Surviving Northburn.

So, you have decided to run Northburn. Oh dear.

 

I’m on the phone 50km in, crying. I want out. A windy wet poo broke my resolve, it went everywhere. From then on, I was done. Nothing short of a decontamination unit could make me go on, I was 5 hours from the base though, so I probably could have, I had to get back down.

 

My disastrous (not really, just sick and should not have started!) run can hopefully give me a chance to tell you some odd bits for tackling this hell of a race.

I hope this helps!

LOGISTICS- X-Brisbane a direct flight is a really good idea, fly into Queenstown not Dunedin. On the website it sounds as if someone will be able to pick you up or give you a lift and a hire car is not needed. I tried this and No, you should hire a car.

The airport is slow and getting out of it  super slow so allow LOTS of time to get to Cromwell. QANTAS has a flight that gets you there on a Friday arvo but it is touch and go, if you book it, you’ll have to accept a little stress getting to the race briefing on time. Let Terry the RD know, he’ll look out for you. He is a true champion. It does mean you avoid waiting in a line for gear checks Friday arvo. A big plus.

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Terry the RD, could talk underwater with a bag on his head.

You can not bring honey based gels into the country or ‘food’ so they say…..

Remember the time difference, it means race day is like a 3am start, that is not to be underestimated.

Coming back do what ever the hell you like but remember the race is long and you’ll be finishing early Sunday in the dark if you are FAST (100km). A Sunday night/late afternoon flight would be Ok. For the Miler it’s Monday, Mandatory.

HOTEL- Nothing flash needed (or available). You wont be in it. You’ll be walking on the side of a mountain. Cromwell has a bevy of similar priced nice little hotels. I stayed in the Colonial Manor and it was just fine. It is about 10 minutes drive to the start line from Cromwell. There is a Woolies (equivalent) very near by to get food.

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Colonial Manor, recommended!

PHONE- there is great coverage on the course, you are fine 90% of the time, it’s just expensive, almost worth buying an NZ SIM at the airport, seriously! You might be using it as a tracker for the Yacht-Bot guys, so it will need an extra battery/USB power for one leg. I owe them $20 too…….. I’ll be back in 2018.

THE COURSE- You know it is hard, it is but it’s REALLY HARD. Get your head around the idea of doing 3km/hr for some of it, hours of it. I took just under 10 hrs to do 50km. I was off in the bushes a lot but still it is slow going. You just have to keep moving. As I say, it is all mental. You can not go fast, it’s too steep or no path at all, or you are scrambling over a rock or leaning into 100km/hr winds…..

 

Special things are unique to the race, the evil spiky plant they mention, it’s real and you will be cut. Tough gaiters will help a little. The water points are well spaced but you are very alone so FILL UP, natural water is available too but you can get caught out. It is 10-8km from the end of loop one say, but that will take 3 hours and it’s hot in the Loop of Deception. Which looks like nothing but is a HELL HOLE of steep rocky madness that is so close to home but takes hours in the afternoon sun, well over 30 degrees. This is all after a sub 10 degrees rainy, windy, foggy ascent.

The weather is diabolical. Prepare for everything. You will experience it. See above. It can also be very dusty with fly like things about.

After the start there are no toilets until you get back. Deal with this carefully. Gloves, wipes, you name it, I came undone here, it was vile. There are no trees, just rocks to go behind. They may be a few hundred meters away, you have a choice. Remember the wind up top, this might blow things about……

Did I mention it is windy? Steep? Rough? Lonely?

The saying you do not race it, you survive it is so true. No other race has the same potential to test your ego. You have to just accept it is long and slow. You survive.

I did not go into the night but I can imagine this would be hard work. Cold will seep in and there is no body about. So prepare for that kind of loneliness and glacial progress mentally.

The course is very very well marked. The Start/Finish is well provisioned. Your crew can not do much at all other than a very vital pep talk and clean up at 1/2 way. Some pay a few bucks to go up to the TW check point (near the top of the mountain, it is the main night and loop 2, 3 check point) but that is not easy, you can try.

You will need to carry food for 50km as a start and then what you need to get to TW on loop two. This is just how it is. 10-12 hrs worth of food plus clothes…..

You’ll need cold weather and wet weather cloths with spares. A set at the start and a set for TW. Even if it is dry you can get cold.  People get pulled out due to cold.

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Spanglers…… sharp fuckers I tell you.

I could go through the course re what to expect but it’s impossible really. It’s not easy to convey. The climbs are very long and there is no path for much of it. This is a big feature of Loop 1, the so called ‘fence line’. It is rather long but you are fresh then.

GEAR- shoes are a big topic, all I can say is a rock plate and toe bumper will help. Poles are a personal choice, I do not use them. Most do but you can finish with or without.

TRAINING- It is a bit late really but any advice can help. You need to be strong as in, have done strength training. Its hard work hiking up a very steep hill and you do have to carry a bit of gear. Some scrambling is in there too. LOTS of stiles to cross at fences, this is important to know as they test you once tired.

You run some of the way for sure but you can already run, can you hike? It would be good to do one long all nighter or late into the night run, just to be comfortable in the dark, alone.

I set up a Strava Club caller “Northburn Runners” with some info and stuff as well, join up and see what others are up to, if you dare!?

I trained very hard for me with the limits I have. I did some long long runs in prep and was ready physically. I am coached by Hanny Allston and even talked to Majell Backhausen about running the Miler but in the end only went 50km. I took a lot from it but ultimately was not well and that can happen. Loads of stress before going did not help.

Try to go into it as fresh as you can. Mentally as well. Listen to Dave Goggins talk to Rich Roll, you might just use that attitude at some point. It is not a shame to just walk it in.

FINISHING?- If you do, well done, it is a really big achievement but lots of people don’t. It’s a big effort just to go overseas and race, even in NZ. You’ll get a whole new appreciation for what is out there. I would love to do it again and know it’s on my list for 2018. The 100 is doable, you can even enjoy it a bit but the miler is another step again, the last loop is so so hard and long.

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This bit of metal would be very hard to get.

I’m not so sure if all this helps. I’m happy to answer any specific question if not answered here. The photos have some information on them too.

Ultimately you will find out something, yes, how fit you are but you already know that. How much do you want to finish and why are you doing it? Is it worth it? If you are sure of those things, nothing can stop you. Well, almost nothing!

 

The best of luck, aido.

 

 

 

2016…….  

 

three friends running the same race!

So, what are we doing this year and why??

Just three races, that’s it. A thing called The Northburn 100 in Otago, New Zealand, the UTA 100 come May and the CCC in August. I might be doing a night race later this week.

Why? Why do this? Obsession, boredom or fatalism? Self hate? I can not say for sure but I do know, that on the day I race, running,  then plodding headlong into the unknown, doing something outside normal, it conjures a feeling nothing else can manage. Maybe Sky divers get it too and can keep at it all day, I do not know.

Running ultras on trails takes time to prepare and patience to enjoy. It makes the rest of life easier too. You start using the same tools, doing what you can, trying to find what works, then sticking to and improving on a winning formula.

I am quite late to all this, I used to think I was a ‘lucky’, soul who did not really have to try at life, it just worked out. It wasn’t, I wasn’t.

Since doing these events and admittedly for a time before, getting other parts of my life in order,  I have started to do a little better. It’s making a difference. To me, anyway. My family might disagree.

So 2016, it’s only three races, 360 and a few km long with 20 500m + up, I think the same down? I hope the other side of life goes well for me, it’s the main contest.

5 days a week, every week.

.

I plan to keep this page a little more up to date and even do some retrospective gazing at what went right and wrong  in 2015. For my sake,  to be honest.

And I’m still wearing silly shoes/sandals 🙂 and maybe some sensible ones.

slightly silly party, Carson Zombie Racers.

 

TRAQ Hares and Hounds 2015. Hares, Hounds, Heat and Humidity.

It’s been a while, this happens when you are busy but also when there is not much to say.

But now, I have a few things to discuss, a new runners excuse and the moderation of minimalism.

Last Sunday I ran the Hares and Hounds trail ultra in the Glasshouse Mountains. I did this a year before and did very poorly. I did not do too much better this year. No injury or mental impairment can be blamed but a strange new excuse. A novel one I have not heard before, “My electrolyte bladder did not melt.”

Yep, I have new one, always able to find new ways to stuff up I came up with this beauty.

My two 2l bladders of Shotz electrolyte failed to melt. Why? I have no idea, I had it in an insulated sleeve and the drink was not coming at the rate I wanted. After half way, I gave up and added some ‘Maximus’ crap dad had on him to the bladder, which was still 1/2 ice and sucked on that. The damage was done though, I was a cripple, begging friendly runners for their dried spit to drink and eyeing off stagnant ponds as a good source of rejuvenation.

So listening to a Webinar/Podcast coach Hanny put on discussing Nutrition and Hydration earlier this week, I was ticking off the boxes, I did everything wrong. I lost a heap of fluid, salt and was not eating enough to function. I was miserable and demoralised.

At km 30 or so I stopped, filled up with the “Maximus’ dribble and ate 200g of dried apricots while walking. So, salt, glucose and water returning to the system I was off again and finished strong, though cramping and sore…..but had the special bonus  of my daughter running to the line with me and Lesley being there too. THAT was brilliant!

Gigi running to the finish with 'Cliff Young'.

Lessons learnt, this wont happen again. At least now I know what it is like to go a long way on next to nothing.

The race it’s self is an interesting one, it starts in the dark and ends in the midmorning heat. It is humid and hot with a million and one mozzies, tough is the word. I think as hares we are meant to outrun the hounds but the real threat to your soul is the heat. You have to beat the heat. I did not.

Classic Glasshouse trails.

Classic Glasshouse trails.

Still, 45 minutes faster than 2014 is not bad and I feel back to normal already (5 days later).

Much better look than last years desolation.....

Much better look than last years desolation…..

As for Minimalism and its virtues, I am still a big advocate. I have just found, rocks, roads and steps do not want to co-operate. We need some underfoot protection.

If confronted with a 10m stretch of rock garden, the minimalist fantasy is to delicately pick your way across and lithley come to the other side all smiles. The reality, is you tip toe and get sore feet, slowly! I have learnt that for trails you can run in shoes that allow you to just run across without a thought and suffer no pain. What is better??

So now I’m trying low drop, shoes or zero drop shoes with rock plates and some cushion. On the roads, coach Hanny has me wearing a mix of cushioned and non-cushioned, 9mm drop to zero drop shoes. I am better for the mix up. I think rotating through a range of shoes with variable shapes makes sense, plus I usually do what I am told. Luna sandals are worn for all dog jogs, and casual outings. The feet need to stay strong!

So that’s it for now. Adios until next time, aido.

TRAQ Flinder’s Tour, Glasshouse Mountains 2014.

Another Sunday and another fun day out.

Off up Mt Beerburrum.

Off up Mt Beerburrum.

I was not going to do this race, I wanted to but had done the Gold Coast Marathon 3 weeks before the start and thought I was asking too much. Then a chance encounter with a fellow TRAQ tragic and well, I became enthused. I asked the support crew and yep, I was in! I entered via my iPhone at the local sushi restaurant, 4G is a marvellous thing.

So, a week out, I entered, 2 weeks post cold/flu Marathon failure and my Guru Mike had a back keeping him off the trails. Coach Hanny was away, in Bulgaria helping kids with bad hair and acne follow the map and run hard for Australia at the Junior World Orienteering Champs. I also had no Amaze Balls or Shots bars left, I thought I did but no. Hmmmm, no coach, no race food, no preparation and no idea re the course. Prequel for disaster??

Fortunately not. I managed to find out we climbed a mountain at the start, good to know, I scrounged some older gels together and looked at my shoe pile. This takes time, I have way too many. I decided to go minimal. Very minimal, Skora Cores, these have no midsole, are zero drop, have about 11mm of rubber/insole etc to protect you and a floppy upper made from well-bred goats. No lugs, No rock plate and no toe bumper. Should be fine. The Inov8 gimp vest was selected for its lack of space (other than for a  bladder, iPhone and some food), I even downloaded a playlist lasting 7 1/2 hours for the day. Joy Division, Morrissey and AC/DC. Sorted.

I knew Les and Gigi would not come up with me but we pretended they would until about 5am, once I was dressed and ready to go. I hoped they would come up later. A non-starting car in the garage might hinder them though?

Now the race, it was inspiring, the course, the atmosphere, the friendly fellow runners, all were terrific. We had to enjoy the day, a stark reminder, a sad reminder a terrible reminder of human frailty had all of us wiping tears from our eyes before the gun, as Ian gave an emotional speech commemorating the death of Roger Guard. His son, bravely added a few words and offered to run the first stage with us. Nobody was going to take this run for granted.

Poor balance.

Poor balance.

The run up Mt Beerburrum was truncated a bit and easier than I feared, we then went out over its Eastern shoulder in a loop of beautiful single track. It was dripping rain from the trees and the views were magnificent. An encounter with a slippy rock section made me cautious. I met a group of guys who kept me well entertained for another 10kms. Sil (from near Rockhampton) was with me too so, that made about 6 of us. It was great. Silvia grew up in Holland and it was a rough time for her with the MH17 disaster very raw and ugly.

Eventually, checkpoints, toilet stops and tiredness split us all up and it was over the gap between ‘The Twins’. A lucky deviation from the original plan, it was a great bit of track with some vertical, some technical and some almost me horizontal challenges. Then down to the Glasshouse staple forest trails. This time punctuated with muddy pools and tricky bridges. Soon enough 25km runners were coming the other way and we were treated to some humiliation as they sped towards us. For the first time ever Jodie Obourne was doing a shorter distance than me!

Plodding through the single track with Sil.

Plodding through the single track with Sil.

After the school and a weigh in, we did it all again. Sort of, just in different directions and with 30km in our legs. I had a goal, under 6 hours and ran to that. My last outing on these trails was a disaster and I wanted an attainable target. I managed this with a wee wobble towards the end. Maybe 4km of survival mode on the nice single track, that now felt steep and rough. The shoes were just fine, a few rocky spots gave me grief mind.

I crossed the line with 4 minutes to spare, feeling tired but good. Les and Gigi had made it to the finish and we enjoyed a burger before heading home.

This was a really nice day out, the run, the company, my family and the enjoyable course all came together. I found out you don’t need months of planning, just a desire to go and run. Some of us can’t because of injury, or worse, some of us have our lives taken away in an incomprehensible moment. If running slowly, long distances in beautiful bushland is your thing, well there is a lot to be thankful for that we can.

Thank you Ian and all the other TRAQ crew, the potatoes were excellent. I also think the ladies at the ‘Tuck-Shop’ were stars. Thank you Lesley and Gigi for coming to join me, I am truly blessed. Thank you to Bec Frendo for inspiring me to go and do what I enjoy so much! I can’t wait for my next chance to go run in the bush, slowly…..

Runners Kitchen- Ultra Fuel!

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During The North Face 100 I ate a heap of Amaze Balls and wish I had more. I am sure the enormous quantity of gels I sucked down made life hard towards the ‘rear end’ of the race.

I think eating real food as long as you can is the way to go, then once your gut shuts down, it’s time for liquids and gels.

This week-end I have a 53km trail race and will be eating my final supply of these suckers before ordering more. They are like Nanna’s Rum Balls, minus the Rum…..

Check them out here.

The Gold Coast Marathon 2014 – Race Report.

I have never written about a road race. They are flat, we all know where they go, what is there to say?

Well, this is a BIG race, thousands show up, it is always won in a sub 2-10 time. Top Kenyans come to win it. It was the Australian Marathon Championship this year. IAAF also give it the top rating as a Gold event.

What does all this mean? It is huge, over 10 000 runners. It is flat, fast and cool. You run along the surf beach through the  iconic the Gold Coast, Main beach, Surfers, Boroadbeach and beyond. It has COLOSSAL crowds and people come from all over the world to compete.

For me this was an extra, an add-on, I did it because I could. An aim to raise money for a charity MND and Me put me on the start line. You know I run a lot, 100km being my last outing. I have run the 42.2 distance on road officially 4 times now. I have done it off-road and in training more than I dare say. This led me to forget/think I could do this easy. Stupid, stupid me.

Mike (my running guru) and I had a goal, beat George W Bush. 3 hrs 44.51. I reckoned I could do it. 6 weeks post The North Face 100 and with a week off, Coach Hanny gave me a 4 week program and a taper. She was up beat but admitted my prep was compromised, she likes 3 months to do this sort of thing. My trail running friends were still in recovery mode and I was doing sub 4 min interval work…….

All went pretty well, I did the quality sessions and my speed was picking up. I had not achieved so many Strava badges in ages. My total distance and time dropped a LOT. Soon a cool orange Motor Neurone Disease and Me singlet/cap/top arrived and donations were rolling in. I was excited.

Now the excuses start, I got sick, a cold, Lesley was also busy getting ready for a trip away. Work was flat-out. So no taper, no running for a week, just Codral Cold and Flu for 5 days and no sleep. We also forgot to book our hotel and ended up paying through the nose to be at Versace…small pain!

I am a dab hand at race day now. I sleep well and know what I feel like. I did turn up at South Bank a week late and had to go down the coast to get my number though……. My daughter and I had a great time at the race expo and I even got out of there without paying to park!

I like staying on the Spit, as you catch a boat to the start, its cold though. In the predawn gloom, Mike and I sat in a whale boat en route to a monster start with 15 000 others.

The plan was simple enough, start slow, stay slow then see. 5-15/km max. It was the same as last year. We always stuff this up. We should go much slower.. Anyway, Mike’s back was crook and I still sniffled, snuffed and coughed.

For starters we were fine, down the beach , along Hedges and to the turn around. Many many people cheered me on in the MND and Me colours. The elites coming the other way were frightening. Some looked near death, some were flying at a pace I can only go for 400m. Some had already pulled out. I did not see Solly Litchfield or Jodie Obourne, two female runners I follow but it is a big race!

Around half way Mike and I split up he dropped back a wee bit and I did not know, its easy in a crowd. With no one to cool my stupid head I pushed on for 10 km. This led me to the 30K mark and here I fall apart. As usual. This is not trail running, its relentless, steady and fast. I was ready for the falling ability though, expecting it! I slowed in order to avoid stopping, 5-15 to 6min kms and dragged myself through to the end.

MND and me supporters all along the way cheered and gave me a huge lift. I kept trying to remember who I was running for, people who can’t anymore! No chance of pulling out. I got to the end, walking a few drink stops and the low bridges got me to the finish.

The time was crap, 3-55.19 faster than last year but 10 minutes too slow. I have reasons but no excuses. It’s no good now complaining about a little cold! Road marathons are hard. Relentless speed is needed but they are over soon enough. Longer races make the sub 4 hour duration easier to digest but you can’t avoid the speed you have to keep up.

 

I ran in Mizuno Wave Universe 5’s, I used the 4’s in last years race. These are super light, 80 grams!!!! The lightest shoe in the world, I train in Skora but race in these, they are so light, thin and flexible but have a bit of cushion. It’s nice to have a race day shoe. 5km is the distance Mizuno suggest a person use them for…….hotel slippers offer a similar feel.

As per my cycling preference, a neck kerchief was in use, Runyon from the US now for me. Rapha silk is nice but after 10 years, I tried a new one!

We might have a go next year, though a desire to run the Grand Lavaredo in Italy come June 2015 could scupper that. Its 120km and way over 5k of vertical reaching 2700m plus I think I know what I prefer now.

 

 

Gold Coast Marathon 2014

A rather poor result for me. We raised over $1000 for Motor Neurone Disease though and that is great.

I thought 42.2 would be a doodle after 100km on the trails but it’s not. I feel worse today than after TNF 100!

Still learning, photos and a report to come.

My new work website will be up soon too. It has been stealing all my time.

 

AM

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