Wednesday, February 11, 2015

TransGranCanaria Training Update

Yep, this ain't a road run!
It's been a very busy start to the year for me; investing a lot of time into my UP Coaching business has meant that I've had to scale back a lot on races and so far, a paired 3h event I ran with Wes Gibson's wife Kellie at the Knapsack 6h Lap race has been the only race this year. I'm pretty sure as far as quantity goes, my races this year are going to be very low in numbers and limited to the majors outlined in the previous post and a few smaller one's around Oz that I've been invited to attend.

Post Coast 2 Kosci I really sat down and had a good think about my training and outlined a plan towards my first biggie of 2015, Transgrancanaria. I just had to change things up and do things a little differently. First thing on the agenda was of course a good rest and relaxing the strict routines I have in both my training and lifestyle.

So I ate, drank and rested and generally was merry from mid December to Early January, just doing some easy training sessions to maintain fitness and cut right back on track and strength sessions, as well as halving my usual long run durations in order to freshen up. I also spent a lot of 'time on feet' with clients and training at ranges of paces more broad than I've ever done before! Overall this left me feeling refreshed and reinvigorated for the year ahead.

I then spent a lot of time just building up aerobically, reaching 100mile weeks off mostly 10-35km runs at easy or steady state pace. Not much speed at all. Only in the last few weeks have I began some faster track sessions and longer tempo runs.

Another factor - it's been a challenge at times to do so much group and individual training, while still training my own sessions as well. At times I've had to just get out the door and get it done on tired legs and I've thankfully got many good training partners that have helped me maintain the quality of these sessions. Having an extra coach in Jo Brischetto on board at my group training has also allowed me to participant in one of my own speed sessions too :-)

So onto Transgrancanaria, just a beast of a race on the island of Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands. It's 125km and 8500m+ OUCH indeed. The saving grace is that it looks to be on terrain that doesn't look particularly technical from what I've seen in videos and some of the big climbs may be quite runnable. I'm hoping anyway. As far as tough goes, this will be the toughest I've done to date, even outdoing UTMF at 169km and 9500m D+.

To get myself ready, I've been doing much much more vertical ups and downs than ever before, often challenging myself with weighted vests and fully loaded packs on big hill repeats. This has the duel purpose of building up my muscle strength by overloading the glutes, quads and calves as well as conditioning up the VMOs via the extra eccentric loading on the downs (and generally toughening up my ankles too).

The other great benefit is of course on overall cardio fitness via increases to my V02 max and lactate thresholds. I've found doing my regular 12km bread and butter runs on undulating terrain but with added weight has turned them into medium-hard efforts; particularly on small climbs where I'm forced to go anaerobic for small sections of time where otherwise I would have stayed in the aerobic zone. This is training the body to clear lactic build up more efficiently and my recoveries are super short and sharp which is essential for any trail running.

Of course the mental toughness training of these sessions can't be underestimated either. If there's going to be a race that tests my mental fortitude it will be this one.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

2015 - The Year Ahead

2015 will pick up where 2014 left off and again I'll be competing extensively both in Australia and internationally.

My major races are locked in and they are:

Transgrancanaria, Spain
This is the first of four of the UTWT events I'll be taking part in this year. This event is located on the beautiful Grand Canary island off the coast of Morocco. This 125km course looks a beauty with 8500m+ Unfortunately this will mean that I won't be able to run in the 6 Foot Track Marathon...again!

Buffalo Stampede, Australia
With Transgrancanaria training keeping me on my toes in January and February, I should get to the SkyRunning Oceania Championship race in better shape than last year and hopefully be able to climb Mick's Wall faster than at 40:00 pace :-)

Wings For Life World Run, Australia
Unfortunately due to recovery from UTMF, I had to miss this event last year. With it now in Melbourne, it's penned in for this year. This will be my first road ultra for the year.

The North Face 100, Australia
My second UTWT event, and one that I couldn't miss for the world.

Trail des Cagous, New Caledonia
My half of the prizes that I shared with Dave Eadie last year from Surf Coast Century. This should be an interesting race!

Western States Endurance Run, USA
The Grandaddy, so excited to be able to come back and have another crack at this great race. With Tucks also being selected through UTWT, this will be awesome for so many reasons.

IAU 100km World Championship, The Netherlands
The third World Championships and the one run I'm desperately trying to nail a top 10 at after 11th and 12th on the last two occasions.

Ultra Trail Mt Fuji (UTMF), Japan
The date has moved from Cherry Blossom season to September, but I'll be back for my third tilt at this great 100 miler, the 4th and last of my UTWT events.

The Hounslow Classic
Another SkyRunning race; this time in my own backyard.

No doubt there will be a few other races along the way too!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 - Year In Review


Like most things these days I seem to be running way behind...but I have finally found a few minutes to reflect back on the last 365 days and remind myself of some of the great running related memories, achievements, surprises and a few inevitable disappointments of 2014.

If I could summarise 2014 in one word it would be busy! It seemed, and it certainly felt like I was always a couple of weeks away from travelling or coming back to reality of life and my passport pretty much remained on the office table all year round instead of it being put away in it's safe place where it should be. I certainly racked up some frequent flyer points this year. Hong Kong, New Zealand, Japan, USA and Qatar were all visited internationally with a couple of additional trips to Victoria and South Australia too for good measure!

At the start of 2014, if there was one big goal I wanted to nail was a big result in a big international ultra event. What that result would look like I didn't know, that was to be an internal measure that I could only determine at the time. Being a perfectionist of some sort this was always going to be a bit of a futile task and it's probably then no surprise that I feel like there were a couple of missed chances despite what on paper look like descent results.

So what about the races? Well it was another huge racing year. There were a stack of highs and there were one or two lows too. I can reflect back and be content in knowing I stayed true to my values as a runner, and this has never changed over my career - to be a prolific racer but have a one or two 'A' races, to be versatile over various distances and terrains and to give back to the sport the very joy that I get out of it.

If you like numbers, then these are the statistics.

Races: 41
Range: 5km to 240km, Road and Trail (no track this year)
Podium (Top 3): 33
Victories: 18 (1 shared victory)


Running for Australia in the IAU 100km World Championship was definitely a highlight of the year
Although it didn't really feel like a big year of road running in comparison to trail, it actually ended up being quite significant. The highlights being.
  • 2nd at the Narrabeen All Nighter 12h; running 145km and ranking 3rd on the Australian all time 12h road rankings. Quite a surprise given I was planning to stop at 100km.
  • Breaking my only road PB for the year, lowering my 5k time by one second!.
  • Winning the Centennial Park Ultra 100km (although how this is called a road event is still a mystery)
  • Picking up a couple of podiums in road marathons at the M7 and Carcoar.
  • 12th at the 100km World Championships, running a sub 7h time.
The World Championships was an 'A' race for me this year and I finished just a minute outside my PB (although to be fair on a much tougher course and in more testing conditions). However, I can't help thinking that it was a case of a missed opportunity. I was definitely going into the race thinking I could get deep in the Top 10 with a time of around 6:45. Unfortunately things took a bit of a turn in the last quarter of the race and I missed the Top 10 by less than 80 seconds. But a wonderfully rewarding and fulfilling experience for sure.

Another highlight was regularly attending my local parkrun at Penrith Lakes. I love the parkrun concept and it's just a wonderful global health initiative. It's grassroots racing and it's where, for many, the joy of running is found. I look forward to continuing to be present as often as I can and spending time with other runners from the local Penrith and Blue Mountains area.

The other moment on the road this year, which deserves a blog post of its own, was Coast to Kosci, the 240km mammoth that I finished the year on. So many mixed feelings and lessons learned and I will get around to putting all these down soon.


Running in Western States was a dream come true
Some highlights:
  • 6th at Ultra Trail Mt Fuji (UTMF)
  • 3rd at TNF100
  • 8th at Western States 
  • 1st, shared with Dave Eadie at Surf Coast Century
  • 1st at Heysen 105
  • 1st and setting a new course record at Oxfam Sydney Trailwalker with 3 mates.
The trails were once again where it all happened this year. There were a couple of great results but the one I probably got the most satisfaction from was at Ultra Trail Mt Fuji. It is a 100mile race with +9500m and not really the type of race that I'm suited for, nor where my strengths lie with all the ascending. The field was stacked, with a classy international field assembled, and I fought hard all day and night for that result. The other result of significance was of course my other 'A' race of the year, Western States, the Grandaddy of all US 100 milers. But like the World 100km, I can't help but think a Top 5 spot was within reach, especially as I was there abouts with the finishers 4th to 7th all day. In the end only 12 minutes separated 8th to 4th. This has definitely left me hungry to go back next year and finish the job!

I also finished 5th in the overall series rankings of the Ultra Trail World Tour. This was a big surprise and to be in the same cohort of some big name international runners was a huge honour but good reward for all the hours of training.

Of course I have to thank my sponsors and supporters for enabling me to be able to do what I love. I hope I've been a good representative for what you and your companies stand for. I'm very grateful to Barefootinc, Hammer Nutrition Australia, 2XU, Injinji Performance Products, Ferei Australia, Valley Fitness, Suunto Australia and of course my main sponsors Inov-8. Many thanks to Lake Crackenback Resort and Spa, Mountain Sports, Southern Highlands Challenge, Heysen 105, Sydney Trail Series and the Australian Running Convention who have given me opportunities as an ambassador this year.

Thanks always to my awesome wife Nadine for being my number 1 supporter, sustainer and maintainer! It was just as big a year for her as it was for me and I know the sacrifices and compromises you've made for me. Thank you so much.

It was also a massive year from a work perspective. This year I've spent a lot more time investing into my UP Coaching business and getting that off the ground and running in more a full time capacity. I've been overwhelmed with the response and on a lot of levels I've learnt a lot of lessons in what it means to run a fully fledged business. But I've enjoyed the journey so far immensely. From running two weekly training sessions; running weekend camps, taking groups for trail running clinics and all the online coaching; it's been another super busy but rewarding journey. Look out for plenty of UP Coaching Crew to feature in and around big races in 2015. Thank you to all my clients and casual visitors who have been part of UP Coaching in 2014.

The other initiative that I feel particularly proud of too is Trail Kids which I cofounded with my good friend Jo Brischetto. To see kids getting outside, being active in the great Australia bush and introducing them to the wonderful sport of trail running is just incredibly enriching for both the kids and myself. It's at the grassroots where the future of the sport in Australia lies and I'm proud that I have a small little input at this level.

Shortly, I'll post my running plans for 2015.

Nabbing 5th in the UTWT was a nice reward for a lot of hard work!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

IAU 100km World Championship Review - In Numbers

Well it was a road race after all. So this review is one for the data lovers!

Quarter Split Rankings
  • 0-25km: 32nd
  • 26-50km: 32nd
  • 51-75:10th
  • 76-100km: 9th
  • 6:56:45
  • 12th out of 91 finishers (139 starters)
  • Seconds outside the Top 10: 74s
  • Missed PB: 1m19s
  • Lapped by: 2 (Max King and Jonas Budd)
  • M35 Masters Championship placing had I entered: 1st! Arrggghhh
Australian Teams Positions
  • Women: 6th out of 9
  • Men: 8th out of 18
  • Number of Hammer Gels consumed: 18
  • Average Carbs consumed per hour: 54g
Water and Electrolyte
  • Water: 600ml-800ml per hour
  • 1 Hammer Enduralyte Extreme per hour
  • Peed in my pants: 2
  • Temperature at start: 25
  • Humidity at start: 69%
  • Number of U Turns: 300
  • Shoes: Inov-8 233g, 6mm drop

Lastly, thanks to Rob Boyce and all at AURA for another opportunity to represent and be captain of the might Aussie Team. Thanks for the hosts Aspire Zone and the IAU of course for making this all possible. I will be back next year!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Coast2Kosci - Yikes!

It's D-day for my last event of the year, the epic 240km Coast 2 Kosci

I'm nervous as anything, this will by far the furthest and longest time I have gone 'out for a run'! Previously I've run the 175km Great North Walk and close to 22h at UTMF. I've been pouring over the details and my plan and think I have something in place that will see my finish and not be too broken!

It was nice of the boys over at Ultra168 to put me forward as a favourite, but to be honest, I'm going into an event like this very much a rookie and have only a small idea what to expect. 240km on the road is a long long way!

It looks even longer from space. See how zoomed out you have to make it just so the route fits into that space. That's freaking scary! You can probably tell how nervous I am by the excessive amount of exclamation marks in this post!

From all I've heard and from following the race in the past years, I know it will be a special journey. I can't wait to undertake it with all the other runners, crew and organisers.

I have my splits in place, my gear ready, my nutrition sorted and my Suunto loaded up with the race route. A race like this is never going to be to perfect but it's a blueprint of a plan and thankfully I have 3 wonderful crew that will be able to help me deal with issues as they arise. Thank you Stephane, Marcus and Lauren for giving up your weekend for me. I really hope I can repay the favour one day.

Last weekend I was down in the area hosting a trail running camp at Lake Crackenback Resort and the weather was superb. I hope it stays the same this weekend too. But I know too well the unpredictability of the mountains and will be preparing for blazing sun, rain, snow and wind. I've almost packed my whole wardrobe in preparation!

This is my last race for the year, and I couldn't think of a better way to end the year! Oh yes...I just did, sitting back on Saturday night downing a few Kosciuszko pale ales in the company of some extraordinary people.

Whichever way this race goes, it will sure make for one hell of an epic race report!

I believe you can track all the runners' progress here

Safe, strong running to all competitors and wishing all crew a wonderful experience with your athletes!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

100k World Championship Preview

Here we go! Finally after a few false starts and a cancelled 2013 event, I'm finally going to have another crack at racing at the IAU 100km World Championship event.

For someone that majored in Geography, you would think I'd know where Doha is. Wrong, but that's what Google is for and I soon discovered it's nestled nicely in the Persian Gulf in the State of Qatar. According to Wikipedia, 'Although tiny, Qatar wields significant clout due to its natural gas wealth and its sovereign wealth fund, which is one of the world's largest.' So no GFC here and no wonder they nailed the 2022 FIFA World Cup!

So while is may not be on the grand scale of the World Cup, this event is the only opportunity for ultra runners to test themselves and run for their country as much as themselves in a road 100k. The location is, well unique, the temperatures probably less than ideal but all that is what it is. At the start of the race every competitor will be running the same course in the same conditions.

At the end of 2013 when I was sitting down and timelining my year, I always start with two A races. I just don't think it's possible to peak properly for more than that. Sure you can run well in more, but you can never fully give over 100% commitment and dedication, tick off all the 1 percenters and mentally focus to the extent these races demand more than twice a year. Western States was a lay down misere as my number 1, but due to it's timing in late June, that left the first half of the year pretty much given over to that race and it's training build up.

So that left me with a race later in the year to target which would ideally allow me to have a break after WS (more mental than anything). When the IAU announced that the Worlds would be on in November, the decision was easy. I have donned an Aussie singlet every year since 2009 and only missed out last year after the IAU cancelled the World 100km Champs late in the piece. This was after I'd committed to this event and not the World Trail Champs and the World Long Course Mt Running Champs which I had also been selected for. I was pretty disappointed, that's for sure.

But this race now offered a new challenge and you know what, I'm really glad I made this decision to train up for a major road event again. After a huge year on the trails, the road has reenergised and refocused me; reconnected me with my love of rhythmical road running and made me appreciate even more every time I step on the trails ;-)

My training over the last 3 months has also had to change. I've tried to get back on the flat, black top as much as I can, which is pretty hard living up here in the Blue Mountains. I made it a mission to get as fast as I was on the road in 2012 when I ran 6:55 for Worlds in April that year. So long ago! Thankfully I managed to sneak under my 5km PB and get 'in the ballpark' of my 10k PB in my build up phase. This is all encouraging.

In amongst all this was a pretty solid mix of trail running for endurance purposes. I've always been a high volume trainer and to me the best way to prepare for 100km is to feel at ease with the distance and run it comfortably. So yes a few 100km trail ultras were also used for this purpose. The trail events I chose, the Surf Coast Century and the Heysen 105, were on the 'flatter' scale of trail ultras.

My last hit out was two weeks ago at the brilliant little 'throw back to yesteryear' event, the Carcoar Cup Marathon. I ran a very solid 2:51 on a course with close to 800m of vert. My legs ticked over really well up to the last big climb (where I was passed impressively by winner Matthew Carroll). It was very satisfying and a confidence building run nonetheless.

Since then it's been a little sharpening up on the track, doing a few more shorter rep sessions and trying to cross off the little extras. I've been riding my fixie bike a lot around the place, just trying to develop a few more of the muscle groups that cycling develops in order to bullet proof my legs for the pounding they will cop on the Doha course (a mix of pavers and bitumen surface). The rides have all been only around the 5-7km distance but these short and sharp sessions are anaerobically and from a fast twitch perspective, what I need at this point. I've also been working out a little more in the Altitude Chamber at Valley Fitness; I find that if I work out at an easy intensity in here it always feels like I get the benefits of a hard session.

Here is a video of the course

So what type of 100k road running form am I in? It's really hard to say. I think I'm definitely a stronger and more familiar runner over the 100km distance than I was in 2012 but the jury is out whether I have the leg speed and cruising pace I had on the road now compared to 2012.  But one thing I do know is that what I've dropped in pace, I've gained in experience; both strategically, pacing and adapting to conditions. I won't be trying to stay with leaders or run fast splits early on. The way to race these is to run in a gradual and sustained build up for the first 4 or 5 hours, and then stay strong at this pace to the finish. You have to be circumspect about your early pace and finish without dropping pace in the vital last 20km of the race. That's the recipe for a top finish. In these races it's not how much you speed up necessarily but more about how long you remain steady for. You have to fully trust your fitness and be brave too..., but the opposite of what you'd think. It's hard mentally and takes some courage to run 4:10-4:20 pace early on when you're used to 3:50s as your easy pace. You have to let the bunnies go off. You rarely see many of the guys who are pushing sub 4s in the first 50km of a 100km race still hanging strong at the business end of the 100. If they are, they fully deserve to be there!

It's an interesting field too. For a road 100k in a desert regions, it's attracted a fair share of trail runners; Max King, Zach Miller and the ever-present Michael Wardian from the US are a few that I recognised. The field also contains Steve Way, the Brit marathon runner who has one of the most interesting stories ever and a couple of Russians who have outrageously quick times! I don't think this is going to be a year for quick times though, and with the course and the heat, I'm feeling a certain 'levelling' affect may occur to bring the field a little closer together. Here's hoping anyway!

I look forwarding to captaining the team consisting of; Andy Hayden, Chris Truscott, Rick Cooke, Merita Eisler, Kerrie Otto De Grancy, Jodie Oborne and Nikki Wynd. If we all perform strongly on the day, we should as teams, also finish quite high up the teams category.

More (or less) information is here. If there is going to be live tracking of the race, it will be here somewhere or even maybe here.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Heysen 105 - As quirky as it comes!

The Heysen 105 is an ultra-trail event put on by Ben Hockings through his Yumigo! venture. Yumigo! (pronounced as YOU-ME-GO) was created to promote physical activity and the diversity of the South Australian landscape. Yumigo, if you are curious as I was, is a pidgin English word used to inspire action to "do something together".

I had only previously been to South Australia when a child, and remember it fondly. As you do, I remember the strange little quirky things about the place; the strict border control measures for fruit fly, the gigantic children's playground that I visited that would surely not pass muster these days and the abundance of big things generally. I think I collected a rocking horse, lobster and orange on that one short trip.

For a while there it looked like Izzy and I were
going to race it out for victory! Then the others turned up!
So when I was offered the chance to go over to race the Heysen 105, it didn't take much convincing. One of my little life goals is to win an ultra in every state and territory in Australia, and South Australia was still to be crossed off. That and the wine. Well it was really the chance to drink some nice wine.

The Heysen Trail is the jewel in the crown of South Australia trails. It runs from Flinders Ranges via the Adelaide Hills to Cape Jervis on the Fleurieu Peninsula and is approximately 1,200 kilometres long. The section of this trail that the race travels is particularly beautiful, with the course traversing many conservation areas, pine forests and farmlands. It is as unusual as it is beautiful. On Facebook, I gave a 25 word or less summary and it went like this:

"Sand, heat, paddocks, hay bales, cows, kangaroos, electric fences, galahs, stiles, ferns, snakes, rolling hills, pine forests, cow patties, country roads and the most friendly group of people one could want to spend time with."

Yes, quirky would be a word to describe this course! Even the distance 105km is a quirky addition in itself! But it is uniquely South Australian in every sense. I have never run a course anything really like it in Australia. The 6 Foot Track Marathon and some sections of the Great North Walk would be similar; but none can rival the Heysen105 for quirkiness. I mean I've never walked over so many stiles, dodged so many cow paddies and played the deadly game of straddling over electrified fences! Believe me, this task got increasingly challenging the longer the race went on. Guys, no one wants to ever fail at that task! 

Nadine and I were fortunate to stay with Paul Rogers and his lovely family at Mt Compass. Paul is manager of Fox Creek Wines in McLaren Vale. Paul, apart from making the most luscious Shiraz imaginable, also is a keen ultra runner himself and it was a joy to spend time with him both on this weekend and the training camp weekend a couple of months prior. He is as passionate about running as he is about making good wine and drinking good coffee! We also had another reason to visit, that being to visit Nadine's Godmother Carol and her husband Alan who also live on the Fleurieu Peninsula. We spent an enjoyable few days visiting Glenelg, Adelaide and Brighton with Carol and Alan before arriving at Paul's place.

Paul had generously offered to crew with Nadine. The night before Nadine had a premonition that I would get lost and run 110km. I was determined to prove Dan at Ultra168 wrong and show him that I can navigate a trail. I had loaded the map into my Suunto Ambit, and I was going to follow it to the T. I was thrown a couple of curve balls though with some last minute reroutes due to fire bans, a car rally taking place and a landowner who had not given permission for use of his land. So would Nadine be right? I'm afraid the answer is a resolving yes as it always is to that question.

Not 12km into the race and in the lead I was presented with a 50/50 challenge that I always seem to perform poorly in, and this case was no different! I don't think it helped that the car rally and the Heysen were using the exact same course marking ribbon as each other; and the car rally was following the actual Heysen Trail. Excuses excuses. In actual case the race at this point was taking a reroute to avoid the car rally, but I had seen one of the car rally ribbons first and just followed that. A couple of kilometres down this way and I was feeling that dreaded feeling I only know too well. So out came the maps and on the phone I got to Ben, yep I was definitely on the wrong trail!

So I backtracked and probably lost 15-20 minutes all up which of course put me back in the field and suddenly having to really think about how I was going to make up this ground up on the leaders Luke McLean and Dej Jamieson, both very handy runners. I met Luke at TNF100 and then at the 6 Inch Trail event in Western Australia last year and he was 2nd at the Heysen last year and is as impressive a person as he is a trail runner. I'm also currently coaching Dej at the moment and the last thing I wanted (well today anyway) was to be beaten by one of my athletes! 

So suddenly I went from running out in front to playing catch up which always has its traps. I kept reminding myself to be patient and resist the urge to catch them too soon. So I took my time but with a slightly higher than normal tempo trusting that they would come back to me. 

In hindsight, going off track was a blessing in disguise as it gave me the opportunity to run by and meet a lot of the field. I said g'day and they were all very encouraging. Someone asked if I was on my second lap already, to which I could only laugh. I was getting updated on how far Luke and Dej were in front and reports did vary! At CP1 at the Inman Valley I heard I was 20 minutes off Luke which sounded about right. I didn't hang around long in the CP in any case. From CP1 the trail then heads towards Sugarloaf Mountain, which I had ran on the training camp weekend. Unfortunately this was the section the landowner had not given permission to use, and as such we were rerouted around the mountain. This again made me question my navigation, and I was soon realising that following the route on my Suunto was a good idea in theory...that is if the correct route is loaded onto it in the first place. Along here I again second guessed myself and started doubling back to make sure I hadn't missed a marker! Thankfully Barry McBride, who was crewing for the female Race Ambassador Isobel Besbalov, soon drove by to confirm I was indeed on the right course. Thanks Barry! I probably would have run all the way back to the CP had you not turned up!

Just before CP2
Photo thanks to Gregory Jenkins
So off I chased again, and entering the beautiful Myponga Conservation Park, I was starting to pull in some of the other front runners and early starters. This is a cool single track section of the course, and  also contains the steepest, albeit short climbs. By the back of this section I had caught Dej, and I encouraged him to stay strong and power on as a podium was his today if he continued to race it smart.

Exiting Myponga, the course then traverses some cow paddocks, and up and over multiple stiles which was from now going to be a recurring feature of this event. By CP2 I had almost caught Luke, and after exiting the CP I spotted him on the road 100m in front. In single file we turned onto a single track and we began to run together and chat for a bit about our race to that point. Crossing a little footbridge, Luke suddenly leapt back at me and stopped in his tracks, and it was then I saw the reason why, a bloody big black snake had been on the trail. Luke had just missed stepping on it and it was as close a call to a dangerous encounter with a snake that I've had in quite a while. 

Not long after, on a climb approaching Yulte Conservation Park, Luke drifted back and I had the lead to myself again. This part of the course is also very beautiful; rugged and isolated and suddenly in my mind there was a snake hiding behind every log and corner. From Yulte, which is an all too short section of trail, the all too telling sounds of cows mooing alerts you to the dominating feature of the next section - farmlands. For about 15km the course runs on dirt roads besides, through, across and over cow paddocks. I was running through herds of bemused looking cows. I was definitely intimidated; up close cows are a big big animal and if any had decided they didn't like me, I would have been in trouble! 

The course here is really exposed and it was heating up; so I was carefully taking on board plenty of fluids and Hammer Enduralytes. I've recently been trying the new Extreme Enduralytes; basically a more concentrated form of the regular. It meant I only had to take one every hour and they were doing the trick nicely. It was an interesting part of the course with some great views of Victor Harbour and Encounter Bay but I was keen to get out of the sun and into the bush again.

The lovely fern covered trails of Mt Compass
After a bit of road running, which was a welcome relief, I arrived at CP3 where Paul and Nadine were waiting for me. I restocked my fuel and water, and ran off with Paul to the next section of the track. I think Paul was worried I would get lost again! I was on my own again soon after and running through Fern covered forests at Mt Compass. The trail was very sandy and I was seeing all sorts of wildlife such as lizards and kangaroos. To take my mind off the heat I had gotten my iPhone out and was blasting some Blind Melon tunes to keep me company. It was a couple of girls at the previous aid station dressed up as bees that gave me the idea to play their tunes. Although the girls had no idea what I was talking about when I mentioned 'No Rain' to them (I showed my age...eek) the little simple act of hearing the tunes of this most underrated band was exactly what I needed to get my mind distracted enough to keep pushing on. I've never been a big music listener when I run, but I liked it now. I wasn't using earphones, so I think this made a big difference. Previously when I have tried using earphones they get tangled and sweaty so would rather avoid the hassle. Off the sandy trail and back onto farmlands; through paddocks again, running next to giant hay bales and over stiles, eventually back onto a road where Paul and Nadine had driven to offer me encouragement (or to check I was still on the right course)! I then turned left and began the tough uphill dirt road section of Stones Ford Rd towards Mt Magnificent CP in the Lofty Ranges. 

This section was tough, with its tough little douche grade climbs and rocky terrain, I was really beginning to feel the pinch of my effort earlier when chasing down Dej and Luke. I shuffled into CP4 and was pretty fatigued. I got that awful feeling that I hadn't left enough in the tank for the last 30km or so, and I made sure I took on enough Perpetuem and Gels to get me through the last 2 legs. Thankfully though, these were the flattest of all the legs which was a welcome relief as the little undulations earlier had definitely taken their toll on me.

I found Skippy!
The last 2 legs are dominated by pine forests and forestry roads. The smell of the pines reminded me of Western States and, excuse the pun, I pined just a little for a second go on that awesome trail again. I enjoyed the last two legs, mostly through the covered Kuitpo Forest and although my pace was dropping a lot, I was still very much enjoying being out there. Eventually I reached the last CP and reminded Nadine to have a few beers ready for me at the finish line as I was definitely needing some external motivation to keep me going at this point!

The last leg was very similar to the previous, alongside and through pine forests and after nearly 10hrs I crossed the finish line a very tired and relieved runner. The race was over and I immediately began recovery as best I could, which yes, included a few beers!

It was lovely to meet, some for the second time, the great little South Australian trail running community. There were some mighty efforts out there and everyone finished with a smile on their face. It was great chatting to everyone at the finish line and I can't wait to see many of you again for TNF100! Congratulations to all finishers!

Ben Hockings has put a lot of thought and effort into making the Heysen 105 a truly unique event. Congratulations to Ben, Paul and his team of marvellous volunteers for the smooth and successful organisation of the race. With it's mixed terrain and abundance of natural and quirky challenges to keep you both interested and entertained, it should be an event on your to do list. Oh, and don't forget to visit the wineries while you're over there!

Shoes: Inov-8 Trail Roc 245s
Nutrition: Hammer Gels and Perpetuem
Electrolyte: Hammer Enduralytes Extreme 
Timings and Navigation: Suunt Ambit 2
Shorts: 2XU Elite Compression Shorts
Socks: Injinji 2.0 Trail 
Pack: UltrAspire Omega

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

RIP Jackie Fairweather

Australian 100k Road Running Team in 2009
I have just heard of the passing of Jackie Fairweather. I am still in a little bit of shock. My thoughts go out to Simon and the rest of her family and friends. 

Jackie was someone I admired from a young age. When I was a young boy and teenager I was always glued to the triathlon series that they used to show on free to air TV every weekend in the Summer. You could bet that Jackie would be there leading the charge. I loved Jackie's style because, well she was just a damn great runner for a triathlete! I loved seeing her mow down the field on the leg run, time after time after time. 

The admiration continued after her triathlon days when she began her marathoning career. She was such a gutsy, determined and bloody smart runner. Not lightning quick for a marathoner, but when it came to strategy and gusting out a race, she would always show her class. I remember watching her grab bronze in the Aussie trifecta at one of the Commonwealth Games.

I feel very honoured to have gotten to know Jackie through her last competitive sport; ultrarunning. In 2009, we were on the Australian 100k road running team together for the first Commonwealth Ultra Distance and Mountain Running Championship, which was also my first time in an Aussie singlet. Jackie was a calming and influential part of the team and someone whose presence was particularly useful for me being a bundle of nerves and very green around the gills. She was very open with advice and was always willing to share her wealth of 'racing' knowledge with the team.

It will go unmentioned in a lot of tributes I'm sure this week in favour of her triathlon and marathon exploits (and rightly so), so I just want to remind everyone of some of her remarkable achievements in her relatively short yet successful ultra running career. That day in Keswick she easily won the 100k and just missed the Aussie women's record by 40 seconds or so. I remember afterwards that Jackie was filthy that she hadn't done her research on this as she later said she could have easily broke that - always the fierce competitor! Jackie was also the Australian 100k Road Champion in 2009 and is one of only 3 Aussie ladies to go under 8 hours.

Jackie still has the Australian road 50k and 6h records. But apart from all the victories, records and disciplines she performed at a world class level in, she was an inspiration and mentor to countless weekend warriors and someone we all respected for the way she carried herself throughout her career.

In three weeks time in Doha at the 100k World Championships, and as Captain of the Aussie team, I'm going to propose the team dedicate the day to Jackie. I know I will be.

RIP Jackie.