The North Face 50 2014- Guest Race Report- Sarah Connor

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My lead up to the TNF50 was very, very ordinary.

I had taken 3 months off after the Spiny Cray Ultra at the end of September 2013 to try and get rid of achilles tendonopathy.

After 3 months of physio and swimming training, we finally discovered that my post tibialis muscle is very weak and is causing pain in the achilles.

And then my back decided that it was its turn to be sore and painful. So another 3 months of physio – I don’t heal like I used too …..

So I finally start training for the TNF50 in March 2014.

Only 3-4 k per run, plus a strength session each week.

And then I lost my running mojo.
Things were looking grim.

 

Somehow in April I re discovered my running mojo after a great run with friends around Lane Cove.

And that is when my TNF 50 training started. A month out.

2 weeks out, I came down with a really nasty cold virus after a rather large night out on the piss for my birthday …..

I signed up for an adventure race with a girlfriend the week before the TNF50.

Why? Cos it was fun!! 8k of paddling orienteering and a 3k orienteering course.

My back was great and the running was pretty good too.

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So the week before the TNF – physio was happy with my back, achilles was behaving, my number arrived, the nerves started, I found all my gear, bought a new Nathan Vapour Wrap pack.

Sorted out my gear and wondered whether I should go and get a lighter rain jacket as I needed a bit of space, when lo and behold, I was lent a prototype Salomon Sense Flyweight jacket which was vacuumed packed and weighed about a ¼ of my Patagonia Torrentshell . Thanks Ben!

Pre race nerves meant for a crap sleep the night before – but I did manage at least 5 hours worth and that’s pretty good for me.

Got dressed, had breakfast (tea and toast) and set off to the start with Sarah (yes a different Sarah, she only has one personality called Sarah that I know of- Ed) about 30 mins earlier than planned….

Met up with the Summit Sisters and had some photos taken and jiggled up and down to keep warm.

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(photo credit Andy Bowen)

On the start line, I did wonder whether I had bitten off more than I could chew… ah well too late now.

Tom counted us down to the start and we were off. First 6k was good, walked the hills and took it easy on the bitumen.

I managed to get to the bottom of the Giant Staircase without freaking out too much – thanks to the guy in front of me who talked the whole way down about random stuff and kept my mind from the fact we were going down a cliff face.

The first big set of stairs did my quads and glutes in. Luckily I knew this bit quite well and was happy to have all the technical stuff at the start of the race when my legs were fresh.

At Olympian Rock, Gavin and Rebekah Markey were there cheering people on and it was great to see them and get some much needed encouragement.

Bek and Janis were at the 13k water point – I did not stop, but it was great to hear my name being called out!

At some point after the water point, I was the head of a very long conga line. I kept saying to the guy behind, tell me if you want to pass. He was happy for me to be in the lead. He asked what time I was aiming for and said 10 hours or less, he then replied that he was on course for an 8 hour finish at the pace we were currently doing.

Whoops. Just a bit too fast.

Sarah Jane Marshall caught me just past the Conservation Hut and it was lovely to hear her voice!  I tried to stay with her, but she was too fast , motoring along  to finish in under 8 hours .

Along Tableland Road had a chat to Brad who threw people out of helicopters for a living. His nickname was Nudge.

And that was really the last person I ran with until the Furber Stairs.

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(photo credit Bek Cramp)

Checkpoint went smoothly – had a chat to Jill, Bek and Janis  – thanks for letting me hug you both sweaty and all.

Ate some noodles, banana, filled my bladder, filled up with Clif bars and used the facilities. Tried to stretch as both ITB’s were very sore and I knew the 9-10k downhill was going to be tough.

And then the suffering began.

Walked out of the checkpoint and discovered my legs were not very happy about running, so I power walked down Kedumba. I was passed by many many people – that was very discouraging.

Nudge tore past down the hill – he was plugged into some tunes and looked much better than he had before CP1.

I tried to keep positive, took photos of the km markers, looked at the trees, said hi to people as they streamed past.

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Richo and Jess caught me about halfway down Kedumba. . I tried to stay with them, but my quads just did not want to know about running downhill.

Finally made it to the bottom – relief. And then the uphill. And a bit more slow downhill.

Uphill was good – I managed to keep up a consistent pace.  But boy I was in pain on the downhill bits into Leura Creek.

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I did catch a few people (ok 2) but as soon as the downhill bits came, it was soon reversed.  It was at this point I really wished I had someone to talk too just to stop my brain from feeling the pain.

Made it to the 41k first aid point, filled up the bladder just in case and kept walking.

I then noticed my fingers where very swollen – and my feet were not feeling much better. And I started to fantasise about finishing.

Stomped up the hill, through the Leura Forest, tried to smile for the camera.  Failed. Saw a Lyre bird and a King parrot – that was lovely and took my mind off the pain….

Then I saw the 4k to go marker. Oh boy. Did that make a difference. I stomped a bit faster.  Still being passed by other runners but at least I was moving a bit faster.

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An English girl caught me just before the Furber Stairs, and she was really positive and made me feel much better! Thank you to whoever you were!
We caught up to Emma, and she told us that it was her birthday.

So true to form I sung (very badly of course) whilst going up the stairs.  Great distraction.

At the top, a lovely man told us that we only had 150m to go. Of course I did not believe him. And he was right!

Managed to sprint up the finish chute and make a spectacle of myself. Richo gave me a big hug in the finish area which was much appreciated, English girl handed me a water and then the men’s winner and second place getter of the 100k finished – birds eye view or what!

Emma and I shared a hug for beating them across the finish line as we knew it was going to be close.  And then I looked at the time.

And almost died.  Under 9 hours.

My brain was so frazzled I could not do the maths to work out what my time really was as I started in Wave 3.  I just knew it was under 9 hours !

Turns out I was 8:47. Only 6 minutes slower than last year .  No real training and 6 minutes slower. This course suited me much better than last years.

 Gear

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(Photo credit Bek Cramp)

Bamboo knickers
Target bike cotton lycra bike shorts (for warmth not compression)
Salomon running skirt
Lorna Jane bra
Lulu Lemon singlet with built in bra
Salomon Summit Sisters technical t-shirt
Summit Sisters Buff
North Face 100 visor (nicked from Adam).
2XU compression socks
Hoka Stinson Trails
Nathan Vapour Wrap pack
Salomon Sense Flyweight jacket
Patagonia capilene top
Patagonia R1 gloves
Chapstick

Plus all the mandatory gear
Petzl Tikka XP
Patagonia midweight capilene long sleeved thermal top
First aid kit, compass , whistle , maps, instructions, waterproof zip lock bag x 2
And many tissues.

 

Nutrition

Clif Bars x 4
Cheesymite x 1 in quarters
Farex baby food x 2
Tailwind for first 28k and Hydralyte sport for next 22 k.
(Picked up 2 extra Clif bars at CP1, ate some pot noodles and banana).
Came back with 2.5 clif bars.

Unfortunately my body did not want Clif bars especially towards the end, but I forced myself to eat them.

Cheesymite was an experiment – I think I will make my own without cheese as there were a couple of times where my stomach was not happy. But a couple of big burps sorted me out.

Need to mix the electrolyte powders better in the bladder as it was very strong for the first few sips!

Would not wear the North Face visor again as it reflected the sun into my eyes and I had a headache by CP1.  (Its white underneath the visor).

Need to wear  knickers in a colour other than black as when I went to the loo, it was really hard to get things back on when they are all black

I chose not to wear my Garmin and I think it was a good choice. My phone was in easy reach to check the time for nutrition – which I did once. And then I just kept nibbling every 15 mins or so.

The Nathan pack was good, but I need to sit down and work out where things go – I broke the rule about not doing /using anything new on race day.

UPDATE: THANKS!!

How could I forget to thank the volunteers who gave up their time, to watch us crazy people run! And to AROC for such a wonderful event – thanks Tom and Alina! Jo and Gretel from the Summit Sisters for looking after all of us pre and post event , all my friends who supported us through the day and some new ones met along the way ! This event is very special and made more so by the people who organise, crew, support, run, volunteer,  sweep and photograph . THANKS !!

Adam and I the day after …. (photo credit David Brown)

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The North Face 100 2014- Stair Master Edition- Race Report

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‘But I thought you were fast!’

I’d walked past a lady who had just finished, and she said ‘I know you- you’re the guy that, that, um….’ So I heaped her out a little by mentioning the thing that I’m most known for ‘I run the Unofficial TNF training page on Facebook

Instantly she looks dubious ‘but I ran with you today- I thought you were FAST!’

I got a good chuckle out of that but- “Nope, I’m a middle aged bloke who haunts the middle of the pack, I write more about running than I actually run, and have no particular talent or ambitions. But I love to help others’

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Some of the NRG Runners- the ones who could still walk on Sunday

But let’s get back to the start. We’d done the final 2 sections a couple of times in training and decided that Brendan Davies was right- this new course was going to be about 1-2 hours slower. However when I actually looked at the course description I figured that they’d simply moved a bunch of the tough bits to the end. There is still a few ‘free’ road km at the start, and the only other difference is the soul destroying descents and ascents from CP4-5.

Who's the lucky boy who got to carry the unreleased Salomon Sense Flyweight Jacket? ME!

Who’s the lucky boy who got to carry the unreleased Salomon Sense Flyweight Jacket? ME! Thanks to Salomon Australia

I was reasonably well prepared, training had been spotty but I’d come good a few weeks before the race. I’d decided this was not going to be a big push as I have other stuff to do this year, but I think that’s the voice of a scared little boy worried about the new course. Then I also had to deal with the blasé old man who had done the race 3 times before and wasn’t worried about anything. Both of them got me into trouble.

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The dark dark night before the race

I’d decided that I’d be happy with a sub 18 hour time, and told lots of people. This took a lot of pressure off, but I should have been a bit more aggressive and put a bit more into training, I took the easy option.

Saturday morning arrives and we get up at 5am to get organised. Then couldn’t find my sunglasses. I always leave them in a very visible place and I freaked out a bit about not having them- I knew it was going to be a bright sunny day and I am susceptible to headaches from sun exposure. I also left my Ventolin puffer on the table at the accommodation. I don’t really need it most of the time, but I do get a tight chest when running in cold air and it does help. That took the wind out of my sails, then we were in a rush to get to the start, picked up Mike McGrath, Ben Rollins and Ian Rowe (and possibly one other?) and headed off. Then the sports field parking was closed off and we had to park on the street, I forgot my sports drink that I always drink at the start, went back to the car to get it and missed my start wave!

So I headed off in wave 4 instead of wave 3, my head a bit messed up because of all the mistakes, but I had one thing going for me- all the blokes in wave 4 who wanted to beat me would now have to finish more than 5 minutes in front instead of simply catching up to me……

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I think Joe Hedges added the motion blur- I wasn’t going that fast!

Off we went and I spent some time running with Tim Lyndon (who finished in 13:55 to get a silver buckle), and we settled in for some fun….. down the Furber steps and across Dardenelles Pass to the landslide, where someone (NOT me) dropped a fart that would have been banned by the Geneva Convention. This was the start of 16.5 hours of completely inappropriate conversations. Ultra running is such a glamorous sport.

We were held up maybe 1-3 minutes at the landslide, but not enough to destroy anyones race and it’s always nice to have a break!

Up the Golden Staircase I had my first bit of positive news. In previous years I’d struggled up here and had to step aside several times to let people past. This year I only had to do it because I was talking too much, rather than about to die. I know it is a few km earlier on this new course, but believe me, it’s not the extra 5km, it’s those bloody stairs! Running Curry Mountain reps definitely helped here, unfortunately looks like I have to keep them up!

My race plan was to carry no fluids for the first 10km, but my carrying capacity was made up of 2x front bottle 750ml each and a squishy hand held of 500ml. I carried 500ml of water in that but didn’t need it because of the 600ml sports drink I’d had at the start. As per my plan I filled the 2 bottles at CP1, grabbed some fruit and took off. Race time into CP1 was 1:26 but this was not recorded by the timing mats. I saw Martyn Dawson, Tanya Carroll and David Madden here looking happy so we all took off hoping to murder the others in the next section. So along Narrowneck we went, and this was where I met Duncan Bell, a former Melbourneite doing his first TNF. I had a fantastic chat with him, and although we finished only minutes apart hardly saw him for the rest of the day. In fact what happened was he was running faster than me but I was spending less time in checkpoints. Sometimes old age and treachery does win hey!

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I got talking to Damon Roberts who has come along to some of the training runs, and we descended Mt Debert into Medlow Gap and headed off towards CP2, Dunphy’s Campground. I hadn’t tightened up my shoelaces enough and my toes were bashing into the front of my shoes. I’d made a promise to myself to fix this at the CP, but got distracted by going to medical. I asked the guy if he had any Ventolin, which he did, and after a couple of puffs I was on my way. Adam Darwin had come over to see if I was ok and taken off. The Ventolin had very little effect but as the day was getting warm I just wanted it for prevention I guess. I caught Adam Darwin and we had a little chat to the bottom of Ironpot Ridge, then I steeled myself for this vicious climb.

I managed to get nearly half way up before my calves started to cramp, and I started screaming. This is only about 32km into the race but I’d forgotten my race plan which was to take 2x salt tabs at 20km and 1-2 every 10km after that. Another blow to the confidence! But why was it so bad so early? Maybe because I’d eaten some of my wifes’ hot chips the day before and needed to drink loads of water? Maybe because this year it was a little hotter than previous years? I don’t know. One more clue is this- although I felt I was taking in loads of fluid, my wee was telling me that I was dehydrated all day, and I did eventually get quite sick of drinking Endura.

Last year Andy DuBois had emailed me after the race and said ‘you could go 20 minutes faster along this section’ – he’s right, but it wasn’t going to happen this year either! Along the top I saw 3 runners helping a female who was on the ground screaming from cramps, I gave them 3 salt tabs and moved on. My cramps came back when coming back on the out and back which is a little scary with the sheer drops on each side but I made it without further incident.

The descent off Ironpot is horrible. It’s pretty much the entire reason why I was wearing my Hoka Mafates, but at least this year the dust was a little less like talcum powder and I only saw one or two falls. About 1km on I saw Kieron Blackmore who looked to be having a tough day, I couldn’t do anything to help so I moved on. After that there’s a couple of creek crossings and then a short, steep ascent to meet back up with Megalong Valley road. My whole leg seemed to seize up here, just as a whole bunch of runners passed me. I’m sure it looked pretty comical!

By this stage I was getting passed a lot and I knew that I couldn’t really push on too much without aggravating the cramps. I should point out that I NEVER thought I wouldn’t finish- I was managing the things that went wrong without too much drama. I’d already decided not to compete with the guys I normally dice with so I had no pressure, and apart from not being able to move very fast and my feet starting to hurt (I STILL hadn’t tightened my laces) I was having a good day.

I did finally catch up with one guy who did a massive power chunder right in front of me, so I asked if he was ok. He didn’t look too good but unfortunately he seemed to speak no English. I reassured him that it was only 5-6km to the checkpoint, which he seemed to understand and I carried on. Damon caught me on the big hill out of Dunphy’s and said ‘I don’t remember this hill!’ and I agreed that it’s not one of the epic climbs that you remember, but it’s bad enough to make you have a little cry inside. We made good time on the road into CP3, but again I couldn’t use any serious speed because of the cramps.

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Possibly the last time I looked serious during the race

Checkpoint 3 is great because it’s the first time you get to see a bag with your own stuff in it. I’d packed a 600ml coke and that was the first thing I knocked the top off. I dumped some rubbish, picked up a flask of gel and took off. This has got to be my fastest ever time at CP3, I’ve always been a bit slower before but I think this might be because it’s been a bit later in the race, and I mentally view it as an opportunity to rest, whereas this year I felt like I needed to get on and finish.

I’d walked out of CP3 still holding my Coke and realised I’d have to carry it to the next checkpoint. Probably should have spent an extra 20 seconds to drink the lot and dispose of the bottle, oh well. Along Six Foot Track I saw Nigel Huband, who I thought should be way ahead of me, but it was nice to chat for a minute. He was lamenting his decision not to bring along any bacon flavoured gels (yes they do exist), but I was trying to coax my shattered shell into running the flats and he soon took off to brighten someone else’s day.

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CP4, but not everyone likes my brand of comedy

It’s really nice to know that you’ll get into CP4 (Katoomba Aquatic Centre) during daylight. In my 3 previous attempts at this race, I’d only managed to get in AND out in daylight once. But of course it’s now at 57km instead of 65km so we were probably an hour earlier. I ran through my mental checklist when approaching the centre and then got really confused about what I was doing. Ended up having to go from one side of the centre to the other a couple of times before getting all of my stuff together. Picked up my fleece, head torch and spare battery (yes I had little ones for the daylight hours). Time- I knew from previous years that getting to CP3 at 54km within 8 hours was a good goal and would contribute to a good time, so this year with CP4 at 57km I figured 8.5 hours would be nice. Sure enough, I made it in 8:16, so pretty much on target. I also knew from doing the last 2 sections twice before that I could do them in 9 hours or 7 hours. Seven hours would get me sub 16, but 8 hours was much more likely! Drank my next coke and put the bottle back in my bag, picked up some noodles and headed out. Through the park, across the swamp and into another park where the track leads to Echo Point, where I saw Martyn Dawson sitting at a park bench. The poor guy had blown his ITB and was pulling out. He’s had a great lead up to the race, running strong and far, but sometimes it’s just things that we can’t control. He’s tougher than me, so I reckon he’ll be back. I sat down with him and ate my noodles, left, came back to collect the fleece that I’d forgotten and hit the track again.

Coming across the park was Beth Cardelli (who welcomed me by name! Wow!), she was in casual gear so I figured she had finished her race already. I later found out she was a DNS but whatever happened I’m sure she will be back stronger than ever.

Up at Echo Point all of the local tourists were making a big noise when they saw runners, it was excellent to get some recognition from these people who sometimes view us as a bit of a pain, it was a great buzz. Down the Giant Staircase I got behind a group of people including the legendary Greg Brown, who I met a C2K last year when he was running and I was crewing for Jane Trumper. He was pretty hard to miss as he had a koala teddy bear strapped to the back of his pack. Mate if you want to scare the tourists, paint some blood around its mouth…..

During this descent there were a couple of women behind us discussing if they were dehydrated so of course I yelled out to a bunch of compete strangers ‘what colour is your wee?’ I heard crickets.

Back on to Dardenelles Pass and into the most hellish part of the whole race. In the last 2 sections you go down into the valley more than 2.5 times (perhaps 800-1000m ascent and descent each time) and at least 1.5 of those is in this section. If you take out the 3km from Hordern Rd to CP5, that means you hit a possible 2000m of climbing in 18km. It’s f/ing hideous. But pretty. Did I mention how pretty? I got to the water stop near Conservation Hut and grabbed a few lollies, oops one of them was a black jelly bean. Normally not a problem, but this time it provoked gut problems that were to plague me for the rest of the race. Not bad, but enough to be uncomfortable. I shouldn’t complain though, I have iron guts compared to most people. Another bad cramp going up some stairs, more salt tabs and at 5:07pm I had to use my head torch for the first time when I went into a lush, slightly hidden under cliff ‘valley’. Just before 6pm the head torch went on full time. It was nice to see Wentworth Falls finally because that meant I would be climbing out Rocket Point Track to Hordern road and some actual running for the first time in a while.

Out onto Kings Tableland Rd a runner who had passed me several times said ‘I can’t really tell if we are going uphill’ and I replied ‘we are, but we go downhill after the next corner’. Sorry runner I meant ‘after the next 3 corners!’. I saw Allison Lilley along here, she was supporting, and when I got into Queen Victoria Hospital CP5, I was mobbed by helpers! That’s pretty good for someone who had no crew!

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Pick the NUTR

Tylana Woodward (who should have been running but pulled out with an injury and then decided to help- aren’t ultra runners awesome?) filled up my bottles, Kath Carty went through my checkpoint list with me, Andrew Bowen hovered in the background trying to look menacing as the grim sweeper, and Kate McElligott got the photos. It was like a Formula 1 pit stop- I knew that I had some food on my that I’d been carrying from the start, so I didn’t pick up much more. Andy said I didn’t have to carry the fleece as I was leaving before 7:30pm (it was apx 7:10pm) so I ditched it. ! drank my 600ml Coke, picked up some lollies and a (pre peeled) mandarin, snarfed down some watermelon and headed out into the night. The mathematical machinations were in overdrive now- to make a sub 16 hour time I needed to finish in 3:40 or less. I knew I needed 20 minutes to climb the last 976 stairs up Furber (for the pernickety- yes I counted them. This includes stairs that go down, does not include drainage channels, but does include one or two stairs that don’t have much ‘rise’. I’d say overall it’s pretty accurate, let’s say 976 +/- 2 stairs). So I had 3:20 to make 22km. There’s 8.5km down to Jamison Creek, I figured if I could make it to Jamison Creek in an hour, I would have 2:20 to do the last 13.5km. An average over this terrain of 10min/km would give me 5 minutes spare. Would my body rise to the challenge? Um, no.

Watch out for this guy. In fact, you can't really miss him......

Watch out for this guy. In fact, you can’t really miss him……

What actually happened was this- I made Jamison Creek in about 1:10 (I think, can’t be sure), but my average over those last 13.5km varied from 9:30min/km to 15min/km. I just couldn’t give a toss about going any faster, so my next challenge became beating my 2012 time of 16:34. I was pretty sure I had this in the bag, but I couldn’t relax. Happy to get to the old sewerage works and head into the single track again. There’s some sharp uphill then you head back along Dardenelles Pass to the foot of the Furber Stairs. I felt like I was moving pretty well here, but my speed was atrocious. At the bottom of the stairs I dumped my last fluids and hit the climb. It was a brutal as expected. My legs were not cooperating, so I had my gloves on and pulled myself up using the handrails. Distracting my mind by counting the stairs and looking up occasionally to see the bright lights at the top- you could hear the crowd, it was very comforting!

I finally hit the top of the stairs and went across the walkway, I turned off my headlamp kind of hoping I could make a quiet slink across the line, but then the crowd started to roar. I couldn’t believe that so many people were still so vocal at this time of night and so I lifted my hands up a bit higher and the crowd got louder! This encouraged me to do a heel clap across the line (I’ve never been able to do that before) and so it was over. A few seconds before the next minute ticked over got me a 16:25 and my second best result in this race from 4 attempts. Very happy as my aim was sub 18 hours. It did look like sub 16 was available at some stage, but I don’t care. I took it pretty easy and I do think that taking an hour off that time wouldn’t have been impossible- HOWEVER- People like Adam Darwin, Chantelle Farrely and Rocco Smit all did around 15:30 and they are all better runners than I am so that will remain unknowable!

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It didn’t FEEL like I was wearing hover shoes…..

Having so many cramps during the race really f’ed up my legs and I only managed to get them moving better by having a little run on Monday, but now my toes are the big problem- big toes and little toes on both feet are a bit black. I don’t think I’ll lose the toenails, but they are quite swollen and bruised which is new for me. No blisters though, which is nice. Oh yeah, my sunglasses were on the table in front of the TV, but they’d been covered by a plastic bag. Oh well! Eight hours 16 minutes for the first 57km, 8 hours 10 minutes for the last 43km. Sounds about right!

Nutrition
Start to CP1- carried 1 gel flask, 1 packet Clif Shot Bloks Margarita flavour, 6x Hammer Perpetuem solids, 1 packet Strawberry Gu Chomps, 1 packet Cranberry Apple Gu Chomps, 1 tube of 12 Gu Brew tablets, 1 Lemon Sublime Gu, 1x 140g packet of the Natural Confectionary Company Strawberries & Cream Bliss, 1 Gu Roctane for emergencies. 500ml water.
Actually consumed- about 2 sips of gel
Still in my bag at finish-  6x Hammer Perpetuem solids, 1 packet Strawberry Gu Chomps, 1 packet Cranberry Apple Gu Chomps, 1 tube of 12 Gu Brew tablets, 1 Lemon Sublime Gu, 1x 140g packet of the Natural Confectionary Company Strawberries & Cream Bliss, 1 Gu Roctane for emergencies
I filled up my bottles with Endura at CP1, and by the time I got to Tarro’s Ladders I still had most of it left, meaning I had 1.5l of sports drink for the next 11km. So I dumped the water from the soft flask and didn’t use it for the rest of the race. Couldn’t dump it though, because then I wouldn’t comply with the 2l fluid capacity requirements. I could have however swapped it for my 600ml Cokes at the last 3 checkpoints, and probably would have if I had a good spot in my pack.

CP1-2
Actually started taking in fluid and food here but it was too late, I was dehydrated for most of the day.
Consumed- 1 packet Clif Bloks Margarita, equiv 2 gels, 1 mandarin and 1 piece of banana at Tarro’s, watermelon and a toothpaste flavoured Endura gel at CP2.

CP2-3
Gel before Ironpot, 2 salt tabs halfway up, 2 more 10km later, more gel. At CP3 I drank 600ml coke, ate watermelon and a couple of lollies

CP3-4
I tried to eat a BSc Missile Bar along Six Foot Track, not very successful, ate about 60% of that and had some gel at the bottom of Nellie’s Glen. At CP4 I drank a 600ml Coke and grabbed some cup noodles and left.

CP4-5
Ate the noodles while stopped with Martyn Dawson. Ate some lollies from Conservation Hut water stop, more gel. Worried about running out of fluids so I took some water from this stop as well. I did consume some, but still had heaps when I arrived at CP5. At this CP I drank a 600ml Coke, grabbed some lollies, 1 piece of watermelon and a pre peeled mandarin. Filled bottles with Endura and left. Had this and some gels on the last section.

Totals
I was drinking an average of about 600-700ml fluids per 10km, which is a bit low for me. My consumption of gels and food was surprisingly low as well. I guess this could have something to do with my reducing my sugar intake for the last 4 weeks before the race. I’d forgotten to get the boiled eggs into my checkpoint bags so I didn’t really have anything with loads of protein except for the Missile Bars and for some reason had trouble getting these down. My home made gel consumption was about 3.5 of the 5 flasks I had available. There’s about 4 gels in each of these so I had about 12-14 gels in total. I probably could have saved myself from carrying about 400g with all of the extra food I didn’t eat!

A note about supporters- for NRG, we’ve had about 3-4 entrants in 2011, 6-8 in 2012, around 12 in 2013 and 45 in 2014! What an amazing result, and some really fast times too. I won’t even mention that I beat Robyn Bruins last year and she came back this year to make 12th Female. Oops. This huge increase in numbers has led to a massive increase in supporters and we love you. I’ve never exactly been lonely out there but coming into a CP and having a huge cheer go up really makes your day. It’s often cold and boring for those people, so a huge thank you for making the effort- see you next year as a runner?

I'm having a bit of trouble turning any of these into silver- know any alchemists?

I’m having a bit of trouble turning any of these into silver- know any alchemists?

Now, you’ve seen all of those names and you’re thinking ‘geez what a name dropper’. Well, you’d be right. Every one of those people, whether they know me or not, has contributed to my being there, and the happiness it brings me. I’m amazed that I can just casually have conversations with superstars like Brendan Davies, Gretel Fortmann, Jo Brischetto and others, but basically we’re all in it together…….Most comical part of the awards presentation was when Tom Landon Smith (the Race Director) was showing off the swollen knee of a female English competitor Claire Walton. She’d come 5th, but had fallen in the first 5km and fractured her patella. He leaned in and said ‘I just want to find out if your knee has anything to say about the fact that you dragged it along 95km while busted’ and he put the microphone down towards her knee and we heard a whispered ‘faaaaark youuuuuuu’

Brilliant.

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Photo credits- Tylana Woodward, David Brown, Kate McElligott, and the amazing and talented Joe Hedges!

The North Face 100 2014- The Actual Running Bit

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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.

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.

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- 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 last year 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 246km) 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 you mantra. You’ll see this one all over the internet, but mine 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.

North Face 100 Tips 2014

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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’!

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. 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. 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……

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.

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.

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!

North Face 100 Nutrition Plan & Drop Bags 2014

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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. This year 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……

Provided at Checkpoints

Endura sports drink (pre mixed)
Water to fill bladders
Fruit
Bread/buns (Not at CP1)
Lollies
Cliff Bars- New sponsor for 2014
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
1x Banana
1x Gel
At CP1- Drink 500ml Endura at checkpoint, fill 2x 750ml bottles when leaving.
Pick up 2x mandarin to eat while waiting at Tarro’s Ladders
*May carry little or no 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
2x Gel
1x packet Gu chomps
2x Salt tablet
1x Perpetuem solid

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
3x Gel
1x packet Gu chomps
1x Perpetuem solid
1-2 salt tablets

At CP3
Drink 500ml Endura
Check bottles/ fill with Endura- don’t fill up too much- only 11km to CP4!
Pick up Gel flask
Pick up 6x Perpetuem solids
Pick up 2 boiled eggs and some fruit
Get a treat- possibly a coffee from the van or a 600ml Coke

To Eat While Running Checkpoint 3 to Checkpoint 4- 11km, total 57km
2x Gels
1x Fruit
1x Gu chomps
1x Perpetuem solid
1-2x Salt tablet
Important- must eat at bottom and part way up Nellie’s Glen!

At CP4
drink 500ml Endura
Check bottles/ fill with Endura <<21km to next checkpoint
Pick up Gel flask
Take a cup noodle with me, drink Coca cola from drop bag

To Eat While Running Checkpoint 4 to Checkpoint 5- 21km, total 78km
4x Gels
1x Gu chomps
1x Perpetuem solid
1x Growling Dog bar
1-2x Salt tablet

At CP5
drink 500ml Endura
Check bottles/ fill with Endura <<22km to Finish!
Pick up Gel flask
Pick up Coke

To Eat While Running Checkpoint 5 to Finish- 22km, total 100km
4x Gels
1x Gu chomps
1x Perpetuem solid
1x Growling Dog 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!

 Contents of Checkpoint Bags

This means I’ll need to carry from the start of the race to checkpoint 3-
8x Gel (2 flasks)
3x Gu Chomps (1 spare)
1x banana
Tube of 6x Perpetuem solids
Loads of salt tablets

And I’ll need to pack the following

Checkpoint 3 bag
3x Gels (1 flask)
2x boiled eggs (peeled, in a sandwich bag)
Banana
Gu Chomps
600ml Coke

Checkpoint 4 bag
4x Gels (1 flask)
Gu Chomps
Growling Dog bar
Chips
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
Lemonade/ Coke
Gels (1 flask)
Gu Chomps
Chips

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. The Growling Dog bars are hard to eat, and need to be cut into squares and put into a sandwich bag in prep. I also quite like the James Magnusson Missile bars from Body Science. I will also try to incorporate some Perpetuem Solids in the early part of the race, they seem to work well for me, probably one or two per section. I probably can’t eat that many bananas, but not a bad idea to have them available.

I’m going to do this race without a bladder in my pack. I will carry 2x 750ml bottles on my front and a 5-600ml bottle 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.
Fruit- they often provide watermelon, mandarins etc and sometimes I prefer these even though bananas are probably better race food.
Cliff Bars- I find these a bit hard to chew but if they have a nice sounding flavour available I might have one or two during the race.
Nellies Glen- I have found over 3x 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) 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 last year, and to be honest that was a bit heavy, or maybe I just ate too much of it. 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.

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.

North Face Non Mandatory gear 2014

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Again, this is just a rehash of my 2013 list with a few updates, I hope you enjoy!

Here’s a list of a few things I’ll be carrying in the 2014 version of 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!

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 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.

Garmin 910XT– 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……

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. If I have time I’ll also try out the new Injinji socks

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

iphone 4 4s lifeproof 2

iPod- I’ll use my iPhone 4S with Lifeproof case. Turns out that the case I bought was a fake, these are available from eBay for about $10, but you definitely get what you pay for. Anybody who knows me understands that my first priority is chatting to other runners, but in both 2011 and 2012 when leaving checkpoint 4 I was 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 <– this link has the new version fairly cheap

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.

Gloves- for me, something like these is ideal, they have a mesh back so my hands don’t get too sweaty but they give some protection. Yes I know they’re ugly.

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- 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.

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.

 

North Face 100 Mandatory Gear 2014

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This is basically a copy/ paste of my 2013 entry with updates as required. Please let me know if you spot any errors, it was done in a hurry…….

 

-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 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, unofficial, and training.

UPDATE- Ultra168 have just added a post that takes in some of the gear here

 

I’ve seen a lot of discussion on various sites about the mandatory gear for TNF100, so I thought I’d share a few insights I gained last year 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 in italics, explanation below-

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 has just been 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 Khatmandu- they are from the Ultracore range- linkWeight: 173g

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 the rules will allow my Montane this year, Tom Landon Smith has flagged that in future he wants to enforce a stricter international standard for ‘waterproofness’, 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 has been passed is the Montane Lightspeed H2O at 132g. Unfortunately this may not meet the spec in future years because it is a coated nylon fabric that won’t stay waterproof once the coating is gone- or in other words ‘the only way that jacket will stay waterproof is if you continue to not wear it’. I recommend going up to the Montane Minimus which weighs 215g. Why? Because the Minimus contains Pertex fabric which is much more breathable- and this will likely be the absolute minimum spec in 2013. 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. I have the Montane Litespeed H2O Weight: 132g, which is no longer available, but a mate has bought the North Face Feather Lite Storm and it’s great but expensive….

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 and 2013 you might get away with a light fabric buff, but in 2011 it was soooo cold! Weight: 46g

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

I have some black mountain biking gloves for this purpose. 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 use go OVER your pack so you can be seen from behind at night- get a large size. Remember it’s the reflective stripes that allow the night rating. No stripes= doesn’t comply. Weight: 155g

unboxed

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. It outputs up to 355 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. 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…..

*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. iPhone 4S including Lifeproof waterproof case Weight: 171g

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.

I’ve bought this from eBay,  Weight: 10g

UPDATE- just 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. Weight: included with pack

1 x emergency space blanket, light bivvy sack or equivalent

* Salomon Advanced Skin XT Wings Super Nuclear Speedcross Blah 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)

* 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.

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)

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!
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)

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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- Update, purchased this 4.4.12 for 15% off at Paddy Pallin, $25.50 apx), 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, and weighs 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, 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)

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. You may not have to carry this for the whole race, see the explanation below. Weight: 191g

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. Weight: 346g

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

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

 

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……….