Monday, January 28, 2013

Knapsack 6 Hour Lap Race

It was a typical stinking summer's day in the Lower Blue Mountains at Glenbrook for the annual Running Wild Australian Day Knapsack Lap race. I really like this race; while a Lap race may not be every trail runners cup of tea, I love the new challenges it presents.

Last year in this race, the weather and inadequate nutrition and hydration broke me and I was determined to make amends and ensure the same thing didn't happen again. I was confident with the volume I've been putting in over Summer that the endurance base would cover the time on feet needed. I made sure I prepared for the weather too; planning and readying my nutrition and hydration, crucial when going solo without crew.

No, not the Karate Kid!
Bombing down a little tricky descent.
With the singing of the National Anthem by the runners, led by a stirring rendition from Rod Thehornet, all runners were on their way. The lap was about 5km, looping around Knapsack reserve, known for its MTB tracks that we were now to run on. It was great to see lots of runners out there, Running Wild made it very accessible to all runners by offering a 3h option as well as the 6h for the hardcore solos, with pairs and teams categories also offered for those just wanting to run a lap or two with their mates or partners.

Not me though. This was a programmed in as a fast long run. With me returning to my day job next week, it was time to put down something solid on the trails and 6 hours seemed like an ideal time on feet at this time in the Tarawera build up.

The day progressively got warmer and reached the mid 30s with massive humidity, so much so that it felt like the heavens should have opened. My main fuel for the day was Hammer Perpetuem, mixed in a small bottle and carried in my UltrAspire Spry vest. As the course is a mixture of single track and firetrail, and with the incredibly dry state of the Aussie bush at the moment, I chose to go with the Inov-8 TrailRoc 235s. These are the 0mm drop shoe that I have progressively been easing my way into wearing them in a long ultra. I was confident that they would do the job and keep my technique solid and efficient over the distance.

On a day with conditions like they were, it was crucial that my hydration took utmost priority, but as the day progressed it was important that I listened to my body and was willing to change the plan accordingly.  My initial plan was to have 500mL Perpetuem every 2 laps and drink cups of water at the aid stations every 2.5km. However I soon realised that I was sucking down way too much Perpetuem, not for the fuel, but for the liquid replacement and so quickly realised more water was required. So it then meant that as well as the Perp, I'd  have to carry a 600mL bottle around with me just for water. Not a big deal, I don't usually like carrying a handheld but today I had to.

My feet were well looked after by the Inov-8
TrailRoc 235s and the Injinji Toe Socks
This proved to be more than adequate, with water intake around 300mL every 2.5km. The rest of the water in the bottle was usually squirted over my head which kept my core temperature stable. Of course with drinking this amount of water and losing salts and minerals through perspiration  I also needed to increase my electrolyte intake. I ended up having an Enduralyte capsule every 20 minutes, which kept cramps at bay and kept my systems evenly balanced. I ended up also handing out quite a few to some other cramping runners out there. There was a little bit of carnage out there, particularly towards the end of the race.

In the end, I ended up running 14 laps in just under 6 hrs which entitled me to run another lap as long as I started it before the 6h mark ticked over. I hardened up and ran a very slow last lap to bring it to 74 odd kms in 6h and 20m and some change. A good hit out. I won't bore you with a blow by blow account of every lap as on the whole it was very controlled, uneventful running which responded well to the changing conditions of the day. But for the data nerds among you (and I would be one of you!) my Garmin Connect stats are below.

I was really happy to see that Wes, a friend and an Ultra Training Australia client, took out first mixed pair and second overall in the 3h pairs category running with his wife Kellie. Watch out for Wes to make a storming debut at 6 Foot Track. There were other great runs out there too. Jess Baker was super strong and obviously was quite attuned to the hot conditions after all her epic desert runs and won the womens solo 6h. Big kudos to fellow Blue Mountains stalwart Anne Mackie to get 3rd. Look out for Anne to go sub 15 at TNF this year.

Of course, thanks to Running Wild, the committee and Ben Berriman for the faultless organisation of the day. We are very lucky to have this trail running series in the beautiful Blue Mountains.

From now on until Tarawera, it's going to be a lot of training back on the road to sharpen up my speed. I feel as strong as I've ever been on the trails and from all accounts Tarawera is a pretty 'flat' course so in my thinking speed should be given a little more attention than strength from now on.