Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Reviewing 2011 and Previewing 2012

It's the end of another calendar year and it's always nice to reflect on the achievements of the year and set a new set of goals for the new year ahead.

2011 was a busy year on many fronts; I started a new role at a new school, Nadine and I moved to the Blue Mountains and running wise I really focused on trail running for the majority of the year. This resulted in some very good results on the trails. While it may not have been a year full of road PB's like 2010, it has been by far the most successful year. I've also met some very good friends up here in the mountains and have also managed to pick up a bit of sponsorship too with a great company, barefootinc. This has been a real bonus.

Running in my only competitive road marathon this year,
the Canberra Marathon
The year started less than ideally with a visit to Blue Mountains hospital after winning the Kedumba Half Marathon. Thankfully this was only a small glitch in what was otherwise a very positive year.

The big results this year where the second place at 6 Foot, 5th (2nd Australian) at The North Face 100 and the 4th place at the Commonwealth Ultra Trail Championship. The 6 Foot result was a little unexpected, and let's be honest, probably a result of quite a few pre race withdrawals. But what that result did do was give me oodles of confidence for the year ahead and also enabled me to be selected in the Australian team for the Commonwealths.

The North Face 100 result was also very pleasing. It was my debut trail ultra past the 6 Foot distance of 45km. I actually really enjoyed the race, and already I'm planning how to shave some minutes off my time. To run with some of the world's best ultra runners, and not be terribly far behind them was very encouraging.
With No Roads team mates at the Willy 2 Billy.

In the middle of the year, I had the opportunity to join the No Roads Expeditions Trail Running Team and take part in the Kokoda Challenge, a 96km team event on the Gold Coast. The team of Andy Lee, Mick Donges, Clarke McClymont and myself smashed the course record and it showed us how enjoyable running as a team can be.

On the teams front, my good mate Lachlan Dansie and I finally took out the Royal National Park Adventure Race after 3 years of podiums! We are looking to defend our title to this year and perhaps even give Sleep Train and other BMMC guys a challenge in the Blue Mountains version.

The Commonwealth Championships in Wales in September gave me the opportunity to represent Australia for the third time and I regard my 4th place as probably my best race to date. It was a small, yet a true world class field. The big bonus of the day was joining Mick Donges and Jonathon Worswick on the teams medal podium where we picked up a bronze medal.

3rd at the Woodford to Glenbrook.
It's now my local race!
Although it was a bit of an injury plagued last couple of months, I also managed to win and set a new course record at the Great North Walk 100km event.

I don't know how far I've run in training or racing, it's not really my go to add up totals or anything like that but as a rough estimate I'd say that I averaged around 400km a month. Not as much cycling as last year though!

So what about 2012? I doubt very much that the results of this year will be bettered or replicated. I'm another year older and races are just becoming ever increasingly competitive at the pointy end. I do however have some personal goals in mind. I think a sub 3:30 6 Foot is achievable, given the more suitable training grounds in the Blue Mountains I have access to. Similarly, I think this will carry on to a sub 10 hour North Face. On the team front, I'll be racing with No Roads again and look forward to going after the Sydney Trailwalker record. At the end of the year, I plan to enter my first 100 miler at the Great North Walk.

But really, these are all contingent on the body holding together and the opportunity to train is available. Hopefully it will be, but I take nothing for granted so we will see what pans out as the year progresses. I'm thankful of course to my wonderful supportive wife, but the milk of human kindness only flows so far so I'm always mindful of my time management and family/work/running balance as well!

So to kick off next year's races, the Bogong to Hotham 'Rooftop Run' will no doubt be an epic adventure. Undoubtedly it will also expose the Christmas indulging I've undertaken so I'm not really going to be near my best. The guys at Ultra 168 may think I'm good enough for a sneaky podium, but with Andrew Tuckey, Rowan Walker, Dave Criniti, Andy Lee plus a host of other great runners, it will be a real challenge just to make the top 10! Anyway, mountain ultras can be a funny race and you just never know how many blow ups will occur, I just hope that I'm not one of them!

Wishing everyone all the best for a properous and successful new year, running or otherwise!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Injuries come in 3s (I'm hoping)

Not such a great post today, seems my left leg has decided, again, to pack it in.

This is the third injury I've had on this leg in the last month and a bit, this time it's a calf strain, not in the same place as the last one, more towards the achilles this time.

Seems it's good for 100k of steady running but not 21.1km of intense down and ups.

Second Running Wild event now where it's ended in injury, starting to get a little frustrated.

Seems the Kedumba Half is my bogey event. Last year I took a trip to Katoomba Hospital post race, this year I had to hobble, hop and walk most of the climb. At least I won the thing last year!

Andrew Tuckey again showed his class. His climbing yesterday was amazing to watch. My tactic was to try and put as much gap on him as possible on the downhill to the valley. I don't think my split to the bottom was as quick as last year but I still got there 1st, Tucks was only 20s or so behind though. On his climb yesterday I would have needed at least 3 minutes!

He is a special for B2H, but also watch out for Andy Lee who is showing some good form too.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Great North Walk 100k

Another race down and I'm certainly glad to have made it through, but I'm not quite out of the woods just yet!

Having heard so much about this event, it was only a matter of time before I toed the line for this epic race. While the 100k (actually 103.7km) gets totally overshadowed by the 100 miler (and so it should), I really rate that 100k course as the toughest I've done so far. It has so many differing terrains and of course the big factor - the November heat and humidity. Thankfully for the first time in a long time, the weather was mild and everyone knew that this could be the year that some quick times are posted across both races. Of course this proved to be correct, with all race records obliterated!

On Friday afternoon, Nadine and I travelled up to Forresters Beach to the McClymont's new place where we enjoyed a lovely pasta dinner and did our pre-race preparation things. Clarke was a little concerned about the stomach issues he had been having the past couple of days, but was still very keen to try and break 11 hours together. I was looking forward to running with Clarke, he is great company on a run and also knows the course better than most! Nadine and Clarke's wife Tiffany discussed crewing details, and then we were off to bed for a 3:30am wake up!

With Clarke pre-race.
Once up, I downed some muesli, porridge and coffee and we were on our way. I was happy with my gear and pack, the super light Nathan Endurance Vest was going to get a baptism of fire today. Clarke put me on to Nathan and after a bit of searching around on the web, I was finally able to get one delivered just in time. At the start, I was weighed in at 65.5kg. This is the heaviest I've been in a long time and testament to the big sessions of carbo loading that went into the preparation. Hot tip, the takeaway shop in Whalan still makes hot chips the old fashioned (not frozen) way and they are really really good! is there a better pre-race snack?

Once the gun went off it was down the tar and my GPS system for the day (Clarke) took a while to warm up, almost overshooting the turnoff over the railway line. Once going up the hill, the main contenders in both races became clear. We swapped introductions and I met Dave Coombs, a top guy and super runner from up North way who seemed like the only other 100k runner who was looking for line honours. I told him of our plan to go for a sub 11 run and he seemed to like that idea. We all knew it could be the day for it with predicted lower than average temperatures and we agreed in not so many words to work together to make it happen.

At the start line chatting with Damo. Shona, the female 100k
winner is to my left. She ran a scorcher to finish 2nd overall!
Once into the bush, my calf was beginning to play up a bit, especially on the downhills where I had to stretch out, or on uneven ground. I knew that I would have to nurse it on the downhills without going crazy, and certainly our pace was quite conservative. Climbing Heaton Gap was OK, I ran most of it (the uphills were not aggravating the calf) while Dave and Clarke walked sections but never got too far behind. I had a half minute breather at the top while waiting for them and took in the spectacular view. Into the rainforest section, I didn't quite expect it to be so technical and navigationally challenging, thank goodness someone had marked out the course by spray painting a series of dots on the trees. It was very slow going through here, conserving the energy was definitely the wise thing to do. I didn't realise how conservative we were going though until about half way through this section when we suffered the indignity of being passed by the leading three 100 milers! This was like a slap in the face with a wet fish and I rallied Dave and Clarke to pick it up a bit. Clarke was beginning to suffer from the stomach cramps, and I could tell on the look on his face that he was concerned about the day ahead. Dave looked very smooth and comfortable, he has a really nice running style, very fluid and relaxed and I knew he had more to give.

Just past the rainforest secion, I ran ahead and caught the three milers, just to find out who they were and what their aim was for the day and 100k split. It was Pipi, Matt Cooper and, as I was later to find out, Levi Martin. On the last turnoff before checkpoint 1, I wished them well and waited for Dave and Clarke about a minute back. Here Clarke told me to go ahead, but there was no way I was doing that, and on the last bit before CP1 I encouraged him to find a rhythm, hoping it would brighten his mental state.

Coming into CP1 with Dave Coombs.
Clarke was just behind us.
Unfortunately for Clarke, his stomach and bowels were giving him too much grief and he decided to pull the pin at CP1. Tiffany and I tried for about 5 minutes to convince him to soldier on, knowing the next leg was relatively smooth and flat. But in the end, Clarke made the right decision. He was clearly not well, with diarrhoea and gastro there was a real risk of dehydration on a day like that. He encouraged me to go ahead. As I'd been at the CP for about 10 minutes now, I was raring to go and once off I began to pull in the leaders.
First was Andrew Vize, who was clearly unconcerned that the leading milers were at least a km or two ahead. He was pacing himself nicely and we had a little chat about tactics. I thought he showed a lot of self control not to be sucked into the early race to CP1, and no doubt that would pay off later in the race for him (he ended up winning in a classy 22:02). I then pulled in Dave Coombs, and ran with him. I would have been quite happy to run with him all day, but he also encouraged me to go off and 'smash it'. I wished him well and then took off after the milers. The type of undulating firetrail along this leg is my favourite type of terrain; hilly without being fiercely steep at any point. I had a couple of 'where is the trail' moments; once waiting for Dave to catch up to confirm that it was straight ahead, and then stupidly taking a left at a junction where someone had spray painted lots of pink arrows on a tree. Thinking this was the course, I followed the arrows! It soon became evident it wasn't looking like the trail, so I retraced steps. When I got back to the junction, right below the arrows next to the same tree was a little Green sign with a red man on it (the GNW signs) pointing straight ahead! These two moments probably cost me 10 minutes.

The rollercoaster run out of the forest down to Congewai Rd gave me the opportunity to practise controlled downhill running - too many tight twists and turns to go hell for leather. Once down on the road I began the trudge to the Public School. It was hot hot hot but I was running with a fair amount of determination. Here I came across Jordan, Dave's mate, was was running out to meet his charger, and we exchanged a hopeless high five. Into the school, I was weighed (62.4), I restocked, refilled and was on my way out. Losing 3 kg raised the eyebrow of a race medic, but I told him my usual weight is 60-61kg so still had a bit to burn off before it should become concerning. I was drinking plenty and keeping well hydrated so I wasn't too worried either.

The climb up Congewai was a run/power walk. Only a month earlier, Clarke and I had run the entire 3rd leg including the hills all the way to Yarramalong. Clearly this was not going to happen today though! Once up the top I opened up a bit again and started to churn out some quickish kms along the Watagon Range. It was just me, the goannas, the birds and the occasional stop and look at the map! The run down the other side was fast and I reached the farmyard gates in good time. I ran the first bit of the big hill, until the rocks started slipping from under me and decided that a walk might be the better option. Grinded that one out and  boy was it tough, and I certainly needed to refill my bottle and hydration pack by the time I got to unmanned water stop at the top.

Entering the Basin section I was really careful. Clarke and I had run all this section on our training run, but we didn't do the little out and back to the Basin Checkpoint. This was to prove a little costly as it was here that I took the most significant detour for the day. It was stupid and I should have trusted my instincts a little more which were telling me the right way, but hey, it wasn't major and probably cost me no more than 12 minutes.

When I had filled my bladder and made my (correct) way out of the campsite, I was a little shocked how close the 100 milers were; even with my stuff up I didn't think they would be that close. I think I have found a new found respect for these guys. I don't mind saying so, but as far as ultra running press goes, I have thought at times that these races get way too much exposure purely for the distance, rather than the quality of the run. Yeah, I'm guilty of being a little whinging bastard when it comes to the lack of exposure the shorter (but faster) ultras get. Classic example, the great results at the Commonwealth Ultra Trail Champs, hardly raised an eyebrow on the big Oz running websites. However, saying that, and now seeing these guys in action, there is no doubt they are supremely, fit, immaculately conditioned athletes at the top of their chosen discipline. I'll jump off my soapbox now.

Shuffling to the finish line. That road killed me!
Going out of the basin I ran very solidly to the track head at the farm just before the road to Yarramalong. I was pretty sure 11 hours would be out of reach now but was keen to get under 11 and a half, so I started the road doing 4:30 minute ks, pretty much giving it all I had. Problem was, it seemed my body only has 100k to give, and halfway up the road I hit empty and was forced to a shuffle the rest of the 3.7kms. A pretty disappointing finish, I would have loved to have sprinted in but it was not to be. End time 11:36. End weight 60.2, more than a 5kg weight loss!

What about my post mortem of the race? I think this course is brutal, given the heat, but definitely a much quicker time is attainable adn I don't expect this record to last for long. I don't think the course is harder per se than The North Face, it is just slower due to the technical sections that TNF just doesn't have.

Nadine presenting me with the winner's medal!
I've had a few people ask me if I'm going to step up to the miler next year. I just don't know. It's very tempting, but to be honest I love racing the shorter stuff, so I'll stick to that for the time being. Talking of short stuff, next race is the Kedumba Half this weekend. I'm reigning champ, not expecting to win this year but it would be nice to stay out of Katoomba Hospital.

Oh...and the 'not out of the woods bit'? A day or so after the race my ankle has turned into a cankle with a nasty infection causing Celluitis in my left foot. It was caused by a leech or spider bite, I have no idea what, but the treatment is a 5 day course of a heavy antibiotic via injections into my butt cheeks. My ass feels a bit like a pin cushion at the moment! The good news is that it has settled the infection down and it looks like it has turned the corner and the worst is over.

Post race shower, Yarramalong style!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Should I stay or should I go?

This has been the question I've been asking myself for the last week while desperately trying to recover from a calf strain in preparation for the GNW100k this Saturday. I really have considered pulling the pin and having a DNS. I even have considered upgrading to the longer, yet slower 100 miler, in order to not risk restraining the muscle which is feeling particularly more at risk of doing so the faster I run.

The litmus test was last weekend. With friends Terry and Chaia, we did a nice out and back to Faulco Point. We all had different agendas and reasons for the run, but for me it was my fitness test and first run since the injury and therefore was D day for the decision.

I went OK, with kilometres around 5-6 minutes, this would have to be one of the slowest 10 milers I have done, but it served as a valuable trial run as in reality this will be the pace for a lot of the race. I even pushed the last 4kms around 4:15 pace, and while the calf didn't like this much, there was no pain and no post run soreness which was all the encouragement I needed. I am in.

Yesterday, to prove that it wasn't just a good day, I ran out and back along Linden Ridge which is quite a deal hillier. While the calf pulled through fine, I got absolutely drenched in the downpour, but was a happy chappy to say the least after the run.

I am now looking forward to getting out there and giving that race record a rip, there is no doubt I am fit enough and hopefully the body will hold together on the day. Good luck to all runners, especially those in the 100 miler. I am inspired by how much preparation and conditioning these athletes do. I hope it all comes together successfully on the day.

View from Linden Ridge

Sunday, October 30, 2011


Pretty much going to be R.I.C.E for breakfast, lunch and tea for the next 2 weeks if I am any chance of lining up at GNW thanks to a calf strain throwing the ultimate spanner in the works.

These things always happen when you are: a) feeling the quickest and fittest you have in a long time, b) after a stack of large, consistent training weeks, c) while you are leading a race or d) while you should be tapering . In my case its e) all of the above!

I went for a very cruisy 10 k plod on the trails yesterday in very minimal shoes and when I got back my left calf felt a little tender but nothing out of the ordinary. Then in warm up this morning before the Running Wild event I couldn't feel it and so was amped for a big run. I didn't do this event last year and I have heard how beautiful the course was (will have to wait till next year to find out!)a and was looking to have a quick hitout before a taking it easy for the next 2 weeks.

I took the race out hard and was leaping about, loving the trail with all the downhill stair sections and tight boardwalks. I wasn't feeling any pain and was pushing along nicely out in front on almost full throttle. Then I began to feel the dreaded throb and knew it was only one long flex away from pulling. Before I could even think about how I was going to nurse it along 'RIP' there it went when pushing off a little step. I stopped immediately and began the lonely journey back.

Thanks to all the competitiors for your concern out there too, really appreciate it. I shouldn't be too upset, I've been very fortunate with injuries, nothing too serious so far.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Training and GNW100

Just a quick training update. I've been really happy how it is all going and finally feel as though my weekly routine is pretty much set in concrete, this last fortnight has been pretty much the same weekly cycle. I've tinkered a bit with it here and there but I'm liking it the way it is now. Basically old skool marathon training in approach, nothing really too amazing. Mid-week longish and Sunday l-o-n-g, Tuesday & Thursday speed, Monday, Wed, Friday easy with a Sat tempo, rest or cross train. The hardest part has been tinkering with the training conditions; doubles or singles, and on road, treadmill or trail?

I feel as though this bulk of training has to lead somewhere, and all roads, trails and conveyor belts are pointing to the Great North Walk 100 on the Central Coast. This will be my debut on the course and from all previous reports it sounds like it is a belter of a course and harder than TNF. I've been throwing around the idea of having a crack at the 100 mile event. The idea of ruuning 174km is so untempting yet tantalising at the same time. It looks like a cracking course, and to stop at 100K seems a shame.

It is something to ponder about in the next week or so, more than likely the Boss will read this and talk some sense into me!

With views like this, who wouldn't enjoy training?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Team No Roads Expeditions explained

This is a name that trail runners are going to hear a lot more of in 2012, so I thought I'd give a quick overview of who we are and what we are planning.

The team has been put together with the backing of, primarily, the great Australian adventure travel company No Roads Expeditions. In the course of our journey so far we have also managed to snare some partnership sponsorship with 2XU (clothes), INOV-8 (shoes and gear) and we are working on Endura for the supplements side of things. Our mission statement is simple...we want to dominate all the major team trail running events and major individual events on the Australian calendar.

No Roads also sponsor a group of Adventure Racers, mostly based in the Blue Mountains. Shortly this team will be taking part in the Adventure Racing World Championships in Tasmania. Good luck team!

So far the trail running team are off to a great start; this year winning and setting a new course record in the Kokoda Challenge, an epic 96km event in the Gold Coast Hinterland. We also had a team that came 2nd in the teams category at the Willy 2 Billy as well.

But this is nothing to what we have planned for 2012. Look out for Team No Roads at Trailwalker in Melbourne, Sydney (a big goal is to obliterate this course record next year), Kokoda and also in the paired relay at The North Face. Throw in races that have a teams category like 6 Foot Track, Woodford 2 Glenbrook, Willy 2 Billy and you can see that have more than enough to keep ourselves busy. There is also a MASSIVE overseas assault planned in late 2012 but I can't give anything away just yet!

So who are Team No Roads? I think some of the best Aussie Trail Runners, and with a mix of youth and experience, it is the perfect combination. Our CVs make impressive reading, you can see all our bios here

Andy Lee
Ben Artup
Mick Donges
Brendan Davies
Ewan Horsburgh
Clarke McClymont

Beth Cardelli
Angela Bateup

Monday, October 10, 2011

Fitzroy Falls Firetrail Marathon 2011

Got the chance this weekend to run my third FFFTM. Nadine and I traveled down and stayed at a nice B & B in Moss Vale. We had dinner at the usual - Briars. It absolutely bucketed down while we were eating (the band almost floated away!) and I knew that it was going to be a wet, slippery course. I was kind of relieved. Last time I ran this race it was really hot and humid, so at least we weren't going to see a repeat of those conditions.

I had no expectations for this run. I'm wise enough to know that I wouldn't be at my peak for a marathon having run pretty much the best I've ever run at the Commonwealth's only two weeks earlier and the 60km mountain bike ride I did on Monday through the Blue Labyrinth left me absolutely wasted. All I was really looking for was a solid hit out on one of my favourite races and courses on the trail running calendar.

Turning up to the race I met up with the usual suspects; Buzz, Mick, Tucks, Alex Mathews, Nick W, Paul Gillan, Tim C and a few others. I knew that this was going to be a quick run, much quicker than last year's 3:04 winning time...in fact I predicted 5 or 6 could go under 3 hours and really battle it out for podium spots. From the get go, it was race on. Mick was really amped for this run, I think the $500 winner takes all award was motivating him...for his current gypsy lifestyle it would mean extending his 'road trip' significantly! He was really setting the pace early on and after about 5k a pack had pretty much formed with me, Tucks and one other guy who later blew up at around 30k but was having a red hot go!

Mick was really going great guns and I was feeling fatigued, the little rises were gutting me out so settled in with Tucks for a while before he predictably inched ahead and set off after the leaders. The race did take a few twists and turns. At one point I was passed by Alex and Tim and in 6th, before passing the early pacesetter and then later on Alex. I was closing the gap on Tim towards the end, but it wasn't to be and it was another 4th place for me in 2:55. Last time I raced here I got a 3rd with 3:07!

I am really happy with the run. I might not have run it particularly smartly but I had a very strong middle and finish along the gradual uphill so I know it wasn't for a lack of endurance, I just didn't have the extra gear to go into when I needed to.

Tucks managed to reign in Mick with 4 kms to go and win by a minute. Tucks is on fire. That's three in a row and there is no better trail runner going around at the moment. Mick and I have kept up our recent trend of trading head to head places in races. He is my Tim Molesworth of the trails! Ever since Mick and I have been racing each other, we have been pretty much taking turns in races. So I'm hoping next time we go head to head it will be my turn again!

A well deserved post race burger - the best burger a runner could ask for!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Commonwealth Ultra Trail Championships 2011

A Captain’s Perspective

With the boom of trail running worldwide, the organisers of the 2nd Commonwealth Mountain and Ultra Distance Championships (CMUDC), wisely chose to include an ultra trail race into this biannual event’s program. This replaced the 100km road run which proved to be the least popular event on the program at the previous CMUDC in Keswick. Factoring in the 100km World Champs were less than a month before, and it would have been an easy decision for the organisers to make.

With team mate Mick Donges on a training jog around
the 'Great Orme'
Having arrived at the race headquarters in stunning Llandudno, Wales (a much less stunning name to pronounce!), the team gathered at the group hotel to settle in and meet each other, some for the first time. Staying at the same hotel as the 24 hour team was a benefit to the trail team. We got to know our fellow teammates and build team spirit. As the 24 hour event was first on the program, we were able to watch a considerable portion of our guys and girls go around in their event. If any of the trail team were lacking in inspiration, they would have gone away with a bucket load to take into our own race after watching the guts and determination of these incredible runners!

From my perspective, I couldn’t be happier with the swap to a trail event. I’ve really been focussing on trail running this year which culminated in some very good results at 6 Foot Track and The North Face 100, which was thankfully enough to be selected. Having represented Australia at the last CMUCD , I was given the honour of being named Team Captain of the trail team. Completing the men’s team was the ‘junior’ Mick Donges and the ‘all wise one’ Jonathan Worswick. Making up the ladies team were Verity Breen, Kirstin Bull, Katie Siebold-Crosby and Cindy Hasthorpe. What this meant was that as a nation, we would be competitive not only individually, but also in both team’s categories where the top three times from each nation go towards a team award.

With mate Jame Kuegler from NZ during the
'reccie' of the course
Three days prior to the event, the team convened and, borrowing Rob Boyce’s car, drove to the Newborough Forest on the Isle of Anglesey which was to be the venue of the 53.75km ultra trail race. Organisers had gone to a lot of effort to make the course both scenic for runners and friendly for spectators, and they did not disappoint. It was both beautiful and challenging, and although devoid of any major climbs, the course threw up a lot of challenges in terms of the terrain and weather conditions. The route was basically a 10.5km loop which we were to do five times during the race. The terrain was a mixture of smooth tracks through lovely pine forest, soft sand beach running and grassy single track. Initial thoughts after the ‘reccie’ were that this was one of the least technical ‘trail’ runs we had seen and that it would suit the faster marathoners in the field rather than the hardened trail runner used to big climbs and tricky terrain. Certainly it was very different to what we were all used to being called a ‘trail’ event in Australia!

I was more than happy with the course. I was sure my road running background would put me in good stead during the race, while others, such as Jonathan, was cursing his luck. Jonathan is, of course, one of the better ‘technical’ trail runners on the trail running scene, as his results on the toughest courses over his extensive career prove. The girls were in good spirits too, with Verity offering thanks to the heavens for the ‘flat’ course more than once!

The team was in high spirits pre-race!
L-R, Back : Kirstin Bull, Jonathan Worswick, Mick Donges, Me
Front: Cindy Hasthorpe, Katie Siebold-Crosby, Verity Breen
Prerace, as is usually a ritual for me, I glanced through the list of competitors. Some very big names were in the field. There was Vajin Armstrong from New Zealand who won last year’s Kepler Challenge and Huw Lobb from England who famously won the annual Man versus Horse race in Wales for the first time in its 25-year history. Also in the field were Richard Gardiner, the Welsh Marathon Champion with a 2:18 marathon to his name and the Canadian Jason Loutitt, who this year was second at the World Trail Running Championship in Ireland. Throw in the English, Scots and the usual mix of unknown Kenyans, Zambians and South Africans and this was truly an elite international field.

Race morning soon dawned and we arrived on Anglesey to be met by overcast and cool conditions. It was almost perfect conditions, the only worrying factor was a strong on-shore breeze (more like a gale!) that was blowing. It would ensure tough running on the beach section (approx 1.5km each lap) and the out and back section to the little island where, at least on the ‘out’ it would be coming right into our face. We were thankful however, that it would not affect us through the protected forest sections which made up the majority of the course. We all agreed that there would be very fast and very slow sections throughout the race and prerace advice to the team was to ‘run smartly’ to the conditions and terrain of the course and not to be sucked into racing the opposition too early.

The pace was hot early! I soon fell off this leading pack
and took a much more conservative approach!
As soon as the gun went off, the Africans took off like it was a 10km road tempo. They also managed to pull along a few others, notably Loutitt and Lob and the main pack, made up of the Africans, went through the first lap in 35 minutes! I settled into a much more circumspect pace, settling into the second chasing group. Most of us in this group agreed that the race was going to be a battle of attrition and 54km was going to prove the undoing of more than one competitor!

And how right we were. By the end of the second lap I began to pass the Zambians and South African runners who were paying the price of the early suicidal pace. A Kenyan runner was still maintaining the lead, followed by Lobb, Gardiner and Loutitt. The out and back section of the island allowed the chasers to keep track of the competitors in front. Not far behind me and on my tail was Mick, Vajin from NZ and two Welsh runners Lane and namesake Andrew Davies, who were pacing themselves perfectly.

You can get an idea of the tough headwind
faced in this section of the course
The beach and island section were undoubtedly the toughest sections of, on what you would otherwise call, an undulating cross country course. Faced with strong headwinds, soft sand, seaweed, crushed shell and rocky outcrops; it took a considerable amount of nous to negotiate this section. I did notice a lot of the front runners take the most direct line across the beach across the soft sand. My tactic was to run a further distance to the outgoing tidal mark on the harder sand and run along this stretch. Although longer, it proved to be much less taxing and allowed me to maintain my rhythm. I believe this section contributed to the demise of a lot of the early pacemakers.

Soon after I passed a fading Loutitt and found myself in 6th place at the 30km mark. I still felt very strong, although not as strong as Welshmen Davies and Lane who passed me soon after. Despite being passed, the little lift I undertook as I ran with them enabled me to put a comfortable space between myself and the chasing pack made up of Donges, Armstrong and the Scot Andrew Fellas. I soon found myself running on clear trail and I used this time to reassess my form and my strategy for the rest of the near 20kms. On the 2nd last lap I was surprised to see the Kenyan, Tum, lying face down on the trail clutching his hamstring. Although very unfortunate for him, it put me in the top 5 and not without a chance of snaring a medal. I really put my head down and suddenly all the memories from watching the 24h race flooded back. I was getting tremendous support from the impartial spectators (perhaps having a very Welsh surname helped!), from Rob Boyce who had set himself up at the halfway drink station and the Aussie crew at the start/finish line made up of David Kennedy and Justin Scholz.

Then the tailwind! This part of the course was bliss!
The big effort on the 4th lap was rewarded with the Welshman Lane coming back into view on some of the longer open stretches on the course and I was determined to pull him in on the last lap. Matt Bixley, the elite NZ 24h runner offered me great support along the beach section and, while beginning to believe a medal was perhaps just going to be out of reach, I was determined to finish as quick as possible to ensure a strong team position. Throughout the race I was constantly doing ‘rough’ team calculations based on competitors positions in relation to the Aussie guys and I knew with Mick being just on my tail and Jonathan putting in a great effort midpack, we would be up there for a medal.

Trail running heaven - pine needle soft trail...oh and I was
wearing my trusty INOV-8 X-Talons too!
At the last drink station, I was greeted with the trusty bottle of water and a “You’re in 4th!” message from Rob Boyce. I was shocked and I was later to find out the Englishman Lobb had ‘blown up’ at 48km and the new leader was now Gardiner from Wales, with the other Welshmen making up the top three. Suddenly a medal was within reach and seeing Lane only 150m ahead I began to call on the very last of my reserves for one last big effort. I was gradually catching Lane, and was planning my strategy for the pass until he turned and saw me on a straight piece of trail and that was all the impetus he needed to put in a big surge. With only a few kms to go, I had no choice but to go with his surge and hope that he faded late, but despite my intentions, the body was not as willing and cramping in the calves pretty much turned my thoughts of 3rd now into holding down 4th. This can be the price you pay for putting in a big effort and the finish line could not come quick enough! Entering the final stretch I was spurred on by the really respectful Welsh crowd and my Aussie crew and I threw my arms in the air as I crossed the finish line in a time of 3:38:57. I was very happy with that race, I don’t think I could have raced any smarter, or quicker, and as such it is a very satisfying result. The winner was Gardiner in 3:29:55 with the Welshmen Davies second in 3:34:34 and Lane third in 3:38:09.

Big sweaty hug for Mick Donges, who
finished 5th in his international debut!
Only a minute later, Mick Donges, looking very fresh crossed the finish line in 5th spot to be welcomed with a sweaty hug from myself, probably the last thing he wanted! It is a tremendous result in his debut international race. Watch out for big things from this guy in the years to come, he is truly a superstar of the sport in the making. Following Mick’s finish, I was told by an official that I had been randomly selected for a doping test. I won’t go into that story, it is another story worthy of a report on its own, but in a nutshell what it did mean was that I disappointingly missed the rest of my Aussie teammates finish.

When I eventually was freed from my ‘commitments’, I learned that our own Kirstin Bull had run a fabulous race to finish on the podium in third place. I did not see Kirstin on the course, but obviously and from all reports from the crew, she ran a particularly smart race, pacing herself beautifully throughout the entire distance. Watch out for Kirstin too in the years to come in the ultra scene. Katie finished in a wonderful 8th spot, Verity in 10th and Cindy in 14th, uttering something about doing the ‘24h race next time’! This ensured the girls won a very deserving team bronze medal. The men’s teams results were much closer and was very hard to make a ‘good guess’ due to the number of DNFs in the race and the top times being very close. With Jonathan putting in one of the fastest last lap times in the field and finishing in a superb 16th spot, we knew we were up there. However, with the race over and the typical British weather setting in, everyone was quick to leave the island and it wasn’t until the medal ceremony that night did we find out that we also managed to snare a team Bronze medal, behind the Welsh and the English team.
All the Aussie medallists!
L-R, Back: Katie, Verity, Me, Dave Kennedy (2nd Mens 24h)
Mick, Jonathan
Front: Kirstin (2 Bronze medals!), Meredith Quinlan
(3rd Women's 24h), Sharon Scholz
Absent: Susannah Harvey-Jamieson (part of Women's Silver
Medal winning 24h team)
I am very proud of our results, and very honoured to have represented Australia and captained the team. Two team medals and an individual medal to Kirstin in a world class field is a tremendously pleasing result and can only be great for Australian ultra trail running. I am most proud of the fact that we all stuck to our race plan and really dug deep for the team when going through the bad patches. On behalf of the trail team, I would like to thank Rob Boyce and Justin Scholz for managing the team and all behind the selections at AURA. I would like to think I will be back in two years time but who can tell what the future holds?

Trail Splits and Laps Times

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Spilling Squad

I have been reflecting on how fortunate I have been since moving to the mountains in regards to the smooth transition I've had with training. I've always enjoyed training in groups rather than by myself. In reality, a distance runner does enough training on his own so to have like minded people to run with on some of the 'other' days is a real bonus.

Of course I did have this with Woodstock while living down in the city, but I was worried that it would be a bit different when moving up here. How wrong could I be!

Since moving up here, I've hooked up with the Blue Mountains Joggers under the tutorship of Rob Spilling - a legend of the NSW distance running scene, whom amongst other notable achievenments has a sub 43 min City 2 Surf to his name. I used to read about his achievements in old running mags; he and a few others like Jamie Harrison and Paul Arthur used to dominate the NSW fun run scene. While Rob will be the first to admit that age and injury have caught up with him, his presence at training is worth more than anything else and his advice is invaluable.

So every Tuesday is intervals and Thursdays is a tempo run with the option of hooking up with them on Sunday morning for a long run. There is a core group of guys who really make great training partners - Wayne Bulloch, Jim Perrett and the O'Brien brothers to name a few. Complimenting these sessions is my regular Wednesday long run with Wayne and my week now pretty much looks after itself.

Just got to try and get along to a couple of BMMC training runs in the morning now to complete the week!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Commonwealth Championships; A video summary

I'm going to write a much more detailed post soon, but in the meantime, enjoy this video that Mick Donges has put together which serves as a great summary of the race.

Commonwealth Trail Championships from mick donges on Vimeo.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Off to Wales

Am about to leave to the airport for the Commonwealth Champs in Wales. It's probably safe to say that this will be the last overseas trip for running in a while, so I've prepared to make every post a winner. The form is not too bad, and with a bit of a taper this week, I should be going into the race on Sunday pretty close to my best.

I've also been running more of the trails around the local area. Yesterday with SleepTrain, we ran to the Grose River via the Faulconbridge Point track. Was a beautiful and very challenging run, but not quite as challenging as going for a swim in the numbing river down at the bottom!

I've found a couple of regular trails from my place, literally out my back door and away I go. My favourite is what I have called the Serpentine Loop (because the trail snakes around to the Turpentine Track), 100% trail, but so much variety in a little 12km run. It has it all; single track, firetrail, fast sections, technical sections, fast descents, grinding uphills you name it. It's so nice I'm going to share it here.

See you all in a week!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Life is bliss in the mountains

Maybe it's just been the gorgeous Spring weather we've been having or the easy transition I've had in regards to training and training groups, but I can honestly say I'm loving living in the Blue Mountains. Everything has fallen into place nicely...yes there are a million things to do around the new house, but both Nadine and I could not be happier about the local community and the environment around us.

Nadine is easy to please. A $6 bird seed bell is all it takes. A couple of days out on the deck and we are now being visited constantly by sulfer crested ccockatoos, native pigeons, crimson rosellas, king parrots and all the other birds that call our backyard home. We've been busy painting the house and that is slowly getting there as well - all we can do is chip away at the jobs that need doing but at least they're getting done.

I'm a little harder to please, but all it took was a couple of bush runs to convince me that this is now home. After a couple of unexciting night road runs, I've had the chance in the last couple of days to explore the local trails, and what I've found has been magnificent. There is a nice little trail that I can get to by going into the bush in my backyard that then hooks onto the Murphy's Glen firetrail which is the gateway to the Blue Labyrinth and beyond! Today I went on a trail that local runners and friends Wayne Bulloch and Mick Donges have both recommended - the Faulconbridge Point run. The views from the Point over the Grose Valley are simply amazing!

On the training front, I couldn't be happier how it is all going prior to the upcoming Commonwealth Championships. I've hooked up with the Spilling Squad for interval training which has been the perfect substitute for TNT (which I do miss still though!). Really fast guys like Earl O'Brian are really pushing me beyond my limit (for the first rep anyhow!!). I've also been on a LSD with Ben Sleep Train Artup and plan to soon hook up for morning runs with BMMC more regularly. I've also made Wednesday afternoon mid week long run a permanent thing with Wayne Bulloch who works at Penrith. The mid week long run has always been a run that I have found hard to be motivated to do; with great company like Wayne it is now something I look forward to.

Racing wise, I was very lucky to snare a 3rd at the recent Willy 2 Billy. All I can say is that I am lucky it is a downwhillers race! On Saturday I have the Coastal Classic. I am looking forward to that very much; back to my old stomping ground at Bundeena!

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Tree Change

Well the time has come to say goodbye to the urban jungle of Belfield and to say hello to the new residency in Woodford in the Blue Mountains. Only a week to go now before the Boss and I move into our new home. We are both really looking forward to the change. The Boss has been pushing for this change for years and to be honest I don't know why we didn't do it earlier.

So what this means for my running? I think that I'm definitely going to be concentrating solely on trail and mountain running. I just can't see myself wanting to pound pavement when I have the great Aussie bush literally at my backdoor. I don't think I'm going to be racing half as much either, although I have done a rough count of the amount of races in the Western Sydney/Blue Mountains and there is no shortage! When you factor in the Running Wild races, TNF100, 6 Foot, Willy 2 Billy, Woodford 2 Glenbrook (my local race!) and all the SMC races I think I have enough races to keep the competitive juices flowing!

There is no shortage of training partners either. I'm very lucky to have a solid group of runners already up there that I'm already friends with. How's this for a bloody great bunch of athletes...Ben Artup, Earl and Ed O'Brien, Andy Lee, Wayne Bulloch, Mick Donges, Ewan Horsbough, Jo Parsons, Jim Perrett, Ben Berriman, Terry Meehan...plus a whole bunch more I haven't met yet.

Yes, I think this will be a great move!

Monday, August 15, 2011

A nice farewell

The least said about the C2S run yesterday the better. No PB and very soft running on my part, I didn't push hard enough when I should have and when you take it easy, mediocre results follow.

On a more positive note, I enjoyed a little farewell get together with some other Woodstockers at Mark's Park. Many beers were consumed! Thanks to Marty for organising and all the people that came along. I really hope to still come along to training runs every now and then. Perhaps if I had done so more regularly this year I could have run quicker yesterday too!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Commonwealth Champs Course

Here is the course for the Commonwealth Ultra Distance Trail Running Championships in Wales that I have been selected for. It is in September. Friend and No Roads and now Australian teammate Mick Donges found this and shared it with me. My initial thoughts were 'they call this a trail running course???'. You would think that from the land of the fells they would include some climbs but I guess they didn't want to cross over on the Mountain Running side of things too much as that is another separate component of the championships. The more I look at it though, the more I think this type of course is more suited for me. It's 5 loops of this course to make it 55km in total.

I am very honoured to be selected. This will be the third time I've represented Australia, in three different disciplines; ultra road running, mountain running and now trail running. I have the added honour of being named captain of the trail running team.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

C2S Taper

I've decided I'm going to give C2S a red hot go on Sunday, and thus have decided a short taper is the go. So no runs over 15km this week, and focusing more on speed in training. I may even have Saturday off! I think this will be one of the last chances to run a PB. I don't see myself getting up at sparrows fart and making my way from Woodford to the city next year. I would really like to take a minute off my time, but the course has always been one I've raced poorly. So this year I'm going to go in with a slightly different strategy and we shall see how that goes.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

My rules, my PB!

Headed down to the Bay this morning to run in the Bay Run Fun Run. Last time I ran this event was probably 4 years ago, not long after I started to take running seriously again. Ever since then it seems to have clashed with the M7 or some other more worthy event. Part of the reason I entered was also because I was part of one of the three Woodstock teams, and as the teams organiser, there was no way I couldn't go.

With just some of the fellow Woodies that made it
down to the Bay this morning.
I wasn't expecting great things today, and I'm glad to say I lived up to my predictions. Although the title of the post indicates otherwise, there are some asterisks that go in the fine print! My previous Bay Run PB was just under 24 minutes set at a Woodstock Handicap almost a year to the day ago, but on the 'old' Bay Run course. Me thinks the new bridge has made the course a bit faster and a bit shorter. Of course more evidence of this was seen today; both male and female course records were broken.

I've never been one to be precious about 'certified measured courses' and such rubbish when listing PBs. If it says it's 7km on the event website, that's good enough for me (and it does). At least they're not putting it in the name...case in point GNW100s aren't 100 miles or kilometres I recently found out. So I'll take what I can get, after all, with all the long stuff I've done this year, it's a miracle I have any fast twitch left!

The team? Well Barney, Dawlo, Chaia and I finished 4th behind two very good school teams from Trinity (Brad Woods is the teacher there) and a team that call themselves the '4 Jokers'! The other Woodstock teams came 11th and 22nd.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Year of the 100k

I have entered the Great North Walk 100k event, my third 100ker of the year (counting Kokoda). It's an event I've ever really given much thought too, but since my Woodstock buddy and friend Phil did the 100ker last year, there has been a growing curiosity. This was deepened listening to the glowing reports from Kokoda teammate Clarke, who also happens to have the unofficial 100k course record and has won this event the last two years. Clarke is looking to finally pen his name into the record book this year, and the way he is running, he will no doubt do just that.

From all reports, this event is very very tough (imagine what the 100 miler is like). Both the elevation and terrain are testing, but also, and quite possibly the biggest challenge is the hot and humid November weather.

On other news, official photos from the M7 marathon have come in. Sorry for the gaudy pacing shirt!

Starting out with quite a few in the 2:59:59 group.
But as it goes, the group became less and less!

Just making sure I don't finish too early.

Yep, time to register my finish for my 4th M7 marathon - now the most of any one road marathon.

Really glad to have paced this guy home, he was really grateful at the finish and it made my day to read a really nice post he put up on CR.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

M7 Marathon Pacing

It was a beautiful morning for running, cool, cloudy and not a breath of wind. I felt good churning out 4:15 kms but always had to keep myself in check to stop myself getting carried away and running too fast. Had a great time with the Sub 3 wannabees, we rode the wave of the ups and downs of marathoning today. Thankfully was able to help 1 or 2 get home, and a couple of others mighty close.

Got a nice comment on CR from a fella that just got under, made the day all worthwhile, although saying that the cash they hand out for podiums would have come in handy, especially with the Commonwealth Champs in September looming. Don't know what I could have run today if I had raced though. Still feeling a little sluggish post Kokoda Challenge but it was really nice putting on the racing flats again.

Focus is now on the shorter, faster stuff. Next week I am in a Bay Run Fun Run team for Woodstock, and then the C2S where going on current form should go close to a PB.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Returning 'thanks' to running

I have been thinking about what it's going to be like when I move up to Woodford and the changes that I am going to have to make to the 'running' part of my life. One thing I am going to miss in particular is the training sessions with Woodstock Runners. Not only does it give me a very good workout and valuable training session, but the friends and relationships I've made over the years are of far more value than anything else.

One aspect of being involved with Woodstock has been the responsibilities I've taken on that have no doubt made more a more skilled and relational person. I've also had the opportunity to give back to running in many ways, not out of a sense of duty, but as a way to share the joys of our sport and to help others achieve their goals whether big or small. I am most proud of TNT, our weekly interval session night that I started in 2009. From very basic beginnings, I built it up to be the most popular Woodstock training session and the one session that draws most new members to the club. It went from a small group, to a bigger group, which resulted in me obtaining my Level 2 athletics coaching certificate. It now regularly attracts over 25 runners and has helped many achieve individual milestones. I am going to miss this, but I hope to get back every now and then. I know it is in good hands with El Prez, Marty, at the helm.

Another way of given back to running is by being a pacer in races. Talking of which, I've put my hand up to be the 2:59:59 pacer this Sunday in the M7 marathon. I really like doing this job, I've done it twice before and I know that I am in good enough shape to run the time easily.

I just encourage anyone who is happening to be reading to think about how to give back. It could be leading a training group in the lead up to a race, being a pacer, volunteering at a race, hosting a race...whatever. The satisfaction is immense and balances the 'running' life.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

No beep :-(

Woodstock El Prez Marty messaged me today to let me know that he has postponed the Beep Test that we usually do every 2nd month at TNT. I was looking forward to it, but also knew that I was no way near going to match my effort from 2 months ago (Level 14, step 9). I think I will be better prepared in 2 weeks when it is planned to go mid 15-16.

Last couple of days training has been OK. Not great but at least starting to feel like the fatigue from Kokoda is over. Did a nice 12km tempo on Tuesday night in 3:42s and last night my regular 10 miler in 4:12s.

Going to try and hit the altitude chamber this arvo after work and then to 400m reps at TNT tonight. This is more like my regular routine!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


I'm going to try and blog more regularly. Well more regularly than once every two years anyway. The reasons I love sport and running is the variety that it throws up; I'd like to record this and if people like reading my thoughts well all the better. Have been inspired to keep a blog from all the other runners out there that have one! So I should be able to find 5 minutes a day to jot down some thoughts.

I actually have a stack of posts in draft still, I think I was waiting to add pictures to them before publishing, so I'll eventually retrospectively add those in too.

Today I'm still feeling quite stiff and sore from Kokoda, so had a long stretch in the shower. Will have to miss training at Woodstock tonight as the Boss and I have a meeting with our solicitor about our house purchase. Must say am looking forward to the new training grounds of the Blue Mountains. Fresh air, mountains to run and wildlife everywhere...

Monday, July 18, 2011

Kokoda Challenge 2011

Just going to be really lazy here and share a link to my good friend and Kokoda Challenge teammate, Mick Donges' blog entry of the event. I have also linked in the audio interview that we did with ABC radio on the Gold Coast. That was really good fun, we were just so amped when we were interviewed, it wasn't long after we finished the race and realised that we had smashed the course record by close to an hour and a half!

Mick Donges - Travel, training & race journal: Kokoda Challenge 2011: "The Kokoda Challenge is a 96km team event held in the hinterland of the Gold Coast. It has an elevation change of 5000m and is run on a ..."

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

RNP Kathmandu Adventure Race, 2011 - finally number 1!

The Kathmandu Adventure race series has always been a must do event since I first tried adventure racing 4 years ago. In my initial race, partnered with my brother-in-law, Ian, we finished mid pack but also with a longing to do it again and do it better!

Since then my partner in crime has been my good mate Lachlan Dansie; who holds the world record for most number of jobs anyone can hold down at once. Try this for a list; fireman, gym instructor, personal trainer, lecturer, sales assistant at Paddy Pallin (apparently he just works here ‘for the 10% discount’) and group exercise instructor at Nadine’s hospital. Makes me tired just thinking about it but somehow he juggles all this and still manages to compete quite successfully in running and fitness competitions!

Since partnering up, Locky and I have finished 3rd three times and 2nd once. It seems like we were never destined to get the top spot. Not that we haven’t been close. The nature of adventure racing means that one missed checkpoint, one navigational error or a flat tyre can ruin any chance. To this end, we’ve been there, often leading but only to be cruelly thwarted by some ridiculously unavoidable stuff up, or, admittedly a stuff up totally of our own doing!

This year, we once again went into the race confident and resolute that this was our year. Pre-race, we were surprised to see the course was very different to that of previous years, utilising sections of the Royal National Park that hadn’t been used in previous years. It was also longer than usual, which we were both pleased about.

For those that aren’t aware, adventure racing comprises of a number of elements across many legs. These elements may be trail running, canoeing, kayaking, mountain biking and rowing. Usually there are 1-3 legs of each, with the typical total distance being around 30-45km. On each leg, there are ‘checkpoints’ to find (a hole punch that you record on a card), which bring in an element of navigation and to some level orienteering as well. For those that know me, I frequently get lost on roads, so being out in the bush doesn’t make things easier! Counteracting this however, is the fact that Locky and I have both lived and trained around the park for many years and pretty much now every trail. Call it a home ground advantage!

Our first leg was a hard trail run of about 6km up over Audley hill. The rules of adventure racing state that both team members must stay together at all times. As this leg is my strength, Locky was working overtime to keep up, but we work as a team with me stopping to record the checkpoints, and Locky running ahead. This works well as I usually am able to catch back up by the next checkpoint.

Our second leg is the rowing leg. If anyone has been down to Audley, you will know that the craft down there are more suited for ‘rowing gently down the stream’ than racing! Once in the boat, I take up my customary role – of navigator! Locky has the arms of the Terminator and so I leave the heavy hauling to him. Eventually even he needs a break and once we turned around at the checkpoint we take an oar each and row back to the boat shed. It seems to work well, and we get back still holding a comfortable lead.

Our next leg was a run up the Honeymooners Steps which are very tough but thankfully we had just come off a leg that we didn’t have to use our legs for so they felt reasonably fresh. Once up the top of this short but demanding ascent we hopped on our bikes for our first mountain biking leg of about 7km. While not particularly technical, the riding has its challenges, with the tracks being quite muddy. Once we reached the checkpoint, we dismounted and were again off on a run leg, this time down on the Ullula Falls track, which is a very narrow and overgrown single track. It is heavy going and we lost a bit of time finding one of the checkpoints, but we knew that we were still on track for a great time.

Fatigue starts to kick in on this leg and we chow down some GUs and water and eventually we again reach our bikes. We hop back on for a 12km ride back to the start finish. Reaching the last km of the leg, we were allowed to use the road to get back down to Audley; a very exhilarating ride! Once at the finish of this leg, we only had one more leg to go-the kayak. Again, Locky is the main contributor on this leg. My peewee matchstick arms offer no real forward motion, but I still dip the paddle in to make it look like I am doing my bit and to appease Locky who is barking orders and ‘encouragement’ from the back! Although we were leading our group, we didn’t know what our position was in comparison to the entire field, as there are 3 groups that all do the race in a different order. This is done to alleviate traffic on the course, so one doesn’t really know how they finish overall until after the race.

Thankfully, after 3 and a quarter hours, we crossed the finish line to learn that we were definitely the first to finish! Finally we had one the event we have been trying to do for four years. Talk about a feeling of relief and satisfaction! We celebrated by listening to Queen’s ‘We are the Champions’ on the car stereo while going back to Locky’s house to clean ourselves up before the presentations. At the presentations, we finally got to climb the podium to the top (the teams that finished 2nd and 3rd had gone home by this point!) where we received our $200 gift voucher. Woohoo!

I know fellow Woodies Tam and Tris Iseli and Phil Lobsey are keen adventure racers too. I really encourage anyone who wants to try something different to have a go. They really are very enjoyable!

We were the only team that bothered to hang around for the presos! It was worth it, a $200 Kathmandu gift voucher was the prize. The next day, we found out we were quicker than the team that won on Saturday too - myworkplace.com (the Armstrong bros. who have beaten us every time in the previous years).

Monday, May 16, 2011

The North Face 100 2011

What a wonderful event AROC put on. This is a blue ribbon event, so well organised and thought out.

This was my debut trail ultra race, previously 6 Foot was it, but can now see why this trail ultra stuff is so damn addictive. There are just so many more chapters in the journey when the distance is longer!

I started next to mate, Andy Lee, who was pumped for a big run. I really had no idea how to pace myself for this run. I usually run to the terrain in trail events, utilising the downs when I can and grind up the hills, I didn't really know what was ahead of me when starting at the start line.

As soon as we set off it was clear Andy and the internationals where on a mission. Andy, Kilian and Ryan shot off and we reached the first single track in quick time. They increased their lead on the road section, so was really surprised when Killian passed me on the second single track section at Leura and Ryan at the Landslide. I guess they may have taken a wrong turn at some point? Along the Leura Falls section I made my first technical stuff up of the day, straining my achilles as I jumped down a shelf and misjudging my foot placement on a little rock. No real damage but I am definitely feeling it today still.

I ran very strongly to the Golden Stairs, that kind of trail is just to my liking. Was passed going up the Stairs by Francois, Grant and Damon (with whom I was to have a ding dong battle with all day). Buzz kept to his moniker and was lightning filling up my bottle at CP1, thanks mate! Took off along Narrowneck which is such a beautiful part of the course and quickly caught Damon and one other and got stuck into the job ahead, churning out some pretty quick ks. Going towards the ladder I was amazed at how gnarly the course was becoming; one trip or fall and it seriously could have been game over there!

Running along the firetrail after Medlow Gap was probably my favourite part of the course; I was on my own and got settled into a really good rhythm, doing most of my training on the road this was a welcome sight. Coming into CP2, I had no idea how far or how long I had been running, I had put my watch in my bag very early when a tree branch ripped the pin out of the garmin (mental note...put under long sleeve top of trail runs!), so wasn't sure if I had missed a CP or not. Little did I know that it is pretty hard to miss checkpoints. Mr G did an awesome job filling up my bottle here and after the gear check I was on my way with the words that Andy was only 1 minute ahead and the others 7 minutes or so. I was definitely thinking and feeling at this stage that I may just have a chance of good position if I kept the effort up.

Nutrition was crucial through here and I chowed down some energy bars, some GUs and heaps of Endura to wash it down. Going up the Tin Pot Hill was a real killer that I didn't need, but utilised this section to eat and drink so not to lose too much time. On top, I ran with Andy for a while and was shocked when I saw the leaders coming towards us...where they lost? No, this was an out and back section Andy told me. Going down the side of that hill was the steepest descending I have done without getting on my hands and knees or without rock climbing gear, but I loved it and really pushed ahead. Once off the single track, and onto the firetrail, I was starting to feel really low and walked a couple of sections I probably should have run. Here Damon and a French guy who was later to pull out passed me (even though we were all walking) and started to put a gap in on me. Thankfully by CP3 I had recovered enough to pass the French guy and was just behind Damon. I got to the CP and my wife Nadine helped me restock my energy supplied which I stuffed up my compression shorts and top which actually make very convenient storage!

The run to Nellies was nothing spectacular but I grinded it out, the stairs up Nellies is just another beast altogether when going up them instead of down. My heart rate was racing, legs were wobbly and I left more than a little bit of my stomach on those steps a couple of times. I had to stop and settle the heart rate a couple of times, such was the intensity. When I finally got to the stop, I was encouraged to see and hear Blue Dog, Rod and a few others, they really perked me up. I didn't know if I was going to make it to the Aquatic Center but the welcoming surface of the road again was my saviour. Got into here and Nadine loaded me up with energy bars, bananas and I set off again. In my haste, I made a bit of a strategic error, forgetting to pick up my fleece and waterproof pants which we were told the night before at the bag check to bring with us from here. Thank goodness a very knowledgeable marshall at Cliff Rd let me know that if I could ring my wife she could meet me at the 3 sisters lookout with the gear. So I rang Nadine; she was on her way as I suddenly was very lifted by this good luck. I was thinking a time penalty may have been on my way. On the way I rang Nadine again who said I was to meet her at the Info Center. Unfortunately at Echo Point there are 2 info centres, and after another phone call and a short wait my gear arrived.

While this wait was not ideal, it was a real blessing in disguise as it gave me a good chance to get my breath back and recover and I took off down the Giant stairs and then the Federal Pass like a man possessed, my body felt great and I knew this section well having run it a month earlier with Beth C (so sorry you didn't race, you would have had a blinder!). I love the downhills and was just gunning it, it did cost me 4 black toenails but it was worth it, as soon after Leura creek I caught Damon. We ran together for a bit until we crossed Jamieson Ck. I was mentally gearing myself up to run all of the first part of Kedumba, to the turn past the Solitary turn off. However, it was not too be, and was back to walking a lot of the steep bits. The run up to the top, once past the left turn was nothing like that, it was mostly a walk, and this was the only real disappointing aspect of my run all day and probably cost me 5-10 minutes.

I was in and out of the last checkpoint, hardly stopping at all, and set off along the welcoming road. The last 5km were terrible as well, the steps were winning. Crossing a little creek at Leura I saw a wet footprint on a rock and knew that Damon couldn't have been too far ahead. As much as I tried, I just couldn't breach the gap. Running the last 2km is tough as and was very pleased to get to the finish line.

I really want to say well done to everyone who toed the line in this epic race. Special well done to Andy Lee to keep marching on when the going got tough and for taking it to the big boys early on. Also, Mick Donges, what a top shelf result and I fear there is much better to come. Everyone that ran through the night, you're all amazing.

There has been a little bit of debate about the internationals. I for one welcome them and wish they could come out more and more. It gives us Aussies something to aspire to and motivation to train harder for next year. Thanks again AROC for putting on a great event and the pink ribbons every 500m certainly made it easy for this very navigationally challenged runner!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Going the Distance

I've had the privilege of being the subject of an article written by running mate Rachael McKinney. It was written for an assignment she is undertaking as part of her Diploma in Journalism. She has posted it online at her groovy new online magazine site "Australian Runner". Check it out for a laugh!

Going the Distance

Breaking news! Rachael scored an High Distinction for this piece!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

6 Foot Track Marathon 2011

As races go there were no riveting tussles up the pointy end, pretty much half way up mini mini was the last time I saw a competitor apart from the very supportive and encouraging early wavers.

I got a quick start down to Nellies, watching Matt Robbie leaping the water bars like a mad gazelle, he took off after leader Andy Lee who seemed to have one thing on his mind-getting to the front and staying there! It was us three who led the field down Nellies and to Megalong Rd. Andy was stretching the gap and Matt was chasing him. It was an effort I wasn't willing to copy that early in the race so eased back into my race plan. Soon after Matt's effort caught up with him and he let me go just before Pinnacle Hill. I felt strong climbing which was a good sign but also in the back of my mind wishing Andy would stay within sight, but there was no chance of that happening entering the single trail.

I was joined by David Venour from Melbourne Milers Club along the single trail and we crossed Cox's together and began the climb. I think this is where knowing the course worked in my favour as I've found out from previous experience you have to really pace your climb in this section or the Black Range will destroy you! Climbing up here I said to David I expect the real mountain goats like Alex to pass us in the next 5 minutes. I was surprised to get to the top and still be in second spot. Looking at the splits my Pluvio time was 1:30 slower than last year, but I think I can put this down to the extra heat and humidity on the day. The splits also tell that Alex put in a mighty climb and had erased the lead I had to only 45s. We definitely have different strengths on the trails mate!

From there my race plan was to power along the black range without overdoing it; I was happy how this section went. I was receiving some feedback from early wavers and spectators on my time deficit behind Andy. The further I went the smaller the deficit was becoming so I knew I was gaining, but as is the beauty of trail running it can be rather soul destroying to put in massive efforts and still not catch sight of the runner in front, especially on large open sections. I tried not to let this impact on my mental state. I had a job to do and was definitely still thinking about victory at this stage.

Getting to Deviation a spectator told me Andy was 2 minutes ahead. I knew that could easily be overcome in the last section with the big descents. I finally managed to run up for the first time the big steep stingers just before the road, that told me I was in good shape to put in one last dig. I started the single track after the road very quickly as was the plan but this also was my undoing to some extent as I slipped on one of the little wooden plank bridges - it wouldn't be a 6 Foot for me without a fall, I'm just glad nothing too serious resulted. I picked myself up and dusted myself off and charged off again. The effort was working, someone told me the gap was 90sec, but with the effort also comes the expense and now I was finding the going really tough up some little rises and cramping a bit in the calves. I didn't see Andy at a large open space just before the downhill starts and I knew then that my goal now was to finish in second. I didn't know how far behind anyone was but results show that Rob Walter, Scott and Tucks had also been pushing along very nicely and had gained on me.

The descent was a bit uneventful, no falls unlike last year, but got to high five Sleep Train, a great sport and shows what great spirited people there are in the running community. You are still the king of this race mate and I hope you get better soon. At the cow bell I could start to hear the crowd warm up for Andy as he approached. De ja vu...this also happened to me at Pikes Peak last year, except unlike then I wasn't still 2 miles behind Andy down the side of the mountain! Coming in to the finish was very emotional; I have dreamed of winning this event (who hasn't eh?) and to podium was just as good; especially to Andy who has been a 6 foot stalwart and multiple podium getter but never the top spot.

All the way along the path section I could hear Buzz and I think my mum yelling, it was just really really cool. Got to high five RD Colin and Buzz in the home straight and many others after the race. I think those that were there saw how happy I was as I crossed the line. Time was 2 minutes slower than last year but I didn't care less, I just finished second in my favourite race!

As always, much appreciation to Colin, his team of organisers and vollies and SS for giving us all this wonderful opportunity to participate in something we love doing. Special mention to John M, your speech was very special mate and brought home how insignificant our struggles on the trails should be.

I'll hopefully be able to come back next year and attempt to go one better. Moving up to the mountains this year should help my cause considerably in this area. Thankfully there are no shortage of quality trail runners up there to train with!