Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Go south young man (that's if you want colder rainy conditions !!)

I'd had an interesting week training wise last week, Sunday's storms were repeated again on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday nights and the first few few days of the week were basically constant rain and also pretty humid. I've got no dramas about doing a race when it's wet and often find a good dowmpour refreshing during a long run but i'm stuffed if i'll actually head out for only a training run when it's already raining.
However with things a little quiet on the computer work front (think a combination of the economy and closeness to Christmas) decided i'd do a bit of shelf filling at the local Coles in readiness for it's grand opening on December 8. Probably the closest thing i ever would get to a gym is putting 3 Litre Juice bottles on shelves as well as other fairly heavy things, although having spent half of one day filling the confectionary aisle just don't offer me sweets anytime soon.
So ended up having a really good aerobic workout Monday to Thursday and not needing a run (reckon i worked out last year that if i do too little work i'm inclined to overtrain and basically wear myself out pre race - not ideal !!).
Come Friday and an afternoon off meant i would at least get one long run in for the week, however with barely 24 Hours till the Moe race later i was to question the logic of this. Ultimately did a solid 30K's but by Tugun (where i popped in and picked up my PO Box mail) was knackered, hopped under a cold beach shower and had some water but by the time i'd made it to Currumbin had had enough. Ultimately had a swim a Palmie before wandering home, but later found it had reached 33 degrees so have a feeling there was a bit of sun stroke involved as i felt crap the rest of the afternoon (and running topless was a tad sunburnt always a sure sign, usually don't find 3 odd hours in the sun an issue).
Was packing later that night and had a call from fellow runner Robert Boyce down in Melbourne, forecast for Moe was for heavy rain and severe storms so revised my packing list to put in more warm running gear (shame that was about all i could in my 7KG carry on luggage, spent the rest of my trip carting around my heavy paperback looking like a missionary or similar - although the book title "Boned" may have given lie to that thought !!).
6AM flight from Coolangatta so unfortunately no time for a casual stroll to the airport (just parked a couple of blocks away, seeing buses are hourly at that time of day couldn't risk public transport).
Flight ended up 20 minutes late as we were going directly into a headwind, although when told it was raining heavily and 8 degrees would have been quite happy to tell the pilot to turn around and head back !!!.
Thankfully i had Brett Saxon picking me up at the airport (and giving a lift to Moe), so didn't have too much time standing there freezing in my shorts (only long pants i'd brought were my track suit pants and my luggage was so tightly packed i really wasn't wanting to try to open the zip outside).
We popped into the local Coles and i bought 6 600ML bottles of Gatorade as well as getting a couple of Cheesymites and buns at the Bakers Delight reckon that was my nutrition covered for 6 Hours.
We picked up another competitor Malcolm Gamble on the way through and by 1 were at the track only to find that no one else would be there till 3. Now it comes to the interesting part, a 4PM start is awkward meal wise, just what should be had before and when. Having had my Vita Brits at 4:30 QLD time i was by then starving so we ended up at Moe Red Rooster (not much open in the town Saturday Arvo), whilst the other two had one chicken roll each i was feeling in need of more so had two as well as some roast potato (we all ordered roast potatoes however only 4 were available !!) and some of Mal's coleslaw. A muggacino with cake across the road (didn't see the place was open but looked very tasty) and we were all primed for the run, even the sky had cleared and there were glimpses of blue sky.
Back to the track and things were happening, including rain, so time to put my entry in and change into race gear.
Certainly not warm so thought the Lululemon Bike Top and ASICS Bike Shorts were the way to go and decided to keep on the warmer Drymax Trail Socks and to go with the Lunarlite Racers and the old faithful Buff Bandanna and running gloves, alongside the track i had basically two bags of clothing changes available with the Goretex jacket the most accessible as it seemed only a matter of time.
24 Starters, quite amazing on a day like this particularly when you consider most would have travelled at least 100K's, a number of GNW finishers and many other familiar finishers never quite sure whether it's a race or some sort of dysfunctional family reunion :-).
I was soon regretting lunch, not sure whether i should have stuck to one roll but whatever it was my gut just wouldn't work and spent the first 28 minutes feeling very ordinary eventually heading off the track to the toilets. A few minutes later i was back and marginally better but by then the skies had decided to open and i kept thinking this is going to be a damned long 6 hours.
Goretex jacket and waterproof (well they were back in 1979 now only marginally but better than none) overgloves and i was back off around the track, no thoughts of a drink yet after all there was all this rain in the air !. Rain and strong gusts of wind meant this track with no shelter wasn't really the place to be but let's face it i'd come all this way to run not to just moan about the weather so hust plodded on, feeling very slow when local speedster John MacKenzie whizzed past frequently.
After an hour thought it was probably time for a swig of Gatorade and thankfully it didn't upset my stomach further, consistent but that's about it.
Can't really say much about the next few hours, rain decreased to drizzle at times or increased to downpour at others, wind grew stronger and sometimes ebbed and we all just kept going in circles. Finally a change of direction (to clockwise) at 3 hours and whilst i'd only done 81 Laps (32.4K's), leader John already had a marathon under his belt and ultimately finished the 50K in 3:39:47 whilst i got to that same mark in 4:35:03 (only 2004 being slower on this course). A couple of walked laps and i realised i had to run faster as i was getting really cold (and couldn't be bothered getting my thermal top out and redressing !).
Finished my second bottle of Gatorade (no real call for major rehydration in these conditions) and had a bun and from then on just put the foot down and ran faster than for the previous 4 odd hours. Was thoroughly enjoying passing people continuously (after all this was a race not a Saturday night stroll) and was aiming to pick up a few places although i doubted i'd make up enough ground for a placing.
Finally at 10PM it was all over and i'd finally made it up to 4th place and 64.408K's (have to admit i'm waiting to see the lap count sheet to clarify this as was sure that when i read it on that night i was further and also found it strange i did exactly 80 laps the second half and 81 the first, frankly there was no comparision between them and other than a 10 minute walk break was knocking off just over 2 minute laps throughout that last 2 hours).
Finally a hot shower and warm clothes really couldn't have asked for more, and to top it off a burgers and snags on the barbie (washed down with a beer supplied by birthday boy Robert).
Some really good performances out there: GNW 100 Miler finisher Lachlan Fraser winning with a distance of 68.548K's a really good debut track ultra in what is virtually his first year of serious Ultra running.
GNW 100K finisher Malcolm Gamble just over half a K behind another very consistent run with trail runner Peter Bignell (first track ultra also ?) a similar distance behind.
In the end i'd just beaten Townsville runner John Nuttall, seemed pretty much the usual he'll lead me for 50 to 60K's and i'll have a fair chance of catching him.
Robert Boyce on the comeback trail ran consistently and whilst looking for 60K's was happy enough with 1 short as was Brett who had kept up a very consistent pace throughout.
Tend to agree with Paul Monks at the presentation that walking is harder than running (two reasons for mine, totally different footfall to running and secondly the fact that as a runner you can slow down to walk but as a walker have no other option rather than stopping), and was impressed to see him get just over 50K as well as Brian Glover (the most consistent marathon walker i've seen) just over a lap short.
Have to give alot of thanks to the organisers as i'm sure sitting there in the cold, wet, miserable conditions we experienced was probably just as hard as going around in them.
A late night, not leaving the track till 11 or so and very thankful for a lift with Robert and his family as well as a cold beer and a bed (even slept in till 10, very unlike me !).
So there it is my last Victorian race for the year.
Took it easy on Monday, but couldn't resist a good hard, hilly run on Tuesday (as above) and looks as though i picked the right day to do it as last night rain came and 170mm's later it's still drizzling (that explains the above pictures taken this morning, not only is my lake nice and full so are the roads through the park - bottom two pictures).
Maybe one or two runs before i head off to NZ next Tuesday for Kepler, but on the hand will the rain ever stop ???

Sunday, 16 November 2008

First run for the week, more blues in my backyard all topped off by a storm

Nothing much to report run wise this week, when i did get a chance to run the weather tended to be very ordinary (ie rain and/or storms) and really was happy to take it easy after last weeks 100 Miler.
Finally decided Sunday was the day for a long run, but slept in marginally so missed out on the Gold Coast Runners Club regular run (i did turn up but no idea what the time was being watchless !), decided then to head towards Surfers, good solid run and was lucky enough to find Ultra runners Geoff Last and Peter Gibson coming back from their long run just past Northcliffe. Reckon i'd done enough mileage so joined them on the run back to Burleigh Heads, probably a little faster as i do tend to push it a bit more running with people !!.
Once Geoff had turned off home at Burleigh Heads decided to take it easy over the Burleigh hill and by 15th Ave (Palm Beach) decided i'd done enough for the day so a paddle was in order, popped in to my cousin's for a cold drink and a cuppa and then headed for a swim on the way home.
One of those fortunate days when we get live entertainment at Laguna Lake (my backyard), so was back in time for some more live music from "Blind Lemon". Really enjoyable gig (nothing like being able to stroll out the side gate to a gig, just got to remember to take a chair and refreshments !!), but cut a little short as a storm rolled in. Sitting here at the moment watching heavy rain as i type on the balcony, looked like good timing.
Probably another easy week as i'm off down south for the Moe 6 Hours track run next Saturday.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

The hardest run i've ever done ??

With a little trepidation i headed south for the Great North Walk 100 Miler, the plan had originally been to drive down after work the Tuesday night and have 3 days checking out the trails before the race, but with a public holiday in Melbourne i needed to be in the office on Wednesday so with that decided to do a good long trail run on the Tuesday instead. Headed up to Binna Burra once i found i was needed the next day and did the section "Great Walk" section from there towards Springbrook, not really being sure just how far i could get as i'd not done much of this track past the Ship Stern section. Ultimately made it to Apple Tree Park (http://www.epa.qld.gov.au/media/parks_and_forests/parks/springbrook.pdf) approximately 26.5 K's, some very muddy and some very steep.
Essentially this is an easier Aussie version of something like the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim, starting at 1,000 metres going down to the valley floor and then a climb (supposedly up 900 steps i didn't count) to 500 odd metres at Springbrook, definitely a good hard run but possibly a little more than i needed that close to GNW. Decided that was far enough as black clouds and occasional rain had been building up and looked like i'd be getting soaked on the way back. With the Numimbah Valley Cafe shut meant i had no hopes of a hot meal so it was muesli bars and nuts in my camelbak to get me back.
Last half was pretty much stormy and by the time i made it back to the car looked and felt like a drowned rat (and had no idea what had happened in the Melbourne Cup).
Dry clothes and a car heater definitely made things brighter for me and a 53K trail run with Camelbak certainly helped my confidence.
Leaving Wednesday afternoon meant i had time to get the race maps and directions laminated which i hoped would help but having only reached the Kurrajong Rest area by nightfall decided i'd have a nap in the car before heading down (had rained all the way the drive from home to Coffs Harbour can't say the weather was looking to hopeful).
Great sleep (something like 9 hours more than i get at home !!) and it was back down the Pacific Hwy, first stop Teralba to actually find the start and do some of the first set of directions. Basically the rest of the day was spent following where i could access the course (not having the crew instructions often struggling to find roads and certainly using roads not really made for little Subaru Imprezas). Went down and up the trail accessing Checkpoint 1 and had magnificent views over the Hunter Region at Macleans Lookout as well as strangely a flock of 7 goats (interesting reaction to me they simply fled !). Also found my way around the Area off Freemans Drive and up rocks (this was going to be tough) and then to Congewai.
Decided i'd do the Congewai to Barribri Trig trail in reverse and then time the distance back to see just what sort of speed i could go, actually took longer to get up there than i thought and with nightfall coming (and drizzle) was content to run as quick as capable getting back to the car by 7:30. Basically enough time to just get in before check in closed at the hotel we'd booked for Friday night (and i'd changed to a 2 day booking when able to get phone reception).
Being late night shopping at the nearby Tuggerah Westfield meant i then dashed in their and got my supplies (6 Mars Bars, 6 Bottles of Staminade one per drop bag to go with the cans of baked beans i had brought down), as well as price reduced Spag Bol as the Woolies was open till midnight but the food court only till 9.
Even indulged in a beer, had had a good day and felt i needed a reward and was about as fit as i get.
Friday was spent following the trail out of Yarramalong, the 100K mark and probably the one place i may be tempted to stop, so parked the car at the 111.9K mark and did the track in reverse (7.5K's), apparently disturbing every dog in that valley.
Shame i didn't have much money on me as i popped into the General Store and found i could only afford a 300ml tropical juice and a choc chip cookie, still a real feed was something to look forward to when i made it back to the car.
On returning reckoned i'd get out of Yarramalong easily (although noisily thanks to the chorus of dogs) and returned via the General Store for Fish and Chips, that would be enough for today as i'd tried out the Lunarlite Shoes and their minimal style definitely wasn't going to work as i found they wore a cut in my heel (no padding around the heel is fine for road races but evidently not a good idea of steep trails).
Back to the Motel and caught up with my room mate Robert as well as other runners Belinda and Horrie and their son and crew.
Robert had brought lots of delicious lasagne down so got stuck into that whilst watching the Aussies crumbling in India (even that wasn't enough to ruin my appetite).
Spent what felt like forever then packing my drop bags, i'd put two at Western States (and never made it as far as them) but otherwise this was a totally new concept to me, but considering i had 21 laminated A4 pages in total the last thing i really wanted to do was carry everything that i would require.
Every drop bag had at least one 425G can of baked beans or spaghetti, one 90G Mars Bar, one 600Ml bottle of Staminade, one Strawberry Banana Gu, one energy bar and a baggie of 4 Succeed Caps, but 4 of the 6 had a pair of shoes simply because i was worried that my favourite trail running shoes Nike 4.0 Frees would be fairly useless if the course was too muddy in sections and secondly if the course was too rugged they could simply fall to bits as by now these 2.5 Year old shoes had some structural weaknesses particularly holes in the back of each heel. Spread over the 6 drop bags were also 2 cans of creamed rice, 2 thermal tops, 4 pairs of socks, one headband and a pair of running tights.
Set the alarm for 3:30 as we needed to be at Teralba (a 43 minute drive according to Whereis) by 5 and i still needed my mixing bowl worth of Vita Brits.
Not a great nights sleep (but not worried as Thursday night had been another good 9 hours) and once organised we headed off to Teralba.
More like a family reunion than a race with so many familiar faces and so much to catch up on.
Fairly easy decisions clothes wise stuck with the usual Nike Fitdry Shorts, the Lululemon Bike top (god only knows how many miles it has done, used most stages in France 2006 & 2008, Germany 2007 and Badwater as well as most of my longer Aussie Trail Ultras), Drymax Trail Socks and my usual blue headband.
Was using the new camelbak i'd bought for only $20 at Sports Chalet in Redondo and despite having only used it for my three Binna Burra runs in the last couple of weeks thought it would be a better bet as it held that little more than my old Salomon one. Wasn't a race to take risks so as well as carrying all the compulsory gear (including taking my Goretex Rain Jacket rather than some inferior but more lightweight option) also carried the Buff Bandanna, Moebon Sleeves, Running Gloves, Bike Shorts, a tube of Diaper Cream (the best chafing fixer i've found), Legionnaires Cap and an extra couple of energy bars and Gu as well as the ones i had in my bike top pockets and baggie of 8 Succeed Caps.
A quick talk by race director Dave Byrnes and at 5:30 we were off.
Nice morning but heavy cloud made it rather humid, was quite content midfield having a chat with some of the usual suspects and with this crowd navigating was not an issue. 15K's in and we'd made it to Heaton Gap trackhead, a very solid uphill stage and was travelling well but sweating very heavily the humidity was definitely going to be an issue. Caught up with Innes just before Macleans Lookout and we ran quickly towards the first checkpoint.
Incredibly well organised with a table to get our camelbaks filled and easy to find drop bag zone. I drank my Staminade, ate my Mars Bar and had a couple of the salted potatoes being handed out and also replenished my Succeed Cap supply.
Spent a little longer at the aid station than Innes and others but calculated that with only 6 stops i could afford to do this without any rushing.
Next part was again familiar, and i was thankful i'd only driven so far in my car along Georges Rd as the firetrail deteriorated rapidly before hitting Barrabri Trig.
Had Lachlan Fraser (who surely must have been jetlagged after a flight a few days previous from the US) catch up to me here and we ran together all the way down to Congewai pretty much a 10K conversation as we caught up on each others exploits since the Gold Coast 100K.
No need for a camelbak top up at Congewai but instead a sausage sandwich and cake to go with my Staminade and Mars Bar. Had heard tales of Wayne Gregory's injuries earlier and was worried just how he was going far in front of me. Left with Ian Wright, one time winner and a man noted for often passing me in the last 40K's of the Glasshouse 100 Miler over the years. He was trying new tactics by mixing running and walking so i kept up easily still very fresh. Was disappointed to find i had to get my feet wet at the Watagan Creek crossing but was thankful i had a runner experienced here to get us through this tricky bit. Ultimately we hit the 66.9K Unmanned water stop and whilst i didn't need to use it a couple of other runners also caught up by the time we left. At this point there was a little drizzle but really it was ideal running conditions certainly the sun and heat wasn't a problem (as usual i hadn't put sunscreen in the camelbak and had none in my drop bags really find it only of use over 40 degrees and was bemused to see so many people slapping the stuff on at CP 2). Good consistent running from there till the turn off to the Basin Campsite which was CP3, glad i was still with Ian as he knew not to take the wrong turn which many others did. Saw quite a number of people heading back towards us as we go 2.5K's in and then back out and on to another track, reassuring that there were so many out there and also giving me something to chase down later.
Beatiful Spag Bol at Checkpoint 3, again didn't need my can of baked beans but had all the other usual things, injured Tim Turner (one of the few people to have started this race each year and one of the "Ultra family") filled my camelbak while i consumed that (50 Odd K's between 2 Litre Camelbak refills seemed perfectly timed) and i also knocked a leech of my sock, i'd been warned about them !!.
Soon we would need headlights, but first up the steep track that we'd passed on the way in. Me and Ian were then joined by Michael Lovric and we 3 ran along in ragged style as we both took it easy on the uphill sections as we were planning to burn along the flat Ravensdale Road.
A couple of hard bits of navigation but once we hit the road it was time for a good hard run (finally i could use some of that spare energy that i appeared to have). We ran nicely into Yarramalong but Michael having nausea peoblems went into the doctor while i hoed into hot soup and delicious caramel slices as well as a can of creamed rice, time now to take the headband off and put the bandanna on.
Once i left (16 Hours 16 Minutes having now gone, my guesstimate of a 30 Hour time seemingly pretty right) i then realised i hadn't grabbed the thermal top from my drop bag and almost headed back but decided to hop into a phone booth and put on the Moeben Sleeves and running gloves and see if they would work, in short thankfully they did.
Turning up Bumble Hill Road was glad to have a few local cheering me from their back yard, way better than having their dogs yapping at me, way more silent than Friday arvo. I think Fridays run was very worthwhile as the course seemed very straightforward and reached the top easily but was then caught up to by a runner with a pacer. Ran with them for a while but when passed was asked to join them being told we'll only run the flats and the downs, sadly that meant i lost them rapidly as i was finding the flats to be very ordinary underfoot and as for the downs on thin trails i was way too clumsy !!.
For the first time after crossing a creek managed to lose the track but could hear runners very close behind, Innes and Terry so waited less than a minute and saw the marginal wrong turn i had taken. After that it was a case of walking and running uphill, me usually leading on the walking stages simply because i was just way too fresh meaning my legs could walk as fast as at the beginning.
We passed the second lady (with pacer) on the road and then rapt to get a real sealed road, found an extra gear and flew into the Somersby School.
More hot food as well as my usual stuff and i was feeling in great shape, only downside being the fact that my feet were feeling a little blistered the one issue with the Frees being that in boggy ground i was essentially holding them on with my toes and with "pimpled" insoles i was making the toes quite sore.
Left with Innes and Terry but again it was a case of being outrun on the single trails so was soon by myself again, was only thankful that it was now getting lighter and would soon not need the headlight. Once i crossed Mooney Mooney Creek i got some really good running surface and was beginning to think the rest of the run would be relatively easy.
Checkpoint 6 and my usual feed (never ended up having any of my cans of Baked Beans as good hot food was provided everywhere) as well as filling up my camelbak but was surprised to hear i still had around 5 hours to go !!!. I did say i was expecting it to be easier from here, well pretty simple i was wrong, sandstone plateaus were not only hard on the feet and sometimes hard to follow (marked by painted arrows) but i was beginning to get hot with no shade. Finally got to the 100 Mile mark and felt i'd achieved something although still a long way to go. Came across a local (who'd pulled out at checkpoint 2) a little later and walked with him a bit, probably just the witness i needed for a little later managed to disturb a brown snake which bounced of the back of my shoe (spent the next couple of miles worried about that as having holes in the back of both shoes i suspect that it would have bitten me if it had managed to get its head caught there and it must have got damned close).
Eventually began to get views of the sea and really enjoy the course but certainly the end appeared to get no closer (especially as i had no idea what the end looked like !!!), but with a few K's to go was pleasantly surprised to see Innes and Terry walking just in front, finally i'd get to race. With abundant energy (it may have been a long run but i had few opportunities to actually run fast so was very fresh) made sure i made it look easy when passing and basically run as long as i could, was relieved to find a sealed track to Warrah Trig so could actually get a good pace going and from then on ran faster downhill than any other time on this run, refusing to look behind me, finally spotted the beach and initially a bit lost as to how to get on it (with a pier in the way), absolutely bolted on the sand (just like at home between Currumbin and Tallebudgera Creeks) finally close enough to see i would get in under 30 Hours, very happy indeed.
Bit of a haze after that, had run long and hard and had little rest and there was a certain extra joy about conquering this course. I know people reading the title of this will question the fact i claim it's the hardest run i've done but most of my extreme races (ie Badwater, Trans Gaule, Deutschlandlauf, Coast to Kosi, etc) have been on roads and simply i'm a much better road runner than trail runner, no longer quite as nimble as back in my early 30's and certainly i find my large feet and height are a positive disadvantage. Love trail running and with 17 Six Foot Tracks, 13 Maroondah Dam Trails, 10 Bogong to Hothams, 5 Walhalla Woundups and numerous others over the years can't claim i am unable to run trails but i know my ability on them is tested once over 50 miles or so whereas on a road i can run virtually forever.
As i type i'm happy to say the body has recovered well (trails are way easier on it the roads) so now it's a case of what's next ???.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Spot the Ultra Runner ????

Folks if i don't update this blog sometime next week, it'll be simple to work out.
After 3 good longs runs last week i decided i would enter the Great North Walk 100 Miler. With the Gold Coast Runners club more involved with their own triathlon last Sunday only got a short group run with them as far as the North Burleigh Hill but having driven to their Burleigh Heads clubrooms (as opposed to run - even i sleep in ocassionally) meant i could run further north so ended up running all the way to the Southport Seaway.
Knew it was fairly late by the time i headed back as Kurrawa Markets were very busy and the beachside paths were becoming crowded with familes as well as many people in apparently post big night stupors around Surfers etc.
No back problems (can't really see the chiro this week as i'm heading down the race on Tuesday night/Wednesday so i can get an idea of the trails), but interestingly the metatarsal is sore again, i suppose the positive is i'll be running on trails not roads etc so shouldn't be an issue.
I'm sure there are people wondering what the above picture it, well the answer is i'm in it (just nobody would recognize me without running gear and headband or bandanna etc). Actually it's a picture taken on Friday night at the wedding of Ultra runner Nic Moloney and Mallani MacArthur (soon to be an Ultra runner but certainly a runner) and all the people pictured are good friends and also runners, it's amazing we scrub up pretty well although i freely admit me in a suit and tie is about as logical as a bird hopping into a plane to fly (my only concession to my normal non stylish self being the short sleeved shirt - i don't own a long sleeved one and it was actually a rush job to find any collared shirt to iron !!).
So as people frantically search the picture to work out just which one is me, i'd better get packing for this next race.
Dawned on me tomorrow is Melbourne Cup day, one of the few religious holidays i take much notice of, better start reading a form guide although have to admit it's hard to think of a 3200 metre race as a test of staying ability !!!!