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

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