Thursday, 26 April 2012

Fone a Friend

I am at the pointing end to my training for TNF 100. The race is a bit over 3 weeks away so I am in the final stages of preparation. Just as a recap my campaign started in August 2011, some 37 weeks ago. It is certainly is a long time to be training and focussing on one event.
This week is my “last big week”. What exactly is a big week?
Before all of this craziness started, my big weeks consisted of about 60-65km of running. I ran 30km on a Saturday, 5km recovery on a Sunday, 10km of Speed Work Tuesday and 15km on Thursday. That was it. I had never run more than 68km in a single week, I also started to get injuries when I ran near 65km.
Now I don’t mean to use this blog to brag, but my big weeks now are in the range of 115km to 125km. This week will be my last 125km week before I taper.
Now before you all head out the door for double session days, 45km long runs, or triple Mt Archer summits there is a few key things that I have done to get me to this point.
1.    I went and spoke with Glenn from Vector Health. This is again a plug for the Strength and Stability program he put in place for me. Doing it solid for 16 weeks BUILT me a strong body to handle the kms, and it keeps my gait from deteriorating on those long runs when your body and mind are tired. I also complete a maintenance program to keep me tuned up.
2.   Slow down. I am training to COMPLETE a 100km Ultra Marathon. No speed work. Just lots and lots of steady km’s. I spent months not even worrying about how fast I was going, I was running for distance only. So for you that might be going up to 60-90 seconds per kilometer slower than what feels doable. This helped me build a huge aerobic base, it also taught me to enjoy the running. This is also a key running principal, you shouldnt increase both intensity and distance at the same time.
3.   Be consistant. By backing off the pace, it didnt matter that I was tired or fatigued, I just headed out for more miles. I kept logging them. Some runs were junk, others were awesome. Some weeks I ran doubles (two runs per day), other weeks I got up earlier and ran big mid week (25km), just to show my body I could. This was a change in perspective for me, no complaining, just do the work.

4.  Love Hills. Yep I used to hate hills. I run them now for fun. That includes double and tripple summits of Mt Archer. In one week I ran Mt Archer 5 times. I have worked hard on my hill form and also trying to have a really positive outlook of hill running, "I Love Hills" has became one of my favorite sayings.
The last point is to "Fone a Friend". That is I go and seek constructive feedback from people who will be honest with me. Here is a great visual example. These photos are exactly 12 months apart, Bel and my sister Monica think I look great in both of these photos. Thank god love is blind!

From one photo to the next I am 9kgs lighter. The top photo is King of the Mountain April 2011, 1 week prior to me running the Canberra Marathon. When I returned dissapointed with Canberra, Jason said "lose some weight". Enough said. I worked hard on dropping weight and this year have continued to lose more. The bottom photo is from last Sunday's King of the Mountain - 9kg lighter, I ran 9 minutes 10 seconds faster than my 2011 time!
Benny also has provided some good old honest feedback. You need to be running more - he said. Sounds silly - but in the past I was always trying to get by on running less. Mainly because I thought I was time poor. It was just an excuse. So I just invested more time to actually running and less time to sleeping in and dreaming about it!

Fone a Friend is also useful to gain positve feedback or to shape your weekly sessions. I have had a couple of rushes of blood and wanted to ramp up the training, Ben has said a couple of times "no need to do that - you are doing enough work". Which is reassuring. Pete has also been endless source of positive feedback - especially regarding the phases to my training and getting the right mix to my training.
The point of this blog is that I think you should regularly seek honest feedback to improve your running, it might be a visit to Glenn at Vector Health or a podiatrist like Anna to assess your gait, or just talk with a running coach or Fone a Friend about your goals and current training plan. By regularly assessing where you are at, you can identify keys to unlocking your running potential.
P.S - Speaking of last weeks King/Queen of the Mountain (which is a 7.3km race up Frenchville Rd &Pilbeam Drive with a 550m gain in elevation to the top of Mt Archer) - a big congrats to Jen Taylor for winning the womens event. Jen has not been well since running a Boston Qualifying time at Gold Coast last year - it was great to see her back running strong. She smashed it!

Thanks to the weather gods for the cooler weather finally today!


Thursday, 19 April 2012

Marathon Debut - "Run Trisha Run" Interview

This weeks blog is an interview of Trisha who ran her Marathon Debut at the Canberra Marathon last Sunday. Trisha is an absolute soldier when it comes to running, I never hear her complain about it being too hot, or too hard. Nothing ever seems to phase her, she always has a smile on her face - "living the dream".

Trisha is married to Cameron (Cam) has a son in year 1 Liam and is the owner of Mac Choice in Musgrave Street. She has an insanely BUSY life - and just ran her first Marathon! You will love her story!

How did you start running?

Bit of a long story!  I started running because Cam started running and going away to events without me, and I kind of felt "left out".  Cam's first event was the Bridge to Brisbane in 2009.  Cam went to the event with Craig McCormack, and I stayed in Rocky with Liam.  I heard all about it when they got home, and it sounded like they had so much fun!  Sounds awful, but I felt a bit jealous.    They began to talk about going again the following year, and I started to think that I would like to go as well … but I am not someone who can go to such things and sit on the sidelines and watch!  It took me until the beginning of the following year, but on New Years Day 2010 I made a New Years Resolution that I was going to start running and get fit enough to do the Bridge to Brisbane!  New Years Day I put on my walking shoes and headed down to the Frenchville Road path.  I was hoping there would not be too many people out walking because I was sure I would look like an idiot trying to run.  I started my run … got about 200 metres down the track and was puffing so much that I could hardly breathe!!  hmmmmm …. not as easy as I had imagined it might be!  BUT … anyone who knows me know that I am a very determined person and when I set my mind to something not much stands in the way :)  so every morning before work I got out of bed and headed for the path.  I would run about 200 metres and walk until I caught my breath, and then run until I couldn't breath again.  It really wasn't very long before I could run from home (behind Frenchville School) to the end of Frenchville Road.  AND in this time I didn't see a single person laugh at me!!  One day Penny Rawson, a good friend of ours, told me I should come along to Rocky Road Runners.  I told her that I couldn't possibly do that because I wasn't good enough.  Penny explained how RRR was for all levels of runners, and even walkers, and I decided that I would come along one evening and check it out.  I ran with the RRR group one Thursday evening and that was the beginning of something wonderful.  Soon after starting with Rocky Road Runners I entered my first 10KM race, and have been addicted ever since.  I think that I have entered every race that I could possible make it to since that day.  Sadly, Cameron was diagnosed with Chronic Heart Failure in 2010 and can no longer do anything more than go for a walk, but he has been on the sidelines, and at the finish line of every race that I have entered since my 2010 New Year Resolution.  That's got to be tough, and in my mind he is a far bigger champion than me.

 When did you start doing events?

I started doing events in 2010 after joining Rocky Road Runners.  Entering a running event would have been something I would never have even considered had it not been for the encouragement I received from the RRR group. A wonderful group of people who even though most of them were far better runners than me, always had time to give encouragement, advice, or even just have a chat.  

What race was it, and how did you go? (obviously a PB J )

My first race was Race 3 of the Harvey Norman Race Series 2010.  It was the 10K event at CQUniversity.  My time was 00:55:32.
I think I was more nervous at this little local race than I was at the start of the marathon :)

What is an average training week?

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday - approx 10Km in the morning before work.  Thursday - Rocky Road Runners evening run.  Saturday - 30-35Km morning run with Rocky Road Runners.  Sunday is normally a rest day, but if I am feeling good sometimes I run Mt Archer, and sometimes Liam & I go down to Frenchville Road path and I run alongside him while he rides his scooter :)

How do you fit it all in with a very busy life? What are some tips for other busy people?

I do most of my training early in the morning before Cam & Liam are out of bed.  For me it's the best time to run … it's cooler, I don't feel guilty because Cam & Liam are still asleep, and I don't run at night because I don't feel safe then.  In winter it's dark when I head out in the morning, so when I am running alone I stick to roads that are busy … lots of traffic, or people out walking - I feel safer that way.  I do have a really busy and often stressful life.  People often ask me how I fit training in with everything else.  I ask the question … how do you not?  If I miss a run in the morning the day is just not "right".  Running for me is not just about training for the next race … it's a selfish thing.  Running is "my time".  It's the time that I don't have a child, husband, customer, friend, anyone wanting anything of me.  It's the time when I am free to think … to dream … to just have time for me.

 When did you decide you were going to run a marathon?

In 2010 I ran the 10K at the Gold Coast.  2011 I entered the half marathon, and then went to the Gold Coast Marathon after-party with all of the other Rocky Road Runners.  Most of the RRR had done the full marathon, and I was listening to them all talk about their amazing marathon experience, and I knew that I wanted that too.  Before we came back to Rocky I had decided that I wanted to do Gold Coast Marathon 2012.

Why Canberra Marathon?

Gold Coast 2012 is the marathon that I REALLY want to do.  I decided to go to Canberra because I didn't want to get to Gold Coast and not succeed.  Canberra was a test run I suppose.  I wanted to know that I could go the distance, and know that I had done enough training.  

How has your training changed since you committed to running Canberra?

I just increased my distance from 5KM to 10KM in my morning run, and on Saturdays Kathryn Austin and I run from home to Degani's (rather than drive) and then run home after the Saturday group run to give us around 35KM as opposed to 20ish that we were doing pre-marathon training.

Did you have a time goal for the race, if you did, were you happy with your time?

I didn't really have a time goal for this race.  My PB for a half marathon is 1:52, and I figured I would be a bit slower in the marathon so I had decided I would be happy to finish under 4:30.  I was ecstatic to finish in 4:11:42!

Note: Trisha has smashed 5 of my 6 marathon times!

Can you remember any key moments in the race?

The first few KM I don't think I was concentrating on the race at all.  I was too busy taking in the beautiful scenery that is Canberra at this time of year.  The course was lined with trees that are all changing to Autumn colours.  The sky was cloudless and blue, and there were hot air balloons everywhere!  It was absolutely AMAZING, and a great distraction ;)

I feel a bit silly telling this, but you gotta be able to laugh at yourself.  I have NO sense of direction.  The race was half-marathon & marathon together.  I knew that at around the 15Km point the half-marathon competitors took a different course to the marathon.  I had studied the course map several times, but for the entire first 15Km I was worried that this point would not be marked clearly enough and I would take the wrong course!!  I kept checking the bibs of the people who were running beside me to make sure that they had marathon bibs on!  Of course when we got to the point where the course changed it was VERY clearly marked and there was a marshall there yelling and pointing "half-marathon turn here.  Marathon continue to the right".   Told myself I was a doofus, and made a mental note that in future I do not need to be concerned about marathon courses not being obvious :)

There was a tunnel that we had to run through 4 times during the 2nd & 3rd lap of the marathon.  I entered the tunnel on the return of the 3rd lap.  There was probably about 30 or so other runners in the tunnel.  One of the male runners ahead suddenly yelled at the top of his voice "AUSSIE! AUSSIE! AUSSIE!"  and everyone in the tunnel responded "OI! OI! OI!"  It was LOUD, and it echoed through the tunnel.  I'm sure everyone in the tunnel at that point had a stupid grin on their face.  It gave me goosebumps :)

How did you feel running across the last bridge heading for the finish?


What did it feel like to cross the finish line?

I don't know if that can be put into words!!  It's the best feeling EVER!  I felt super-excited, proud of myself, couldn't wipe the smile off my face :)
Cam & Liam were waiting at the finish line and I was really happy that they were there to see me finish.
I walked through to the recovery area and was thinking I can do ANYTHING if I work hard enough!

What was the hardest part of the marathon?

Definitely the 5K stretch from 35K to 40K!  The first 30K was a really easy run … I got into a pace that felt comfortable (around 5.5 minutes per KM) and I was cruising!  from 30 to 35 got a bit harder and I had to make myself focus.  35 to 40 was really tough!  I still felt good, but my legs were getting tired.  My pace slowed to 7+ minutes per KM.  I was trying to make myself run faster, but something wasn't making the connection between my brain and my legs because it just wasn't happening!  I knew at that point that I wasn't going to come in under 4 hours and started to feel a bit disappointed because I had been going so well, and then the voices of the Rocky Road Runners were there to help me through … "run your own race & enjoy yourself!".  I smiled to myself and continued on at 7-ish minute KM pace.  At 37KM one of the volunteers shouted out "come on marathoner!  You have a lazy 5 to go!".  At 40KM I started to feel all sorts of emotion & excitement … I knew that I had it in the bag! 

Now that you are one of the cool group, what are your goals for the rest of the year?

I have the Noosa Half Marathon on 6th May, Rocky River Run Half Marathon on 3rd June, and then the Gold Coast Marathon on 1st July.  Next year I want to do the Great Ocean Road Marathon.  What is my goal?  To keep running & get fitter & stronger.  What I would really like to do is run one marathon every year in a new place … what a great way to see Australia!

What do Cam and Liam think of the marathon experience?

Not sure if I am the one who should answer that. (go to "stuff")

Did you pick up any injuries during training, if you did, how did you deal with them?

Nothing bad.  When I increased my distance and started hill training I overdid it a bit and had some pain in my right leg for a few weeks.  I didn't want to stop running, so I just made sure i did lots of stretching before I ran - and I went for a massage once a week.  It was a bit painful, but never got any worse so I knew it was nothing serious.

I often see you running alone with an iPod, what do you listen to?

I find it really difficult to run in silence.  My music has changed a lot since I have started running longer.  I used to have an iPod full of anything that was 150BPM plus and played it really LOUD!  That worked well, and kept me motivated when I was just starting out and only running 5KM or so … but was a bit over-bearing for a long run.  On a long run I now listen to all kinds of music.  Sometimes I just fill the iPod from a random play list and have no idea what I am going to listen to.

What was the best piece of advice people gave you before the race?

Run your own race.  Don't worry about expectations that others have of you and the time they think you will be able to do it in.  Try not to get carried away in the excitement of the start and go out to hard in the beginning.  Make the most of the occasion and enjoy yourself … you only get to do your first marathon once :)

What would you say to others thinking about running a marathon?

Pick one … do the training & just do it!  It'll change your life :)

Winners are grinner's.

So Jason and I are in the "winners circle" this past weekend. Jason in his first time trial cycling event finished 5th overall and 2nd in the "B" Grade Time Trial on Saturday afternoon. Conditions were tough, so it was really impressive. Oh and his pancreas doesn't work.

My win came as I wrapped up the Frenchville Frogs Short Course Duathlon series on Sunday morning. Again it was windy, I hadnt been on the bike since the last race and was pushed to the end by Mike the old fox - lucky my running continues to improve and I banked plenty of time! I won a massive trophy, which my boys love! Its like winning Gold at the Olympics to them!

My sister Monica also smashed her 10km PB this week - she will definitely break 2hrs for the half marathon this year!

So what does this all mean for Trisha, Jason, Monica and I? We have a little phrase which has caught on, "hard work pays off". Ultimately there is not much luck when it comes to endurance sports, its no speed skating at the Winter Olympics waiting for people to fall the work, get the rewards.


Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Go Hard....Hurt and Hold

BEEEEP!!!!! My Garmin beeps. I struggle to hear it over the Foo Fighters pumping from my iPod. I feel the vibration up my arm I only have 1km to go....why did I think racing a 10k four days after an Ultra was a good idea....

Before I get to my race report from the Race for Ruan I'll explain what has transpired since the Ultra.
I have had a bit of a flat week. I was struck down with a cold, or "Man Flu" from Monday and was very tired and pretty sore. This was the first cold I have had since September so I have done pretty well considering all of the km's I have been running and my general reduction in overall sleep. In previous years I have normally been struck down with a cold either during taper weeks or the week following a marathon, plenty of science behind the reasons, but old school runners say it is a sign the body loves to run and not rest!

Also after reading Mats blog about going full on Vegan, I ate meat with every meal just to provide balance to the universe! I ate every meal like it was my last, lucky for me that my office is directly above the Kebab and Chinese takeaway shops at work. So I just ate what I felt like. It was pretty good to have a week off after being strict with the diet for the past few months.

I am pretty sure the full fat diet got me over my cold, well that's my justification, and by Thursday night I was starting to feel half normal again. I had a heap of extra sleep and skipped all of my recovery runs that I was planning on doing. Being sick forced me to rest, which was probably the best thing for me.

The last 2 years I have always missed out on running the Race for Ruan - not from being injured or anything, just from missing the race registration. The Gladstone Road Runners have the event capped at 350 runners so it fills up pretty quick and by the time I realise that it is on, the race is full! This year I got in early, and so had a nice low bib number - 19!

I roll out of bed early, its 3.50am I force myself to have something to eat and a coffee and drop through Gracemere to pick up Rodney and his neighbour Danielle who have also both registered for the 10k. The road to Gladstone is really busy with holiday makers (being Good Friday) and we pass a 3 car smash at Bajool - not good as someone is being loaded into the back of an ambulance.

We arrive at Gladstone and pick up our bibs and timing chips. There arent too many of the Rocky Road Runners here today, which is surprising as they have cleaned up the trophies in the past.

Michael is here - ready to rock and roll. It has been 12 months since we travelled to the Canberra Marathon together and our friendship has grown a lot since then. He is off to Canberra again next week he should finish top three here with a sub 40 min 10k.

The race precinct is nice and relaxed, the Gladstone Road Runners have a nice set up. I complete a couple of nervous trips to the toilet and have a gel about 30minutes before the race start. After a quick warm up, my legs feel really heavy, and it is obvious I havent fully recovered from the 50k on Sunday. I had hoped to run a faster 10k at this race, to get an idea of my progress and see where I am at. Today might not be that day though.

I spend a couple of minutes getting myself focussed. Be in the moment. Somehow I get Lightning McQueen in my head "Speed...I am SPEED"! Joel loves the Cars movie so that quote is really stuck in my head! Thinking of Sunday's dissapointment, I reasses my goal time from 45minutes to 47 minutes. I need to be realistic today. 47 minutes will still be a 10k PB time.

I plug the iPod in, turn the volume to a level that is a little above what is enjoyable and get ready to hurt for about 50 minutes. I haven't run a timed 10k race for 2 years, so I don't really have a race plan. As we gather on the start line, 30 Seconds from Mars "Closer to the Edge" is pumping through my ears - I can't hear the race instructions I just wait for Michael to start moving off the start line to know the race has started.....

Adrenaline is coming on, I run comfortably hard for the first km, BEEEEEP! 4.05 - WOW that was unexpected, my legs are feeling pretty good and I settle into a pace which I think I can hold for 10k. 2 runners come past, they are moving faster than I think I can hold so I just stick to doing my own thing.

Flo Rida "Good Feeling" comes on - the song tempo pushes me along and my pace is holding, my legs don't feel that bad - I am getting comfortable and we pass through the 2.5k aid station. As we start up a little sharp rise in the course, 2 runners come past. An older guy and the second placed female. I sit on her for about 500 meters but she is going to fast for me to hold.

As we head back through the 5km mark and the start/finish area to start our second lap, I realise I am on track to run very close to 45minutes if I can hold on. I do a quick check of my vitals...heart rate is good, legs feel good, breathing good, posture nice and tall, gait is strong, arms pumping. RIGHT this is it, 5km to go....time to see what this body can do.....

I am starting to hurt, I'm holding my pace and have bridged the gap with the second placed female in front of me. I see that she is looking behind to see where I am, on km seven I push on the 2 little hills, I push harder and really close the gap...we hit the aid station and start up the last hill. She really burns up the down hill - BEEEEP 2km to go......

I am really pumping now, I know I will be under 45minutes - I get a rush knowing that this will be a massive personal best for me...there is one last drink station with 1.5km to go, she passes around the corner in front of me, I know I have leg speed, if I can get close enough I can out sprint her.....

BEEEEEEP!!!!!!!! "The Pretender" is smashing my ears, Dave the lead singer from the Foo Fighters is screaming at me. I increase my pace I see her just ahead - I plan my attack, I decide to hold back and burn past with only 300m left, leaving her with no chance of a counter attack. BOOM! I just start sprinting, my Newton racers are a blur of fluro yellow as I quickly close the gap and fly past, she hadn't looked back for a couple of minutes and I catch her by surprise - I am really flying when I go past I use everything I have. My garmin is showing I am running at 3 minute pace, 200, 100, 50.....

I see the clock, I see it says 43.53, 43.54, 43.55 BOOM.

I am done.!

Officially I finish in 17th place, 13th in my age group with an offical time of 43.57. I am totally stunned and smashed. A massive personal best for me!

Michael finishes 3rd, 1st masters male 38.06, Rodney finishes 12th, 9th in our age group with 41.39 and Danielle also PBs with 51.44 11th in her age group.

On a weird note, the 2nd place female was in a negative mood at the end. I shook her hand and thanked her for pushing me to a new PB. Then she said something in a funny tone "oh I used to run 35 minutes before I had kids" I couldnt help myself and said to Rodney in a loud voice "not bad for us considering we ran a 50k Ultra on Sunday". I understand female runners hate males racing them, so feel a little bad becuse it wouldn't have matter who was in front, I just wanted to push and catch them. No disrespect intended on my behalf.

I didn't let her negativity take the gloss of my PB. I was zinging. Michael and Rodney we also pumped with new PBs. Feels good to be finally getting some results in a race!

So my running world has come full circle in one week! One moment I am near death wondering WTF am I doing the next I am tearing the legs off a PB and feeling like I am seeing results. One race was suffering the other satisfying.

Running, like life, has these moments; some which teach you to be humble and appreciate the air we breath, others which make us look to the stars and say "I am going there".

Run hard.


P.S Good luck to Trisha for her Marathon debut in Canberra this weekend. You will love it. Enjoy the journey!

I am also very excited to announce the CQPhysio Group have come on board as the naming rights sponsor for the Spring Classic - we are very excited to have them join in the fun again! Lock in September 16 for 4 races this year, 2km kids dash, 5km Walk/Run, 10km Run and 21.1km Half Marathon. Don't forget to go and "Like" HRE @

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

The Hurt Locker

I find that writing the "race" report blogs to be the most enjoyable and the easiest. I've had 2 weeks off from the blog and many things have happened, including a heap of gun triathletes racing a couple of weekends ago at Mooloolaba and Ironman Melbourne. There are many outstanding results including Scott Lawton's 3.23 Marathon off the back of a near elite bike time. Congrats to "Lawto” he is off to the big island of Kona in October for the Ironman World Champs – I have money on him having a faster marathon split than Lance Armstrong. Hard work pays off – Lawto is the best example of that.  

Let’s get to the most important part of what has happened since I last blogged - happy anniversary to my beautiful wife Bel. It must suck sometimes to be married to me. I am painfully focussed on this running journey, whilst she has no idea about the races or why I would want to spend 18 hours in the bush running 100km she never says no, never complains about me being missing on a Saturday mornings and never puts barriers up for my training and racing. As I said in my wedding speech 7 years ago, you are my rock and I am so very lucky destiny brought us together.

The race report for the Nerang 50km Ultra really starts with the road trip to the Gold Coast with Ben and Rodney. We had a pretty enjoyable trip down, a heap of laughs, 300 toilet stops due to all of us hydrating for the race and about 60 minutes lost waiting at road works. But when you are with friends the time doesn’t matter.

The funniest part of the whole trip is when the GPS delivers us to our motel at the Gold Coast. When I book race accommodation, it is usually really cheap and dodgy – we arrive at this palace of a motel on the Gold Coast with valet parking, the works. All of the cars out the front are Mercedes, Lexus' and BMW's – Benny’s green Magna looked a little of place. Rodney and I both asked were we in the right spot! The look on Ben’s face was priceless! Sure enough we were at the right place, Wotif had provided us with a bargain! The room didn’t disappoint, and the bed was the softest I have ever slept in! A good omen for the next day.

Nerang is a 50km Ultra Marathon run over 2x25km loops with a total elevation gain and loss of 1600 meters. There is a checkpoint and aid station at the 12.5/37.5km point. It looked bloody tough on the elevation profile, lots of undulating ups and downs; there was a hill on the course called “Heart Break Hill” it didn’t disappoint.

Race morning, we are up early getting sorted having a bit of a laugh. As we arrive at race, it is quiet, we meet up with Gav and Raelene, my sister has arrived to crew us and Luke is there ready for his first Ultra.

We grab some shots of H.U.R.T in our awesome jerseys, we look like the real deal today. Luke looks focussed, ready to really rip up his first Ultra. Benny, Gav and Raelene were the most relaxed, experience at this level shows. We all wish Raelene a happy birthday, then in a rather relaxed fashion the race director yells out “GO” and we are off!

The trail is quite steep for the first couple of k’s. Rodney is GONE, like a rocket – I sure hope he can hold that pace, Luke runs with Benny and I for the first k then puts his foot down also. Then he is GONE. Ben and I settle into a comfortable easy pace. My goal is to run the first 25km in 2.50 then run the second in 3.10 finishing in 6hours. It is a hotter than what I expected but we drink and keep on top of nutrition. Having a good time.

At about 6km we join a small group of runners all training for the Kokoda challenge, there are 4 of them so we end up forming a small pack all running together. We pass through the creek crossings, and the really tough climbs out of them. Heartbreak Hill is just that, a tough slow slog out of a creek crossing. I am feeling pretty good, not getting too carried away. I am drinking heaps and everything is going to plan.

As we hit the 11km mark and descend into the checkpoint, Luke is leading Rodney on the way back. WOW – the boys were really ripping it up. Smashing the course. By our count it puts them in 7th and 8th (I think). Luke is “doing a Rodney” dominating his first Ultra, just tearing the legs off it.

Ben and I hit the turn around and fill our bladders. I am starting to feel really good, today might be my day I think. As we trudge back up the hill to rejoin the trail I am staying on top of my hydration, getting stuck into it – I am thinking “yep I’m on track here”.

We rejoin the trail and our pace picks up a bit, I feel awesome we start picking up a few runners. We pass them easily, I am running really strong on the down hills, using a combination of oversized strides and fast feet to pick up speed. The second part of the loop is more downhill than up, Ben and I just keep reeling people in.

At no stage did I feel like we are going too quickly. We kept walking parts of the uphills, but on the downs we were just floating. Next minute we see Gav on the trail up ahead. We catch him after about 10 minutes. It is weird for me to be running side by side with Gav and Ben, both of who I respect enormously. Gav is taking it easier on the downhills; I decide to put the hammer down a bit more. We really start to pick the pace up. We are well on track to crack 2.50 at the turn around. Wow. Today is going to be my day.

The last 2km coming into the 25km aid station are some of the best running I have ever experienced, I felt so super fit and strong, we see Rodney on his way back up the trail. He is the 6th male – SHIT he is looking awesome. Luke is nowhere to be seen, we get to the aid station and Monica helps me fill my bladder quickly – I look over and Luke is still at the aid station he looks really sick. I try to block it out - I am feeling on top of the world and quickly get through the aid station and start walking back up the trail.

Today is going to be my day. I feel really in control. The day that everyone talks about, the moment when my efforts pay off in a race. My heart is racing a bit, from pushing for the past 12k and it is hotter than I expected, but I drink and sip half a cup of coke. I am walking when I could be running; I am on top of everything. Nutrition, hydration everything is going to plan.

I am talking to Ben, he is asking how I am going – I said really good. As we start to run a flat section I get a massive cramp in my left calf. No drama, I take some more electrolytes and drink some more water. We walk a bit more and Gav catches up to us again. Ben is doing a double check on me; Have I drunk enough? How am I feeling? Have some nutrition etc.

My cramps come on worse on the flats than on the down or up hills, it was weird. I start to get quiet, like I always do when things aren’t going well. Benny says “speak to me” – I say I am worried about the cramps and just feel out of energy. All of a sudden I’m feeling cooked.

It is hard to explain but over 30 minutes the wheels just fell off. I went from feeling like an elite to having the life sucked right out of me. I kept drinking and having fuel – but my lethargy kept getting worse. I keep drinking, which is good sign, better than where I was at Hares and Hounds. A heap of runners came past me, I knew then that I must of slowed really significantly.

We hit the 37.5km aid station. I was simply in survival mode. I don’t think I even thanked the volunteers, the door was opening to the Hurt Locker. The long slog back up the hill and by 38km I started to vomit.

Now I am not trying to glorify in anyway how sick I was. Ultra running for me was about finding my limits, here I was again – sick it was an all too familiar suffocatating feeling. This was going to be a long slow slog out of the bush. I am no hero. I don’t want to be sick. I want to be like all of the other normal people who go through these races with a smile on their face, not vomiting uncontrollably.

Then it gets worse. I vomit the most when we run small parts of the down hill. I have blanked most of it out, but I can still remember looking at my watch at 43km thinking “wow that’s another marathon done”.

Benny at this stage is being super up-beat, having him with me is like a security blanket. It’s like I can forget about looking after myself because he is there to make sure I don’t die. It’s stupid I know, but I really had a lot of comfort knowing he was there to look out for me. As a friend he is doing such an amazing job of babysitting me through the pain.

The suffering continues, its getting hotter. 12 noon passes by. It is a death march. I don’t know why but I want to quit so badly, yet want to finish even more than ever.

At the second last climb before I am off the mountain I quit Ultra Running. I hate Ultras. I am on my knees vomiting uncontrollably – maybe 10 times in a row. Ben comes over to check for blood in my vomit – there isnt any there so it’s all good. 2 mountain bike riders pass us on the trail – I wish I was riding my Big Red instead of running.

As we descend into the last km or so, Raelene passes us. She is looking fresh as shit, like she hasn’t raised her heart rate....could be a lesson there for me. Monica joins us on the trail and I am overcome with emotion. She is a legend, 8 hours on a Sunday waiting for me to finish a race no one could have a better sister.

I am in the Hurt Locker with the door shut. Suffering. How will I ever be able to run 100km at The North Face? Ben says quietly that we may need to talk on Monday about it. I think he thinks that I might need to bail. I am having second thoughts of my own. 7 hours 27minutes after we started we are finished.

The end of the race is a blur, I sit next to Rodney sobbing like a baby for 5 minutes. He has smashed it, 5th placed male and only just missed Ben's time from last year. Luke didn't finish. He was sick also and took the sensible decision to call it a day. Ralene and Gav look like they could do another lap. Experience shows.

Rather comically the showers are closed so we wash ourselves with a cold tap. I sort of go into shock, shivering uncontrollably. The next real thing I remember is starting to feel good about 6 hours and 500km later at Gin Gin. I must of slept/passed out whilst Ben and Rodney drove home.

Although it makes compelling reading I hate being in this situation where I am writing another race "failure" blog. For myself it probably is the hardest part of the journey. As you read this no doubt most of you will have the same questions:
What is wrong with your nutrition? What went wrong in your race? Will you be able to do The North Face? Are you scared of failing? Do you hate being the guy who trains awesome and races like shit?

Yes I have been thinking of this too. A lot. Like I said I quit Ultra running at km 48 the other day.

On Monday morning I wake up, I am at home with Bel and the boys. I am alive I look in the mirror and see a stripped down version of myself. The problem with trying to find your limits is sometimes you find them, I found mine Sunday.

In answering your questions in brief, I think I "raced" too hard and just cooked myself. Whilst being super fit and strong, I thought I could just put the hammer down. Well hammer down ended up with me being in a world of hurt. Lesson for The North Face - slow down! Take more walk breaks, grab some more photos, keep the heart rate down. Respect the distance. I am even more confident now of finishing The North Face. Suffering really has made me stronger.

I've been bouncing emails with Luke today, he too is doing his own soul searching. I hope we can stick with Ben at TNF, if we do - we will enjoy the adventure and finish with a buckle. If we don't, and we get carried away again we will end up in the Hurt Locker.


P.S Happy Birthday to Jason on Thursday - sorry the fun police wont let me buy you that Specialized Aero Helmet!