You were meant to be reading this about 9 weeks ago, but don’t worry- it’s not you, it’s me.
I messaged Kirrily Dear and asked her if I could raise some money for Run Against Violence, and part of that was writing a couple of blog posts in the lead up to the race. She was pretty keen- I mean who doesn’t like free money- especially a charity? But I failed in that commitment- every week I had more things to do pulling me away from doing the things I had promised. I’m also late on 2 shoe reviews. Those may take a few years as I learn to use phrases like mid sole rocker stability and upper flange gasket peak pressure normalisation. I’m sure you’re gagging for me to make up 500 words about shoes. For now I’m writing this on a plane to LA…….
But anyhoo- let me talk about Kirrily’s thing for a sec. Kirrily has quite literally put her body on the line for this charity- she has run over 800km across NSW to raise awareness (and possibly a bit of cash). I hope you’ve seen the documentary about the run, it’s hard, emotional and brilliant story. This year she’s going even further, planning to run over 1300km to raise awareness of family violence, focussing on kids stories. And this time there will be a way for everyone to participate, as there is a ‘Virtual Challenge’ that you can sign up and run yourself.
So go to the website and hit the ‘Donate’ button. I’ll wait
That first run was brutally hot and I’ve had to lean on Kirrily’s crew for advice on how to deal with the heat of Death Valley. Brad Smithers and Sally Dean (as well as Kirrily herself) have given me some invaluable advice about running in extreme heat. See the segue? Brilliant hey?
So how did I get into this race? It’s one of those races you hear about even as a non runner- and laugh at the utter stupidity of running not only across a flaming hot desert, but from the bottom to the top of a whole continent.
I’d never even considered something like this but after dedicating a fair amount of time running, I discovered 2 things-
1. I’ll never be fast
2. I can go slowly for a long time
Number 2 is a consequence of hanging around with the right (or perhaps wrong) crowd. As I grew more and more amazed at the humility and capability of these incredible athletes, I began entering some of the same races and learning their craft. It’s simple and complex all at once- an eating competition with a bit of running sure, but tiny mistakes can take you out brutally.
Fast forward to last year and I’d done a couple of long and tough runs (still hadn’t finished the ‘long course’ at Coast to Kosci) and we went on holiday in the USA. We’d designed the trip around meeting some of Sarah’s friends and a few natural wonders along the way. It was a 10th wedding anniversary trip that started with renewing our vows in front of Elvis in Las Vegas, and went through Death Valley and Tahoe amongst other places. While in Vegas a friend announced on FaceBook that he had been accepted into Badwater. Maybe 30 seconds later (ok it could have been less) I asked Sarah if I could crew for him.
Understandably she wasn’t keen as we had blown our travel budget but I must have had that slightly pursed lip look of determination and she got that slightly pursed pissed off look, and we had a deal. I emailed Cpt Nemo and he accepted. Later in that trip I got to fulfil a lifelong dream of running in Death Valley. It was horrible. I’d brought some running gear and we had planned to let me out and have me run to the next town or whatever but it got to late-ish afternoon and so I jumped out of the car with my water bottle and took off. I only made it 6km as we were pressed for time, but honestly I was very happy to get back in the car. I’d taken a black water bottle. The outside temp was ‘only’ 32 degrees but within minutes my water was like drinking warm tea and the reflected heat from the tarmac was worse than from overhead.
Actually going back to Death Valley a few months to crew was fantastic. I had Gavin and Bec Markey as well as Matthew Holland to keep me company while Nemo suffered outside the car. But yeah, it was totally a recce run for me- to see if normal people could do this race. And maybe to see if me in particular could do the race. I wasn’t sure even a few months after crewing.
After being a bit aimless in my running for months I finally started to regain some fitness, Great North Walk was tremendously painful but I got it done. And while it was a real battle for me to finish Coast to Kosci, I was heartened by the fact that a lot of things went right. I’d had a plan to get to Dalgety at 148km and executed that perfectly. It’s a great shame I hadn’t considered what to do for the last 90km……
Anyway it came time to apply for Badwater in early February, and I had decent qualifiers- 2x C2K and a stint as Crew Chief for Badwater, I felt I had a pretty decent chance of getting in. We were actually in New Zealand for the Tarawera Ultra when Race Director Chris Kostman was doing a FaceBook Live stream of reading out the names. I was eating breakfast while Sarah packed the car and screaming at the laptop because Chris was taking so long to get the names read out- he adjusted his Gumby, showed the latest branded Badwater gear, talked about the sponsors- it was making me nuts because we only had 2 hours of free WiFi at the hotel!
He finally started reading the list, and I got chills just hearing the names of all these legendary runners participating, but as he went deeper and deeper I realised that I am totally outclassed by these people. I mean not even in the same stratosphere- and I started getting depressed. Sarah wanted to pack up and go, and as the list got towards the end I wondered if I should even listen to the rest, but we did and all of a sudden we heard ‘and all the way from Greenwich Australia, Adam Connor’
I jumped and screamed- I’d gone from confident to destroyed to elated in the space of a few minutes! my name was somewhere around 94th to 97th. Sorry I can’t remember exactly as my head nearly exploded from excitement. I reckon I can do a bit better than that in the race, gulp.
So I’m doing this race hoping to benefit Run Against Violence.
(And on a completely different topic)
But I’m also running this race in honour of my sister. She’s much stronger than she knows. Don’t bother asking me any more about this, it really is as simple as that statement. She’s great company, very smart, caring and wants the world to be a better place. I just want the best for her too.
Next post will be about the training, and the last one about the race itself
**The race starts at 1pm Tuesday July 11 Sydney time (this is 8pm July 10 Nevada time). Adams wave starts at 9:30pm which will be 2:30pm Sydney time on Tuesday. Grant Maughan’s wave (the fasties!) will start at 11pm local or 4pm Sydney time.
Hello 2017 STYR Labs Badwater 135 competitors and crew members!
There will be lots of ways to follow all the race action at the world’s toughest foot race, so please bookmark these pages, follow our various social media feeds, and spread the word to your family, friends, and running clubs!
Follow the 2017 webcast (including real-time GPS tracking of all runners; see information about that below):
I’m excited to announce that we will be using MAProgress.com to track each runner in the 2017 STYR Labs Badwater 135. It’s an amazing system for live-tracking racers using a very small GPS unit. Just a little box about 2.5×2.5x.75″, it mounts most easily to the top of the shoulder strap on an hydration pack, and can also can be worn with an elastic strap around the upper arm. This system was used at Badwater Salton Sea in May and they were simple and unobtrusive. You can “replay” the entire race again here to see how great this system is:
So my race prep was easy, training went well and everything was perfect for race day…..
It actually went more like this-
Had a cold 3 weeks ago- still trained but didn’t really make progress
Started strength training 2 weeks ago, made great progress but missed a box jump a week ago and my ribs hurt like a bastard.
Because of the ribs I hadn’t really tapered as much as just stopped running.
Focussing on Badwater meant that I had done ZERO stair training and had run mostly on road, except when I ignored Coach’s plan and snuck out.
An ultrasound on Monday before the race seemed to show I was missing a kidney. WTF?
And on the morning of the race I locked the house keys in the house, meaning we may not have anywhere to sleep after ~20 hours of running.
All good then.
The morning of the race came, and the weather was expected to be ‘challenging’. in fact it pissed down when we left the rented house in the dark and my mood was nearly as black. Then a funny thing happened when we got to Scenic World- the weather lifted. Pity my mood didn’t!
The gun went off and we settled in for the first few km of road. I should have been happy and fast here, but everyone in start group 3 seemed to be running up the hills and determined to kill themselves before we hit the bush. I ran with Jen and Martyn and had a great chat, it was a bit like old times! Good to see them both coming back from injury. Not much to report until we hit the landslide- there was a huge conga line. I reckon to go sub 14 hours you really need to be in group 2 or 1 to have a good chance at hitting your goals on section 1.
I had no particular goal except not to hurt myself, so I was happy to let people go- as soon as we hit single track gain people were pushing past quite aggressively. I’ve complained about this before, but we really need some documentation about trail etiquette- it’s very simple people- if you want to go past yell ‘passing left’ ‘passing right’ or ‘passing when safe’ and the person in front can decide which side to let you go. Although this might be difficult- there were a lot of international runners and they seem to have a different system- they simply wait for the person in front to indicate a side to pass, nothing is said.
Going up Golden Stairs was a bit of revelation- it’s the FIRST TIME IN 7 YEARS that I haven’t needed to stop at least once (and usually multiple times) to let people past. I cannot emphasise how important this is- it’s massive for me. I don’t know how much each thing has contributed but a combination of weight, my new asthma drug and strength training has definitely brought this result. I was still puffed, and still hitting quite a high heart rate, but often in this race I will lose 30-60 places just going up these stairs……
The fart jokes started early this year, one guy wondering who as ‘cropdusting’ going up the concrete climb just after Golden Stairs. I wouldn’t say the name, but his initials are Martyn Dawson….. later there was much regretsy about biological functions, but I digress.
Anyway I got to CP1 in about 1:42 I think, meaning I was looking at a 19 hour finish time- ouch! Can’t worry too much about that so early on, so I filled up my bottles and headed out on to Narrowneck. Again, I should have been fairly fast along here but I just felt really out of sorts- not sick, just a bit of general malaise. This isn’t uncommon for me in races, I can ignore it and risk going to those dark places again, or I can try to ride it out. It was going to be a loooong day. Thankfully I had hooked up with Damon Roberts and Neil Webb- 2 of my Badwater crew, and it was fantastic to run with them. Also a tiny bit stressful- I am aware that it’s possible to tell too many poo jokes- what if I turned them off coming to the USA?
Thanks to Hailey for this pic
There was another long-ish queue for Tarro’s Ladder, but I was happy to have a break and not worry about time. I heard someone call out ‘Leah!’ around there and wondered if it was my friend having a great run bitch was going to beat me again.
Going up Mount Debert I thought about Michael Milton- he was doing the 50km race- with one leg! The last minute course changes meant that he was going to be coming this way without preparing for it. It’s rough country, hard enough with 2 legs that (mostly) work. Doing it with crutches was going to suck and blow. Massive props to you Michael, what a bloody legend.
We hit CP2 with no major issues and I got out of there hoping that the rumours were true- no Ironpot Ridge this year! We headed out in the same direction and as we got closer and closer I was afraid the rumours weren’t true- but then we hit the spot where you would normally start climbing and there was tape across the course. I was quite relieved even though I could have compared my ascent with previous years to see if my performance really had improved as much as it seemed up the stairs. But of course this now meant that we were several km short, and suddenly we didn’t really know where we were vs expectations.
Coach Andy DuBois had sent out an email communication the night before asking us not to worry or even use pace charts etc. But I really can’t help it, I love information. I decided that we were about 4km short and that this was about 1 hour. Made it easy. Wrong? Probably, but I wasn’t really racing either…….
The ascent up Megalong Valley Rd wasn’t pleasant, but again I didn’t lose as many spots as I might have in other years. My mind still wasn’t happy and when we got to the flat I felt I should have been able to push harder, but I didn’t really want to answer that question- would I feel better, or feel worse? If I felt better, that might commit me to racing the rest of the course, and I was specifically NOT supposed to do that. If I felt worse, well, there’s no benefit in that is there!?
I ran with Damon again and occasionally Neil would appear out of the bushes pulling his pants up. Not sure what was so interesting in there but he was pretty keen on the experience. Or so it seemed. We arrived at CP3, did a gear check and all went our seperate ways. I put some music on and shimmied up towards Six Foot Track in a good mood- I was finally feeling mentally better, but still no explanation of why.
Several km up Six foot Track I felt a disturbance in the Force. I could hear one runner behind me but the ones up front were too far away, so I ripped off a baby killing fart of planet busting proportions. I hadn’t looked around to see who was behind, because well- what are the chances of it being someone I knew?
‘Hi DJ ADAM!’
And yes it was Kath Carty on her way to an amazing result in the 50km race. Kath, I apologise for the attempted murder.
Going up Nellie’s Glen I was able to impress/ disgust a few runners with my knowledge. ‘How many more of these f@cking stairs are there?’ Someone exclaimed in frustration. ‘Only 350 more!’ I was able to reply confidently. Lucky there were no sharp knives around.
Getting to CP4 is always great, and even better with 4km less in your legs and (perhaps) an hour earlier in the day. I’d forgotten to bring my charge cable for my Fenix 3, and I knew it would run out of battery within the next few hours- luckily Damon had one and was prepared to lend it to me while we ran together until he needed it. So I was happy to take a few minutes extra and rest until his wife had gone through his CP checklist. I got to go to a real toilet, and it’s the last time you can do stuff while it’s light, and it’s warm and inside- bliss!
Somewhere in section 4 I ran a bit with Dr Alex, a lovely bloke I’d first met last year during GNW. He’s a GP from Tamworth (er, possibly?) and we had such a good time chatting at GNW that we happily went off piste quite substantially. Anyway I promised I wouldn’t ask him any more medical questions but I did mention the kidney issue and his first response was ‘no NSAIDS for you!’ (These are frowned upon in races anyway so I won’t have any trouble avoiding them…….
Thanks to Akiko Akashi for this pic
Heading out of CP4 we didn’t have to cross the swamp this year, and course changes meant it wasn’t straight down the Giant Staircase. I don’t really know how much vert was taken out of this section, but it’s still pretty soul destroying to head down the valley so many times- Gordon Falls, Wentworth Falls, etc. It’s also kind of difficult to get any running rhythm going. We’d left CP4 at almost exactly 3pm and knew that if we could get to CP5 and out by 7pm we wouldn’t have to carry our fleeces. It doesn’t really matter, but it was a goal to focus on. Pace chart said a 14 hour runner could do it in 3.5 hours and a 19 hour runner in 4.5 hours, so we had a chance…..
Oh, no we didn’t! Remember the bit we missed at Ironpot Ridge? The Race Directors decided to make us run past CP5, down to the Water Board Gate and back again, making that section 3km longer. We ran past CP5 at 7:03pm so it didn’t really matter anyway, but some people found this bit utter torture. I felt it was pretty fair- there were plenty of other places the could have made us go that were much more horrible.
I’d developed a rough plan to run the rest of the way with Damon (and hadn’t told him) but I was ready to leave the CP pretty quickly and in order to not annoy him I went over to the other tent- there are tents on either side of the CP, one for runners and their support crew and another for unsupported runners.
We were in good spirits heading out of CP5 and back down on Rocket Point track I got to see Sarah! After a quick hug and a kiss we shuffled off and Damon said ‘you could have been more concerned about her’ (paraphrasing, can’t remember exactly) and I said ‘Pfft, she’s tougher than me’ then a lady in front replied ‘I was just about to suggest that….’ and thus started the Legend of the Kellys. It turns out that both ladies in front are from Newcastle and called Kelly. We passed a fun few hours running through the bush and talking, they were exactly the pace I needed to go- just gently running the flats and making good time up the stairs. Of course my mind was getting a bit loose by then and I was terrified of saying something truly offensive, but I think I managed to pretend to be relatively normal for long enough. One of the surprising things was my ability to go up stairs- I managed to keep my place without getting puffed out and at one stage even led a group up from Wentworth Falls without much difficulty. Somewhere around there we lost Damon- I called out to him and didn’t get a reply. I was a bit gutted but it would be dumb to wait for him and I knew that if I started to falter he would catch up without problems.
At the Fairmont I started explaining to the Kellys that the race used to finish there, and I could just see myself walking into the bar with the tall glass windows and having a cocktail while watching runners come in. But it was all fantasy- we still had a few hours to go! The Kellys stopped to top up and I went on. Getting back on the road was good for me- I got more upright, swung my arms and improved my cadence and passed heaps of people- a few were looking pretty despondent!
Throughout the whole day my mind hadn’t been cooperating but my body had been ok. Later my mind came to the party and things started to click, but at about the 91km mark my mind fucked off again and my body started to feel the effects of the day. I truly felt like if I’d stopped at 80-90km I would have been able to run again the next day. It was like all of the damage was in the last bit! I suppose it always is….
Vacuum packing gear worked well
I started to hope that the course was a few km short, but things just don’t work that way. With 4km to go I gave up and started walking, counting the people getting past me. I’d had a good day, slowly passing plenty of people but now 4-5 people got past. At 2km to go I heard a familiar voice and turned around to see Rob Mattingly- it was terrific to see him, and almost gave me back some fighting spirit. Almost!
Finally getting to Furber (Fubar!) Stairs I started to count my way up, but my new found energy for getting up vertical had gone. I lost another 6-8 places in the 20 minute climb. I count the stairs down- there’s 935 stairs if you only count the ‘up’ ones. Near the top I heard another familiar voice and I abandoned counting at step number 865 because it was Damon! He’d caught me and we decided to finish together. I found out later that the Kellys had gone past me on the stairs too, but fair play to them, they looked strong the whole time. Rob had beaten me by nearly 10 minutes in the last 2km- nice one Rob!
I’ve never been able to walk so well at the finish of this race- I wouldn’t say I was unaffected but a combination of strength training and the low/ easy effort meant my body was in better shape than most times I’d finished.
I looked at the UTA app and found that Sarah had passed the Fairmont at exactly the same time I finished, meaning she was only 13km away. So I relaxed, had a couple of shandies and talked rubbish to anyone who would listen. Roger Hanney came past holding his phone out, so Annabel and I decided to do a race report filled with expletives- he went a bit quiet (unusual I know) and said ‘this is being live streamed!’ so I guess I owe apologies to anyone watching that too….
Unfortunately the last 13km took Sarah about 4 hours, so by 4:10am things were getting a bit loose. Someone had come across the line and their runner profile said ‘one day I want to run a marathon naked’. Apparently the person who did their entry thought it would be a bit of fun, and that started a downhill slide of bum jokes and requests for the RD’s to draw dicks in the wet windows of the organising shed.
Luckily Roger was distracted by Sarah reaching the Furber Stairs, and when she reached the top there was a huge reaction as you can see here-
A very emotional and well deserved finish. Congratulations honey!
This is a pic of all of the solid food I ate during the race-
Not a lot is it? However it was enough- I never felt hungry, and my energy levels were fine until the last 4km. There is one thing missing- I had an SIS liquid protein gel like thing at CP3. I’d been sent 2 of these as sample, tried one, liked it and tried to order more. SIS said they weren’t bringing them in anymore as by the time they arrive their use-by date was too close. I remembered that when I was squeezing the tube into my mouth and it was all lumpy. Oh well, I figured that I wouldn’t get sick during the race so it would be ok……
Not much to report here except- try to get into Wave 2 if you want a sub 14 hour time. Slowdowns at the Landslide and Tarro’s Ladders weren’t a problem for me, but would seriously impact your pace early on if that’s your goal. This year I didn’t spit the dummy like last year at the Fairmont, which is lucky because I didn’t have Jane to yell at me (is that lucky?)
I felt like I had someone standing on the left side of my chest all day from the bruised ribs, so that may have had a small impact on pace, but overall I’m very happy to have completed a difficult race without specific training in a halfway decent time. if you can read the pic below, you can see that I improved my place from 849 at the 3km mark to 439 at CP1 (update- it seems that the CP1 timing was not working for either Wave 1, Wave 2 or both- that would explain the weird numbers). Then most of those people got past me again before Little Cedar Gap where I was placed 787. This reflects a couple of things- I suspect that the holdup at Tarro’s meant that a lot of people went around when I was happy to have a break, and I also think that many people who were held up tried to make up a lot of places on Narrowneck. I was pretty slow and not feeling good there so they did, but you can also see that some went out too fast there- as I made back 200 of the 400 places I’d lost by the end……(ok maybe I didn’t based on the above)
You may have noticed above I mentioned the possibility I have only one kidney- how did that come about? My Doctor insists on a blood test every year. I hate blood tests so I put it off as long as I can….anyway I’ve had 3 tests in a row with elevated liver enzymes. In medical terms that’s chronic. I am absolutely convinced that it’s due to my endurance running, but Dr isn’t happy and wants answers, so he sends me off for an ultrasound. They would be looking for signs of liver damage, fatty liver disease, lumps etc.
While they didn’t find any problems with my liver, the ultrasound tech could not find my left kidney. So the Dr called me up and asked me to have another test- a CT scan with dye. I’m not keen on needles but they injected me with some Iodine based dye and took pictures of my guts on the Monday after the race. Anyway, apparently I was born with only one kidney. This is somewhat of a surprise to find out when I’m nearly 50 years old……
I had another shock a few weeks back too- an online test said I am highly autistic. I haven’t fully absorbed what that might mean, but in a lot of ways I don’t care. I could use it as an excuse for being brusque or a bit in your face. But I never want to do that- I’d prefer if you just thought I was a bit of a dickhead, that’s fine. On one hand this could give me more freedom to express myself, but I’ve already grabbed that- I am happy to be judged in the same way as everyone else- and also happy if you point out that I’ve crossed a line.
So if I’ve ever beaten you in a race, you’ve been overtaken by a previously fat, old autistic man with tiny lungs, asthma and one kidney- how does that feel?
Actually it’s hilarious, I’ll try not to mention it again but to finish on a positive note- how good could we all be if we ignored our limitations?
(Disclaimer – I have still only had 3 hours sleep so pardon the swearing).
It was very fucking hard. The end..
Yeah right – thought you would get away with a short report! Ha! Never.
The race had course changes due to the weather this year. I was very Zen about it (very un-like me) as you cant control the weather or decisions that the RD’s and the authorities need to make to keep people safe.
It was cold and wet when we started, but eventually it became beautiful and sunny and clear. The night was perfect running weather.
I stuck to my race plan that Andy had sent me – slow in the first half and concentrate on passing others in the second half.
Start to CP 1 – just went with the flow –
The landslide had a conga line, but it was a chance to eat and rest.
CP1 – CP2
Tarros Ladders – there was a 10-15 minute wait just to get down to the ladders. I get vertigo, so opted to go around on the diversion track, which turned out to be the same time. Plus I had warmed up again.
The 50k men’s pointy end of the race tore past us just after Tarros ladders. Holy shit they can move.
The didgeridoo players were just before CP 2 – this was one of the only reasons I wanted to do this race, to hear them play in the race. Chills down my spine hearing them. So cool! Had a headache that was getting worse, but could not get any pain relief until CP 3 so had to suck it up.
CP2 – CP3
Had a really low spot because of said headache, running along Megalong Valley Road. Was hanging for the CP for panadol and my running poles.
CP 3 was a good quick transition.
CP3 – CP4
Left the checkpoint with Jen and Ingrid, which was lovely. (No cows in the field this time). Ingrid and I hiked up to Nellies Glen together. It was hard work, but everyone else was suffering too! Heard some interesting burps…. So decided to rate them – as you do when you need to keep occupied. Some random lady in a blue onesie was handing out choc chip cookies just before CP 4 – oh they were awesome. Going to have those again in a race!
CP4 – CP5
Ingrid’s support crew of Bek, Janis and Sharon helping me out with massages and checking that I had what I needed made transition easier. Thank you ladies!
Now this is when I knew it would be tough. The course changes affected from CP4 – finish. I was heading towards the longest distance I had ever run, and was not sure how my body would cope. Left the CP very positive and moving in the right direction. Sunset was happening just as I came around Echo Point, so the views were spectacular.
Came into Gordon Falls Reserve and got the best group hug ever from Bek, Janis and Sharon- seriously that was awesome!
Hailey and Roger, said that they would meet me on course – and there they were at Gordon Falls Reserve with liquid black gold – a can of coke. My ITB was beginning to act up, Roger gave me some tips on how to deal with it and off I went into the darkness.
Ran into Tim somewhere out the back of the golf course and he walked up with me back to his car and we had a great chat.
There were runners coming from both directions and I felt obliged to let the faster ones who were returning from the out and back loop, go past first. I think this slowed me up quite a bit having to always get off the track.
Coming out of Wentworth Falls, I had been looking out for Adam (actually looking for his trail gaiters as I was looking at the ground most of the time) and I found him! It was lovely to see him and get a hug.
Then it was the slog down the road to CP5. It was at this point (apx 72-73k), that I knew I would be reduced to walking the rest of the way, due to my left ITB, so I made sure I was really power hiking and not just walking.
I could hear the CP before I got to it and was really looking forward to sitting down! Except when I got there, there was a 3k out and back before you could enter the CP. There were many swear words at this point. That was mentally tough. So I sucked it up and got it done.
The Summit Sister cheer squad were there and it was lovely to hear them! Saw a snake crossing the road. Yes a snake, it was 8C.
Sally met me at the CP and looked after me very well and made sure I was compos mentis. I was very surprised to find that I was 2 hours ahead of schedule. Threw on my warm clothes, my toes were aching, but there was nothing I could do, so gave them a quick massage and walked off into the night.
I spent most of this leg by myself, which suited me just fine.
Then my headlight died with about 8k to go. I had forgotten to check my back up light batteries, but it was working so I dropped it to low lumens to conserve the batteries and kept moving. I had forgotten to pack spare batteries into my pack at CP 5. I turned my phone to flight mode, to conserve its battery so that I could use the torch I my phone if needed.
The stairs were horrid. I could only go down diagonally with the right foot first and am now sporting a large blister on my left foot.
I have never been so glad to see Leura Forest. It was then 4.8k of just slogging it out. Furber stairs were hard. There were a few tears shed here.
You can hear the finish line before you can see it. It’s torture. Roger was working the microphone at this point, and when my name was announced, he started up a cheer, which I could hear but legs just would not work. Eventually after the last 5 stairs, my brain engaged that it was the finish and people were waiting for me, so I started a jog and eventually crossed the line in 21hours and 6 mins. It was just after 4am (I had no idea of real time as my watch died at 76k) and I was not looking at my phone. It was so lovely to have people I knew around me.
More tears were shed, Roger has video that is not repeatable here, which basically said I’m never doing it again. Nothing could top that experience.
I felt in the early stages of the race that I could go under 20 hours. Apparently I was on track for that most of the day, but was de-railed once the legs died. I think with a longer training base, it would have been achievable for me, even with the extra stairs.
Now for the bit that is most important. I would like to thank (and in no particular order) the people below for helping me to achieve my goal.
Andy DuBois of Mile 27 – 10 weeks ago, after Tarawera Ultra, I contacted Andy for coaching and he got me to this race. I can’t thank you enough. The training you set me, made a hell of difference.
Paula Shingler of Running Right – last minute physio and scones and jam and cream really helped.
Julie – my running partner and therapist.
Cass – Friday mornings have improved out of sight thanks to world peace and coffee.
Summit Sisters community – you all rock!
Bek, Janis, Sharon and Sally – you are the best support crewers ever.
Hailey – for the texts and the liquid black gold AKA Coke.
Roger – the shiatsu massage really unlocked my back – it was the best. Can I have another one please?
AROC Sport – without you guys, this legendary race would never exist. Thanks for the superb organisation, in what would have been one of the hardest situations to work in this year. Your volunteers and staff are the best.
My friends and family who all support from near and far via Facebook .
And finally, my husband Adam and son, Alex. Thanks for putting up with me, early mornings, early nights and a sometimes tired and crabby wife and mother.
What I wore
Summit Sisters t-shirt
Moving comfort bra
Fabletics ¾ pants with handy pockets down the sides of the legs.
Zensah calf guards
Hoka Stinson 3 ATR’s
Buff’s of varying different styles
Patagonia R1 fleece jacket
Salmon Bonatti waterproof jacket
Nathan Vapour wrap pack
(Sheesh I’m not very loyal to one brand am I?)
What I ate from my pack
Carmen’s muesli bars – mostly the more nutty ones
Chicken in a biscuit
Farex pre-made baby food
From CP 2 I had Nuun or Hydralyte in my water.
Panadol osteo at CP3 and after CP 5 – said headache was gone with about 13k to go …
From the checkpoints – Banana, watermelon, soup, bread, cheese and ham scrolls, a lolly, a chocolate chip biscuit, a bit of brownie, pot noodles, a chocolate bar from a random runner at a CP, coke, black coffee with 1 at the Fairmont , chips.
Recovery (so far its 24 hours in)
2 magnesium tablets before the race
Soup and chocolate milk at the finish
Blister popped at First Aid so I did not have to deal with it
Shower as soon as possible
Sleep for an hour – gentle rolling with the stick
Trying to move normally rather than the ultra lurch
Car drive home – stayed awake and kept my legs in different positions
Warm Epsom salt bath and then icing the knee
More good food and some chocolate
9 hours sleep – means I’m awake at 3am but hey that’s when all the best race reports are written.
I’m not much for writing Race Reports, mainly as my races are not worth writing home about. But as this one was part of an international campaign of running and fell walking, I thought I’d bundle it up as a mini running odyssey.
First up was the London Marathon, a race I had unsuccessful entered about a million times. On running the race, I understood (a) why it is so special, and (b) why it’s so hard to get a bog standard entry. The answer to both is the same. It’s that the London Marathon is a charity marathon, where the majority of places is for participants who will probably never do another marathon in their lives, but do this one because they raise money for others. And every supporter lining the route is there to cheer for someone who has raised money for months, is carrying a tumble dryer on their back or dressed as a Mr Men character (I mean full timber frame and canvas skin). So, with all that incredible social spirit, the scene was set for a cruise around London, enjoying the sights and sounds and simply revelling in the moment. It was a great event to compete in, and I will keep trying in the ballot in future, simply because any chance to run this race is worth taking.
In the time between London and Thames Path, I travelled up to the Lakes District to check out some fells. I’m fascinated by the fells and fell running. The history of fell running is something I think any long distance runner can relate to. It’s all about the solitary runner. The terrain, environment, weather and conditions constantly change, making every run unique. And the concentration of fells and valleys in such a small geographical area makes it different to running in the vastness of the Australian bush. There are 214 Wainwrights (fells), 15 lakes and a dozen valleys, all contained in a small, craggy part of northwest England, measuring only 50km wide and 60km top to bottom. It is simply magical. I walked from Keswick in the Northern Fells, and climbed Skiddaw (931m), Lonscale Fell, Little Man and Carl Side. The views from Skiddaw were amazing. You could see the complete Helvellyn ranges in one direction, and Solway Firth and Scotland in the other.
Finally, the day arrived and I made my way to the start of the Thames Path 100. This is a flat 100 mile run from Richmond, London to Oxford along the Thames River footpath. Total elevation was only 400m (amazing how flat it was!), but this presented more than its fair share of challenges. Because it’s flat, it’s hard to find a natural time or occasion to walk and recover energy. You feel compelled to keep going and keep your rhythm. This worked well for the first 30 miles and then ok for the next 30, but once serious nightfall fell (about 10pm – 12 hours after the race started), the night demons descended. From there on it was a slow grind. The checkpoints were evenly spread (about 6-7.5 miles between) so thankfully it wasn’t too bad, but that may be because two weeks after the race, I have conveniently forgotten the worst of it. Thankfully, I had lots of company, if only in my head. To all those who gave me silent, and not so silent encouragement I thank you from the sole of my shoes to tip of my head.
So, for the next 7 hours I walked and micro-slept, and shuffled when the micro sleeps went over 2 -3 seconds. While the terrain wasn’t challenging, the proximity to the river at times was close, so last thing I wanted to do was slip in for a midnight dip in the Thames.
Thankfully, dawn finally arrived, but unlike Australia, where you’re greeted by the dawn chorus of raucous cockatoos, kookaburras, galahs, bellbirds, whip birds and crashes in the bush, dawn in the UK is more subtle and while I didn’t feel as if all my energy returned, certainly enough did to know that the end was achievable, if not in sight. I continued to shuffle slowly through checkpoints and struggled to eat or drink, which is my perennial problem. It seems that when you go as slow as I was, you can keep moving with little external energy consumption and use internal resources. Sorry darling, but that’s why I have no cheek fat. I didn’t stop at the 89 mile checkpoint, thinking it was time to get this over with and ground through to the last checkpoint on course at 95 miles. I sat down, exhausted, and thankfully, as was the case throughout the race, the volunteers were runners and knew what I was going through. They coaxed me gently into having a strong coffee and some watermelon, and once I started moving again I could feel the energy return. I vowed to finish strongly, as you always have to look good at the finish! So I picked up the pace and started to breathe better, and very soon I was hitting 8 minute km’s, then 7 minute km’s and finally I was motoring at 6:30 minute km’s with 5 km’s to go. I maintain this pace and passed several runners who were feeling the hurt but resolutely moving, and by the time I turned left and entered the finish chute I was floating on air. After 25 hours and 23 minutes, I had finally conquered a 100 Mile race. While I missed my Centurion target (finishing under 24 hours), I was ecstatic to have finished and finished strongly.
In summary, the race was a great opportunity to exorcise some demons and give me the belief that maybe, just maybe, I can call myself an ultra-marathoner and be in the same room with so many people I admire. At least stand in a corner of the room quietly and discretely!
If you ever get the chance to run the Thames Path 100 or any other Centurion race in the UK, I would highly recommend it. Great organisation, great volunteers and wonderful courses that are as different from the Oz bush as you can imagine.
Note from Adam- this blog was always meant to be a personal collection of stories about life and music. If you read the stuff here you’ll see that running has taken a lot more of my time than music in the last few years. One of the things that is very difficult to do is find good music- there’s so much out there and you could go crazy just searching for stuff that you really like. So I sent a cheeky email to a mate who is completely steeped in music all the time with one question- how do you find the good stuff?
I’m very pleased to present what might be the first blog post about music on a site that should have been partially dedicated to music!
Take it away Dan-
So as a DJ I get asked all the time how I source my new music, new artists, new labels etc etc so I thought I’d write a few quick little paragraphs about this very subject! I’ll use Beatport as an example but this also works across Junodownload and some functionality in iTunes as well.
Step 1: Start with your current favourite track in your library or on Vinyl if you are making the switch to digital. (I’ll use Sonny Fodera as my example).
Put that Producer into Beatport Search and what comes up are not only all the tracks that the Producer has made and is available to buy but also the label that said Producer is on along with his remixes as well!
Labels are usually pretty good at releasing tracks that all have a similar sound, in turn if you like a particular producer/artist it’s more than likely you’ll also dig whats on that label.
In the above image I clicked the defected record label and a whole bunch of tracks and producers has come up. I’m good here now for about 45mins! I’d start with “Purple Disco machine” or “Claptone” from the right hand side column…
It is also good to click on and search producers that remix your favourite artists work or in turn tracks they’ve remixed. This opens up many options and to be honest it naturally turns into a free for fall of new music to access.
In this image I clicked on “Colette” and it takes me to her artist page and then that opens up a whole bunch of new labels, producers she’s worked with and the list goes on…from here I would click on “Lawnchair Generals” or “JT Donaldson” in the right hand column and repeat previous steps, as there literally 100,000 plus house tracks on this site it can soon turn into 3am and have racked up 300 tracks in my cart!
So as you can see, once you get started and just keep exploring you can build a 25,000 track library in about a fortnight if you have the time and budget!
I hope this has helped some of you, I’m happy to chat further anything music related especially if you need some music for your Yoga studio, Hotel, Bar, Salon, Retail Space, Restaurant etc etc…
Editors note- in addition to DJ’ing across the world for luxury brands ( I’m not jealous, sob) Dan has played at venues in Sydney like Ivy, Hemmesphere and events like Dinner en Blanc. If your venue could use some seriously cool music, check out his music service Dusk Music.
This race was going to be interesting after a 4 week preparation diet of Belgium beer, French wine and goat’s cheese. Essentially Louise and I had been eating our way through Europe and arrived in England 2 days before race to 30 degrees and a forecast of thunderstorms for race day. Probably not the best idea to bolt on a 100k race at the end of a holiday but 2 pts were on offer. They would complete my required tally of 8 to qualify to enter the ballot for the UTMB.
The unique race is a 100km route following the footsteps of Romans, Vikings, farmers and traders along the 5000 y/o Ridgeway path. Passing Iron Age forts, ancient burial chambers, crossing the Thames and the mystical down-lands of Salisbury plain on the way to the finish line at the 3,000- year-old stone circle at Avebury (older than Stonehenge!)
Race day: Having stayed in a country pub we woke to predicted torrential rain at 4am. I wasn’t too concerned as this was due to clear and make way for a 25 degree day with afternoon thunder storms and a typical English Summer day.
6:30am we headed to a field in Chinnor in the Chilterns where 1500 competitors were going about their business of registering and final prep. I found my mate Jonny who had driven from Devon the night before, arriving at midnight to sleep in his bivi bag in a farmer’s field. It had leaked during the 4am downpour but Jonny was in good spirits! Despite being a fully supported race the organisers hadn’t secured a sports nutrition sponsor. So as well as mandatory kit one had to think about carrying gels and sports drink for the whole race (or trust you could get by on flapjacks and coca cola!). For me I didn’t want the gut to shut down so I loaded up with tried and tested gels and a tube of SIS sports drink tablets surprisingly sourced from a small local village.
By the 8am start the rain had cleared and the gun went off. Louise, my #1 support crew waved me through. I thought this would be the last I saw of her until the end due to the checkpoints (Pitstops) being in undisclosed hard to reach National Trust locations, the locations were kept secret so supporters wouldn’t congregate. I’d been advised to make a good start so as not to get caught up on single track for the first few K’s. But this wasn’t a sprint race so casually I eased my way through the field and was in a comfortable place for the tight start.
First 10k came and went in a cautious 50 min
We were through the 1st Pitstop with ease and shortly after greeted with the first significant hill. I shot up it overtaking several runners and losing Jonny for a while; clearly the North face training and some training I did in the French Alps between wine and cheese sessions was paying off. At this stage I felt really strong but then again I was only 17k’s into a 100k race.
This race is renowned for its beauty and stunning trail and we had the first real glimpse as we ran through a valley of White Poppy fields. Ah, the Chilterns, the Opium capital of Europe!
Second Pitstop Jonny caught up to me, I grabbed some bananas and a bag of Jellytots (any English reading this will remember Jellytots, once a child hood staple, now sports nutrition!) Shortly after, Jonny and I led a group of runners up a path which turned out to be a driveway to a farmhouse! The farmer kindly pointed out we shouldn’t be in his garden and we returned to the ambiguous arrow marker and the correct path. That would be the only wrong turn in what turned out to be a very well marked course
Here we entered a few K’s of woodland trail and we cautiously opened our legs up conscious it was early days and we were averaging 5min low k’s. The trees cleared and we ran along Grims Ditch, a long flat excavated pathway dating back to the Iron Age
25k’s in I started to cramp in my right butt and my whole right side was struggling to keep up with the left. A strange feeling and I was really running with discomfort. By 30k I was thinking there was no way I was going to make it and my mind was floating the idea of pulling the pin. I had another 2 salt tablets, kept up the sports drink and hung on to Jonny who I could feel was starting to hit his straps.
We ran through a very pretty village, crossed the Thames and hit the marathon distance in 4.10h. The cramps had receded however the quick pace across trail and muddy bridleways was taking its toll and I was tiring.
We hit 50k in 4:58h, it was 1pm, the sun was fully in the sky and England was turning on a sultry summer’s day in the mid 20’s. The humidity was really kicking in and I sensed this would be a game changer for many competitors…..but this was the point where the hardy soldiered on and a majority of the field called it quits for the day, a rest, a night sleep and completion of the second 50k on the Sunday. I was wishing I could join them and be part of the “2 day” racers. Alas I was in the 100k nonstop and there was no getting out of it.
The support crews at the pitstops were great, taking your water bottles and filling them up whilst we refuelled with butter flapjacks, chocolate cake and for me bananas and half a dozen cups of Coke. It was humid and I was drinking like a camel.
At this stage in a 100k race I find it’s all about the mind because the body is telling you it has had enough. The pace gets slower and I’m aware of every K. Jonny couldn’t eat any solids but despite not much fuel going in, I could sense he was feeling strong and I struggled to keep in touch with him from 60k onwards. The terrain was mixed and tough, rutted bridal ways, long, long sweeping downs and long gradual climbs. The scenery was stunning and I was having to make a conscious effort to take it in.
72k another Pitstop was looming. I knew this because markers were placed before the stops “1km until Pitstop”. It became clear someone’s Garmin wasn’t working or the organisers were getting km’s confused with Miles. By the 3rd 2km trot from marker to Pitstop we realised you could only take the markers as a rough suggestion of the next Pitstop. They were screwing with our minds!
And then I saw some people, in fact I saw a t-shirt I recognised………..it was #1 support crew (wife!) who had just worked out where a checkpoint was and literally just arrived. The planets were aligning! It was great to see her and she ran with me in her Haviannas for a km. Louise had heard I was in somewhere near 25th place. This was all I needed and the competitive spirt was awakened. A few salt tablets, some paracetamol a few more cups of coke washed down with some blackcurrant drink and I was out of the checkpoint with renewed vigour.
At 80k I felt good and started to pass a few runners who had passed me earlier. Jonny had gone and I wasn’t to see him again until the finish. Strewth it was getting hot and the air was thick with humidity. Big black clouds were on the horizon and as I ran atop a sweeping dale torrential rain could be seen in the distance. And then a thunderclap like a bomb going off broke the tension and it absolutely pissed down. I ran along like Fred Astaire lapping up the cooling rain.
Last checkpoint at 91k. Instructions were given to the end – we were told the race didn’t end at Avebury Stones but 2k after at a nearby farm. The Stones were at 98k and we had to double back for
a k and turn left off the track up a hill to a 400m road to the finish. I was briefed, fuelled up and ready for the final push. I was also feeling nauseous!
At 96.5k according to my ever reliable Garmin I had 3.5k to go, that is 1.5k to the Stones and then the home straight. Psychologically I was ready. I passed an English runner (#843) with whom I had exchanged positions for some 15k’s. A sign appeared in the distance; surely it would be the sign that said 3km to go……………..but no, ”5km to the Finish!” it read. The straw had broken this Camels back and like a Tsunami I threw up a mixture of bananas, gels, coke and blackcurrant. Adding insult to injury the English chap seized the opportunity and passed me as I fertilised the pathway without so much as a “are you alright old boy?”. He thought I was broken. I thought I was broken but the surprise vomit relieved the nausea and I now had my sights on the finish and finishing ahead of runner 843. I had passed a 110ft high, 1000 y/o “The White Horse of Uffington” carved in the hillside and not even noticed it. I had white-line fever and new found drive to run down 843. Pass him I did
Finally Avebury Stones were in sight; I was ushered to weave through them and return along the same footpath to the final straight home. I passed 843 again on the way out of the stones and gave a quick nod of respect.
A big inflatable finish arch welcomed me in, #1 support crew and Jonny among the cheerers. I had finished a really incredible race in 36th position in 11:20h
Footnote: Jonny had never run further than a marathon before the event and finished in 27th place and 10:48h!
Footnote 2: recovery = bowl of pasta, 4 pints of beer and a live band down the local pub!
I’ve always wanted to do this run for a few years now, I mean c’mon – Australia’s Oldest Ultra Marathon, who wouldn’t wanna do it! Especially since it’s a one day traverse over the infamous Overland Track (who has time to hike it anyway?!)
After being sad that CMR was cancelled in 2016 due to the devastating bush fires that were raging in the North Western parts of Tasmania, I was even more motivated to secure a spot for the 2017 race. Fingers ready on a Sunday night in October, I scored a spot!
Fast forward to February 4th 2017, I was lining up at the crack of dawn (6am) in a small asphalt area outside our Waldheim Cabins in the freezing cold. While Sydney was getting blasted with a 39 degree heat wave, it was about 10 degrees in the Cradle Mountain National Park – PERFECT!
Two roll calls from the Race Directors and a quiet count down, 60 of us runners ventured out over the iconic chicken wired duckboard and off into the untouched Tasmanian wilderness.
And what a wilderness!!! It is a beautiful, prehistoric and really, really untouched wilderness! Photos and descriptions really can’t portray how amazing it is to wind your way past ancient mountains, bluffs, and flora that seems to go on forever.
The only real climb in this course is Marions Lookout. Once you’re up there, the VIEW!
Anyway, long story short, it is a visually spectacular run!
Something incredibly deceiving about this run is that it has a lot of beautiful images depicting
runners cruising along the duckboards. I think these photos I took sum it up perfectly (but it did get much worse than the pic on the right!!!):
This run is a battle. A long, 78km battle along tree roots, rocks, tree roots, rocks, more tree roots, wait is that duckboard?! NOPE! Just more rocks, and an awful lot of time being spent in ankle deep mud. OK, I lie, there’s about 12km of duckboard, but the rest of the 66km route is tree roots, rocks and mud. It’s slow going and by the end of it, the soles of my feet felt like they went through a meat mincer.
Once you’re out of the open plains and into the forests (there’s a lot of that!) you can’t get rhythm either. As soon as you get some sort of pace going, you’re forced to stop and delicately pick your way across super narrow but very broken down duckboard / tree roots / rocks / mud. It’s all ankle breaking stuff!
That said, I’d do it again in a heartbeat!
Here’s the break down of my run:
Start to Pelion Hut: Cruising along duckboard, trying not to freeze, until about 20km in and took a massive stack, majorly bruising my left knee and spraining the front of my left ankle. Nice work Leah. Frog Flats is horrendously technical as was Pine Forest Moor. Slowly slowly!
Pelion Hut – Kia Ora Hut – Du Cane Hut: Able to get some pace along here and enjoy the views. The historical huts are very cool to look at and seem to pop up out of nowhere.
Du Cane Hut – Narcissus: Back to technical trail dancing with my new friend Deb Nicholl for about an hour before she scooted off into the distance. It seems never ending and exhausting. Narcissus popped out of nowhere with the time keepers yelling “Welcome To Narcissus!!!” They had a small amount of fruit and coke (blessed coke!!) This was the only thing that resembled half and aid station and I was so thankful for it! Did I mention this was a fully self supported run? Surprise; it is!
Narcissus – Watersmeet: Good lord the rocks and roots!!!!!!! Turns out, running around the edge of Lake St Clair and into Cynthia Bay is verrrrrrrrrry long and soul destroying. It’s around 16 – 17km to Watersmeet (where all the rivers join up into one giant rapid) and took me around 3 hours to do this final section. The trail kept disappearing too, making it hard to find the clear trail path again. I really had to concentrate once the trail disintegrated and ensure I scanned the entire area to find the trail start back up again usually around 20 – 50 metres ahead.
Watersmeet – Cynthia Bay: Approaching Watersmeet was salvation! I knew I was about 2km away from the finish line. Time to get a wiggle on! Too bad that this still took me around 30 min to quietly shuffle my way to the end…… But the finish line popped up out of nowhere! I saw two timekeepers, Deb, another finisher who offered me a soft drink and no one else around. Nice! While it seemed like an uninspiring finish, it was really cool to have a quiet finish line – it kept it inline with the casual vibe of the run.
The great news was, I finished in a time that allowed me to bus it to the Derwent Bridge Hotel, shower and still have 5 minutes to spare to order dinner and a pint before the kitchen closed – winner!
The Next Day: Breakfast time was a time to huddle in and receive our participation awards and our Huon Pine Coaster (very cool). I may have to run it another 5 times to get a set of 6 coasters.
During the presentations, I think the winner of CMR (Damian Smith) summed this race up really nicely when he accepted his award: “The dickheads seemed to have not discovered this race yet, and I hope it stays that way”. Yup, me too.
Overall, pretty happy with my splits:
For anyone wanting to do it, a few things to note:
•This thing sells out quicker than 6FT Track, so have your fingers ready at rego time to be one of the 60 lucky runners to score an entry.
•I highly recommend adding in the accommodation and bus tickets during registration, this was an excellent way to meet other scallywags heading to Cradle Mountain for this run.
•Immediately call Derwent Bridge Hotel (or other nearby accommodation) to secure your bed for the finish line. Otherwise you’ll be stuck paying $300-$400 / night when these all sell out.
•For the race itself, I highly recommend only taking two 500ml flasks to fill up at the creeks and rivers during the run. There’s so much water available on course that you don’t need to be worried about carrying too much. I used ‘Aquaprove’ to sanitise the water. It works in 5 min and I had no stomach trouble. (Thanks Dom Gallagher!!!)
•It’s actually 78km, not 82km as stated on the website. It’s also 2400 metres of elevation gain.
•The cut off points: Pelion Hut is at approximately 32km, and Narcissus is at 61.3km.
I’m still disappointed by the way I let myself slack off during Coast to Kosci in December, so I was hoping that I’d be able to concentrate on pushing hard while tired. let’s see how that went…..
Months ago Sarah said ‘should we do Tarawera? Entries open next week…’
Before I’d had a chance to reply (I’m not a fast thinker) we had flights, accomodation and 2 race entries. I’d been fascinated with the race for a couple of years and this would be my first international race!
The flight over the ditch was uneventful, pity I couldn’t say the same about work. I had a few items lingering on my list that just wouldn’t die, resulting in a fair bit of lost sleep in the few previous days. At Auckland airport we had a nice surprise, Sarah had ordered a small car from Avis and we’d been given a Commodore SV6 with all sorts of bells and whistles. It was pretty bloody quick too, I nicknamed it Vlad, destroyer of continents. Except it was a horrible grey colour. So she then became Brad, destroyer of continence.
Kath and Camille- Winners!
Our first night we stayed in Auckland and had dinner with my sister and her family, they took us to Epolitos Pizza and it was awesome- I managed to annihilate nearly and entire 18 inch pizza and we killed Sarah’s diet that night too (sorry Hailey!). Sarah had booked us into a reasonably priced hotel, it was the hotel Surrey, decorated like an Elizabethan guest house. Got to be honest, despite all of the quirky and interesting bric-a-brac around the place it really didn’t work as a theme. But despite me being horribly bitchy the room was a lot larger than expected, had great facilities and friendly staff. Pity there was only 2 hours free internet…..
I used my 2 free hours to watch a live FaceBook video of Chris Kostman, the race director of the Badwater 135 race, as he was reading out the names of the 100 lucky people who would get to run the race this year. He started by talking about all the talented runners who he’d had to leave off the list and my heart sank. I mean, if he’d left off the talented runners then I had no chance right? Well it turns out that he read my name out, about 90th into the list!. I’m running Badwater baby, yes I am!
We saddled up Brad for a 3 hour drive down to Rotarua the next morning. Nothing much to tell about the drive except that a lot of New Zealand roads seem to merge from 2 lanes into 1 with very little warning and there may have been one or two brown trouser moments before I got fully used to it…..we weren’t really in danger, I was just remembering the Avis rep say ‘ ……and there’s a three thousand dollar excess…..’
Off to the Holiday Inn Rotarua which was race headquarters for the weekend and we had a quick look at the expo, found Jill and made our way to the AirBnB that we had for the weekend. Then back to race HQ to collect race kit and weigh in. Unfortunately I had suggested 4pm for an NRG meetup and team photo and didn’t finish getting weighed in until 4:20 (or perhaps much later?) Anyway, in combination with some work things I completely had the shits and really just wanted to get ready for the race and finish my work. So we headed back to the house and I became a computer hermit while the others made a huge meal of spaghetti bolognese. Leftovers went into the fridge to be reheated after the race.
By the time I’d finished getting ready it was nearly 10pm and I was exhausted, so of course my body decided that staring at the ceiling for a while would be appropriate punishment. I don’t normally have issues sleeping, but when I do it can be properly irritating.
Rising at 4am local time is actually 2am Sydney time and of course it felt like I hadn’t slept much at all. I’m not good with less than 10 hours a night (you read that right!) so after several nights of this I was a bit gaga.
(Look away now if squeamish)
Continuing on with the poo theme, it wasn’t at all surprising that I had no luck ‘dropping the kids off at the pool’ at 2am Sydney time. It’s always a good idea to spend a couple of minutes before a race in quiet contemplation in the smallest room of the house, but this time my body said ‘it’s fucking 2am, fuck off’
(Welcome back squeamish people)
Walking by myself to the race start in the dark I came across an older kiwi gentleman wearing thongs (er, sorry jandals) so I started chatting with him. Turns out he s a former 24 hour track runner who is going to see the start. Choice bro.
Of course it’s a very big race so I hardly saw anyone I knew at the start, but after the gun went off I settled in and found a few mates. Of course having found out about Badwater only 18 hours ago, I was compelled to tell everyone in the entire race about it. This led to a few interesting realisations- firstly, only about 30-40% of people had any idea what I was talking about (they smiled and nodded their heads), but also that the people who did know about the race must have thought I was joking. Yeah, I might have to lose a couple of kg before the race!
And then we were off- I started my Garmin on gun time so I’d have a few seconds up my sleeve if needed, and checked as I crossed the start- 50 seconds had elapsed. I put my head torch away as it was perfectly easy to run with the light from other people. I was loving the gentle uphills and spongy trail, but I knew that wouldn’t last!
I’d printed a pace and elevation chart off the website and filled in the checkpoint times from a couple of runners- one for 14 hours and one for 16 hours. Pity I didn’t have time to check them because they both turned out to be horrible choices, and we’ll see why a bit later.
Most of the first 60km of this course is single track- it varies from very easy, sandy tracks through scrub to gnarly hand over fist climbing. The run has ‘only’ 2500m of climbing but the main difficulty with the run is the many km of little climbs and descents over tree roots. So you can put this down to excuses but I have fairly massive feet, my eyesight isn’t perfect and I’m reasonably tall- these things make it very difficult for me to put my feet down easily and glide over the roots. Or perhaps I just didn’t do enough training on tight, technical terrain. Anyway, it gets VERY tiring having to concentrate, and I really had the shits after about 40km of this. I know it sounds like I had the shits the whole weekend but that isn’t true- I still hadn’t done my morning poo!
I’d actually managed to stick to the 14 hour plan up until the 50km mark- my chosen runner had done the first 60km in 8:55 and had blasted the last 40km in 5 hours. What’s wrong with those numbers? Well, it means that he took it really easy for 60km then worked his arse off for 40km. I was 25 minutes behind his time by the 62km mark and things were not looking good, especially when I looked at my 16 hour guys times. I realised I was only 15 minutes in front of his times, so suddenly I was battling for a 16 hour finish? What I hadn’t realised was that my chosen 16 hour runner had done decently well for much of the race then crashed horribly somewhere around where I was- I should have studied those times better!
I had bonked pretty hard at Coast to Kosci and I was looking for a bit of redemption here- so I was pretty happy to ease into the first 60km and then make it hurt for a while. So when I left the 60km check point I was primed for some running but it looked like there was more single track!
Luckily around the next corner we were greeted with some wide fire trails covered in soft pine needles that looked like they went forever. I was in heaven. But I was also pretty sore and a bit grumpy from the previous 60km, so I got out my headphones, put on some music and did The Robot. This is when I focus on my running form, trying to keep everything nicely upright, using my glutes and doing a very easy, low energy run. It worked, and I started passing heaps of people. Side note- some dickhead told me not to call them fire tails, as they are actually forestry roads. Sorry buddy but whilst you may be technically correct, I don’t care, and I’m too old to change.
It was time to start calculating finish times. As I’ve explained above, this was an exercise in extreme frustration. For a while I had no idea whether I was possibly able to push for sub 14 hours or if I was going to have to fight for sub 17!
Analysing the results above you can see around the 40km mark where I kind of lost interest- I was also worried about going too fast and not having enough energy to finish strong. For me, nailing those next 2 sections would be key to getting a better time. Er, and also losing 5kg would undoubtedly help!
This left me at the 62km mark in 9.5 hours- a sub 14 wasn’t going to happen without a 4.5 hour next 40km. Rested and on the road in good conditions that eminently possible, but even on lovely groomed trail it wasn’t likely after 62km!
Several times over the next few hours I nearly gave up, and several times I decided to keep pushing based on my wish to have a good result at this race. You can see how I was steadily making up places but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Finally deciding that sub 9 minute km’s would get me under 15 hours, I was pretty happy and from there it was all about making sure each slow km was balanced with a faster one. I had to make sure that every 10-20 minutes I pulled out a lolly to keep my energy up, and I started playing mental games to keep moving at the required pace. And then disaster.
I’d stolen a chart off the race website that included stats on checkpoint distances and expected times for leaders and BOP, and I was using this on the run to figure out my pace. Running towards the last checkpoint I noticed a small problem- the checkpoint at 100km showed that the distance to the end was now 0km. Which is a mistake- it’s a 102km race! FAAAAAARK! I still had another 2.4km to go! So I bolted, trusting that I had enough strength to not collapse…..
And so I did- I felt a bit of a bastard passing people towards the finish line but my calculations paid off and the clock was showing 54, 55, 56 seconds as I was rushing though the finish chute, for a final time of 14:44:57. That first 14 is super important to me, a huge result considering my fitness and lack of experience on the course.
I’m really proud of the fact that I kept up the pressure, passed a lot of people in the last few sections and even did one or two sub 6min/km! The secret in this case turned out to be Jack Links soft beef jerky. It was kind of hard to chew and swallow, but I had one strip at 40km and another at 60km. This had the effect of making my legs feel much less trashed- I’d normally like to have an amino acid like Taurine but had forgotten to arrange it.
From 487 starters in the 102km category, there were 455 finishers and thus 32 DNF. And for the curious- I finally dropped a load off in a nice warm bathroom next to the finish line.
Here is the full program with notes, enjoy!
Each link will take you to the FaceBook Event page.
If you are unsure about coming, you can still add these events to your calendar by selecting ‘export event’ then ‘save to calendar’ like this-