Tuesday, May 26, 2015

NorthFace100 2015 Race Report Part 2

At the Start line ,Scenic World
On the Board walk Scenic World , Pic by Jade Armstrong

The day begins . I had all my running gear set out , my Solomon pack and my nutrition made up the night before and the bladder filled . I had a charger for my mobile , my nurofen and lights , thermals and jacket .All in about 4kgs of water and nutrition and gear.

I had a piece of toast and butter and tea and then we all headed to Scenic World at 6am .We got there as the first wave started . It was still dark .There were 2000 runners waiting in excitement maybe with some trepidation of how the day was going to unfold. It was a big unknown for me .I think I did enough to get through and followed the program  pretty religiously . As in the last blog I had drawn a plan to aim for about 18hrs  and pace myself accordingly or as I felt.

The morning was cool but with my thermal top I felt fine. At 6.53 we were off .The first bit was a 4km loop along the road and back to Scenic world where we then start down Furber stairs. I lost everyone within the first 1-2 kms and the mood seemed upbeat with lots of runners talking. Two girls chatting alongside commented about how their friends thought how crazy they were to be doing Northface100 and now they were in a sea of crazy people. Soon the chatter would die down once we got to the golden stairs some 6-7 kms further . I just kept a steady pace and followed the runners in front of me as we all made our way down the stairs and track till we reached the bottom of Scenic World and the walkway. Saw Chris and Jade at the bottom briefly hence the picture and then we were back on the trail with trees all round and a single track with loose stones and roots . On a few occasions I nearly lost my footing so I was very alert at this stage . Within 50 minutes it was a crawl as everyone got over the Landslide that blocked the path some years ago I assume and that gave everyone a breather and a chance to look around take in the scenery ,chat and take pictures. We then continued on till the Golden stairs . Somewhere between a runner had injured his leg badly and as I started up the Golden stairs I saw the medics coming down to get to him . The climb up was a slow walk just staying with the person in front

Crossing the Landslide

The surrounding views

The Golden stairs were about a 1.5 km climb and it took several minutes of just putting one leg after the other as I kept pace with the group I was following. We then came out onto a car park and ran for a further 1km to check point 1(10.5 km). I filled my bladder and had a toilet stop so probably spent more than a few minutes at the stop. It was then onto check point 2 which was 31kms into the run. The first several kms were fire trails and there was some great views as I did stop to take some pictures. I also had some lose grit in my shoes so had to stop to get them out. I can't remember how far I had been running but I think at about the 20 km mark we came to the Tarros stairs and there was a queue to go down the ladders so I had a break and took pictures.

Fire trail after checkpoint 1

Tarros Stairs

After Tarros ladders the run was basically fire trails and track down and uphill till Check point 2 I don't remember much about check point 2 other than getting some water and chips and just continuing the run. I was still feeling good and I was trying to pace myself and walk anything remotely uphill. I knew there was still a long way to go. I chatted with some runners along the way when walking and at that point I was traveling  pretty well keeping to the pace and times needed for 18 hrs. At Dumphys I had already done 4.5 hrs.Still feeling good .

Coming out of Checkpoint 2

Ironpot Ridge

Aurora Photography pictures just before Checkpoint 3
The next stage as I recall was just single track and fire trails till we got to the top of Ironpot ridge and then we ran for about  1km ( the notes say 600m) along the ridge and then turned around and came back I was with a group of 3 runners and we kept meeting runners coming in the opposite direction and we were mindful that there was just a big drop either side. At the top of the granite outcrop was a didgeridoo player and that made a great scene . We then had a really steep descent down from the ridge and that went on for a few kms and then into open private farmland . I do recall there was quite a climb up to the top before we saw the large electric transmission tower and then headed down to a road called Megalong valley Road and then climbed over a stile and ran the last 1 km or so to checkpoint 3.Unfortunately I stumbled over a root and fell and cut my arm and bruised my right thigh . But fortunately it was nothing serious. I headed into checkpoint 3 (46km mark) relieved and there was Chris , Jade and Debbie  waiting . I grabbed my CP3 bag and changed my top , had some chips , a chocolate bar , a can of coconut juice , changed my socks and put some more Vaseline  and then headed off .Spent about 15 minutes I think which was longer than planned.

As I headed out I had been running for over 7 hours . I met one runner going back to CP3 because he had a bad knee and decided to call it a day. The rest of the run was fire trails and crossing a few creeks and then we hit the big climb on stairs which went for quite a while till we got to the top then followed a track though some forest and then some roads through to the Katoomba Sports and Aquatic Centre. The pace was slowing especially up the stairs although I did not stop . There was a few water features and the sound of falling water and the stairs were mostly wet and muddy . The first of many such muddy tracks. Once at the top it was much easier following the trail back down through the forest and then onto roads in Katoomba and back  into the Katoomba Sports and Aquatic Centre. I saw Chris and got my water bladder filled then had change of tops and changed my socks again , had some chips and soup and then headed out .Again I spent about 10 minutes . I was tiring but I left the Centre around 4.30- 4.40 pm and there was still fading light. 

Pictures from Aurora photography as I ran the last few kilometers before reaching CP4

Unfortunately from this point on I was tiring and whilst still running I had slowed. I made it along the edge of the Valley and along Cliff Top walk which was boardwalks along the edge  of the cliff still in the Town. I then ran along some roads and finally left the nice footpaths and boardwalks and dived into the muddy trail towards Leura. By now it was getting dark and I had started the run carrying my headlamp.I had it on now and heading along the trail towards Gordon Falls. I also put on my vest just after coming off the boardwalk. It was undulating muddy and difficult . Iwas mainly walking most of this and just tired and cold. I did try to keep taking my nutrition with 2 new 600ml bottles of Tailwind. I was falling behind on my nutrition although I did not feel hungry or tired just sore especially in the quads and the right thigh was aching . I came up to a group of runners and kept up with them for the most part . We eventually came to a grassy reserve at the top of some stairs which turned out to be a water point at the 66 km mark .The rest of the trail was a foggy memory of darkness and more muddy trails and at one point I accidentally switched my headlamp off and it was pitch black and no one in sight .The whole run was just a blur of muddy trails and the sound of water and trying not to slip . The forest could easily pass for a Twilight set or a Blair Witch movie scene.

The mind does play funny tricks .I did try to be positive and I was still making ground but slowly .Having left Katoomba at about 9.30 hours after the start of the run , I still had a bit of time to run the last 43 kms .I got pass the Gordon falls reserve around 11.5 hrs and was hopeful to get to check point 5 in 2 hours .Unfortunately , it took longer .I do recall coming out of the trail onto Kings Tableland Road with another runner Richard Poole .He was a tired as I was and we had passed an aurora photographer who indicated we only had about 4kms to go . The rest of the run was mainly on the side of the road and some grass paths and a long run along the side of the road with traffic coming in the opposite direction. I got to Checkpoint 5 pretty tired by now.

Aurora Photos of the run in the Darkness somewhere near Gordon Falls I think

Another change of my thermal top and top. I changed my Hokas and socks and put some vaseline . I should have put vaseline on my thighs and bum but in the rush didn't and got pretty bad chaffing . Even my back had a big piece of skin that was raw. I did managed to get a cup of tea, sit down and rest for a few minutes and had some crisp but in hindsight probably did not have enough food . I had only finished about 1 bottle of tail wind or 2.5 hours of nutrition in the 4.5 hours of running so I was down on the nutrition front.It was feeling cold and in hindsight again I should have worn my fleece .There was a sign as runners were leaving the checkpoint about high viz vest and fleece. I missed Chris who turned up at CP5  few minutes later and Michele was only 15 minutes behind me. At this point I was pretty much again by myself and walking much of the way as going downhill was hurting my quads and I did take some nurofen at each checkpoint but had dropped one and taken the last one at CP5 . It did help but just a little. I was feeling the cold now and shivering slightly . After about 7km into the run mainly downhill , Michelle caught up with me just as we both were heading for the creek crossing which was I think Jamison Creek .The trail was mainly large fire trails or roads . It was from this point on or soon after that we started climbing steeply and this went on for 7 plus kms and coming to the 91km emergency aid station .A short break and then climbing steeply again with dips down and climbs again till we reached the start of the Leura Forrest. Both of us were pretty tired by now and whilst it wasn't far , we were both just mentally over the whole run. I was pretty much just trying to get to the end. The trail for the next 4 kms were hard My Garmin had died and I had no idea of time or distance .This was the slowest part of the whole run. It was the walk of the Dead . Everyone was just dead tired. I was letting anyone who wanted to pass me to pass. I was going pretty slow and we were both happy to just keep moving forward. I now know how you finish a 100km run just one foot at a time. After scrambling over rocks and muddy footpaths for an hour (i think) we finally got to the foot of the Furber steps. That was the relief despite the next 980 steps we had to conquer. It was a slow climb mainly using my arms to haul myself. I was wheezing badly for the last 10kms with the cold air and just too tired to stop to take my ventolin puffer. It took us 28 minutes to get to the top  and Michelle and I just walked to the finish line.I was far too tired to run but just glad I finished.

I was too tired to cry or laugh or feel anything . The one sound byte you heard in the last 20kms from the runners was why am I doing this .Well a week after Northface the answer is because there is a race and we just want to see if we can do it. More so after the pain wears off  and in that quiet moment of reflecting on the race , it isn't really about the race , it is about all the training at King's Park , the runs in the hills , the friends I had the pleasure to train with . Ultimately , the race throws up both great result and disappointments , how we deal with them and move on really is the real lesson . Sometimes the greatest results come from not finishing or finishing where you wish but the strength you only learnt you had in failing the goal. I learnt from this experience whats needed for for the next race . There are lots I would do differently and as the saying of hardened ultra runners goes "the first 50kms is physical and the 2nd 50kms is mental " is partly true and  I am the wiser for having done the run. Did not quite finish in the planned 18hours but  immensely pleased I did the Northface100 particularly with my friends.

Crossing the line

Timing pointSpeedRankTime of dayRace time
952mScenic World- km/h -Sat. 06:5500:00:00
1025mNarrowneck6,16 km/h 812Sat. 08:3701:42:17
888mTarros Ladders- km/h ---
623mDunphys7,34 km/h 758Sat. 11:2404:29:57
788mIronpot Ridge4,58 km/h 707Sat. 12:0805:13:10
578m6 Foot Track6,32 km/h 714Sat. 13:59 / Sat. 14:1407:04:19
980mKatoomba Aquatic Centre5,65 km/h 703Sat. 16:11 / Sat. 16:2809:16:09
934mGordon Falls Reserve4,68 km/h 632Sat. 18:24 / Sat. 18:2611:29:06
841mQueen Victoria Hospital4,70 km/h 667Sat. 20:59 / Sat. 21:1914:04:33
606mSewage Treatment Works4,97 km/h 142Sun. 00:3717:42:06
802mBase Of Furber Steps3,30 km/h 663Sun. 02:0219:07:40
954mScenic World1,92 km/h 692Sun. 02:3019:35:51

NorthFace100 2015 Race Report Part 1

The North Face 100

The Bronze Belt Buckle
"Ultimately,ultra running is still a confrontation with self, a battle of you versus you and that spirit is still alive and will always thrive by virtue of the sport being so physically and mentally demanding."
Dean Karnazes

" If you start to feel good during an ultra, don’t worry, you’ll get over it."
Gene Thibeault

Like the race , Like any endurance race , the NorthFace had its ups and downs , literally and figuratively .It was my first ultra marathon. The two quotes pretty much sum up my feelings of the race and probably what most runners would have experienced in any ultra run . It was emotionally up and down , it was a battle within and eventually any feel good factor evaporated in the cold night air as the run progressed. Like the race this is going to be a long race report. It is what I call a mindless excruciating race and so is the report.I was in wave 6 , the last wave off at 6.53 am and I crossed the line 19hrs and 35minutes later at about 2.30 am . I can safely say , I had left everything out there at the end.

But like all races there is the start and getting there . After the mega planning that went into the training and the preparation I think I had covered all bases. I did find it a little harder preparing for such a race never having run an ultra. I had my gear for the back pack and nutrition and then 3 bags for 3 of the 5 checkpoints .All of which I had to organized fortunately with help from JD and those who had done the race before. In addition I had extra batteries for my headlight and chargers for my Iphone and even wireless headphones (which I never used) .

I left with the group from Boris fit (we trained together for the run) on Wednesday 13 May 2015 . It was the Jetstar red eye to Sydney and my luggage weighed in at an impressive 21kgs just in clothes , and the running gear and nutrition for the run.

Joining the advance party .Perth Airport 13 May 2015

The flight was uneventful and I did not manage much sleep .We all arrived at 6 am and were on our way out of Sydney by 7.20 am , heading for the town of Katoomba and the Blue Mountains . We had breakfast on the way up and got there by about 9 30am. It was then getting to the rental house where we hooked up with everyone who had arrived the day before and then to rental House 2 where I was staying. I had a wander around the Town and the fabulous lookout over theBlue Mountains with everyone else and we went to Scenic World , the start line of Northface 100. It was cool and the views were breathtaking to say the least and equally daunting when facing them for the first time . After a good walk round Scenic World , lunch and some Food shopping it was back to the house and sorting out all the gear.
Picture of the Blue Mountains from the lookout in the Town

The 3 Sisters (Meehni', 'Wimlah' and Gunnedoo')

The massive Jamison Valley below

Another view with Ironpot ridge on the other side of the valley

One of many Falls in the area
In the evening the whole group met for drinks and dinner at the RSL Club and adjoining Golden Dragon Chinese Restaurant. I was dead tired and had an early night . The next day , just a casual slow day of relaxing , we drove out to check point 3 to have a look and then had lunch in town before I went home and got the check point bags ready and my nutrition in 2 x 600ml bottles for each check point bag. At 4pm we all headed down to the registration for Northface at the Katoomba Christian Conference Centre. I had all my Check point bags with my nutrition and clothes and anything else I wanted in the bags. Got registered fairly quickly and no one really looked at the gear certificate and so I just got my T shirt and handed the bags in and then browsed around the expo. I didn't stay for the race briefing or the elite runners press conference.

The Expo and Registration

Borisfit Crew

The Expo and Pop-up NorthFace shop

Queue's everywhere at the registration
For dinner the night before the race , I stayed at the house and had eggs and bacon and then watched TV till late and headed to bed. I found it difficult to sleep but had a few hours of sleep and before you knew it it was 5 am and I was up getting ready for my first Ultra marathon .

The months of preparation or possibly the lack of were about to be tested like never before.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Week 18 Race Week

If there is a lesson in any ultra race it is preparation , training and learning from those who have gone before.The week before the race is one of minimal running , resting , preparation and not allowing the mind to run riot. if anything I believe in writing a schedule for my run and have goals and even start planning the recovery post race .

This week the only run is a short run of 30 minutes on Tuesday and I ran 5km at an easy pace and the then a massage on Wednesday and then a flight over to Sydney before a drive to Katoomba. Nothing else to do other than get the checkpoint bags ready .

The race plan is easy with help from Adam Connors (see his :Adam Connors blog on his race Plan  )

Start 6:55am (wave 6)
Based on last years run for those in the group , I expect a 2 hr time for the first leg.It will be slow with some queues I have been told .At CP1 just a short break to get more water
CP1 to CP2 (10.5 to 31km)
Again the unknown but the plan is to aim for a 2.47hr .At CP2 again get water and change my bottles of tailwind . Time of day hopefully will be about 11.42 am
CP2- CP3(31 to 46 km)
This section includes  Ironpot Ridge.
Split time 2:27
Race time  of day 2:09pm
Again change of tailwind bottles and more water 
CP3-CP4(48km to 57km)
From what I have read this will be hard and the body suffering.

Split time 1:46
time of day 3.55pm
CP4-CP5(57 to 78 km )
Probably the toughest section of the race according to all the race reports .
Split time 4 hours
time of day 8.15pm
At CP 4 major break of 20 minutes to change socks clothes if needed and have some hot food ,water and change tailwind bottles.
CP5- Leura Forrest ( 78 to 95.5km)
Goal to do this leg in 3.15 hrs with a 10 minute break at CP5
Total goal time 3.25hrs
Time of day : 11.40pm
Leura forrest to Finish (96.3km to 100km )
The last leg is just a slow walk up to the finish line going up the Furber stairs so I expect it will take more than hour.
Goal 1.08 to 1.15
Time of day : Approximate 1 am

Given it is my first ultra run and with altitude thrown in , this can all fall apart or go perfectly to plan .We will see on Saturday 16 May 2015.

The mental side of preparation

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

NorthFace100 Preparation List

Mandatory Gear NorthFace100

    Preparation includes making list and I have now compiled a short list taken from various websites and refined for my specific race . I have also found a good short article titled The complete guide to running your first ultra marathon by Jeremy Berger
     Northface100 tips
    Mandatory Gear for the NorthFace 100
  1. Running Pack: Salomon SLab 12 pack
  2. Long Sleeve Thermal Top and pants
  3. Waterproof Jacket with hood
  4. Beanie/Balaclava/Buff
  5. Full fingered lightweight gloves: Merino wool jobbies
  6. High Visibility Safety Vest:  
  7. Headlamp:
  8. Small backup Headlamp: LED Lenser P5R
  9. Mobile Phone: Whatever is in your pocket
  10. Compass
  11. Whistle: Part of pack, of just go into any outdoor shop and bag yourself one
  12. Emergency Space Blanket: Part of Salomon Slab 12l
  13. Compression Bandage
  14. FireLighter block 
    Supplied by the organisers as you never know when you might want to get that steak you’ve been saving in your backpack on the go for dinner
  15. Lightweight Dry Sack: Sea to Summit
  16. 2L water bladder: Hydrapak I have a 1.5l and 2 small flask
    The one in the Salomon backpack is only 1.5l. I use Hydrapaks, but again, much down to personal choice. Most generally do what they say they’re going to do, which is hold water and not leak.
  17. Waterproof Map Case
  18. OPTIONAL GEAR (Likely that you’ll need to stash this at CP4 and use it later on) Long Leg waterproof pants
     100 weight Long Sleeve fleece top :Take to race 

     Other Items for the race or traveling to Race destination including :

      1.  Travel documents / certificate for gear check /tickets etc
      2. Mobile phone & charger; back up power for run
      3. Vaseline
      4. Bandages/First Aid
      5. Duct tape
      6. Moist wipes, paper
      7. Headlamp extra set with chargeri will place in CP4
      8. Fresh batteries 
      9. Garmin watch
      10. Heart Rate Monitor
      11. Shoes
      12. Blister kit, plasters, adhesive promoter
      13. Drinks / food / nutrition for race
    1. Clothes
      1. Race ready Shorts
      2. Race ready Tights (or 2XU tights with pockets)
      3. Underwear
      4. Thin fleece/thermal top
      5. Cold gear tops
      6.  Wind Jacket
      7. Ultralight Waterproof Jacket
      8. Gloves
      9. Track mitts for warm trails
      10. Warm hat
      11. Arm warmers
      12. Socks (several pairs for change at check point)
      13. Bandana/buff
      14. Trash Bag for start or emergencies
    2. Take on race
      1. Take bottle(s) & drink on the hoof (or hydration pack)
      2. Pills to carry
      3. Hat
      4. Moist wipes - you just never know
      5. Gels
      6. Liquid / painkillers /Ibuprofen
      7. Blister kit
        • Scissors
        • Bandage
        • Hypodermic
      8. Anti acid
      9. Ibuprofen/anvil
      10. Salt
    3. Stayingfor several days
      1. clothes for sleeping /change
      2. toiletries
      3. pillow
    4. Miscellaneous
      1. Camera battery charger, charge battery
    5. Post run clothes /slipper
    6. recovery drink
      • Aim for 100-300 grams of protein 
Finally the Ten Commandants for Race Day by Peter Colagiuri and when the race is over the next most important Rule is Recovery and a Recovery Plan Recover Better: 10 Rules For Optimal Ultramarathon Recovery by Joe Uhan

Ultimately , I have prepared as best I can and I had fun doing it with a great group .

The destination is always the goal but you miss the point if you don't stick your head out of the window to enjoy the trip . (so says my dog )