I’m not the last word in experts on this race but having crewed twice and raced once, I’ve been there for 3 out of the 10 years the race has existed.
This year many of my mates have scored a start for their first time, so I’m keen to pass on some of the hints I’ve been privileged to get from others.
Firstly, you need to download and read this document about crewing by Diane Weaver. It really does have the best information you can get about the race from a crewing angle. All I’m going to do here is fill out a couple of other things that I think are important for crews. None of this is official, just my opinion. Disregard at will!
- Your runner needs to arrange accomodation ASAP or you will miss out on getting a ground floor room at Lake Jindabyne. Imagine trying to get upstairs after running 240km? Actually there is video of me doing just that last year. Not pretty.
- You should travel to Eden on Wednesday before the race. Plenty of options, but I like staying at the Sapphire Sun caravan park. This gives you a whole day (Thursday) to get ready, fill the car up, arrange stuff and relax before the race.
- You should not travel home on the Sunday after the race. Hang around the Lake Jindabyne Hotel, sleep and eat (party just a little?) with us on Sunday night. Travel back on Monday, work on Tuesday. Maybe.
- An ideal crew number is 3. After the 100km mark you can have 1 person pacing, one sleeping and one driving. With 2 you’re going to have some very tired crew!
- Can you get a storage unit for the top of the car? Once the race starts you can stuff all of your crap in there that you don’t need for your runner
- It’s traditional for all crew to join their runner for the 18km round trip from Charlotte Pass to the top and back. But you can’t go up without a bunch of mandatory gear- it’s listed in Diane’s doc above. Get all of this together before the start of the race, put it in a bag, and know where it is. You’ll be tired when you need it.
- It’s traditional for your runner to supply running shirts for the crew- I hope to see some cool designs out there!
- Get a marine cooler to store stuff in. Having ice after 3 days on the road is brilliant.
- Get a box of water bottles- yes I know it’s not very green, but if you freeze some, the space they take can be made useful. And you can crush the bottles afterwards. Also bulk water for making sports drink etc.
- Garbage bags
- Bring a bikini. Yes, even you Mr Hairy Nuts. The day before the race there is a 7km run for the crew called Cossie to Coast. OK a swimming costume will do instead of a bikini. But a girl can dream.
There you go- nothing earth shattering here but I hope it helps. I will update this if anything else comes to mind. This advice is in addition to the usual things you’ll need like food, a sharp knife, deodorant, blankets, chairs and a crew member who is very good at organisation. Knowing where something is located is just as important as having it onboard! Oh, and a camera- don’t forget a decent camera!
For more reading, here’s a basic search. It includes a couple of guest reports from Kirrily Dear and Joe Ward, as well as my own experience crewing and running. Sometimes little things make a big difference- for me it was cherry tomatoes- those amazing little bubbles of fruit took away a lot of the flavour fatigue from the sweet things I was eating. Also here is Jane’s report from 2013.
The Loop UTMB 2015
Rather than start from the beginning, I want to start from a place where it almost ended.
I was in a public rest room just outside the check point of Courmayeur, throwing my own pity party. My legs felt like they were shot, my chaffing was cringe worthy and it was 28 degrees and climbing; not the ideal state when one still has 93km to go.
It didn’t start off that badly. I had arrived in Chamonix on Wednesday afternoon with the start being on Friday night. My strategy was to make the jet lag work in my favour; I was going to be awake at night and sleepy during the day. For those that don’t know, Chamonix is in the foothills on the French side of Mount Blanc. Everywhere you look there are great vistas of the Alps, and every view is a postcard. The tough thing about being in a new place is that you want to explore, but walking around endlessly would ruin my 6 months of training, so I basically stayed at the hotel only going out for food and registration. One observation when I got to registration was that everyone nibbling on a baguette, perfect carb option I think I went through 3!
The race starts at 6pm, forcing the elites to go through one night section. I had strategically taken Stilnox to knock me out till about noon on race day. I left the hotel about 5:30pm and started to walk to the start. The town was buzzing! People notice your bib and yell “Allez! Allez!” with passion, for today I was a rockstar.
Getting near the start line I found a patch of grass and sat down in the shade and only got up when I heard the countdown. It’s hard to describe the start, but the streets are lined with 6+ people deep. The announcer gives words of encouragement, some along the lines of “Once the body gives up, the mind takes over. When the mind gives up the heart gets you to the end”, (which I quite liked)…… You hear the theme music in the back ground (Vangeelis Conquest of Paradise), which still gives me goose bumps, then the gun goes off and you basically walk the first kilometer till you are able to get a slow gait happening. Even after 3k’s there are still people lining the path cheering you on.
Basically the whole course can be described as: go up a hill, go down a hill, go up a hill, go down a hill, then run some flat area………..just kidding…..there are no flat areas, you go up another hill and repeat!
La Houches is where things start to get pretty messy. You start climbing up a ski hill, basically 800m of elevation in 4km, (this was a baby compared to those that followed). I pulled out my sissy sticks, put my head down and started the climb. The thing that really surprised me is that the hill was lined with supporters all ringing cowbells; reminding me of the scenes of the Tour de France. I understand the race is a big deal for these small towns, as the UTMB gets more popular so do these small towns.
The encouragement was appreciated and before long I had made the pass of Le Delevret. One down, seven to go! (Croix Bonhomme, Col De Seigne, Col Des Pyramides Calcaires (new this year), Arete Du Mont-Favre, Grand col Ferret, La Glete, Catonge and the monster Tete ux vents).
So far the trail was a mixture of single track and fire trail with nothing too technical. Being not the most coordinated of runners this was a good thing. The trail up to Croix Bonhomme was more or less a test of strength: one foot in front of the other repeat until you reach the top. Soon enough I had made the second summit and began the decent, this time the decent was very technical and steep. Many runners that I had passed coming up the hill were overtaking me on the way down. A general observation about European runners is that they are great at descending tough technical trail even when they have ran 120km. The tough single trail decent gave way to an easy fire trail and I was able to make up the places I lost. As I came into Champax-Lac, spirits were high as I was running well and had an overall feeling of well-being.
A little note about the checkpoints: They are filled with water, coke and a drink similar to tailwind (called Overstrim). The food is a mixture of salami, cheese, and crusty breads. I found them extremely easy to navigate and the volunteers were extremely helpful provided you were polite.
I stayed away from salami and cheese but in hindsight I possibly should of given them a go. There was also a clear distinction of which country you were in, based on the types of cheese, salami, and bread. For what it’s worth, I had the best time in Switzerland’s checkpoints. They were so pumped to see you and nothing was too much trouble for them.
The climb to Col Seigne was epic. A fair amount steeper than the previous climbs and for the first time I noticed the altitude. I was becoming short of breath when above 2000 meters. The chit chat among runners was fairly scarce, however I did come across an American runner who I exchanged a little banter with and who had some great advice for running at altitude: sharp short breaths in. This seemed to help a little, as I was able to maintain a good pace up the climb. Once reaching the top, the next point is only about 500 meters away; you can almost reach out and touch it. However you have to descend about 400 meters, and then climb about 450 meters to reach Col Des Pyramides Calcaires, which is a new section of the course. This section was not friendly and the most technical of the course. It was to take about 2 hours for around four km, it didn’t really feel slow but that is about a kilometer every 30 minutes!
This peak was the second highest (about 2550m), and the toll of the race was starting to show. It was about 5:30 in the morning and I saw numerous people asleep on rocks at the top. When I asked if they were ok, they said they were just going to take a nap for 20 minutes and continue to run. But I guess the truth was, their race was done. The next decent was where things started to come unstuck. On unstable and rocky trail, basically I had to navigate this terrain on all fours. What’s worst was that my calves were starting to cramp and I decided not to take gels – WTF? (I knew this was bad but for some reason my brain said don’t take any more gels – I still question why my brain said “No”).
The only blessing on the decent was that the sun was rising and I had survived my first night! The trail into Courmayeur was pretty much the same one epic accent and some brutal down hill segments. My condition continued to deteriorate; I had stopped taking gels, I was cramping and I had developed some nasty chafing in my nether regions. To make matters worst the temperature was climbing. Being a ginger, I tend to think of the sun as the devil, and anything over 25 degrees means I basically stop, find some shade, some beer and pass out. But I still had 93 km to go and for the first time I thought that I wasn’t going to finish. I still went into the checkpoint with the best intentions: go through my drop bag, get what I needed, and get rid of what I don’t and get out of that checkpoint. Courmayeur had everything though: beer, pasta, soup an array of snacks and just 2 male toilets for 2000 male runners. The queues were massive and although it wouldn’t have bothered me so much, except that I had to make some adjustments……….. But I will say a little nudity is ok in ultras.
Out of the Courmayeur checkpoint and into the frying pan, it had risen to 28 degrees and it was still climbing. I took refuge in a public toilet barely 500m out of the checkpoint. It was time to make the call to tell my wife that my race was over. When she answered, she was full of praise and letting me know how well I was doing. But I was broken, and I was only 90 minutes above cut off and I was falling apart.
Everyone should have Leah as a ‘phone a friend option’ in an Ultra. She is specialized in the craft of having an answer to every excuse known and also (a little unnerving) she said I was “skirt” if I didn’t continue. Ouch! With that I gathered what was left of my soul and started the climb to Refuge Bertone. Before you get to the nasty part of the climb you get to walk through the public square of Courmayeur, where I kid-you-not some guy announces your name and what seems to be the whole town gives you cheer. I remember the announcer said “It’s Russell and he’s all the way from Australia, Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!” He expected a retort with “Oi Oi Oi”, but I just kept my head down and thought that he could go screw himself, (gives you an idea about how low I was at this point of the race).
On the way to the base of the climb I saw people turning back, hopes and dreams were being killed off with the 30 degree heat and a relentless gradient of the climb. When things were at their toughest, a little sign of encouragement came in the form of a gentle cold breeze, which gave me hope of making it to the next checkpoint. I thought to myself, I would just go on until I didn’t make a cut off. (I could live with that excuse.) The cramping had gone as soon as I got onto stable ground and the only thing that was slowing me down was the pain from the chaffing, which I was maintaining through applying ultra glide every hour (advice from Leah on the other side of the world). Randomly the night before the start I had spoken to a guy that had been timed out at the last check point, he told me it was devastating for him but I kind of liked the way he was back to give it another shot this year.
The next 75km were purely about putting one foot in front of the other. I still hiked the hills and shuffled along the down hills and flats, (coach Andy would be proud). Highlights included the climb to highest peak at Grant Col Ferret where I had a really pure feeling of just existing.
The massage I had at Champex-Lac……. I popped my head in the medical tent and asked for some deep-heat, next thing you know I’m horizontal on a massage table with 3 physio’s working on my legs, two on my quads and one on my calves. I really did enjoy the Swiss side of the race.
By about 9:30am I had survived my second night and made it to Vallorcine, the checkpoint before the last climb to summit Tete aux vents. When you get to the tent, it kind of looked like a treatment facility for Zombies. The run had made our skin flake, various cuts and bruises having had a chance to weep and swell, and the sleep deprivation had completed the look. The cure was easy either finish or pull out. Strangely though, this checkpoint is where a lot of people pull outWith only 21km to go, you are so close – why would you pull out?!
For the first time in 24 hours I thought I could finish. I got out of the checkpoint and started the walk to the foothill of the climb to Tete Aux Vents. It soon dawned on me the reason why people pull out at Vallorcine: they know what is to come. I remember reading a race report from Anton Krupicka and even he said that the climb was pretty messed up. On this climb you don’t count stairs, you count switchbacks. It’s also completely exposed so one is forced to do battle with the elements. Climbing these monsters one learns there is a certain etiquette to the climb. You try to tag on to a group and hope that they are going slightly slower than your pace. Groups form and disappear throughout the climb; you do your best to drag along people who are suffering. At this part of the race there is a kinship between the runners where not a word is exchanged but only a passing glance or a slight hand movement to let people know to overtake you.
Up till this point I had been pretty good on the climbs. I would find and maintain a good rhythm, but for this climb however I decided to make myself hurt. I flew up the first 10 switchbacks only to realize that I had made an epic schoolboy error and blown up. The climb should of taken me 1 hour, instead it took me 3. I would try to cling on to groups but I would always fall behind and before I knew it I had 10 runners behind me wanting to pass. Throughout the run I was constantly trying to repress thoughts of finishing and try to stay in the moment. You have never finished this race until you’ve crossed the line in Chamonix. The last check point La Flegere you can see Chamonix below, only 7km to go with 800 meters of decent on technical terrain – oh so close!
I shuffled my way down and lost a couple of places on this section as once again my downhill technical skills were being shown up. I did see a girl roll her ankle badly on this section; she got up instantly and didn’t cry, didn’t yell out in pain but just continued to throw her body down the mountain. Acts of courage were the norm on this section and I really hoped she finished.
With about 3km to go the path begins to line with people and the great thing is, these people worship you! Yelling praise, offering you food and water; one girl even offered to carry my bag! She was hot and French and sadly, I had to politely decline. The sacrifices we make!
1km to go and all I could do was call Leah to let her know that we had made it. I really mean that, had it not been for that ruthless pep talk on the phone from Australia 28 hours ago, I would not be on the streets of Chamonix approaching the end. My mind turned to how I would celebrate crossing the line. I looked at my poles and remembered the song that was tormenting me for the whole run: Y M C A. Pretty sure I could turn these poles into larger than usual letters? Awesome, I would become a Youtube sensation! However, I got to about 10 meters till the end where it is six deep and people are cheering you on. All I could think about was what a privilege it was to be able to participate in such an event and how lucky I was to be there. All I ended up doing was bowing and I’m happy I finished it that way. I crossed the finish line met the announcer; for those who know him from the net cast, yes he really does look like he is on speed! I shook the hand of the runner who finished behind me, grabbed a beer (free for finishers) and sat on the same patch of grass I had sat on 45 hours ago and just enjoyed the moment.
For those of you even remotely interested in this run, it is a must. Get the points and go into the lottery. Just make it happen! One of the hardest and most satisfying things I have ever done.
What I learnt and what worked for me:
I had 3 naps: 10, 20 and 15 minutes at Arnuva, Champex-Lac and Trient. Without these naps I wouldn’t have finished. When you start talking to living wooden sculptures, you knew it was time to take a nap.
Maintenance of the body
I think I could of run a 40 hour-ish time had I not got chaffing. My cramping was unfortunate but was overcome with a change in terrain. Once you are running for 12 plus hours its time to lube up again. Just do it, even if you don’t think you need it, this mistake almost cost me my race. Also, look after your feet and legs as much as you can. Be careful with compression, I wore compression Injinji socks, it almost been a month and I still don’t’ have all my feeling in my big toes.
I used it sparingly and only when I was broken. It was like having an escape route every time I got in a bad situation.
For the first time I had used painkillers in a race but it really helped manage the pain from the chaffing. I’m not a big fan of taking painkillers as part of me thinks it is cheating, but under the circumstances I did what I had to do and I don’t regret the decision.
Although I never did this during the race, get used to eating bread, salami and cheese, which was at every check point. This would help break the monotony of taking gels ever hour. Make sure you indulge in the soups and pasta, custom made for the run. I remember have a Bolognese at La Fouly and feeling like superman afterwards.
Coach Andy at Mile 27. The training gives you every chance to finish the run. I would also recommend paying a little extra and getting the strength exercises as well to help run more efficiently.
Kicks: INOV-255 rocklites
Socks: Injinji Compression
Shorts : Speedo Board shorts over skins
T Shirt: Nike Dry knit
Sun Glasses: Julbo Powel
Hat: The Northface Sun-visor from finishing the 2013 100km
See you on the trails!
GNW Race Report
I thought it might be therapeutic to write down my learnings from the GNW miler on the weekend. Perhaps it will stop me from rocking in a corner in a foetal position for the next 12 months. Which surprises me, because yesterday I was REALLY REALLY HAPPY with my first ever choice to DNF a race, at the 132km checkpoint. I secretly congratulated myself for making the best bloody decision I have ever made in my entire life.
What a difference a day makes
Indulge me as I summarise the 25hrs leading up to my decision to pull out.
Nervous, started cautiously, enjoying running with friends, getting hot, bit hotter, really hot, SO DAMN HOT, I HATE THE HEAT! WHY DID I ENTER THIS HOT RACE!! HOW DID PEOPLE EVER DO THIS RACE WHEN IT WAS IN NOVEMBER AND IT WAS EVEN HOTTER!!!! Head spins, nausea, vomiting (on constant rotation), got a bit disorientated and tried to go back down what I thought were the Basin stairs, met Kirrily who turned me round again. Got mobile reception – woo hoo! Rang my pacer Leah to tell her she would have a much better time staying in Sydney and watching TV, rather than drive all this way – oh and I could also stop at the 100km mark like those other more sensible people. Devastated that she didn’t seem to be listening – she said my story would have to be a lot better than that to convince her. So work on my story I did. I worked on it for the next friggin 12 hours.
I will say the lows were interrupted by amazing support at Checkpoints where heavenly creatures put ice packs on your neck, poured you Coke, salted your potatoes, asked you questions to check that you weren’t as delirious as you appeared, and gave hugs – I didn’t want to ever leave.
Somehow I made it to Yarramalong (also the 100k finish line) where with Leah and Russell’s help I carried on. After turning onto the track at Cherry Lane I had really had enough. I tried everything to persuade Leah to go back to the road. But no-one in Yarramalong has phone reception so who would pick us up? What sort of place is this!! Dumb ass town. Who came up with this GNW course anyway? I thought about setting off my personal locator beacon without telling Leah but decided it would be a bit (OK a lot) frivolous. Leah worked her magic and got me over the hump and with the cooler night air I was feeling much better. Our spirits were boosted by seeing Marty, Jen, Ross and Justine and we loped along together.
Got to Somersby not long after the sun had come up. I said in a very calm and sensible voice that I was keen to pull out, but that I would follow advice I had given to others and first lay down to nap and decide if that was the right thing to do. Ha-ha I fooled them – I’m never going to carry on, I just need a final few minutes to work on my story. 30 mins of snoozing and scheming. So up I got, confirmed that I was going to pull out, everyone argued, I ignored them, THE END.
Key learnings from this simultaneously sublime and torturous experience:
- If you are going to do a race, have an absolute water tight reason for doing it – one that is going to pass the test when you are at your lowest possible point. My reason for doing GNW was to get points towards UTMB. The trouble was I knew once I had passed through Yarramalong that I already had secured 3 points, so I could no longer see the value of getting one extra point for another 9 hours of pain. I should have had a much more robust goal – to finish THIS epic race, not only to qualify for another.
- A whole lot of little excuses cannot be added together to justify why you should quit.
If each one isn’t reason enough to stop, then discard it, don’t combine it with all of your other floppy, sucky, limpy, saggy, flaccid, feeble and risible excuses. At the time I quit at 132kms I wasn’t injured and my nausea had subsided significantly. My excuses, and why they were crap are as follows :
|Snivelling excuse # 1 to 6||Why they are crap||What I should have been thinking|
|I can’t cope with hot temps||I don’t get to choose the conditions. Don’t enter the race if I’m not prepared for whatever is thrown at me.||Yes it’s hot. If I take my time at checkpoints I still have enough buffer to fast hike the whole way home if needed|
|I have been sick all week||Probably the closest to a valid excuse.||Yes I’ve been unwell but another 9 hours won’t kill me|
|I don’t want to feel like I did yesterday||How I felt yesterday is irrelevant to how the rest of my race will pan out||Stay in the moment. I feel good* right now – lets keep soldiering on.
*good is a relative term
|I won’t get home until about 10pm by the time I finish the race, have a sleep in the car and drive home||If I was worried about late nights/ lack of sleep I shouldn’t enter any ultra’s. Think this gets top prize for most wretched excuse||Won’t my kids be chuffed when I wake them in the morning and tell them I finished.|
|I’d rather be with my kids right now.||The few extra hours I will be away from them will be nothing compared to the hours of training Í will need to do if I decide to enter this race again to get even||See left and above|
|My legs are sore||Of course they are!!!! What do you think they are meant to feel like after 132kms you moron.||This is tough but I am tougher|
|Rotated between :
– I already have 3 UTMB points by getting to Yarramalong
– I don’t even need points for the next draw
– I don’t want to do any ultras ever again so you can stick your stupid points
|My goal of gaining points was too easy to dismiss when the going got tough||Have a goal that still works no matter how low you feel. With the wonderful and absurd benefit of hindsight, one motivator could have been “Do you want to be the only NRG runner not to finish?” I’m pretty sure this would have had me kissing that finishing post!|
So with all that said and done I still took a lot of enjoyment and learnings out of the race. And so many amazing people helped make my experience what it was. And before you ask – no I really don’t need to go back to even the score!
Photo credit : Pip Candrick
*For obvious reasons there will be no photos of my bits with this post. Just imagine the agony and the ecstasy of the ugly bits. Actually don’t imagine the ecstasy, that would be creepy.
Last year at Coast to Kosci I made a rookie mistake of changing my um, lubrication strategy the day before the race, and things went as badly as you might expect. for my red and bleeding parts I received the high honour of a ‘chafing award’ which was a caterers pack of 2Toms Powder. It’s great stuff, I’ll hopefully get around to doing a review before it’s all gone.
So I have at least one ugly scar from that race, and let’s face it, genitals are not the prettiest things around. Well, male genitals anyway. However, when my wife gazes upon my naked body, I want her to think ‘business time‘ and not ‘you’re such a f/ing idiot’.
So a new approach was needed. I figured getting the whole area lasered would meet the requirements, and with one raised eyebrow from my wife as permission, I was off.
First of all, let me apologise. To all of the lovely young ladies who thought that working in a beauty therapy clinic would be fun. It probably was until I darkened your doorstep. Now you’ll need a different kind of therapy. Although they do appear to extract a few other things from you as well as your dignity. Females can get their crack zapped for about $30, males are more like $150.
Can you think of another problem? Yes punters, males wear their genitals on the outside, meaning that the most sensitive bits are subject to the full horror of the machine that goes ‘ping’, or rather ‘zap’- and the hair disappears at the same time as any thought you had of remaining zen about the whole thing.
Here’s a few techniques-
- Lying back and thinking of England- CONFIRM DOES NOT WORK
- Making ‘pew pew’ sounds as the laser hits your pale flesh- CONFIRM DOES NOT WORK
- Trying to jump less than 10cm off the table when nuts zapped- CONFIRM DOES NOT WORK
- Avoid whimpering like little girl- LITTLE GIRLS HAVE THEIR BITS PROTECTED YOU IDIOT
Well, I didn’t say the advice would be worth anything. Remember this all occurs while you have your leg in the air trying to give some poor underpaid (did I just say that?) sadist a good look at your goolies. And then the perfume of burned hair wafts around the room.
And now, even if I don’t get another crack at Coast to Kosci- I’ve got Star Wars Nutz.
*I was just reminded by my Coach that I’d totally forgotten the whole point of this post. So, does it stop you from getting horrible, ugly scars on your tackle?
Well, I don’t know because I haven’t done any really long runs BUT- I am pretty sure it will help. Mostly because the hair so unkindly zapped off by the torture machine was about as soft as a Brillo pad. So not soft. And what’s left is soft. So I think we’re on to a winner.
Coach also asked me if I was swapping running for a career in porn. So I replied ‘what the hell do you think I was doing BEFORE running?’
GNW100 Miler Race Report – September 2015
The day started the same as any other race day, up early, half nervous/half excited. Super Supporter Sally was driving myself, Rocco & Doug to the start about 10 mins away. When we got to the start there was lots to do: check in, collect arm tags (no race numbers), mandatory gear check, weigh in (58.4kg), drop off checkpoint bags and meet all the other crazy NRGers (and non NRGers) we’d trained with along the way. Then the Race Brief began and things got serious, eeeeekkkk!
Start to CP1 Forest (Distance 28.6k) – Expected Time – 4hrs – Actual 3:48
We all lined up, hi vis’s on and everyone was in great spirits. There was hugs, kisses and well wishes. Once we were told to go Geoff lead the group out. There was lots of time to chat along the road. Rocco and I had planned to run together as long as we were both happy with how we were going. So that’s how we started out. It’s a long road section before you hit trails with a few hills thrown in, of course. The first few k’s ticked off quickly and we all knew the climb to the communications tower was coming up. Tim, Doug, Rocco, Robyn and I all ended up running some of this section together which was an unexpected surprise and settled the nerves because it made it feel like a training run rather than the big day. Coming into CP1 I could see Chris, who was there to support Ann in the 100k and Sally waiting for Rocco. I didn’t have a CP bag here so I just filled up my water and I was ready to go. Time in CP: 2mins
CP1 to CP2 Congewai School (Distance 23.9k (52.5k Total) – Expected Time – 2:45) Actual 2:51
Rocco was still getting some stuff so I shouted that I was going to go ahead, he said he’d catch up. Error No.1, I should have waited! I headed off down the trail and looked at my mini directions which I thought said the next turn off wasn’t for the next 11k’s so I trotted along thinking how nice this bit of downhill trail was, how lucky I was to be out there. Luckily for me a lady pulled up in a car beside me and asked if I was doing the race when I said I was she told me I’d missed the turn off… Argh… Error No.2 so I started to run back up the hill because I knew Rocco would now be chasing me down. By the time I made it to the turn off he was nowhere to be seen. I met a few people along the trail and had to try and get myself out of panic mode and just hope that either he would realise I was not running that fast and slow down or that he would be at CP2 when I got there. I sorted my head out and just continued on. I’d had a shocker of a training day on this section and was happy to be feeling ok out on the long firetail. Near the end of the technical downhill before turning onto the road I met Doug and he reminded me to put on my Hi Vis going onto the road section. It was very warm along the road towards the school. As I got close I met Rocco & Robyn coming to opposite way after finishing up in the CP and heading up towards the communication tower. Hmmm panic mode re-engaged, I had about a km to get my head around the fact that I would have to navigate myself for the rest of the run (navigation is probably one of my weakest points and something that Rocco and I had laughed at during the Monday night trail runs). I got into the CP and it was a flurry of activity: get weighed, check in, sort out CP bags with the help of Sally and Alison (thanks ladies), get all my gear out for the gear check (lost my buff along the road somewhere so poor Sally ran off at full pace to her car to get me one, Tim was at the CP too and gave me his spare one), check out. I had asked Tim if he wanted to run together for this section but when I looked around he was still getting himself sorted so I decided to set off on my own. Time in CP: 12mins
CP2 to CP3 The Basin (Distance 29.1k (81.6k Total) – Expected Time – 4:30) – Actual 4:58
It was definitely warm and having a full pack was not good, I met Joe then Adam Darwin just before the turn off and I headed up to the communications tower second guessing every step I took because I hadn’t been on this section before. The climb to the communication tower was super tough and seemed endless in the heat. I got to the Cabans Road crossing and stood there for a while trying to make sure I took the right road, as I continued on there was a fork in the road, I was reluctant to pick which road so I took out the map, directions, compass and tried to work it out, no luck so I tried my phone which had signal and showed that I just continued on left then I saw a lady I had chatted to earlier, phew I was on the right track… Not far after this Error No.3 happened (sorry Geoff & Rocco – I was well warned on this one) and I ran straight past the Bar Trail turn off (didn’t even see it). I met two guys coming back up the trail and they said their GPS was gone off course, we made a decision to continue down the trail because we thought that the three of us couldn’t have missed the turn off! We had! And we ended up running down the trail and having to come back up it again. When we reached the turn off I met Doug and Tim again. Tim wasn’t feeling great and they were sticking together. I headed off. I got to the Basin signposts and started the seemingly never ending journey to the CP. I met Rocco, Geoff & Susan on the way to the CP and we chatted briefly. There was lots of people at the CP. Sally & Alison helped get me sorted with my gear and some soup. I decided that because this was a tricky section of the course I’d see if I could follow someone, just as I thought that a guy that had been sitting down with his support crew popped up and was heading back out. I jumped up and followed him. Time in CP: 7mins
CP3 to CP4 Yarramalong (Distance 22.1k (103.7k Total) – Expected Time – 3:15) – Actual 3:03
We chatted and I asked if he was familiar with the course (he had done GNW) and I asked if he minded if I follow him, he didn’t mind. Woohoo. This man knew what he was doing and he was keeping a slow and steady pace on the tricky trail section back out of the basin. Along the way I met Adam, Joe, Dave Madden and Robyn, she’d gone wrong and had spent ages going the wrong way L I followed the same guy and he was going at a perfect pace for me. Along the trail we met Ann who was now in the final k’s of her first 100k, we ran together along the verrrrrrry long road section back to Yarramalong. I was excited to pick up Ruth at the CP and was surprised that I was still feeling ok. Getting into the CP was very exciting because there was so many people around including James, pacers waiting for their runners, people who’d finished the 100k. I got weighed (57kg -1.4kg). Ruth did my mandatory gear check and I got some soup. James filled up my water. I was good to go. Time in CP: 11mins.
CP4 to CP5 Somersby (Distance 28.4k (132.1k Total) – Expected Time – 5hrs) – Actual 5:19
Ruth & I headed out on the road and I realised we were running a bit too fast and up a hill, ha ha that had to stop, there was still a long way to go. We chatted away and the time passed as Ruth diligently followed the directions. We nearly missed a left turn under the power lines but luckily I remembered it from training. At some stage along this section the blister issue raised its ugly head, both my feet felt like they had blisters and I was walking and worrying about being the only one in the race walking. For some reason this climb didn’t seem as brutal on race day as it did in training and the exit out of it was not how I remembered it. We fast walked to the CP where James and Sally were waiting (as well as Robyn’s parents and Geoff’s wife Josie). I was feeling mentally very good but the blisters were an issue so I decided to change my socks and runners. Time in CP: 10mins.
CP5 to CP6 Mooney Mooney (Distance 17.8k (149.9k Total) – Expected Time – 2:45) – Actual 3:14
We headed out of the CP and the padding on the new runners was not helping the blisters. Anyway too late now. As we went along the road I realised I’d forgotten to fill my bladder and my water bottle, so I had 600ml of powerade to get me through the section, Ruth gave me one of her soft flasks, fortunately it was a short section. I was still fast walking because running/shuffling wasn’t possible and the walk was quicker anyway. The technical downhills/rocky trails were a nightmare but I hobbled along. We’d done this part of the course twice in training so I happy that I was familiar with it. As we went down the technical section we could hear voices, it turned out to be Doug and Gillian. Not long after Robyn and Luke passed. This was tough mentally cause although I was happy for them I started to think everyone was going to pass me and there was nothing I could do about it. Ruth sorted me out and constantly told me I was doing great and doing my best and that I just need to worry about myself. She was right I was doing my best. The run along the river seemed endless and that was the first time I felt tired, the kind of tired where your eyes just want to shut, it lasted a while but wore off. I knew I would be meeting Orla at the next CP so I was excited to get there. When I got to the CP, Sally gave us a good cheer (legend) and so did Orla. I got weighed (56.4kg – 2kg) & had some soup and a potato. Robyn, Tim and Doug were at the CP too but took off before me. Time in CP: 11mins.
CP6 to Finish Patonga (Distance 25.4k (175.1k Total) – Expected Time – 5hrs) – Actual 4:45
Orla and I set off, Orla was tres excited and I had to tell her that at the moment running wasn’t really an option. I had a cry (tiredness I’m guessing and the thoughts that I might actually finish this thing). I continued the fast walking strategy. We passed Doug and Gillian on one of the climbs. And not long after we met Geoff and his pacer Don, we ended up leapfrogging them for most of the section. There was endless technical downhill descents and they were playing havoc with my feet. My 28hr goal was looking to be slipping away so I said I’d go for Sub 30. At one stage I landed on my left foot and felt the blister push through to another part, I let out a scream but told Orla I just wanted to keep going. This meant all other downhills I had to land on my right foot. We powered on the flat fire trails. And there was a LOT of fire trail so as we got closer finishing in 28 something became an option again. The descend after the Trig was horrible and even 500m’s felt like an eternity but then we saw the boat ramp and heard the cowbell, emotion was starting to kick in again but Orla told me to wipe away the tears and smile so that’s what I did. We ran on the beach then she took off and told me to go, I ran for the first time in hours and the finish clock had a 28 in it so I was happy, I slapped the post then kissed it then cried.
GNW done, 28hrs 50mins. Post Race thoughts, it was HARD but it was always going to be. So proud of everyone that I trained with, this race is such a journey and another step in making me believe that as long as you’re willing to commit yourself anything is possible.
Editors note- Chantelle didn’t mention it, but her effort made her 3rd female- a podium in her first miler!
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…..
|Characteristic||100 Kilometre||100 Mile|
|Trail Going (kilometres)|
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.
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.
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.
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…..
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!’
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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’
….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.
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’.
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?’
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.
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….
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.
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
Get in Wave 2
Don’t be soft
Yeah, that sounds about right.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Split time 2:08
Race time 3:24
time of day 9:54am
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!
Split time 2:00
Race time 5:24
time of day 11:54am
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.
Split time 1:35 + 6 minutes at CP3
Race time 7:05
time of day 1:35pm
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.
Split time 3:16 + 10 minutes at CP4
Race time 10:32
time of day 5:00pm
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
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!