Narrabeen All Nighter 2014

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Photo credits- I’ve stolen photos from all over the place but I think all but one of these were taken by Stefica Key. If anyone wants them taken down or attributed differently please let me know.

This is a really odd type of race- run as far as you can on an out and back track in a given amount of time. These races used to be much more popular, but as you might imagine from the 100 competitors lining up for this one, seem to be having a resurgence in popularity. I’ve recently read an early book about Pat Farmer- Running on a Dream, and it describes various 24 hour and 6 day races- I know Coburg 24 hour still exists, but I don’t think there are any 6 day races left in Australia?

Anyway I usually end with thanks, but this time it has to come first- I’m so grateful that my lovely wife Sarah came along and took such good care of me during the race. In the last few hundred metres of each lap I was concentrating on what I wanted so I could yell it out as I went past- and I often forgot my ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. Sarah did it all without the icy stare she sometimes gives Alex when he forgets his manners………

Sarah Jane- still smilin'

Sarah Jane- still smilin’

I really had too many friends at this run to name everyone here, but special mention to Rocco Smit and Sally McIlwaine from NRG who also ran, friends from JORG, RunningGroups, Woodstock, BMMC, etc. Didn’t see many Striders, but perhaps I don’t know enough of them. And a very extra mega special thanks to the NRG’ers who turned up to support. There’s nothing quite like being a fairly uninteresting middle of the pack runner and yet having your name screamed out like a rock star every lap by a ute full of pissed runners.  Priceless.

So- why the hell would you want to run all night on a 1.666km track? I still don’t know for sure, but one of the keys to success at anything is knowing you can do it. Example- I’ve done a 15:28 North Face 100, but KNOWING that I can do a sub 14 hour 100km would be a huge psychological boost for the big one in May this year. So getting close to 100km in 12 hours would help a lot with this.

Back in November I’d done GNW100m and had a reasonable go- I didn’t make the end, but got further than most in difficult conditions. Unfortunately since then I’d had trouble keeping a fork out of my mouth and my running shoes on. People look at you funny when you say ‘I’m helping a mate do a 240km race in December’ but let’s face it- C2K is basically a 5 day party for the crew. It does have a serious side, but this year I wasn’t scared about the physical demands of the race, so I was working on alcohol poisoning rather than fitness.

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And then there was Christmas. Let’s just say that as NAN got closer, I got fatter. Until I realised that I hadn’t run more than about 20km in several months…….

Goal Setting
Well obviously my goal was 100km, however as time wore on, that became my stretch goal. My main goal then was to keep going until the siren sounded at 8am on 5 January, at the end of 12 hours. One hundred kilometres on an out and back that measures 3.333km is exactly 30 laps, at an average pace of 7:12/km. So, 30 laps of a fairly short course- how hard can that be?

I had a look at last years results and saw that in a field of about 44 last year, only about the top 10 did >100km. In an expanded field of up to 100 runners, this meant I would have to be about top 20 to make my stretch goal. That might sound nice, but how was an out of condition middle aged man going to get a top 20 position in a 12 hour race?

We arrived around 6:40pm to find that most people were already there and set up. Another runners crew kindly moved their car so we could fit in. Then we set up the NRG gazebo- holy carp that thing is huge! ….and heavy. The race briefing was very late so we only had 3 minutes from then until the start. I really hate being rushed at the last minute but I could have turned up a lot earlier and set up, and despite not having a proper dinner it didn’t seem to affect my race.

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And we’re off! I positioned myself about 3/4 back in the field, hoping to avoid all the people who take off like they’ve got a bug up their arse, and settled into some easy running with Gordon Plunkett and John Doughty. Brendan Davies had a bunch of other runners clustered around him, I think they all realised that he was going for a 100km qualifier and wouldn’t be making them cry for an hour or two, but the real surprise was a guy I’ve never really met but have seen before- John McQuade, he went off like a rocket and as far as I can tell, was in the lead for quite a while. That’s a gutsy move, and unfortunately he paid dearly for it- later in the race whenever I would pass him he would get a second wind, (and a third and fourth) and pass me right back. Then much later I saw him collapsed at the side of the track (or more accurately ‘resting’). to his immense credit he was up and running at the end.

so the run goes like this-

Out of the park and along the foreshore
turn the corner
past the ducks and geese
past the Scout hall
past the restaurant
through the mini forest of immense darkness
into the light
around a corner to the turn around point

then

through the mini forest of immense darkness
past the restaurant
past the Scout hall
past the ducks and geese
turn the corner
along the foreshore
into the park
yell out instructions to crew
around the start/ finish line
pick up stuff from crew…… and so on

Now I know you think this is pretty boring, but honestly it wasn’t really. This might point to me having no or limited imagination, however there was always plenty to do- run, think about what food you want for the next lap, chat to runners, vollies, scare geese, wonder if you should get a more powerful head torch, run etc.

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By 50km I was running well ahead of my 7:12/km target. I’d slowed from an average of 6:54 to 6:58 but I knew that the next 50km would be fairly painful if I decided to go for it. I had quite a lengthy stop (about 20-25 minutes). Then at 60km I had to go to the bathroom and my time target fell apart. All this was ok, because I figured I shouldn’t push too hard, Six Foot Track is only 9 weeks away and I need my legs to train with……

So I put on some tunes and just kept going. The major surprise here was being able to keep up a steady run after such a long time upright. In a lot of ways it was easier to run than walk, although Jane Trumper (somewhat unkindly) later remarked that I looked like I had stopped. She obviously didn’t see me when I was waving my hands in the air and singing along to some old KLF. I’m sure a few people were a bit surprised to hear me screaming out ‘F@ck the millennium- we want it NOW!‘ in a Scottish accent.

I slowed down to talk to a few people before realising that I was killing my own results. Smiling and sharing a few words was enough. Watching Brendan Davies go past me a billion times never got old- he has such a smooth, efficient style. People without names got nicknames- there was Dave, Natalie, Michelle, John, SJ and Adelaide, Blue Mountains Motorcycle Club, Silver Fern and Hot Runner. I swore I would ask her name before the end of the race so I wouldn’t have to confess to naming someone ‘hot runner’ but you’re all going to have to keep that vision of me as a dirty old man for a while longer. It’s not that difficult.

Early in the AM I became aware of 2 extraordinary efforts. John Doughty had been suffering horribly for a few hours but refused to give in. He has a lot of experience at distance events and knew that if he just kept going he might eventually come good. And so it transpired. He felt better and started passing me again- what a legend!

The other effort that needs some exposure is Lance Garbutt. When we started I saw this huge guy (he’s over 2m tall) in amongst the miniature racers, and wondered what his story was. It turns out that he had lost a lot of weight (200kg down to 140kg) and written a bucket list. The list included 3 items that he wanted to cross off that night- a half marathon, full marathon and possibly ultra marathon. That’s a very smart way of doing it- flat course, 12 hours and lots of support. As the night wore on, he was looking pretty crappy (like us all) and I stopped to have a little chat ‘you know what all these ultra marathoners respect? They respect that you’re out here doing it. They don’t care how far you get or how slow you go. They will give you respect if you’re still out there at the end’. To which he replied ‘I just want to get to a marathon distance, then I’ll go home’ and I said ‘finish your marathon, have a rest but don’t go home- you have heaps of time. Eat drink, rest and get out there again. Do one more lap. just think how great that will feel to just do one more lap’.

Lance gets his reward. For being a bloody legend of course....

Lance gets his reward. For being a bloody legend of course….

And he did. For the rest of the night he kept pumping out those laps, and in the morning he was given the award for the most courageous effort of the race, accompanied by a huge cheer and clapping from everyone else. See? You don’t have to be 4 foot tall and 40kg to be an ultra marathoner. Outstanding effort.

For me, the rest of the race turned out pretty much as expected. increasing levels of pain, and decreasing levels of speed from my unconditioned legs. At one point a goose wanted to play chicken with me , but I think it realised at the last minute that I had no intention of changing speed or direction. Lucy the goosey was huge though, probably could have made for a big spill. Paul Every wanted to sell me a skateboard at the turn around point, but I think the ‘mechanical assistance’ might have been a bit obvious in the morning light.

At 7am they decreased the course to a 500m each way, or 1km loop, and suddenly the heavens opened. I’d been losing what was left of my gruntle for a few hours. But when my sports headphones stopped working because of the amount of water in the atmosphere I became positively dis-f/ing-gruntled. Or perhaps that should be negatively. in this last hour a lot of people increased their pace, letting me know that they should have run faster during the night, the lazy bastards. On the odd occasion that I tried to increase my own pace, my body gave very swift and discouraging notification to desist. I’d gone through my last long lap at 86.666km so every lap after I was trying to figure out where the full km ended- in case I was close at the finish and could go for one last tick. A few more of these and everyone was getting keyed up about the end. With 15 seconds to go I went through the start/ finish for the final time, and managed to speed up a bit because I was very close to my crew! Managed to get within a few metres- good because when the horn blew I was shattered. To the point of asking Sarah to bring me a chair because I could not move one more step. We all had to take our bibs off and put them on the ground, then Ron Schwebel and Melanie Zeppel measured the distance from the start/ finish line to the bibs so they could later calculate our final distance. And it was over.

Yes, it hurt that much

Yes, it hurt that much

Brendan Davies had done his 100km qualifier in 7:48 and sat down to rest. At which point his crew- Ewan Horsburgh called him fat and lazy (OK I made that bit up)  and told him to go out and run for another 4.5 hours. And somehow, after a 6 minute rest he went out and did just that. His final total of 145.274km was a new Australian 12 hour record. Or would have been if he hadn’t had that 6 minute rest and allowed Barry Loveday to get past (ok I made that up too). Barry did 149.804km. Ouch, only 200m from 150km but a new Aus record. It’s just amazing to be around to watch these guys do their thing.

I don’t know any of the top 3 females, but the number of times Pam Muston flew past me was pretty humbling, and Natalie Watson again proved what a classy runner she is by keeping the pace and pressure up until the very end.

My final tally of 92.717km was good enough for 18th place overall, and 3rd in the mildly ancient old fart category, M40-49.

You all know that Rocco is a far better runner than I am, he stayed with Sally for a great deal of the night and still achieved 76.057km. Sally did her first ultra marathon distance and came home with an award for most disgusting feet. Her 63.056km was a fantastic result and her blisters could be seen from space!

Rocco & Sally

Rocco & Sally

What could I have done better?
I had no food strategy and no running strategy. As you can see from my Garmin, I stopped only a few times, but for too long each time. My average moving pace would have got me the 100km target. Probably being 1-2kg lighter or a bit fitter would have too. You might notice my Garmin recorded 94.28km is explained like this- as far as I can tell, the 3.3333km out and back for each lap is measured so that you CAN’T go under that distance if you stick to the route, but you CAN go longer if going around other runners etc. Also a GPS watch is only really accurate down to tens of centimetres anyway, and probably much less when swinging on your arm. However the excess distance was pretty consistent- about 1km over each 50km distance.

Things that went right
I didn’t change my shoes (Hoka Bondi B) or socks (Injinji) and had no blisters. Zero. I managed to hit my goal of still running at the death knell- I can’t express how happy this makes me feel. It means that I can have more confidence in running  something like C2K (hey I may qualify one day). In that respect making 100km isn’t as important because if I’d done that and then just quit it’s not as good a measure of endurance……..
Also I’m now getting some protein into my running snacks which seems to help a bit. Although I have to confess at 50km the combination of chocolate, boiled egg, orange juice and watermelon didn’t sit very well.

Do it again?
Yes, I definitely think that the start slow and keep going strategy was good. I’d love to see what I could do if I was properly race fit. Maybe next year.

It really did get pretty wet towards the end.....

It really did get pretty wet towards the end…..