Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Glasshouse 100 Miler September 12/13

With this year being the 20th Anniversary of the Glasshouse Trail runs (the first ever Australian Trail 100 Miler was held here in 1996 and my first in 1998, but shorter races had been held earlier), i was really wanting to do the 100 Miles there for the first time since 2005.

With a good 2.5 weeks since my return to Australia i'd had plenty of time to acclimatise and get back to something akin to normal (after all 3 weeks between races is a luxury i don't normally give myself), on the Friday i'd seen some of the course on the traditional pre race tour (which i was only able to make it for the last half), and funny enough by now there were many familiar bits, although i'm convinced that all 5 100 Milers i've done here have had different courses, but at least there were many bits i felt quite a home.

With a forecast for warm weather i'd made the decision to wear my race number on my shorts as then i wouldn't be wasting time changing numbers when i inevitably changed tops. For the first time here i had drop bags many of them had shoes as i wasn't convinced that the Nike Free 4.0's would survive another race this long (i'd had that same thought at last years GNW 100 Miler).

As well as various tops (singlet for the heat of the day, thermal top for nightfall etc), as well as cans of baked beans and similar luxuries in case i tired of the magnificent banquet that is the checkpoints at this event).

With a 5:30 start i was glad to find i didnt need my headlight to start with (though carried it throughout in my camelbak - just in case !), but with a 10K loop before heading back to the start decided the best way to start was with my other thermal top on over my long sleeved "Badwater Running Shirt" and only carrying my handheld before picking up my camelbak as well as wearing my gloves.

A record field of 35 headed off and those numbers were inflated even more by having the 100K runners with us, was almost surreal a Glasshouse start surrounded by runners so used am i to running by myself here and occasionally seeing another runner.

Ran very comfortable and was feeling good, perfect way to ease into the long day ahead, at the first checkpoint i picked up my camelbak and threw off my thermal top, it was getting warmer and i quickly put my gloves in my bag.

Next loop brings you up to the Mount Beerburrum lookout and this makes it much easier to work out where you stand in the field, i had pretty much the people in front of me that i expected (and again was camelbakless for a couple of K's as we simply went up and then down the lookout track).

Now it was time to just set the mind on the long run, as we would now be heading out onto the "real" course, first checkpoint and i couldn't resist a chocolate brownie a bit of sweet food was exactly what i needed as soon we would be heading to my least favourite part "The Powerlines", thankfully this was dry this year as when muddy the downhill section always feels like a greasy accident waiting to happen, still i this was one place where i'd use my non handheld holding hand to give me a better balance, some people are able to go down here like mountain goats unfortunately i'm not one of them and always lose time here, although was glad i had someone to chase with Terry just away in the distance throughout.

Strangest sight had to be an abandoned car half way down the hill, made me very thankful when i was on foot and this was reinforced when i saw a 4wd pulling another one out of a bog near the bottom, certainly not my idea of a fun Saturday morning. From them on it was a case of dodging around big puddles and the seemingly endless climb from the floor (with more downhills just to frustrate me when i was thinking i was reaching the end). One of the biggest goannas i've ever seen moved rapidly out the way in one section, i was just happy that with my flailing arms coming down it didn't mistake me for a tree.

Finally i made it out of there and it was more very familiar sections as i made it to checkpoint 8, now it was easy running time, off with the long sleeve shirt and camelbak and back to the singlet and handheld, as i was changing (and eating - what a banquet), Deb Nicholl doing the 100K came through she had already finished the first loop and was looking in great shape, continuing on an incredible run of form at Glasshouse the last year.

Always find 8A an easy run but maybe the loop was longer than previously as everytime i got to what i thought was a turn i found i had further to go, nevertheless i was in good shape and feeling confident out there. Back to the checkpoint and another feast (and drink some more Coke) and off on loop 8B certainly early on a chance for a breather before trying to make some ground up on the really runnable bits. By the time i'd finished this loop i'd seen Bill Thompson starting his 8A loop, so knowing his timing i guessed i was at least 4 hours under cutoff time, strangely reassuring !.

Another good feed at CP8 (loved those sandwiches) and as i left Terry caught back up with me, from then on we ran together but not together so to speak (he was often just in front of me or vice versa but never far away), at one point he stopped and pointed out a very thin and smallish snake, we both assume it was actually a legless lizard, much better to see that than some red belly black snake or similar (which ive seen in other years).

Enjoyed this section of the run although at times i felt i was adrift in sand, but soon we were at Checkpoint 7, quick drink and again dropped the camelbak and headed out for out 5K loop (in the early days this loop was run at night and always felt so much longer) .

Had some orange slices and some salted potatoes the days heat was taking it's toll a little and i'd already consumed 8 Succeed Capsules, much better to be safe as i had less than fond memories of horrific cramping in previous years.

We headed off and was thoroughly enjoying this stretch as i knew in a few hours it would be dark so was trying to get as much done as possible in daylight.

Checkpoint 6 again had a great array of goodies, so had a good feed and headed off again, just behind Terry, soon i came to the hardest part of this section although i must admit i was surprised to see Terry having a lie down stretching preparing for this (i always find stretching much harder on my body than running), we took off together and i was pushing hard as i really wanted to finish this part by dusk, the Frees were doing what they do best which is thump the heel down on the top of a downhill section and stick like glue perfect for here.

Was rapt to hit the dirt road and was soon at Checkpoint 5, was very happy with this as we were in before nightfall, perfectly timed as well as i had another thermal top and my back up torch in my dropbag here.

Had hot pasties and soup as once the sun was down it was noticeably warmer and also had a quick chat with Wayne Gregory (Blue Dog), who i was very surprised to see in a camp stretcher he'd had osteitis pubis problems, obviously seeing me made him head off quickly as they both disappeared into the darkening night.

From now on i knew it would simply be an issue of how well i could run in the dark, i'm fine on roads but give me a headlight (and in this case also a torch) and i'm next too useless, having to walk as i simply fall over anything that's marginally non flat.

Wayne and Terry flew out out of view but i simply kept to my game plan of just going smoothly and not breaking my neck somewhere on the dark trails, also meant i was passed by a 100K finisher but frankly i was dying to get to base and then onto the bike/walking path which i know backwards night time or not.
Finally made it and had a cup of soup and a good meal as i knew this was going to be my hard part although a number of people suggested i leave earlier.

Finally i was off and i was surprised to see Robert Hall early on the trail, had thoughts of reeling him after but thought he'd be way ahead, certainly his first 100 miler was causing him problems he hadn't experienced before. Flew through the bike/walking path and then onto Moffats Rd, this was all good stuff to me as it was the eastern section i feared in terms of time.
Headed onto the trails and for the life i me i could work out whether i headed straight ahead or took an early turn as i could see no arrows, that was to be my sole navigational mistake as i decided to back track and take a right hand turn eventually turning back again and bumping into Rob.
The original way was correct so i had wasted a couple of miles which was not making me happy still the Bruce Highway was close by so things were looking good.
Navigational errors are one thing, but being stuck in the mud !!! is something else, misjudged where it was dry near the Highway and after 6 foot steps i was bogged, panic set in a little and i tried to move backwards, but two footsteps seemed to take an eternity and i knew Rob was not far behind so i waited and got him to give me a hand out, first i had to get out of my shoes and stand by the side in my Drymax Trail Socks (i know i'm biased but these are the best trails socks i've ever had for a while there i thought i'd have to complete the race in them !), before i pulled my shoes out and put them on, suddenly my lightweight Frees were many kilos heavier.
Was quite happy to go under the highway through the creek as at least it meant my shoes got a wash, but was very worried that wet gloves and wet feet may have meant hypothermic issues soon, so was very happy to hit the next checkpoint where i got stuck into soup.
Off with the camelbak again as i went up to Wild Horse Mountain and back, now it was just a case of getting through the rest of the run and maybe a sub 24 Hour.
A little disheartening to see the leaders coming towards me, but still i knew i had this thing beat and it was just a case of being able to retain enough heat.
Next aid station was rapt to find a fire going as well as hot soup and i toasted myself, will admit i was not happy to be passed by Alun and then Dom with pacers (freely admit i don't believe in pacers except in cases where crew is compulsory - fires me up no end but usually the fact the runners are being paced means i don't catch them to get my revenge !!!), and was warm (and fired up !!) for something like 8K's shame the last 2 K's i was freezing again.
No question i simply had to thaw out again and that i did, probably wasted time but for mine it was well spent as i headed off for the other lap, again was good for 8K's and then the cold set in, no choice again but to cook by the fire and eat hot stuff as i knew now the worst was over and i was having dreams of Moffats Rd.
On the way back i saw Bill and Nick and calculated that sub 24 was still possible.

Last checkpoint i made sure that i had lots of warm food and now it was a case of get through the trails and sprint once i hit Moffats Rd as after all the legs were still very fresh after my easy night of walking.
Was very careful dodging my bog spot and once i hit Moffats road it was pretty simple run like a sprinter, ultimately i finished in 23:45:21.
My 5th finish from 5 starts in the 100 Miler and my second fastest time although ultimately in 13th place, as far as i was concerned i'd set out to do what i wanted to.
Looking back over a week later, i'm convinced this is one race i'll never run to my true ability, firstly me and the Powerlines is never a good mix but probably more importantly i'm a useless runner at night i actually need longer or tougher courses so that i have more of the next day to make up for those failings.

Still this one was for Uncle Cyril, who had passed away 2 days previous, a great bloke, a great fan and a great friend (i was wearing a black armband in his memory but long sleeve shirts tended to negate that), whilst he wasn't a runner he had done way more tough stuff than me as he defended our country against the invaders at Milne Bay in PNG during World War II, as well as a great sportsman keeping a scratch handicap for over half a century.

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