Sunday
Dec072014

ALPINE CHALLENGE 100 MILES: LEARNING HOW TO COPE WITH AND ADAPT TO CHALLENGES. 

It’s funny; most of my race reports start with “I was feeling nervous before this race…”, but not this one! Although I had been nervous in the week before, come the morning of the race I was not nervous at all. Perhaps the reality of what I was about to do hadn’t set in? Or maybe having no set goal other than to finish in the best shape I could, took the pressure off. Having said that, I was hoping to finish in about 31-32 hours.

The start was at 4.30am, which was a bit of a shock! We started in the dark, so I was wearing my Ay-Ups. I took it fairly easy from the start because, having never done 100 miles; I wasn’t sure how I would fare if I burnt all my matches early on. Also, I am a notoriously slow starter anyway!!

 

I hadn’t taken much food with me for this first leg, being only 16kms to Warby corner up Spion Kopje. Spion Kopje is a heavily treed section, with lots of debris (bark, branches, etc) underfoot, which made the going a bit tricky. There is quite a long open section before Warby corner, which was lovely with the sun just coming up.

Coming into Warby corner

I had organised a bag for my crew to bring in to this first checkpoint with enough food and drinks to get me round the 46km loop that would see me come back to Warby Corner. I arrived at the checkpoint, and my crew put some more water in my pack, and gave me my sports drink bottle. “Where’s the food?” I asked, which was when I was faced with my first challenge of the day. He hadn’t brought the food bag, thinking I wanted it the next time at Warby. Luckily, Rohan Day and another woman (sorry I can’t remember your name!!), ran off and came back with lots of food and gels. The lady even gave me her lunch!!! I was so grateful and bowled over by their kindness that I didn’t even have time to be upset. I am always amazed by how wonderful everyone is in the trail running community.

I ran off, and set about running to Big River (the reverse of Bogong2Hotham). The Big River crossing was about ankle deep, I found the chain supposed to help me cross made it more difficult! It was then up to the Bogong Summit. This section was quite open, with the running done in quite narrow ruts. The day was heating up, but it wasn’t hot yet.

 About 2 kms from the Bogong Summit A selfie on the summit! Bogong 

The food I had been given was lovely, especially the ham, cheese and tomato sandwich that had been her lunch; that one was an absolute winner!! I will be making them again for my races!! The course continued down Quartz Ridge, then back up to Warby Corner. I had run out of food by this stage (as kind as they were, it wasn’t quite enough for 46kms!) and was starting to bonk. I had filled a drink bottle at the second crossing of Big River (only ankle deep, but I had wanted to lay down in it and stay for a while!), but this was running out too, as it was getting quite hot, especially being out in the open. I grovelled a bit to get back up to Warby. My crew was there again, this time with all the food, but it was a bit moot at this point as it was only 6kms to the next checkpoint where the car was. Still, I took on some food and more water and sports drink.

I trotted on to Langford’s Gap, where I meet up with my crew again, with my daughter Zara. I was feeling a bit flat, but had some coke and some other nibbles and ran on. The run from Langford’s to Cope Hut is a nice one along the aqueduct, and I made good time. My crew was surprised to see me so quickly, and gave me more coke there. I didn’t take on any major food, as they had planned to come in to Pole 333 to give me proper food supplies, my Ay-Ups and my arm warmers in case it got cold.

Coming into and out of Langfords Gap

I pushed on. I remember that earlier in the year at Bogong2Hotham I found this section really difficult and long. It just flew by this time! It was warm, but being out in the open through the alpine landscape was quite beautiful and before I knew it I was coming up to Pole 333, knowing I was about 45 minutes earlier than my crew had expected. I tried calling them, but it was hard to get a connection. I finally got onto them just as I arrived at Pole 333 and was told that they were probably about 20-30 minutes away. I waited 10 minutes there, chatting with Clare Weatherly. She gave me some lollies, because of course, I had been expecting a food supply and only had a little bit left!! Although it was only 5.30, I wasn’t sure how long it would take me to get to Mt Hotham, and whether I would need lights, and my arm warmers. Clare leant me her brand new Ay-ups (once clearing that it was legal to do so with the other volunteer) and my crew would give her mine for her sweeping duties. Once again, the kindness of trail/ultra-runners! I could have gotten upset at this stage, but decided I should focus on the positives; I had some food, and I had lights. I wasn’t going to let any setbacks stop me from finishing this race!! The only other 100 miler I had attempted had ended in a DNF. This was not going to happen this time!!!

I continued on for the third descent, a fun singletrack, down to Cobungra Gap. At the bottom, I came across a guy who was unsure of where the track went. I directed him up Swindlers Spur, and asked him for a gel as I was nearly out of supplies. Thankfully, he kindly gave me one. Once again, the climb up Swindler’s was no way nearly as bad as I remembered it from B2H, and I wasn’t get bitten by ants up the steep stairs either!

Luckily, I never needed my arm warmers throughout this section, and actually didn’t need the lights! I was coming up to the Mt Hotham checkpoint, and it was still light. I tried to get in contact with my crew, and they told me they were 45 minutes away. I tried not to get upset, but when the checkpoint guy called out cheerfully to me and asked if there was anything he could do for me, I started to cry (doesn’t people being nice always do that!!??). He ushered me in to the hut and directed me towards their food, none of which I could stomach, but I made an attempt. My warmer clothes for the night section were with my crew too, so I had to dig into my mandatory kit, which took a while as I have everything taped up tightly to reduce their size. I hung around there sniffling to myself for about 20 minutes. I contacted my crew again and they said they would try to meet me at the turn off to the Bon Accord descent.

I took my time walking up the bitumen road holding a cup full of noodles that I tried to eat. I decided that I had to focus on making the best of these difficult situations that kept coming up. I chose not to get angry or upset but to accept them with patience. I was learning how to race 100 miles, and my crew were doing the best they could, as they were learning too.

 Eventually they turned up in front of me (Zara had been dropped back at the Bogong Village because she gets car sick on windy roads). It was dark by this stage, so it was a bit tricky trying to get changed and find what I needed in the car. Paul Ashton (race director) rang me at this stage, as he had heard about me being distressed at the checkpoint and was just making sure I was ok, which was really appreciated.

I ran on. I wasted more time at the Bon Accord turn off as I couldn’t find the track. I had resigned myself to just doing the best I could at this point and not worrying too much about my time, but it was still frustrating. I headed off, wary of finding the next turn off because I didn’t want to go off down Razorback! I had the course on my watch, so I wasn’t too worried, but it was nearly flat so I was still being mindful.

I found the turn off for Bon Accord, and ran on. It was quite fun in the dark, running down this thin singletrack through the trees! It was at this point that I felt a bit of gravel from when I was getting changed at the side of the road slide into the arch of my foot. I figured I would wait till Harrietville to stop and empty my shoe. Rookie mistake!! I slipped and slid down the steep parts of the course, then followed the singletrack through the trees that were whipping me on either side along the river. My watch went flat and this stage, and I started second guessing myself about whether I was really on course. The single track came out into a river bed, and I couldn’t see the track anywhere, and turned up the riverbed, scrabbling through water and gravel. It just didn’t feel right, so I rang Paul and he directed me back to the course. I couldn’t stand the feeling in my shoe anymore, so I stopped to get the gravel out. I banged my shoe, and rubbed the sock till they were both clear. I put my shoe back on…and felt the same feeling. Oh no! I knew I now had a blister! Oh well, nothing to do but keep on going!

I kept going along the singletrack, which ended in a car park. Being naturally directionally challenged, I took the road to the left, but I felt unsure, so checked my course notes, then rang Paul again. He directed me back to the other road, which I took, running along by the river. The road forked and I ran on to the left, but second guessed myself again, so started to backtrack and rang Paul again (he must have been getting sick of me!!). I had been going the correct way, so retraced my steps and kept going.

I eventually made it into Harrietville, and met up with Peter, who was my pacer. I grabbed some more supplies, and we walked off together. My foot was so sore by this stage that I couldn’t run, so I marched up the Bungalow Spur in the dark (it was already way past my bed time!), using my trekking poles to keep some of the weight off my feet. Two guys who were behind me ran ahead. I would pass them again before we got to the top as they had used up all their energy running. It felt like Bungalow Spur would go on forever, but finally we got to the top. I was still in pretty good spirits at this stage. We turned off to get to the Feathertop summit, honestly it has never felt that far in the daylight!! The rocky, shaley climb seemed to go on forever, with the cold strong wind whipping around us. We finally got to the top where the track runs out, and then came back down. I actually found the descent easier than normal, probably because I couldn’t see much, as I notmally find the descent quite scary!

We kept up fast walking, with the occasional trot thrown in, and it was soon the turn off to Diamantina Spur. Paul had warned us to expect ups and downs, not just a downhill run, so that was good, because there were plenty of ups! The downs were steep and tough on my foot, with lots of rocks to bite into my arch. There were parts I had to climb down while Peter held onto my trekking poles.

The sun came up, and the fatigue set in. I was feeling dizzy and my eyes were going cross-eyed. I told Peter I had to have a rest, so I lay down on the side of the track, shut my eyes and had a 5 minute nap. I got back up, rejuvenated and kept going. It’s amazing what a difference that 5 minutes of shut-eye made!

We made it to the bottom, then it was the 6th climb of the day back up to Pole 333. I had to have another 5 minute nap on this climb too, alongside the fire trail. Eventually we got back to the open rutted course and then Pole 333 and I was feeling pretty good, in spite of my burning feet. There was only about 30kms to go, I couldn’t believe it! However, those 30kms were about to be the longest 30kms of my life!

We pushed on to Tawonga Hut, where Peter had stashed a goody bag earlier in the day. I had some chips and coke, then we kept going. I was prepared for 28kms of basically downhill, but was in for a rude awakening! There were plenty of climbs and flat sections, with lots of rocks that were determined to position themselves directly under the arch of my foot. I was crying out in pain by this stage, down to a shuffle due to the agony in my feet. I refused to take off my shoes to look, as I knew they would be messy, and might put me off completely. I knew there was something seriously wrong as I had not felt pain like this before. My husband rang, thinking I would be finished by then, instead hearing me whine about my feet. He rationally suggested I take some painkillers. Why hadn’t I thought of that!! I took some Panadol, and they kicked in about 20 minutes later. They didn’t stop the pain, but they took the edge off enough that on the some of the wide fire trail downhill’s I could actually shuffle a bit faster. I ended up taking off on Peter, and going ahead. I actually felt pretty good, and if it hadn’t been for my feet, I would have easily run this section. This section did seem to go on forever, but I just focused on one corner at a time, and telling myself that this would all soon be a memory I would look back on (which it now is!).

I finally got to the finish line, in 34 hours and 9 minutes (2nd female), a few hours slower than I had hoped. However, I think I had quite a few challenges that I coped with really well, and that taught me many lessons that I will learn from and use them to improve next time!

I need to be more explicit with my crew what my needs are. I didn't write anything down for them (which I normally do!) so it's no wonder there were a few timing issues. I do not blame my crew at all for any of the timing issues, it's just one of those things. None of us had ever done the miler before so we were unsure of the times to get between checkpoints. We now know not to use Pole 333 as a checkpoint; that's what caused the timing problems. Live and learn!

Another important thing, to check my feet as soon as there is a problem! I took my socks off at the finish line and I was right, my foot was a mess!! I ended up going to the doctor on Monday with a very swollen foot. I was put on antibiotics and had to take more time off work. It is much better now, but at least it forced me to have a week of complete rest. I practised my wine tasting and food testing skills instead!

The blister I ran/walked 60kms on. Ouch!

Shoes: La Sportiva Helios (I had planned to wear the Bushido’s after Harrietville, but didn’t make the change. I should have.)

Clothes: Skirts Sports: Redemption Capri’s and Jubilee Tee

Pack: Nathan Vapor Wrap

Sunglasses: Ryders: Apex

Lights: Ay-Ups. The new batteries are fantastic!! The ‘medium’ level beam is incredibly bright!

Electrolytes: Saltstick caps (through Everest Sports)

Accessories: Rocktape Kinesiology tape, Qoleum anti-friction cream through Everest Sports, Black Diamond trekking poles (from Bogong Equipment) Far End Gear ear phones

Socks: Injinji 2.0 Trail

Recovery: CW-X compression tights, OOfos reecovery thongs.

Monday
Nov172014

HEYSEN 105 RACE REPORT

 

As seems to be the case with all my races, I was quite nervous before this one. I have had a rough trot of it lately: in May I DNFed at TNF100 at 75k with injury. In September 2013 I DNFed Glasshouse 100miler at 42k with injury. The last time I had run 100k was May 2013 where I had finished TNF100 but slower than I wanted due to…you guessed it…injury!! So, I think I was understandably nervous.

The injury I have been battling for two years is in my quad: many a specialist visit has not satisfactorily solved the issue. The main thing that has worked for me has been my Masseur, Craig Lindsay, who is a magician!! His website is here. In spite of this, I still get some niggles from the leg and I can never be sure when that will be!

I did a quick warm-up before the race, then sat in the car with Darren Moony and Sadie Cranston waiting for the start. My stomach was making some really loud and strange gurgling noises Unbeknownst to me this was to be a portent of things to come!

The race started, and it was a nice steady pace. I chatted with a few people, but then my stomach really started to hurt. There wasn’t much I could do, so I continued on.

The start of the race!

 

 

It was a beautiful day; the sun was shining and the scenery was glorious. Another thing I am always nervous of is getting lost on a course. This was not a problem as the course was fantastically marked; a real credit to Ben and his crew of volunteers.

So far my leg had not given me any issues whatsoever; I was rapt! The only problem was my stomach was not improving. At CP2, where the brilliant Barry and Bev McBride were crewing for me, I stocked up on supplies, but I could see that I hadn’t consumed anywhere near the nutrition I should have.

It was starting to heat up, but it certainly wasn’t unbearable.  A lot of this course runs through farmlands. I found this quite difficult as the ground is uneven, so what looks like an easy run from a distance is quite tricky. This all adds to the difficulty and the challenge of this course, which is always a good thing!

Coming up to CP3, I hadn’t been able to eat from about 50ks and I had taken about lots of Imodium and Buscopan already, with no positive results!

After CP3, there were some more pastures, then we cut through some large fields with huge bales of hay. It was amazing scenery! I certainly don’t run on courses like this in Melbourne; that’s what I love about running in new places!! We cut through the fields, then went back into cow pastures. I ran towards a group of cows. They ran away, except for one. It stood its ground and started snorting at me, then headed towards me. It got really close!! I was actually quite afraid! I stopped running and walked really slowly (always looking for an excuse to walk!!) and put my head down so there was no chance of eye contact. It followed me for a while but stopped once I got far enough away from the herd. Phew!! Thank goodness that was over!!

After that, there was some nice single track for a while, albeit some of it sandy and hard going. This course was such a mixture of terrains, it really kept you guessing! I think that’s why I enjoyed it so much!

At CP4, the thought of trying to eat food again was too much for me, so I grabbed some lollies and fantales. I continued on but by that stage my stomach was so sore it even hurt to run downhill. I felt weak in general from lack of nutrition too. But on the positive side, my leg hadn’t hurt a bit!!

I just kept pushing along, and I have to admit I was feeling pretty miserable and sorry for myself. Barry and Bev and their son popped up in lots of different places, which helped to make me keep a happy face. I figured they were going to all this effort for me, the least I could do was smile!

The finish line finally appeared and it was a welcome sight! I was the third woman home in 12.24. Although I would have like to have finished the race faster, as was my aim, I was just happy to have finished!! After two DNFs, there was no way I was DNFing again!! I was proud of myself for keeping on going when my stomach went south on me. At the end of the day, you have to be happy with the effort you put in, no matter what the result!

Thanks so much to Ben Hockings for inviting me to be Race Ambassador. I had an absolutely fantastic time. Everyone I met was so friendly and welcoming, and the course itself was brilliant. Lots to see and lots of challenges. I would love to do it again and recommend it highly to everyone! Make the effort and get over to SA, they have some great trails!

All three placegetters!

 

Shoes: La Sportiva Helios (my most favourite shoes ever!!)

Clothes: Skirts Sports: Jette skirt and Jubilee Tee

Socks: Injinji 2.0 Trail

Pack: Nathan Vapor Wrap

Sunglasses: Ryders: Tempo

Electrolytes: Saltstick caps (through Everest Sports)

Accessories: Rocktape Kinesiology tape, Qoleum anti-friction cream through Everest Sports, Oofos recovery thongs, CW-X StabilyX tight.

 

Tuesday
Sep092014

Heysen 105

 

Well, I went to Adelaide on the last weekend in August. I had the best time! The people in Adelaide are so friendly, and the trails are fantastic! The trails are completely different to what I expected. I think I thought they would be similar to home, but the parts of the course I saw reminded me more of England!

I ran CP1 to CP2 with a group of the friendliest people you would ever want to meet! Here is a pic from just before we started. As you can see, the weather was stunning!

 

This part of the course included fire roads and single track, with some beautiful scenery. I am told it is one of the hillier parts of the race. The single track was great fun, but the fire roads were still great running. The course goes through some pastures, so you don't want to be scared of cows!! Here are some pics from the morning:

 

Here’s a picture of me wearing my new Jette skirt from Skirt Sports. It is my new favourite skirt, I absolutely love it!! Perfect for the summer weather that is coming!

 

 That afternoon, I had a look around at some more of the course with Paul Rogers. There were more hills, but nothing too steep. Lots of full sun, so I will need to be careful come race day!

 

 

 

 

In all, it was an absolutely fantastic weekend. The course looks brilliant, and I highly recommend the race to anyone. Not just for the course, but for the really friendly SA people you will meet. And I've heard the food at the aid stations is meant to be delicious!! Maurice, I still want that Brownie with peanut butter topping recipe!!!

You can enter the race here.

Monday
Aug112014

Injinji

 I love my Injinji socks, they are so comfortable and could not go back to ordinary socks when I run. I was pretty excited to see that my photo was being used to promote Injinji on a poster at the Outdoor Retailer Show in America!

Sunday
Jun152014

Outdoor Research Helium II waterproof jacket.

I got a hold of this fantastic jacket to use as part of mandatory kit for the Buffalo Stampede. Of course, with most ultras these days having a kit requirement, I knew it would be good for all my races! I have previously used a waterproof jacket that I picked up at an outdoor shop; it was the lightest and smallest I could find (but nothing compared to the Helium as you shall see!), but it was the best I could get at the time.

How different the Helium is!! Here are the specs:

  • ·         Stuff pocket w/ webbing loop
  • ·         Ultralight, waterproof and breathable
  • ·         Hood brim to keep rain off your face
  • ·         Zippered chest pocket
  • ·         Weighs only approximately 165grams (depending on size of jacket)
  • ·         Adjustable hood
  • ·         Fully seam taped

 

So, it ticks all the boxes for what the organisers of races wants, but what I want is a jacket that is light and small!! This really counts when you have to carry a full kit, as so many races do these days! Well, here is the proof. This is a picture of the jacket before folding.

Next is the jacket after I stuffed it into its own pocket.

Next, here is the jacket after I have done my usual compressing involving stuffing into a thin plastic freezer bag, then pulling it tightly with electrical tape:

This next picture shows it compared to the jacket I had been using before. Big difference!!

Now, even though it is lightweight, when you put it on it doesn’t feel flimsy. The cuffs are secure and there is a single drawcord hem adjustment to keep the wind out.  It is loose enough to fit a couple of layers underneath, but not loose and baggy.

I recommend this jacket if you are racing and need light mandatory kit. However, I recommend it even if you are not! It is a comfortable jacket that keeps the wind and the rain out without being a hassle to take on the run with you. Find it here at Bogong Equipment.

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