After the postponement of the Mt Solitary race early this year, you’d think I’d be well prepared. I was, but nothing could make me ready me for the relentless agony of hill after hill after…. (except I’ve done it before. I must be very good at blocking things out)
It all started well, several cars full of NRG’ers met at the start, the first photons of light just giving a little colour to the trees. The old Queen Victoria Hospital (I like to call it an ‘abandoned mental hospital’ to freak people out) sits at the end of Tableland Rd in Wentworth falls. Surrounded by tall forest, it’s quite a spooky place. After a quick gear check (the mandatory gear list is quite long) we had enough time to have a nervous chat amongst ourselves, and for me to find my Garmin wasn’t working. Then a medical briefing from Keith Hong ‘if you need help off the course, tell someone who will tell a marshall, if you have a little blister, maybe you need to toughen up’. Well said Buzz.
The air horn sounded and we were off down the fire trail towards Jamison Creek. A couple of km of fast downhill then we veer off into the single track and descend even further. This was a lot of fun, and I was feeling well prepared and confident. I also knew that there would be some monumental climbing, and I’ve have to absolutely nail my nutrition plan to do well. However I also knew this would be a problem, as I’d run out of my normal gels, and was using a whole bunch of random ones picked up from showbags etc. And with no Garmin, I’d be guessing my food slots.
I’d decided to practice my race craft in this race- I’m very prone to stopping to chat to people, hang around too long at checkpoints and do lots of stuff that doesn’t get me to the end quicker. The lack of a Garmin made it all a little more challenging.
When we arrived at the creek there was a pleasant surprise- a log that we could climb on! Very happy about that as it’s not fun to run for 40km in wet feet. After the creek we started the climb. It’s not bad at first with plenty of runnable bits alternating bits of scrub with bush. It was here I dropped off the back of the train driven by Michael McGrath, letting him go so I could suck down a gel. My critical mistake here was selecting an SIS (Science in Sport) gel. It didn’t taste very sweet, and I believe this is because they don’t contain sucrose/ fructose, all the carbs are from maltodextrin. Well, let’s just say it didn’t work. I rely heavily on sugar and gels to get me through these races, and this was a big slap in the face because by the time I’d worked out this failure, I was deep into the mongrel climb- 650m of vertical in 3km. I lost about 30 places here, getting passed by all the other NRG’ers. Martyn stopped to ask me what was wrong and I made light of it, but I was already wondering if the promised fruit cake at the checkpoint would help me at the same time as cursing every pie I’d ever eaten. I stopped on the top of the mountain for another nutrition break, then took off to see if I could catch Chris Dawe who was just ahead. I ran pretty hard but couldn’t find him. I figured there was no way he could be that far in front (we’d started and insanely steep descent that included some rock climbing) and I looked back and he was there! He’d taken a wrong turn. I looked up and asked if he could see any pink tape just in time to see another runner fall off the mountain. Luckily it wasn’t a big fall, but he’d badly sprained/ lightly broken his ankle. I can’t think of a much worse place for this to happen, we were still 10km from the checkpoint, but apparently he got down safely- you wouldn’t have been able to stretcher him out as it wouldn’t have fitted though the holes in the rocks.
A bit more single track, past the scenic railway and we were greeted by another long climb up the Furber steps to the only checkpoint of the race. I saw both Martyn Dawson and Jane Trumper coming back down, so I had an idea of how far in front they were. I’d told Chris Dawe I was going to spend a bit of time at the checkpoint and not to wait for me but after I discovered there was no fruitcake, had a couple of Pepsis, I filled up my bladder there was nothing left to do except go.
I was feeling much stronger now, and since running with the fast middies a few times I’ve realised that my redline is a bit higher than previously thought. Still not 100% but no longer wishing some supreme being to put me out of my misery on the trail. I told Chris and Tanya who I was running with that if you’ve got anything left, this is the time to use it. It was about this stage that Chris said ‘my doctor told me I shouldn’t run today’. I figured if I could keep up a decent pace to the abandoned sewerage works I could stretch my legs on the fast downhills along Federal Pass, push to Jamison Creek, then hang on for the last 8km hill up Kedumba. As a bonus if I could catch either Jane or Martyn I might be able to stay with them, they are both very consistent runners with a great ‘never give up’ attitude. It wasn’t to be, they both finished well in front of me but it was fun chasing them. I did make up about 10 spots in the last 20km, and only 2 of those came back and passed me again. One was a woman (don’t worry I get ‘chicked’ a lot) and the other was a guy wearing home made sandals. Sigh.
Anyway I’m happy that my plan to ‘race’ worked (well, for the second half anyway) and that I was able to recover from a bad start (over confident? bad planning? bad luck?), I beat 8 hours, got a 48 minute PB and I finished within an hour of Rob Mattingly……… and went from 53rd of 56 finishers in 2011 to 88th of 112 finishers. And my Garmin was simply flat, both my wife and son had noticed that it was turned on but hadn’t mentioned it to me. My responsibility though, I’ll be sure to check next time!
On the way home one of our crew needed a powerchunder (do they put diced carrot in gels?) and we stopped off for a beer in Lane Cove where another of our runners walked in and said ‘Gday Maggot, how are you?’. Why don’t I have any friends called Maggot?
Anyway I’m incredibly pleased to report some outstanding performances- Kathy Madden and Colette Woodliffe came in 6th and 7th female respectively. Excellent!
In case you think I’m joking about how tough this course is, here’s a selection of quotes stolen from Facebook after the race (names withheld to protect the comedians). I did not make these up-
It’s too painful to live
At the pointy end, the race was won by Matt ‘Coops’ Cooper, in a new course record of 4:41 This is a guy who believes that through some form of NLP you can access an unlimited source of energy. While I could probably make a joke about him being the fruitcake that was promised in the race description, you can’t argue with those results, what an outstanding athlete. Maybe if I remove the fruitcake joke he’ll show me how to access that energy, I sure could have used it on Sunday!
200 spots, 129 starters, 112 finishers, 17 DNF. Cut off time 9 hours, distance 45km
Rob Mattingly 6:54:13
Michael McGrath 7:04:44
Katherine Madden 7:12:06
Colette Woodliffe 7:25:26
Martyn Dawson 7:36:00
Adam Connor 7:49:12
Chris Dawe 8:01:58
David Little 8:54:17
Steve Tancred RET