Narrabeen All Nighter 2014


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

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

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

Sarah Jane- still smilin'

Sarah Jane- still smilin’

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

so the run goes like this-

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, it hurt that much

Yes, it hurt that much

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

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

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

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

Rocco & Sally

Rocco & Sally

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

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

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

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

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

Coast to Kosci 2013- Guest Blog Joe Ward

(Adam) Those who know Joe are very lucky- they can call a happy, tough and thoughtful bloke a friend. And now a certified legend thanks to conquering GNW100m, GNW250k and C2K. Read on……


Joe’s C2K Race Report

December 2013’s C2K adventure started for me in December 2011.

As many C2K finishers have done before me, the first step before you enter the C2K is to get a taste of the race by volunteering to be part of an athletes support crew. Duties of a support crew member can consist of some running (but you don’t have to run to be in a support crew !!), handing out food to the athlete, keeping them hydrated, taking care of navigation, offering words of encouragement and generally keeping them moving forward.

I felt honoured to be asked to crew for an amazing man and now my great friend Kieron Blackmore. Kieron and I had met during the GNW 100 miler in November 2010 and e had instantly connected (translation – I couldn’t run faster enough to get rid of him). We had completed several training runs together and on one of these runs he discussed a 240km race in December called the C2K or Coast to Kosciusko. This was interesting to me because I’d never heard of this race before. All runners discuss their favourite races and you will often hear races like The North Face 100, Six Foot Track, Marathon Des Sables, Comrades and the GNW being spoken about almost as if they are mythical pilgrimages but I’d never heard of the C2K. Maybe the reason I hadn’t heard of it was because this is a race you cannot simply enter. The Race Directors of the C2K (two beautiful and amazing people, Paul and Diane) are very protective of their event and of the events competitors and rightly so, because they recognise the level of difficulty of the course. The race runs 240kms (149.1 miles) from Boydtown Beach in Eden to the top of Mount Kosciusko, the highest point in Australia. Runners are often subject to electrical storms, high winds, heavy rain, extreme heat, deep snow, blizzards altitude, flies, snake bites and potential dehydration or hypothermia issues. Paul and Diane want all of their participants to finish uninjured and safe, so they only select the best prepared athletes for the start line.

Wow ! So which Ultra Runner doesn’t want to be a part of an event as exclusive as that !! I told Kieron to count me in 🙂

The 2011 C2K was a steep learning curve for me to say the least. At the welcome briefing I was star struck to be surrounded by so many accomplished ultra runners. I was in a room full of my ultra running heroes and I left the event having learnt so much about being an endurance athlete just from speaking to them and getting a sense of their character. Sometimes when you speak to someone who is a tough mofo you don’t need to ask them if they are a tough mofo, you just know.

I made some amazing new friends and did my best to be there for Kieron throughout the 2 days he was running. Yes, that’s right, 2 days of running non stop !!

I was in awe of Kieron’s achievement when he finished. He pushed through barriers I had never seen anyone come close to before, it was real Forest Gump stuff. Kieron taught me that when you think you’ve given everything there’s still a little bit more left to give. He also taught me that even when you feel like crap and you’re at your absolute lowest you can still be a charming, cheeky SOB, good onya mate.

I witnessed more suffering, guts, determination and awesomeness at that race than I had ever witnessed in my life. As a support crew member you get a front row ticket to all of the mental toughness, the highs, the lows as well as a few of the not so pleasant aspects of ultra running (what happens out there, stays out there) and at the time I thought, why would people do this to themselves ?? This is INSANE !!

In 2011, I honestly didn’t think it was a sensible event, let alone something I was capable of completing. The athletes pushed their bodies to levels that it was hard for me to understand. This was a race where running through the night non stop without sleep, losing toe nails and vomiting was considered all part of the journey. WHAA ??

I completed a couple of 100 mile events in 2012. My first was the Glasshouse 100 in September 2012 and then the GNW 100 miles in 2012. Both were extremely rewarding but before running either of these events, I was already starting to think about C2K during my training. I ran looong training runs including a couple of all night runs and I fell in love with running through the night till sunrise. Nothing feels more amazing than running with a friend and watching the sun pop up over the horizon. The wildlife comes to life and suddenly you feel awake and your legs are filled with more running. If you’ve never experienced running through the night please please please take my word for it. It is beautiful 🙂


I changed careers. I was inspired by these happy, motivated people that loved to run and share the joy of running. It was time to follow my heart and become what I have always wanted to be, ever since I ran my first marathon in 2006, a marathon coach. I started my own business coaching running, boxing, kickboxing, kids kickboxing and personal training. I was training everyday, getting fitter and stronger and loving it !!

I can’t remember if Kieron asked me to join him again in December 2012 for his next C2K or if I volunteered before he asked me but before I knew it I was back there with him, running beside him on the course and once again we summitted the top of Mount Kosci and took the obligatory photo from the top of Australia.

This time was a very different experience for me. Of course I had to make sure I did my best job to look after Kieron but the whole time I was crewing for him I was planning and strategizing. Could I enter this race ? Is it possible ? What nutrition strategy would I have ? How would I get to Dalgety and still feel fresh ? What’s the best way to take on these hills ?

Again, I was struck by Kieron’s determination, courage, spirit and character. He is still to this day, the best man I know. But could I do this ? I wanted to be like these incredible ultra runners but there was a lot of experience there. Maybe if I couldn’t be like them then I could at least share the same start line, that would be a good start.

Kieron achieved the impossible again in 2012 and at the awards ceremony after the event on Sunday morning, I listened to inspiring stories of strength and mind over matter. I told my then girlfriend Emma that I wanted to do this race one day and she said “You will !” … I had the bosses permission. I discussed a 2013 attempt at the GNW 250 Fatass (unofficial event) with a few friends after the awards ceremony. This run would be a way to prove to myself and to Paul and Diane, that I was ready.

GNW 250 in July 2013 was tough. 276 ish kms in 69 hours and 28 minutes. It was a hard slog but it was a respectable time and would hopefully give me the chance of being accepted when entries opened. I was right and my entrance was accepted and confirmed in October/November 2013.

THE RACE – Friday 5.30am

“5    4    3    2    1   GO !!”


I barely had time to hug my Kimberley and Simpson desert running heroes Jane Trumper and Andy Bowen before we were off. I settled in just behind them and tried to relax. This was going to be a looooong day … no wait a looooooong TWO days !!

Superstar runner (and eventual winner/record holder) Jess Baker ran with us for a minute as we hit the first trail section and before I knew it she was gone. What an incredible lady she is ! Smiley and friendly on the outside but a warrior to the core. I was already feeling like running this race was a good idea. Just to be around these people is such an honour.

I kept just behind Jane and Andy and soon we were greeted by Mat Grills aka tattoorunner, an ultra runner from Queensland. We immediately struck up a conversation which lasted around 24kms.

What a legend Mat is ! A fellow vegan ultra runner that used to play in a hardcore band, he has some awesome tattoos all over his body. He looks a bit like a Japanese Yakuza except he’s not Japanese and much friendlier. He has a rule that if it’s above 13 degrees then it’s time to take his tee shirt off. He carries as little weight as possible, even wearing sandals on his feet instead of trainers. It’s amazing, whenever I think I’ve found a really difficult challenge there’s always someone raising the level of difficulty even higher. Go Mat !!

The first 24kms went so quick it was almost like they didn’t happen. A mixture of adrenalin, great conversation and a feeling amongst all the runners that the race really wouldn’t begin till the next day early Saturday morning.

24kms was the runner/crew rendezvous point. From this point onwards I would have my amazing support crew to cater to my every need and whim. Now it’s important to point out here that there are support crews and their are AWESOME SUPPORT CREWS. A support crew will help their runner run but an awesome support crew can make or break a race. If you have the right crew it can really make all the difference.

I had two of the best support crewers with me. Ultra Runner Toni-Anne Lee from Manly Beach Running Club. She has run 3 marathons, including a 50km and crewed for me during my 276km run. I also had my fellow hobbit and Ultra Runner Brad Smithers. Both are super positive, incredibly experienced and wonderful people. We said a quick hi, I told them all was well, we swapped over some electrolytes and gear and agreed to check in another 5kms down the road.

My support crew met me every 5kms or so to give me a banana, couple of dates, fresh electrolytes and anything else I needed. At 42kms, my support crew and I shared a couple of high fives. The running was well underway and the nerves were starting to disappear.

I still had a bit of dicky stomach from being ill on Wednesday night but that was slowly fading and the food I was eating was staying down so everything was going to plan.

At 50kms we hit Rocky Hall and reached the first Mandatory Checkpoint. My support crew sent a text message to let the Race Director know my time of arrival. Brad said I was on track and running at a good pace. I was comfortable and running at a pace that was still near my 36 hour A Target pace.

A few kms later we reached the first big climb at Big Jack mountain. A long 7km climb to the top. Brad walked with me up here asking me how I was going and sharing his yoda-like wisdom. When life is an uphill battle then Brad is the man you want by your side. Unwaveringly positive with a bottomless bag of motivating stories.

Several runners overtook me up Big Jack and offered words of encouragement and smiles and I was starting to settle into my own race and worrying less about my position. When I reached the top of Big Jack I had a quick sit down and massage from gorgeous Sarah-Jane. I’m always happy to see SJ, she is so full of energy and positivity, just what a grumpy ultra runner that doesn’t like climbing hills needs 🙂

At this point I had such a long way to go that the maths was starting to mess my head up. So I’ve run 65kms but I’ve still got 175kms to go !!! … That’s over 100 miles !!!

Brad kept telling me not to think about it and leave the maths calculations to the support crew. I agreed but it’s difficult when there’s such a massive distance ahead, you can’t help but think about it and try to break it down somehow.

So 175kms, that’s 7 x 25km runs. Wait, that’s no good. Okay 175kms is around 4 marathons to go. Wait that sucks !!

After a 5 minute sit down and a watermelon refuel I was back up and running and 5kms down the road I arrived in Cathcart for the second Checkpoint.


I had some cold lemonade and pressed on. Note to self, cold lemonade during a long run is awesome !!

I was worrying less about time now and just ticking off the landmarks that I recognised from crewing in previous years. One big landmark was the dead tree at 102kms which I knew was coming up soon. I watch a lot of Lord of the Rings and as every good hobbit knows, the dead tree is a good place to be. Who doesn’t want to pretend to be the King of Gondor ??

Just before the dead tree I was greeted by the other three members of my support crew. Beautiful Sally Dean, kickass Jodie Hermit and Superman Robin Yates. Three more warriors to add to the fellowship of Mount Kosci. I was feeling very positive and a little dehydrated. I greeted them and slurred my words quite badly. So much so that I decided it might be time to ditch the beanie that was causing my head to overheat.

Once the orange Can Too beanie (Go Can Too !!) was handed over I managed to remember everyones name (including my own) I headed toward the dead tree (of Gondor).

I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived there ahead of schedule. My amazing support crew celebrated by letting off some party poppers and taking a few photos. I was finally in 3 figures !! Not quite half way but I’d made a real dent in the race and moved past the 100km mark so that felt fantastic.

Onwards to Snowy River Way !! (it really does sound like the Lord of the Rings Middle Earth doesn’t it ! – or maybe that’s just me)

It was around 8pm and starting to get dark so the head torches had to come out. This was a positive thing for me. The cool air of the night is always a welcome relief from the heat of the day and there’s something nice about running in the night when nobody can see you. It’s almost as if you are invisible and the pain can’t find you.

At the intersection Brad sat me down and told me that he was heading 40km down the road to Dalgetty and Team Silver car support crew were taking over for the next 5 or 6 hours. He told me to stop worrying about the time and focus on running. He assured me I was way ahead of schedule so there really was nothing to worry about.

The next section was 40kms to Dalgety and I was hoping to get there for 1.30am ish if everything went according to plan but I knew that I already had 100kms in my legs so anything could happen.

Brad and Toni-Anne went to Dalgety Hall for a sleep and I was left in the very capable hands of Sally Dean, Jodi Hermit and pacer Robin Yates. This was great. I had 3 new friends to chat to and I was looking forward to some night running.

This section is remote farmland with very little light pollution and it had been a beautiful clear sunny day so I knew it would be a good night for star gazing and we were not disappointed. After a few kms running on my own, Robin joined me and the night sky was breathtaking.

A crescent moon with the planet venus hung low in the sky which made the moon look enormous. The milky way seemed to fill with more and more stars when you looked at it and there were shooting stars like bolts of lightning every 15 minutes or so.

I ran well for 10 or 15kms but the sleep monsters (tiredness monsters) were coming for me. I delayed my No Dose (caffeine tablet) for as late as possible and managed to hold out until around 11.30pm. When I took my No Dose caffeine tablet I was able to keep running well for a while and eventually Robin and I arrived at Dalgety Hall checkpoint, a little behind schedule at 3am.

I was weighed and very surprised to find that I was 2.9kms heavier than my start weight but this was probably because I was wearing all my night gear.

I tried to resist the temptation of entering the warmth of Dalgety Hall but it pulled me in like a tractor beam and before I knew it I was inside eating noodles and receiving a massage from ultra running legend and race medic Andy Hewett aka Wippet.

After 15 minutes of refreshments and lots of encouragement from Brado, I was back on my way at 3.15am, crossing Snowy River Bridge.

It was cold. Freezing ! I had seen Kieron suffer here and I was convinced I was going through the same thing. It was encouraging to see my friend Kirrily Dear here looking so strong but I was convinced I wouldn’t feel right again until the sun came up.

My support crew car stopped for me every couple of kms and I felt like my energy was slipping away. I didn’t know if I could make it. My head started doing maths again. I still had almost 100kms to go and most of that was uphill !! … I needed to gain over 2000 metres in altitude and I didn’t know if my body could do it. Brad told me I was still looking good. We walked through the cold of the early morning and eventually around 5am ish the sun came up.

What a beautiful sunrise, incredible. Ok lets run !

I ran the flat and the downhills and eventually made it to the base of a very steep hill. Beloka range, yuck !

8kms up up up ! Even Robin my pacer was tired. Although that could be more to do with the 50kms of running he had done with me already. Congrats on your first ever 50kms Robin !!

At the top of Beloka range we passed a vehicle covered in American flags. It was the American support team. Go America !!!

I met with Brad and he told me that it was around 15kms to Jindabyne. My stops with my support crew were becoming much more frequent by this point so it was a relief that the next major checkpoint in the race was not that far. He said I had to get there before cut off and we agreed to do push a bit harder.

I was eating less and less and couldn’t seem to stomach any food and Brad was increasingly worried about my calorie intake. Half the problem was that my stomach was feeling queezy and I was concerned that if I ate too much it might get worse but I tried to eat as much as I could and bargained with Brad over the number of dates I needed to eat to keep some kind of balance and mitigate the risk of illness.

Onwards to Jindabyne at 182kms !

The sun was well and truly up and it was getting hot. I had to stop a couple of times to jump under some shade. My body was shutting down and I didn’t know what to do. Brad remained positive and was completely convinced that I would finish. I really wasn’t sure.

Eventually I reached Jindabyne where I was greeted by all of my support crew and a couple of familiar faces – Aussie 24hr champ Allison Lilley and Helen, who were both crewing for a Japanese ultra runner.

I was treated like an Emperor at this checkpoint. I was fed hot chips, massaged, put under some shade and generally given the 5 star treatment.

I composed myself, meditated on why I was here and what the point was and decided that this was a massive learning curve that was not supposed to be easy. I had suffered so much but maybe that was what I was here to do. To learn how to suffer and still manage my suffering. I’m sure that sounds crazy but I was surrounded by other athletes that were clearly going through just as much pain but they were still moving forward. I had to learn to just suck it up princess !!

So I did … and Brad and I left after 30 minutes of pampering with a renewed sense of positivity and a feeling that no matter what happens now I WILL FINISH !!

Back out on the road there was a sign that said 38kms to Charlottes Pass. Awesome, I thought. I can do 38kms and then from there it’s only 9kms to the top of Mount Kosci and 9kms back down to the finish. Finally the maths was starting to make sense !!

It was 11.30am, almost midday and the sun was beating down on us. Then the flies came. Flies like to try to get into orifices. Ears, mouth, nose was under full attack. To say this was slightly annoying would be like saying Darth Vader was slightly dark. Arrghh ! … I feel bad for being a vegan that hates flies but who doesn’t hate flies ?? … and why do they love ears so much ?? … Bug Spray, Bug Spray, Bug Spray … they are so persistent … One of my support crew Jodi said they couldn’t be that bad. Jodi, you are accompanying me on this section next year.

We ran a lot of the downhill section to Thredbo River at 189kms and managed to reach it 90 minutes ahead of cut off at 1pm.

Then we started the 10km climb (death march) up to the top. This seemed to last forever but Brad kept me moving and my support crew kept me updated with inspiring messages of encouragement and support from family and friends. Thank the running gods for the internet !!


I also saw running legend Jan Hermann, who passed us going uphill and gave us some incredible encouragement and reassurance. Keep moving he said, if you keep going at this pace you will definitely finish. It was great to hear this from such an experienced athlete and one of my all time heroes. What a legend.

After lots of leg movement (and bowel movement) we eventually made it to 200kms where I had a 15 minute stop before getting back up to press on.

I had locked in the 200km mark and I was so pleased that there was only 40kms left in the race. I had slowed down significantly but I was going to make it and this was an amazing feeling.

Then, a car pulled up.

The support crew said, “There’s bad weather at the top of Mount Kosci so you won’t be able to summit so you’ve only got 22kms to go !”

My heart sank. I felt like everything I had battled for had been snatched from me at the last second. I looked at Brad and didn’t say a word. The car drove on, not realising the gravity of the message they had delivered.

I wanted the full course and chopping the last section off made me feel like I had not completed the full race. Brad reassured me that Paul and Diane would not make a decision like this lightly and the weather at the summit of Mount Kosci must be particularly bad for them to make that decision. He said we should stick to the plan and still keep going for the same time we had decided we would get to Charlottes Pass before the climb.

I was heart broken and angry and a mix of emotions. I felt like quitting there and then. If I finished then it would not be the finish I wanted and if I didn’t finish then would I ever be invited back for another go ?  … probably not. I asked him to give me a few moments and then we talked it through. I was disappointed but this was all part of the sport. When we are set challenges we have to face them. You never know what’s going to happen during a race, the best you can do is be ready for anything. I wasn’t ready for this.

I needed to be a good sportsman. I needed to finish.

Running was out of the question by this point. Whether it was the hills, the heat, lack of calories or the bad news (possibly a combination of all of them), my quads were destroyed and I didn’t have any running in my legs.


I walked with Brado and was quickly joined by my mate Kieron. We let the support crew know we were finishing at Charlottes Pass at 222kms and they all tried to hide their disappointment.

Brad, Kieron and I marched together towards the snowy mountains. When we finally reached the snow my support crew had snowball fights whilst I pressed on. I just wanted this to be done.

I thought about what I would say when I met the Race Directors Paul and Diane at the finish line. Would I be angry that they stopped my going to the summit ??

Then I realised Paul and Diane had made the decision to protect not just me but all my running friends too and it’s far more important to be safe than to run an extra 18kms.

First world problems ! There are much bigger things in the world to worry about than running 18km at a particular time on a particular day.

After a few hours I finished at Charlottes Pass and thanked Paul and Diane for putting my friends welfare first. We drove home and went straight to bed, satisfied that we had given the race everything we had. Team “Just Done It” had done just that. We had gone out and overcome every battle that was put in front of us and conquered 222kms as a team.

I was proud of my team, proud of myself and proud to be a part of an event that puts people first in a world where people often take second or third place to money and numbers.

We drove home slowly and carefully, weaving between Kangaroos and wombats.

When we woke the next day we had breakfast with the other runners and went to the awards ceremony. When my name was called out and I received my akubra hat and pin, I had to pinch myself. I had finally completed a race I thought was impossible and learnt so much in the process.

At 2pm that afternoon, Brad, Toni-Anne, Jodi and I returned to Charlottes Pass to climb Mount Kosci.


We climbed to the top and chatted the whole way. It was one of the most perfect climbs up Mount Kosci I have ever experienced. Perfect weather and incredible views from the top.

We met fellow runners, Marina Rob and Cassie on the mountain and discussed the race from the top of Australia.

I had to pinch myself again to check it was all real.

Thanks to my support crew who looked after me so amazingly well. I owe each of you a back massage at the timing of your choice !

To my fellow C2K runners. Thanks for being so crazy. You make me feel sane 🙂 To Paul and Diane, thanks for putting people before numbers and for creating this crazy beast of a race.

Joe 🙂



The Great North Walk 100s 2013 (GNW100s)


That one word appeared a lot last weekend. In the few days before the race Michael McGrath kept on looking at the weather forecast and saying ‘it’s going to be carnage’. I think he was kind of looking forward to the challenge after last year, which was considered to be an ‘easy’ year because of the slightly gentler weather.

L-R- Adam Connor, Adam Darwin, Rob Mattingly, Martyn Dawson, Rocco Smit, Jennie Sharland Riggs, Aileen Waldron. Only 2 of these people would finish their race....

L-R- Adam Connor, Adam Darwin, Rob Mattingly, Martyn Dawson, Rocco Smit, Jennie Sharland Riggs, Aileen Waldron. Only 2 of these people would finish their race….

He was soooo right. I think the race paid us back in spades this year. We dealt with temps in the high 30’s (possibly 37) and overnight down to about 15 (estimated), and bucketing rain. It was completely bipolar. We started at 6am on the dot, a quiet but excited atmosphere gripping us from Teralba sports ground. We settled into a good rhythm, mostly surrounded by my NRG mates and chatted as we went. I saw Sebastian Warmedam take off, but I knew both Allison Lilley and Kirrily Dear were behind me. This was ok for the moment, but I mustn’t get too far in front because these two are great at pacing themselves. In 2012 Allison arrived at CP1 in nearly 100th place but finished 8th overall, and I knew on a good day Kirrily and I should be close. Sure enough, she came past just as we got past the hugging post climb and I yelled out ‘follow that woman, she knows the way!’

So I was very lucky to be guided through the tricky rainforest section. Had a weird moment here- felt a couple of sharp stings on my calf and thought ‘I’ve been bitten by a snake or something’, when I put my fingers on the spot it was wet. However I was sure the punctures were not deep as I had calf guards on, and nothing bad happened so I carried on. Jennie Sharland-Riggs and Martyn Dawson had taken the lead by then, but as it flattened out I got past them again and after those ridiculous climbs we finally got to checkpoint 1. I filled my bottles, had a coke and some food and took off. Martyn had been injured so I had a quiet word to him- told him that my wife would be at CP2 and would drive him out if he needed to quit. I also told him that the next section was all downhill. That’s what it shows on the map, I didn’t know that this was a filthy lie- there’s plenty of uphill into CP2.

Annabel, Wyatt, Rocco, Michael and Marina

Annabel, Wyatt, Rocco, Michael and Marina

I caught up to Roger Hanney (very interesting guy, you should read his blog) and made some conversation with him. He was polite, but something was obviously on his mind so I left it. Only later did I find out he was having problems with his insulin delivery system, and was understandably worried. He’d done 3x 100km races in that month and was finishing with the GNW 175km. You might have read where I thought about doing something similar but not quite so crazy, and I didn’t make it! Adam Darwin caught me here and it was starting to get hot- where we were exposed the sun was at microwave levels of heat.

We discussed this and agreed that all we had to do was knuckle down, stay slow, and outlast the sunny part of the day. So we settled in for a long hot section. I’m very glad that Adam stayed with me, it was quickly turning into a death march. Along the road into Congewai we started seeing all sorts of people in trouble, many had run out of water. Even Adam ran out about 8km before the checkpoint but he would’t take any from me- although I had plenty. One bright spot here was seeing Jane Trumper– I’d thought she was still in the USA but she came out especially to see us and it was a lovely gesture.

Aileen coming into CP1

Aileen coming into CP1

Coming into Congewai Public School was like entering an Army field hospital. News travels fast- before we entered the grounds we’d been told that both Rob Mattingly and Michael McGrath had been held back for losing too much weight. Rob had lost about 6kg and Michael had lost 6.9kg in only 8 hours. Yep, it was that hot. Another shock was seeing Rocco Smit coming out of the CP as we were coming in. He should have been about 1-1.5 hours ahead by then, but it seems the conditions had gotten him too. I was so glad to have Sarah there- I asked her to apply some sunscreen, ate some dolmades, swigged some soft drink and tried to balance my breathing and get my head right.

Seb at Heaton Gap- from a training run

Seb at Heaton Gap- from a training run

I was sitting right next to a guy who was lying on a stretcher having involuntary spasms. Alex was fascinated as they administered a saline drip. Michael had drunk about 2 litres of Coke and was allowed to leave, so it was myself, Adam Darwin and Michael on the way out to one of the biggest climbs of the day- the dreaded communications tower. With the 3 of us travelling together it was like getting the band back together- we run together quite a bit. Only one person was missing, but we’ll get to him soon.

Kiki climbing up to the hugging post- from a training run

Kiki climbing up to the hugging post- from a training run

Rocco gets weighed at CP2

Rocco gets weighed at CP2

It got worse from there. We met a female runner (could have been Erika Brann) just before heading through a paddock of slightly pissed off looking cows. And they were huge. But no incidents and we soon started the climb. Only to see Nikolay Nikolaev climbing down. He didn’t look too bad, but what we didn’t know is that Antoniya Bachvarova (female winner of the 175km race in 29:04) had already spent 30 minutes with him to make sure he was ok.

Then the carnage went into overdrive. I think I lost count at 4 runners heading back down the hill to pull out at CP2, including some super tough runners that I hold in very high regard. We found Rob Mattingly, our missing musketeer, sitting on a rock about half way up. He joined us for a while and got to within 100m of the summit, but I heard him grunting in pain from cramps. When I arrived at the top, I got a phone call from him saying he was heading back down. I suppose what we forget is that even if you make it to the top, there’s still about 22km of track to make it to the next cp. Erika had taken off, then at various stages Michael, Adam and myself all felt good enough to push on, so we swapped places for a while.

I got a huge boost from putting on some music but of course that couldn’t last. I caught up to Erika in a very technical section and she was very relieved as she hadn’t seen another human for hours. Some time later, wallaby bounded away in the bush and I made the mistake of saying ‘it’s probably a 15 foot long feral pig with rotten, sharp tusks and a taste for human flesh.’ She freaked out just a little. So Erika, if you read this- I’m sorry. I thought it was hilarious at the time, but maybe not.

CP3- The Basin Campground

CP3- The Basin Campground

Michael caught up but was having trouble by this time, I wasn’t very happy but the three of us  came into CP3 together. The vollies here were fantastic- they filled my bottles, got me food and encouraged me as much as you can a grumpy tired old man. It was great to see Lea Marsh, and Diane and Paul Every- next month is their unforgettable race- the Coast to Kosciuszko!

Adam Connor arriving at CP3. Yes it's bloody dark

Adam Connor arriving at CP3. Yes it’s bloody dark

The next section was the only one I had absolutely no experience on. So when Erika and Rocco both asked me to come with them I should have gone. Instead I stayed in the comfy seat and worked on Michael to try to get him to come along for the last bit of the 100km race. To his credit he agreed, but it soon became clear that he wasn’t well. This section includes a big climb out of the basin, and I understood it to be a gentle downhill of fire trail and then road to Yarramalong.

Nope. It’s gentle fire trail, and then that disappears and you have to descend into the bowels of the earth along some difficult single track until you finally hit the road. I’d lost a lot of time here- not being organised to go with Rocco, and then doing a death march with Michael cost a lot of time. This isn’t a criticism of him, he’s helped me more times than I can count, and he was doing it again by showing me the way to Yarramalong. He’s a very tough guy, but was having a very tough day. Jason Wheeler caught up with us just before the road and I left Michael, tried to run up to Jason to offer him some lollies, but he took off and was too fast for me to catch.

I was trying to get some speed up on this section as it is nice flat road, but my body would only cooperate for a few minutes at a time. Soon I noticed that it was 19:35 race time, and if I wanted a sub 20 hour time for the first 100km I’d have to boogie.

Surprisingly I was able to keep up a pretty decent speed and caught Marina Bruin- Smits just before the CP. I asked her to run with me because she looked like she was feeling ok, but I had to push on to get my time. She came in less than a minute after me and got a sub 20 too. nice work.

Rocco makes the 103km finish

Rocco makes the 103km finish

I’d covered that section slightly faster than Adam Darwin, but because of the amount of time I’d spent in cp3 he’d left about half an hour before I got there. Rocco had pulled the plug and gone home after a valiant 103km dash, so it was now up to me to decide whether to pack up my toys and go home, or press on into what it the longest section of the race.

I’d had the great fortune to sit down next to Jess Baker (Roger Hanney’s girlfriend), and she was heavily interested in getting me to carry on. I was disappointed to be 3-4 hours later into the checkpoint than I’d promised Gillian Russell, my pacer. And I wasn’t sure that she’d be ok to keep going until 6pm the next night which was my new expected finishing time. So I looked her in the eye and said ‘if you’re ok to help me- we’re going all the way to Patonga. Are you ok with that?’ She replied yes. I can be such a wanker sometimes.

So we headed out into the night and made pretty rapid progress on the Bumble Hill section. In fact Gillian managed to pick up 3 Strava course records and 6x second places during the next 6.5 hours.

Then it all started falling apart. My mental capacity (which wasn’t great to start) was suffering all sorts of logic problems. No matter which way I split the next 2 sections, I couldn’t figure out how we would beat the cut. I was terrified of getting to the unmanned water stop and seeing a man (or a woman) there. This would mean I was out of the race only 15km from the end. the rain started pelting down and nothing would help my mood. I tried to catch up eating (I was sure I was missing nutrition slots, despite being reminded by Gillian) but nothing worked. Then my throat started to really hurt, it was swollen and pressing up against something painfully.

I told Gillian I was quitting at the next checkpoint. I tried to figure out a way to get scraped off the course from 40 acre farm onwards, but there was no way out except up those stupid bloody climbs. I said a few choice swear words at Keith Hong’s Golden Compass corner, and up we went.

I could hear somebody playing the radio very softly, but of course we were alone in the bush. There was literally nobody around for miles. I wished they’d find some better music. Gillian started telling me about how she’d had to buy the wrong type of potato for her run food. I wondered if there was a right kind of potato, and then perhaps if there was a left kind of potato. Isomeric potatoes, mixed in a racemate. Are potatoes chiral? How would you separate the left and right chiral spuds in a solution? I had 3D models of spuds floating around in my head, trying to figure out how the polar surfaces interacted. Why the f@ck are potatoes so important? Was that a bush turkey?

As we popped out of the bush, I popped the entrails of my crazy thoughts back where they belonged, and tried to act normal for our entry into CP5. Thankfully Sarah was there with Alex and Gillians friend Wayne had arrived to pick her up. It was an easy decision to pull out, I still feel like I made the right choice, although below you’ll see some points for and against.

Massive thanks for Gillian Russell’s help this weekend. She kept her poise when I was hours late, unable to speak and threatening to vomit out my ears. It can be a thankless job being a pacer and she was awesome. And to my wife Sarah for allowing me to give this dream a try, and for turning up when I needed her, even when I wasn’t expecting to see her.

THANK YOU to Jess and Roger Hanney for trying to get me to come with them out of CP5. You guys did an incredible job, it was amazing to watch you come from an almost impossible time behind to finish before the cut. Well done!

Jane Trumper was gutted for me but I couldn’t understand it. It was a classic glass half full argument, with her saying ‘oh no you DNF’d’. And me saying ‘I ran 30% further than I’ve ever done before’. Niether of us is completely right, but I’m comfortable with what I’ve achieved. I MIGHT have made a different decision if I was better informed, but I wasn’t. No time for regrets.

I was fit enough, just too tired and sick to finish. War wounds? A nasty sore from a flying ant bite, friction burn from my pack where I didn’t put it on at CP2 correctly, another bad one from my heart rate strap, 2 along my back from my compression shorts, a few bumps on my legs and a couple of blisters, but overall I survived really well.

If you never do this race, please consider coming down to Patonga on a Sunday afternoon to watch the milers finish. It’s a very special experience- just a small number of people hanging around on a beach giving massive cheers to these incredible athletes who can can run for up to 36 hours. And you’ll see a few grown men cry. This is without doubt the most brutal, and definitely one of the most beautiful races in Australia.

Adam Darwin comes in for a massive finish

Adam Darwin comes in for a massive finish

Adam Connor Checkpoint Times

Checkpoint 1
Arrival time 10:47am
Stage 1 time 4:47
Time in CP 5 minutes
Total Race Time 4:52
Position 116

Checkpoint 2
Arrival time 2:19pm
Stage 2 time 3:56
Time in CP 20 minutes
Total Race Time 9:08
Position 108

Checkpoint 3
Arrival Time 9:16pm
Stage 3 time 5:08
Time in CP 45 minutes
Total Race Time 15:16
Position 64

Checkpoint 4
Arrival Time 1:56am
Stage 4 time 3:55
Time in CP 41 minutes
Total Race Time 19:56
Position 21

Checkpoint 5
Arrival time Just before 9am
Stage 5 time apx 6:30
Total race time 27 hours

Martyn, Allan and Jen at Patonga on Sunday

Martyn, Allan and Jen at Patonga on Sunday

What did I do wrong

– Not knowing the cutoffs. I had no idea I would come close to the cuts so I hadn’t even looked at them. Between CP4-5 this was weighing heavily on my mind and I convinced myself I wouldn’t make the cuts. I was wrong. Roger Hanney arrived at CP4 and CP5 after me but still managed to finish….

– Not knowing approximate running times between checkpoints. I’d had a look at these but not memorised them. I had the arrival times for a 32 and 34 hour finish written in each of my checkpoint bags but had not included anything for 36 hours.

– Not being prepared for a 36 hour finish. I simply couldn’t face the prospect of finishing at 6pm on Sunday.

– Not managing my caffeine intake well. My plan called for not having any coke until CP3 at 80km. I lasted until 29km. If I’d stuck to the plan I may have flamed out earlier, but by going this way I lost the ability to keep myself awake far into the next day. I don’t think this one is controllable, it’s dependant on conditions

– Not waiting until the checkpoint to make the decision. I’d told Gillian (my pacer) that I wasn’t going to make it. So she (quite reasonably) rang her flatmate to come and pick her up. By the time we got into the checkpoint he’d driven the 2 hours to get there and meet us, so I could hardly say ‘er, sorry- we’ll be ready for you in another 9 hours or so’

– related to the above point- I couldn’t add up anymore. I thought it was over 50km to the finish at CP5. If somebody had yelled in my face ‘it’s only 43km you dick’ I would have gotten up and gone. I could have handled another 43km. Possibly

Things that went right

– I don’t want to make too much of this because its a way of measuring success that requires others to fail, but- I’m very pleased I managed to outlast some of the toughest guys and girls in the business. Running slowly sometimes has benefits.

– My body held up really well. I was really keen to get under 20 hours for the first 100km, so I was busting my lungs to get to Yarramalong. I physically could have made it to the end, no massive problems with my legs- I just let the demons get to me.

-Dolmades. I had a tin of these delicious rice wrapped in vine leaves treats in my bag for cp2 and they worked great.

-Eggs. On Friday morning I boiled 3 eggs, left them in the hotel fridge overnight and peeled them, put them in a sandwich bag and ran with them on Saturday morning. I had one during stage 1, and another during stage 2 and discarded the last one at cp2. Easy to eat, not too large as to make me sick, full of protein. Probably full of germs after 8 hours in my backpack at 37 degrees, but they seemed to work well.

-I carried a Garmin e-Trex 30 which was loaded with all of the maps of the course. Did not get lost once. Not even a little bit. Although the instruction manual sucks balls.

What I’m most proud of- being able to pull off a sub 5:30 min/km at the 100km mark. It shows as 98km here but that’s probably because of the corrections applied by software. Yes- the Garmin gave me 102km but a 5:32 min/km for number 100

If you want to know what kind of carnage this race caused, just have a look at the provisional results. I’m putting some of my friends performances down here as a roll call of heroes- every one of them succeeded in making a dent in this most difficult race.

Adam Connor 132km, 27hours retired at CP5
Adam Darwin 175km, 35:30 Finished!
Brendan Davies 132km, 12hr +, retired at CP5
Martyn Dawson 80km 15:22, retired at CP3
Kirrily Dear 80km, 15:52, retired at CP3
Andy DuBois 52km, 8:02, retired at CP2
Geoff Evison 175km, 30:28 Finished!
Jeremy Gordon 52km, 7:41 retired at CP2
Michael Hanavan 132km, 24:54 retired at CP5
Roger Hanney 175km, 35:18 Finished!
Michael Hardie 29km 5:02 retired at CP1
Annabel Hepworth 80km 15:18 retired at CP3
Ray James 103km 21:44 retired at CP4
Lise Lafferty 52-80km 7:09 retired at CP2-3
Allison Lilley 175km 34:02 Finished!
Sarah Jane Marshall 52km 9:56 retired at CP2
Rob Mattingly 52km 7:23 retired at CP2
Michael McGrath 103km 20:14 retired at CP4
Ana Penteado 125-132km 21:08 Retired at CP4-5
Jill Saker 52km 10:33 retired at CP2
Kylie Ann Scott 29km 7:06 retired at CP1
Jennie Sharland Riggs 80km 16:21 retired at CP3
Rocco Smit 103km 19:26 retired at CP4
Sebastian Warmerdam 52km 10:01 retired at CP2
Jason Wheeler 175km 33:27 Finished!

A special mention should go to Aileen Waldron who smashed the 103km race, coming in 15:47- 2nd female and 3rd overall! What an amazing performance!

How tough are these races? Well, a time that wouldn’t even get you a silver buckle at the North Face 100 would have got you a podium here. In the Miler, only two males and one female over 50 years old finished. Out of 114 original entries, only 31 people finished the miler. ‘Nuff said.

*Thanks to Sally Mcilwaine for most of these photos

Poor Mans Comrades 2013- 2nd Attempt

Success at last! Well, sort of- we didn’t start at the Opera House steps where the ‘official’ run begins. Here’s the story-

Kirrily Dear suggested doing this run as a last big hit out before the Great North Walk 100 miler on November 9. So when she suggested the date I said yes without thinking about it too much. I really only wanted to do about 60km and I thought that if there were a few of us I could run to the top of Bobbin Head and back. I’ve been doing a fair few long runs lately and I wanted a decent road run to practise ‘not stopping’. Most of the long runs had been in the bush and I’ve been guilty of stopping for dumb reasons. I really needed to whip my mind into  a new attitude of ‘relentless forward progress’ while not worrying at all about speed.

Kirrily is doing the GNW and has also been accepted into Coast to Kosciuszko– a 240km race along roads in December. So she wanted to practise her all day, all night, all day, etc pace.

Here’s the docs- Poor Mans Comrades

So we started on Friday 18th October at 5am from the corner of Shirley Rd and Pacific Highway in Crows Nest. The pace was nice and easy, a big contrast to last time when I was just outside my comfort zone trying to keep Annabel Hepworth in my sights.

Going up the Pacific Highway was a bit of a shock- noisy and stinky during peak ‘hour’, and Kirrily reminded me that’s why she doesn’t like the big smoke. I’d have to agree. The run down to Bobbin Head was fun, lots of smiling older people on bikes headed back towards us- if  that’s what you get to do when you retire I’d like to retire now please, and after a comfort stop and some food watching the bay wake up, we headed up the hill on the next stage past Kalkari, over the freeway and on to Mt Colah.

The best thing about this section is that there’s a whole bunch of service stations and shops – it’s like having a checkpoint every 500m stocked with cold Coke, chips and pies. Awesome.

We finally got on to the Old Pacific Highway and a few km later got to stop at Pie in The Sky. Unfortunately we were held up here for more than 20 minutes because I had to make a support call, but it gave me the opportunity to snarf down a sausage roll and some Powerade.

From Pie in the Sky it’s a loooong downhill to cross the Hawkesbury River on the old bridge, then a loooong climb out to Mt White. At Mt White we made our last major stop at the Road Warrior Cafe (also known as the Old Road Cafe) and had a brief chat to some guys who were out for a bike ride. We saw lots of people who have nice carbon bikes, but apparently no jobs. It was here that I pulled the pin last time, so from here on I was in new territory. Honestly there was more of the same, roads through bush. We went through Calga and came out at an industrial area near Gosford with about 8km to go. It was here I said goodbye to Kirrily- she had to head elsewhere for a lift home with her boyfriend. I was a little worried- she was wearing tiny shorts and as we said our goodbyes a few local tradesmen nearly had accidents as they drove past. OK they weren’t THAT tiny but I was pretty sure the tradies weren’t looking at me.

Adam nears Gosford

The descent into Gosford was terrifying- it’s a little winding road with barely 2 lanes, no pavement, a cliff on one side and a rock wall on the other. And I happened to be there at 4pm on Friday afternoon when everyone was knocking off work. Sub optimal. But the road finally widened out and I came out back on to the Pacific Highway besides Jax Tyres. I’d truly entered the ‘suffer zone’ by now, and when I looked on the instructions I had 1200m to go! Yay, all I had to do was keep it together for a few more minutes……

But no. It was actually about 4km to the end, so I was a bit grumpy when I finally sat down on the steps to the station. And of course there was no one to tell about my run. So I asked some cops if there was a Subway sandwich shop nearby. They said yes, about 500m away- but I thought nope, I’ll eat anything that’s close. They told me about a noodle place only 50m away. Should have gone to Subway- it was the filthiest place I’ve eaten in for a long time- and I’m generally not a fussy person. Perhaps telling the cops later that they mustn’t have high standards wasn’t smart either, but I escaped without a cavity search.

Oh well, off to the train station where I did manage to tell the people sitting next to me how far I’d run, then a noisy trip home in the train with some teenagers, Coles at St Leonards to buy some random stuff that I didn’t really want then a walk home for a shower  and bed.

Elapsed time was 12 hours 14 minutes 59 seconds for a distance of just over 87km. Well under 12 hours if we remove the tech support calls. I didn’t feel as if I’d over exerted myself, nutrition went well and overall I’m very happy.

Garmin link

As soon as I posted the details, Andy DuBois posted this article. I have no idea if it was just a coincidence or just a not-so-gentle reminder, but I still feel as though doing that run was worthwhile for me. I was back running fairly quickly afterwards, but the reasons I wanted to do it weren’t really about the distance, it was all about consistency. I definitely got a few ‘free’ kilometres that I wouldn’t have chosen to do if I’d been following a strict training plan, but it was a great day, great company and I finally finished a run that I’d previously DNF’d.

but Andy is a great guy who’s probably forgotten more about running than I will ever know, so he’s probably right.

Guest Blog- Fitzroy Falls Fire Trails Marathon 2013 FFFTM

(Adam) I’ve done this race twice, and missed out this year as I couldn’t fit it in the schedule, but you might like to hear from Doug Richardson who placed 17th male this year! It’s a great race, stick it on your planner for next year……..


(Doug) It’s hard to believe that this time last year the FFFTM was my first trail race.  Two marathons (Hobart and 6ft track) since and a failed TNF50 attempt, here I was to face my demons of cramping with the inner quad muscles on race day for these long events (as some of you may know have haunted me in recent times).


The race last year at least gave me positive thoughts as I managed to complete that without the dreaded muscles spasms, maybe it was the cold weather or just being ‘super’ hydrated that time drinking plenty of electrolytes and water during the near two hour drive down to the Southern Highlands.


So I decided to repeat that strategy and keep the fluid intake up again this year and added artillery such as 3 ‘Shotz’ tablets (sodium and magnesium electrolytes that mix with water), many salt tablets and the standard gels (Second Surges) to take throughout the race.  The Rural Fire Service are the beneficiaries of this event and they again put a great effort in with their presence and water stations throughout the race, so I elected to take my palm held water bottle as the sole race hydration carriage thus avoiding the extra weight and restriction of a water pack.


Weather on arrival was clear and certainly crisp but that would not last long as temps of around 25 were expected. Runners were relieved it was not held the next day (Sunday) or a couple of days earlier when temps were in the high 30’s. A quick hello and good luck to Chris Johnson from NRG and I made my way to the starting line, allowing the elite runners like Brendan Davies, Ian Gallagher and Beth Cardelli plenty of space for a clear take off in the rather narrow starting shoot.


At the line I remembered I had forgotten something in the car …another potential remedy for cramps, “pickle juice”. Yes I actually drank this stuff at the Coastal Classic last month at the onset of cramps at 24km and it provided relief although for a short time, as they returned later in that event.  The starting horn went off at 8am so it was too late to worry about that delightful tasting remedy now.


The first couple of kilometres are a little ‘narly’, although on fire trail, you need to watch your footing.  Up until the first 8kms, the gradient is up and down but nothing to difficult and actually includes some coverage on a gravel and then sealed road for about 2km where you will find your fastest km pace for the race. Km’s 5-7 were in the 4:19 and 4:34 pace and I felt very comfortable including the climb up to the 8km mark where the real fire trail began and the downhill section to come.  This next section got technical with some sharp descents and the choice is there to either go leaping down many rocks (John Lewis style) or take the more cautioned option with smaller careful paces, the latter I chose, as I still lack the technical sharp skills of downhill rock running.


At the 10km mark, the downhill ceases for a short while, where you cross a small creek with some minor rock jumping and head back up in elevation before another drop down.  It was at this time I needed  a ‘nature’ stop so I knew I was at least well hydrated !  The first water station was about a further km on so I stopped again and that was where I took my second electrolyte tab (first was in the water bottle at the start).


Next 6km were uphill but with the recent hill training that I have been doing, this climb was actually reasonable and I was able to maintain a good steady pace, overtaking many on the hills that had overtaken me with my recent two stops.


At the 20km mark, the first out and back sections begin.  About 2.2km downhill to a turn around point and then back up hill to the water station that aids the marks of 20km and 24.5km. It was at the 20km point I saw Brendan Davies coming out of the uphill climb in first position looking in control and very comfortable and gave him some encouragement (not that he needed it) as he powered on with Ian Gallagher in close pursuit, so you can gauge how far the leaders are ahead of you – 4.5km already in my case !  Beth Cardelli was clearly leading the women’s race.


I saw Chris Johnson at the 24km mark and gave him a high five and he seemed to be travelling well as he headed down for the out and back section.  After that first out and back you make a right turn into another fire trail for about 3.5km and reach a small hill at the 28km mark where another aid station existed this time with electrolyte drink, fruit, lollies and coke.  Not sure actually why I stopped here at this aid point looking back at my race review (maybe it was the lollies – no jubes Rocco), but you then start a smaller out and back of 1km downhill (60m drop) to a turn around point and then the 1km back uphill to the same aid station.  Some magic views of Kangaroo Valley and the cliff faces can be seen during this section on a bright sunny day like it was as opposed to the mist from last year.


The return aid station was where I was to have my last electrolyte, another salt tablet, gel and some fruit and get set for the next section which I knew for memory was the ‘wall’ with 9km of gradual fire trail climbing in sunny semi-open conditions where the temperatures began to rise.  This section is not particularly scenic and I was beginning to think that I should be cramping about now.  So to help combat any chance of that happening, I began using the leg muscles by running in different stride lengths, lifting the knees up and higher kicks and even opening the stance of the feet so that you look like you are semi-waddling like a duck !  Anything really to avoid the repeat usage of the same muscles through the race and to just provide a different approach.


Definitely the toughest section of the course, but I was beginning to pass a few more people.  I don’t think I was getting any faster (in fact I wasn’t as my splits were in the low 5min/km range), it was more the runners ahead were hitting the wall.  Respiratory I felt great, although it was getting warmer, the heat was bearable and I poured water on my head from the hand held bottle where I could ration (although the number of water stations ahead allowed me to do this).  So feeling good, but my mind was clearly focusing on avoiding cramps so I needed to think of something to distract me and I just started to say to myself it’s just a training run – treat it like an NRG Six Foot Track long away run – no race pressure, just go with it.


Two more water stations passed and I reached a quick downhill section before another smaller 40m climb at the 39km mark.  Feeling okay still, I really wanted to give this hill climb a go so I tried some more powerful strides and then I could just slightly feel the beginning of the dreaded cramps again in the inner quads.  But I played it carefully and decided to walk this hill, stretching the legs considerable whilst I walked up talking to myself that just reach the top and then take off again.  This seemed to help as I felt the initial tightness go away as I was ‘stretch walking’ up that hill.  So I got to the top knowing that some of the runners behind may have caught up a little ground but I now felt comfortable to go a bit harder.


2,400m to go (6 laps of a running track I thought to myself) and I will succeed beating my demons.  Another sharp downhill section and then one final rise up to the finish to go, so I used quicker smaller steps to make sure I killed off any last minute concerns up that last climb.


I crossed the line in 3:39:15 net time and was relieved and elated at the same time if that is possible, (a) because the demons were beaten FINALLY and (b) I had some time goals with splits written on my arm with an ambitious sub 3:40 finish in this event (in fact it the desired goal was 3:39).


I then had a quick chat with Brendan and Ian and congratulated them on 1st and 2nd respectively.  Those guys are superb runners. Brendan asked how I went and I was just chuffed to say I took 11mins off last year’s time.  A look at the final results sheet whilst devouring the free and amazing ‘hamburger with the lot’ put on by the RFS and I was amazed that I snuck into the Top 20 positions.  The drive home was a pleasant one as a result and aided by some post race Endurox R4 chocolate recovery powder with milk (cash for comments there Matt Cherri – ching$ching$), the legs felt good.


Thanks again to the local RFS with their help supporting this race.  It really is a nice event and I will be back again hopefully next year for #3.


Chris Johnson finished with 5:05 but I didn’t get a chance to speak with him afterwards, well done Chris ! Said g’day to Michael McGrath who completed yet another marathon here and snuck into the Top 40.   Other names I noted were Jason Wheeler (aka Gater Bullant) in a superb 3:22, Justine Medin 4:24 and Jess Siegle in 4:31. Apologies If I have missed any other names.


Brendan won the men’s event in 2:58 and Beth in 3:24.


Course profile (elevation chart) included.

FFFTM Course profile

Spiny Cray Ultra 2013

Yes, that's pretty much the entire field

Yes, that’s pretty much the entire field

* Please note that as far as I know, all the photos in this blog post were taken by Kimberly White. She did a great job didn’t she!

I’d had this run on my mind for some time. Not sure why, must have been the name. Basically it’s an out and back along a fire trail up Mt Molloy from Jullatten pub, about 90km from Cairns, and just up the road from the attractively named Abbatoir Swamp Environmental Park.

Nope, I have no idea what is going on here either

Nope, I have no idea what is going on here either

I’m guessing that the driving made the field a bit small- 9 males and 4 females rocked up for the 3rd running of this event. I’m amazed and extremely grateful that the organisers put so much effort into running such a small event- did I mention that I love small events? There were km markers every km on the way up and down, friendly faces at the aid stations, and did I mention the food? Gourmet delights everywhere, I’m just sad I didn’t have more eating time at this race.

How awesome is this checkpoint food?

How awesome is this checkpoint food?

After the race briefing in the first photons of sunlight, we assembled at the start line just outside the Jullatten Highlander Tavern (great spot) and the RD quietly counted down the last 10 seconds, and we were off. We settled into a nice easy pace about 5:44/km and I had a good look at the people in front. The entire race of only 13 entrants made it easy to count the people in front- 6 guys and one female. This meant for a top 5 (male) finish I only had to outlast one of the guys in front. That’s good, because my only talent is outlasting people.

The first 10km is fairly harsh uphill, it’s possible to run some of it, but the primary goal is not to blow up too much, there’s still a long way to go. I managed to catch up to the leading woman Sarah Warren and we had a short chat. She wasn’t feeling very confident, but I could tell she was a classy runner, very consistent and pacing herself nicely. I let her go, and a couple of km later noticed that I was being hunted down by another runner behind. I’d noticed a group of 3 blokes in front and one of them was starting to weaken. I felt I had a good chance at making that one extra place I needed so I stopped a bit and waited for the guy behind to catch up. No point in suffering alone!

Adam & Paul ran together for a few hours

Adam & Paul ran together for a few hours

just enough energy left to wave

just enough energy left to wave

This turned out to be a good move, as my new friend Paul Firth was an Army guy and very interesting to talk to. At about 16km Shawn caught up with us- he was part of a group in front, but had left the tail for a comfort stop and we’d passed him. He then turned around at the 18km mark for a 36km total. This meant that Paul and I had 5th place and would have to fight it out. We encouraged each other to keep moving and generally had a great time up to the 29km turn around point. My father in law (Andrew Campbell) was manning this aid station, so I had a quick chat but tried not to get too comfortable! I restocked my gel, had some Pepsi and dropped a few things I wouldn’t need. I’d previously given Paul the pep talk ‘don’t let me get in front of you on the way down as I won’t give up that 5th place easily’. Me and my big mouth- he put his headphones on and blasted down the hill, making up nearly 20 minutes in the last 29km. Great performance, and he totally deserved that 5th place!

Sarah goes it alone

Sarah goes it alone

My legs had been hurting from the training load from very early on, and it was difficult to take advantage of the lovely downhills. There was a creek crossing at the 22/36km mark and I stopped there to fill up my water- what a huge pleasure it is to be able to drink the water! I can only hope that one day we get cleaner water in Sydney for our runs. On the way down the sun became an issue- we’d gone up in mostly shade with only a few patches of sun, but now it was hot and unrelenting. My headphones that had been around my neck  were only playing on one channel as one bud was so full of sweat. Yum.

I spent the last few hours counting down the k’s and trying to concentrate on keeping good form and turning the legs over as fast as possible without blowing up my heart rate. It became clear that a 6:30 finish was not going to happen (the loose calculation was 3:30 up the hill, 3:00 down the hill) so I relaxed and tried to make progress.

That, my friends, is precisely how much it hurts

That, my friends, is precisely how much it hurts

With 3km to go I started to fall apart, my body not wanting to listen to my brains ‘come on, surely you can run 3000m’ but I held on and finished in 6:47. Pretty much exactly in between my predictions of 6:30-7:00. Placed 7th overall, 6th male and 2nd in my ‘masters’ category. Dear race directors- I’m not sure being over 40 should put you in the masters category, you cheeky (young) bastards.

Feeling very tropical

Feeling very tropical

Our race entry fee included a beer which I gratefully accepted, then I ordered a chicken burger (I love races that finish at a pub) and sat around waiting for Sarah. It was getting hotter, and after her experience at last years Glenbrook Half, I was quite worried about her reaction to the conditions. When we spotted her I went out to run the last 50m with her- that was long enough for her to tell me ‘I never want to do this again’ over and over. I hope her result makes her have second thoughts- her time of 8:47 got her 3rd female and 1st in the masters category.

Female Podium Winners

Female Podium Winners


Sarah & Tennille having way too much fun

Sarah & Tennille having way too much fun

full results here but you’ll have to scroll down.

I want to congratulate all of the hard working organisers and volunteers, this was a small race (for us- there were 2 other distances run and finished while we were on the run) and impeccably managed. The food, the run and the people were all fantastic. Also thanks to MountainSports for providing a couple of entries to the Glow Worm tunnel Marathon– I didn’t score one but you may see me there anyway.

CONVICTtON- The Convict Ton

So Michael McGrath calls me ‘How would you like to do a totally unsupported 100km run along an old convict built road with only 3 water stops? On the hottest day of the season? Oh, and if the furthest water tank is out of water, we’re screwed’

‘ That’s the craziest idea I’ve heard for ages. Let me get my backpack.’

Well it didn’t happen quite like that, but it could have……. Michael is a meticulous planner and when he said he was doing a 100km route that hadn’t yet been done as a race, I was intrigued.

Starting at Wiseman’s Ferry, the Great North Road was built in the 10 years after 1826 and almost immediately fell into disuse as people preferred to travel by river boat. Today it’s a well known mountain bike track, fairly smooth and open in parts, but overgrown and dense single track in others.

I wasn’t feeling very charitable when the alarm went off at 3:40am on Saturday morning, but managed to stay awake and get out side to be picked up at 4:15am for the drive to the start. There were 3 runners, Michael McGrath, Rob Mattingly and myself. Mike was obviously hedging his bets, taking along one mighty fast runner (Rob) and one plodder (me). It worked well, we know each other well enough that there were no problems with ego or understanding each others needs, and I was pretty sure they hadn’t heard quite all of my jokes. There was a lot of smoke around and Michael checked- there was 9 fires within 50km of us, but none likely to be close to our run.

The route

The route

We were aiming for a 6am start, but by 6:08 we’d come off the ferry and started the Garmin. The first 3.5km are along a tarred road along the Hawkesbury River until we get to the entrance of a fire trail and enter Dharug National Park on the Western Commission Track. My only problem was that at 2.7km I’d looked at my Garmin and thought ‘wow, my legs really hurt a lot’. It was only 2 weeks after Trailwalker and I’d done a fairly hard strength session with Andy DuBois on the Wednesday. Knowing that I was with 2 runners better than me didn’t help, so I resigned myself to joining the pain train a little early. Normally I’d expect to feel pretty good for at least the first 20-30km, so 2.7km was pretty ordinary. Sub optimal indeed.

Rob checks out the view

Rob checks out the view

Luckily we all knew it was going to be a long day out, and even Rob who would normally bound up all the hills was playing it sensibly- we walked the hills, kept the heart rate down and stopped to take pictures frequently. We re joined the Great North Road (GNR) at about 15km and 4km further on we got to the first water stop- it’s a barrel with a tap beside the road provided by the Wat Buddha Dhamma Buddhist Monastery there. Thanks! About 400m further we turned off on to Simpsons Track and had another short stop at the Ten Mile Hollow camp ground where there is more fresh water. We then entered the longest stage without access to water (39km). There’s quite a few areas with signs of previous habitation, but it’s mostly just flat areas with different vegetation where the bush is taking back ground. We reached a large open area where Simpsons Track meets Ten Mile Hollow Road, took a pic at the plaque, and carried on up Ten Mile Hollow Road. We also took a short diversion to have a look at ‘Fairview’- and abandoned home in the middle of nowhere. Very cool. This next part included the biggest climbs of the day. As you can imagine an old convict built road has to be reasonably flat to allow for horses, but later roads don’t have quite the same restrictions. Anyway, the views were spectacular.

Plaque at Ten Mile Hollow flat

Plaque at Ten Mile Hollow flat

Eventually we came back to the Great North Road. This would have been my last bail out point- we’d done about 34km, and all I had to do was turn back on to the GNR and home was about 18km away. It’s essentially a 24km out and back from here to make the 100km distance. By now I was getting into the groove and thought I may as well carry on. I mean how bad can it be, right?


The answer came quickly- the road turns rough and gnarly almost immediately. There’s heaps of leaf litter on the track, and as you might think for a road that’s been disused for over 80 years, it couldn’t really be called a ‘road’ any more. For me, this bit was increasingly soul destroying. I knew we would have to come back this way and mentally it was eating away at me. It was much rougher than I’d expected and progress was slow. I knew that we could expect the Mogo camp ground at 58km so I started focussing on that. Our first marathon distance passed in 5:50 which was pretty good considering all the time we had spent sightseeing. With about 15km to go we rounded a ridge and were fully exposed to the sun. Apparently the temps were mid 20’s however by then we were really feeling it. Winter doesn’t prepare you for this! At 51km I got the Dead Man’s Suck. My water ran out. I still had a 750ml bottle of Coke on my front, but I was trying to save that.  Oh well, that plan turned to ‘get fluid on board, worry about caffeine levels later’.

On Western Commission Track

On Western Commission Track

At Circuit Flat Bridge we were originally intending to do another loop to increase distance. However it wasn’t needed and we took the direct route to the camp ground. Michael said ‘it’s 2.2km from here to the campground, you can’t get lost, see you there’. I hadn’t told him about my water situation but it sounded pretty straightforward. Unfortunately 2.9km later I was wandering around the bush, by myself with no fluids, in a blazing hot sun thinking ‘uh oh, this is bad’. Luckily I carried on and found the campground at 3.1km. It was a simple mis remembering- I wasn’t in any real danger, they would have come back to look for me, but I think we all realised we’d have to stay together from then on, and Michael said as much at the camp ground.

The water tank was full of fresh delicious water, and I drank 1.5 litres before lying down on the grass and we all watched the wind move the trees for a while. Michael went to refill his bottle and yelled ‘guys, we have a problem!’ The water was alive with larvae. We’d all drunk some but we had yet to fill our bladders. I’d borrowed a water filter but hadn’t brought it along because of the weight. In true MacGyver style we then filtered about 8 litres of water through a bandanna (unused) into a water container we found onsite, then transferred it into our packs. I applied a Compeed to a developing blister and remarked to Rob ‘gee you’ve been good today- you haven’t turned a nasty shade of green or grey like you usually do’. He didn’t say much and wandered away towards the toilets. On the way there I thought I spotted him stop to have a spew but I wasn’t sure. Unfortunately this wasn’t the last spew of the day.

At this stage we all felt like we’d had a good day, and if we’d had support at this point we probably would have pulled the pin. Conditions were difficult, and weren’t getting better. The camp ground is next to a public road, so here is where we saw the only 3 humans we would see all day. One stopped their car to go to the toilet, and one couple actually talked to us- they were scouting for a place to camp for the night.

With 43km to go, I suggested to Rob that we could wait for a tourist and ask them to take him home, or we could all give up. He said that he’d be ok, and would simply walk back if we had to, and that’s the way it worked out. I need to make something clear here- you might think it’s unwise or dangerous to head back into the bush with an injured runner, but Rob is one of the strongest people I know. If he says he can do something, he can. It wasn’t easy, most of it wasn’t fun, but we got it done. Also- I’m not singling him out for any criticism. It could have been any one of us having issues (in fact 2 weeks earlier it had been me), and this is essential to the story!

Strangely, I was feeling fantastic- my leg soreness was gone, my mental attitude was good and I was raring to go. It never lasts, but was nice to have for a short while. Could have been the stop- we spent more than an hour at Mogo.


3 Amigos at Ten Mile Hollow flat

3 Amigos at Ten Mile Hollow flat

The last 43km was just a death march. We sandwiched Rob between us so he couldn’t drift off the back, and I occasionally tried to get him to talk about races where he had experienced great success, like last years North Face 100. Michael reminded us that he’s won the Dolls Point marathon a few weeks back so I was forced to tell everyone that I’d once won a race that nobody had ever heard of too, but it was an ultra marathon so there. The conversation died out, and the sun descended. At 30km to go I started counting down until the Buddhist water stop. None of us were keen to keep drinking the ‘protein water’ but we had no choice. The bush at night was teeming with bugs. There was spider webs across the trail, beady eyes reflected from our headlamps and innumerable moths attempting suicide in our lights. I got my share of protein straight out of the air as they flew everywhere. At one of our many stops Michael produced some crushed fruit, and magically Rob was able to keep some of it down. In fact both of them took off on the last 2km of downhill heading back to the start. By then I was shattered and wanted to get off the ride.

Total 102km, 19 hours 29 minutes, 2000m of elevation.

We got back to the car, took off some crusty clothes, had a wash in the cold water basin, a quiet beer and headed home. And got lost. To be fair, none of us really had any mental acuity left, but arriving home well over 24 hours after leaving, with the local wildlife signalling imminent dawn I was able to have a real shower and fall face first into bed.

Thank you Michael and Rob for an experience I will treasure. And yes, next time we can definitely go sub 15 hours. Oops, did I say next time?

The 4×100 Relay

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been having a lot of trouble getting excited about running since it’s turned cold. After the North Face 100 I had a brain wave and decided I’d like a new challenge, and that’s when I started working on an event I would call the ‘4×100 Relay’. It consisted of 4x 100km runs, one each weekend for a month. I chose the month of August, and it went  like this-

Week 1- Saturday 3rd August 2013
CONVICTtON- This is a new run devised by Mad Mike (Michael McGrath) along a 50km section of an old convict built road as an out and back. Done as a Fatass/ unsupported run with no support.

Week 2- Saturday 10th August 2013
12 Foot Track– Another Fatass run, another out and back. Yes, it’s ‘only’ about 90km so you’d have to do the City to Surf on Sunday to make up the distance

Week 3- Saturday 17th August 2013
Capital to Coast 100km stage race. This one is 100km over 2 days, so a great ‘warm down’ for the main event which is-

Week 4- Friday 23rd August
Trailwalker Sydney– I did this in 2010 as a walker, and 29.5 hours of walking is pretty difficult. I think it will be much better as a runner!

It didn’t work out- I wanted to use the Poor Mans Comrades as a test, and I failed the test. With 3 weeks recovery after TNF100 I was still feeling it in the legs and realised that it was going to be impossible to do so much running in such a short time. What I’ve only realised today is that I COULD have been a little less ambitious and done 4×100 over 4 months. It would have looked like this

May- The north Face 100
June- Poor Mans Comrades
July- 3 Marathons in 3 Days, Adelaide 12/24 Hour, Kokoda Challenge
August- Trailwalker

So if I’d finished PMC I’d be halfway through my challenge! Oh well. Maybe if we start with Trailwalker we could do something that looks like this-

August- Trailwalker
September- Centennial Park Ultra
October- Hume & Hovell 100/Ned Kelly Chase
November- Great North Walk 100s

I really need to have something to focus on and help me get outside while the weather is chilly, maybe this is it. What about you, will you join me?

UPDATE 9.9.13. I’ve just completed the CONVICTtON (it was rescheduled several times), so we might be on target for ‘Plan B’ after all…….


Kirrily Dear Guest Blog- Big Red Run 2013

(Adam Connor) I’m very pleased that Kirrily Dear has agreed to share her experience at the Big Red Run this year. As the first ever guest blogger she has some interesting things to say, it’s a pity it has taken me so long to post this. She’s done some great writing and I might ask to host some more of it- including her incredible multi day epic out on the GNW. I have to add that I wasn’t really interested in this run until I heard about how much fun it was afterwards! Take it away Kirrily………


A few people have been asking me to write a bit about my experiences so I’ll keep in nice and short and break it into a series of indisputable facts.


3rd female, 7th overall, 33hrs to run 250km and plenty of time spent sight-seeing along the way. Don’t ask me where I managed to pull that from on my first multi-stage race but I felt comfortable and strong for 90% of the way. That last stretch on the 84km long day was a killer as always.

I had absolutely no interest in racing the BRR. I was there to enjoy the experience and take in the scenery. As soon as I got moving on the first day though I knew my body was feeling strong and my brain was in the right space. Each day I just kept getting stronger. I was pain free and didn’t have any sense of fatigue until toward the end of the 3rd marathon on the 3rd day.

Over the last 18 months I have dramatically changed the way I train and it’s really starting to work for me. The change has been fuelled by increasing understanding of what my own body responds to and also watching the large number of elite ultra runners that are now completely sidelined because they have overloaded their bodies with the wrong type of training. I may never be world champion at this sport but I plan to be taking out the 80+ year old age category in a few more years.


So what’s changed? I no longer believe in ‘running through pain’. If there’s pain I get it fixed, early. I no longer believe that you have to be doing ‘the big km’s’. If I regularly go above 80km a week I end up with injuries and training becomes inconsistent. So I am keeping the km’s low and focusing on intensity instead and giving all I can to every training session. I am more exhausted after a session at Crossfit 2036 or Sean Williams Sweat than I was after any of the marathons at BRR and I back up 4 mornings in a row week in, week out supplemented with long runs on the weekend. It provides incredible conditioning and with good condition you can do just about anything.

Finally a wonderful run of this magnitude is only possible with incredible support through the vollies and medical team. They were everywhere and always unerringly positive and helpful. One of the greatest sights in the world was one of those little red checkpoint tents appearing on the horizon, shimmering in the heat haze like a mirage.  I had a minor incident on the long run that could have easily brought the whole game unstuck in such an extreme environment but with their outstanding support I was home safe and well. Thank you!


The Simpson Desert landscape is vast and more diverse than I expected. It is staggeringly beautiful. I don’t have the words to describe the impact it has had on me. I’m a nature nut and have been on a lot of adventures in all corners of the world and the Simpson Desert ranks up there as one of the greatest. It’s a silent, vast beauty. It commands attention through its stillness.

The sand dunes in the ‘channel country’ part of the Simpson all run north-south with wide areas of flat ground in between. They are like waves in an enormous sandy ocean. At any point we were either running parallel to the dunes or crossing them. Running over the dunes was an absolute delight. The climb was one of anticipation, wondering what would be on the other side. Each crest brought with it vast, sweeping views and revealed the next terrain feast laid out on the desert platter for kilometres in front of me. As a dedication to 5 year olds everywhere, it was then essential to hurtle down the dunes as fast as my legs would take me.

Surprisingly around 80% or more of the course was completely flat so the challenge of BRR isn’t so much in climbing dunes but dealing with the technical nature of what is underfoot. Gibber plains, hard clay pan, sand moguls and mud meant constant variation in gait and pace. Tuft grass hid endless burrows ready to snap an ankle should concentration wane. Scratchy “grrr” bush (need to find out the real name one day) lacerated bare legs creating a stinging brew when mixed with sweat and sunscreen. We had rain, cold, wind and intense heat. The desert giving us just a taste of its true potential.

Navigation of the course also demanded attention. Much of the course was cross country with no trails. We ran from one pink ribbon to the next. It was easy to get off course. Every day people returned to camp with stories of unplanned detours and gut wrenching moments of realisation when they discovered they were off track, tired and alone.

The highlights for me? Every day was an incredible adventure although I have noticed there are a few scenes that keep replaying in my head a bit over a week later.

Day 2 – I had just worked my way through a field of sand moguls with burrows, bushes and all manner of challenges. A head wind was blasting whatever slow progress I was making. I was glad to see the pink ribbons cross up and over the sand dune knowing the terrain would likely change. Cresting the dune and the world opened up to a enormous hard clay pan. The red checkpoint tent was a kilometre or two away on the other side and there were people around. I ran like crazy down the side of the dune, the momentum propelling me across the clay pan. At last running at full tilt, it was pure bliss.

Day 3 – Running along the top of big red after the rain. It’s one of the iconic photos that has come out of the week. The sand was an intense red colour and the air fresh. The rain had firmed the sand so it was easier to get some pace.

Day 4 – Sunrise. It was a clear morning and the intensity of the colour is like nothing I have seen before.

Day 5 – Early morning I was running along the top of a dune. The wind was gusting and lizards scurrying. Overhead two wedge tail eagles circled watching my progress. I had a strange feeling that if I didn’t keep moving I would be on a lunch menu.

Day 5 – Crossing the vast moonscape of the gibber plains. I love running on gibber. The rocks are all highly polished from water rushing over them in the wet season and underneath is sand so as you run along the ground looks like it should be hard but it is spongy. I also enjoyed being out in the intense heat on day 5 on the gibber. Strange I know but it felt like a real desert experience. Heat waves distorted the horizon. Dry air sapping any moisture from your mouth.

BRR desert pic

Photo by Damon Roberts – Stellar desert runner

I miss the desert.


I remember when I first met someone who had run 100km and it hit me how casually they talked about such an achievement.  It was much like other folk talk about going for a walk around the block; it happens, it’s nice to be able to do it, but for the regular doer it’s no biggie on life’s list of achievements.


Turns out I’ve become one of those people. A hundred kilometres on foot in a day barely even warrants a post except perhaps to mention you’re home, fed and relatively blister free. Every ultramarathoner knows how much of a privilege it is to do what we do.  It’s not something we take for granted but more that it’s just well…normal.


That’s where BRR was completely different to any other ultramarathon experience.  Many people on that start line were about to face their first marathon and then keep going for another 208kms.  It was an honour to bear witness to their journey.  Each morning it was awe-inspiring to see them overcome the fatigue and mental barriers to get to the start line.  Into the afternoon and sometimes the night we waited and watched the horizon for them to be making their way back to camp.  Each day while their bodies grew tired, their minds grew stronger.  Slowly they chipped away at the challenge and began to believe.  The last person across the line was out on the course 22 hours longer than me.  Close to an entire extra day.  I find the thought staggering.  The persistence and resilience it would take to keep going, the inner strength.


The transition to being an ultramarathoner is a life changing experience.  It redefines the boundaries of your world in the most profound ways.  To be in camp everyday with the true champions and support their journey is a memory I will hold dear forever.



Thanks so much to the BRR organisers, vollies, medics and the massage angels for making the journey possible.

Photo Provided by Big Red Run

Photo Provided by Big Red Run

Big Red Run