up and wrapped with a rubber band, stored in an obscure pocket. That gives me 2.2l of fluid capacity and only 122g weight. Nice
Weight: 122g

Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast of Champions

2 x bars / food portions

* When you pull everything out of your pack after the event, you probably won’t remember why you have 2 squished muesli bars at the bottom. These were your emergency food items. Equally important- if you get into trouble, don’t forget they are there!
2014 update- this is probably the only rule loophole that isn’t yet closed. You could theoretically take no extra food portions and claim you had an emergency and ate them. You most likely would not get in trouble for this, but don’t be an idiot- take extra food! I often finish an ultra with enough food to take me another 50km. Ahem.
Weight: 39g (muesli bar) Weight: 33g (packet of Gu chomps)

1 x Ziploc bag for your personal rubbish

*Oh no! You’ve just added 3g to your running weight! Don’t worry, you’ll sweat it out.

1 x set of maps and course descriptions (provided by organisers). At registration, you will be provided with one set of maps and course notes.  You will need to protect these from getting wet (using item below)

* provided on A3/ sometimes A4 paper, you will put these in a safe place and forget they are there. It’s unlikely you will refer to the maps- the course is very clearly marked. You won’t get lost- but don’t forget where your maps are- there was a gear check mid race in 2012 and we had to show them to scrutineers. Weight: 62g (I weighed another competitors handout from 2010)

Sea_to_Summit_TPU_Map_Case__jpg_508x300_q85

1 x waterproof map case or any other way to keep your maps protected such as map contact

*The best of these I’ve seen is by Sea to Summit, but it isn’t quite a full A4 size. I have a Sealine one that is big and bulky. The Sea To Summit should be available from most of the camping stores around Kent St in Sydney, Weight: 128g (Sealine from 2011).
Weight: 53g (Sea to Summit 2012)

Note– as suggested by Andy Hewat, you can put your maps into an A4 sized ziplock bag. This will pass a gear check, and weighs a lot less than a map case. Honestly, you won’t need to use your maps during the race.

1 x A5 Participant Emergency Instructions card on waterproof paper (provided by organisers)

*self explanatory. Don’t need to memorise it, just know where it is if you get in trouble. Weight: 6g (pretty sure this info is on the back of your race number, so I weighed one from another race)

1 x race number with timing chip to be worn on your front and visible at all times (provided by organisers). A recommended method of securing your race number is to use an elastic waist strap like a triathlon band which allows you to easily have your number visible over the top of your outermost item of clothing. You will need to provide your own elastic waist strap if you choose to do this.

*remember if you aren’t near the front of the pack you will most likely experience a few weather changes during your event, and you’ll probably want to change clothes. If the extra fleece and waterproof pants are declared mandatory during he race you could be changing both your bottom and top clothing, meaning that the best way of having your race number visible at all times is to have it on a race belt or a SPI-Belt. For some unknown reason Running Wild NSW were giving these away at the Knapsack race (2013?), so I have one- but if you don’t you should find them at Rebel Sport/ Performance Sport or other sports stores. By the way- you should join Running Wild NSW– they have some great events! Weight: 6g as noted above + race belt weight.
Weight: 60g (SpiBelt with 2 pockets)

Salomon Bonatti WP pants

Salomon Bonatti WP pants

1 x long leg waterproof pants

* I bought mine from Rebel Sport for about $40,  they are Team brand. You can get some for about $20, but they were non breathable plastic and looked easy to rip, and very heavy. The Rolls Royce here is the Salomon pants pictured but they are about the same weight as the cheap Team branded ones, but will probably last longer! You may not have to carry this for the whole race, see the explanation below.
Weight: 191g

North Face Fleece

North Face Fleece

1 x 100-weight long sleeve synthetic fleece top

* 100 weight polar fleece is not very heavy. You may not have to carry this for the whole race, see the explanation below. An example of a 100 weight fleece top here, but I actually ordered this 200 weight one here because it was lighter and cheaper. Remember- if you buy a fleece top without a full length zipper it will be more difficult to get on when you are cold and tired. Get a full length zipper version.
Weight: 346g

2016 update– The docs now specify that 100 weight fleece is 214gsm Polartec fleece. I’m assuming GSM is grams per square metre. Wool is specifically banned for this item because of its tendency to retain water when wet.

Here is the explanation of the last two items- the waterproof pants and the fleece taken directly from the website here

*** You will only be required to carry the waterproof pants if weather conditions are wet. You will be notified during the Friday night registration if they must be carried on person from the start, or if they need to be left with your support crew or in a specified drop bag for use during the event.

**** There will be two different scenarios for what you will need to do with your fleece top. These will depend on weather conditions:

SCENARIO 1. The fleece top may be compulsory from the start if weather conditions are expected to be bad. You will be notified at the Friday night registration if the fleece top must be carried from the start.

SCENARIO 2. If not made compulsory from the start, the fleece top will be compulsory to carry from CP4 from 4:30pm and compulsory to carry from CP5 from 7:30pm. Depending on your speed, you will need to have your fleece available at either CP4 or CP5. Please read the following recommendations and decide which option will guarantee you have the fleece top in the right location for when it becomes compulsory:

a) You will definitely be though CP4 well before 4:30pm so you should put your fleece into your CP5 drop bag
b) You will definitely be through Cp4 after 4:30pm so you should put your fleece into your CP4 drop bag
c) You will be through CP4 around 4:30pm or are not sure what time you will be through CP4; either put the items into CP4 drop bag and carry them from CP4 regardless of the time or have two fleeces with one in CP4 drop bag and one in your CP5 drop bag. If you have a support crew this will be easier as they can have your fleece available at CP4 and at CP5. 

Other things to remember- If there is any discrepancy between my explanations and the official line, the officials win. No arguments.

There will be at least one random gear check- usually two. Don’t try to skimp on any of the mandatory gear, it could ruin your race if you have to wait for a crew member to drive one to you- which is the best case scenario.

In 2011 we were required to carry a first aid kit. I use an Aide Void kit which is very small and has lots of worthwhile stuff in it. Declaration- yes my wife works for the company that distributes these but I will carry one anyway in 2012…….and 2013……. and 2014 and 2015 and 2016…..

All of the outdoor shops seem to be on sale right now (Kathmandu permanently!) and I saw some of the mandatory gear at great prices where they all cluster around Kent St Sydney.

Don't forget the Bodyglide!

Don’t forget the Bodyglide!

Recommended items via TNF website:

  • Vaseline, Body Glide or other body lubricant
  • Sunscreen
  • Cap or sun hat
  • Spare socks
  • Spare headlight batteries
  • Additional warmer clothing at supported checkpoints
  • A spare headlamp in case your main light stops working.
  • More substantial first aid kit (sterile dressings, roll of strapping tape, blister care such as blister block patches, Compeed or Fixamol, antiseptic wipes, painkillers, and any relevant personal medications).

I’ll do another post soon about the non mandatory items you should consider……….

Coast to Kosci Runner Hints C2K 2015

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Now this goes a bit over my actual level of talent, but that’s never stopped me before…..

I’m really excited that a whole bunch of my mates will be experiencing this race for the first time this year, but there are some things that I probably wish I’d been told. Or more correctly, that I had been told and wish I’d remembered.

Do not pull out of the race for any reason other than impending death. You have been personally picked for this race based on the RD’s view of your ability to finish. Up until about 2 years ago, no female had ever DNF’d. The race has a very low DNF rate, don’t be responsible for making it worse! Maybe I’m just pissed that I didn’t get a start? Haha, there’s only 50 places, make your selection worth it.*

*I did actually take to an ultra running group yesterday and argue that health is more important than a race and a DNF is not the end of the world. The truth lies somewhere between these two opposing opinions…… I’m not your Mum, do what you think is best.

Run slowly. Generally you are considered to be running too fast if you crack out the first marathon in less than 5 hours. Remember you’ve got about 5 marathons to go after that…..

I made lots of mistakes, here are a few-

  1. Having coffee at 24km Pericoe Rd intersection. I’d had no coffee for 2 weeks before the race and I was gagging for it. I should have waited until much later in the day, it wasn’t a strategically good decision to have it so early.
  2. Running too many of the (small) hills. One of my abiding memories is Jane Trumper leaning out of the crew car as she went past and screaming ‘Walk the bloody hills Adam!’. Don’t tell her I said this, but she was right.
  3. I had run the numbers in 2012, and knew that if I could crack out the first 100km in under 14 hours I could walk the rest of the way and still make the cuts. I became obsessed with this as a first timer, wanting to ensure my ability to finish even if walking. I went through 100km in 12:44 which was too fast. Going maybe 1-1.5 hours slower there could have helped me a LOT in the back end. Roger passed me at 100km and I think beat me by 4 hours!
  4. Mismanaged my chafing strategy. But you all know that and I don’t want to talk about it today. Ask Wayne ‘Blue Dog’ Gregory about his Japanese flag……
  5. At about 80km into my run it started pissing down rain, but only for 20 minutes or so. I should have changed my shoes right then but I was afraid of wasting my last pair of dry shoes too early- then I had to have roadside triage on my blisters at 140km.
  6. I also should have worn my shoes in a bit more. I love having a fresh pair of shoes for a big race, but in this case they had an issue with the inner soles.
  7. My longest run before the race was 65km. I had planned to go longer but made a rookie mistake of not taking sun cream on a very hot day. Don’t stress about doing stupid long runs, but do enough to give yourself the confidence to know you will finish.

Buy a few things that are treats for you, I was loving cherry tomatoes because they aren’t sweet. Ginger chocolate, Cherry Ripe, nut bars etc. Eat small but often. As the distances get longer, the food you eat starts to look less like ‘race’ food and more like ‘normal’ food. Practise eating everyday food during your long runs. Remember a gel isn’t going to be very useful during a 40 hour run. Figure out how you are going to get some protein- in such a long run you are going to need some.

Sparkling mineral water is 75c a bottle at Coles and tastes wonderful after hours of sports drink/ electrolytes. Buy a few bottles.

Read the race reports. Plan your race- make sure your crew know your plans, but be flexible enough to not be rattled when things change. Think about how absolutely awesome it will be if it rains the whole time- you’ll get to claim you finished in a ‘bad’ year!

One last thing-practise taping your feet. Get your shoes off at every opportunity until the race- simply exposing them to air will toughen them up. Walk around the house barefoot. After your shower in the morning- spray your feet with metho. This will toughen the skin. If you develop big callouses- go and see a podiatrist before the race to have them cut off. Any REALLY tough patch of skin can become a problem.

Get one of those Leigionairres caps that have a flap that covers your neck. You’ll be out for at least one entire day in the sun, and this might be the only race you’ll do where wearing one isn’t silly. I bought mine from eBay for $8 and it had an unexpected bonus- printing on the front that wasn’t in the pic- it said ‘Tiger Brave’ or something equally ridiculous.

I would have killed for something like this during the race last year, perhaps not very practical….

 

Best of luck everyone- I’ll see you in Eden.

Nikki Wynd Interview

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Most of you know of Nikki Wynd from her amazing performance at Badwater this year- winning female, 4th overall, second fastest female ever. Well, I was lucky enough meet her briefly as she flew past at Coast to Kosci last year. The only overseas race I’ve ever really wanted to do is Badwater, so I figured I could feature her as my first actual interview on this blog- and to my surprise she said yes!

Also- I’m not any sort of journalist or writer- if the questions suck, send me some hints and I’ll do better next time!

finish line 2

Photos by Chris Kostman

1. Congratulations on your win at Badwater this year! How do enter and get accepted for a race like that? (Cough, asking for a friend……)
ha ha, good try Adam.  You need to complete 3 ultra marathons over 160kms and this does not include 24hour track races.  So basically I spent 18 months building a resume so to speak of not only 100 mile races but also 100km races.  I also tried to pick the toughest ones in Australia – ie: C2K, GNW and I also did Glasshouse. You also then have to answer questions about things like “what does the name Badwater mean to you”, who is your favorite BW legend etc.  So they want to know that you know everything there is to know about this race. 
2. You’ve done the race before- how much of an advantage do you think previous experience is worth in this race?
Well last year the race was run on a difference course so I didn’t have that as an advantage but I went back there not as intimidated and scared as I was last year.  Last year I actually didn’t feel like I should have been there, so after running 3rd there last year I did feel well I did deserve my spot and I was a lot calmer and probably a lot more low key than last year.  Last year I was absolutely petrified.
3. How did your strategy differ this year? In another interview you mentioned walking breaks- how does that work?
I think just another year of ultra’s under my belt made a difference. I felt more confident as I had done another 3 races over 200kms.   I had a strategy this year and had strategic walking breaks factored into my running. I found having the walking breaks, just 2 mins at a time, really made my legs feel a lot fresher in the back end of the race.  Last year I actually felt like I held back a little bit to much, this year a very good running mentor of mine Mal Cree told me to “run on feel” and that was what I did.  I wanted to feel like I had given it everything that I had and when I crossed the finish line I knew I had nothing left in the tank. 
Nikki Wynd, David Eadie at Badwater
4. One interview says you’ve only been running for 5 years. This doesn’t seem likely as I’ve also been running for 5 years and I’ve never won anything (jealous!). And yet you seem to have done just about every long distance race I can find- what other races would you like to do?
I have been running marathons on and off for probably the last 10 years, but I didn’t take up Ultra Running until 2010 when I did Oxfam with some friends from my local gym.  I liked the fact you were allowed to walk and eat in ultra’s, and it was a lot of fun getting out to train with friends.  Next year I am keen to do my first 48 hour race and then after this I am not really sure.  A part of me actually feels I am ready to take a bit of a break from racing and just train for fun. 
5. The reason I was able to score this interview was because we met briefly at Coast 2 Kosci- how would you compare that race to Badwater?
how could I forget you from C2K…….I must admit your shaving story was the highlight of the presentation at C2K last year.  I actually think they are pretty similar races, its actually really difficult to say which is harder, C2K is longer and the last few years the weather has been cold and crap however Badwater has a lot more climbing and elevation and the high temps (48+), also the night start at Badwater was tough too. I am hoping this year at C2K we just get hot weather and good conditions as those that know me well know that I am not good in the cold. 
*editors note- I suppose there are worse things than being known Australia-wide for having chafed nuts but I’m struggling to think of any right now….

6. Your partner David Eadie is also a very handy runner- how do you decide who gets to do which race?
I must say that I am very very lucky to have such a supportive partner who totally gets what I do.  At the moment David is happy to take a back seat and just be my training partner.  He has spent 20 years at a competitive level so is quite happy to just jog around with me (and carry my bags as he likes to tell people).  We are pretty lucky to do what we do together.  We have travelled to so many amazing places together all thanks to our running.  He is also the one who keeps me on the straight and narrow and makes sure I am eating properly and looking after myself.  
presentation3

Photos by Chris Kostman

7. Favourite race or distance? Often we finish a race and immediately think we could improve with a few changes. What race have you done that you think you could go much better at?
I really love the 24hour track races and would love to break 230kms.  At the moment my current distance is 221kms. 

8. Bucket list runs… Any that you haven’t done yet that you’d love to have a good crack at? (very similar to Q4 I guess)
Next year the 48hour race in Canberra. UTMB and Western States. 

finish line

Photos by Chris Kostman

9. Goals for the next 12 months? Do you prefer trail, road or track? You seem to have done all of these!
I started off running trail however the past few years I have definitely done most of my racing on road and track.  I do love the track, this would probably be my preferred surface at the moment, I find i can just get into the zone and keep going.  The next 12 months – Canberra 48hour in March, Oxfam with my girlfriends Sam Gash & Jodie Obourne in April and back to Badwater in July

10. What tips would you have for someone wanting to step up from a marathon or 100km distance?
I really think that the step up from Marathon to 100km is quite easy.  Introduce strategic walk breaks, have  a plan, practice your plan in training, find out what works best for you.  Train on the surface you plan on doing your race on and be consistent but listen to your body.  I think the main thing is to have fun, find some friends to train with and remember its not going to be easy but it will be worth it.  Nothing beats the feeling of crossing that finish line achieving your goal……..

preso

Photos by Chris Kostman

* I also said to Nikki that she could promote her coaching business here- this blog is non commercial but I’m happy to support people who support the sport. She didn’t send me a link but go and have a look- The Running Man