Sri Chinmoy 24 Race 2016

Campbelltown sprots stadium

Since I’ve given up making excuses, here’s a list of reasons why I failed in my attempt to make it 2 from 2 making 180km in 24 hours at this race.

1. Apx 3 marathons in 4 days only 10 days before this race
2. Some mild but undefined plague the week before the attempt
3. Carrying 5kg (ok 6kg) more weight than last time
4. Not as fit

The weather was expected to be atrocious, and running around a 400m track for 24 hours in this could easily be described as ‘character building’. Lucky a few characters turned up….

It poured down while we were setting up, and had a few moments early on, then the rain cleared and they used a broom to clear the water from lane 1. And then it didn’t start raining again until literally 2 minutes from the end. We were VERY lucky…….

So, how did it go?

The strategy was to run 21 laps per hour for 12 hours, then 17 laps per hour for the last 12 hours. Making 22 laps good, making 20 or 23 bad. I managed to make a comfortable start, and by the third hour I was right on target/ slightly in front at around 66 laps. But shortly after that I fell apart. It was way to early to have these kinds of issues, but I had to walk off the course for a massage. This meant I pretty much blew the plan- you can recover one or two laps, but as the deficit gets bigger your task seems to get exponentially harder. Each lap that you should be doing in 2:40 to 2:50 then needs to get a little faster to claw back.

Adam Kurt running

I went back out on the track and things seemed to be going better, I even felt like I the fat lady hadn’t sung yet. For the next couple of hours I had visions of simply sucking up the pain and making it, but then I started getting flashbacks of 2014 when I did push on and plumbed dark corners of consciousness that I hoped never to see again. Never mind- I was quite prepared to do that to make my goal as long as my body would cooperate.

But it wouldn’t. The fat lady was clearing her throat, ready to mock me for being so over confident. Here’s my stats from last time-

Marathon:   4:39:57
50K:           5:35:42
50 mile: 9:32:44
100K: 11:55:17
150K: 18:33:40
100 mile: 20:03:46
So my plan was to go a bit slower through the marathon mark, easier through 50km. About the same for 50 mile, exactly the same for 100km, then I’d be quite happy to slip a bit for 150km and add up to 2 hours on to the 180km time. But that was apparently some sort of wild dream. And not one where I got to spread honey on naked ladies. Oops sorry for that mental image…
I got through the marathon in apx 4:47 which was perfect. But yeah, BOOM! Sometime around hour 6-8 I realised that my body would not cash the cheques my mind wanted to write. I wasn’t injured, sick or disabled, best guess is I had not recovered enough from the BUMS marathons. I settled into ticking off the laps without struggling. I fell way behind my mates- Taras was looking great and Kurt Topper and Matt M were pushing on, and Kieron Blackmore might as well have been in a different race, he was so smooth.
adam running
I promised myself a nice long rest at 12 hours, and sure enough I spent over an hour in the pits just watching everyone lap me! Sally Dean turned up with a bunch of coffees and since Hailey Maxwell hadn’t turned up to claim hers, I drank it. That was a mistake for 2 reasons- I’d been cutting down my caffeine intake before the race and had already consumed way too much. Also I have developed a bit of a lactose intolerance in my old age, so I was really asking for trouble later…….
So suddenly I was so high on coffee I could taste colours. And nipped out for another hour and had a good one. Alas it wasn’t to last but I did develop a new strategy- my running laps had gone from 2:40 to well over 3:30, so I figured that I could walk 10 laps per hour at 4-4:30 minutes per lap and still have enough time for a 5-10 minute rest each hour. And so it went.
an artists impression of lactose intolerance

an artists impression of lactose intolerance

My estimate for 100km had blown out from 12 hours and I watched 14 hours slip away. With a bit of concerted effort I made it in 15 hours, but I was now increasingly appalled at how little progress I was making. Taras, Kurt and Matt variously had long pit stops, and Kieron did some blister treatment and changed shoes then set off again like a shot duck.
I began to focus on my position, because in these long events its the stayers that do well. Last I’d looked I was in 24th position out of 34 starters, and I knew that I would make up a couple of positions simply through attrition. The next time I looked I was up to 22nd, and over the next few hours I picked off a few more just by not quitting. Remember I was going slower than a giant tortoise on xanax, but I was still clocking up laps……
Over the grim night hours I made a mental game of seeing who I could pick of if I kept pushing my expanded arse around the course a bit more. While I would never call the performance inspiring, at least it kept my mind working. Or maybe that was the coffee.
For most of the day/ night I was pretty sure Sara Jaques would beat me but she succumbed to the sleep monsters late at night- but she’s got bigger fish to fry in a couple of months. However I was super impressed with her walking speed- I couldn’t keep up!
and then I was briefly in 11th position- WTF? I grabbed my phone off the table and had a look at the live tracking, there was no way I would catch 10th (Kieron Blackmore with a fantastic 157.555km), and some bloke who I’ve never met was dicing with me for 11th and 12th position. That was a great motivator but I knew that 12th was better than I ever could have expected with my level of competence. In the next couple of hours he made an extra 3-4 laps on me and cemented his lead, congratulations to Paul Mahoney.
And then it got light, and then it was over. And the rain came down…. Massive congratulations to all of my friends, old and new who braved this epic and silly race. I laughed, I cried, I hurled. OK I didn’t hurl, but Malcom Gamble did, then smiled and kept running on his way to first place with 222.656km. Also huge congrats to Sharon Scholz who ran over 200km for a total of 201.931km! Wow.
Here are my provisional stats
6 hours      48.4km
12 hours    84.8km
18 hours    108km
24 hours    133.087km
Marathon 4:53:13
50km       6:11:35
50 Mile    11:18:32
100km     14:54:44
I have no idea why this particular race broke so many people. The weather was not as bad as expected, it wasn’t brutally cold- but I was affected mentally seeing some of my running heroes come to grief- Brendan Davies, John Pearson and Bryan McCorkindale all had nasty things bite them while on track. I made a joke about ‘beating’ them on Facebook but it wasn’t very funny as those guys are all in a completely different league to me. I hope they all recover quickly. To give you better idea of the scale of the ugliness- in 2014 when I ran exactly 180km that was only good enough for 9th place overall, in a much smaller field. This year that would have got me 6th place. There was easily 6 or 8 people on course hoping to make a C2K qualifier, how many of us made it? None. But Kristy Lovegrove got closest, only 12 laps away and she fought hard for that result. Respect.
Maybe I should apologise for my fashion choices too

Maybe I should apologise for my fashion choices too

So I walk away a little smarter, a little more experienced, with a slightly battered ego and a lot more muscle soreness. I also have a lot of people to apologise to- I can’t tell you the details but the filter was definitely stuck in the ‘off’ position for that 24 hours. All of the place getters were offered a chance to speak at the award ceremony and all of them remarked about how helpful the vollies were and how well organised the race was (and they were all correct!), but when asked to speak all I could say was
‘Thank god that’s over’
early morning
*Photo credits- thank you to Sarah Connor, Stephen Bowers, Sally Dean and Hailey Maxwell. If I have accidentally stolen your pics or you want them removed please let me know

24 Hour Track Race Strategy

Having done this race exactly once, of course I’m an expert!

To be honest, I owe my success in this run in 2014 to my Coach, Andy DuBois. So without  letting go of any of his big secrets, how do you ensure your best chance in this ridiculous race?

And let’s be frank- it is VERY difficult to make this target- so, how?

  1. Consistency is key. DON’T try to put extra laps in the bank early. Stick to your plan, and those extra laps will arrive without effort- later!
  2. Run really slowly to start, and get slower. You don’t want to be behind your target, but you should not be too far in front.
  3. Plan your food and drink carefully- do you have crew? Did you write up instructions about how to prepare it?
  4. Don’t skip your walking breaks- if you feel good early on and think you can bank a few laps this will come back to bite you later.
  5. If you feel like shit, keep going. If you feel good, don’t worry- the feeling will pass.

Let’s break it down a bit, referring to my results from 2014-

Marathon:   4:39:57
50K:           5:35:42
50 mile: 9:32:44
100K: 11:55:17
150K: 18:33:40
100 mile: 20:03:46


If you’ve read the race report- my goal was to make 100km in the first 12 hours, and 80km in the second 12 hours. So, 11:55 seems to be right on target. The difference is this- I took a risk in the second 12 hour slot by extending my initial 12 hour plan by a couple more hours. What this means- the plan was to run 55 minutes of each hour and walk 5 minutes of each hour in the first 12 hours. Then I would switch to 45 minutes running and 15 minutes walking. However I felt so good I decided to extend the 55/5 strategy for as long as I could. This worked brilliantly, but I would only do this again if the circumstances were the same. It’s important to know that you unless you are a much better athlete than me, going faster and hanging on is a recipe for disaster!
In the few hours that I was able to extend this strategy I was able to bank a few laps and get well ahead of my target. I understand that I’ve told you not to do this, but after 12 hours you will have a good idea how you are going against your target.


In the end, this meant that I was able to make my 180km in 23 hours flat. I walked one more lap and collapsed in a chair. I had worn the wrong shoes (too much arch support) and literally could not walk and had to be carried off the course.


So what is the plan? 100km in 12 hours is 8.3333km/hr so the average pace you need to make is 7:12 min/km. On A 400m track that is 20.83 laps per hour. From the start, just keep making those 21-23 laps per hour. it’s fairly soul destroying to see your target reduce by so little each hour, but you need to ignore that and just keep moving.


For the second 12 hour shift you need to make 80km, which is 6.666667km/h and average pace is 9min/km or 16.667 laps per hour. Honestly you can walk 6-7km/h so this is not too hard if you just keep going- see the trend?

Again- what’s the most important thing? At the risk of repeating myself more than 15 times- KEEP GOING. If you’re using this race as a Cost to Kosci qualifier and you know you won’t make the 180km target- you must keep going. Why? Because if there are 2 equally competent athletes applying for C2K, both failed to make 180km but one gave up- which one do you think the race directors will choose? In 2014 I started the race with Jade Crim and Kurt Topper- both failed to make 180km but both had amazing guts and made huge totals despite being in a lot of pain. It’s a brutal race, but in the end your mind will determine your result perhaps more than your body…….. and Kurt now has 2x C2K finishes….he’s a very determined bloke and difficult to hate because he’s so damn nice!


Back to the results- first marathon was a bit too fast. 50km time was a little quick but I settled down a bit after that. The 100km was just about bang on target- a 5 minute buffer was just fantastic. 100 miles in 20 hours looks pretty good, especially when you realise that it means I had 4 hours to make those golden extra 18km to make 180km.


So- is it possible to make 200km? This time I don’t think so- my preparation hasn’t been great. But George Mihalakelis did 183km and Mark Emr made 185km at Coburg. Not that I’m competitive or anything……

Ultra Trail Australia 100km UTA100 Jeroen De Graaf (Guest Post)

What a day.

UTA100 was my first ‘proper’ ultra, and I couldn’t be happier with it. In fact, even going into work on Monday morning couldn’t wipe the smile off my face!


Running an ultramarathon started as an idea in my head about 2 years ago, coming off a heal spur injury which sidelined me much longer than it should have, and with my 40th birthday (and surely midlife crisis!) slowly approaching I made a resolution to be fitter than I had ever been. What better way to prove this than by running 100k through the mountains?


Once I signed up for UTA and 6foot, I started seriously preparing. This involved watching a lot of Youtube videos while ironing my work shirts. And having a pretty dedicated training regime in the NRG 6foot training sessions was excellent. The hill sessions were killers but I did them pretty religiously. Closer to race day, I started doing a lot (A LOT!) of stair training, getting to know Curry Mountain very intimately. A few times, I actually loaded up a backpack with 12 kilos worth of dictionaries and did Curry Mountain reps at 5 am. I admit I got a little kick out of having some guy ask me how many reps I was doing one morning and telling him as casually as possible that I was ‘at 35, but may do a few more’. As soon as he was out of sight I fell into a quivering mess 🙂


Just to spice things up a bit, our daughter arrived just after 6foot and this changed my plans a bit. Originally I had been planning on running a lot of the UTA training runs with the NRG groups on the course, to find out how tough the course was. But now I felt I couldn’t really justify spending extra time away from the family driving out there & back. So for my long runs, I settled on local trails only. Which meant that I was not going to see the course before race day. My original plan of logging 100k per week went out the window as well. Instead, I decided that 60k was the new 100k. On the bright side, that left me incredibly fresh come race day. My plan (based on nothing more than kind of wanting a silver buckle), was to run the course in 14 hours, but I would still be happy with just finishing considering this was my first attempt at this distance.


The morning of the race I woke up excited. I just wanted to get this thing started. Looking back, I would have liked it to start differently though! I was in wave 2 and it took about 100 meters of running when I felt my shorts getting wet. Then my hands and my shirt. I looked down and I immediately wished I could start the day again: BOTH my water bottles were leaking. Every step I took, drops of water were flying all over the place. After 1k, there was only half of my water left. And to make matters worse I then realised that basing my nutrition plan on using Tailwind meant that apart from my hydration, it was also my nutrition plan that quickly evaporated. Oh well, only 99 km to go!

I spent the rest of the trip to CP1 thinking about what to do. Luckily, I had brought 2 soft flasks of 1/2 a liter each to make up the 2 liter capacity requirement. These would have to do until CP3, where I had left a spare bladder with my crew.


I was pretty worried though: I would have to run the 20k from CP1 to CP2 on 1 liter of water, and I had to start taking gels instead of Tailwind (I tried, but couldn’t manage to get my tailwind to go from my zip lock bags into the tiny opening of the soft flasks). Then, there was another gruelling 15k from CP2 to CP3 with the same worry. I was hoping it wouldn’t get too hot too quickly!

Annoyingly, I found out at CP1 that I couldn’t fit both leaking bottles in the back of my pack. I also didn’t dare to throw out the leaking bottles at the checkpoint, afraid of breaking the 2 liter water capacity requirement. So this meant I had to hold 1 of the soft flasks in my hand for the entire 35k until CP3. It took a few minutes at CP1 to get organised and ready to go (including eating some unripe bananas, yuck!)

Start to CP1 – 11k – 1h17 (Planned: 1h15). Time in CP1: +- 4 minutes


Even though I left CP1 a few minutes behind schedule, I started getting comfortable with the new situation pretty soon, and it was such a gorgeous day that I just loved being out there. I even started passing a few people again on my way to Taros. I only had to wait a few minutes at Taros, and I bumped into an ex-colleague. We ran a few km together which was really nice. My spirits really started to soar here. I was feeling great, running well, and passing people. Unfortunately, Doug was one of them. He seemed to be hurting quite a bit. I pushed on and made CP2 with water to spare, and took some time there filling up again. I was happy to see that I had returned to 14hr schedule.

CP1 to CP2 – 21k – 2h03 (Planned: 2h08). Time in CP2: +- 3 minutes.

Start to CP2 – 32k – 3h20 (Planned: 3h24)


The run from CP2 to CP3 was possibly even better: I was in the zone, running took almost no effort at all. It was a beautiful part of the course, going up Ironpot Mountain and doing the out & back along the ridge. For the first time, I passed the didgeridoo players that I had heard so much about. I took some time to inhale the views from the top while listening to the sounds. It was pretty amazing! On the out & back, I saw Rocco and Geoff just in front which gave me a little boost as I knew they were chasing 14 hours as well. It was good to know they weren’t too far ahead after I saw them speed off ahead of me at the start! Going down from IronPot mountain was super hard. I like running downhill, but this was so steep and slippery that I was afraid of ruining my quads here and I took it easy. After the IronPot descent I started running really well again, and I ended up passing some NRG runners. Geoff, Rocco and Tim were all running within a few minutes of each other. I was still a bit worried about running out of water, but as it turns out I was able to stretch it until about the last corner before CP3. I was so pleased to get to CP3, my crew, and the NRG cheer team! On top of that, I was surprised to see that I was now starting to get close to 13:30 schedule, and I was still feeling very good. It took some time to grab my bladder, fill it up & fit it inside my pack, but I was always planning on staying here at least 5 minutes.

CP2 to CP3 – 14k – 1h44 (Planned: 2h00). Time in CP3: 8 minutes

Start to CP3 – 46k – 5h04 (Planned: 5h24)


Leaving CP3 in front of the NRG Cheering Squad

At CP3 I seem to have made my second big mistake: to make up for my perceived lack of calories taken on the first half of the course, I ate a peanut butter sandwich which I had prepared but wasn’t planning on using. Coming out of CP3 I started feeling pretty bad very quickly. Suddenly, the energy in my body had disappeared, I got annoyed at things like my bib falling off and having to redo the pins, needing a bathroom break, etc etc. As a result, going up Nellies my mind was in a terrible place. After having some Shot Bloks, my stomach was even worse. I was back on tailwind now though, so it meant I could at least keep up my calories. The lucky part about getting my anticipated ‘bad section’ here is that it was during an uphill section that you’re supposed to be walking/hiking anyway, so I didn’t actually end up losing much time compared to if it had happened during a runnable section. I just kept plodding along, and towards the top of Nellies my nausea suddenly disappeared, and I ran into the Aquatic Centre to a great reception. Steve, Nicola, Alison & Ava were all there, and it really lifted my spirits (that, and a magical can of coke).

CP3 to CP4 – 11k – 1h39 (Planned: 1h39). Time in CP4: 9 minutes

Start to CP4 – 57k – 6h43 (Planned: 7h03)


7 Ladies’ worth of Support Crew


CP4 to CP5 was amazing. I knew this was the toughest part of the course and was expecting pain and misery. Instead, I loved it. Sure, the stairs were tough, and there were a million of them, but my legs just didn’t seem to get tired. I was joined just after the Giant Stairway by 2 other runners and we ended up running together for an hour or so, which made the time go faster and the stairs less obvious! Once at the Fairmont I filled up again, said hi to the NRG crew and was well on my merry way to the silver buckle when I must not have lifted a foot up high enough… and smacked forward into the gravel. First came the initial shock, and then my legs started to cramp up. I was able to just avoid terrible pain by stretching my legs upwards. A group of passing runners helped me get up and when we looked at the damage, I could breathe a sigh of relief: my left knee and hand were bleeding, but it didn’t seem race threatening. I told them to go on, and swallowed my final salt tablet. Yes, my final one. I had bought an enormous tub of salt tablets before the race, and bizarrely had decided to bring only 4 in my pack?? I had taken the first one going up Nellies. The second and third I had given away an hour earlier to a guy that I passed as he was cramping up. So when swallowing that last salt tablet I made a mental note to make sure to ask my crew at CP5 to replenish them for the final leg. I then cleaned the wound out with the water dripping from the rock walls (not sure if this was smart?) and started running again slowly. After another clean at the baths of Wentworth Falls I realised that all seemed to be working well again. In fact, in ran into CP5 feeling great, still energetic, and about half an hour ahead of schedule.

CP4 to CP5 – 21k – 3h15 (Planned: 3h25). Time in CP5: 7 minutes

Start to CP5 – 78k – 9h56 (Planned: 10h28)


Nursing a bloody knee at CP5


CP5 did nothing to dampen my spirits with the pumping music and friendly faces. I left feeling refreshed and I knew from talking to Danny earlier that I was going to get the silver buckle unless I made another stupid error.

It took me about 1 km to realise that I had made another stupid error. Basking in the glorious attention of my crew and Robyn & Laura at CP5, I had completely forgotten about replenishing my salt tablets. And when I started the descent into the depths of Kedumba, my knee started hurting. Not too much, but enough to make me realise how dumb it would be to end up with cramps in the middle of nowhere when all I had to do was take more pills that weigh about 1/2 gram each. I hobbled the downhill and was happy for the climb to start. At least walking the uphill didn’t hurt (yet!). It was now getting dark, and the darkness dampened my mood a bit. Also the fact that everything was just going so slowly now! This part of the course seemed to never end. I kept trying to tell myself to relax, but now I just wanted it to finish. It took an eternity before I finally got to Furber and it was only then that my mood lifted again. I’d done it! Running through the finish chute and getting cheers from wife, crew and NRG was amazing. It easily ranks as one of the best feelings ever 🙂

CP5 to Finish – 22k – 3h27 (Planned: 3h38).

Start to Finish – 100k – 13h23 (Planned: 14h)

 jeroen4 jeroen5



Looking back, I realise how lucky I’ve been. There were a few screwups there that could easily have cost me a lot of time or even the race. So I’m happy that it turned out the way it did. Having said that, I did my training well, and I think the biggest reason I had such a great experience has to do with those hard yards. Hard, but so worth it. I am forever grateful to my wife for allowing me to keep following my dream during a very turbulent family period, to Steve & Nicola my fantastic crew for their incredible efforts to keep me on track, and to all NRG runners who have helped and inspired me along the way!


Steve, my loyal crew. His expression shows there is still room for improvement 🙂

Ultra Trail Australia UTA100 Nutrition Plan & Drop Bags 2016

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

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

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

What is Provided at Checkpoints?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Contents of Checkpoint Bags

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

And I’ll need to pack the following

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

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

extra mandatory gear if required

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

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

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

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

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

Ultra Trail Australia UTA100 Tips 2016

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

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

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

Serfas Portal Sunglasses

Serfas Portal Sunglasses

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

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

Adam CP4 Bag

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

2016 update– they’ll probably be Bluedio or Jabra

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ultra Trail Australia UTA100 Non Mandatory gear 2016

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

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

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

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

Garmin 920XT


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

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

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

Injinji Trail 2.0


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


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

BSc calf guards

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

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

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


Lifeproof iPhone case

Lifeproof iPhone case

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

Vlad the Inhaler

Vlad the Inhaler


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


Ultra Trail Australia UTA100 Mandatory Gear 2016

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

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

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

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


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


Patagonia capilene mens long sleeve top

Patagonia capilene mens long sleeve top

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

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

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

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

Salomon Bonatti WP

Salomon Bonatti WP

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

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


1 x beanie, balaclava or buff

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

Salomon Running Gloves

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

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

Safety vests

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

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


Petzl Nao v1

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 x whistle

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

1 x emergency space blanket, light bivvy sack or equivalent

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


This image lifted straight from the TNF100 website…..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast of Champions

2 x bars / food portions

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

1 x Ziploc bag for your personal rubbish

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salomon Bonatti WP pants

Salomon Bonatti WP pants

1 x long leg waterproof pants

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

North Face Fleece

North Face Fleece

1 x 100-weight long sleeve synthetic fleece top

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don't forget the Bodyglide!

Don’t forget the Bodyglide!

Recommended items via TNF website:

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

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

How to Get In To Coast To Kosci (C2K)

Now this information is unofficial, unreliable, speculative and possibly wrong. If the article causes any fuss I’ll probably just delete it. Why? Because Coast to Kosci, the environment and all of the people involved are so special that I don’t want anything to change. And I want to protect it all as much as possible. BUT- this question comes up so much it’s worth exploring……. and I know that every person who has been involved as crew, runner or vollie gets asked the same question- a lot.

* I’ve used real names as examples here, if anyone wants their name removed please let me know

By now you would have read the basic entry requirements– a 100 mile race on trails under cutoff, or 180km on road or track within 24 hours. And a 100km race, but that’s not a real challenge, is it? Remember, that’s the minimum expected of you. We’ll break that down more later.

So, there’s only 50 spots- how do I grab one? I am not a fast or talented runner, so I had to work the system. I had DNF’d the Great North Walk 100 miler in 2013, so I pretty much had to go back and finish it in 2014. But I needed an edge, something extra that would make my application stand out. So I did the Sri Chimnoy 24 hour race in Rooty Hill and made 180km in 24 hours. I wanted to see what it was like to do 450 laps of a running track. Let me reassure you, that was bloody hard work.

So, about those 50 places? As far as I can tell (yes, pretty much pure guesswork) it gets split up like this-

A very small amount of places reserved for elite runners
A very small number of places reserved for international runners
A larger amount of places for new runners
A fairly large amount of places for returning runners

One of the things that I love so much about the race is that they will accept people like me.   It’s a very egalitarian race, you get to rub shoulders with superstars of the sport- even if it isn’t for very long! So, assuming you aren’t a superstar…..

…..and assuming you aren’t an international runner-  I met a couple of internationals in 2012- Frank Fumich and Alex Nemet. These guys are absolutely tough as nails.

So, new runners- you know the minimum requirements, what is going to get you that spot? Basically, doing more than the minimum…….. I needed one qualifier, and I had two. If you only have one qualifier, make it a hard one.
Which one?
The Great North Walk 100 miler.
It is the gold standard of qualifiers, it’s an unreasonably vicious race with a fairly tight cutoff. Last year 5 of my fellow NRG runners got into C2K, and all had finished GNW. Does that grab your attention? The reverse could also be true- in 2015 I didn’t get in to C2K- and I hadn’t done GNW in 2015…… yes, GNW is important.

Rule number 1- Finish GNW100M
– corollary to rule 1- it doesn’t really matter what time you do, GNW is hard enough that a finish is as good as a win. I did 34:57 which is only an hour under the cutoff. Not a special time in any way, but I did take it easy because I needed that finish. I could definitely take a few hours off that time, but I played it safe. Or you could choose your races carefully…..

Rule number 2- Do something extra.
Another 100 miler can’t hurt. You could run 860km through NSW like Kirrily Dear. You could do the entire 250-275km Great North Walk 3 times for fun like Joe Ward. You could get a world record at running the 2200km Pilgrim Trail like Jane Trumper.

Rule number 3- Don’t be soft.
You already know that each runner is hand picked, don’t you? This means that the RD’s will know your racing history or will look it up when you apply. It’s perfectly fine to have a little vomit or a cry during a race, but if that causes you to give up, the RD will know about that DNF. If your racing history is littered with DNFs, you are less likely to get a start.
– corollary to rule 3- if you get offered a spot, it means the RDs think you are capable of finishing the race. THAT my friends is like being anointed by the Pope. Don’t fuck it up.

Rule number 4- an ‘easy’ qualifier isn’t going to cut it.
One day I will get to do Glasshouse, WTF100, maybe Hume & Hovell 100 miler, but right now these races are a bit further down the list as qualifiers. I’m not saying they’re easy (maybe I did above!) – no 100 mile race is easy, but you simply aren’t going to get the push you need by sailing through those runs, unless you do a good time. Want proof? I did the Hardcore 100 in the You Yangs in 2015 thinking that it would be a good qualifier. I never thought in a million years I would be able to do a trail 100 miler in under 24 hours- but I just made it. That was like winning the Olympics for me, but it wasn’t enough. If you are completely nuts, do the Alpine Challenge, but the timing isn’t good to do both in one year.

Rule number 5- be a crew or vollie
In past years I was told ‘if you ever want to run the race, you should be there as crew or volunteer’. And that was good advice, I have crewed 3 times for the amazing Jane Trumper and the experience has been superb. I imagine that a previous crewing or vollie experience will help you, but I don’t think it is as important as it was a few years back. BUT- remember if there are 2 applications from runners with similar race history, I would assume that the one who has seen the race would have an advantage. If you’ve previously applied and been knocked back, try to be there anyway- sitting in a corner licking your wounds doesn’t get you closer to your goal, being there and helping out IS!

I don’t know what will guarantee a start, but you should just run your arse off.

Now, here’s a funny thing- it’s actually harder to get in as a returning runner than a first timer. I’m not just saying that because I didn’t get in for 2015. Think about it- in 2014 I was competing for a spot with people like Kurt Topper, George Mihalakellis, Annabel Hepworth etc. These people are great runners, I’m very privileged to know them but I can call them contemporaries- they’re not so totally out of my league that I can’t run with them. Except maybe Annabel, she’s super crazy. They’re normal (or relatively normal).

But the moment you are competing for a spot as a returning runner, you’re competing with people like Kevin Heaton (Brick) a 9 time finisher, Jane Trumper (6 time finisher) and Wayne ‘Blue Dog’ Gregory (Winner in 2008). I honestly can’t see any sane person saying ‘Sorry Blue Dog, I’m giving your spot to Adam Connor’ and that’s ok. Totally the way it should be. These people have earned their places over and over again. And again.

So now you see the central issue inherent in the race. With so few entries available it HAS to be a personal choice by the Race Directors. It’s perfect as things stand now. We don’t need any more transparency into the system, we simply need to make the best possible application that we can.

I was so privileged to be chosen in 2014, and finishing (the sprint edition) is one of the proudest moments of my life. It made a pretty ordinary runner feel special, because it is such a special event.

I would totally encourage you to give it a crack- but don’t think anything about it will be easy. Except all of the friends you’ll make.

Fear & Loathing Food & Wedding in Las Vegas

I wrote most of this while we were driving between stops. Most driving days were between  2-3 and maximum 6 hours of driving so I had plenty of time to summarise while Sarah drove…..

Day 1- Wednesday March 9

March 9 we got on a plane for Los Angeles- it’s a 13 hour flight. I usually manage to get some sleep but this time I watched 5 movies instead. Of course I was pretty shattered by the time we landed, but it was 6am local time and we needed to stay up as long as possible so we could get into sync with the time difference. Honestly it’s not too bad with only an effective 5 hour difference. OK it’s actually 19 hours but midday in LA is 7am Sydney. So most days I had until about 2pm before any support tickets came in!

It’s kind of strange to leave at 11am on Wednesday morning and arrive at 6am on Wednesday morning after such a long flight, but the mental gymnastics to deal with the situation were overwhelmed by the desire to sleep…..

That first day we managed to drag our old carcasses around to the local shops to pick up some essentials. They had a whole aisle of breakfast food but I found it impossible to buy anything without heaps of sugar. I normally like a non toasted, natural muesli for breakfast but even the muesli was all toasted and in 100 different sugary flavours. Later I learned that to get natural muesli you have to go to a health food store. And those are chock full of incredible stuff like 5 different flavours of hemp milk. Yes, hemp milk.


Sarah wouldn’t let me buy Bison jerky

Saw loads of interesting cars- without exaggeration I’d say Teslas are about as common here as Volvos. Lots and lots of Maseratis, couple of Ferraris and Bentleys and a Koenigggseg. We even saw 3 KTM X-Bows, I mean I think only about 3 of them were ever made? One other difference from back home is the crapload of electric cars. Nissan Leaf, Chevy Volt and hybrid Prius mixing it up with the Teslas. Seriously- so many Teslas. It became such a thing that eventually Sarah threatened to punch me if I pointed out any more, and she punches hard.


This is the kind of Black Dog that I like

Day 2- Thursday March 10
La Brea Tar Pits

The La Brea Tar Pits is a place I’d always wanted to visit, and we found that we were staying within walking distance! The main ‘pit’ is a grungy looking pool that’s free to visit, but looks very unattractive. Apparently tar bubbles up through the ground from time to time in various areas of the park, and there’s green traffic cones warning people of small eruptions. We went into the museum and they’ve done an awesome job of explaining the history and there’s even a film describing how so many creatures got caught in the sticky tar and preserved. Well worth a look.


La Brea Tar Pit


Tar escaping from the ground around a protective fence


I’m guessing that tar isn’t the only thing that seeps from the ground around here….


The XXL 1 pound burger


Day 3-  Friday March 11

I was very glad we had pre paid for the tickets, because it seems impossible to walk more than 10 steps at Disneyland without an opportunity to buy something, indeed anything for about 15x what it’s worth on the outside. It was particularly interesting to see what Disney has done with the Star Wars franchise since purchasing it- i.e., they are flogging the shit out of it! You can buy Darth Vader beanies for your toddler, a gold C3PO hat with Mickey Mouse ears, and R2D2 dress or purse, and mountains of other vile tat. OK some of it I was kind of attracted to, but my mind flipped out when I saw the price. Yes Virginia, you can have this Light Saber Umbrella for only $65. Phaaaaark, that’s about $90 Aus!


I think we spent over $100 just on food- and I had brought my own bottle of mineral water. The rides were a lot of fun- we finished with ‘Hyperspace Mountain’ and it couldn’t have gone for more than 2 minutes but holy crap it was intense!


Who is the bored guy? Unconsciously hilarious


Day 4- Saturday March 12
Getty Museum

This is our last day in LA and we decided to hit the Getty Museum and Graumann’s Chinese Theatre. The Getty is beyond amazing. I can’t express how great it is to be able to see these artworks so close up and their beauty can make you very emotional. Well, it did for me anyway. Weirdly Van Goughs Irises was protected by glass, but positioned so that a lot of light spilled in from outside, meaning 1. you couldn’t get a photo without reflections and 2. I wondered whether the painting was adequately protected from UV rays. I really want to go back and spend 2 days there, just so I can stand in front of some of the items without time limits.


This painting was massive and incredibly detailed. The light, the luxuriousness, I could have stared for hours

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Some of these panoramas are great- give them a click! ^^^

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We were so tired after the Getty that we all just wanted to go home and sleep, so the Hollywood Walk was cancelled, but I demanded to be dropped off at Amoeba Records so I could go crate diving. Fantastic place with over 25,000 records- unfortunately I didn’t have much time so I managed to pick my way through the Dance Pop, Trance and House sections. I didn’t really feel that the full priced records were worth the money, but I picked up a few (ok 60 or so) records at between 50c and $2.99. Some I already own but in better condition than mine, a couple that I have no idea if they are any good, a few that should be interesting and one, yes one, off my list. Every DJ has a list- of tracks they are looking for…..
There’s no listening stations at Amoeba, but they have a return policy where you can bring things back for a 75% refund if you don’t like it. I didn’t have time to listen, and I think the really cheap records that I bought are excluded from that offer. The AirBnB we stayed in had a DJ setup that included a Technics SL1200 MKIII, so if I’d had more time…….


Amoeba- you could go broke in here

After a couple of hours in record heaven I hopped across the road for dinner at Jack In The Box (quite tasty, but slathered in butter) and got a cab back to our Air BnB

Day 5- Sunday March 13
Vegas Baby!

Overnight daylight savings time turned on in California and so our time difference with Sydney is now 6 hours, we packed up and hopped in our enormous van and headed up the freeway to Barstow outlet centre where I bought too much stuff. This was a recurring thing over the next few days. Lunch was a 1lb burger from Fatburger which definitely lived up to its name. I kind of felt that I was going to emulate Elvis and collapse while attempting to push that burger out of my body, but that’s a TMI story for another day….


We spent a lot of time driving, but luckily most of the scenery was stunning

We got to the hotel Circus Circus and booked in. It’s an old, fairly tired hotel but everyone was really pleasant. We were warned several times that ‘this is a non smoking hotel’ but you have to walk across the casino floor to get in or out, and the smoke was eye watering. Up in the rooms you couldn’t smell smoke but as soon as you step out into the corridor it hits you. Anyway the rooms are basic but good and fairly roomy, and at $US50 per night I can put up with a few weirdos and smokers. We had a bit of a walk up the strip and it was exactly as fun and hideous as you’d expect. People holding these huge cans of beer, openly drinking, others with novelty containers- yard glasses, plastic Eiffel Towers, guitars etc. all filled with cheap sweet booze. We walked into a 711 to pick up some supplies and they had flavoured tequila shots on ice right next to the cash register…….


If you look carefully you can see performers just under the lights….


It must be delightful to be an alcoholic in Vegas, you’re never more than a few steps away from buckets of cheap booze and nobody gives a fuck if you walk up the strip at 8am with a beer the size of an aircraft carrier and talking to yourself. After a few days Sarah hated it, I just wanted to see more of the seedy side!

Day 6- Monday 14 March

We woke at 7am and went for a run up the strip- all of the major intersections require you to go up to an overpass- I suppose this is to reduce vehicular deaths from all of the pissed pedestrians. Helpfully, they all provide escalators and elevators for the old, fat, infirm and completely spannered.

After a shower it was off to get remarried! We hopped in an Uber and got to the chapel in plenty of time. The ceremony was heaps of fun and Elvis did a great job. Sarah was absolutely stunning in a red sequin dress and we all got to be a bit silly and have a dance, if you want to see the extent of my embarrassment you should watch the movie!

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Back to the hotel for a change and to the Dennys across the road for lunch. The servings are ridiculous- I ordered a spicy meat plate and could barely finish it- remember I’ve been able to eat 9 pieces of KFC and 2 large sides for lunch. A bit more shopping and no time for a sleep before we got picked up by Maverick Aviation for a helicopter ride out to the Grand Canyon. Just a note about this- the helicopter ride didn’t cost much less than our flights from Australia. It was hugely expensive, but we got to fly over Lake Mead, land IN the Canyon, have a snack and then fly back via other landmarks and up the Las Vegas strip at sunset, it was totally amazing. Apart from the eye watering cost I’d totally recommend it.


Picked up from the hotel in this limo


Landed in the Grand Canyon with 5 other $3 million helicopters

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A limo ride back to the hotel and we met my parents for a steak dinner in Vince Dean Tuatara- a rock n roll steak joint with nightly karaoke. We ate at the same joint the next night and watched a toddler dance on stage for an award. Toward the end of the song I heard the chorus- ‘Spread your Legs’, charming.


Everything is big in Vegas

Day 7- Tuesday 15 March

Out for an early morning run, we ran the opposite direction and found the sleazy part of Vegas. In reality, the sleazy part starts the moment you step off the strip. One block back from our hotel was the ‘Worlds Largest Erotic Museum’ and many many supply stores for strippers. No, I did not attempt to buy any strippers.


Yes it really says ‘Hangover Bail- because last night was no movie’


For breakfast we went to the Bellagio – Mum had read online that the Bellagio and the Wynn has the best breakfast buffet, and I can believe it- we had paid $US20 each for dinner at the Circus Circus buffet, and while they had a decent selection of food, it was just uninspiring and a little depressing. The Bellagio by contrast was fantastic- 2 different kinds of bacon, chefs on hand to custom make omelettes for you (with real crabmeat, as one American next to me demanded) and a fine selection of pastries and other things that I should not eat for breakfast. But did. The only downside was when I ordered a coffee for Dad and myself- at $US13 + tip for 2 coffees, that was about A$10 per coffee. Ouch!


Bellagio foyer roof


Those DJ’s? Never heard of them


I think I’m going to run a caption contest for this one

There were a couple of interesting exhibitions on at the Luxor– one about the human body and one with some Titanic bits so we headed down there- unfortunately we didn’t know it would cost $US35 for each entry so we headed back to the hotel for a much needed rest. Well, I slept and Sarah failed to sleep. So we got up and went to ‘Fashion Show’ which is a big mall in the middle of the strip. Sarah got excited about clothes and shoes while I got accosted by a tweaker trying to sell a $US500 device that streams content from all over the world. It seems to be a basic $50 streaming box that comes with a ‘lifetime subscription’ to a private club that hosts pirated content. Sorry buddy but I’m not paying for your meth, and I doubt you’ll be around for a refund when the FBI shut down your little club. It’s most likely that the content is organised by one of a number of small underground piracy groups. If that’s true they are selling access to something that is free for other people. Great scam I guess!

Sarah spotted a Tiffanys store so we had a quick look and I spotted a lovely Tiffany blue pendant and decided to buy it for her as a 10 year anniversary gift. Then she spotted a little duck pendant and decided to buy it for herself. They both look lovely, and it continues a duck motif that has been present through our marriage- we gave glow in the dark ducks to our wedding guests, and brought one of the ducks with us to take photos with.


Tiffanys duck with our wedding duck

Later we met up with Mum and Dad- they had taken Alex for a few rides back at Circus Circus, and we took the bus up to Fremont Street. This is the ‘original Vegas’ and has covered part of the street with an amazing light show to attract tourists and rebranded as ‘the Fremont Street Experience’ and honestly it was a bit much for my tiny brain. I needed a wee and went into one of the casinos, they had go go dancers dancing above the slot machines. There was skimpy dancers on top of a bar right in the street and skimpily dressed and just plain weird people all over the place, including a guy who wasn’t that much younger than my father wearing backless pants and angel wings. No one needs to see that, granddad.


Luxor Thursday nights. Wow.


This beer was delicious, and the cans were nearly 750ml


Freemont St Experience. Yes it was.

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Day 8- Wednesday 16 March
Leaving Las Vegas
Lone Pine

On our last day we had a truly Vegas breakfast- black coffee and Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Sarah ran to the airport to pick up our next rental car, and predictably the lady behind the counter was gobsmacked that someone could run that far (about 45 minutes). Mum and Dad helped us take our bags down and we said our goodbyes (they are spending a few more days in Vegas then heading to the coast to take a cruise). It’s been truly great having my parents around to share some of these experiences. A pity the rest of the family weren’t able to come but at least I get to see my sister next month when she comes over to be celebrant for my cousins wedding.

We stopped in Pahrump to get some supplies for lunch then went through some weird town that has a whole bunch of fireworks stores- actually Sarah tells me that was also Pahrump. I had to stop and get a pic. The 2 toothless owners were really friendly, and I’ve got to say that’s probably the largest amount of explosives I’ve ever been around. I was told that I could buy whatever I wanted but I’d have to pay $5 extra for a firearms license. Then they became really cagey when I asked where it would be legal to set them off……

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It was hugely exciting to get close to Death Valley National Park, the site of the Badwater Ultramarathon. Six years ago, in 2010 when I started running I heard of Badwater- it’s one of those ridiculous races that people use to prove that runners are crazy. In the intervening years I’ve discovered that races like this ARE possible to complete, and even for someone of limited running ability like me. It requires careful planning and full respect for the challenges, but it is possible. I really think that UTMB would require more than I currently have, but Badwater is a race that has always fascinated me, even when I thought it would require a superhuman to complete it.

Here’s some photos from the Zabriskie Point

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So Sarah dropped me off just outside Stovepipe Wells and I ran up the road towards Emigrant, fulfilling a long held dream. I had wanted to do at least 10-15km and we had compromised on this section which is about 8 miles or maybe 13km. Unfortunately it was 3pm when I started, so Sarah had to pick me up about halfway due to time constraints- we needed to get to our hotel in Lone Pine before reception shut. A few notes about the run- when Sarah dropped me off the temperature was about 90F which is 32.2 degrees celsius. That’s warm but not uncomfortable for a run. The bit that sucked was the air- there’s no moisture in the air and your sweat doesn’t really get a chance to cool you down- it’s drawn straight into the air before you get any benefit. Also the heat reflected off the tarmac is hotter than the sun so it’s a weird feeling to feel the ground hotter than the atmosphere. And it was a mistake to take a black coloured bottle with me- it absorbed the suns rays and made my water like warm tea. But even considering all of that and the traffic it was still a run I will cherish forever.

We stayed in the Best Western at Lone Pine, it was clean and well appointed and so far, the nicest place we’ve stayed on this trip. Apart from having to share a room with Alex! Breakfast was also included which was a bonus. We’d been buying some breakfast things from supermarkets and keeping it cold in our foam $3.79 esky and free hotel ice, but particularly in Vegas it was really hard to get healthy stuff for brekkie and I’m not used to dropping $50 for breakfast every day!

Dinner at ‘The Grill’ was lovely- I had ‘Dust Devil Pasta’. Trust me it was a lot nicer than that sounds, and also got to try an Alaskan beer, nice way to cap off the day.

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Day 9- Thursday 17 March

Lone Pine is only about 13 miles or apx 20km from Mt Whitney Portal. The portal is the beginning of the hiking trails in the area, and is the end of the Badwater race. The road is currently being repaired so we weren’t sure we could get access, but we figured it was worth a try. And sure enough we had to get an escort car to take us up to a spot where the road really was closed. However, the traffic guy had told us that no one would stop us going up higher, but if we had to be rescued by the cops they would give us a fine. Totally worth it, so up we went. We had switched to a Hyundai ‘soft roader’ in Vegas so I was hoping that would be enough to get us out of trouble but it turned out to be a non issue. You know, I’m kind of running out of superlatives but I will say it was brilliant. We got to race around in the snow, there was no one around and Alex got to play in snow for the first time ever! It’s incredible to think that all of the photos I took were easy to get, beauty all around. And signs to look out for bears…..

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From there we drove to Tahoe and booked in to a hotel called Kingsbury Lodge- it’s a time share ski lodge. Once again, we felt like we had scored pretty well- the room was nicely appointed with a gas fire, kitchen and huge couch. Sarah had been a nanny in Tahoe in the early 1990’s and we were trying to catch up with some of her friends in the area. We had a lovely St Patricks Day dinner in one of the (very posh!) wooden houses perched on the side of the hill looking out over the lake with a great bunch of people, including a friend of Sarahs who had been a lawyer but is now a local judge!

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Day 10- Friday 18 March

My training had been pretty poor and my eating pretty substantial so it was time to suck it up and get out there. The only downside was the below freezing temperatures! It was -1 celsius in the morning but we managed to crank out a few km- it’s not going to get me where I want, but better than nothing. After that we hopped in the car and headed out to Reno. Sarah works for a company that imports Cascade Design products- this encompasses many brands of outdoor gear. There we were given a personal tour of their 87,500 sq foot warehouse- yes it was bloody huge! It was also fascinating to see them making and testing some waterproof bags. Lunch with a former colleague of Sarahs who worked for Patagonia, and then a side trip to the Patagonia outlet store. That was a bit disappointing, as I had purchased a jacket at a Patagonia store earlier in the week a lot cheaper than the price at the outlet store. And I really didn’t dig any of the stuff that was cheap. We had dinner at Applebees- a sort of high end Denny’s with one of Sarahs ex boyfriends and his kids. He’s an interesting guy and dinner was great- I made the joke that Sarah was dining with 2 ex boyfriends, which was sort of true as I had been upgraded to husband…..


IMG_3060Day 11- Saturday 19 March

Another early run at -2 then on the way out of Tahoe we went down to the shops and Sarah managed to spend an eye watering amount of money on more gear (most of my shopping had been much earlier) and I had to consider the possibility that we would need to ship stuff home.My 120 litre bag was so stuffed I don’t think I could fit a cigarette paper in there.

Post shopping was a little side trip to Emerald Bay– it’s got a great high up view of Lake Tahoe- and snow! We played in the snow for a while and I managed to have my first accident- I fell through some snow melt and smacked my shin on a massive boulder. It hurt, but I didn’t think much of it until later when I discovered an impressive amount of blood. Next it was off to more friends of Sarahs- family friends who live in Placerville. What a beautiful spot- it is nestled in some hills amongst apple orchards and wineries.. So we had a bit of a hike around the local area. It was fantastic to have a relaxed dinner with some locals (thanks Peter and Gale!) and of course once Alex found out about the hot tub, he had to have a go- despite the outside temperature being on the unkind side of bitter.

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Day 12- Sunday 20 March

After a bit of a sleep in (finally!) we got up and headed down to a local lake- Sly Park Lake. The lake has a single track path around it that goes for 8 miles, just over 13km. So I took Alex out who made it 4km before refusing to go on. I handed him back to his Mum who had already run that morning and I ran the rest of the trail. It was fantastic- a nice soft bed of pine needles and some nice easy rises and great slopes to bomb down. I felt like a runner again, not the fat bastard that I had become. ‘Home’ again for some lunch and I even managed to sneak in a short nap before a bunch of people arrived for dinner. It was great being part of a family dinner and we had dry rubbed ribs and malt liquor. OK I had malt liquor- everyone else refused. It didn’t make me want to fight my own shadow so I’m not sure what the problem is. Well, I guess the problem is that you can buy a 739ml can of 8.1% alcohol malt liquor for $1.79. That’s a serious alcoholic bargain.

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Day 13- Monday 21 March

On the road again, on our way to the outlet stores at Vacaville. We were fairly shopped out, but still couldn’t resist a bargain. Have you ever said to yourself ‘if I ever see one more fucking North Face hoodie I will scream’? No? Well, I came pretty close…… and yet. And yet I bought still more North Face clothing. If you think I am well dressed whenI get home from this trip it is because I could purchase Calvin Klein jeans for $20. And did, more than once. It was In-n-Out Burger for lunch, adding to our tally of Jack In The Box, Five Guys, Fatburger, Chipotle and Dog knows how many others. Yes, I’ve been making America great again by singlehandedly supporting the burger industry. We’d pretty much decided to eat local for the last few days so when we arrived in Santa Cruz we headed in to downtown in plenty of time to be harassed by a couple of homeless people and have pizza for dinner. It didn’t bother me much but Sarah was quite perturbed, particularly because a crazy black guy had unleashed a torrent of racial abuse at an Asian lady who accidentally bumped in to him- and then apparently said something to Sarah.


In ‘n Out Burger


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Day 14- Tuesday 22 March

Our run the next morning was brilliant, running along the river but brutally cold. I had dressed for 14 degrees (Sarah checked the weather) but it was very low single digits. I should have checked for myself! We also went past an artist community called the Tannery which sparked a memory of mine- a young resident had been murdered there last year by another resident. Very gruesome story, and of course that put Sarah off even more! I think she was pretty happy to leave, just quietly…..

Gale had sent a bunch of things for us to do but the only one we could fit in was the Monterey Aquarium. What an amazing place, and somehow not surprising since the list of people donating $1 million, $5 million, $10 and $25, even $50 million was quite long. I can’t really say enough about this one, just get there if you can and I hope the pics give you an idea. Late in the afternoon we arrived in San Luis Obispo, a Californian town famous for its good weather. It’s a really cool but fairly touristy town. This was the place where we had booked the cheapest hotel of the trip and it showed. It was clean and comfortable but the last residents dinner was still in the fridge, and some woman decided to sit out side our door and complain about her life well into the night. I didn’t really fancy putting pants on to tell her to piss off but luckily Sarah did it for me. I had managed to go into Abercrombie & Fitch just before dinner and buy MORE clothes so there’s a danger I will be mistaken for someone who cares about their appearance soon. Dinner was in a local pub called F. McLintock and was good- we even had dessert so I think the transition to overeater is complete. Full disclosure- Alex ordered deep fried cheesecake and I helped him to finish it…….

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Day 15- Wednesday 23 March

We woke a bit late and skipped a run, opting for a basic breakfast and getting on the road. We passed through Shell Beach, Pismo, Guadaloupe and other towns going down the coast towards Santa Barbara and Ventura, our last hotel for the trip. Ventura is only about an hour or so from LA but far enough that it’s worth exploring. It’s very spread out though- we had a lot of trouble figuring out where the shopping spots were, but lunch at the top of Gates Park was amazing. You could hear the big V8’s roaring around Ventura Raceway (and we’d driven past Laguna Seca only 2 days before). Sarah needed a rest so I went out to a local Mexican ‘art’ shop (ok, it’s full of tourist stuff. But I love the ‘day of the dead’ things) and I managed to buy a ‘dead’ bride and groom on metal plate, and a decorated skull that I’m going to call ‘Bob’ after the ‘Bob the Skull’ character in The Dresden Files novels by Jim Butcher. You should read them, they are heaps of fun.

Day 16- Thursday 24 March
Los Angeles

We woke up and went for a run, then spent a stupid amount of time tracking down a breakfast place. We needed up at Pete’s Breakfast House and yes, the fuss was worth it. I had a completely artery clogging fried hash, and Sarah had Heuvos Ranchos. Sarah wanted to go to a Patagonia store (yes another one, but this one was apparently the original) and I wandered away to find a coffee. My mission on the last day was to have the most American version of whatever that I could find. At Starbucks I asked the poor server ‘what’s the dumbest drink you have?’ and without batting an eyelid she simply answered ‘hot or cold?’
So I needed up with a caramelised honey latte with whipped cream. So bad, so good.

I set the GPS to take me to one last record store ( it’s actually called ‘Record Surplus- The Last Record Store‘). This one had listening stations, but not a great selection of the music I like- it seems all the record stores are risk averse to dance music. Anyway I picked up a few tracks (mostly super handbag) and we headed down to Santa Monica for a last look at the beach and then a browse of the shops. Electronics shops seem to be a thing of the past now- no Best Buy, Frys Electronics, Radio Shack or similar to be seen. But I did have a quick look at Sears- the electronics section was in the basement and looked like WW3 had broken out. Anyway it satisfied my curiosity and we got back in the car at 4pm for our 17km trip to LAX. Holy crap the traffic was awful, it was nearly 3 hours later that we managed to drop our bags, negotiate into a lounge and get some food. OK beer. Luckily the flight was not due to take off until 9:55pm. It didn’t actually leave the ground until nearly an hour later but we made up the time in the air and landed safe back in Sydney at 6:50am Saturday 26 March, having completely missed Good Friday!

I met new people, had amazing adventures and made memories that I will treasure my whole life. I’m so grateful to Sarah for arranging it, Mum and Dad for coming along, and Alex for being Alex.