Mt Solitary 2012

It’s not how fast you run, it’s who spots your name on the entry list!

After the postponement of the Mt Solitary race early this year, you’d think I’d be well prepared. I was, but nothing could make me ready me for the relentless agony of hill after hill after…. (except I’ve done it before. I must be very good at blocking things out)


It all started well, several cars full of NRG’ers met at the start, the first photons of light just giving a little colour to the trees. The old Queen Victoria Hospital (I like to call it an ‘abandoned mental hospital’ to freak people out) sits at the end of Tableland Rd in Wentworth falls. Surrounded by tall forest, it’s quite a spooky place. After a quick gear check (the mandatory gear list is quite long) we had enough time to have a nervous chat amongst ourselves, and for me to find my Garmin wasn’t working. Then a medical briefing from Keith Hong ‘if you need help off the course, tell someone who will tell a marshall, if you have a little blister, maybe you need to toughen up’. Well said Buzz.


The air horn sounded and we were off down the fire trail towards Jamison Creek. A couple of km of fast downhill then we veer off into the single track and descend even further. This was a lot of fun, and I was feeling well prepared and confident. I also knew that there would be some monumental climbing, and I’ve have to absolutely nail my nutrition plan to do well. However I also knew this would be a problem, as I’d run out of my normal gels, and was using a whole bunch of random ones picked up from showbags etc. And with no Garmin, I’d be guessing my food slots.


I’d decided to practice my race craft in this race- I’m very prone to stopping to chat to people, hang around too long at checkpoints and do lots of stuff that doesn’t get me to the end quicker. The lack of a Garmin made it all a little more challenging.


When we arrived at the creek there was a pleasant surprise- a log that we could climb on! Very happy about that as it’s not fun to run for 40km in wet feet. After the creek we started the climb. It’s not bad at first with plenty of runnable bits alternating bits of scrub with bush. It was here I dropped off the back of the train driven by Michael McGrath, letting him go so I could suck down a gel. My critical mistake here was selecting an SIS (Science in Sport) gel. It didn’t taste very sweet, and I believe this is because they don’t contain sucrose/ fructose, all the carbs are from maltodextrin. Well, let’s just say it didn’t work. I rely heavily on sugar and gels to get me through these races, and this was a big slap in the face because by the time I’d worked out this failure, I was deep into the mongrel climb- 650m of vertical in 3km. I lost about 30 places here, getting passed by all the other NRG’ers. Martyn stopped to ask me what was wrong and I made light of it, but I was already wondering if the promised fruit cake at the checkpoint would help me at the same time as cursing every pie I’d ever eaten. I stopped on the top of the mountain for another nutrition break, then took off to see if I could catch Chris Dawe who was just ahead. I ran pretty hard but couldn’t find him. I figured there was no way he could be that far in front (we’d started and insanely steep descent that included some rock climbing) and I looked back and he was there! He’d taken a wrong turn. I looked up and asked if he could see any pink tape just in time to see another runner fall off the mountain. Luckily it wasn’t a big fall, but he’d badly sprained/ lightly broken his ankle. I can’t think of a much worse place for this to happen, we were still 10km from the checkpoint, but apparently he got down safely- you wouldn’t have been able to stretcher him out as it wouldn’t have fitted though the holes in the rocks.


A bit more single track, past the scenic railway and we were greeted by another long climb up the Furber steps to the only checkpoint of the race. I saw both Martyn Dawson and Jane Trumper coming back down, so I had an idea of how far in front they were. I’d told Chris Dawe I was going to spend a bit of time at the checkpoint and not to wait for me but after I discovered there was no fruitcake, had a couple of Pepsis, I filled up my bladder there was nothing left to do except go.


I was feeling much stronger now, and since running with the fast middies a few times I’ve realised that my redline is a bit higher than previously thought. Still not 100% but no longer wishing some supreme being to put me out of my misery on the trail. I told Chris and Tanya who I was running with that if you’ve got anything left, this is the time to use it. It was about this stage that Chris said ‘my doctor told me I shouldn’t run today’. I figured if I could keep up a decent pace to the abandoned sewerage works I could stretch my legs on the fast downhills along Federal Pass, push to Jamison Creek, then hang on for the last 8km hill up Kedumba. As a bonus if I could catch either Jane or Martyn I might be able to stay with them, they are both very consistent runners with a great ‘never give up’ attitude. It wasn’t to be, they both finished well in front of me but it was fun chasing them. I did make up about 10 spots in the last 20km, and only 2 of those came back and passed me again. One was a woman (don’t worry I get ‘chicked’ a lot) and the other was a guy wearing home made sandals. Sigh.


Here comes grumpy bum

Anyway I’m happy that my plan to ‘race’ worked (well, for the second half anyway) and that I was able to recover from a bad start (over confident? bad planning? bad luck?), I beat 8 hours, got a 48 minute PB and I finished within an hour of Rob Mattingly……… and went from 53rd of 56 finishers in 2011 to 88th of 112 finishers. And my Garmin was simply flat, both my wife and son had noticed that it was turned on but hadn’t mentioned it to me. My responsibility though, I’ll be sure to check next time!


On the way home one of our crew needed a powerchunder (do they put diced carrot in gels?) and we stopped off for a beer in Lane Cove where another of our runners walked in and said ‘Gday Maggot, how are you?’. Why don’t I have any friends called Maggot?


Anyway I’m incredibly pleased to report some outstanding performances- Kathy Madden and Colette Woodliffe came in 6th and 7th female respectively. Excellent!


In case you think I’m joking about how tough this course is, here’s a selection of quotes stolen from Facebook after the race (names withheld to protect the comedians). I did not make these up-


It’s too painful to live

man, that race was a pain in the ass, literally – I have never had my glutes so sore! Whoever wants to squeeze my bum, be my guest!
 Mt Solitary – at this stage of recovery I never want to hear those words mentioned again
I can’t walk or do anything else today
I saw the elevation chart, and cringed.Then laughed, long, and loud <<<(this person did not do the race)
 That is the meanest nastiest evil hill / mountain I have ever climbed!!



At the pointy end, the race was won by Matt ‘Coops’ Cooper, in a new course record of 4:41 This is a guy who believes that through some form of NLP you can access an unlimited source of energy. While I could probably make a joke about him being the fruitcake that was promised in the race description, you can’t argue with those results, what an outstanding athlete. Maybe if I remove the fruitcake joke he’ll show me how to access that energy, I sure could have used it on Sunday!




200 spots, 129 starters, 112 finishers, 17 DNF. Cut off time 9 hours, distance 45km


Rob Mattingly 6:54:13

Michael McGrath 7:04:44

Katherine Madden 7:12:06

Colette Woodliffe 7:25:26

Martyn Dawson 7:36:00

Adam Connor 7:49:12

Chris Dawe 8:01:58

David Little 8:54:17

Steve Tancred RET

3 Marathons in 3 Days

when the invite to 3 marathons in 3 days arrived I didn’t think much about it, but over the next few months I wondered how it would feel to try to emulate in a small way the achievements of people like Pat Farmer, Mal Law, Seb Perhauz and Jane Trumper. I’ve got no ambition to do the same, but what’s it like to get out of bed each day knowing you have to run a marathon, even for just a few days?

Start, Day 1

Day 1
We met outside the tourist information centre at Kuranda in the hills overlooking Cairns. I knew this would be a small event, but it struck home that there were just 38 people registered for the event, and only 32 doing all three marathons. And small means friendly- within 5 minutes I had arranged a ride from the end back home with a perfect stranger. Jane Trumper was there being interviewed by the local TV station and about to attempt her 94th marathon. The gun went off and we all descended into a path next to the Barron River. Just beautiful, but I soon learned that the locals avoid vegetation that we would just crash through. They have this stuff called ‘lawyer vine’ or ‘wait a while’ that dangles down from overhead, and will rip you to shreds at any chance. I found this out when a bit attached to my arm and tried to rip my face off. By the 20km mark I was talking to a couple of guys
who had entered thinking the event was going to be mostly road. I’m guilty of not looking at some things very closely but what on earth were they thinking? There was no sign of snakes, wild pigs or cassowary, except for some fresh turds that couldn’t have weighed less than ~1.5kg. I really don’t want to meet a bird that can do that……. The second half of day 1 was much easier, but by the end we’d covered more elevation than Six Foot Track. Ouch. I’d told my father in law that I expected to take 6 hours, and came through the finish in 6:00:23. How’s that for timing!

Results- 18th overall, 3rd in age group

Stuffing my face, but always have time for a chat and a photo

Day 2
Saturday started and finished at Cedar Park eco Resort, and looped through the forest around Kuranda. Thankfully there was little of the ankle snapping single track of the previous day, but we’d been warned that it would be harder, with some competitors expected to be out there for up to 8 hours.  This one was like death by a thousand cuts, with little hills constantly sapping energy. Then some big hills that wanted to smash me mentally. Overall elevation was higher than day 1, but I managed to finish a little faster, coming in at 5:49:15 officially. The last 10km were hideously painful, simply trying to keep my rhythm and get one foot in front of the other. It was here that I had my low point, wondering whether it was possible to complete the 3rd day, but conversely thinking ‘wow, I just have to tough out one more day, I think I can do it’. I slept in my compression tights, hoping that this would help with recovery.

Results- 16th overall, 2nd in age group

Day 3
This one started at Cedar Park and ended in Cairns, making it a substantially downhill run although we still managed 1200m of ascent on the day. I started with a bunch that I finished in front of previously, simply looking for a finish rather than any glory. This group of 4 were out in front before long, and I actually managed to lead in a marathon a few times that day. It’s not really as impressive as it sounds- it was a staggered start, and the fast people were starting 1 and 2 hours behind us. I tried to pace myself against Jane Trumper- she’s very consistent (which I’m not) and is happy to walk most hills (which I am too). I knew it would be difficult to stay with her all day, as she can dig deeper than me and can keep going when I’m begging for mercy. This run included a couple of out and back sections to make up the distance with a few rises to the top of Copperload Dam where my wife met us and ran to the end, then about 10km of smashing downhills into Cairns. We lost the other 2 runners on the downhill, and I turned into a zombie, almost unable to speak. This provided plenty of entertainment for Jane and my wife. A drink station at 39km, cross a highway then 3km up a hill for the finish. And yes this last hill had plenty of false summits, there were little pleading sounds coming from my mouth by the time we got to the spectators, only to find we had to run up another rise to the trig point to finish! Diabolical.

Results- 14th overall, 2nd in age group, 4th across the line (due to my early start)

The End. Yes, it really felt that good

So what did I learn?
You can run marathons day after day, but not well. I felt great on day 4 and ready to go again, but how much of that was knowing I didn’t have to? And would I have felt the same after 10km? Out of 32 registered for all 3, only 25 competitors finished. You secretly kind of hope that a few will drop out and boost your ranking, but I’d rather gain places with sweat than others misfortune. I love smaller events, and by the time we finished, I’d made some great new friends. Here’s a list of the things on my body that DIDN’T hurt after 3 days of running- ear lobes, some patches of skin, that’s about it. The organisation of the entire thing was impeccable- the only thing that went wrong was the checkpoint drop for cp1 did not turn up on day 3. I didn’t use the drop service so I didn’t care. Pretty amazing when you consider they had water drops about every 5km for the whole 3 days. The food was amazing- chocolate cake and home made slice as well as the usual suspects. Oh, and did I mention the entire 3 days cost me $65?

Jane, David and I swapped the lead for a while. Photographic proof that I’ve been in first place in a marathon. Briefly


Woodford to Glenbrook 2012

There are moments when I kid myself that I can run like Adam Darwin. Usually when he’s injured, sick or simply not running. But I’ll readily admit that he always manages to beat me with racecraft, cunning or actual talent. Still, I was feeling cocky when he flew past me on a minor rise about 2km into this race. In my defence, I had no idea how astonishingly fast this race is. I usually take a few km to get into the rhythm, but after a 4:38 first km I tried to slow down. Bad move. After passing about 100 people just after the start line, they all started to reel me back in. I had a stack at about 8-9km, not painful but an impressive amount of blood. Then after the 12km mark it’s all downhill. Wow, I couldn’t believe how fast we were running- pulling off a 4:27 at 18km was simply mind boggling for me. Passed a lot of people in the last few k’s but it got very painful, I was desperate to see the clearing and some signs to indicate the finish.


I came through the gates in 2:14 to find that Adam D had finished in 2:02. Tony Sharpe, Walter Edgar and a number of NRG’ers finished around the same time as me.


See you next year for a rematch Adam D, and I’ll need the number for your speed dealer, er coach. The photo is about 150m from the finish line. Look happy, don’t I?



Nicola Darwin 2:37

Adam Darwin 2:02

Adam Connor 2:14

Geoff Evison  1:55

Richard Bettles 1:46

Alison Carlin 2:26

Sarah Connor 2:26

Leigh Reynolds 2:30

Teresa Liu 2:38

Rose Pengilly 3:04

Walter Edgar 2:23

Tony Sharpe 2:26


Also some of you might know Anne Powell, who crossed the line in 2:19 to win her age category!