Saturday, May 12, 2012

TNF100 - An Unusual Leadup

It’s fair to say that I’ve had to take a less than orthodox approach to TNF100 this year. It was always going to be a tough ask having my three ‘A’ races of the year all within three months of each other. The cancellation of 6 Foot Track meant a much more focused and uninterrupted lead up to the 100k World Championship, and the result there was very pleasing. Backing up for TNF100 was always going to be the toughest transition, but I’m happy to say that the body has pulled up remarkably well and I feel ready to have a real shot next Saturday.

TNF100 will be exactly one month after the World Champs race. In that time I’ve tried to recover and freshen up but at the same time keep the fitness and strength needed for what is one of the toughest trail ultras in Australia. So my training has been mostly a mix of trail and road, flat and hills, but without doing anything longer than 30km. I just don’t think I need to, nor do I want to put my already fatigued legs under any unnecessary stress you get from long runs. In the last couple of weeks I’ve done a few hard tempo runs and upped the interval training in an attempt to get some higher cadence back in the legs and quicken up my cruising pace.

I believe in my endurance base and I know I have the stamina to go the 100km, but I am a little worried about the fatigue factor of the hard training leading to, and the race, three weeks ago. If it was to go pear shaped and the fatigue did catch up with me, it would be late in the race, probably around the Kedumba Pass part of the race; where I believe the race will be won or perhaps lost. It really should be the aim of all the athletes who fancy themselves for outright honours to run the entirety of the distance (perhaps taking out the Iron Pot section that is pretty much a scramble), but definitely all of Kedumba.  It will take a smart race strategy to achieve my sub 10h goal, but the more ultra running I do the more I am learning and finding the goals achievable.

There has been a lot of talk about the quality of the men’s field this year, and I have to agree that it is probably one of the strongest fields assembled for a trail ultra. There is no doubt that the internationals like Jez Bragg, Ryan Sandes, Grant Guise and Varjin Armstrong will push the Aussies to new levels and this is why, I for one, am absolutely thrilled that these quality athletes are embracing our races. It can only be great for the local scene and future progress of our sport and development of Aussie athletes.

The Fern Gully section, just after the torturous Nellies Glen, is one of my
favourite parts of The North Face course
Saying this, what my experience over the years has taught me, especially when racing overseas, is that the standards of the top end athletes in Australia are no different to those in the other strong running nations. Yes, we don’t have the depth of some of the countries, but we can mix it with the big guns as good as anyone else. The other great advantage we have, especially those based up here in the Blue Mts, is of course the home ground advantage. It is a tough, tricky course and pacing your run, timing your nutrition and reading the conditions are going to be key factors on the day, and I’m not just talking about a little 1% here, it will be a more than that.

So what about the Aussie men this year? Andy Lee, Mick Donges, Damon Goerke, Andrew Tuckey, Ben Artup, Tim Cochrane all have impressive trail wins to their names over long careers. But there are many more nipping at the heels that are ready and roaring to step up and have a crack. My good mate Clarke McClymont has been in cracking form of late and the boys at ultra168 have named a few of their own dark horses here too.

One guy that has been mentioned to me from both Mick and Clarke is Chris Wight from Victoria. He’s been carving it up of late, and apparently Mick and Clarke got to see him demolish the mountains of the recent 3 Peaks race in Tasmania. He was also part of the successful Sub 10h Melbourne Trailwalker Team. At least I know there will be one other runner backing up so soon too! In the ladies, I really do think Shona Stephenson has prepared herself smartly for a massive run this year. I think in the last six months or so she has leapfrogged some of the other leading ladies and will be right up battling for line honours with seasoned campaigner and deserved pre race favourite and reigning champ Julie Quinn.

Whichever way it goes, it’s going to take good all round runners to feature near the pointy end. It’s just not enough to be a great climber, technical runner or road runner. This race has it a bit of everything. I wish all competitors a great and safe race and see you all at the start line!