Sunday, December 30, 2012

Ultra Training Australia

About a month or so ago Shona Stephenson and myself were discussing the idea of running some training days and camps for runners who would like to improve their performances in specific trail and ultra races. A week later Ultra Training Australia was born!

With the help from Shona's husband Mikey, the website and Facebook page was launched and straight away we were taking bookings for our inaugural training camp on January 19th. This camp is really geared towards ultra runners who have entered The North Face 100, but really anyone who regularly participates in trail ultras would benefit.

Shona and I are endeavouring to make the training experience as holistic as possible, taking in all aspects of what makes a successful race day. We are including a comprehensive 12 week training plan leading up to the race day which also includes a suggested meal plan as well. On the day, we will be dividing into two similarly paced groups (13-14h and 16-18h estimated TNF100 finishing times) and Shona and I will lead a guided run on a section of the course. After the group runs we will be having lunch and presenting a seminar which will cover all the aspects of race day and tips for tapering, gear, checkpoints, mental stategies, recovery, a Q & A session and loads more.

Hammer nutrition products will also be available as an option for all participants to try out during the run. Shona and I only use Hammer products in our training and racing; and we know they work! Correct fuelling and hydration will be a key aspect covered on the day.

Shona and I believe that we are offering the most comprehensive camp available at a very reasonable price, while upholding the values and culture of ultra and trail running. We have gained approval and have licenses from NPWS, Blue Mountains City Council and the 6 Foot Track Trust.

I am very excited by the camp and working with Shona to help other ultra runners improve their race day performance. We are already planning a 6 Foot Track training camp so keep an eye out on the website and the Facebook page for updates and more information.

See you there!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

GNW Race Report

The dust has well and truly settled on this epic event. My first 100 mile event and I got to say, I loved every step of the journey. A long event deserves a long report though...apologies in advance!

Race morning and all thoughts of a hot, stinker were erased from the mind when I got out of Clarke's car at Teralba and immediately reached for my jacket. It was cold, the wind was sharp and stinging and the air temperature couldn't have been much above 10. I met up with Shona who was a bundle of nervous energy and then sought out Sally from barefoot inc, always a calming influence! Sally was going to look after me at the first 3 checkpoints before Nadine took over for the night shift. Sally came with gifts too! A really nice pair of Inov-8 branded BSc compression shorts and a pair of Inov-8 combined sock/gaiters. Sally offered me a muscle top, but I politely declined the opportunity to show off my ripping abs, I'll leave that for the triathletes! I went to the loo and got changed into these shorts, liberally lubed up and filled my UltrAspire Surge bladder to 1.5L. I weighed in at a touch over 63kg.

With Shona at the start
All the usual suspects were present and accounted for: Damo, fresh from a ripping 3rd at the GOW, Clarke, looking like a man on a mission, and other royalty of the ultra running scene. Surprised not to see Matt Cooper, a shame for him and others that withdrew earlier as they missed an opportunity to really rip this course to shreds with the very unseasonable weather.

Start - CP1. 28.6km. Leg time 3:11.
The start was as low key as starts go, a simple 'go' from Dave Byrnes and we were off. The pace in the first 5km was pedestrian to say the least. No one was wanting to take it out of 3rd gear, I think everyone knew today was a day not to waste by racing off into the distance and blowing it all early. Eventually a lead pack of Clarke and Stephen Johnson took a bit of an initiative and the gap widened. I was happy running with Noel Annett, Damo, Beth, Shona and Matty Abel. As much as I wanted to run with Clarke I knew it wasn't the smart thing to do. It was simple, we were on different race plans and that was that.

Heading on the first part that is single track, an alert on the Garmin advised I was off track and so I was. The  preloaded maps just saved me from a real stuff up. Another runner followed me up and when we turned around there was Damo also following us. That gave me the pleasure of running with Damo who was putting in a strong leg. I noticed he was in road shoes and hoped that he would survive the rainforest sections without coming a cropper. I was wearing the Inov-8 245s and knew I'd be a little better off. Eventually I gapped Damo going up the first big climb after the road crossing into Heaton State Forest and caught up to Stephen who had dropped off Clarke who was obviously looking to put to bed this nemesis race of his, the 100k. Although a 2 time former winner, he has never felt as though he's conquered the race. But today was to be his day when this changed forever!

Stephen and I were chatting away, oblivious to the right hand turn into the rainforest. We even saw the sign but decided for some strange reason to ignore the wisdom of the Garmin and keep going up the trail. Eventually we realised the stupidity and turned around. Mick Miles was driving up the trail to grab us. What a shocker. Probably lost 3 minutes there. Into the rainforest section, I had that feeling that you always get when you go off course, I had to make up time! So instead of doing the smart thing and staying as a group, I took off. Was a frivolous thing to do, because of course a couple of kms later I was stuck out in the middle of nowhere not knowing where I was, losing track of the pink dots on the trees and shouting 'coo-eeys' to whoever could hear me! Eventually Stephen and Beth trundled along and pointed me in the right direction and I was on my way again.

The rest of the leg was non eventful, just tried to get in a relaxed rhythm and find the 'groove' along the firetrail coming into the first checkpoint. Once there, Sally from barefootinc, had things ready to go and it was a quick transition. Sorry to all the people there who had to watch me apply the vaseline  But I did give you plenty of notice to turn your heads! Ultra running is no glamour sport!

CP1 - CP2. 23.9km (52.5km). Leg time 2:05.
The second leg is my favourite of the whole race, it's a time to get into grooveland and put down something solid before reaching what is usually the furnace of Congewai Valley. After getting away in 2 minutes from the checkpoint, it was rhythm, rhythm rhythm to the end of the firetrail to where the single track descends the spur to the valley floor. Pretty uneventful leg except for a bit of a navigation stuff up. I must have been taking a swig of Perpetuem and my head was looking up and in that time I missed the singletrack as it veered to the right to avoid a gully and I kept going straight on a rough, but distinct trail which led to a camping area. So backtracking again, it probably cost me three or so minutes, very stupid mistake and I made sure that I ran the road quite quickly to make up the lost time.

Refuelling at Congewai
Once in the valley, I couldn't believe how pleasant the conditions were. I mean a freakin' cool tail wind? What the heck was this? Usually it's hot and humid as all hell and here I was enjoying the little trip to the school. I felt for the local resident who had set up an unofficial drink station; I really felt like just having a drink to show my appreciation but reality was I still had probably over a litre in the pack to get through, so it was a polite 'g'day and what about this weather eh!'

Approaching the GNW trail turnoff I saw the back of Clarke disappearing up through the property. I was sure I would see him on the little out and back section to the school, but what a massive leg he must have had. I was the previous owner of this leg record, but evidently Clarke had just smashed it to smithereens! I was a little spurred on by this. At the checkpoint, again Sally had everything beautifully laid out. I weighed in and had lost just 200g. I spent a little time phaffing around with the gear check before I was on my way again.

CP2 - CP3. 29.1km (81.6km). Leg Time 3:11
This leg is the 'make or break' leg of this race, the crux of the race, destroy it or be destroyed. I wasn't going to let it gain a foothold, so ran strongly out of the school and through the property to the first real big climb up to the communications tower. Just downgeared, up the cadence and jogged calmly up to the stop. Psychologically, reaching the top without walking was what told me today was going to be my day. The day was not heating up, if anything, it was a little cold. For the next little while, past the flatrock lookout along the firetrail, I really just concentrated on holding really good form and feeding/drinking regularly. I was cruising along and loving it.

The next descent takes you down to Watagan Creek and I remember last year it was deadly down there and on the steep category 2 climb straight after. What different conditions this year. I was pretty determined to run the whole 5km or so of the climb, and I was stoked to reach the top in pretty good nick. I didn't frequent the bar of the unmanned water stop; so different to last year where I literally plonked myself under a tap of one of the containers and drank myself silly. From there there is some great open running, the large portion of it downhill. I was really upping the pace, without going crazy and entered the descent down to the brook feeling very alive! Approaching the GNW turnoff before going straight ahead to the Basin, I was really hoping I would see Clarke as it had been ages now since I had seen anyone and I really wanted to see him smashing out a great time. It's a 5km out and back section from the sign and I knew it would be touch and go. Just when I thought I'd missed him I heard some footsteps and a blue blur coming towards me and it was Clarke, a grin as big as the Cheshire Cat. After a high five, I looked at my watch and couldn't believe the time. A very rough calculation and taking into account the last leg, I really thought a sub 10 was on the cards for him if he ran the last leg well. But not wanting to put pressure on him, I told him that he was going to go under 10 and half easily. History now shows that he of course went under 10h in 9:58. Just an awesome performance!

I find this out and back very tricky and a bit slow going which was probably good as the light along here is dim to dark at best and it's really easy to come a cropper. I took it easy to the Basin where the smiling Sally had everything ready to go again. I was in the zone now and ready to stop the conservatism and really start pushing the effort in the next leg! And the good news...not one off course moment!

CP3 - CP4. 22.1km (103.7km). Leg Time 2:02
Yep, fast I wanted and fast I gave it. Made it out of the tricky Basin section, thanks somewhat to the uploaded maps to my Garmin. I really can't recall much of the leg, although I remember that I was really looking forward to getting to the Yarramalong, seeing Nadine (who was taking over crewing duties from here) and also hooking up with Jo for the rest of the journey. Descending the Cedar Brush trail down to the road I was remembering how quickly Clarke had descended this section on a training run over a year ago. Clarke is one of the best technical downhill runners I know, just so agile and balanced on his feet. It must have something to do with his surfing background, he doesn't run down hills, he glides down them.

Running into Yarramalong
Reaching the road, it was like sitting in my favourite lounge chair and set off at around 4:15 pace to the school. I'm pretty sure I held 4:30s all the way to the school, a marked difference to the year before where I bumbled and stumbled, walked and shuffled my way into the end of the 100k run and promptly collapsed. Seems that I ran this leg very well too, my leg time was only 2 minutes slower than Clarke's. This leg is really when my race started.

As I approached the school I saw Tiff McClymont and asked her if Nadine and Jo, who were coming together in the car from Sydney, were there yet. I was having stress attacks that I was too ahead of schedule. In my rough split time estimates, I was taking into account the usual hot weather and I think I was even ahead of my 'best case scenario' splits. However, she was thankfully there and so was Jo, all ready to go as my pacer for the rest of the journey. I'm sure you can see by the photos how happy I was to see my wife, Jo, and also the smile on my face was probably after Clarke had just told me he scraped under 10 hours! I was peaking out, hearing this just made a brilliant day even better!

CP4 - CP5. 28.4km (132.1km). Leg Time 3:30
Leaving Yarramalong, the trail goes up Bumble Hill. Jo and I were just catching up on my race so far and she was keeping me busy and alert to my nutritional intake thus far in the race. At the first real climb under the power lines I was attempting to run it but Jo was walking behind me and pretty much keeping up with me. She convinced me to just walk, and I'm glad she did as it helped enormously with the walk giving my legs a bit of a rest. Once at the top, we crossed the road and hit our straps again before turning down Cherry Lane.

All smiles with Jo ready to go at CP4
Jo and I were hitting a good pace and things were going great. I was very cautious going into the rainforest section. I had run this section with Clarke and Shona in training at night, and although not dark yet, it was still very tricky underfoot. This is also were we all had got lost and I was trying my damnest to remember the course. When we got to the section were we were meant to cross Dead Horse Ck, I couldn't find the left turn down which takes you down over the creek. It was all very frustrating, with a tree across the trail, presumably marking the end of the trail, the left trail must be somewhere! We went up and down this section of the trail 2 or 3 times and we still couldn't find the trail down! Jo suggested we scramble down the gully and have a look for the trail on the other side of the creek, but this proved to be futile, and resulted with Jo slipping on a mossy rock and bruising her shin. Once back on the trail, I decided to have a look to see what was behind the down tree, and lo and behold, there was the trail, continuing on a bit further and the creek crossing was found. All in all this little adventure probably cost us 10 minutes.

With darkness closing in, we finished the leg off without any more drama, walking the steep sections jogging when we could and keeping our spirits high talking, cracking jokes and appreciating the beautiful scenery.

CP5 - CP6. 17.8km (149.9km). Leg Time 1:49
This is a fast leg, without many large climbs and lots of downhill and flat running. I was feeling great, and knew now that I was on track for a 19 - 20 hour run if I could hold it together. The espresso gels were starting to get a bit tasting and Jo swore she could smell the coffee seeping out in my sweat and breath! I ate a Hammer Bar to break it up and this seemed to give my stomach a break and got me back on track. I was starting to open up the stride on the flowing, sandy trail, with the Ferei headlamp lighting up the trail like a lighthouse, visibility was not a problem!

In fact, the light could have very ironically spelled the end to my race! With the intense beam blasting out in front, and with the bush coming alive with all sorts of nocturnal critters awakening and foraging around, it may have been a early end for me. Running up a straight piece of trail, I noticed a swamp wallaby scoot out across the trail in front of me and go to the other side. As I approached the part of the track where the wallaby had crossed it must have become disoriented by the light and it jumped back out across the trail, missing me by a mere metre and stopped me dead in my tracks. The size of this thing would have easily bowled me over.

Going down the rocky trail towards the dam, I was becoming aware of a pain in my right knee becoming a little worse. I made sure I was nursing it, using my left leg to take the shock of small drop-offs. It was definitely an ITB type pain, and fearful of it getting worse, decided to back off the speed a bit. Meanwhile, Jo was beginning to also suffer due to pains in her hip flexors which had been playing up for sometime now. As I was setting the pace in front, I could hear her discomfort every now and then. On the lovely flat section where you run by Mooney Mooney Ck, I was ramping up the pace and I was noticing Jo's headlamp shadow becoming shorter and shorter. She was really struggling with the pain in her hips and was beginning to mention that she may not be able to continue from the next checkpoint. It was a tough predicament for Jo. Often when I have hip problems I actually find running with a little more purpose and effort can help; in other words running faster hopefully ends the 'labouring' technique which causes the pain. I suggested to Jo that we run the last 4-5km really hard to the Checkpoint where she could then make her mind up according to how she felt there.

Crossing over the bridge and cruising into the checkpoint, we caught the checkpoint crew totally off guard as they were still setting up their water barrels and food. They were also meant to weigh me here but the scales hadn't been delivered yet from the previous checkpoint! It was all business for me, grabbing my bottles of Hammer Perpetuem, gels and a banana. I was feeling relaxed and ready to knock over this last leg.  Meanwhile, Jo had come to the decision not to run the final leg with me; she didn't want to potentially make her injuries worse. It was the smart thing to do. I was stoked to find out later that we broke both leg records together!

CP6 - Finish. 25.4km (175.3km). Leg Time 3:17
In training with Shona, I had run this leg and knew the tricky nature of the trails. It is scrambly and stony, without a lot of open running. Now running solo, I also had all of the navigation and nutritional responsibilities   Jo was no longer there to remind me to drink or be an extra set of eyes looking for the little trail markers or the white arrows pained on the rocks.

I was feeling very strong. When I wanted to run fast and with more purpose I could. I climbed the first hill after the suspension bridge quite well, even running some of the ascent. The HL20 headlamp was lighting the path beautifully and I was spotting the trail markers and paint easily. But it was lonely out there and I began to desire the finish line. It's a funny leg this one, every time you hit a bit of firetrail, the trail soon then directs you on to singletrack, and alternates like this a couple of times. Also, a lot of the rock platforms begin to look the same after a while. I don't know if it was the brain playing tired tricks, but more than once I had the dreaded fear that I had already run that section of the trail. This actually did become a reality during the leg, at some stage I had unknowingly doubled back on myself. I was actually very lucky that I didn't lose a lot more time, and I have the metal handrail to thank for it. This little muck up cost me probably another 10 minutes.

The finish line, with Nadine
Although starting to long for the finish and company, I was enjoying the ever increasing wildlife; owls, bilbies, wallabies and bush rats were all out and about. The last firetrail approaching the road seems to go forever, and I was starting to feel the pinch now, walking up some of the steeper sections, that I would have easily run up in previous legs. Finally the signs to Patonga started to appear and I knew it wasn't long now. After crossing the road and reaching the Warrah Trig dirt road I was pretty much over this race! I ran strongly to the end of the road and began to descend the stairs going down to Patonga. Wasn't long before I crossed the inlet and hit the beach. I could see a headlamp up ahead and some cheering. It was Nadine and Jo directing me to the little trail marker, the official finish line. 19 hours and 27 minutes after the start, I knelt down, put my head against the marker and the realisation that it was all over washed over me in a giant wave of relief and joy.

The official presented me with a gold medal and took some photos, and I slowly made my way over to the recovery tent. Once stopped and lying down, a bit of nausea mixed with exhaustion set in. I downed some coke and some lollies, but that was all I could stomach. Nadine, Jo and the official did a wonderful job looking after me. The official apologised more than once for not having the BBQ fired up, but believe me, the last thing I wanted was a sausage sandwich, even just the thought of it was making me feel sick! I'm sure, come morning, however, that I would probably feel like eating 10 of them!

Post Mortem
I'm very pleased how my debut 100 miler turned out. I believe my pacing was great and has given me a great foundation for future milers. The recovery was slow, it's only this week that I have resumed full training, and there have been a few niggles that I've had to handle.

There is though, room for improvement. The 22 minutes spent at Checkpoints can be halved and with more care with directions, the time can further be improved. But really, will we ever get another day of perfect running conditions again?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Talk Ultra Interview

Last week I had the absolute pleasure of chatting with Ian Corless from Talk Ultra, a fortnightly podcast service which is part of the Marathon Talk Website. A brilliant show and must for all ultra runners keen to keep up with the latest news and developments in ultra running from around the world.

Ian and I chatted about the Australian Ultra scene, my GNW100 win, my training and my international racing plans for next year (some very exciting news)!

The episode (23) will air this Friday, you can download the podcast here.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

GNW Interview by Shona Stephenson

It's been a hectic couple of weeks back at work and the race report is coming along, almost ready to go. But in the meantime, if you haven't seen this, it's a post GNW interview of me by good mate Shona Stephenson for Trail Running Australia. Click on the image below to read the full interview.

Monday, November 12, 2012

GNW100 Nutrition

I'm still pretty shocked just how well Saturday went. Can't really get over how natural it felt and how in control I felt during the day, night and a little of the next morning!

I'm snowed under with work for a while now but will write a race report soon. In the meantime, I've had a few people ask me about my nutrition during the race so here it is.

During each leg of the race (approx 18-28km)...

  • 1.5L of water (made sure I emptied bladder each leg, no excuses)
  • 700mL of Hammer Perpetuem, made to recommendation. These were premeasured in two 350mL bottles which crew had ready to go at Checkpoints. These were swigged along the leg, one mouthful at a time.
  • Every 40 minutes I would have a Hammer Gel serving, banana flavour from start to 103.7km, then Expresso for the remainder of the run. Garmin set to 40 minute time alerts to remind me.
  • Every 5 hours I substituted one of the Gel portions for a Choc Chip Hammer Bar as an alternative
  • A Hammer Enduralyte capsule every 40 minutes for salt and mineral replacement
  • A banana was taken at each checkpoint and slowly eaten in the beginning stages of each leg. 
  • Also had some other flavoured gel sachets on standby in case I had 'flavour fatigue' (didn't happen)
  • At Somersby I had 2 cups of Coke 
I think there are a couple of key principles which I try to keep to in regards to nutrition. You have to predict what your body needs before it tells you (when it is often too late), and you should always stick to what works for you. I had no problems with my nutrition at all yesterday, my body felt strong, energised and relaxed all day. But what works for me may not work for you so it always prudent to experiment and take your nutrition out when you train (in all types of conditions too). Better to find out then than on race day!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Ready to Rumble

It's just a few sleeps to go before I'll run my first race 100 mile race and I've got to say I'm feeling pretty relaxed despite the monstrosity of the task ahead. For years I've put the 100 mile thing on a pedestool, never quite feeling like I'd be ready for it physically nor mentally. It became a bit of a monkey on my back but now I can say that I'm at last ready to go and show what I've got over this distance.

In fact, just to rub it in, the official distance is 175.3km which is actually 108.9 miles. Bonus miles. Yay.

I have a massive new found respect for ultra runners who do this type of thing often. Aside from the obvious massive hours of training, just organising your stuff together for the day is quite a mission in itself. Food, drink, gear, lights, transport, warm clothes, cool clothes, bedding, tubs of vasoline, etc etc. All this makes me long for the days of the 10k local fun run!

Which brings me to the question I've been asking myself a lot this week...why the heck am I doing this? I welcome all comments, but I guess for me it is about the challenge, the insatiable urge to do better, to go longer and to go faster. To take my body to places it's never been and come out on top.

I have no idea how this will go, but I'll run to a plan and hope it works. I feel like I've done the preparation, now all I've got to do is run this beast. There will be a live feed to updated checkpoint times here I wish all entrants safe and strong running.

See you at Patonga!
Hopefully I won't be needing the chair!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Gear Review: Ferei HL20 Headlamp

I have been on the hunt for a headlamp to use in the upcoming Great North Walk 100 miler (yes, it's a running event!), so I approached an old friend who has started his own distribution company in Australia, selling the Ferei, along with other, lighting products. I described to him the race conditions, the distance and the time period I would likely be running in the dark and waited for his recommendation. 

I was supplied with the Ferei HL20 headlamp from Ferei Australia with the promise that it would be the 'brightest, toughest and most intelligent' headlamp available. I was sceptical but willing to try it and give it a thorough testing out on the course during my trail familiarisation training runs (sections 5 to 7). The time finally came last Friday night as I ventured out for the reccie with Clarke and Shona running the 5th section of GNW; Yarramalong to Somersby, and again last night running the last leg from Mooney Mooney Ck to Patonga with Shona. 


The headlamp unit comes standard with the rechargeable 18650 Li-ion battery, the battery casing, the cable and the head torch all attached to heavy duty elastic fabric. Also included in the package is a 240V charger. As extra, I was also supplied with the BP4836 external battery pack and an extension lead. These two additions are not supplied as standard. Also available, but not available to test, is a smaller external battery-the BP28. 

On the first run, I tested the unit using the headlamp with the extension lead running to the BP4836 battery. On last night's run, I used the standard 18650 battery setup. The former setup with the external battery will be used in the GNW. I stashed the battery pack, which weighs 240 grams into a side pocket of the UltrAspire Omega pack, where it fit perfectly. The lead ran up under the shoulder strap and attached to the rear of the headlamp unit. I removed the now redundant 18650 Li-ion battery but kept the (now empty) battery casing in place. While it is possible to remove the battery casing altogether if you were running solely with an external battery setup (by removing 2 small screws that attach the casing to the strap adjustment clip), I left the casing in place in order to access the backup power from the 18650 battery as may be the case during the race. 

The obvious reason I went with the external BP4836 on the first run is the long light run time which I will need in the race. On its highest setting, the light time is up to 6 hours, which can in turn be extended by interchanging between the high setting while on technical trail and lowering it to the secondary setting on road and firetrail where bright lighting is not so crucial. There are two light settings on the unit, a high (100%) and as mentioned, a changeable secondary setting. A fantastic feature of this unit is the unique proprietary microcontroller. This basically allows for near infinite brightness adjustment for this secondary setting with a combination push of the control button. I set the second setting to around 50% which is more than ample for running on road, firetrail and less technical running. This should, along with the 18650 as a backup, easily get anyone through the 10 -12 hours or so hours of darkness in an ultra event like GNW. 

Other than high mode (100%) it is hard to give precise run times due to the variability of the secondary brightness setting. Roughly half full brightness will give at least double the runtime of high mode and the run time goes up exponentially with anything less than 50%. According to the distributor, on its lowest setting using the standard 18650 battery will give you 43 hours and using the biggest BP4836 on its lowest will give you hundreds of hours of run time. 

Also worth noting is the smaller external battery which I didn't have available to test, the BP28. It's half the weight of the BP4836 at 120g but consequently delivers half the light time (up to 3h at 100%). This battery should be considered for ultra running, where you could have a couple of these instead of the bigger unit, picking up charged batteries at Checkpoints along the way. This would cut back on 120g of weight but for me I'd rather not muck around plugging in and out when there is already enough to worry about at Checkpoints and 120g isn’t ever going to break the back! 
The 18650 battery casing

The light fits comfortably and securely on around the head and does not feel heavy at all, even when using the on-board 18650 battery on the second run. The battery casing fits nicely in the base of the skull area and the adjustable straps enable a stable and balanced fit. Even on the twisty and windy trails, the unit did not move around at all. Similarly on steep downhills, the battery casing only had very minimal bounce. Using the external battery, the extension lead did not interfere with my hydration setup and was unnoticeable while running. 
To summarise the various weights:
  • Standard headlight unit (without 18650 battery): 150 grams 
  • Standard 18650 battery: 50 grams
  • BP28 small external battery (untested): 120 grams 
  • BP4836 large external battery pack: 240 grams

This is where the HL20 comes into a league of its own. This unit delivers an unbelievable amount of light for such a small and lightweight unit. While on high, visibility on both dark, tree covered trail and in open air spaces was huge, the range illuminated at times was well beyond 200 metres. The beauty of this large output is that it 'floods' the entire area rather than giving a narrow, directional ‘tunnelled’ beam. I was confident looking at both my footstrike zone and the whole trail ahead just by moving the focus of my eyes. The long range gave me adequate time to pick and decide on running lines and make accurate predictions regarding obstacles and the direction the trail was heading. Particularly on the twisty and at times difficult to recognise rainforest sections of the GNW trail this is a big benefit as having an extra second or so decision making time could be the difference between making the right manoeuvre at speed or taking a cautious approach, or worse, taking a race ending fall. 

On half power, the light was still more than powerful enough to give me confidence to run at full speed over rocky and sandy firetrail. With other weaker headlamps, and night time fatigue already kicking in, it’s very easy to get trapped into taking a slow and cautious approach. But with this powerful light radiating out it creates a sense of daytime running and there is no reason for runner energy output to lessen. These extra seconds that you get back from the light all add up to a lot of time over the course of a long ultra! 

The product specifics state that on high it outputs 10 watts of power delivering over 600 lumens of light. I have little idea what this really means and obviously it's really difficult to describe in words what this looks like in reality. However, I can tell you that on the first run, Shona and Clarke were both using the same light setup of another well reputed brand and so I was able to compare. This is not a gear comparison, so I won't and can't compare all aspects of both, but from what I saw, the HL20 delivered far superior brightness and range. 

A standard, but nonetheless appreciated feature is the adjustable quality of the 30mm head unit; easily enabling changing the flood zone from more at the foot to 5 metre zone on technical trail to flooding a longer range of land on firetrail. Of greater note is the fact that the head unit is never really hot to the touch, even after hours on high. This is due to the aircraft grade aluminium body which not only resists impact but effectively dissipates heat. 

Changing the light setting from high to secondary is one press of the control button. The button is great, but the fact that there is 'one button does all' means that on/off and changing between light settings and setting the secondary light setting and accessing the strobe "SOS" functions has to be done through this button with slightly different combinations of pressing and depressing over a small period of time. Functionally, while this would minimise malfunctions that could occur with multiple switches, it does mean that going from the secondary to high setting is not possible without going through the off mode. Again, not really an issue, as the half a second of darkness is never going to cause a problem, but something that could have been avoided by having an independent on/off switch. Also worth noting is the weatherproof nature of the unit, it did rain somewhat on the second run last night and a check of the website confirmed that I needn't be worried - it's weatherproof in accordance with IP65 standards.

On the first run, using the large external battery, I ran for over 3 hours with it on high most of the time and experienced no fading of light, but this was to be expected. On the second run, using the standard 18650 battery, I ran for 2:45 and also kept it on high the whole time and was surprised to find that it also lasted the whole run, although it did fade somewhat, particularly over the last 45 minutes of the run. It does feature a low voltage warning to let you know that you need to switch batteries.

To summarise the run time using the various battery arrangements:
  • Light time of standard 18650 battery on high: 90 minutes. 
  • Light time of standard 18650 battery on lowest setting: over 43 hours 
  • Light time of BP4836 external battery on high: Up to 6 hours.
  • Light time of BP4836 external battery on lowest setting: several hundred hours on lowest setting 
  • Light time of BP28 external battery on high: Up to 3 hours.
  • Light time of BP28 external battery on lowest setting: Up to 100 hours

The standard HL20 package: $129
External batteries: BP28 is $39.00 and BP4826 is $79.00.
The extension lead you will need for the external batteries comes with the purchase of either external battery pack. 


With burn time of the high intensity LED light around 50 000 hours, this headlight presents great value for money compared to other units on the market. While the unit may not be the lightest around, nor the most 'running specific' headlamp, it more than makes up for it with the intense brightness that this light produces. Not once did I feel as though I was straining to see anything and the ‘flooding’ light saved me more than once from losing my head to low lying vines crossing the trail. The long range that this light can reach enabled me to spot trail markers more than 100 metres away, and not being familiar with this part of the GNW course, this helped enormously. This light allows for near daylight running conditions meaning greater confidence and more importantly no slow down due to poor visibility. 

Come next Saturday night from Yarramalong to Patonga, this unit will definitely be gracing the top of my head taking me to hopefully a fast and safe victory!

Discount Code! 

Available from

This from Joel from Ferei Australia!
Thanks for the great review Brendan. As a measure of our appreciation we are happy to offer a 20% discount to anyone who buys a Ferei headlamp as a result of reading this review. They just need to enter the phrase "RUNNERSCHOICE" into the discount coupon box when checking out and the discount will be applied.

Monday, October 29, 2012

GOW100s Race Report

GOW = This is an initialism which stands for Great Ocean Walk. The Great Ocean Walk is an established hiking trail which starts in Apollo Bay and roughly follows the coastline to Port Campbell. So it's a walking event then? No. Like many ultramarathons (which are running events any distance greater than 42.2km), the event is named after the trail on which it is run. Other examples of this are the 6 Foot Track (ultra) Marathon and the Great North Walk 100s.

Cool? Well what about the 100s part? Well that's easy. The distance of the trail, give or take (as is the nature of trail running events) is 100km. Why is the 100 pluralised with an 's'? There are two events running concurrently on the day, a 100km solo race and a 100km relay race, where two runners run approximately 50km each to make up the distance. Since the race originated in 2009 there were two events; a 100km and a 100 miler, however the 100 miler was removed in 2010  and replaced with the relay. Phew! Now that's out of the way, let's get into my race report.

Damien Smith and I had decided to travel down together by car, it made for great conversation and a relaxing journey stopping regularly for coffee and food at the outlets along the Hume Hwy. As was the plan, we rendezvoused with Shona at Avalon Airport at 15:00 on Friday, who had sensibly decided to fly down. While Damien and I had packed over cautiously, throwing in multiple shoes, gear and way too many supplements, Shona had fit everything into one big suitcase, strategically and confidently leaving a little room in it for booty. She wasn't going to get stung again by the Jetstar 14kg luggage policy as apparently after Surf Coast Century the trophies had put her 'over the limit'. Funny policy that. Even with her, her luggage and concrete boot she would weigh under the average Australian female.

We got out of the airport and soon found our way to the coast where Shona was pointing out parts of the route of the SCC. I was enjoying listening to the retelling of the race. No other runner I know can give as much detail as Shona can. Soon we passed under the Great Ocean Road gantry and were appreciating the brilliant scenery of this lovely drive. I have driven it before with Nadine a couple of years ago, but it was nice to see it all again. We arrived at Apollo Bay and after a bit of pfaffing around decided to check in our gear, then go back to our hostel before the briefing. Time was a little against us and it meant that I had not prepared my drop bags before we got to the briefing at the hotel. I was definitely looking like a rank amateur  hastily spooning Hammer Perpetuem into my bottles (and on the floor) that were going in my dropbag, and chucking in an unprescribed amount of Hammer Gels into each one, along with some of the mandatory gear. Looking at Shona's dropbags, with flourescnet, easy to spot signage, told me I really should have prepared this earlier. But even the best made plans can go awry, as I counted Shona's dropbags to total 6. 6 bags don't fit into 4 checkpoints I told Shona, who had evidently been using an old map of the course when it did have 6 checkpoints to organise her bags. So at least now we both looked like rank amateurs and she went to work on her bags. Meanwhile Damo was relaxing enjoying his dinner reaping the benefits of being properly organised!

Back to the hostel, it was time to pack the race bag and lay out the gear. All the buzz was about the mud on the track and I was glad that I had packed my Inov-8 190's. I had planned to run in the new Inov-8 Trailroc 245s but the deal was sealed after seeing some photos that Race Assistant Brett Saxon had put up on Facebook (oh the benefits of social media!). Sharing the dorm with Damo, Shona and I was another runner Ruth and a Canadian backpacker who had to put up with hours of us (well mainly Shona and I) being indecisive about what pack to use. I switched from the UltrAspire Omega to the Surge, only then to settle on the Omega. Shona did the opposite and settled with the Surge. Ruth on the other hand was the epitomy of minimalist, to the point where 'shoes shmoes' was her mantra-yes she ended up running the track barefoot!

In with the earplugs and on with the eye mask, hostel experience coming in handy and thanks to Nadine for reminding me to bring them. Glad I did too as Shona was less than impressed with the Canadian girl the next morning who had quite the snore on her apparently! A brekkie of porridge, honey and coffee and I was ready for the day ahead. Dawn was lovely and still, a bit of moisture in the air but not terrible, all in all fantastic running conditions. Walking to the start line, we were picked up by Barefoot Ruth who gave us a lift to the line. A bit of pfaffing around as we assembled in the park at the start line. A huge anchor marks the starting position. The coast down here is nicknamed the 'Shipwreck Coast'. I was hoping that there would be no 'shipwrecks' on the run!

The Inov-8 X-Talon 190's were the shoe of choice for both winners and
the 3rd place male too!
The first section can be best described with one word - MUD! Running with Chris Wight through the first 5km up and over the first headland I said ''s the mud', to which he just said with a smile 'this is nothing!'. And he was right, making our way on the firetrail up to the first checkpoint was really tough going. The mud was across the entire width of the firetrail and I was thankful of my shoe choice of the 190's. They were eating up the mud, making sure I could run confidently and with good rhythm. As I was running downhill in the mud, and the Talons would grip in I was thinking back to what Clarke McClymont would say in this situation "X-Talons engaged".

I had planned to run through CP1, starting with a full 2L bladder and well stocked up on Hammer Gels and Perpetuem, it was enough for me to get to the marathon distance of CP2. The guys at CP1 were still getting organised when I arrived and were a little shocked not to see me stop. Whippet escorted me up to the trail entry for the next leg with the departing words promising sweet windy single track all the way. He didn't disappoint either, it was the most wonderful little journey around the headlands and up and over the lush rainforest covered capes. The environment was stunning, it's here I encountered the first wallaby of the day, just one of a plethora of wildlife seen throughout the day.

Going down the stairs of Parker River Inlet I spotted Brett Saxon with his camera, and found I didn't really need to smile, I was enjoying this part of the track so much it would have been written all over my face. I was loving the soft, muddy surface and the 'hippy' manoeuvring I had to employ along the windy, twisty trail. It sure beats running endless kilometres on hard pack firetrail. I found my whole body was getting a huge workout, even my arms and shoulders as I used them as levers to swing me around tight turns.

Descending into the Parker River Inlet
The section approaching Aire River was hard work on the soft sand escarpment; it was breathtakingly beautiful but damn hard work on tiring legs. I was being particularly careful to avoid the sand and run on the verge (not great trail etiquette I know) and also trying to run in the footprints. I was glad when I could see the Aire River Bridge in the distance marking the marathon distance of the race and the first CP stop of my race. The checkpoint vollies were incredibly helpful; filling my already portioned bottles of Perpetuem and bringing my drop bag to me which contained my next lot of gets and a banana. They had my bladder filled with water in no time, and I guess I was in and out of there in less than 2 minutes. The next section of the track to Johanna Beach is a hard but satisfying section which passes through diverse terrain before hitting the sand slog along the beach. The trail passed through stunning heathland where the spring wildflowers were in full bloom and this section also contained some awesome sea views. I remember passing through a section of abundant grass trees and thinking I wish I could take one home to put in my front garden!

I didn't mind the beach running; although hindered by a strong headwind, it gives the legs a chance to run at a good steady rhythm. I crossed the river at the lowest point I could find but it was still high enough to soak the  Inov-8's and I found the cold water a great relief for the achilles and calves. I shuffled up the soft sand and along the little road section to be met by Mel Gamble, Brett Saxon and a few others at the next checkpoint. I popped on the reflective vest and again reloaded the Perpetuem and Hammer Gels into the front pockets of the brilliant UltrAspire pack. I started up the climb and what a deceiving  long ascent it is; all runnable but with a few sneaky false summits, it seemed to go forever. Turning onto the road to Malenesia Beach, it was like being back in a comfy chair, running on the smooth dirt road past the grazing fields. The long downhills approaching the beach were hurting the quads and I was noticing that the 4 minute kms were becoming harder and harder pull out, even on the steep descents.

This leg was by far the most difficult, it was a real test and I guess this is where the rubber hits the road in this race. The undulating climbs are relentless over the headlands and through the narrow forested sections.footing is a big problem. I came unstuck more than once on the slippery treated pine boardwalks; totally my own fault just pushing the envelope a little too far. There are some grinding little pinches and it was definitely a relief to finally reach the last checkpoints at the Gables carpark. I was a bit surprised to see Chris Wight there, in the back of my mind I was picturing his big loping legs chasing me down all the way into the Gables. While good motivation for me, in reality he pulled out very early on, obviously still feeling the effects of his recent bout of giardia as a result of drinking some dodgy water on his recent epic Kokoda track assault. It was disappointing for him no doubt, but he showed a ton of ticker to make the start line and have a crack and I know great things are to come for this very talented trail runner. Chris mentioned I was way under the race record, but I just was focused on one thing - finishing first!

The last section was again very tricky, but at least the footing had turned to crushed gravel instead of mud and I was actually now finding the X-Talons a little unnecessary. It was a long last 20km, just ticking off the kilometres on the gradually ascending hillocky section . With 5km to go I viewed the brilliance of the 12 Apostles in the dimming sunlight that the overcast day was offering and knew it was almost mission completed. Coming off the trail and onto the sealed road with a kilometre to go I was a spent force, reduced to a pretty slow jog up the last hill. I rounded the bend into the car park  avoided a near miss with a tourist bus and crossed the finish line with hands raised in the air. A mix of joy and relief!

Once into some warm clothes, I got stuck into some food and drink and watch Damon and then travel buddy and good mate Damian Smith cross the finish line in a fine 3rd place! He is having a massive year, and as far as I know the only runner doing all the grand slam events this year. Not long after in came Shona, a mighty effort to back up only weeks after the Surf Coast Century. She looked pretty smashed but got the job done in fine form too by also beating the course record. She is having one hell of a year!

Back at the Port Campbell hostel, the host with the most, Tony, made sure we were all treated like running royalty and welcomed every runner back with Mars Bars and good humour. A quick shower and we went out for beer and pizza, no better way to top off a great night! We ended up eating with Mikio, the Japanese born American runner and a few others too. Back at he hostel, Tony organised a little beer collection and he ducked out and came back with a case of Victoria's finest. We all set around and had a couple into the night and recollected the day's events.

The next morning  breakfast and presentations went smoothly and it was great to see all names of finishers recognised by Andy. It was surely a hard earned belt buckle! Damon Goerke and his wife Fleur offered us a lift back to Apollo Bay which we gladly accepted and we had a great time hearing about Damon's and Fleur's many adventures. A flat battery, jumper leads and half an hour late we were on our way back to Sydney.

The coolest trophies ever!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

GOW100 - On Track

View from Lost World
Things have been going well in training and racing. Since the hamstring injury has fixed itself up I've been concentrating a lot on getting some speed in the legs so have been busy down at the track and at the shorter races. About a month ago I settled on the Great Ocean Walk 100km event as my next big race instead of the Melbourne Marathon. The idea was to have a crack at sub 2:30 at Melbourne but I've decided to put this off, maybe forever, but I hope not.

A shame really, as the hamstring fixed itself up much quicker than I envisaged and I was able to get back to full training. On Saturday I raced a flat half marathon and was on 1:13-1:14 pace until a huge westerly wind whipped up which blew some of the later km splits out and I finished in 1:15:30. A pretty good time but at the end I felt like I could've held that pace for a lot longer - a good sign that the endurance and speed are coming together nicely.

So what does this all mean for the GOW100? It looks a faster course than TNF100 but then again, I don't know the course that well, so my customary detours off track are very likely! In any case, I know I am fit and ready to have a good crack at it.

Being school holidays, I've been able to get out and about and run some unknown Blue Mountains trails. Yesterday I did a bit off a duathlon, riding down to Springwood to Martin's Lookout and then ran a tough up and down track to Bunyan Lookout and Lost World. After a short break for some photos, I returned and then rode on very trashed legs back up to Woodford. A tough session but worth it. That's my last big hit out done and dusted.

On the gear front, I've been testing out the new Inov-8 Trailroc 245s. So far these shoes have exceeded all my expectations. With this model, it seems Inov-8 have designed the ideal shoe for Australian terrain. They are not so knobbly as the X-Talons, and are super light and super comfortable. With a 3mm differential, they give the support that I need and I can easily see myself going 100k in these without any discomfort. The boys at Ultra168 have done a great review of the 245 and the 255 here.

They are my new lucky shoes too. On Sunday I broke the run of seconds that I've been having by cracking a win at the local Running Wild race 17km race at Mt Portal. They handled beautifully on the leaf littered single trail and proved more than able on the steep descents.

Running Wild - Mt Portal

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Centennial Park 50K

In three weeks time I am racing in what will probably be my last big 'A' race of the year, the Great Ocean Walk 100k. Although this time of year was meant to be a period of trying to get my marathon time under 2:30 (with the planned culminating effort being the flat and fast Melbourne Marathon), the hamstring injury I sustained a month ago really interrupted the speed work that is necessary to give the 42.2 PB a good crack. So all roads now are leading to GOW100.

I was keen to have a hard hit out at the Centennial Park Ultra, an event that I had only heard great things about from friends that participated last year. It might not be everyone's cup of tea; multiple laps on a dirt track around a big city park, but it is different and it is; despite it technically being a trail event and not a road event, a chance to post a pretty good 50K or 100K time.

It was obvious from the moment I viewed the website that this event was expertly managed by race director April Palmerlee. The effort she went to obtain sponsors and goodies and the great communication left me with no doubt this was a going to be a smoothly run event.

I was also keen to go and support a couple of others who were keen to knock off an Australian qualifier for the World 100k next year. I was excited to see Chris Truscott, Tim Cochrane and Beth Cardelli lining up, among others. I am pretty excited to see some classy runners putting their hand up for the Aussie teams. 

I met up with Alex Mathews in the morning and watched some of the 100k runners for a while as they had started an hour earlier. The weather at this stage was quite cool but the forecast looked ominous and was sure to test the reserves of all runners later in the day. Alex was no doubt going to be tough to beat in the 50k; his marathon PB is superior and he is much more conditioned to the marathon distance; while I was hoping the extra 8km at the end might test his endurance.

The start was a little quick and I soon realised that running 3:40ks was not going to be sustainable so backed it off while Alex powered on. He never really got out of sight though and thought that if he could stay in view I would be happy for the time being. I really was settling into the race as the half marathon distance clocked over in 80 minutes and was feeling like this pace could be held for the remainder of the race. All the other runners on the course were very encouraging and it was great to see so many out there having a crack at either the 50 or the 100k race. Chris Truscott and Beth looked very comfortable and were looking good for qualifiers (sub 8 and sub 9 respectively).

At around 30k I could see Alex really coming back to me and slightly increased the effort level. He didn't really look like he was suffering but he had definitely slowed down. So I vowed to pull him in; in the mean time I was trying to strategise in my head what would be the best tactic...hold off and just sit behind him and wait a little while longer or go for the pass now. It was race on!

In one lap I had bridged the gap and took the lead going up the slight hill on the cafe side of the course. My plan was to put in an effort to try and put a gap between us and break his spirit; it was a gamble. At 32k it is a still a long way from home and anything could still happen. Once I passed Alex I tried to put the pedal down but catching him only seemed to stir him out of his slumber and he was able to find another gear - he was able to go with me. So we ran a couple of km together at a quicker pace before I was blowing hard and starting to back off. He once again started to inch ahead. 

In my head I was thinking that all was not lost, there is still 15k to go and this could come down to who has the heart and legs left in the last 5k; I was hoping it may be me! With 10k to go he was about 200m ahead and still very much within striking zone. We both went through the marathon in 2:40 and some...pretty happy with that on what is not the quickest of courses.

With about 2 laps to go though things went a bit pear shaped just as I should have been putting in one last big effort. The legs were starting to cramp up and the splits were starting to blow out. I was going to have to settle with second. The last lap was horrid, very slow and the finish could not have come quick enough! The better man won no doubt about it.

But I take many positives out of this race, it is a 50K PB by 4 minutes and a World 50K Trophy qualifier, but most of all it's a great long hit for the flattish GOW course. The other positive was that it was a quinella for barefootinc athletes. Alex wore the f-lite 195s (check out this great review from the Ultra 168 boys here) and I wore the Inov-8 Road-X 233 which I was extremely happy with. I highly recommend this event. I will be back next year hopefully!

Top 3 in the 50K

Sunday, September 2, 2012

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Bundeena!

My race in today's Coastal Classic had more twists than a bag of pretzels. The way my race played out was just bizaar, still can't quite get my head around it all. I don't often write race reports about low key events but a day so strange deserves a lengthy report so stick it out as it's worth it!

I've been battling a hamstring strain in my right leg for about 2 weeks now since the Mudgee Marathon. It was more a niggle that would flare up after any activity. In my efforts to even get close to my marathon goal this year I returned to speed training early this week, while I probably should have been in recovery mode. Anyway, on my last 400m rep with the Ewan and the Spilling Squad, I was brought to a sudden halt by the said hamstring. It was a tear, not a really bad one but definitely left me pretty sore. So anyway, all week it's been R.I.C.E and just doing everything I could to get to the start line today.

With Shona and Max DeLacy from barefootinc
I went for a short 2km run yesterday (Friday) to test it out; it was better but the hamstring was numb and restricted my natural gait and any speed was out of the question. Thought then I could probably get through the 30k today as long as I didn't push too hard. I wanted to run as barefootinc have been great to me and gave me a complimentary spot in the race. I wanted to support them by wearing their great products, particularly the INOV-8 shoes. It's also a very beautiful run and I like getting back to Bundeena where I once lived and catching up with my mate Lachlan.

Anyway, to the running. The start is a staggered start with runners going off in pairs in 5 second intervals. I went off with No Roads and barefootinc team mate Shona Stephenson who was backing up after last weekend's Oxfam victory and looking for her second consecutive Coastal Classic title. I thought that if I could keep up with Shona all day I'd be guaranteed an entertaining run so that was one plan. I cruised the first hill, a few guys had gone out too hard and were really suffering half way up but I maintained a steady and cautious pace. Last year I went out too hard and paid for it a bit later in the race at the headlands. At the top of the first hill at the Squeeze Way there is some lovely wide trail to stretch the legs out on except I couldn't, my hammy was restricting my stride length and power in the push off so I was really doing an easy pace run but was still up there in the top 10 or so. Vlad Shatrov, Sam Walker, Dani Andres and a few others were beginning to disappear out of sight fast though.

INOV-8 was a popular shoe choice!
Entering the Palm Jungle I was trying to be as careful as I could be to nurse the leg through this section; it's tough with ferns covering the narrow, tree root covered trail and vines hanging down ready to behead the unsuspecting runner. But the inevitable happened and I stumbled on a rock with my right leg which means that the next stride the right leg takes has to be a giant stride to catch up with the left leg. This stretched my hammy beyond what it was ready for and I was in a lot of discomfort. The thought of turning around and going back entered my mind but I soldiered on. I was thankful the section through here was dry. I've never seen it so dry, usually it's a bog.

I had slowed up quite a bit and a few guys passed me. Coming out of the Jungle and onto the tricky grasslands towards Burning Palms beach was very hard work. The track is super difficult, with the grass covering the track and hiding any hidden nasty obstacles and trenches. I struggled to keep to the track and was guessing which way the track went at some points. This led to a potentially very dangerous 'fall' that I took. I say 'fall' as I didn't actually fall over, it was more like a free fall! I got off track, and before I knew it I had run off the side of a rock face down a small gully. I had already tried to correct myself so while I was falling I was facing the wall. I had that dreaded feeling while falling of 'when am I going to hit the bottom?' The fall was about 2.5 metres, and thankfully a few branches slowed down the fall's momentum.. I was very lucky to land on my feet and only come away with a few scratched and bruised ego.

After getting myself back up the rock face I saw about 6 runners had passed me while I was down that gully, including Lachlan and Shona. Once up I was running gingerly and was glad to hit the climb at Burning Palms. I was pushing Shona up the steps here but she didn't need my help so I forged on ahead. A few guys were walking but I was pleased to be running up. Coming down onto South Era beach, I was taking the descent very cautiously. Along the beach I was able to increase the cadence a bit and was feeling much more comfortable. I was definitely still racing. In the back of my mind I thought any time near my 2:27 from last year would be great.

I got a little off track entering Little Garie, but I wasn't the only one. Probably could have been a bit more marking tape around some of these key points. Around here I caught James Kuegler, another barefootinc runner whom I had first met at the Coastal Classic last year and also competed against at the Commonwealth Championships last year. A great bloke and a top trail runner; was a little surprised to see him back off the leading guys. Running along the pebbly section right on the coastline approaching Garie is one of my favourite sections and I was getting a nice rhythm going here. I hit the long beach run  and headed straight to the wave zone where the hardest sand is. I could see the next pack up ahead and could tell that my pace was quicker and I was looking forward to passing a few of them in the next couple of kilometres and get myself back into the top 10.

Crossing the creek at Wattamolla
Up the headland at Garie North Head, the trail gets lost among the heathland and I found myself off track; probably not concentrating enough. Before I knew it I was on the cliff face staring down at the roaring Tasman Sea 20 metres below! I had found a great lookout but not the Coastal Track. I cut inland to find the trail but this didn't do anything except cost me more time and scratches as the heath was basically impenetrable. Eventually I swallowed my pride and backtracked all the way to where I went wrong originally. Probably cost me around 5 minutes. When I reached the track proper there was Shona again. With my race basically over I decided to run with Shona for the rest of the journey and enjoy her company.

It was amazing how comfortably Shona was going, we were running at a very easy, conversational pace. She didn't need to push at all, that's how dominant she was. It indicates how fit she is and also the lack of depth in the women's field to push her to the next level. I'm sure the leading men wouldn't have been able to talk very much! Evidentally, good mate Damien Smith must've been one of many that passed me on my little detour and he came into our sights. Shona and Damo have a very friendly rivalry happening, and Shona was yelling 'we're coming to get you Damo'. Damo had a great TNF100 this year, finishing 13th but this race was to be where Shona would get one back on him. He kept up for a while before dropping back off our pace.

Onto the metal walkways, Shona was stretching out and enjoying the gentle descent. I couldn't keep up, being restricted by my leg but knew that I would catch up to her on the ascents. I traded places with a few guys, yo-yoing with them between Curracurrong and Curracurrang. Shona and I ran into Wattamolla together where I filled my bottle and grabbed some GUs; Shona ran right through. I saw Sally from barefootinc who is always encouraging; even though I wasn't going to be competitive she is always there with a smile. Not once since being sponsored by barefootinc have I ever felt any pressure to perform.

The next section is great running along the top of the cliffs and down to Little Marley beach, affording brilliant views of the coast and ocean. I don't think we caught anyone but we were having a great time. Leaving Little Marley, my race suddenly took a very unexpected twist. Coming up to a T junction just before Marley, we saw a sign on the trail to the right (coast side) saying 'Wrong Way' with a cross on it and ribbons tied up to shrub going up to the trail to the North. Instead of the North East bearing we had been taking, it seemed the ribbons wanted us to head inland. Just as we were beginning to run up (the wrong trail) a whole heap of guys were running down, including Lachlan and Kuegs (who must've repassed me when I took my detour) and were yelling that it was the wrong way. I didn't know exactly what was going on it happened so quickly but Shona and I were fortunate we didn't head up the 'garden path' either. Had I not have taken my earlier detour off course, I surely would have also run up this wrong way. Even though logic dictates to keep to the coast, in the heat of battle and exhaustion it would have been an easy mistake to make even though I know this track pretty well.

Post race battle scars!
This was very reminiscent of the stolen course markings at TNF100 this year, although unlike there where someone had taken the markings away altogether, here someone had deliberately removed markings and replaced them in a different spot. My situation was a little different though, in TNF100 I was running in second spot and knew the correct way and it was guys behind me that went down the wrong trail. Suddenly now I knew a lot of the guys had come back to me in the field. I ran with a couple of these guys along Marley Beach. They were rightly 'very dirty' about it to put it politely and deservedly so. The extra effort they had put in on their detour could be seen on their faces. Running with these guys over Marley and up over the next headland climb had put me ahead of Shona and I was feeling very comfortable running at this pace. The hamstring had settled down a lot.

The Balconies section on the cliff top is spectacular and it reminded me of the times I used to run out this way when I lived at Bundeena. As I passed a photographer I asked him how many were in front to which he answered 'you're it!'. Bloody hell, I was in a real ethical dillema now. There was no way I deserved to be here in front but I didn't really know what to do except just run my own race. The longer the race went on the better I felt and hit the Jibbon Beach Loop at Bundeena full of running. The temperature was quite hot, but I ran straight through the last drink station knowing that I only had about 4km to go.

The run through Jibbon Point and along the beach was probably some of my fastest kms all day and hit The Lambeth Walk on the road knowing that I would cross the line first; albeit totally undeserving. After I had finished a few of the front runners like Dani Andres were already there; apparently they ran the wrong trail all the way to the road and had hitched a ride into Bundeena. Soon after a lot of the other runners began to finish, those that took the wrong trail and backtracked and those that didn't. There was a lot of talk at the finish what would happen with the results. I didn't care; I knew I didn't deserve it so was more than happy to accept any decision race director Garry would make. Talking to Sam Walker after the race, he had been in the lead at the time over Vlad, with Dani Andres probably in third, with the rest of the guys a little further back.

Relaxing with James Kuegler
Post race, I caught up with a lot of trail running friends and had a beer with Shona and husband Mikey, Lachlan, Kugs and a few others while waiting for presentations. It was here when the final twist to this tale was revealed! Matt Webster, who had started a lot further back in the stagger than I did at Otford, had actually run the course much quicker and had taken the victory and my time was actually equal second with Martin Pengilly. I had forgotten about this scenario potentially occurring but quickly remembered that last year the same thing had occurred with Terrence Bell and I.  It was quite a relief now knowing that at least I wasn't at the top of the leaderboard anymore. I was able to spread the INOV-8 love and gave the shoe voucher I won for coming second in my category to Lachlan who had run a great race before going awry. Shona did an awesome job winning her second consecutive Coastal Classic in a course PB time and also gave her voucher to her husband Mikey who now has no more excuses not to take up trail running!

You would think that the day's dramas would end here, but alas the trend continued. When I had gotten back to my car at Otford my car wouldn't start as I had left my lights on. I had jumper leads and after trying on Lachlan's car for a while to no avail, we flagged down a 'beefier' looking car and got mine going. Finally the day was over and was on my way home. It certainly won't be a race I'll forget in a hurry! Thanks to Max and Sally at barefootinc for sponsoring a great race and all at Max Adventure, particularly Garry Fairbrother for putting on a great event. Despite the sabotaging and some rightly annoyed runners, Garry remained calm and sympathetic.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Nice Quote

Thanks to William Philip Hick from Billy's Bushies for this awesome quote from Jesse Owens. I really love that even though he is a multiple Olympic Champion and one of the fastest men ever to live, at the core of his love is the purity of the sport.

"I always loved was something you could do by yourself, and under your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs." 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Big Month of Racing

At the Nepean Odyssey with Rod and Jeff

The M7 Marathon today (photos above) has brought an end to a huge month of racing. With the two weeks off work with school holidays, training and racing was amped up. It started early in the month with a surprise 3rd Place at the Striders 10k at Olympic Park. The time wasn't overly quick, 34:36, so the podium spot was very surprising. This series always attracts a high caliber field but for some reason all the guns stayed away.

It's purpose was to sharpen me up for the Kokoda Challenge, a tough 4 man team event on the Gold Coast that No Roads entered a team into. Last year I joined Mick Donges, Andy Lee and Clarke McClymont to smash the 96km course record. This year, with Mick's European sabbatical (and boy isn't he haven't fun!), a very able replacement was found in Ewan Horsburgh (winner of Coast to Kosci and Coburg 24h). The course was considerably tougher this year, with the course either ascending or descending all the way through. Added into the mix was wet weather which made the track very heavy and slippery (not that this was a problem for the inov-8 X Talons!) The event isn't much of a race as it is a fundraising event (think Trailwalker type event), but that didn't stop us giving it a red hot go. In the end we finished in 11h 43m, some 90 minutes slower than last year's time but very happy to again record our second win. It's a brutal course and I hope that some of my Queensland ultra mates can get a team together next year to challenge us (if we do it again!).

Next up was the Nepean Odyssey, an event held in the backyard at Glenbrook. This is a multisport event (MTB, Kayak, Trail Run). I was a late call up into Jeff Price's team. Originally he was going to enter individually but succumbed to a knee injury. Thankfully, he was able to transfer his entry to make a relay team. So I joined Jeff, the human outboard on Kayak, Rod 'Cadel' Forrest on MTB. The 19km run leg was last away and was keen to bust out a smart time on some of my local trails. After Jeff had finished his paddle, we were in 6th or 7th behind (not sure of the individual/relay/2-3 man team breakdown), but fair to say I was keen to show these multisporters a clean set of heels! Good mate Beth Cardelli was also making up the third cog of a relay team and had left about 8 minutes or so before me. I was keen to catch her if I could and then be the first relay team home.

Unfortunately in my haste and lactic state about 3km into the run leg I missed an obvious turn down a single track (surprise surprise!) and found myself in no mans land and that dreaded lost feeling felt all too often! Not wanting to let down the team, I turned back and chased my bum off down the trails. I probably lost around 6 or so minutes on my detour, but it was fun rechasing all the guys I had already caught. In the end, Beth was way too quick and we finished 3rd over the line behind the individual male winner and Beth's mixed team. All was good and I wasn't burnt at the stake, as we won our all male relay category and picked up a big bag of goodies that we shared. I grabbed the 6 pack!

I wasn't expecting to set the world on fire at today's M7 marathon, as it really is the start of my sub 2:30 or bust marathon goal. I just wanted to lay down a solid time and I thought if I broke 2:40 it would put me up there. I didn't do myself any favours though by taking off a bit too quickly and really putting myself in oxygen debt way too early in the race. Two years ago I ran 2:37 on the same course by running pretty smartly. This included going through the 10k mark a minute slower than this year and saving a bit to nail the big hills before finishing strong on the flatter and more downhill second half. This year, I didn't respect the course enough and the fast start hurt me before the hills killed me and finished off any chance of running fast splits on the back half. I struggled through in 2:43 but I will take the positives out of today knowing that I can only improve with more specific marathon training which is planned and being more tactical about racing!

Still the bright side was it was a gorgeous morning for running and it didn't cost me too much, the top 3 men all ran sub 2:30 or just over, so I was way off a podium place. Well done to Sydney Striders Ray Wareham who paced his run beautifully to pass me at 37k and finish strong for 6th and John Binfield to finish 5th. 4th went to another good mate Chadi Elashkar who ran a great race and probably deserved to be in the money which regrettably is going back to Victoria with the top 3 men; winner Mark Tucker and the 2 other podium getters. I finished in 7th, and jagged a M30-39 3rd place medal! Congratulations go to fellow No Roads team mate Angela Bateup who finished 3rd overall in a very close female finish. No doubt the prize money will come in handy for her upcoming World Long Course Mountain Running Champs assault on Jungfrau.

Doing it tough at the Kokoda Challenge. UE was taking a toilet break!
Running into the halfway CP is always a buss with the school kids waiting for their 50k challenge to start
Winners are grinners!