Great North Walk 100 Miles 2012 GNW100- Guest Blog- Stephen Bowers

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GNW 100 Mile 2012 (total distance 175.3km, ascent 6130m, descent 6144m). Finishing time 31hrs, 44 mins.

Well here goes, hope this does not make you sick of reading these reports.

When this race first opened, I emailed my entry in within the first 5 minutes I was so keen for my first 100M! The next few months, I slowly came to the realisation that I may have bitten off more than I could chew. I finally concluded that I could not finish the brutal course. My race plan was to take one step at a time and never give up and this was the only way I would find out if I could finish and I did finish!

I ran what I thought was conservatively for the first two stages and did what I love in ultras and talk to the many interesting and diverse people. I talked to Grant Campbell, Lindsay, Gordi (fellow ex Kiwi) and many more. I twisted my ankle down the decline to Congewai Rd and it is funny how ankle sprains can become bearable after a few minutes of running. I did twist that ankle many more times after that, but not as bad.

During stage 3, I ran a lot with Gavin, who helped me through heaps and as he had done the course a few times and prevented me going off track. He finally showed his skill and took off through the jungle section to the Basin and I slowly struggled on with another runner.

The stage to CP4 was pretty uneventful and I came upon Gavin again and passed him (I was very surprised) and then ran to the CP with another Australia based Kiwi bloke who I don’t know his name, but works in Newcastle. On the road to Yarramalong, I had lost all my running ability and was happy to walk in. I was so surprised to get there well under 16 hours.

Todd my pacer and I left CP4 only to go too far up Bumble Hill Rd. This was a sign of things to come as we made quite a few errors on this stage and I got too cold. I came into CP5 completely shattered, I think semi hypothermic as I could not stop shivering. I thought at least I had got further than I had ever run! I put some dry clothes on and still was too cold. My crew reminded me that I could spend another six hours there and still finish the race if I wanted to. I was sceptical, but eventually agreed to lie on a mattress. They then layered four blankets and a duvet on me and I drank some hot soup. I eventually fell asleep. Just after 5am, my body clock woke me up and I think there was some subliminal crew persuasion going on. I put my shoes back on and made a toilet visit and found I could walk fine. I said to my next pacer (Sonia) lets go! I know she was dying to run (my pace wasn’t running though) the stage.
Off we went, at least we didn’t need lights or vest. We caught up with Andy H who was trying to have a sleep on the track, but we woke him up with our chatting. Andy really helped us with navigation and never let us get far ahead. It was a really beautiful run to Mooney Mooney in the early morning.

I had a 20 minute break at CP6 to recharge a bit as I was still not sure if I had recovered properly, once off though I knew I was fine. I soon caught up with Andy H, but Todd (my pacer again on this stage) discovered he omitted to take the compass off Sonia. Rather than risk DQ, he had raced back the 500m to get it. The sun had really come out by then and it got quite warm, especially out of the wind. I had examined the course profile a bit and knew there were three big climbs on this stage and was just determined to take them one at a time. I think we made pretty good progress and I know Andy was keen to catch up to Kirrily and Jane who we thought were not too far up ahead. Todd and I pretty much ran the best pace that I could go, Andy dropped back a few times but never left us.
When we got to the tar road and crossed it, Andy said he could get a pb, but we would have to run all the way in. That was really hard and all through it I thought we had no chance, but we managed it. During that running I had to remind Todd that he was a pacer, not a personal trainer, but he really got us moving. Sprinting down the headland to the beach was really hard and I felt a blister on my left heel burst. Todd pointed out through the trees the girls were on the beach, but not catchable. I was really worried that I would not be able to run the beach finish, but in the end adrenaline had pumped us up so much, we just flew in. It was fantastic to help Andy Hewat reach a pb after so many finishes

The race will really leave me with some memories. My pacers / crew Mark, Todd and Sonia. Know Todd and Mark donated their whole weekend + to my run and I am really grateful. Thank you to all the Vollies, Marshals etc. A special thanks to the medic who taped up my chafing at CP5.

Thanks to Kylie (wife) who had to put up with a lot of “focusing”, well that is what I told her it was.

I am the only person to have to pay rent on a mattress at CP5!

Most of all, thanks to Terrigal Trotters and the race director Dave Byrnes.

Legs now feel really good, I just wish my big toe and the blisters on my heels would stop hurting. I am going for a gentle run tomorrow morning anyway…..

Trail Going

Characteristic 100 Kilometre 100 Mile
Sect
1
Sect
2
Sect
3
Sect
4
Total Sect
5
Sect
6
Sect
7
Total
Trail Going (kilometres)
Sealed
Road
Easy 6.6 3.9 10.5 1.6 2.0 14.1
Moderate 0.2 0.2 2.0 0.8 3.0
Hard 0.0 0.1 0.1
Total 6.8 0.0 0.0 3.9 10.7 3.7 2.8 0.0 17.2
Gravel
Road
Easy 6.4 7.8 8.9 8.1 31.2 5.5 2.0 38.7
Moderate 0.0 1.3 1.3
Hard 0.0 0.0
Total 6.4 7.8 8.9 8.1 31.2 5.5 2.0 1.3 40.0
Fire/
4WD
Trail
Easy 0.4 0.1 4.1 4.5 0.3 1.4 6.2
Moderate 4.3 12.5 3.9 20.6 7.2 0.4 7.2 35.4
Hard 2.4 2.4 2.4
Total 4.6 12.5 6.4 4.1 27.5 7.5 0.4 8.6 44.0
Foot
Track
Easy 1.4 1.4 1.8 2.4 5.5
Moderate 2.0 3.7 2.7 2.2 10.5 2.8 12.6 3.1 29.0
Hard 7.4 11.1 3.8 22.3 7.2 10.0 39.6
Total 10.8 3.7 13.8 6.0 34.3 11.7 12.6 15.5 74.1
Total Distance 28.6 23.9 29.1 22.1 103.7 28.4 17.8 25.4 175.3
Elevation (metres)
Gain 1476 472 1353 492 3793 1134 306 897 6130
Loss
996 837 1238 691 3761 895 551 937 6144

 

You Yangs Hard Core 100 Miles 2015

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Picture recognition- Thanks to George, Sarah Connor, Olivia, and in particular Steve from fstop5 Photography. See more of his pics here

I had a great North Face 100, but training and enthusiasm has been sorely lacking since then. I dislike cold weather almost as much as I like food. End result- feeling very under done and a bit heavy to successfully tackle any race, much less 162km. However I also knew that I needed something to get me out of my slump. I had, however, forgotten how bloody hard a 100 mile race is. Yeah.

So- one massive system shock to go, please waiter…..

Sarah and I met Jane Trumper, Wayne Gregory and Dave Graham at the airport, which was awesome, but things went downhill from there. Our plane was delayed by 3 hours, which meant I had to fill three hours with a bunch of experienced ultra runners. You know what that means- drinking! And the smallest beer size they know is pints……sometime during this carb-fest (well, you can’t have beer without chips…..) Jane had tried to convince me to run with her- for a sub 24 hour time. Um, I realise that sub 24 gets a silver buckle, but trying too hard makes me very uncomfortable. Tired, cold, hungry and spewy. I had been thinking 26-30 hours would be comfortable, but I think I may have agreed to try. Maybe. Allegedly.

IMG_1973

Getting in to Avalon after 8pm meant that I could not get to the shops for supplies before closing time, but luckily I had more than enough stuff scrounged from my ‘discarded shit from other races’ bag to do the first few hours.

We slept at a friends house (thanks Aunty Panda and Alistair!) and rose at 6:15am for a 9am start. That’s remarkably civilised for one of these races. I figured a hangover probably wouldn’t hurt too much if I went slowly enough. And when combined with all of the other pain, I was kind of right.

So let’s have a look at the course. It’s a 20km run with sort of figure 8 shape and 2 aid stations, one at the start/ finish and one at apx 12km. You start by going up a big hill called Flinders Peak, then back down to the start again. From there it’s a couple of km of pleasant single track, opening up to about 4km of wide, flat fire trail. Then you duck on to a mountain bike track for a bit over 2km to the edge of the park and checkpoint 2. Then it’s a 5km loop on fire trail and back to CP2, and about 4.5km of slow meandering uphill mountain bike track to the start/ finish. Each lap is just a smidgen over 20km and 8 loops gives you 161-163km for a genuine 100 miles.

 

Reasons to do this race- much of it is flat open fire trail, it’s fast and there’s no branches to rattle my skull on. Yes, I do run into trees quite a lot, so this is a big plus for me. It’s very pretty in an Aussie plantation bush kind of way. The trial is well marked, the vollies are awesome and it’s quite small. I love small races. Oh, and did I mention it’s flat?

Reasons not to do this race- it’s 100 miles.

The Starters! Thanks to fstop5

The Starters! Thanks to fstop5

Things I forgot to take- race pack, bottle belt, race shirt, I think my subconscious was trying to defeat me before I even got there. I was pretty well prepared, but I hate carrying a hand held and forgot to bring anything to holster a bottle in. I also only had a long sleeved shirt where I had planned to pack a singlet as an under layer and various t shirts and long sleeved tops to layer up for the day/ night etc.

In the end, both of these things worked in my favour- I figured out that I could have a few swigs of perpetuem and heed as I went through an aid station and not carry fluid at all. The longest section without support is 8km from the start/ finish and the cool weather meant I could pre load with 250-500ml of fluid and be fine. This doesn’t work for a lot of people because that much fluid at once will make them sick or cramp, but I’m ok with it. I ended up wearing my brand new race shirt under my long sleeved Glow Worm marathon top- and didn’t need to change at all during the race. It did get pretty cold at times and I either wore a polar fleece over the top or draped it around my shoulders and this kept me mostly comfortable.

Jane leading grumpy

Speaking of cold, I suspect this was the cause of most of the DNF’s as the course is non technical. Stats- 45 entrants, 20x DNF, 25 finishers.

Lap 1- 2 hours 28 minutes
I agreed to at least start out with Jane but I knew that her recent 1200km across Japan and my um, less than stellar preparation would likely see me in the hurt box sooner rather than later. George Mihalakellis is a local and agreed to show us around and it was lovely to have some company and a bit of a chat as we saw the course for the first time. A 24 hour finish means an average of 3 hours for each of 8 laps, so the plan was to do the first lap in not under 2:30. Nailed it, but I was already feeling tight in the solar plexus due to my complete lack of core exercise recently.

Lap 2- 2 hours 40 minutes
By the time I got back after my first lap, my CP bag was full of all the goodies I had asked for- Super Crew Sarah had been to the shops! This is an interesting aspect of the race- if you do a sub 24 hour time, only 3.5 of your 8 laps will be in daylight- the first 3 laps and the last half a lap. We headed out again with me holding up the rear (ooh, er missus) and trying to ignore the increasing pains in my bits below the waist. It was way too early for this crap but I figured the sufferfest was coming ready or not. George began to complain that his back was hurting and he was going to order some pain relief for the next loop. So my eyes bored into the back of his head ‘FFS George don’t tell Princess you’re getting NSAIDS- I don’t want to hear that lecture AGAIN’ and luckily he only wanted paracetamol…..

Dave Graham

I wish I could run like Dave Graham!

Lap 3- 3 hours 0 minutes
George had bounded off in search of a Mexican Yeti and Jane and I settled into a companionable silence. It’s been a while since we’ve run together but I always appreciate a bit of a chat without feeling the need to talk if I’m doing it tough. ‘You’re not hurting too badly yet are you Adam?’ To which I truthfully replied ‘got a bit of plantar fasciitis in the left foot, a spot of ITB tightness in the left knee- the right leg my calf muscle has gone solid making it difficult to extend my leg and my core is very weak. But I can sort of run if I pay attention to my form’

That earned me a look that said it all- ‘I’m sorry I asked!’ At this point we knew there was no alternative but to keep pushing the pace in an attempt to give us more breathing space later, and I was taking my mind off my pain by doing some mental calculations. The results were not encouraging- we really needed to push hard to allow for any drop in pace over the last few laps- although we’d given ourselves 30 minutes breathing space in the first lap, those gains could disappear very quickly if something went wrong. And at the end of the lap Jane said cheerfully ‘only 100km to go!’
Fucking marvellous.

Lap 4- 3 hours 0 minutes
I’d worked out a strategy- the 3km up and down the hill was basically rest because I didn’t have to run, but the hardest bits of the lap were the 5km fire trail, 2km mountain bike path then the 5km loop after CP2. After that it was a gentle 4.5km to the start, but the running was starting to suck. Then I realised that we had a chance of making sub 14 hours for 100km if we kept pushing. Oh well, what’s the worst that could happen? I could tell Jane and she could agree…… and of course she did. I now found that I could run ok if I just kept a steady pace, and when Jane got too far in front I yelled ‘walk!’ and she’d slow down until I caught up. Then we would walk for a minute or two and run again. This gave me plenty of rests and still meant I could meet the required 4:1 running to walking ratio we needed to make our time.

Ice on the hire car windscreen

Ice on the hire car windscreen

Lap 5- 3 hours 3 minutes (100km time 13:56)
I know you’re going to get sick of hearing this, but it was time to dig deep- again. We had 3:07 in hand to go sub 14 for the 100km. Under 14 hours doesn’t mean much to some, but it’s a number I’ve tried (and failed) to beat at the North Face 100. Five years in a row. This year was my closest ever at 14:45. It’s a very different race being 5500m of vert over 100km vs ~3000m over 160km, but it was symbolic for me. And we made it with minutes to spare. We now had a 1 hour buffer for a sub 24 hour time, which was awesome- now we had to deal with the cold and the sleep monsters. Jane needed a caffeine tablet from her bag and I graciously told her to take all the time she wanted after making our sub 14 hour time. I’d started taking on more and more Coca Cola at the aid stations and wishing I could strap on an iPod- but it was against the rules with a threat of instant disqualification. 10 hours to do 60km? Sounds easy……..

Lap 6- 3 hours 14 minutes
‘One more lap like the last one, that’s all we need’ but the strategy of yelling ‘walk!’ and catching up to Jane wasn’t working so well anymore. The problem was my running had slowed down so much that I could no longer rely on a ‘run 4, walk 1’ plan to keep me in the game. And Jane is so strong that she just kept punching out the kms hour after hour. Several times I looked down at my Garmin and she was walking at 7:24 min/km. Yes walking. I was having to run to keep up with a walking midget. Jane was very quiet and I assumed she was enjoying the rush from a No Doz, but it turned out she hadn’t been able to find them and was suffering on her own.

IMG_1988

Lap 7- 3 hours 17 minutes
We’d squandered 14 minutes of our 1 hour buffer in the last lap. Maths said we were ok if we didn’t slow down too much more and I started asking Jane to take off and I would see her at the end. She wouldn’t, but I could see she was still able to make good progress and I felt I was slowing her down. By this stage I was scoffing 4 cups of coke per lap (sorry Brett, it truly is the nectar of the Gods) and trying to hold my running form to stop the pain from hitting too hard. Unfortunately photos show that I’m slumped over like the old man I am. We had (OK I had) slowed down by 10 minutes in the previous lap and needed to stop the bleeding. I felt like I was running well, but as each km clocked over I was seeing more 9’s than 8’s in front of my mobile scorecard. I wasn’t sure what would happen when the sun came up- it could zap the strength out of us or give us a boost. We couldn’t afford to rest on what we’d already done. Last pit stop of the day was planned 10 minutes out, executed quickly and we pushed out for the last lap……..

Lap 8- 3 hours 24 minutes (100 Mile time 23:48)
Our Flinders Peak time was exactly the same as the previous lap, a good sign. We were pretty comfortable with the route now, and going over it for the last time generated the tiniest bit of nostalgia, but not quite enough to cancel the dark thoughts swarming in my head. We could see a deep red slowly expanding on the horizon, and soon I heard the first calls of the early rising magpies. That’s when I heard the first bit of negativity from Jane ‘oh that’s just bloody great’. But I couldn’t figure out what was wrong- I was dealing with my own demons. We got on to the mountain bike path, both of us looking at our watches, but  my brain started telling me to speed up. It was unusual for me to be in front of Jane and she didn’t yell walk!’, and within a few minutes I was almost out of sight.

What to do?Jane had battled on with me for over 22 hours at this stage, dragged my sorry arse into a position I had no reasonable expectation of achieving- but was I outperforming or was she falling off the back? I couldn’t go back and get her, that would take too long. I knew at that point my only real option was to hope she would feel the clock ticking and get a move on. I felt terrible and started mentally composing my abject apologies for the end. Past the aid station and into the 5km loop for the last time. I thought I had plenty of time but I ran, trying to get that buffer up. I saw a 5:48km flash up on the watch- that can’t be right? ……Aaaand all of a sudden I was broken, and Jane was back beside me. I don’t know how she did it, but she had slashed away a pretty significant gap. I made some bumbling apologies and we made another agreement to finish together.

Adam at end of lap 2

There’s not enough truffle oil in the oriecchiette. Or something.

Off in the distance we could see a figure, and without any speech, we both started the slow process of picking another one off. Over the period of nearly a full day we’d gone from almost dead last to a pretty decent position, outlasting the battered bodies we were leaving by the sidelines. It turns out this last person we’d pass was Michelle Shannon who’d started really well, but we had now lapped. Jane pointed out large ice crystals growing in a puddle of dirty water.

Back out of the aid station with only 4.5km to go and I had a sudden urge to hit the toilet. It was not one of those urges that could be ignored for 30-40 minutes, it was an imminent poonami warning- the thunder down under was coming and you’d better make plans or the coming shit storm would engulf your universe. Luckily our path took us right past the best toilets on course, but by then I was looking at the trees somewhat longingly. Jane promised to walk and I should catch up, but by the time my apoocalypse had passed I could not run. Young sky runner had turned into old skywalker, and my race was about counting down the metres until the end.

And about 300m from the end my peace was interrupted by Bernd Meyer going past. I briefly debated going after him but decided that we had probably lapped him too and he was no danger to my position. Yeah, I was wrong. I may have said to Sarah later ‘if that red headed bastard has cost me a top 10 place I’ll be really pissed’ but he hadn’t, he’d pushed me from 15th to 16th and that’s good enough for me. It was a bit disappointing to be separated in the rankings from Jane after such a long day/night/day together but I’m not even sure I could have mustered a little trot to challenge him. If the poonami had held off a few more minutes though…… ah well, shit happens.

Adam finishing v2

It was beautiful and warm in the sun, must have hit nearly 6 degrees! I pulled up a chair and gratefully lowered my bucket of bones into it. At that point I’d have been pretty happy to have the whole bottom half cut off but unfortunately that section also includes my favourite toy. It isn’t much use these days but I like to keep it around because it made all my important decisions for me when I was younger.

My precioooouuuus. This one is going in 'worst race photos of all time. But the medal goes straight to the pool room....

My precioooouuuus. This one is going in ‘worst race photos of all time. But the medal goes straight to the pool room….

I hadn’t hallucinated out on the course much, just the usual human figures that turn into trees when you get close, and things on the ground that speed off at the edge of your eyesight. But I now had  bit of a problem. A group of well, large ladies wearing black tights were standing right near me. I was wearing my clear lens glasses and did not have access to my darker lenses. The sun was VERY bright, and the only place I could safely look was straight into these dark orbiting moons. Now I’m a firm believer that you should be able to wear whatever you like (except males wearing compression shorts with nothing on top, that’s a crime against fashion). I was terrified that one of these women would turn around and say indignantly ‘were you staring at my arse?’

And I’d say something like ‘Sorry, it’s the only thing stopping me from going blind’
Which may not have been well received, and I would have deserved a slap.

So you can see it was imperative to get out immediately. Unfortunately Sarah kept coming back and saying ‘we’ll go soon’ then disappearing to chat to people, like I always do…….

And it was over. I feel pretty confident that if I’d been in good condition the suffer needle wouldn’t have stabbed me so hard, but the fact remains that 100 miles is a very, very long way. I’ve picked up some new, not very interesting injuries so we’ll see how the Great North Walk 100 miler goes in about 7 weeks. Gulp.

Post race breakfast of champions. Or perhaps hungry mid packer

Post race breakfast of champions. Or perhaps hungry mid packer

Massive thanks to Sarah for sticking around virtually the whole time and supporting me, Jane, Blue Dog and Dave Graham- Wifey you are a gem! Thanks to Jane for helping me to achieve something I thought impossible- that’s only about the 100th time you’ve done that! Congratulations to Wayne ‘Blue Dog’ Gregory for making his way back to the long runs- it’s a slow process coming back from injury but I don’t know anyone tougher. Congratulations to Dave Graham who was still smiling at the end despite having a difficult race- and coming THIRD! And big congrats to Jane who worked her way up the field (remember we were just about last on our first lap?) to come FIRST female!

Here is the interim results

And I think these are the final results with 20km splits

The North Face 100 2015 TNF100

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The night before the big race.....

The night before the big race…..

 

Well, I’m not sure what makes me turn up year after year. I know it’s the people, but there’s always the small matter of the trail demons from this race using their sharp teeth to gnaw at my soul. And laughing at me.

If you’ve read the other posts, you’ll know that I was gunning for a sub 14 hour time this year. I won’t keep you in suspense- it didn’t happen, but I got closer than ever. Yes Brian, I now have 5 bronze buckles……

I was unusually well prepared and very zen like at the start, until some bloke walked past and snagged his bladder tube on my gear as he walked past. This pulled off the tube and water went everywhere about 60 seconds before the start. Oh well, it couldn’t get worse…..? Yep, Lise Lafferty walked up and said ‘my bladder is leaking, do you know anyone with a spare?’ Um, they’re starting the 10 second countdown……. ‘Lise you have to run across the start line or you’ll be DQ’d, but come right back and see if anyone can lend you something. My friend Gillian brought all her gear hoping for a run, she should have a spare’

‘What does she look like?’

I survey the thousands of people at the start line and confidently say ‘She’s Scottish’

Apparently Gillian needs a T-Shirt with this on.

….And we’re off! The first few km are on road, and unlike last year everyone is very quiet (maybe because I stated in Wave 4 last year- less serious, more fun!). They’re also a bit faster and show no signs of walking the hills. I hope this does not come back to bite me later, but I know I have a little bit of extra speed so I’m not super concerned. We settled down into a bit of light banter- it didn’t last long as we saw a runner down after the landslide. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was ultra legend Kevin Heaton. He’d torn something important and was obviously in a lot of pain. One thing you must do in an ultra is to offer assistance needed to ensure the safety of those around you. The other thing you should do is get the hell out of the way if others have the situation under control. As the medical director of the UTMB was right there I figured it was time to stop clogging up the trail. He was later taken out by chopper and had scans, an operation and trip home all within a couple of days. He’s a really interesting bloke and won’t be running for a long time but perhaps that will give me a better chance to talk to him if he can’t run. Yes, look for the upside.

At the Golden Stairs I could still hear Adam Darwin and Joe Hedges chatting, but as expected they were getting away from me. I didn’t lose too many places up there, and trotted comfortably into CP1. Race plan said 1:15- 1:24, I got there in 1:22 and grabbed a couple of mandarins, filled my water bottle and got out. Note- when I write target time of 1:15-1:24 I mean that the average time for a sub 14 hour finish was 1:15, and the LAST person to go through that checkpoint and still make sub 14 hours was 1:24.

The next section down Narrowneck is the most pretty part of the course and possibly the best running. I tried to assume a comfortable pace without talking to randoms too much. In every previous year I’ve spent time meeting new people or talking to friends, but this year I had my game face on and probably didn’t speak to more than 5 or 6 randoms. Good job Adam.

The shoes felt great (Hoka Challenger ATRs) and I got to Tarro’s Ladders in pretty good time. There was quite a lot of people here, and lots chose to do the 400m long way around. I chose to have a rest and eat the 2 mandarins I took from CP1, knowing that this was one of the only places I would get rest today. That was my slowest KM of the whole day 17:52 min/km so I was probably stationary for about 5-8 minutes. To put that in perspective- taking Duncans Pass to go around would have taken nearly that long and I got a feed and a rest. Time worth spending. Being in Wave 2 probably would have cut down the time waiting but I think this is the only part of the course that being in a slower wave really impedes your progress- we had a nice, flowing pace across the landslide this year which is the only other place where you can get held up.

Robyn Bruins at Gordon Falls

Robyn Bruins at Gordon Falls

We had a little push across Mt Debert and then down on to the fire trail leading to CP2. I knew that I needed to run as much and as fast as I could along here to eat up some deficit. I wasn’t feeling great but no time to feel sorry for myself, we’d only covered <30km!

In to Dunphys Camp Ground for our second checkpoint at 3:43 race time. My goal was 3:24-3:37 so still no reason to panic, I know I can finish stronger than most people so a quick transition is needed, and don’t get mentally crushed by Iron Pot Ridge!

I filled my bottle, grabbed some watermelon and a couple of snakes then mentally girded my loins for the big climb. It’s actually a series of climbs that seem to get steeper until you hit the big wall of dirt and rock. It’s a delicate balance for me- I’m not good at going up these steep hills, but I am getting better slowly. Just before the race I asked Andy DuBois if I should stay out of heart rate zone 5 and he replied with a very big yes…. so I looked at my watch and saw I was up to 5.4. Bugger, didn’t feel too bad and pushed on. Unfortunately by the time I got to the flattish bit at the top I needed to rest before I could run again….. in retrospect I suspect this was the point at which my race turned.

The out and back along Iron Pot is a great way to see how you’re going against your mates- there will always be a surprise or two in front AND behind. This year I was surprised by Adam Darwin (he should have been further in front) and Tanya Carroll (she has been beating me a lot lately and should not have been behind), but I was able to see that I was doing pretty well, and possibly still in with a chance of sub 14 if nothing went wrong! The descent off Iron Pot is always tricky but I figured it would be easier this year because it had rained recently. Well, the talcum powder dust was a little thicker, and in the last 5 years the trail has become more defined, but I can’t say I flew down there! Crossed a few creeks, handed out a few salt tablets and caught up with Mal, Paul Garske and Bruce Craven on Megalong Rd. As soon as this flattened out I took off the handbrake, clocking a sub 5min/km (OK, it says 5:01 on Strava) and going through the marked 50km point in 6:22 race time. I felt great until the stile to get into the paddock to approach the Six Foot Track checkpoint. Yes, my legs locked up in cramps but I told Kurt Topper to hustle on ahead as we were ‘about 20 minutes off our 14 hour target’.

Richard Bettles at Gordon Falls

Richard Bettles at Gordon Falls

Into CP3 in 5:51 against a target of 5:24-5:40, so I’d lost another 8 minutes against the average time. My goal was slipping away, but I also knew that CP4-5 was likely to be 10-15 minutes faster this year. I need to keep the pressure up to CP5 because anything could happen!

CP3 is the first where you get access to a checkpoint bag, and I guzzled down the 600ml Coke I had stashed in there, oh it was sooo good! In previous years CP3 had been relaxed, but this time it was swap and fill bottles and get the hell out. I knew that I needed to do the next section in about 1:40 to make the average time, but I was already 30 minutes behind so a quick section might restore some confidence.

Unfortunately it was not to be- drinking that Coke all at once gave me some minor stomach problems, and I couldn’t run the bits I needed to. Kurt Topper played it nice and steady and started getting away from me. Up Nellie’s Glen I was pleased that I didn’t have to stop more than once (this has been a problem for me for years) and it was great to see legend Natalie Watson at the top of the stairs, but I couldn’t talk! I just couldn’t put it together running the technical bits afterwards. Luckily there is a bit of road into CP4 and I came in feeling fairly good, but knowing that the big test was about to start.

Arrival at Katoomba Aquatic Centre in 7:36 meant that I was drifting farther from the 7:05-7:21 times I needed but as mentioned before, I felt there might be a chance to make up some time to CP5. If I’d taken the full set of figures provided by Ian Rowe I would have seen that I was heading for a >15 hour finish. Lucky I didn’t!

I didn’t bother having any noodles here as is my habit, I was getting all the nutrition I needed from Perpetuem. Not wanting to make the same mistake again, I stashed the Coke bottle from my bag into my pack to sip on while running. Rob Mattingly was stuck to a chair at CP4, it probably made him miserable to see me get past him here- we both know he’s a much better runner than me, but if it’s any consolation I didn’t take any pleasure out of it either! The next section is a bastard- on the elevation profile it looks relatively flat and perhaps runnable. In reality it’s a constant grind of up and down stairs, closed in single track and mud puddles. It’s very difficult to get any flow, more so for me as I am quite tall. But this was my chance!

Or maybe not. I passed and was passed by quite a few people on this section and just couldn’t make it happen. Recurring cramps were making me over cautious- pretty difficult to fully commit to a step when you don’t know if your leg will get stuck motionless in the air before it hits ground. I’d had a single Panadol tablet (yeah I know) at about the halfway mark to see what would happen, and it did make my legs hurt a tiny bit less, but did not help the cramps at all. For the amount of stress the experiment caused, probably not worth it. I was just begging to hit the road and get to CP5 and a runner said to me ‘will we get to CP5 in day light?’

Chantelle Farrelly at Gordon Falls

Chantelle Farrelly at Gordon Falls

I said no because we had yet to go past Wentworth Falls and up Rocket Point Track and it was close to 5pm. Sunset was officially 5:06pm so we’d probably have to use our head torches before CP5.

We finally hit Rocket Point track and got up to the road, where a marshall was waiting to tell us to put on out hi-vis vests and get out our torches. The marshall was kind enough to help me with this so I was ready at the same time as Michael Hanavan and we trotted off together down to Queen Victoria Hospital.

Last year I had needed my head torch shortly after Gordon Falls on this section so I was deeply impressed to get as far as Queen Vic without needing to turn the torch on! Arrival time of 11:07 race time was still way behind my goal of 10:32-10:53, but wow, what a journey! Only 22km to go, 8.5km of that roughly downhill, but I knew that getting under 4 hours for this section would be tough. Remember according to those stats, the last person to do sub 14 arrived in 10:53. Which means the fastest time I could get would be about 3:10, and I’m not very fast at all. Bugger.

Gordi totally rocking the pink Skirt Sports- Thanks Natalie Watson!

Gordi totally rocking the pink Skirt Sports- Thanks Natalie Watson!

It was here at CP5 that one very odd thing happened. Michael Hanavan had left the CP and I filled my bottle and was about to leave when a marshall called out ‘have you got your fleece?’ I replied that we only had to carry it if it was after 7:30pm as per the rules but he insisted I had to take it. So I went back, got my bag and took it with me. I should point out that it was before 6pm! And the only reason I even had access to a fleece is because I had put one in CP4 bag and one in CP5.

I caught up to Michael and we began the downhill run to Jamison Creek. I was very grateful of the company but there wasn’t much conversation beyond ‘I’m stopping for a wee, I’ll catch up’ and ‘it hurts to pee’ so I’ll leave the rest of that out….. by this stage every single step felt like my quads wanted to burst out of my skin. They were revolting and not in an interesting way. My feet were really good though- the combination of 2Toms lubricant powder, Injinji socks and Hokas was wonderful. I still had bashed up my little toes a bit but that’s mainly because I hadn’t wanted to stop to re do my shoelaces tighter. I might try that heel lock lacing system in future.

Once we hit the hills I knew I had to push on otherwise I’d go over 15 hours, and I didn’t want to waste all my effort. Surprisingly I was able to go up hills ok, at only the slight cost of nausea. I felt bad about leaving Michael as he’s always been so nice but I’d expect him to leave me in the same circumstances. I got to pass two people- correction- one person- the other one slightly lengthened his stride and nearly broke me! Yes I’d caught up to ‘Tall Geoff’ Evison. I didn’t have any energy left for speaking and luckily he had earplugs in so we walked uphill in companionable silence for a while.

Of course I’d been doing maths in my head for hours trying to make sure I wouldn’t miss a major time target, but at one stage I lifted my watch up and was about to make a comment on our pace and Geoff said ‘I don’t want to know’, so the watch went down again. I was going to say that we were good for sub 15 hours but as long as I knew that was good enough. We pushed through the old Sewerage works with Geoff leading and once or twice he had me take point- he wasn’t going to allow me to latch on like a zombie as I do….

Ngaire at CP3

Ngaire at CP3

I was watching my Garmin like a hawk to see how far I could get in 14 hours. The answer turned out to be ‘within 3km of the finish’. Wow. I briefly pushed on ahead of Geoff and a couple of minutes later clipped small rock and went arse over tit. Of course both legs went into spasm and I felt very sorry for myself to get so far without an accident then BAM! Geoff came around the corner and said ‘get up, I’m not leaving you on the ground’ I tried to protest ‘just leave me here, I’ll be fine’ but to his credit he helped me up, bloody knees, blood dripping out of hand and wounded pride. You’re a solid gold legend Geoff Evison!

We walked again for a little bit, me encouraging Geoff to leave me, even while a couple of people snuck past, and then we hit the base of Furber Stairs. Time to suck up the pain and make those legs work again. In the absence of legs that would extend, I opted for full body contact on the stairs. A couple of people got past, but I used my arms to push and wobbled my core to get some upwards action happening. A couple of minutes later I heard Robert Rigg behind me say ‘I did/ didn’t think I’d catch up with you again’. I can’t remember exactly what he said because I was deep in the hurt locker. I’d completely lost the power of speech and the only non physical activity I had going on was counting stairs. There’s 933 stairs here (976 if you count the down stairs as well) and I count them in lots of 100 to keep from going mad. Sorry Rob, I had nothing…….

Not sure if I managed to acknowledge David Brown and Clare Northrop at the top of the stairs, but I spied Geoff who seemed to have slowed down so I caught up and we crossed the line together in 14:45:07. 21 Minutes from the base of Furber seems ok.

That’s a 45 minute PB for me (2013 was 15:28 and 2014 was 16:28) and I’m a very happy man.

Brad Smithers,  Sally Dean at the finish

Brad Smithers, Sally Dean at the finish

So, what could I have done better? Well a sub 14 would have required a 100% perfect race and a bit of divine intervention. I reckon I had about a 98% perfect race, and Divine is unfortunately dead. The fall at ~98km definitely cost me about 5 minutes, and I suspect the cramps are worth 15 minutes. I probably can’t completely get rid of cramps but I suspect that if I train harder they may not be so bad. I felt perfectly well hydrated all day but my wee was a bit darker than normal later in the day. There really wasn’t anything wrong, but I didn’t feel 100%. This is pretty common for me in hard races and I can usually get away with ignoring it. Getting into Wave 2 would potentially gain me a couple of minutes at Tarro’s Ladders. I had pretty bad nausea this year, it’s always present in a long race where you go hard, but this year it was a bit worse than usual. Not enough to make me chunder, but enough to be uncomfortable. Again it’s possible that training harder will mitigate this a bit. Laser hair removal- I decided to take one for theta but didn’t do this early enough and it started to grow back a bit before the race. I may have it done again so I don’t have to worry about chafing in races, but boys be warned- it’s like being stabbed repeatedly in the scrotum with a red hot knife. Yes, I once had a girlfriend who would have enjoyed that. Actually most of my exes would probably enjoy that.
So I’ve still got about 30 minutes of other gains to get under 14 hours, but a big fact has been unveiled- it IS possible!

So in summary
Don’t fall over
Train harder
Get in Wave 2
Train harder
Don’t be soft
Train harder

Yeah, that sounds about right.

Getting my bloody knees seen to- still clutching some mandarins that I had carried for 43km and had fallen on. Thanks for your sacrifice mandis!

Getting my bloody knees seen to- still clutching some mandarins that I had carried for 43km and had fallen on. Thanks for your sacrifice mandis!

I still have to follow up an issue with my lungs. it’s possible that if I get that fixed I’ll be ok. Quick fixes, who knows?

 

What went right? My nutrition was just about perfect. I had bottles of Perp and muesli bars in CP bags along with Coke and Powerade. This meant that the only thing I had to do was fill the Perp bottle with water and (I think) my CP transitions were super quick. Apart from drinking too much Coke at CP3 I don’t think I could improve this.
Feet- also great. probably should have stopped to tighten laces before CP4-5 as certainty of foot placement would help here but I reckon 8-9/10.
Weather- couldn’t have been better. I got hot for a few minutes then the clouds came back- awesome!
Clothing- double singlet, arm warmers, merino gloves, buff, Patagonia shorts, gaiters all went really well.
Shoes- the Hoke Clifton and Challenge ATR’s have a very flimsy inner sole that can shoot out the back when you run. I bought some Selleys Quick Grip Spray Adhesive and sprayed the inner soles before inserting into the shoe. Worked like magic.

Another slightly odd thing- at a couple of the checkpoints I went to where the bags were kept and they couldn’t find my bag. This was because it was already out and on a table for me. I’m not sure if they did this for everybody or even how they knew I was coming in but it was a bit confusing and slightly annoying. It’s obviously aimed at getting people though faster but I got a bit confused. Probably only cost 10-15 seconds but I’m not sure if this was covered in the race briefing- does anyone know what happened with this?

Finally a special thank you to those who made it possible- my long suffering wife who managed to leave the event 5 minutes before I crossed the finish line- I STILL think you’re awesome!

And to super coach Andy DuBois- you really know how to get an old man moving. I’ve gone from about 85km a week of training last year and going backwards (I was an hour slower in 2014 vs 2013) to a much more achievable volume- around 65km a week- just more closely aligned to the race. Yep, nearly 2 hours off last years time. I still think I’ll have to do a lot more but you really proved that race specific training works.This one’s for you- BOOM!

*Thanks to Doug Richardson and Sam Rossington who I think supplied most of these stolen photos.

 

 

North Face 100 Race Plan 2015

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I’m not sure if I’ve done one of these before but it is definitely needed this year, as I have an aggressive target that will be difficult to achieve without a plan. Hell, it will be difficult WITH a plan!

Currently I’d rate my chances at about 20% of making sub 14 hours but I’ll give it my best. I still can’t go up hills like normal people but my confidence has improved recently because  I’ve been hitting a few pace goals and my hill sessions are getting better. The other big thing is that until last year I had never done sub 14 hours for 100km in any race but last year I did it twice and both times as part of a much longer run- at the Sri Chinmoy 24 hour and during Coast to Kosci. So now I know I can do it, I just have to slot in 5500m of vert as well…… um.

Because of course changes, the only year I have reliable data for is last year. In 2014 I had a LOT of problems- I forgot my Ventolin, forgot my sunglasses, missed my start wave, my shoes were too loose (lost 3-4 toenails) and I suffered from cramping for about 70km. So my 16:28 finish wasn’t too bad, but keep in mind when you read the following, that I did have a bad year. And if you read it and think ‘this guy has no chance, we’ll be waiting for him the following morning’ you might be right, but a girl’s gotta dream, right?

Here goes. Note, all of the time figures mentioned here are from the spreadsheet compiled by Ian Rowe from the Noosa Ultra and Triathletes (NUTR’s) linked here. Thanks Ian!

North Face Splits for 14-16 hour finishes

North Face Splits for 14-16 hour finishes

Start 6:30am (wave 3)
The first 4.5km is along the road and is intended to spread everyone out before we head into the bush. This year for the first time the rules say that your result will be based on gun time rather than net time. I’m not sure why this change has been made but it does mean that there will be a lot of insane people elbowing others aside at the start line. For a 14 hour finish the stats say I need to be at CP1 in 1:15. My time last year was 1:25 which means I need to be 1min/km faster, but I’m not going to stress about this because I do tend to pick up a bit when others get tired. The fastest here was 1:08 and slowest 1:24 so as long as I’m a bit faster than last year I’m still in with a chance.

Goal-
Split time 1:15
Race time 1:15
time of day 7:45am

CP1 to CP2
Last year I was 2:33 over this section, but in 2013 (my fastest ever year) this was slightly further into the race and I did 2:41. This year I will need to do 2:08. The spread here is getting much more consistent, times of 2:07- 2:12 predominate.

Goal-
Split time 2:08
Race time 3:24
time of day 9:54am

CP2- CP3
This will be a critical section for me as it includes Ironpot Ridge. Coach Andy DuBois emailed me last year and noted I could do ’20 minutes better’ in this section. This was before he was coaching me. I think he’s right!
The goal here is to get to the Ironpot turnaround in 34 minutes (3:58 race time) for a total time on the section of 2 hours flat. I’ve done 2:27 (2014) and 2:38 (2013), time to put my big girl pants on!

Goal-
Split time 2:00
Race time 5:24
time of day 11:54am

CP3-CP4
This section is only 11km, but if you can’t run, you will suffer terribly time-wise. The stats say you need to do this section in 1:35, my best is 1:49 (both 2014 and 2013). Although this seems like a monumental task, I was actually able to go up Nellie’s Glen without stopping for the first time recently. If I can keep my pace up on the flat, not stop up the stairs and have a gentle jog to the CP I’ve got a good chance of getting this time.

Goal-
Split time 1:35 + 6 minutes at CP3
Race time 7:05
time of day 1:35pm

CP4-CP5
Probably the toughest section of the race, it’s a brutal set of ascent/ descent which never seems to get anywhere. But I’ve been training stairs a lot this year and hope to bring back some of the time I lost last year to cramps. Because of course changes the only year I have stats for is last year when I did 3:52. The spreadsheet say I will need to do 3:16 this year. Gulp. But it IS possible. Sunset is 5:06pm on race day so you most likely will not have to use your head torch to get to Queen Vic hospital. Nice.

Goal-
Split time 3:16 + 10 minutes at CP4
Race time 10:32
time of day 5:00pm

CP5- Finish
Last years time to get to Leura Forest was 2:50, this year I need to make that 2:22. I felt good at CP5 last year but as soon as I left the CP I was unable to run, even downhill. With a bit of luck I can do it this year.
From Leura Forest to finish is 4.7km and the target is 55 minutes. Last year was 1:13 and I was feeling very sorry for myself. A good part of that time is going up the Furber Stairs. Speaking to Tim Lyndon yesterday I found that he was able to go up these in less than 10 minutes, but it takes a normal person 15-25 minutes!

Goal- to Leura Forest
Split time 2:22 + 11 minutes at CP5
Race time 13:05
time of day 7:35pm

Goal-
Split time 55 minutes
Race time 14:00
time of day 8:30pm

Now- the only way I can give myself some breathing space if running behind is to do the checkpoints quickly. I know I can do this- last year CP3 was 2:06, CP5 was under 4 minutes and CP4 was still under average at 9 minutes (even though I stopped to have 2 lots of noodles and couldn’t untangle my headlamp). If I simply stuck to the same times I would be 11 minutes in front of the average 14 hour runner. Now I just need to find another 80 minutes! Let me put it this way- I’m pretty sure I am on track for a PB finish. A half hour under my PB of 15:28 would not be surprising. Getting those extras to go under 14 hours is going to be the fight of my life, but let’s see if I can do it!

North Face 100 Nutrition Plan & Drop Bags 2015

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

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

What is Provided at Checkpoints?

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

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

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

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

To Eat While Running Checkpoint 2 to Checkpoint 3- 15km, total 46km
Eat a Growling Dog bar while exiting CP2 before the climb up Ironpot Ridge
2x Muesli bars
Sip Perpetuem
1-2 salt tablets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Contents of Checkpoint Bags

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

And I’ll need to pack the following

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

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

extra mandatory gear if required

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

Discussion
Where it says ‘Drink 500ml Endura’ that is about 3x 150ml cups. I can usually drink that much at once without bad effects, you may find otherwise. The instructions to eat more up Nellie’s and along Federal Pass are because these have been where I’ve had low points, and more food usually helps. The Growling Dog bars are hard to eat, and need to be cut into squares and put into a sandwich bag in prep. I also quite like the James Magnusson Missile bars from Body Science, but these also need to be cut up.Unfortunately I’ve given up on Perpetuem solids, I just can’t eat them- they stick to my teeth!

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

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

I often finish races with enough spare food to go another 80km so this year I’ll be trying to go light as I have a very aggressive target!

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

North Face 100 Tips 2015

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2015- there isn’t much on this that needs updating, but new stuff will be marked
2015 update

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

Serfas Portal Sunglasses

Serfas Portal Sunglasses

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

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

Adam CP4 Bag

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015 update– CP4-5 is probably the most difficult section of the new course. Now that the Giant Staircase is out of the way, it’s still going to be a struggle to leave that nice warm stadium. Beware the chair!

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

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

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

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

Once again- MAKE A PLAN BEFORE YOU HIT THE CHECKPOINT!

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

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

Walk the hills- you need to run/ walk at well below your threshold. If you’re gunning for a sub 14 hour time I can’t help you because I’ve never done it! I will be attempting it this year, so let’s see how that goes…….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

North Face 100 Non Mandatory gear 2015

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

Here’s a list of a few things I’ll be carrying in the 2015 version of The North Face 100 Australia. They’re not on the mandatory gear list, but don’t make life hard for yourself- if it will make your race easier, take it! Warning- I’m going for a sharp time this year, so I’m planning to go super light. This might not suit you, there is a lot of comfort to be had by taking extra gear. I’ll be lining up for my 5th crack at this race, but for my first time I took loads of extras and it made things easier. Horses for (100km) courses!

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

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

Garmin 920XT

 

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

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

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

Injinji Trail 2.0

 

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

original_CW

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

BSc calf guards

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Gloves- for me, something like these is ideal, they have a mesh back so my hands don’t get too sweaty but they give some protection. Yes I know they’re ugly.
2015 update– I’ll probably just use a pair of running gloves as specified in the mandatory equipment. It seems a bit dumb to carry 2 pairs of gloves, so although the weightlifting gloves are better for grabbing rusty stair railings, they are going in the dustbin of history.

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

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

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

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

 

North Face 100 Mandatory Gear 2015

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This is basically a copy/ paste of my 2014 entry with updates as required. Please let me know if you spot any errors, it was done in a hurry…….

The major changes have been noted as 2015 update, I’ve also included a bunch of photos from Northside Runners. As you all probably know they’ve been very good to me and are big supporters of ultra running in general. Go and see them or one of the other local shops for your gear and keep that essential local knowledge available!

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

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

 

I’ve seen a lot of discussion on various sites about the mandatory gear for TNF100, so I thought I’d share a few insights I gained over the last 4 years of doing this race in the hope that it will help some other competitors. Following is a list of the gear taken directly from the event website with my own explanations and links etc. It will be updated if the gear list changes, or if someone provides an interesting view that we should share here. Description of the mandatory item from the official document in italics, my explanation below-

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

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

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

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

Salomon Bonatti Jacket

Salomon Bonatti Jacket

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

Salomon Sense Flyweight Jacket

This is probably the item that causes the most discussion. You should get a good one, as there is a lot of weight to be saved here. My Mont jacket weighs 450g, the Salomon Sense Flyweight is apx 120g. Race Director Tom Landon Smith has flagged that in future he wants to enforce a stricter international standard for ‘waterproofness’, but that has not happened this year. It must have a hood AND actually fit you. Yes, people have tried to get through check in with child sized items to save weight. Don’t do it. I can confirm that the lightest jacket that meets the spec is the Salomon Sense Flyweight Jacket at 120g. These are now hard to get (it seems Pace Athletic may be out of stock) but Northside Runners may still have your size. I recommend going up to the Montane Minimus which weighs 208g or the Salomon Bonatti at 210g. Why? Because the Minimus contains Pertex fabric which is much more breathable- and this will likely be the absolute minimum spec sometime in the future. I’m sure the Minimus will probably last longer too! In 2011 I used a Mont jacket (different brand) which weighs about 450g, so you can save a lot of weight here.

homer-hats-beanies-red

1 x beanie, balaclava or buff

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

Salomon Running Gloves

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

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

Safety vests

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

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

unboxed

Petzl Nao v1

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 x whistle

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

1 x emergency space blanket, light bivvy sack or equivalent

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

bandage

This image lifted straight from the TNF100 website…..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015 update– I ran last year with 2 bottles in the front pockets and a 2 litre bladder in the back. I didn’t need the bladder at all so this year I will be using 2x 600ml Powerade bottles in front (they have a big mouth for filling and a great closure with nice high flow) and I’ll make up the rest of the 2l requirement either with collapsible flasks or more Powerade bottles. These weigh 31g each (could I get it down to 30g if I remove the labels?). Technically I could carry 2 of these and 2 Salomon Soft Flasks and meet the requirements at only 120g.  That’s a big saving over the bladder + tube + 2x bottles I carried last year. That makes up for the increased weight of my phone!
Weight: 122g

Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast of Champions

2 x bars / food portions

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

1 x Ziploc bag for your personal rubbish

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

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

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

Sea_to_Summit_TPU_Map_Case__jpg_508x300_q85

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salomon Bonatti Waterproof Pants

Salomon Bonatti Waterproof Pants

1 x long leg waterproof pants

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

North Face Fleece

North Face Fleece

1 x 100-weight long sleeve synthetic fleece top

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don't forget the Bodyglide!

Don’t forget the Bodyglide!

Recommended items via TNF website:

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

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

Buffalo Stampede 75km 2015

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Warning- discussion about failure, and no actual answers.
So this was the Buffalo Stampede……

 

What’s the worst ever excuse for pulling out of a race? Well, you’re about to read it-

‘I didn’t finish because I didn’t want to’

So there you go. I wasn’t injured, there was no blood pouring out of me, I wasn’t vomiting or crapping everywhere. I was happy, felt good, had loads of energy and was beginning to make gains on some of the people in front. So why quit?

I was scared of the climbs on the way back.

I completed the entire course up to the 43km mark (I believe this is the entire marathon course) and the other 30km are just back to the start. Unfortunately that means crossing some fairly large hills and 2 utterly ridiculous ascents and descents. I don’t really mind hills, I accept that they are part of our sport, but my lizard brain started yelling at me quite early in this race that it wouldn’t support me if I wanted to do those hills in the dark. Let me describe these hills for you- when you look down and you think
‘if I lose my footing, I have no idea how far down I will land’.

Yeah, like that.

at the start Martyn Adam Tanya Jennie

When this bubbled into my conscious brain it went like this-

‘I can’t see any training benefit from another 30km of hills where you are going to fuck your legs up and turn your little toes black. They aren’t going to recover before North Face and you’ll be sorry’

‘there’s 2 inches of soft powder under every vertical step on the way back. If you were skiing this would be a good thing. Since you are meant to be running it’s actually going to be part comedy and part life threatening’

‘you had a couple of 20-24 min/km on the way out- you’re going to have worse on the way back in the dark. For what?’

aaaand so on…..

Ultra-Stampede-Profile

So I pulled out. I still think it was the right thing to do, but the critical question has to be this-

‘did it help or hinder my chances of a sub 14 hour finish at the North Face 100?’

We’ll never know for sure, and I had a huge amount of angst when seeing my mates finish, get their medals and celebrate, but right now I feel strong and ready to take on the world. I doubt my recovery from 75km would be as good.

So I’ll dust myself off and get back in the saddle. My compliance with the training program has been pretty average lately, and a DNF has actual helped in a couple of ways

1. I recognise that I could have finished Buffalo. There was no physical reason for me to quit, so by consciously giving that up I’m now more determined to do well at TNF. My goal is still unlikely, but possible. I’ll take those odds

2. I only have 3-4 weeks of training left. I need to make them count. Taking this week off for recovery would have been a disaster

3. Stupidly I wanted to prove to everyone that I was being strategic and not a complete softie. I felt like running back to Bright, running to the next checkpoint, running anywhere- but I have a huge task ahead. If it costs me a medal or some respect from my mates I don’t care. I never said I was tough, in fact I frequently say the exact opposite!

4. I still needed to pause a few times up some of those climbs. I frequently saw my heart rate in the 4.4 to 4.9 zone. But the best thing is that on the 3rd major climb from Eurobin to Chalet I did not get passed by anyone! Even better was the fact I passed a few people in the last couple of km after Mackies lookout. Very pleased about this because I have been a poor climber, but it shows the work I am doing with Andy is definitely working.

5. This was my first race using Hammer Perpetuem. It worked really well and I just have to figure out how thick I can make it for future races.

Adam & Alex finishing

Running back down to Eurobin would have been nice. it’s only about 10km and has some really nice single track. Then it would have been fine to go 9 ish km back to Buckland- but then I would have been only 15km from the finish and pride would have demanded I carry on. Massive congratulations to an amazing number of friends who actually went the distance, and a special mention to Martyn Dawson who did 2 out of 3 days of the grand slam (nutbag) and Matt Grills who also did the third day and won it!

I saw Andy DuBois during the run and decided not to tell him about pulling out. It wouldn’t be fair to affect his race to discuss a DNF. I’m a big boy, he’s not my Mum and I have to accept the consequences of my own decisions. He certainly paid a price on the weekend and I hope he recovers well.

I had a chat with Marcus Warner afterwards and he said ‘running an event like this is the only way we can get our local runners qualified to run similar races in Europe’

Which makes a lot of sense and Marcus in conjunction with Mountain Sports (Sean and Mel) have put together an amazing weekend for runners. I’d absolutely love to come back, but not so sure about the Ultra! Maybe if it was further from TNF, or if I make sub 14 this year I can probably just go for it next year……..

*Thanks to Petzl for the entry, Northside Runners for the support, Andy DuBois for getting me this far, and my wife for organising some fabulous family time. Photos by Sarah Connor

Six Foot Track 2015

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Wave 3 start

The story starts back in October when we start training for this epic race. Actually for me it started in about July 2014 when I first asked the run hosts from last year if they would host again for the coming training season- thankfully most were happy to do it which made my job much easier! I missed a whole heap of training runs at the start because I was training for, and then recovering from my attempt at Coast to Kosci. This made my comeback to running extra hard- I’d just ticked off my last running bucket list item and had no desire to run another step. Ever.

But I’d entered Six Foot in December and if I didn’t want to be picked off the course in a foetal position I’d have to move my rapidly expanding bottom.

The training runs that I did get to were heaps of fun as usual, but I realised that being a barge-arse had cost me dearly- Martyn Dawson was back from injury, had stepped up to run with the fast middies and was leaving me to eat dust. That’s great because I don’t like to have it easy, but he had improved so much it was astounding. I spent the last couple of months wondering if I could ever catch up……

Race day I was feeling strong- I’d written down some goal times for various sections and knew that the rest was up to the race gods. Saturday dawned while we were all milling around at the start- that’s the thing about Six Foot Track- you consider not doing the race, but you know all of your mates will be there. Total FOMO. I got to say hello to dozens of running friends while I was looking for coffee and freezing my nuts off. There had been some mix up with wave allocations and a bunch of faster people got pushed up, while I lost my place in Wave 3 and was pushed back to Wave 4. That’s completely cool because I don’t like being hunted down- much better to be the hunter.

When the gun finally went off we’d been in the second row and had a bit of a race to the stairs. It was 10 degrees at the start so it took a while to warm up but once running it was perfect conditions. I got down to Cox’s River in 1:36:48 which was right on target. Crossing the river was the last time I saw Martyn- this probably means I ran too fast to the river however I had a ball on that section! Stuffing some food in I started the big climb up to Mini Mini Saddle. I felt much happier going up here than previous years, Andy Dubois training really helped. In fact last year I lost 100 places between Cox’s and Pluvi, this year I gained 24 places, running 1:32:24!

YHA before start

Running along Black Range was exactly as painful as it always is. Very difficult to keep moving when you just want to rest, but again my training helped. Being able to push through the pain means you can make much more progress than if you allow the pain to slow you down. Yes I know this is obvious but there’s an astounding difference between just moving and pushing on…… I started feeling sorry for myself but tried to consume more food to change my outlook. Hey, whatever works right? I breathed a sigh of relief at Deviation camp ground which quickly became a huge grin as the NRG crew let out a massive shout. Thank you to those amazing people who gave up their weekend just to cheer- it made huge difference and I loved it!

With only 11km to go it was time to go hard. Andy had said to me ‘don’t go too fast down to the river’ which of course I had intended to do, but being sensible is HARD. I also took his comment to mean ‘when you get to the top, make it HURT’ so at least I had that covered. I’d somehow gotten past Petra Erby on Pluvi and Col Woodliffe along Black Range (thanks for the chat ladies!). Then John Doughty just before the road crossing. Unfortunately as always happens in Six Foot Track my legs decided to ping cramp warnings as we crossed the road and I knew that the undulations would make the last few km a bit uncertain. I slowed down a bit, sped up a bit and tried to manage it as best I could. All to no avail- with under 2km to go I was screaming in pain as the cramps hit like a train. I’ll agree it must have looked quite comical to see me rubbing my inside leg and screaming ‘come on!’ but I couldn’t see the humour at the time.

All 3 of those NRG’ers got past me while I was incapacitated but they ran well and deserved to do well. If I’d been a bit smarter and had salt tablets earlier I may have bypassed the cramps but hey that’s racing.

As I came on to the concrete path to the finish chute I realised I was going to be a few seconds over 5:20 so I ran with no regard to cramping and screaming at people to get out of the way- Garmin elapsed time 5:20:05. Bugger.

Luckily I had taken a while to get over the line at the start and my net time was officially 5:19:49 and a 20 minute pb.

So did I have enough to match Martyn? Not a hope in hell, he had a 40 minute pb and came in at 5:08, what a blinding run- congratulations!

Martyn Dawson

There were lots of pb’s that day- I suspect the weather had a lot to do with it. Female course record fell to Hanny Allston, and amongst NRG there were an embarrassing number of great times

David Madden 50 minute pb

Leigh Reynolds 1 hour pb

I absolutely loved hanging around afterwards and chatting to my mates, it’s an epic race in every way.

 

*all photos by Pippa Bradbrook