Oxfam Trailwalker Sydney 2013

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I’d lightened the training load since The North Face 100, took lots of days off for no reason and generally didn’t take this race seriously. Big mistake. In my defence I suspect a few others had done the same……….

There was a great amount of sledging between me, Martyn Dawson, Adam Darwin, Paul Blamire, Joe Hedges, Michael McGrath and others a couple of months ago. Then it all went suspiciously quiet. None of us were putting in the hard yards, and we all started to worry that we hadn’t done enough. Some of us hadn’t! However we all made it to the finish, and here’s what happened.

Anyone running the course needs to put together a very strong team- it’s all about arriving at the finish with all 4 team members. This year the top spots were wide open, with Quality Meats not entering (they won 3 years running) and Shona doing UTMB instead of fronting a female team. The night before we discovered that Mountain Sports were fielding a mixed team comprising Beth Cardelli, Ewan Horsburgh and a couple of others, they would be tough to beat. I’d decided that we should field a mixed gender team in an attempt to place a bit higher in that category. We’ll see how that worked out later shall we?

Oxfam Trailwalker Sydney 2013

I got in initially because one of Robyn Bruins friends posted for team members on Facebook. He then picked up a random from the singles board (Christopher Beavon), and I was in charge of finding female talent. Note to wife- I mean running talent Sarah! On the basis that you should always choose someone better than you we drafted Gillian Russell and Kate McElligott as our reserve. With the difficulty of this event you tend to go through a few people so reserves are important- and so it proved. Both of our ladies were out injured well before the event. Apparently Kate has filled in her time spilling blood on the streets of Mosman, but Gillian decided she wanted to crew for us. So I drafted Jane Trumper, Queen of the Desert into our team. She spent a lot of time telling me she wasn’t interested, but I wore her down. There simply wasn’t anyone more perfect for the role.

On race morning I found out that I was the least experienced team member- Jane was about to start her 12th, Aaron his 5th, Chris 4th and me just 2. But I knew that if any of us had issues we were likely to be able to carry on simply because of experience. the gun went off and we all had a little 300m run to the first hill. And it’s a beauty. The kind of hill that truly takes your breath away. I knew the first 2 sections were the most brutal and difficult so I resolved to just hang on until they were over. We had a plan of finishing in 19 hours (which I thought would be easy!). Arrival at CP1 at 9:27am was 10 minutes in front of our timetable so very happy. On our way to CP2 I started fantasising about Coca Cola and our fearless team leader went ahead and got us each a can. This pointed out a major flaw in our plans- I had Pepsi in my drop bag, but we weren’t due to see our crew (Peter Trumper, Jane’s husband) until CP4 St Ives sometime around dusk. To make matters worse, there were sausage sizzles, coffee trucks etc at each checkpoint but NO ONE selling soft drinks. The event itself provided some lollies, tea, instant coffee and water, but no fruit, sports drink or other food (to be fair we were given 2 tubes of Gu Brew at the start, but I had obviously mis read the instructions and thought that sports drink would be provided. I left the Gu Brew in my drop bag, D’oh!). At CP2 we saw Steve Bruggeman (in work clothes!) and Lise Lafferty taking pics. By CP3 we were 30 minutes ahead of schedule and looking like we would A) get to St Ives in daylight and B) finish an hour ahead of schedule. Unfortunately I had been suffering all day and everything was taking a toll. I was getting slower and I’m sure at some points the only thing keeping me going was the caffeine. Up to this point we had been dicing back and forwards with Martyn, Adam, Joe, Paul and Michael. Guys I’m not sure a tap on the bum or a loud fart as you go past is appropriate, but neither made me go faster. Thanks anyway, I think.

We arrived at St Ives to see our crew at 5:40pm, just 10 minutes after official sundown. We hadn’t need our torches, but got them out for the death march to Davidson Park, CP6.   At Davidson there’s still a few climbs but you know you’re going to finish- it’s only 20km to the end. By this stage I was grumpy but off my head on coffee and Pepsi, Jane was baiting me by asking us to go faster, we had some instant noodles and headed off into the night. I felt like I wasn’t far from my limits and we weren’t going very fast, but every time someone talked to me I was surprised when my voice sounded happy and intelligible.

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At Ararat we could smell the finish- had a quick stop and slipped out to slay the dragon. We were dicing with 2 teams now- Mike McGrath was pushing his lot along but at Ararat one of them was covered in a space blanket and looking green. We figured that would be the last we saw of that team as a complete set of four- we were wrong! The other team was one with Alison Lilley- you might notice that I have a lot of female runners as heroes, well she is another one! She’d been making noises that we were going to catch her but I think natural justice prevailed when she got her team home a bit over 30 minutes in front of us.

Martyns Team

Martyns Team

Down at the Spit my guts started to go liquid, and not in a ‘you’ll be fine’ kind of way, more of a ‘if you don’t find a toilet in the next few minutes this suburb is going to be a different colour’ kind of way. So up Parriwi Rd I walked with my butt cheecks clenched and ran down to Chinamans Beach where there was a structure I first mistook for a house. But no, it was a new toilet block, open at 1am, and with clean, gleaming fittings and GASP- actual toilet paper! It was like getting entry into Valhalla and finding a comfortable, ceramic throne. The team were waiting for me at the exit to the park, but there was too many lights- Michaels team had just gone through. Bugger.

Jane wanted to chase them, and I was feeling a bit better, but not good enough to chase. Not far on, they took a wrong turn and we got back in front. Why? Well it seems that Mosman Council won’t let Oxfam put up any directional signs. That’s just plain stupid for the last 3km of a 100km race. A race that involves 2000 people and raises $3million for charity. Mosman Council- get a better grip on reality you idiots.

Things pretty much unfolded as I expected from there- Michaels team stuck behind us until the stairs then blasted past to take glory 800m from the finish. We managed a little run for the last 300m but they weren’t to be denied and used a last burst to have us cross about 20 seconds after them. So we all had a bit of back slapping, taking photos and a quiet little cry inside.

BUT- there’s no electronic timing on Trailwalker. Your check ins determine your time, and Michaels team had forgotten to check in so when Jane checked us in she put us in front of his team that had finished before us!

Analysis- I finished Trailwalker 2010 in a walking team in 29hr 36 minutes. This time was 19hr 26 minutes, so a full 10hr 10 minute pb for me! We were 24th ‘team’ across the line, but when you look at the results, a different picture emerges- many of those 23 other teams were missing 1, 2 or even 3 members. (Please note all results mentioned from here in are 4 team members only). Only counting ‘full’ teams we were 11th! What an outstanding result. Less outstanding was the fact that me trying to ‘game’ the results had backfired. We were 6th mixed gender team, but if we’d been all boys we would have been 4th in that category. We were 4th in the ‘Family & Friends’ industry category, but if we’d chosen to start as part of the ‘Advertising, Media, Marketing & Sales’ industry we would have smoked all of those long lunchers and come first (they were all over 30 hour finishers). Kicking Aaron and Chris out of the team and filling it with fast old farts would have bagged us second in the over 40 category.


But if I’ve given you the impression that I’m competitive or ruthless I’m sorry. I would not have changed a single thing about the way we worked together that day. I have the hugest respect for my fellow team members, and thanks for dragging me home!

There were some epically tough people out there- Paul Blamire who struggled home with a bad hip, others with sore feet, knees etc. Any one of those other teams could have creamed us to the finish- all it would have taken was a bit worse luck for us and a bit better luck for them.

What would I change? I would do more training. Not taking this event seriously enough was a big mistake. I would read the documentation more carefully so I wouldn’t expect things to be provided that weren’t. The stuff not provided this year was in stark contrast to 2010- now they provide almost nothing that we get in most races.  I would have crew a bit earlier. I would lobby the organisers to have a bit of fruit and some sports drink. I would tell Mosman Council to pull their heads out of their collective arses and support the event better.

To my team- sorry, I probably could have run 5 minutes faster to get those bastards from the NRMA, next time. Next time? No, I don’t think I can. I think. I think I can, I think I can, I……

Joe Ward 276km Great North Walk- Pacing

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Joe doing his best impression of the GNW Logo

Joe doing his best impression of the GNW Logo

I woke up at 12:30am to the sound of David Brown’s alarm. Three seconds later I hear him say ‘Hello? Where are we?’

My first thought was why is he talking to his phone? My second thought was ‘oh no, we’ve just committed the ultimate sin. We weren’t at the changeover point for our duties as pacers.’
Sure enough, it was Ronald Stevens calling us to let us know that Joey, who has started in Newcastle at 4am on Friday, the day before. He was making an attempt on the record for a complete traverse of the Great North Walk, a 276km trail from Newcastle to Sydney opened in our bicentennial year 1988. One of the records was 54 hours, set by Meredith Quinlan and Jess Baker. Kirrily Dear and Alison Lilley had previously set the record at 81 hours by simply completing it! There had also been a group including Andrew Vize in about 66 hours. Get the picture? All Joey had to do was to FINISH, and he would take the  record for the first SOLO traverse of the complete GNW. And be only the 11th recorded non stop run of the course.

Ron, always unflappable made some arrangements for the current pacer to continue and for us to be inserted part way through the section we were meant to be pacing. We were meant to start at Yarramalong and go to Patonga, a couple of sections of the Terrigal Trotters GNW100s course that I knew fairly well from pacing Jane Trumper last year. This meant that we had to rely on the current pacer to get Joey through the infamous ‘dead horse creek’ section where someone got so lost last year she was timed out of the race. I felt like I’d really let him down because I was the one who had the course loaded on 2 different GPS devices, including maps, course descriptions etc. I take the job of pacer very seriously and was gutted to let Joe down.

We got to the intersection of Ourimbah Creek Rd and Forty Acre Farm at 2:30am. Then waited, and waited. Sitting in the ute in the dark with the apparent temp below zero was a surreal experience. We took bets about when they would turn up, and I sat there and worried about them getting lost. At 5am I said ‘I’m going to get them’ and we saddled up our gear and headed up the trail. Luckily about 600m up we discovered 2 happy chirpy lads coming towards us.

Only 7km to go until the Somersby checkpoint, but Joey was moving strongly at ~150km and 25 hours. At Somersby we were met by Emma (Joe’s fiancé) and the irrepressible Sarah Jane Marshal in a hilarious disco outfit. A quick fuel up, then we were off into the early morning sunshine towards Mooney Mooney. It was lovely being alone on the trails, having a chat and making sure Joe was eating and drinking to a schedule.


Mooney Mooney welcome committee, Saturday afternoon. Helping Joe stay grounded in reality

Mooney Mooney welcome committee, Saturday afternoon. Helping Joe stay grounded in reality

At Mooney Mooney we arrived to a thunderous reception with Alison Thomas in a onesie and some very confused cyclists going past. One cyclist who did stop was Andrew Vize! He’s come down to see how Joe was going- I’m constantly humbled by the willingness of heroes of the sport to help other. Well, it kind of went the other way this time- we filled Andrews bidon with water, gave him some snakes and he wished us well! After a massage and fill up we were off again- this time with Tanya Carrol as an addition to the pacing team. It was great adding Tanya- I think Joe was thankful that my jokes became a bit cleaner.

Bananaman getting more value from his sponsors

Bananaman getting more value from his sponsors

Next stop was Patonga, where Ben Pearce and girlfriend Jen were waiting to take Joe across the bay to Brooklyn, where Ben Blackshaw and Alison Lilley would continue for his last 76km. This was a difficult section, and one that Joe was dreading, but I know that worse was to come! We arrived at 6pm Saturday night to another great reception including my wife Sarah and son Alex. Joe spent a few moments staring at the post which marks the end of the GNW100s Miler (on this occasion it marked the 200km mark of his journey).

Joe contemplates the achievement and tries to ignore what is still to come

Joe contemplates the achievement and tries to ignore what is still to come

I insisted on a beer at the Patonga pub and retired to our lodgings to sleep. I hadn’t slept since Friday morning and was really feeling it. I could only imagine what Joe was going through.

So what next? I slept for nearly 12 hours, helped clean the house, drove back to Sydney, showered, changed, had a big boozy lunch and…… well I couldn’t just leave it there.

Lane Cove National Park welcome committee, Sunday night

Lane Cove National Park welcome committee, Sunday night

I went home, got into my running gear and went out to Lane Cove National Park to do the last section. Joe by this time had been travelling for over 60 hours with no real rest. He arrived with Ben Blackshaw and Alison Lilley after 8pm and just before 9pm we were on the trail again. There was a huge welcome committee from his Manly Beach Running Club! Ben was continuing however Alison was nursing a knee injury and had to go home. During the day on Sunday some of the terrain was so tough they were averaging only 2-3km per hour. The call had gone out for more pacers as some had needed to pull out because of work the next morning, others were injured, it was all looking a bit dodgy. I was happy to step up, also Sebastian Warmerdam and Gillian Russell joined up too. Matt McCarron, who had spent most of the day Saturday helping and then ran the M7 Marathon on Sunday came back out and ran the last section several times just to make sure we wouldn’t get lost. What an incredible team.

We spent the last few hours joking and having light hearted conversation. But we had a problem. The last section of the course ends at Woolwich Pier, and then you have to go across the water to Circular Quay, and from there it is only 300 metres to the ends- an obelisk in Macquarie Place. The plan was to take a ferry from Woolwich to Circular Quay, but its was too late on Sunday night for a ferry. The backup plan was to get a water taxi – guess what? Too late! In desperation the wonderful Sally Dean ( grand organiser extraordinaire) rang the Water Police. The first time her reception was predictably brusque, but as time went on golden tongued Sally managed to convince them that it was not only a good idea, but needed to be done.

Ben had been waiting at Patonga since midday Saturday, and pacing since the 6pm trip across to Brooklyn. It was no surprise that he was a bit quiet, but I had to press on being lively and encouraging, telling bad jokes and generally getting in peoples faces to try to keep Joe going. I’d apologise for being annoying, but I do feel it’s kind of my job as pacer to be inexhaustible and positive. Ben you did an incredible job, you can decide if I’m truly a d!ckhead next time we meet!

I gave Joe a mini Mars bar and some Coke, ten minutes later he breaks out into a run. That’s right- he ran his 270th km, breaking Gillian in the process. This brings to well, uncountable numbers of pacers who lay figuratively broken in his wake. Three km later we see the high wear off and he’s asking ‘where’s the @##$%^ boat? I can’t see the wharf!’ A second application of Mars bar and Coke did not work, remember refined sugars are baaaad kids.

The water police were awesome, picking us up right on time and taking half a dozen of us across the harbour, well fast! Check out the Garmin…….

At Circular Quay we were met by Ngaire Anna and a whole bunch of people, Joe was able to speak to his fiancé via Facetime back to Boston. She had hopped on a plane after supporting him to Somersby. Did I mention they got married a week after this little adventure? Yes, Joe just had to finish by Wednesday, get on a plane and get hitched in the US. Tex Whitney Productions whom I’d been having the big boozy lunch with were there to film the finish.

Bizarre- a little over 24 hours earlier Emma was helping Joe, here he is at the end talking to her in Boston!

Bizarre- a little over 24 hours earlier Emma was helping Joe, here he is at the end talking to her in Boston!

Joe removed the course marking tape he’d been carrying with him for 276km and laid it on the fence around the obelisk. We cheered, hugged and shed a little tear for his incredible achievement. It had taken 69.5 hours, and even though I’d only seen a small part of it I’d witnessed an amazing feat of human endurance, with a great bunch of people who all donated their time and effort for a great cause. I’m very humbled to be a small part of a community like this.

I can’t believe that it’s actually possible to run/ walk from 4am Friday morning until 1:30am on the Monday, but I saw it happen!

You- I’m talking to you. Think about crewing or pacing someone on a ridiculously long run. I’ve done it several times now and it’s very rewarding. Now, who needs crew for Coast to Kosci?

Poor Mans Comrades 2013

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I’ve wanted to do this run since I first found out about it several years ago. I mean, can you think of anything quite so preposterous as running from the Sydney Opera House to Gosford train station with no support? Awesome!

So let me just start by saying this one didn’t go quite as planned. A lot of people have a problem with a DNF, for me I’m not so concerned. I could easily have made the last 24km – the problem was I was getting slower and slower. Put simply- my family were right there, and it would be selfish of me to ask them to come back and get me in 4-5 hours time, hours after I had promised them. BUT- not my wife’s fault, completely my decision. Next time I’ll ask her not to come visit me on the course!

Anyway, read on if you want to hear more excuses, but I’m writing this mainly so that I don’t make the same mistakes in future. Here they come-

I was Over Confident
Yes it was only 3 weeks since TNf100, and last year doing the Glow Worm marathon 3 weeks after nearly killed me, but I’ve been recovering faster recently and well- I had a great TNF and just expected that my performance had gone up a notch. Consequently I didn’t do much training and got smacked in the face by this run. That’s healthy- if you don’t fail once in a while, you’re not trying hard enough. I can learn a lot from this.

I was Under Prepared
The few runs I’d had since TNF had mostly gone really well. However I hadn’t done much work on pace or any stairs, and pretty much expected to breeze through a 90km road run. I also hadn’t done any of my core exercises for 3 weeks- and I’ve found the core strength to be really key in taking stress off the legs on long runs. Bahaha, who’s feeling dumb now?

Went out Way Too Hard
I had a loose agreement with Annabel Hepworth to run together. There’s not too many people who do this run, and Annabel was the only one I knew who was about my pace! I’m  normally pretty happy to run on the road at a steady 5:20 min/km, (5:41 is a 4 hour marathon), so I figured that I could aim for 12 hours, which is an average of 7:12. Another key statistic is that to finish a 100km run in 14 hours (a TNF100 silver buckle) you need to average under 8:24 over the whole run. I wanted to stick under this pace for psychological reasons- so I could prove to myself it is possible to do that distance in that time. Then I could focus on doing that distance in that time on the North Face 100 course- for next year! Annabel was having a great day to my poor, and shot off from the start. In any normal ultra I’d be trying hard to keep my heart rate down, but I found myself going way too hard many times in the first 30km. Once I looked down to see 158bpm, way above the sub 145bpm I would normally see as my limit in a long race.

Had Tired Legs
I’d been hoping that I wouldn’t feel too much left over from TNF100, but I do think it hampered my speed and my endurance. This has less effect every year perhaps by the time I’m 80 I’ll be able to back up more effectively.

Was Over Provisioned
I left the Opera House with 1.5 litres of water on board. I’d had 600ml of sports drink before we started, and drank 2x 600ml coke, 1x 375ml can of Fanta and 1x 600ml Powerade during my run. All of these drinks were purchased on the run. Amazingly I still had 250ml of water left after 68km. So, too much fluid.
I was also carrying-
3x chocolate bars
3x cliff bars
1x Growling Dog protein/ amino acid bar
4 or 5 assorted gels
assorted other food
6 flasks of home made gel- each flask containing equiv. 4x gels

What did I actually eat?
1x chocolate bar
1.5 flasks of gel
1x steak & kidney pie, purchased from Pie in the Sky
1x Growling Dog bar

Must have been about a kilogram of excess nutrition!


That’s a pic of the food I carried but DIDN’T eat!

The Run
Starters were, in no particular order
Annabel Hepworth
Geoff Evison
Adam Connor
Roger Hanney
Grahame Wye
RunMikeyRun (CR name)
BalmainMike (CR name)

We decided on a start line just in front of the Opera House steps, had a couple of photos and then Geoff Russell who had come along to support gave us the signal to go. We very quickly broke into 2 groups- Geoff, Roger and Grahame in front and Annabel, BalmainMike and myself sweeping. At 6am it was still half an hour to the official sunrise, so we ran past a few drunks in doorways around Circular Quay and then up the stairs next to Bel Mondo and up to the bridge. Already I was trying to slow Annabel down to try to keep the band together, mostly out of self interest – I’m a social runner, not a loner! And I was worried about being able to keep concentrating on running past my house! Soon after the Harbour Bridge we were joined by RunMikeyRun who had started a bit late. He stayed with us for a couple of minutes then blasted ahead to catch the others.

I had studied the maps the night before, so I knew the path through St Leonards and Artarmon to Roseville. The three of us had a toilet stop at a service station, and then down Bobbin Head Road towards the campground another 10km away. It was clear that Annabel was gagging to take her foot off the brake, and I stuck about 75m behind her for most of this time. That was the last time we saw BalmainMike. I caught Annabel as we started to descend, and when we arrived at Bobbin Head we went straight for the kiosk where I got a Coke, and Annabel got a Coke and a coffee- like she needed an extra boost!

As we headed out of Bobbin Head the class difference between us became apparent. Or maybe the weight difference. I wasn’t comfortable running at the same speed uphill as she was, so I let her go, and she was out of sight by the time we hit Mt Colah. I was by myself for the rest of the day. A couple of times I struck construction crews who said ‘she’s 20 minutes in front’ to which I replied ‘Don’t worry, I’ve got plenty of time to catch her, we’re running to Gosford’ But I never really intended to try. It was all about dealing with my own issues. Running along the Pacific Highway got a bit boring to be honest, but at least it was a nice cool day with little bits of sun. I stopped and got another Coke at Berowra, then it was off for the next 9km stretch to Pie in the Sky. I finally got there in 6:18, it’s 52km by Garmin or 54.5km by the maps. My breathing was a bit uncontrollable- I think I scared a couple of road workers in the pie queue.

I posted my ‘over half way’ message to Facebook and sat quietly having a pie and some Fanta, thinking that maybe I’d had too much Coke! When I got up, I discovered that I could barely walk- my legs were in much worse shape than expected. But luckily I was able to turn that shuffle into a very basic run, but it wasn’t pretty. In a normal long run I’d be happy to walk any steep hills if I could keep up a good pace on the flats and downhills, but here I was struggling to make 7-8min/km on the flats. I forced myself to run down to Brooklyn, then just out of sight of the freeway I stopped to find my Growling Dog bar. These things have some aminos which sometimes give me a bit of a boost, but they’re kind of hard to eat, I had chopped it up into squares beforehand. Of course while I was busy violating my ‘never stop’ rule, I was sprung! Alison Lilley turned up on a bicycle and asked me if I needed anything. It was a huge surprise to see her out on the course, what a nice gesture from such a legendary ultra runner. She rode up to try to find Annabel, while I tried to not find similarities between myself and the wildlife pizza smeared on the road.

I was now slowing so much that there was a very real prospect of walking the last 24km. That’s about 5km per hour or 4-5 hours. I knew that I always speed up a bit at the end, but the boost was taking it’s sweet time to appear. I planned to stop at the Road Warrior Cafe at Mt White, fill my bladder, have another Coke and get out for a finish. This would put me at Gosford station around 8pm. I was running some calculations and trying to figure out what I needed to do to improve my condition. Then there was some frenzied beeping behind me- I was 3km away from the last water stop when my wife came along in our car, and I told her I was done. I made her go to the cafe and wait for me so I could think about the decision. In the end it was just bad timing- if she’d found me 3km past the cafe I would probably have kept going. I was barely running any more, getting slower which wasn’t really the point of the event. Here’s the Garmin-


You can see from the average heart rate that things weren’t going smoothly- compare with this Six Foot Track run last year, much hillier but much lower heart rate.

Five minutes later Geoff Russel appeared and asked if I was ok. It’s possible that I would have jumped in his car too, but I said the same thing- I was pulling out at the cafe ahead. By the time I got there, Geoff and Alison were there with my wife and son Alex. We had a quick chat then took off to Woy Woy to do some shopping. Down at the intersection of Central Coast Highway and Brisbane Water Drive we saw tall Geoff Evison running easily toward the finish, about 1.2km away. Amazingly he was only a few minutes outside his own predictions. So the finishers were

Geoff Evison   9:47
RunMikeyRun 9:47+
Roger Hanney 10:05
Annabel Hepworth 10:30

That brought to a close my adventure, but I’m still keen to have another go, and probably this winter season. The number of shops along the route is good enough to do it unsupported, navigation isn’t bad and it’s not completely boring. And what fun to be able to say you’ve run from Sydney to Gosford. Come with me?

The North Face 100 – 2013 Race Report

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Thanks to Michael Leadbetter/ Ultra Training Australia for this pic

Thanks to Michael Leadbetter/ Ultra Training Australia for this pic

Lead Up
My preparation for the race was not what I wanted. To get a sub 14 hour time and a silver buckle, I knew I had to be able to run with the ‘fast middies’ at my running club. I only have a short window of opportunity to do this, around September when racing season slows down a bit. But I got lazy and didn’t step up and keep up the pressure. I tried to join them several times over the next few months but always failed because I was trying to build endurance and speed at the same time- it just doesn’t work for me! At Six Foot Track I managed a 5:41 while a bit sick, but Canberra Marathon I had an attack of not caring and instead of a PB, came away with a time 2 minutes off my best. In addition to this, all of our training runs had been about the same speed as last year, in a nutshell I was staring down the barrel of running 100km and not being any faster than the year before! I knew I could make small improvements to checkpoint times and 2 weeks before the race had my first ever sub 4 minute km, so my goal became sub 16 hours (from 16:34 in 2012). I was pretty sure I could make that as long as I didn’t suffer from a big attack of ‘don’t cares’ again!

The big difference in training is that I recognised the need to do more hills/stairs. Well, I couldn’t really do ‘more’ hills so I settled for a tough stair session down the back of North Sydney. This one was inspired by Jodie Cook and I call it ‘Mistress Jodie’s Ascent to Hell’.  it did make me a stronger climber.

In the last 2 weeks I became familiar with that vile word ‘diet’ again. Nothing fancy, just trying to avoid sugar, space my meals out correctly and not eat too much dinner. I don’t know how people are able to deny themselves things when food is so readily available, it’s just not for me. And it didn’t work very well, at least on the surface. The last 2 years, I’ve been able to get down to under 73kg before the race, this time it didn’t happen. However I did find that I got slightly more energy, felt a bit lighter and got a bit faster, so let’s say I improved my power to weight ratio. So losing weight wasn’t the answer- losing fat was!

Of course the weather turned cold a bit later than usual this year, so I woke up the day before the race with a stuffy nose and I thought it was going to be a repeat of Six Foot, but I was determined not to let it get to me. It turned out to be nothing. The milk we had brought along for my breakfast had turned bad, and with no spare muesli, I had to pour the milk out and eat the muesli still coated in off milk. Oh well, worse things happen at sea I guess.

Race morning came and it was a cold but crisp and clear day. We were quite worried about the bitterly cold wind the day before but Saturday turned out to be perfect for running. I even ditched my long sleeved running top at the start when I realised I could cope with the cool air.

I drank a litre of sports drink before the start and had 1.5l of water in my hydration pack. I also had 2x 750ml bottles in the front bottle holders, empty. My strategy was this- I would use the water in my bladder until CP1, have a few cups of Endura at the CP, then fill up the empty front bottles with Endura, and use those until CP2. This worked really well, but I found that I wasn’t drinking much fluid during this race, but still peeing a lot. My hydration was fine, so I didn’t actually run out of water in the bladder until after CP3. In later sections I swapped one of the bottles for Pepsi which I had in my drop bags. Closest I came to running out was CP4-5 which is the longest section at 25km, I had finished my Pepsi and had about half a bottle of Endura left. It worked pretty much perfectly.

In each checkpoint bag I had a selection of stuff including chips, lollies, soft drink, chocolate bars, fruit in syrup, etc. How much of it did I use? None. Well I had one chocolate bar out of the 24 I bought the previous week. It wasn’t really a wasted effort, but this year was my first without crew- I’ll know in future that I don’t need to make such elaborate preparations. I had about the equivalent of 10-13 gels, 2 mandarins, 1x boiled egg and 1x cup noodles as well as 4-5 pieces of watermelon (1 at each CP).

What Worked
The bottles in the front of the pack worked brilliantly, I won’t even need to take as much water next time- unless it is hotter. My decision to go ultra light weight was a big risk that paid off. Not having to carry lots of stuff around the course helped, I even ditched my hat at CP4 as the sun was going down (not the mandatory beanie).

What Didn’t
I’m a little bit surprised about my shoes. This year I ran in Hoka Bondi-B’s. I have very flat feet, so I modified the arch support by sticking some large Compeeds on the inside of the innersole arch. That worked well, but I still got more bruising than expected, and my little toes on each foot were quite bashed around- this is despite the fact I think I bought a size too big! I’m now thinking that it might not be the shoes, I was also wearing Injinji socks. I normally try to wear a new or newish pair for a big race, but forgot to buy them this year. Consequently I wore a pair that were a bit stiff from use and they may have contributed. The grip on these shoes wasn’t anywhere near what I get from the Salomon Speedcross, but to be fair the Bondi’s are not a specific trail shoe, I’ll need to try some Stinson Evo’s. The payoff from these ‘compromises’ was huge- being able to glide over rocks and keep my feet in relatively good shape was totally worth it. Minimalist runners- you’re missing out!

Despite the fact that I posted 2 different pace calculators on the web, I forgot to look at them myself so I had no idea how to pace myself during the race!

My Checkpoint Times from 2011

My Checkpoint Times from 2011

Screen Shot 2013-05-21 at 3.22.45 PM

My Checkpoint Times from 2012

Screen Shot 2013-05-21 at 3.22.25 PM

My Checkpoint Times from 2013

The Race
Now you probably already know my result so let me just say this- I really don’t think I can do much better than this. I had a great race, executed everything about as well as possible and finished strong. The only stats I could remember from 2012 were that I reached CP1 in apx 2:45 and CP3 in apx 8:10. I also knew that I spent 18 minutes in CP3, so my strategy went a bit like this. Take 10 minutes off each of your first 3 checkpoint times, then cruise to the finish without losing any time. That should give me just about a 16 hour finish.

So what actually happened? Well, I was only 6 minutes faster into CP1, but reasonably happy if a bit tired. I gained another 7 minutes to CP2, but was only 1 minute faster to CP3, so I arrived at CP3 apx 15 minutes faster than 2012- I was way behind my goal! But wait- I gained 9 minutes by not spending much time at CP3 (I thought I flew through CP3 but it was still nearly 10 minutes!). So I had 24 of the 35 minutes I needed, and expected to pick up some more before CP4 because I had a bad time on this section in 2012. But no, only 3 minutes. I also knew that I lost my concentration a bit in 2012 after CP4, so could I make any gains there? I was finding I could run OK down Federal Pass, but wasn’t breaking any speed records. At Jamison Creek I ran a few more calculations and figured that I had my 35 minutes, but none to spare! It was time to release the handbrake. I knew that although my legs were tired, I was in good condition, so I powered up Kedumba. Yes, those words do seem a little strange to me- ‘powered up Kedumba’ but it’s the only way I can express it. I was taking little steps, keeping my cadence up and swinging my arms- I passed heaps of people. I didn’t know it, but I gained HALF AN HOUR just on this section vs 2012. I knew I had to arrive at CP5 in 14 hours race time to be able to go sub 16 hours overall. Average time for this section is 2:15, last year I was flying and made 1:53. I got to CP5 in 13:39 race time and knew I pretty much had my goal in the bag. Just after leaving CP5 I said hello to another runner and found it was Michael Meryment. He is an outstanding runner, but having a bad day with gut issues. This was a very common problem this year, but luckily I never seem to get these problems. Anyway we got moving and he thankfully settled into a pace that I could keep up with. There wasn’t much talking, but we passed a lot of people in the last section. I was so grateful that he kept going past people so I could tag along! Then we saw the Fairmont and he seemed to slow down. We got on to the lush green grass and I wanted to run to the finish, but I said ‘Michael you’ve dragged me this far there’s no way I’m going to finish in front of you, just set the pace you like and I’ll be right behind’. It was agonising because I was literally watching the seconds count down on my Garmin hoping we would cross for a sub 15:30 race time. I needn’t have worried, we both did 15:28 officially. Thanks Michael!

A little note about CP4-5. This is where I made up a lot of time. From 2011 to 2012 I was about 7 minutes faster, but 31 minutes faster in 2013. In theory I can’t do that. I can’t go up hills that fast, and yet I was blazing past people like they were standing still. I normally have 2 puffs of Ventolin before a race, but didn’t get it until Tarro’s Ladders. For some reason my lungs were feeling good- no EIA (exercise induced asthma is common in cold weather), I was breathing well and running within my limits. I didn’t have any more Ventolin during the race (at Six Foot Track I needed more on Black Range Rd). For some reason everything clicked and I made 45 places on that one section! I was so mentally focussed at the checkpoint that I made up another 7 places just by leaving quickly. Have a look at the average pace- 8:37- That’s only a few seconds per km slower than you need to finish the race in sub 14- and it includes Kedumba! I really wish I knew how to recreate that feeling. Maybe now I’ve done it once I’ll be able to do it again, or maybe I’ll be searching for it for the rest of my life. But anyway, I wish I could tell you HOW the planets aligned that night, I just don’t know. Possibly the Sunday afternoon intervals is helping- I wasn’t breathing as much like a freight train as I normally do.

Also this year there was never any real thoughts about whether or not I would finish. This must be due to experience, I never felt like I was having a crappy time or entertained thoughts about quitting. And yes I do have those thoughts!

Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics
Have a look at those results above. You’ll see that although I’ve improved a lot each year, my finishing place hasn’t moved as much. It’s becoming a very competitive race. But luckily the number of starters and finishers is also going up, so my place in the field as a % is improving! After my first TNF100 I wrote a blog post about going sub 14 hours to get a silver buckle. That dream is just as far away now as it was then, but look at the results again. In 2011, only 99 people ran sub 14 hours. In 2012 it was 122, and this year they ran out of silver buckles when 171 people shot through the gates under the cut. Wow! My time from this year would have got me position 167 in 2011 with Neil Hawthorne- an ultra legend who has finished every TNF100. That’s 90 places difference.

The average finishing time has come down by 30 minutes in one year after rising a bit in 2012. Possibly the cold in 2011 made people run faster, or may have made slow people pull out?
2011   17:07
2012   17:16
2013   16:43

So I gained an hour, and ran about 40s/km faster. I’ve gone from an average of 11min/km in 2011 to 9:56/km in 2012 to 9:16 in 2013. To make sub 14hours I need about 8:18, or 1 whole minute per km. I don’t see how that is possible for me, but I’ll have a think about whether I really want to chase it. If the answer is yes, I’ll need a coach, and more importantly, a lot of discipline! Let’s put it this way- I could easily make up 1 min/km for a few kilometres, maybe 20km, possibly 50km- but 100km? Hmm, not so sure about that!

I’ve now been in wave 4, 3 and 2 all in subsequent years. This year my logic for going in wave 2 was based on some knowledge and some hope. I never felt entirely comfortable knowing I was several waves above better runners than me. I’ve never been held up badly in the race, and I didn’t let it get to me when others flew past during the race, but I felt like a it of a fraud, as wave 2 was supposed to be limited to finishers under 15:30. Several times during the race I mentally started drafting an email to Tom the Race Director with an apology about running too slow. Lucky I didn’t have to send it in the end! Thanks to all who came to the training runs, read the blog and helped out with comments. You’re awesome!

The North Face 100 2013- 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 down Narrowneck for a few hundred metres 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 before hitting CP4 (apx 2km?)
CP5- You’ll probably hit this at night, you’ll see it and hear it. It’s about 1500m from the gate with the big wooden uprights. Not the swine gate, that’s about 1500m further back down Kedumba

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.

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 2013

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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 6 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. 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 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- last year 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

Checkpoint 3
Dump extra food
Pick up Gels
Pick up headlight
Macaroni Cheese
Check bladder
Drink/ take Endura

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. Some of these items are just guides rather than instructions- for instance there is no way I could have eaten a banana 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.

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. Might be worth considering if you are a bit chunkier than me (I have quite skinny arms) but I probably won’t use them again. 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! 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.

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

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.

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 Kedumba 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- this year the RD has instituted new rules around the use of iPods, make sure you read them and comply. 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…….Last weekend at the Coastal 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!

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 leg of the race, 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 11km to go… go on, do it!

Welcome to the Pleasure Dome
When you get back to the Fairmont, 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 2013

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This post had 40 likes last year 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……

If anyone knows of an easy way to carry and eat chia seeds, please let me know, I’ll add them back in for Start to CP1 and CP3. Maybe I’ll need more flasks to carry them. Also, this is a work in progress and could change, so check back if interested…..

Provided at Checkpoints

Endura sports drink (pre mixed)
Water to fill bladders
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
Drink 600ml sports drink at the start, discard bottle
1x Banana
2x Gel
At CP1- Drink 500ml Endura at checkpoint, take another 500ml with me when leaving.
Chia seeds
Do not fill bladder at CP1

Running Checkpoint 1 to Checkpoint 2
2x Gel
1x packet Gu chomps
1x Salt tablet

At CP2
Drink 500ml Endura at checkpoint, take 500ml with me plus 1x Growling Dog bar. Take a piece of fruit to eat while waiting at Tarro’s ladder
Fill up bladder

Running Checkpoint 2 to Checkpoint 3
3x Gel
1x packet Gu chomps

At CP3
Eat Macaroni and cheese 2-300g. Chia seeds, drink 500ml Endura, take 500ml with me when leaving plus 2 boiled eggs and possibly a banana
Check bladder, don’t fill up too much- only 11km to CP4!

Running Checkpoint 3 to Checkpoint 4
2x Gels
1x Banana
1x Gu chomps
1x Salt tablet
Important- must eat at bottom and part way up Nellie’s Glen!

At CP4
drink 500ml Endura, fill bottle to take with me
check bladder, fill up to 1.5l!  <<25km to next checkpoint
Take a cup noodle with me, drink Coca cola from drop bag

Running Checkpoint 4 to Checkpoint 5
Important- eat 1-3 gels going up Kedumba!
4x Gels
1x Gu chomps
1x Growling Dog bar
1x Salt tablet

At CP5
check to make sure you aren’t carrying too much water. Drink 500ml Endura, take a 500ml bottle with me. Eat a piece of fruit if you can. Piss off and finish the race.

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)
small flask with chia seeds
1x banana

And I’ll need to pack the following

Checkpoint 3 bag
3x Gels (1 flask)
Macaroni Cheese
Chia seeds
2x boiled eggs (peeled, in a sandwich bag)
Gu Chomps

Checkpoint 4 bag
4x Gels (1 flask)
Gu Chomps
Growling Dog bar
Proper headlights (will be carrying low weight versions during the day)
Clothing for night time
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

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 Kedumba 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 probably can’t eat that many bananas, but not a bad idea to have them available.

North Face Non Mandatory gear 2013

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Here’s a list of a few things I’ll be carrying in the 2013 version of The North Face 100. 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.

Garmin 910XT– how else will I know how slowly I’m running?

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

Spibelt– I’ll most likely have my 2 pieces of spare 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


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

Skins- Depends on the weather. I wear 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 a long version of the Linebreak compression tights, or short ones if it’s good weather. The short ones 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.

iphone 4 4s lifeproof 2

iPod- I’ll use my iPhone 4S with Lifeproof case. I’m going to do a review soon, but let’s just say this case is great for protection, not so great if you like talking to people on the phone. 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

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 but can’t really predict how many I’ll need. 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 Kedumba, 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. 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 2013

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Sorry for the delay with this- work had to come first, but here it is. The updated gear list, shortly to be followed by a list of non mandatory but recommended stuff…….


-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 (plastic rain poncho, wind jacket, water resistant jacket etc. not acceptable)

This is probably the item that causes the most discussion. It must meet a reasonably strict international standard for ‘waterproofness’, 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 will 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’ve ordered the Montane Litespeed H2O Weight: 132g


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. Weight: 46g


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 others 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


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

*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)


This image lifted straight from the TNF100 website…..

1 x compression bandage for the treatment of sprains or snake bite (crepe compression bandages are fine but they need to say they are compression – for sprains and snake bites)

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. 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! 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)


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 last two items listed above (waterproof pants and 100-weight fleece) if weather conditions are bad. The organisers will notify you at the Friday night registration if these two items 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. The most likely scenario (in fine weather conditions) is that you will leave these additional items with your support crew or in your Checkpoint 4 drop bag and you will be told at Checkpoint 4 if you need to carry these additional items. These items may become compulsory to carry at any time during the event irrespective of whether previous runners have already passed through Checkpoint 4 prior to the items becoming compulsory. In that case, only runners departing the checkpoint after the items become compulsory must carry the items.’

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. 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

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……….

Canberra Marathon/ 50KM Ultra 2013

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Every now and then in running you get a slap in the face. This time I deserved it too!

My preparation for the marathon had been going pretty well, I felt fitter than last year and happy about my training. Then I had a look at my splits from last year and started worrying that I couldn’t make it. So on the Friday night before when someone offered me a glass of wine, I probably shouldn’t have had 5 (couldn’t have been more than 10 anyway). But that was totally my fault. Was I overconfident or under confident? Both!

That's me giving a high 5, about 10km before getting smacked hard by this race

That’s me giving a high 5, about 10km before getting smacked hard by this race

So I wasn’t terribly surprised to turn up to our hotel in Canberra to find a craft beer and cider festival in full swing. To a bloke with a force 3 hangover this could have gone either way. What do you think happened when we discovered that as guests of the hotel we had free entry to the festival and 10 drink vouchers. We had a little wander around……..

Martyn Dawson disappearing into the distance. He drove to Canberra at 3am for the race

Martyn Dawson disappearing into the distance. He drove to Canberra at 3am for the race

Later that afternoon it was time to meet the other NRG’ers who had made the trek to the capital. Great pick of restaurant, lovely big servings of pasta, and a bit of mild sledging.

Race morning we hopped in the car to the race- Rocco Smit was the 3:45 pacer for the marathon, girlfriend Sally and my wife Sarah both in the Half. Both races start at the same time and share the course for about 10km. I was about 50m behind Rocco at the start but could not get any closer- then when the gun went off it took me 90 seconds to get across the start line, and by then he had disappeared off into the distance. A word about my goals- my pb in the marathon is 3:46 from 2012 and I felt I should be able to go under that by a couple of minutes. Next closest to that was a 3:43 from Jennie Sharland- Riggs at Great Ocean Road last year, and a stretch goal of sub 3:39.


So my time last year was an average 5:21 pace, if I could make about 5:17 I could be a smug bugger when I saw Jennie next and a 5:07 average would get me under 3:40.

Rocco had done his calculations for a 3:45 finish (exactly 5:20 average pace) and decided he need about 5:15 pace to make his time. Lots of reasons for this- apparently most marathons measure a bit long and needing to have a bit of wriggle room. I wasn’t convinced, but he turned out to be exactly right…….

So we set off amongst thousands of people, trying to pass lots of human speed bumps while not going too fast. I settled into a decent rhythm, talking to Leah Evans (don’t tell anyone, she’s a Strider- and also the one I told to ‘harden up princess’ at Six Foot Track. Princess Leah, geddit? Actually it took me a while……) and watching the speed. It took us 40 minutes and about 8km to catch up to Rocco. Who was having a leisurely chat with Michael McGrath. Obviously Michael needed a stern word, so I politely asked him to run a bit faster, and he obliged. Easy.  Now the plan was to stick with Rocco for at least 15-20km and then see if I had anything else to go with. However there was such a crowd with Rocco’s train I couldn’t get behind him. And I didn’t want to be in front of him in case he actually started to race. He is much more professional than this, but I was also feeling pretty good and so I took off. Who knows what would have happened if I stuck to my plan?

At 13km I overtook Jesus. No not a Mexican guy- a bloke with no shoes, a little cheesecloth over his naughty bits, no shirt. And a crown of thorns. A bit too early for hallucinations. I also had a chat with Graeme ‘The Riddler’ Ridley. He’s the one who, during the same race in 2011, wore his Riddler outfit and kept on running up to spectators yelling ‘does my bum look big in this?’. He was happy to let me go, planning to keep a nice consistent pace. Apx 1:48 for the Half, and mildly impressed. Maybe I could pull off a ‘win’ despite thumbing my nose at the running gods? At this point I was happy, settled into a rhythm and keeping the pace pretty even. One of the advantages of an out and back course is that you get to see the fasties. I got to yell at Alex Matthews, Rob Mattingly, Geoff Evison and others as they went past. All were having outstanding races.At about 26km I was wondering what would happen at 28km, the 2/3 mark of the race. For some reason this is an important mark for me- perhaps not a good thing because this is where it all fell apart. There’s only 14km to go, and I noticed that I was slowing down significantly. I guess if it had been down to 10km I probably would have just stuck it out, instead I just carried on letting my pace slide, wondering if it was worthwhile pushing harder.

I got my answer at 36km. Race time exactly 3:10 minutes I figured that if I could sustain a 6 minute pace, I could still make 3:40 with reasonable ease. About a minute later I realised my calculation was wrong- I would need to be at 5 minute pace to make my time. I knew that wasn’t going to happen, so I let my ‘killer’ instinct lie down again. In fact it’s pretty hard to wake up at the best of times. My splits blew out to 6min/km and I just concentrated on running easy. Rocco flew past and said ‘come with us’ but I just didn’t have the will. Sarah and Sally met me about 400m from the finish, I asked Sarah not to take any photos, which was lucky because about 10m further on I had a bad cramp attack. Through the finish chute in 3:48:40, and 2:40 slower than last year. Not bad, but not what I wanted- suppose I should have either tried harder or stuck to my plan! Rocco finished in 3:44:50 gun time, couldn’t have done it better!

I had a little rest then continued on for the last 7.8km to make the 50km. At this point The Riddler glided past like he was on a 5km fun run, so I sucked it up and trotted on up the path alongside Lake Burley Griffin, giving encouragement to other runners whether they liked it or not. It’s a little bit special doing the extra bit because so few people do it. I saw Pam Muston (2nd female at C2K last year, ultra running royalty) coming back looking comfortable, then caught up to Rocco a bit further along. He was walking, but looking happy, which was obviously wrong. I asked him to run slowly with me, and we made it to the turn around point without too much drama. He put on a slightly better pace than me and for the next couple of kilometres I watched him slowly fade into the distance. His time of 4:45:55 was nicely in front of my 4:48:05, during the last 7.8km I was comfortable at a slow pace, much more comfortable than in the first 42km- but I was completely trashed after the 50km.

A couple of other things I did wrong- looking through my sock drawer I saw a barely used pair of Thorlos and thought they would be great to run in. They were- until I started to get a hot spot on the little toe of my left foot. A bit of a surprise, I don’t get a lot of blisters these days. Second problem was that I wore a new pair of my favourite Mizunos- I love the bounciness of new shoes. Unfortunately I’d forgotten to take all of the cardboard out of the shoe. Whoops. Never mind, I’m getting pretty good at ignoring foot pain……..

So a hard lesson learned. It’s a real pity I’ll have to wait a year to redeem myself, but honestly it was a great day out. On the way home we stopped at Moss Vale to visit some friends, and in a stroke of irony of epic proportions- the male of the house asked me to help him carry into the house a treadmill/ running machine he had just purchased. I was barely able to walk and had to decline……


for the data nerds, here’s some food-

my 2012 race here
and 2013 here