Wednesday, 20 July 2016

The weekend that came from nowhere (and disappeared)

Long, long time between blog posts i admit but reckon with very slow internet at home and lack of enthusiasm of me about posting about races where i've just done enough to finish, but this weekend was somewhat different.
Friday, finish work as usual at 3, had been working the hills of Coolangatta (essentially one side of the hill is Queensland, the other side i don't work on is New South Wales), so a tough day.
Go to the library there for some decent internet before heading home and around 4 look at Facebook, a message from a friend asking me whether i'd like to do the Kokoda Challenge 96KM team race the next day as he wasn't able to and the team was now a member short.
I quickly thought about it (about 1 second) and replied yeah sure. I little problem my phone had had one of those days that happens once a week or so where it just goes off and on and the battery lasts about an hour (had happened also the previous Sunday, getting more frequent :-(), so couldn't actually talk to him until i got home. So a quick grocery shop (and i was going to buy some batteries for my headlamp but actually ended up buying a new 250 Lumen headlamp at the supermarket as i have questions about my LED Lenser Headlamp in wet conditions like were predicted). Whilst I'd been at the library I'd also looked at past results and worked out that in my current shape probably 17:30 was as good as I could do timewise there, which seemed to fit in well with their aim of 18 hours (sure I've done 100's of Ultras, but hadn't run 100K since last years Gold Coast 100 and my longest race this year had only been 60KM, had a feeling my body would know what it was doing but with a tough year so far: the flu, followed by a broken rib and then Plantar Fascia - still ongoing I think, not in brilliant shape)
Eventually home at 5 and phone won't charge so have to find my "race phone" worlds simplest Nokia, pretty much just put the sim card in and my mate calls me and i then ring the Team Captain CHris, so yes 5:30 PM Friday and i have a 7AM race to prepare for the next day, probably good i don't need to think !!!
Macaroni Cheese for dinner, grabbed a whole pile of gear and tossed it into my bag, that's my preparation done :-).
7 O'clock race start so had to be there early to get the official swap over form done, was picked up at 6 and there by 6:15, 20 minutes later still looking for my team, with about 15 minutes to spare find my team and we head over to registration were directed "over there", I make some crack about "not usually at a bar this early" and actually we were wrong it was the queue for coffee (no beer at that time of day :-)), so a couple of minutes later in the right queue, pretty much got round to meeting the rest of the team and then the official stuff, The Last Post, it is after all a race in honour of the soldiers who were on the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea.
And then we were off, off hand over 300 teams but many, many, of them were walkers who would be taking much of the allowed 39 hours, so us runners weren't particularly crowded and could get a nice steady pace running. First off it was bike paths and roads admit I was almost expecting bush from the get go, for mine the more bitumen the better as whilst I hadn't done this event before I was pretty familiar with some of the tracks and especially their steepness and with over 500mm of rain in June (although dry recently) was expecting a decent mudbath out there.
Admit recently I was thinking that soon I would need a new pair of Trail Shoes, the ASICS Gel Fuji Trabucos I was wearing were almost a year old and I suspect reaching the end of their useful life, but was hardly going to buy a new pair (and didn't have time Friday night) and use them unworn. Rest of gear was as true and tested, X-Bionics Fennec Top (not ideal in real heat but good in cooler conditions and today wasn't going to be real warm and seemingly drizzly), Nike Shorts with built in compression (was 50/50 whether ones with compression or not as I do question whether compression is good on quads and hammys when worn for hours, so maybe against my better judgement), and my Drymax Trail Socks (knew I'd be loving them later when we had creek crossings, after all I never change shoes or socks), a little cool so a Buff but had the headband close at hand in the Ultimate Direction Vest (the first time I wore that vest after buying in March was on part of that course, this was to be it's biggest test, had the two handhelds out the front and some Gels and whistle in pockets as well as rain jacket, bladder was in my support crew bag and was pretty sure I wasn't going to need it thankfully).
Finally hit the trails and was talking with Matt (team member) found he pretty much lives on that section of the course handy as I I'm just as sure I'd never been on that part before. Slowly we made our way up, oh yeah this was going to be a hard day I could feel as this was meant to be an easier one of the hills we encountered. But what comes up has to go down and that was interesting indeed, definitely easier for me to go uphill rather than down, although at some points i got a nice roll on, for many years Nike Frees were my goto shoe for trails as the flexibility of the sole meant i could tackle downhills quickly and with confidence but recent models have been disappointing to say the least and that's meant the much more inflexible sole of "Real" trail shoes. Glad to hit the bottom and some road as i waited for the rest of the team, in theory we should have been a little closer together but only safe way to get downhill is to go out your comfortable pace. Time for a Gel and then we headed off along the road together. Only around a 300 odd metre climb but already muddy conditions were making it pretty hard work, i'd changed into my headband at that road as i could virtually feel the steam coming out of my buff, this weather was going to quite deceptive, cool - 15 or so i guess - but very steamy with the cloud cover, definitely had to keep hydrated.
30K and we hit the first checkpoint where our crew were (and the first time i'd met our crew), 4.5 Hours, this was definitely going to be a long day. Was feeling good but admit when i'd stretched my leg to go over the fence to get into the checkpoint field my left leg seemed to cramp or something, just didn't feel quite right. A Clif Bar (only one i could find at home and i suspect vintage 2011), some sports drink and and topping up my bottles, a Vegemite sandwich, some lollies topped off by a chocolate Brownie, reckon i was almost full, better get moving again.
Through the fence this time and now i knew the course well, this was where i'd "christened" my race vest in March, up Pollys Hill, this was going to be tough and steep. Hadn't got far and felt a cramp right through my left Quad/Hamstring down to my knee, this wasn't good, seemed similar to what had happened on the Black Range 30 odd K into Six Foot Track Marathon at times, when i'd cramp on flat runnable sections, stretched against a tree but muscle was spasming off and on, would move and then be okay for a bit, really had no choice but to just keep on moving and grit my teeth and occasionally stretch, in my mind not finishing wasn't an option but i know the more sensible side of me was thinking about the fact we were at best only a 3rd of the way and for that sort of time on feet i'd expect to hit the wall 3 or 4 times so i'd just have to ride it out (and also had thoughts at the back of my mind about whether it was something to do with the compression in my shorts as this was where it was worst).
Finally, and it felt like for forever but was in reality only 2 hours for the 9K. There were Physios at this checkpoint so i got them to have a look at my leg, no idea what they actually did but had one either side stretching them over towards my ears, i didn't cramp up so that was a good sign, possibly a little more time there would have been good but another team had come in and Chris wanted us out so off we headed, new this was creek crossings and reckoned this would be good on my tight muscles, felt alot looser and for the moment my fear of letting the team down were gone, was loving the water crossings and the cool water on my previously tight muscles unfortunately only around knee deep only 80 minutes to that next checkpoint at Numinbah Hall, very glad indeed to see our crew, this time a Jam Sandwich, Chocolate Brownie, and some lollies as well as topping up my Accelerade, definitely feeling more positive.
We left all felt all feeling good, but then some gentle hills and for reasons i can't explain i had pain going from the middle of my foot (at a guess Plantar Fascititis, definitely had that burning feeling) up the outside of my leg and up through my knee and up to my hips, of course my left side (where all my injuries are :-0), eased back a bit and this pain would come and go, couldn't do much but just keep on going faster when i felt capable. Our team was going smoothly but i was definitely riding a roller coaster, just doing what i reckon would get me through as not slow down the team. Was so glad to get back to the next checkpoint, had 3 glasses of the Cordial the race supplied and some lollies, no time to be stretched more as i knew i'd taken more time than planned cramping didn't appear to be an issue but those spasms from the foot up upwards were going to be interesting as this was supposed to be the "real mongrel" of a hill and the aim was to get there before dark and to then get changed into warm gear. 5K, 500Metre climb, doesn't sound much but this was something else just kept on going on, sweating like anything and still getting those spasms at times, so glad to reach the top, cool breeze but it was at least a tailwind and so nice to be in open paddocks, i think i got a little carried away and headed to the checkpoint tent trying to get out the breeze, not me at my brightest, didn't realise our crew vehicle was just past there, would have been warmer.
Was getting cooler as the sun was setting and no way was i exposing bare skin to that breeze so i put my long running tights over the shorts, long sleeved running top over my shirt, then rain jacket, then compulsory reflective vest, one with a lining to keep it a little warmer (had had it for years but never used it), dry Buff (i'd put another Buff on to replace my headband earlier) and then a a Balaclava on top, also warm gloves (a Christmas Present from Anna Maria so made for a Canadian winter), as well as that new Headlamp. We had rice but not overly warm as hard to keep the glass lit so warm tea, Vegemite Sandwich, some chips and another chocolate Brownie.
First downside of all my layers of clothing my thumb was through two lots of long sleeves so had to take my gloves off to roll up my sleeves to use my wrist barcode at the checkpoint, good way to waste a couple of minutes.
We were now on Army land, us Civilians never normally get here (i was wondering whether we were being used to find unexploded bombs, but i suspect that's just my sense of humour :-)), downhill early and we we running into heaps of 48K teams (they had started at Numinbah Hall at 1PM, ) and many of them were schoolkids, very noisy and enthusiastic. Admit for a while i was wonderinmg i was in worse shape than i thought and was hallucinating as there were frequent Speed Bump signs !!! (obviously for Military vehicles), still drizzling but comfortable but none of us were really feeling like running.
The downhill ended but then uphill, can best describe the surface as a crumbly bitumen, shockingly little grip, and for people with poles too hard to dig into to, i was struggling, spent alot of time on the edge of the track in the bush where at least i could keep my footing better, couldn't believe how much i was sweating on a chilly night, Balaclava was off as were the gloves to let the heat out as otherwise i was pretty sure i'd over heat. At one point, Chris yelled to me, watch out for that snake (surely they should be hibernating but maybe not normally not cold enough or disturbed by all the footsteps), as far as i can work out almost steped on rather than around it. Finally we made it to Beechmont and roads, so relieved, amazing how cool it was once out of the bush, Checkpoint at Syd Duncan Park and i asked Chris just how do we get back to Mudgeeraba from here, i was told we finish at Nerang Velodrome, at least that made sense as i'd been doing maths in my head and we seemed much further away than i thought we should be, only showed i'd never actually had time to look at the map.
Hit the road and changed back into the Canadian gloves again (had put a thin pair on at Beechmont but was getting seriously cold, loving this road and the support of locals and then down to Hellfire Pass, which starts as a residential road and then becomes a track. By the time we regrouped massive groups of schoolkids doing the 48K had gone through and this was going to be tricky.
Absolutely loved this part of the course i stuck to the sides the whole way so to to avoid all the damned hiking poles, two falls flat on my back on really slippery bits but they were so medically needed, it was like have chiropractic done to my back, loosened my tight leg muscles up so well. A bit of a wait at this next checkpoint, as first Matt arrived and the Chris and Charlotte, last time we would see our crew until we were finished.
Chris's Headlamp was dying so i lent him my LED Lenser, mine wasn't that but i reckoned i could use the light of big groups as i went by as i'm not great on really bright light, so more Vegemite Sandwiches, Noodles for the first time, tea and another chocolate Brownie, i was probably feeling the best i had since about 10K, only problem was the sheer number of people in front of us (mainly Schoolkids doing the 48K race). Lots of getting around big groups, and poles !!!!, but now towards Nerang i had a good idea where we were at least.
Admit I've never felt Mount Nathan to actually be a Mountain (and for mine the 6th of the five Mountains listed on this course), ever feel so much like a mountain, 3 or 4 times I found myself a clear spot on the edge of the track and just stood there and took some very deep breaths, seemed to be what I needed to push on hard.
Was so happy when we hit the long driveway that used to be part of the Tamborine Trek Course and meant the start of Nerang State Forest, only 10K to go.
Nerang State Forest was the slippriest i can ever recall there, i swear there was a 6th big hill (the course supposedly has 5), but we were getting there, my light had got to the point i was running on memory virtually but out there could get away with that and there were enough headlamps around. finally we could see the Velodrome, so happy and relieve it was all over, 18 Hours and 43 Minutes, 4th Complete Mixed Team and 9th Complete.
A team met us and we were all just so happy and relieved, a beer (my first for two weeks) and our adventure was over, i can't speak for the rest but i know i was a Zombie. Big thanks to Chris, Matt and Charlotte for putting up with me in their team and our crew (names escape me as i type).
Really wasn't expecting this weekend and i am happy it happened

Monday, 5 January 2015

Another year of running ends, many ups and downs

I'd have to say 2014 was an interesting year, having Transe Gaule for the first time since 2008, I'm still not totally convinced that doing multi day stage races is really my thing or not, however those seem to be where I get consistent running in, although looking at how some of the younger runners went this year have to acknowledge that as I get older I appear to not recover day after day as well I think I do.
Certainly my second year in a row with no wins (unless you count age groups), and like last year injuries messed me up, 2013 was the year of the Hamstring, 2014 the year of the Calf, worst to be honest was a cough that lasted from around April until now, to be honest didn't see the doctor until I needed to get a referral for my calf tear in December and eventually it ended up to be a "Whooping Cough", only thought kids could get that but apparently not. In theory antobiotics fixed that, although as I had a very bad reaction to the antibiotics was only able to go half way through that course.
Certainly this year I appear to have been the unhealthiest really fit person about, as still ended up with 17 Ultras, 4 Marathons, 4 Half Marathons, 1 25K and 17 Parkruns for just over 2,420K, over a 1000K more than the previous two years. Details  here
I'd be honest and say I really haven't made big plans as yet for 2015, find it hard to enter races when I can't actually run, in theory the calf should be fine by the end of January, although I did, probably against better advice, run a little over Christmas in Montreal and did manage 46.2K run/walking in my only race over there.
Certainly there will be races, and hopefully some overseas adventures (and blog posts about them) but first I have to get myself healthy.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Day 11, Short and pretty

You know that you are in the swing of ultras,when you look forward to a day that is "only"49k, but certainly that was my mindset this morning.
A sleep in with lights on at 5:30 and a 7 start talk about luxury.
rather nippy but pleasant, running downhill through the the town. From then gentle uphill, I don't really do running uphill on the first half in multi day races but did run some just to stay around my normal people, we were starting at 420 metres and going to a bit over 800, but no really steep climbs.

First aid station at 13k really only topped water into the handheld of Tailwind mixture and a bit of fruit, I could see Jean-Pierre and Philippe just ahead they always run together and a steady pace usually early on just faster than me, so happy to just follow along, often losing them on the many twists.
Beautiful scenery reminded me of days in the Bavarian part of Deutschlandlauf, cattle, sheep, lakes.
Next aid station at 26k finally took off my gloves, sleeves and buff, picture perfect day.
From then on it was a case of knowing people were around simply because there were crew cars about,I occasionally got glimpses of the two in front but they appeared to be slipping away.
At the next aid station La Faux Mpuntaine we were cheered and called out by microphone, that inspired me a bit although accidentally put limonade instead of water into my Grenadines Sirop, silly mistake.
Just enjoyed the scenery to the last aid station on a massive lake and could see those two a few hundred metres ahead, really doubted I'd catch but there was much more downhill than I thought, to be honest would have been happy just to run in with them but just not a comfortable speed so pulled away, then the interminable vlimb into town and the finish line, admit I did look back a couple of times but breathless crossed the finish line 12th in 5:39. Time to rest tomorrow is much longer.

Day 10 Spitting across Limousin

Woke up with the chest feeling quite congested even yesterday didn't quite feel the cold was gone and a night in a very cold gym didnt help not a good sign.walk to the start and we were off, was glad to see Hiroko next to me moving better she'd had hamstring problems. Moving reasonably but spitting alot and lots of walking as much uphill, was very cool at the start and had Nike jacket for the first tim threw it and gloves off at first aid station, moving with some of yesterday's people so knew I was okay. Was getting warmer so at the next threw off the bugf and sleeves was getting into more like race mode but still hard work with much walking was now between Ya-Fen and Christine, Christine would almost catch me on the ups and I'd get away on the downs. After 40k I lost sight of Ya-Fen and until the 50k aid was worried she'd taken a wrong turn, after that it waz worry about what would happen near the finish line as apparently the Tour of Limousin bike race would close the roads, ultimately was allowed through and with alot of walking in the steep last K got in 14th place in 7:21 just happy the day was done and a hot shower

Day 9, tired and almost alone

Didn't really have a good nights sleep and woke tired for what would be a testing 69km. Early on had really no go in me and just wanted to plod on, thankfully after a while I had Hung-Chang in front of me and that pushed me on a little, finally catching him on a downhill,knew there were two other runners around as I kept seeing their crew, I guess spurred me on. If I'm honest really didn't have any race kick in me today so was a little shockec with a mile or so to go saw the second lady Ya-Fen just in fron only problem most of that last section is uphill so I passed her then walked and then run again so happy to reach the top 13th in 8:14 by memory. Beer, an apricot and Mars bar such a great way to end. Downside k walk to the hall and showers with tepid water and squat toilets in a separate building I was beyond caring just wanted ti lie down

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Day 8 that's better

Woke this morning and thankfully the back was fine,definitely back to the Asics Ds Trainers though, looked a lovely fay and was running nicely.
No idea whether Chattelerault is really a big town but hitting it 26k in was a massive shock to the system like Cbd in peak hour, so happy to get out of there. From then
on started picking up and feeling great as the weather warmed up. 5k to go only a splash'n'dash at the last aid station rather than my usual picnic as the youngest runner 20 year old Angel, already a Spartathlon and finisher here was right behind me. So essentially a 5k sprint he's got plenty of years left to beat me.
Finished in 6:54 dead for the 63k, very happy but of course tomorrow is another day! 4