The Dream – Surf Coast Century 100km

I find it difficult to summarise something that took so long to achieve. Nor do I feel the need to. Behind every major life event is the story of how it came about and how it was made possible, how it was achieved, and I felt the need to put this down in words so I can look back in the years to come and remember. Maybe this seems silly for something I will never ever forget, however, here it is in its entirety if you have the time to read it.

Prologue 

My 39 year sporting life summarised pre 100km attempt:

  • Grew up playing footy and basketball. Loved it. Knee issues killed my basketball aspirations.
  • In my early 20’s I began playing cricket as an opening fast bowler. Loved it.
  • Around the age of 30 I quit cricket to play golf. Got down to a 9 handicap. Loved it.
  • February 2013, soon after I turned 36,  I took the kids to a Spartan Kids race in Wonthaggi. Something sparked in me that day that I needed to get fit. I figured signing up to this event would be good motivation for me, so I did.
  • My first run in was 1.5km, it hurt. I slowly built up more and more and kept at it, finishing with around 600km for 2013.
  • My first ever run at Lysterfield was around May 2013.
  • My first half marathon at RollerCoasterRun was in March 2014.
  • Running a few events, none were more memorable than a team event at Surf Coast Century where I ran the first 21km leg alongside the crazy people doing the full 100km. It was scary, crazy, exhilarating. The tiniest of seeds was planted that day, but knowing how much 20km hurt me, I never thought I’d ever actually do the 100.
  • I encountered shin splints, calf issues, cramping, gut issues, hernias…
  • I finished with around 1500km in 2014, and we started the Lysterfield Trail Running Group in October 2014, aiming to replicate what the Surf Coast Trail Runners had achieved on the other side of Melbourne.
  • 2015 was a watershed year. I got to do Two Bays 28km for the first time, and I started to smash PB’s. I started to dream big and work harder, and achieved my first marathon at the Surf Coast Trail Marathon in June. I started to dream bigger, I attempted a 50km training run which was amazing but that broke me.
  • I spent 2 months not running with severe ITB pain and broken ribs from basketball, but still managed to clock over 1800km for the year.
  • Completely underdone but uninjured I decided to take the leap into ultra territory and upgraded my Two Bays experience in January 2016 to the 56km, and managed to somehow survive the heat dropping 4kgs but finishing in under 7 hours.
  • I started to plan some bigger runs around 50km. I began to believe what wasn’t possible might just be. I carefully planned some training runs with lots of elevation and focused on nutrition and hydration, and felt good at the end. I felt excited.
  • I finally signed up to the Surf Coast Century 100km, after so much debate and doubt, I convinced myself that come hell or high water I was committed to doing whatever it took to finish. I didn’t doubt it for a moment, then my ITB went again a month before the race.
  • I didn’t run for a week, then tried a 5km run, still no good. Shit. I was given the number of a local Myotherapist who was apparently very good. He was better than good. He was the best. I went from unable to run to completing the 100km without any injuries or painkillers, in the most unforgettable day. Today I still pinch myself that I did it.
  • Here is what happened on September 3rd, 2016:

 

SCC100km RACE REPORT

It is difficult to name everyone that encouraged me and supported me in this journey, who believed in me when I doubted myself. But I’ll try 🙂

It is such a big commitment, to run 100km. I sat and discussed this race entry with Nicole before I started, she agreed to help and support me and crew me, kind of critical to have your partner on board for such an emotionally invested journey.

We booked a house near the start line, and bestie Tanya agreed to come down with her kids as well and share the house; it was pretty exciting. Jess was also coming down to crew me the Saturday which was amazing, to have so much attention on me felt a little overwhelming, so I kept focusing and keeping things real.

I had prepared for this race like no other race, I had worksheets and estimated times, I had pages of crew instructions, I had boxes of contingencies for anything that might go wrong, I listened to anything anyone had to say about the race, crew, ultra running, tips and tricks.

I was ready.

FIRST LEG – Anglesea to Torquay

Incredible buzz at the start line at 5:30am, people everywhere, high fives, selfies, hugs, family. ONE HUNDRED KM… OMG….

I rocked up with my long sleeve top and wind proof jacket – but it was so warm I ditched these on the start line and went with the LTR shirt. Good choice.

The gun went off and I hobbled off slowly in the mid pack in no rush, soon enough found myself running next to Connie for a while which was great. I think she had to stop and put her jacket away, so I lost her. Soon after that I found myself running with Patrick Herft for a while, quite a nice touch, it was Patrick that introduced me to Lysterfield and was integral in getting me hooked on trails… anyone I was next too capped a full chin wag, “how amazing is this!” “checkout the views!” “Would you want to be anywhere else?!”

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Around 8km I ran into Dave who I ran with for maybe 4-5km until he ran off for a pee break under the cliffs. People were slipping and falling on the rocks left right and centre, I concentrated very hard on ensuring I chose the right path along the rocks, and put my foot in the right areas so as not to slip. I felt terrific on these sections, so much fun!

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It wasn’t until maybe the 17-18km mark I finally got my ankles wet in the ocean, “bugger” I thought, “might have to change shoes after all”. Running into the first aid station, I was a little too eager to move on, and was a little overawed with all the people around, I forgot to top my water up, I didn’t change my shoes, I didn’t get any food. Mistakes all round.

SECOND LEG – Torquay to Anglesea

The second leg was a little bit of a blur to be honest. After a few km of running along I started to feel a little fatigued and walked for a bit, when I realised the mistakes I made at the first Check Point. Damn, can’t do anything about it now.

I spent some time running with Paul Wilson, such a positive great guy, and always such img_266714231346_10154422407902789_1544025938129966545_oa bonus to have someone to run with.

 

 

David Sutherland flew past me (had no doubts he was heading to a great time), Trish Yates caught up and flew past me, Mark Ghirxi caught up and flew past me, I was ok with all that, I kept positive and tried to hang on and get going again. Then I felt a little twinge in my groin. Oh no I can’t cramp at 30km PLEASE no… without enough water or food, I resigned myself to walk to the next aid station, which thankfully arrived at the 32km mark. There the vollie unfortunately helped me to fill Hammer electrolytes into my water bladder (Faaaaaaaarrrrrrrk!!!!!), which meant I had to wash it out and refill it again by myself. So annoyed, I had to compose myself again, and relax into the rest of the long run. I grabbed bananas and some Vegemite sandwiches and took off again, walking for another km, getting a great boost of encouragement from Tanya and Jess who popped down to give me some much needed support.

I started to feel better and lifted the pace again to a shuffle, eventually catching Skye Meredith who was in for the 50km. Had a good run with her for ages which was nice, and helped so much. I was also caught at one stage by Nikki Wynd and David Eadie out for a casual 50km. That was nice touch, as Nikki had coached me for a good 3-4 months and really set the

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Nikki and David

foundations for me to achieve the 100km, I tacked along behind them as best I could for a bit, but not before seeing Nikki power hiking in her unique and effective style – arms straight by the sides, pumping furiously in line with her body on each stride. Hiking this way keeps the walking pace under 10 minutes per km, sometimes around 8 minutes per km if you really concentrate. I channelled this style many times during the rest of the day, meaning even when I was walking, I had a plan and a pace to stick to. Kept me focused.

40km onwards took FOREVER, finally I crept closer to the halfway mark. I called ahead on the phone to Nicole and Tanya, letting them know I needed new gels, replacement full bladder, new shoes and socks, I felt a blister on my toe I needed to get repaired, I needed food, and wanted a fresh shirt. Amazing crew, so vital to my race to have them there to help me!

At some point someone was running behind me “hey Chris, I think I know you, what’s your last name” lol, turned out to be Amanda Elissa, she works with Andre and I’ve seen her around before, we had a good chat for a while and again, was so nice to run with someone for a while to help pace me through to tick off the km’s.

At 48km I passed Richard Matison, he was in struggle town and I was genuinely concerned for him for the entire day to be honest, was SO pleased to see him finish, GUTS!  Not surprised though I’ve seen that grit and determination on a trail runners face before.

CHECK POINT 4 – ANGLESEA 49km

In what became known as my formulae one pit crew (minus the formulae one car), the grease and oil and tyre change, pep up and genuine positive vibes I got were absolutely invaluable for the rest of the race.

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Determination and Focus

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Best. Crew. Ever.

Nicole on the bladder change, Jess and Tanya doing the nastiest job and helping with the shoes and socks change, and applied Compede to some big blisters on my two big toes on the right foot. Maddi had a stop watch on and kept telling me how long we’d been sitting for, and she also ran off and brought me food. Jess was on the LTR top change and I had a fresh new bunch of gels put in the pack.

Alan and Doc were hanging around taking photo’s and being cool mates offering support and encouragement, and people around us were generally admiring what a functional crew I had. It was a good feeling, knowing how much people were behind me helping me achieve this thing. Very humbling.

THIRD LEG – Anglesea to Moggs Creek

So I was pushed out of the aid station in about 11 minutes, I was ready for the next 50km.img_2675img_2674 First up, the bridge of hell. Needing to crawl under a low bridge on my side for about 20 metres was not very pleasant, then I set to jogging along on my own and felt ok, then at 51km – maybe it was the food, or a general low after the high of the Checkpoint love, but I crashed. I tried to keep up the pace by walking fast, but I kept looking at my watch every minute and thinking “I’m stuffed”. I honestly felt at that point that I was done running, that the best I could hope for was to walk the next 50km, oh no, that’s another 9-10 hours… it got a little depressing.

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I kept trudging along and the km’s seemed to take forever to tick over. I ended up running with a few other guys for a bit, and I took A LOT of heart to see them running around my pace and hearing from them that they had done this before, made me feel good about this being my first 100km that I was in the company of others that had been there and done it before. About the 57km mark we were struggling along and a girl goes running past us around heartbreak hill, powers on too fast for me to even say “hey, wow!”. When people run past img_2678you at that pace straight away you look at their hydration pack expecting to see nothing, as the 100km runners all have an extra race bib on the back of the hydration pack to identify them. This girl had that red bib on. “Damn, how can someone running that strong have been behind me for so long?”. Using Nikki Wynd’s power hike style I smashed up heartbreak hill and soon after was ready to shuffle along again. Eventually we hit some nice single trails and I felt great again, some slight decent and I was running under 7 minute pace which was kind of quick when you’ve already run 60km.

At this pace I ended up catching the girl that flew past me, I ran with her for a while, OMG it helps SO MUCH to run with someone else and tune out mentally for a bit. Eventually she asked if I wanted to pass, “lord no please keep going you’re doing great, I’m just hanging on and trying to get going again!”. Turns out this awesome chick was Nicky Prior, 4 time SCC100 runner, I’ve been around the ultra scene long enough to know her name but I had never met her. What a time and place to meet someone, 60km into a 100km run. So on and off, she paced me img_2681and I paced her for a bit until we FINALLY reached the 70km aid station, I felt like I needed it so badly. Except I thought it was the major aid station (whoops) lol, dammit. I think Jacqui Cooper was volunteering here but I was too focused on red bull to say hi. I grabbed another amazing Vegemite sandwich and took off again to get to the long awaited 77km and final major check point. Again I think I ran a little on and off with Nicky here, I also had some really good splits where I knew ‘someone’ was behind me which spurred me on to hold the pace for a while, before they would eventually overtake me saying ‘wow man you’re running well for a 100km runner’, and it turned out they were just in a team doing one leg haha. Still, it gave me lots of confidence that not only did I look strong (that’s what they told me anyway!), I felt pretty strong too considering. My head was working and brains weren’t going to mush, my legs kept going, and importantly…no cramp. I was going to finish this thing I could feel it….

I was chatting to another fellow who’d done it before and advised that we had just one more climb before a nice long decent to the 77km aid station at Moggs Creek, that really encouraged me and I let it go with a 5:35m km, and I felt good heading in for the final change.

Seeing the crew there again was GREAT. I saw Nicole and Jess, Maddi ran over and starting to bring me food, Nicole filled the bladder, replaced the gels, Jess rubbed down the quads a bit, I was ready to smash out the last leg and bring it on home, I was pretty excited!14199287_10153922749609077_4899752292771954676_n
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FINAL LEG – MOGGS CREEK TO ANGLESEA

I took off from the last major check point and the climb up single trail began. I hiked it feeling tired again and waited for some energy to return, the thrill of 5 minutes ago when 23km seemed like nothing, once again seemed like an eternity. Got near the top of the climb and was feeling ok in a nice little trot when this massive POP sound rang out and echoed in the trees, I looked around, nothing, I checked my shoes as I thought I’d blown a hole in it by standing on a stick, nothing, couldn’t work it out. Then the pain hit me, the blister I carried with me from the 40km mark had had enough and popped at 78km, I felt it on every step. No way I was going to let that stop me so I focused through the pain, and luckily when the Compede blister medication strip was applied by Tanya she’d done a good job! It stayed in place despite the ooze, and only hurt until about 80km, then I was ok again.

20km to go and it felt so close and yet so so far. Run – walk – jog – hike, I kept moving forward. I ran with another awesome trail runner, Rosemary Catton, but as my pace was all over the place she’d take off when I walked then I’d run past her again, then we’d switch, but we paced each other for a bit, she was a self confessed one paced shuffler I had no chance keeping up!  We talked about the slim carrot dangling in front of us – that very slim but possible chance of making it under the magical 12 hour mark. I gave it up as I didn’t want to ruin the day killing myself to make a goal I never planned for – I hoped for 13 hours, and I was on target to beat that, so I was content to enjoy the last 10km as much as possible. I was just so grateful for every runner I shared km’s with.

The last aid station at 86km was great, running to see Nicole and the kids again, Jess there too taking pics, and Tanya a little further on, I felt like I was still running along ok. But oh that last 14km…. up to the lighthouse at Aireys Inlet, this was serious head down stuff now. Just get it done.

When i finally hit the beach at Urquarts Bluff the dreams of a possible 12 hour finish again reared its demonic head. “F**k it, let’s just have a dip” I said, I felt a 9th wind coming along and I just went for it and tried to hold on, my 92nd km was 5:46m pace, then 93rd km was 6:16m pace… I was doing it, I was a chance!  I was overtaking people at a rate of knots and they knew exactly what I was doing, having one last dip at sub 12….. “go for it good luck, go you good thing!” they cried, it was great… then the 94th km ticked over and boom, I copped the worst stitch ever, probably brought on by the quicker pace, but I didn’t expect it. “Quickly walk along, get rid of it, hurry up” I said to myself…. then 95th km came and went… I could not shake it, I literally couldn’t even break into a shuffle without having to stop, so I kept walking as fast as possible, surely it will go away in a minute… but it just didn’t go away!!  So that was ok, I was happy I gave it everything I had and I ended up having to walk 4km would you believe until I could run again. It gave me time to reflect on the achievement and really start to soak it up. The last few km was very hard, and the last stretch of beach leading to the finish line, was, maybe not surprisingly, quite emotional.

I ran along the beach my mind telling me a million things, I wiped a few stubborn tears and sobs away, and kept shuffling along, madly looking for my family and crew, who would be there to see me and share in this triumph, I just loved everyone and everything in this world at that moment. It was so very special, that even at the moment I was shuffling with tired feet to the finish line I would tell you in a heart beat I’d be back the next year.

Maddison looked me in the eye and “Dad you DID IT!” “I know honey, I know” Dad’s an ultra runner now. Gosh that made me proud. This is a favourite pic of us I found walking along after the race. I am one lucky father.14212687_10153924864209077_433337512315211559_n

I met Nicole for a quick sweaty kiss and grabbed the kids and up the finish chute we went to a rousing reception, across the line was hugs, shouts, hand shakes and fist pumps. It was just THE BEST feeling in the world, to have achieved something so huge, to set your mind and make a plan and execute it, I look back and think how extraordinary that was. To look down and see my legs still working in those final stages amazed me.

Quite startling to look back and compare my race plan to my actual results, it was almost spot on the entire 100km!!!

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Was it life changing?  I don’t know yet for certain, but I think so. I don’t shy away now I know I know I’m a bona fide ultra runner. I have a new found confidence in my ability to enter unchartered waters and come up trumps, to find a way through tough times, keep moving forward. The mental side of pushing through this race, and not once thinking “I need to pull out I can’t go on”, was significant for me. Sure I had several down periods where things got very dark and I felt it was going to take much much longer to finish than planned, but I stayed focused and pushed through those periods. The sky is no longer the limit, and I don’t know where this journey ends. Honestly, I don’t want to know, I don’t care, I’m enjoying ‘now’ way too much.

How ironic is it that when you finally reach what you believed was the end of an epic journey, only to realise that you are actually at the beginning of a new one.

It’s a beautiful realisation.

THANKS

Nicole – My rock. Wife, crew, best mate, supporter number 1, I have her back and she has mine, forever. It’s a comforting thought, I can do anything as she’s always in my corner. Love you babe!

Maddison, Cooper, Millie, Lacey – So proud of my kids, they are growing up just awesome, and their support is touching for their age, for any age, and I look forward to their ultra life journey in years to come whatever that entails.

The Crew

  • Tanya – Total bestie, not sure I can find the words for you, we always say we have no idea why we are even friends as we seem to be opposites in every way imaginable. But for as long as I’ve known you we have never let each other down, and we have an unbreakable bond and trust and friendship which I treasure greatly. Thanks for being you, was awesome to see our kids playing happily together all weekend. Never forget it.
  • Jess – Not sure you envisioned when we first met you and Jas at Joe and Geri’s engagement party that you’d be replacing my socks and treating blisters while I ran a 100km a year or so later!  Thanks for being part of the best crew SCC has seen in years, truly ultra amazingly awesomely cool crew indeed!

Friendship & Support

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It’s hard to think of everyone along the journey that helped this become a reality, but so many conversations take place along the way, so many tips, words of belief and encouragement that all mean so much to provide the impetus to keep going when things are difficult. Special thanks to these people, I’m sorry if you don’t get a mention coz I love yas all!!

Shane Winzar, sharing his worksheets and spreadsheets and guides that formed the basis of the plans for my entire run!

Bich Jennings, for the bravery and dedication and love helping me believe and getting it done herself, I was so happy to be there for your triumphant finish, you already know this but you are such a lucky girl to have so much love and support from your family and friends!  Lucky but well deserved!

Vanessa Hueser – Absolute warrior, your bravery inspired me greatly when you completed this event through all sorts of adversity in 2015, and was a large part in helping me believe in myself. And I believe in you mate, so much. Your running mates on the day, sensational, well done you fkn legends, don’t ever stop smiling sisters!

The messages of support I got in the week leading up to it – Dion Milne, Doc Morgan, Alan White, Regan Welburn, Shane Wheeler, Shane Dodman, Tony O’Connell, Lucinda and Steven Scott, John Everett, Matty Veenstra, Nick Cimdins, JB, David Lipman (critical in helping me nail nutrition!), Trish Yates, Nikki Wynd, Mathieu Dore, Joanne Maidment (what a story we did it!), Wayne Terrington, Nellie Awad, Michelle Harris, Leigh Whittle… lots more too…

All of the Lysterfield Trail Runners, AMAZING. Truly amazing people.

My family (parents and sisters) think I’m a little strange, but they did before I became an ultra runner 🙂 Thanks for your support too. To my parents who thought I was a little silly and irresponsible doing this, I still need to bring you down to one of these events to see how amazing and inspiring and uplifting it is to be surrounded by such positive humans.

 

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Surf Coast Century 100km – 2017 Race Report

So much happens over the course of 100km.

I don’t take for granted the enormity of the task to accomplish such a feat and I feel very fortunate to be able to participate in it and incredibly lucky to get the support I do from friends and family.  You may know that I started a 100km race on Saturday, and you may know that I completed that race. Here is what happened in between…

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Walking to the Start Line, such an inspiring sight even at 5:20am!

0km – 22km – Anglesea to Torquay

Start Line!

My crew!

Starting on the beach at 5:30am involved a 4am wake up to get the food into me that I required to get me up and going. Warm ups and stretches all done, Nicole, Maddi and Coops walked with me to the start line while the younger two stayed in bed getting much needed z’s before a big day of following their silly dad around the Surf Coast. A short walk from the house and we arrived with about 10 minutes to start time, enough time to hug a few fellow runners and get some photo’s with Nic and the kids before it was time to line up and shoot off into the dark.

After being held up with a few bottlenecks in 2016’s race I planned to go out harder in the first leg to avoid that happening again, but the surf was… well it was just vicious. I’m someone that struggles with blisters when I get wet feet as I like to wear two pairs of socks, knowing we would be wet throughout this run, I wore one pair of thin socks (Steigens) to help expel the water quickly. I also wore the thinner profile Hoka Speed Instincts on this leg for grip to maximise drainage. They both worked flawlessly.

I found myself running most of this leg with someone who I have so much respect for, and who’s goals were a hell of a lot loftier than mine, Adam Murphy. Constantly we came across a challenge, or waist deep water, or razor sharp rocks we needed to find a path through, or a cliff to climb up and over. But over and over I seemed to find my place right behind Adam and in parts I was feeling like this was a typical Sunday run. I planned to run this leg in 2 hours flat (2016 took me 2:10).

I was chatting to Murph about how arduous the conditions were with the surf and the constant need to get wet, and the going seemed really slow. I checked my watch and it said 6km, we both thought it felt like it should have said at least 10!  I mentioned it might be tough to reach that goal time of 2 hours on this leg, but we kept up a good tempo pace when we could and made up time on the much nicer to run on beach sections. I was thrilled with keeping pace with Murph and did not feel like I was working too hard to do it or I would have dropped right back. I was concentrating really hard on running as efficiently as possible, I knew what lay ahead and that for me, the 2nd leg would be a struggle.

At one point 50 metres ahead I saw Matty Veenstra disappear into the surf up to his chest before turning around giving a thumbs up and smiling, he just loves this tough stuff!  I promptly went on high alert and when I got to this section had a good look at where to step into the surf, edged around the cliff waist deep and was through it. I think this was maybe 17-18km in.

Once again I caught up with Murph and we ran this last section together, I knew this would be the last time I would see Murph for the day and I wanted to get in a few pics with the champ!  We finished this leg in 1 hour 58 minutes, I was thrilled to be on target and killing it!

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Following my tempo bitch Murph (jokes) into Check Point 2

22km – 49km – Torquay to Anglesea

Seeing my beautiful wife and kids there was great, I sat down and got to work replacing my shoes. Things were a bit hectic and unfortunately my love of Injinji Toe socks turned out to be a right little bitch. I ripped off my shoes and socks and washed the sand off my feet, but drying the toes and getting the fresh toe socks on with the new shoes turned out to be trickier than expected and I lost nearly 7 minutes in this first aid station, not much I could do about that. I pushed on, undoing a fair amount of good work I did in that first section. In hindsight, had I just replaced the socks with normal socks I probably would have been a km up the road by the time I left this aid station….

This longer check point delay was what caused Dave Sutherland and Byron Lester to catch me sooner than I expected (I did expect them to get me in Leg 2!). I ran with them both on and off, our timing wasn’t spot on so there was some tooing and frooing for a bit as I pushed feeling ok, but struggling a little bit.

I got a really unexpected surprise to see Nicole and the kids at the 32km aid station, or Check Point 3, which was a nice little boost when I was still feeling pretty good. When I kicked on from here with a little food in the guts I felt I should be happy and familiar with this part of the course due to Surf Coast Marathon – but I wasn’t. I started to slow down, it was a little early for doubts!!!  I wondered if I had gone too hard in the first leg – “NO this is your race plan, go execute it….” so I tried to keep a tempo going but just couldn’t push through and walked more sections than I’d like in parts. I was ok with it, I knew full well that even at 35km, we had so, so far still to run. I think I caught Dave at this section too, both at a low point and both saying the year of running big ultra’s had taken their toll, legs are heavy, that’s it I’m never doing another ultra again….. LOL gotta love those sections of the race!!

Things got pretty muddy and technical in some areas and at around 38km I was feeling a little lazy and lost concentration for a moment and did something I don’t usually do. I fell. Hard. It was like slow motion, I am usually pretty good, I’ll stub a foot or a toe but I’ll catch myself and manage to stay up – but being in a low patch, I tripped and that was it. I just went directly down on a hard patch of trail, smashed my right palm and landed full force on my left knee. Someone ran past me – I was still on all fours wondering what just happened and assessing for damage “yeah mate I’ll be right”. I wondered what damage I’d done for the whole race, “oh that’s it there you go, you fell over, great excuse, people will pat you on the back and say brilliant effort after that fall you had, don’t worry about the time…”. Took me a few km to stop feeling sorry for myself and realise that there was no bad damage done just a few scratches and a little bruise, I’d be fine, push on cup cake!

Eventually when I was in another down patch and had been walking for way too long, Byron Lester caught up to me. We chatted for a bit, he had knee issues, and I was in a dark spot. I thought we would talk each other up and out of the darkness, but suddenly Byron was just ‘done’. “Nup my knees gone I’m out, I’m pulling out, I’m finished.” I didn’t know what to say or do, I’d never been next to someone that decided that, but then I selfishly thought “crap, I need to get out of this slump, I need to leave Byron, he’s pulling out but I’m seeing this thing through, I have to get going again….”.  I felt bad leaving him behind, I said I just had to let him go, and for a minute I felt like Rose from Titanic when she let go of Jack’s hand at the end and saw him sinking to the bottom… Noooooooooo…. Jack….. Jaaaaaack I whispered as I ran away….. lol.

Unlike Jack, Byron’s a tough cookie and he’ll thaw out soon enough.

49km – Finally made it back to Anglesea. 

Getting to this aid station was a real focus, as it was for most runners I’m sure! I ran in wanting a good rub down and some decent food. Once again I let myself down here big time with a lack of planning, I spent 12 minutes in this aid station, maybe even a podium finish though for longest time in the check point!!  Still, I enjoyed my time with the kids, got a few pics of the kids and crew, ate some noodles, changed the shirt.

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I may have lessons I learn in a race, I may have changes I’d like to make – but make no mistake, I have no regrets about anything I do if I decide to to them. Even if I say I won’t do that again, I don’t regret doing it.

I felt ok, now to take on the bridge. Was lots of fun as we planned for Maddi and Coops to ran with me the 1km to the bridge to see me crawl under. I didn’t fit, I tried again, I didn’t fit “bloody hell this is low!”. I ended up side saddle and dragging myself through it. It’s seriously nuts having to do this halfway through running 100km, but it part of the charm of this event. Then took off, feeling in much better shape than 2016, knowing this leg was going to be a hard one – 50km to go.

Some lonely km’s were done here, and at some point in the 50’s I remember the counting technique to win the battle of the part of the mind that says walk, walk, walk, just walk, go easy, walk this bit…. I started to take my mind of things and just count. 1, 2, 3, 4….. through out this leg I managed to get to around 2,250 before I stopped. It helped. Heaps.

I kept walking the hills and running anything that was down, and trying to tick off some kind of pace on the flats. It kept me moving and I wasn’t unhappy with the pace – I don’t remember lots about this section on who I met of chatted to, as I was focusing so much on counting!!

70km > The Turning Point > to 77km.

Finally I heard the cow bells, I saw the people, the noise was there and I was excited and ready for food and drink, but not exhausted, and certainly ready for the next 30km. But I know the enormity of the task of knocking those kms off quickly.

Fantastically Maddi and Coops were waiting to run me into the aid station, and I felt excited and I felt good about it. Nicky Ogle was there volunteering was nice to see a friendly face volunteering at an aid station. I’m pretty sure I just said red bull red bull red bull and went straight to the food and to start my caffeine rush. 70km was my plan to start to smash into anything caffeinated.

As I drunk my red bull, Nicole handed me a strong coffee to follow it, I pushed that down too – I wanted a spark and I was going to get it. I’d done the maths. It was already over 8 hours of running, and I needed to complete the last 30km in less than 4 hours. I know that the family knew my goal time of sub 12…. I turned to Nicole and said quietly “honey….. I don’t think I can do this sub 12 hour. 30km in 4 hours…. I just don’t think it’s going to happen”.

She was very supportive and said that 100km is massive and it didn’t matter – in hindsight she probably should have given me a cup of concrete and told me to harden up and get on with getting it done. So basically, I had lost confidence in being able to achieve sub 12. Then entered Brett Tilley.

I saw Brett back at the 49km aid station, he came in a few minutes before I departed, and I thought I was doing well, and here was Brett in his first 100km smashing it!  I didn’t think much more of it until once again, at the 70km mark and only a few minutes behind me, in comes BT. Immediately I thought to myself ‘wow, we must be running REALLY similar race times. We must have walked the same hills and crashed in the same sections or he would have caught me by now”… and there he was smiling and pumped and eager to push on. “Brett!!” I yelled as he went to run out of the aid station “CJ!  We got this mate sub 12 lets go!” “Seriously mate? We have a lot of work to do to make that time!  But wait a sec (I sculled the rest of my red bull), if you think we have got this, I’m running with you buddy….. ok let’s go do this!”

And off we went, had a brief discussion about the job at hand, me being a glass half empty, and Brett just continued to pour me drinks till it was 3/4 full. It was only 7km to the 77km aid station, and together we enjoyed bombing down the single trails with some really nice trail to run.  Then we heard the bells ringing and Ali screaming, I looked at the watch, was about 75km – Geez Ali Moxham is loud today haha. There was some snaking around the windy tracks before pulling into the aid station at 77km. I went straight to the chair Nic prepared for me, gave Jamie Moxham a hug, even went back for img_6009.jpga selfie at the LTR flag. The caffeine was kicking in from 70km and I was high as a kite, especially with everyone there. Nicole and the kids helping me out with supplies, Dazza stepped up with the boss level massage rolling on my very sore quads, and Ali and Trish really helped the most by laughing at me and taking photos and video. Besties 🙂

I was ready to go, I looked around a little frantically as there was no way I was leaving without Brett. He was almost ready, boom, that’s it, let’s go chase that stein!!!  High five to Shane Smedley on the way out was the last goodbye as we trekked up the hill to the top to run some more nice single trail again. By this stage I was still VERY nervous, now we had less than 3 hours to do 23km, we left the aid station just after the 9 hour mark… the clock was most certainly ticking. Brett was still confident, I was wary of being heart broken so I tried to protect myself with nice thoughts of how this was still a big accomplishment anyway blah blah blah. I wondered who else back at the aid station thought we actually stood a chance. It was going to be tight.

77km > Chasing Steins Fo Real > 86km Airey’s Inlet Lighthouse

IMG_5962.jpgHow perfect was this. The last 3 aid stations all filled with friends and support and family. 70km, 77km gave us a huge buzz, and the incentive to get to 86km was also huge knowing Vanessa Hueser and Bich Jennings were going to be there volunteering too. This section was also just beautiful to run, trail heaven. Yes there was lots of mud but mainly lots more single track than I remembered. We finally saw off the tracks and hit the roads, we were starting to overtake quite a few others doing the 50km at this stage, was nice to shout out and reciprocate some encouraging words for both sides. And it’s always a boost in this race, as most of the 50km and the team runners only running 1 leg always have huge respect for the 100km runners and usually remark accordingly as you pass them or they pass you….

 

We saw the lighthouse in the distance at 86km and we had about 2km to go to get there, and we knew the bridge was coming up. We were really running well at this stage, and felt like we were flying past everyone. We got to the bridge and there was Michelle Harris and crew tip toeing under the last crazy bridge we had to get under, and they were laughing and crapping themselves hahaha. They were awesome and well on the way to their first 50km ultra!  They were having a ball and we could tell they were enjoying themselves and were adamant that we scoot past them, so we did. We wished them the best and then climbed up the other side and made our way into the 86km aid station less than a km ahead.

Just prior to entering the aid station a bunch of cats led by Kellie Martin told us not to be a pussy, so after meowing past them for a laugh we pulling into the final check point to see Nic and the kids again. Greeted by the smiling faces of Van and Bich was a great boost to get us on our way again feeling refreshed and energised after another red bull.

As pumped as we were and despite all the words of encouragement, the numbers were getting tighter. We had pushed really well and felt like we were motoring along but still had a huge task ahead of us. We left our wonderful friends and family and took off to the lighthouse and discussed where we were at. About 1 hour and 40 minutes left and we had to tick off 14km. This was going to be close….

86km > The final push for sub 12 hours 

IMG_9802.jpgThis section promised to hurt, and it did. Brett was adamant we had it in the bag (at least he was saying that out loud), I was still worried and knew we had to just push push push and push to get there. I searched deep within myself but found nothing, I realised there was no way I was going to be convinced that we ‘had this’ until the final 500 metres to the finish line, so I had about 13km of convincing to go. We power hiked every hill, and we ran every flat and we tried to let go and pick up some time on the downs. There always seems to be so much damn ‘up’ at the end, every little bump looks like a bloody hill!  Eventually we hit Urquart’s Bluff at about the 94km mark. The tide was out, and the sand was hard, the sun was out, and we had a beautiful tail wind. WOW how times change, this 5km beach section was unrecognisable, as back in June I’d run this section at the Surf Coast Trail Marathon with a fierce head wind and a King Tide that had us waist deep in water 50 metres further up the beach in the soft sand and rocks – thank god for Spring!!

21745038_1538156079563972_1923633975_oWith the open beach section in front of us suddenly everything was clear, runners were littered along the coastline. We had an hour to get the last 7km done.”OK” said Brett, about to say something that was on point. “This will make us or break us.”. “Yep”, I agreed. “Let’s do this”. Another little fist bump with Brett for motivation and we started to tempo at boss level. Our 5km beach section from 93km to 97km averaged 5:58 per km! Nothing was going to stop us know, we knew it but didn’t say it. We absolutely flew past heaps of runners on this section like men possessed. There is no doubt how hard it was to maintain that tempo, but slowing down was just off the table at this point, we just went for it.

Last year that section had broke me and I finished with close to 10 minute km’s.

Not this time.

When we finally got off the beach with only 3km to go, we’d nailed that beach section so well we now had over 40 minutes up our sleeve for the final 3km!

We pushed for home as hard as we could, we took off again and saw the familiar stripes of an LTR top – “by George I think that’s Georgia!” I said, she looked around at us and didn’t look overly impressed as we flew past her, she really wanted to beat us home she told us later – not like her mother at all right Trish Yates?  We finally made the beach section and there was Trish, the supreme enthusiast screaming at the absolute top of her lungs with volume Ali Moxham would be proud of “YOU GOT A BIG STEEEIINNNNN, YOU GOT A BIG STEEEEINNNN!!!!!”  Best reception ever!!

IMG_9807.jpgMaddi, Coops,  Millie and Lacey were there with Nicole to run us in which was just beautiful! Unfortunately Nicole couldn’t control Lacey and Millie from running too far from the finish line, and there was no way I was going to stop and walk the last section after what we’d been through so poor Nicole, Lacey and Millie got left behind on the beach as I run up the finishing chute with Maddi, Coops and Brett “The Supreme Optimist” Tilley.

WE MADE IT!!!  It was just so satisfying, and with over 17 minutes to spare! AMAZING!

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Those moments ….. at the finish line with everyone that was already there, or waiting, or crewing, with Nicole and the kids, with Brett and Kerri. It takes a while to sink in, and it was pretty special.

All in all, this years course I found much tougher than the prior year, mainly as the beach section presented a very tough first 20km, and the diversion gave us an extra 2km and 150 metres of elevation, so to come in 40 minutes better than last years time was a dream come true.

Just another epic weekend with memories to last a lifetime.

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Ultra Trail Australia 100km Race Report

It’s September 2016, I’m still coming off the high of completing my first 100km at Surf Coast Century – I’m content, I’m happy, I’m done.

But my friends keep talking about the next adventure, and for the most part I ignore them. It’s something I’d heard of but never taken an interest in, UTA, or some North Face 100 thing.  Then through late September and early October, all I heard was UTA UTA UTA UTA…. then I made the mistake of googling it, and clicking the link for race promo.

I felt it happen. The hair on the back of the neck sit up, a little surge of adrenaline that shoots the most ridiculous messages to your brain. Messages like “maybe”… “what if”… “is it even possible?”… “I wonder….”…. I began to think about it and talk to people. For a fortnight I mused and chatted and thought about it. Then it got serious… I showed my wife the video… I showed by kids the video… I asked her that night if she’d support me through it knowing what a commitment it was, I couldn’t do it alone. The one roll of the eyes and she was in. That was it, I was ready to commit. October 12th, registration opened, I signed up, sat back and sighed. What had I just done…

THE LEAD UP.

To do a race like this is very hard for people like me, as it’s just not my number one priority (I know I’m not alone here!). I can’t wave a magic wand and just train for 6 months alone. It certainly should be a priority and I know that… but the order is Kids, Wife, Work… then running. It’s priority number 4. So running more than 70km a week is a stretch for me usually, 80km is massive, 100km weeks would be less than a handful. I try to get quality sessions in during the week and long runs on the weekend… doesn’t always work but keeps me honest enough. It’s probably why I’m just a mid packer.

And maybe that’s why this race was so special.

I had plans to follow Hanny Alston’s race plan from Find Your Feet, but like many race plans I loved the concept and the structure and I believed in it… but I just didn’t make the time to execute it. No excuses, it’s a choice. I won’t say I couldn’t find the time, the truth is, running just doesn’t rule my world and other things just have to make way. If I miss a session in the morning it’s because I chose sleep. I work sometimes 60-70 hour weeks including travel time most weeks, this needs to change, I’m working on it. If I miss a long run, maybe I have a family function, or it’s mothers day, or kids sport, or we’d like to go somewhere. I don’t stress on the little things, sure it makes it tough if I want to go “next level” but I think I have good balance in my life, so it works for me to roll with the punches. I’m getting better at balancing everything… it’s a rollercoaster just like life, you ride the peaks and troughs and control what you can control. It’s a ‘learned’ skill, and I am ALWAYS learning.

So let’s cut to the chase or this will go on forever. I began my training well through November, then rolled my ankle in December quite badly, not ideal in the lead up to Two Bays 56km event in January. I thought I was fine and ready to go, but the ankle pain kicked in on race day after the 28km mark making Two Bays a tough ultra run which I needed some time to recover from. My training really picked up big time then. Several huge training runs, especially the Lysterfield to 1000 steps training runs where we’d run from Lysterfield up through Belgrave to the 1000 steps, do 4-6 repeats, and return. These were around 40-50km long, and also mixed in some big elevated runs in the Dandenongs.

They were fantastic runs all played a huge part in building some confidence up through March. Also running with previous combatants of UTA was AMAZING, I picked the brains of everyone and anyone I came across… Tegz, Nige, Dan, Matty V…. all happy to offer advice and information. Then early April I once again badly sprained my ankle in the lead up to Maroondah Dam 50km, my last big run before UTA, again hampering my training but I didn’t stress. I just needed to do whatever I needed to be 100% by the start date May 20th 2017. Maroondah Dam running with Trish was a success, a brutal course with 2000+ metres of elevation, and we finished nearly an hour faster than 2016 in just over 6 hours –  and I was ready.

THE MANDATORY GEAR.

Always a talking point at UTA was the mandatory gear. Many of us got sore shoulders carrying all the stuff around for 100km – here is what we had to carry with us the entire journey. Total weight was around 5-6kg for me.

Long Sleeve Thermal Top (polypropylene, wool) –
Long Leg Thermal Pants (polypropylene, wool)
Waterproof and Breathable Jacket with Fully Taped (Not Critically Taped) Waterproof Seams and Hood
Beanie, Balaclava or Head Sock (Buff)
Full-Fingered Lightweight Thermal Gloves (Polypropylene, Wool)
High-Visibility Safety Vest that complies with Australian Standard AS/NZS 4602:1999 – D/N Class for Day and Night Time Wear
Headlamp
Small Backup Light
Mobile Phone in Working Order with Fully Charged Battery
Compass
Whistle
Emergency Space Blanket (or Light Bivvy Sack Equivalent)
Compression Bandage (Minimum Dimensions 7.5cm Wide x 2.3m Long Unstretched)
Lightweight Dry Sack
Water Bottles or Bladders, 2 Litre Capacity
Food Bars / Portions
Ziplock Bag for Personal Rubbish
Waterproof Map Case
Long Leg Waterproof Pants – (DID NOT NEED TO CARRY)
100-Weight (Minimum) Long Sleeve Synthetic Fleece Top – (DID NOT NEED TO CARRY)

THE RACE PLAN – ESTIMATED SPLITS

I had NO idea what to expect from my body or my mind, or the terrain for that matter.

I made up provision race time splits (thanks to Winz for this) to allow for a race finish of 14 hours, 15 hours, 16 hours and 18+ hours. Finishing by midnight was a major goal. Finishing as closer to 14 hours than 18 hours was the secondary goal.

“Fail to plan is planning to fail”

KATOOMBA

I took Wednesday off work to pack and prepare the mind. To prepare the body I spent time at P3 Sports and Recovery Centre in Berwick with an hour in the Compression Boots and an hour in the pools (Cold Pool > Suana > Magnesium Pool > Hot Spa, Repeat x 3), and came out feeling 100% and ready to roll. Our flights were noon on the Thursday, so Thursday morning was the final goodbyes to our kids who were split between my parents who took our youngest and Trish who graciously took on the role of mother hen to our older three. I was quite torn to leave them behind, however the combination of both the cost of getting us all up there, and the difficulty in not knowing if the race would take me 14 hours or 20 hours or more, or if I would even finish…. it was too much uncertainty.

The flight out was easy, and the car hire chick at Thrifty talked us into upgrading to a Kluger for an extra $50.  We arrived in Katoomba and settled with the lads. Shane and Mike decided to kick back and chill for dinner, Nicole and I wanted to use the last of the light of day to explore the town a little. We drive 10 minutes and found ourselves at Sublime Lookout, and that’s when it hit me, the gravity of the situation I found myself in. I had to run 100km in THOSE mountains??!  It blew my mind, I had no idea….

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Friday we woke up, we stayed with Shane and Mike and their families in Luera, and Friday morning we went for a 5km run around Katoomba as a last run before the big dance. We felt great, then we came back to the house, had breakfast and went down to register at the event and check out the awesome Expo. I suddenly started to feel excited and race ready again…

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We also checked out the last 500 metres of the course which were so pretty it was difficult to imagine the pain we’d be in the next time I saw them…

Then that afternoon the event ‘announcements’ started to happen.

UTA Race Briefing

The Race Briefing

The weather forecast looked worse and worse as we got closer to the day, the organisers were absolutely flat out working with emergency services and other authorities to ensure the safety of all runners if the expected 20-35ml of rain dropped overnight.  At the evening race briefing they announced that there was some major course changes to the 100km and a complete course change for the 50km. I was just happy to roll with the punches, like always, I run where I was directed to. If it was well marked, I was happy.

Strangely I slept well that night, despite the constant rain falling all through the dark hours. We woke at 4:30am, got our things together and made our way to the start line.

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Pre Race Pic with Winz and Mike

THE RACE

I sat in the car park and looked down at my shiny new Hoka Speed Instincts that I had decided I’d wear as they ‘felt right’, even though I only managed to pick them up Tuesday. 40 minutes till race time. I suddenly felt it was a terrible decision… “rookie error” I said to myself, so I quickly grabbed my old trusty Hoka Stinsons from the boot and threw them on, left the new shoes in the crew bag for Nicole to bring to each checkpoint if I needed it…. In hindsight, this was a brilliant and very lucky decision.

HOP TIP – Don’t doubt yourself or your equipment. Make a commitment to the gear you plan to use and stick to it. Any doubts will infiltrate your brain and sap energy and focus. 

Wave 1 Elites took off so fast I didn’t even seem to catch them go – then I saw Shane and Mike take off in Wave 2, and it was my turn to step up. A kiss to Nicole, then hugs and high 5’s and selfies with Georgie and Bec and Nicole V and Zara and anyone else near me, and we were off!

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0 – 11km (CP 1)

We started running up a gentle incline on the roads at a relatively comfortable pace, from the start I immediately focused on pushing off on inclines with the glutes, feeling powerful pushing off on each step. Something that would make a huge difference in my overall time at the end. After about 5km we completed the loop and ran back through the start area with 100’s of people there to shout and support and high five, it was just MAGIC. We then dived into out first set of stairs descending to the bottom.

0-10km splitIt was slow going and but quite relaxed and enjoyable. I had Nicole V with me for much of this journey. Sure there were some bottlenecks but already we were able to see some of the breathtaking scenery we were in for, just such a beautiful part of the world. Nicole V and I had trained several times on the 1000 steps, and what actually hurt us in these sections was how laboriously slow it was. We had trained to power up them quickly, but to slowly plod up these technical ups and downs was something I think we both found much tougher to deal with. Passing people that were slow on stairs was something we had to deal with in several sections, there were many strong runners out here but all have different strengths. I must admit there was a few ‘light hearted’ moments when some random tosser would push past us on the edge of the cliff for no apparent reason and think that was just fine and dandy trail etiquette even though there was another 30 people in front of us on single trail…. but hey with 1300 runners out there not every layer is coated with sugar right?!  Some subtle exchanged glances and eyebrow raises between fellow runners with a shrug and a laugh was all we needed to shake it off 🙂

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HOT TIP – One of the many tips provided to me before the race over and over and over, DO NOT WORRY about those first 10km, enjoy them. Matty V and Tegz both preached that too, I listened, and we didn’t stress. It was well known that after about 10km it opened right up from the single trail to fire roads. And it was true.

11km – 22km (Tarros Ladders)

11-22 splitOnce the roads opened up we were finally free to run again, up and down but felt awesome to tick off a few km’s at a decent pace. The first aid station came and went very fast. I didn’t need anything there so early on, I’d already consumed a few gels and drank my water, I knew I would be right till the next aid station at 31km even though it was 20km’s away. This part of the race was cool, we were basically running on top of the mountain and the views were getting more and more spectacular. I felt fantastic and just picked up a good pace that felt really comfortable and started to jog through all the other runners. I checked my pace and I was running 5 to sub 5 minute pace, which worried me as I knew it was too fast, but how fast is too fast when it felt so comfortable?

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20km, 2 hours 20.

And I knew the Tarros Ladders were coming up and expected to have to stop and wait a while in a queue to go down so I thought I’d continue to push it to the ladders when I’d stop and rest and wait my turn to go down. I must have passed over 50 people in this section, and I really enjoyed this part of the race.

When I finally reached the ladder I’d caught Mike from Wave 2 who was running a smarter race than me so I knew that meant I’d gone out a little fast but wasn’t concerned, took a great pic of him going down and within 5 minutes I was down myself and running after him again (didn’t see him till the end though, the legend beat me by an hour!)

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MIKE YOU LEGEND!!  On the infamous Tarros Ladders at 22km

22km – 31km (CP 2)

Then came some more traditional trail sections to run that seemed enjoyable and familiar. Rocky, technical, slippery, ferns flicking you in the face kind of stuff.

You know – FUN!

23-31 split

Unfortunately somewhere running around a tight corner grabbing a tree I managed to accidentally pause my Garmin so I was never sure how far into the run I was for the rest of the day, I was always between 1-4km out, which made judging water stops and aid stations a lot more difficult.

By the end of this section I was in dire need of a check point, for some reason my lower guts were hurting a bit, I’d kept up the gels but I needed something else. I spent quite a bit of time refuelling here, so kind of lost all the gains I’d made in the previous 20km but again, didn’t stress, I was doing what I needed to do. I was not about to run out of a check point forgetting to refuel properly, and all the food tasted good. Chips, coke, cake, all went in, refilled the water bottles and I wandered out of this checkpoint and once again just appreciated the surroundings. We were down in a valley and already on the other side of the mountains. They were pretty bloody spectacular.

32km – 47km (CP 3)

Bestie Nicole V once again caught up with me, which I was thankful for as then I could pace myself properly again and enjoy some company for a while. Love this chick!

32-44The run to this aid station was long but we found our feet and got chatting to some great people and together we ticked off some very long TOUGH hill climbs, eventually bringing it into the 47km aid station feeling good!

HOT TIP – I found this section, although scenic in parts, to be long, straight and laborious. Finding people to run with and chat to through this section helped immensely. If you want one section to be social on during UTA choose this one!


47km to 55km (CP 4 – and CREW!)

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Halfway and feelin fine, yeah baby!

Pushed it along ok after 47km and was happy enough with a little walk run strategy while I waited for some energy to kick in…. got a great boost when I came across this 50km sign too!!

This was a bit of a tough love section, I found a couple of guys to run with again and we kept moving along a bit, and I kept asking how far to Nellies Glen… I’d heard this section was particularly nasty, and it was.

 

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Nellies “RU Fkn Kidding Me” Glen

Once again, a long line of people were trudging up single track steep stairs, and it was TOUGH. I’d describe it as the 1000 steps on crack. I wanted to just power up them as quick as possible activating those glutes, but one step, one step, one step…. so slow, it was just killing me. So slow up the steps was using muscles I didn’t want to use. It started to hurt and I started to get pretty frustrated, especially when one of the guys holding up a line of about 10 runners and WOULD NOT SHUT UP. Kudos to him for chatting away like it was an easy Saturday stroll in the woods, but going up so casually slow was costing me serious muscle soreness, I just wanted him to be quiet and concentrate on going faster, why wasn’t he in the pain I was starting to feel??  I wanted to say something but it didn’t happen, and I didn’t want to be “THAT GUY” to ruin the mood, so I sucked it up. 45-55km

Then I saw Winzar probably 3/4 of the way up, high 5, “both calves are cramping and quads are gone I’m F**ked” he said. Not much I could say but hoped he’d hurry into the next Check Point where the girls could revive him and get him working again. By the time I got to the top of the stairs the damage was done, I’d started to cramp too and I was in pretty bad need of some check point love. I thought the check point was at the top of the stairs, but it was about another 3-4km. This took me AGES, mentally it shot me and cost me lots of time, I was just so desperate to see my crew…

 

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“Fun” with Winz at the 55km Check Point.

I text ahead to Nic all the things I wanted at the check point. I needed to wash my face down it was salty and crusty from sweat… I needed coffee, I needed food, drink, gels, fresh shirt, and I needed to massage the cramps out again so I could run.

I fought hard to get there and fell into a chair, it was SO nice to finally see Nic.

To go into these aid stations feeling so broken, it’s truly amazing what happens when you leave. I went in feeling like the last 50 metre shuffle was all had left to get there….

Then suddenly I left that Check Point high fiving kids, and my head was back in a good place. The cramps were gone, I was still a little sore but felt good again. I left with Winz and we walked for about 500 metres before I left him to gather himself (which of course he did coz he’s a champ, I mean who runs 40km up countless stairs with severe cramp in calves and quads??!)

HOT TIP – I’d abstained from caffeine since the Tuesday (4 days). Before I left Check Point 4 I loaded up with about 5+ spoons of Nescafe Blend 43 and smashed it down. BOOM. Suddenly I felt alive again!  Great tip from seasoned trail pros, and I’ll be using this technique again for sure!

56km – 80km (Queen Victoria Hospital CP 5)

This section was a bit more ‘blurry’. In some parts I felt AMAZING, other parts were a grind, but all the time just moving forward and finding people to run with and trying to keep on top of nutrition while managing the gut pain I’d been nursing since the 30km mark. This section took us back into Katoomba and back past the 3 sisters so we were treated to many, many tourists who were all absolutely wonderful, standing back and clapping and admiring all the runners out giving it everything they had. The coffee kept me up and about for about 10-15km. I felt really strong and positive coming into the 65km water point, got a massive boost seeing Nicole and Kath there for a high 5!

Due to the course modification this was now and ‘out and back’ section so all the lead runners were there coming through which was great to see. The section was enjoyable-ish, with some beautiful scenery and waterfalls… but the end of that was just hardcore.

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I fell in love with this place as I ran past this, and I will return to “The Pool of Siloam”

Everyone this year will tell you, the journey to the 78km aid station sucked big time. The course changes meant the course was running short so they needed to extend the run PAST the aid station another 1.5km loop so 3km in total. At about the 68km mark I became acutely aware of a pain in my left foot under the toes. Every step was hurting. I felt like I just needed to get to the next check point and get new socks on.IMG_5282

To finally get to the check point and have to keep running past it for another 3km loop when I needed aid so bad was just pretty torturous…. and it was nearly dark…. so I pushed on and ground out another 3km and get to the arms of crew chief Nicole. At this stage it was about 5:30pm, I’d been running for 11 hours, but if I’d thought about that I think it would have crushed me.

One Aid Station at a time, 67-79kmbreak it down, little goals, little wins……. I grabbed some noodles and chips and coke and sat down. My feet were attended to, no blisters but the water had soaked my feet and made them feel like they were breaking apart at some hidden seam between my toes. We tried a compede blister aid but it didn’t stick, in the end we washed and dried my feet, put on a fresh pair of socks and I put on my new Hoka Speed Instincts that I’d almost worn from the start. Changed the shirt over, got out the head torch, whacked on the high vis vest and gloves and then one last thing I needed – coffee. I loaded up on more Blend 43 then headed out again for the final 22km. My Garmin km’s were all over the shop by this stage so I just followed the signs. This leg would be entirely in the dark, but I was ready to face it and bring it home. Once again, the check point proved critical.

 

78km – FINISH

As I headed back IN I was now going past all the runners that were behind me. I kind of knew how well I was doing then. I passed hundreds coming back my way, and if I had a dollar for every time I said “well done champ, great work, keep going, you’re a legend, passing on the left, one foot in front of the other, keep ticking them off, don’t stop, you’ll get there…..”, then repeat and repeat…. it was a nice distraction from my own battle.

80-90kmRunning with the head torch was quite a technical challenge, practising night running at length in training was absolutely critical. You are running, sometimes downhill on technical single rocky trail with tree roots, carefully looking down so you don’t step in a deep puddle or slip on mud and go over the edge. If you are too engrossed with your feet landing in the right area, you’re likely to knock yourself out on a low hanging tree branch, or worse, smash your head torch (having a back up in the pack is mandatory and vital). That said, I actually really enjoyed this aspect of the run, it takes your mind off the pain and it’s just moving forward, concentrating and moving forward, and that’s all you do. I felt like I was quick through this section although my splits say otherwise. I think this is more a reflection on how technical the course was rather than being completely zonked, because between 78km and 87km I remember feeling pretty good.

The last 13km were like nothing I could have imagined, it was just stairs going down down down and up and down and up and down and down and down and up.  Having QUALITY gloves on with grip in this section was a real bonus. I was able on many sections to grab the rails and literally slide down the rails with control…

I was slowed to a snails pace by the early 90kms. The guts still sore I had not eaten since the 78km check point so energy was sapped – I’d misjudged the water I thought I had left at the 87km aid station so I realised with 95km done that I was going to run out of water and sucked my last bottle dry – nothing messes with my head more than that, I need water when I run. My mouth went dry constantly, my throat got sore. Worst part about it I could hear the massive waterfalls all around me but didn’t know where the water was or I would have filled my bottles up!

90-100kmAt this stage about 97km I was being overtaken periodically, but I didn’t care, why stress, I’d done the best I could do, this was about just finishing now. I know I was being ‘ticked off’ by other runners but I just admired how strong they were to finish well after what we’d all been through. They passed me by and as each one did I told them what a great job they were doing. Some chatted for a bit and thanked me or encouraged me. Some grunted or spoke no english (awks). That’s life at 98km in a the UTA 100km I suppose.

Then it became a little harrowing. People were throwing up, stretching out cramps, nursing rolled ankles… it was pure carnage. But everyone knew what lay at the top of the steps, so we all began that ascent.

I was warned – “You look up, you see the lights, you hear the sounds… but my lord, they are so far away….”.

The Furber Steps crushed me, as they do most runners, if not all. It took me all of 25 minutes to cover that last km. I won’t make it pretty, I was DONE here. A half dozen times during this km I found myself on hands and knees in the mud crawling on steep stairs to the finish line. “Whatever it takes” I told myself, just keep moving. As people stepped past me on their way up I’d still find the words to say “great work mate see ya there soon”. Or maybe I said “blah blah grunt blah”. One of the two. One guy went past me and offered me his soft flask with about 200ml of coke, “hold onto it and I’ll grab it back at the finish!”  I sculled it within 5 seconds, but he was gone. I was no longer steady on my feet, the lack of fuel in the last 20km had impacted me in a big way.

Not once in this run did I doubt that I would finish. And those dreams of crossing the finish line were about to become a reality. As I climbed off the stairs and onto the ramp to finish down the chute, everything seemed easy again. Suddenly the smiles were big, and genuine, and just so proud of what I’d just accomplished!  I saw Mike on the side, YEAH BUDDY!!!  and I let it out a crazy loud scream, threw a fist in the air. The emotions hit me and I crossed that line and let it out again. I was too tired to cry, but that feeling you get…. oh that feeling!  It was most certainly worth running 100km for.

** MISSION ACCOMPLISHED **

15 hours, 2 minutes, 42 seconds.

Ultra Trail Australia 100km finisher, 2017

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297th place overall (in top 24%)

  • Out of 1,280 runners, 221 (17%) did not finish. 

102nd place in my age group (40-49) (in top 27%) 

  • Out of 381 Males in the 40-49 category, 71 (19%) did not finish. 

UTA split 1UTA - graph 1UTA - Graph 2

To put it in perspective we climbed higher 3,500+ metres than the elevation of Mount Everest from Base to Summit (3,489m).

To my fellow runners, finishes and those that were defeated on the day, this is a day I will never forget, thank you.

To my wife Nicole, thank you forever and ever. Sharing this with you means everything, without you it means nothing.

For the advice and messages and support in the lead up to the race, when self doubt crept in and the mental battles become larger and harder to win, I’m forever grateful that you took the time out of your life to help me to tick off this enormous challenge.

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I WILL BE BACK!

The Deep Dive – Pondering my psyche and those around me.

Hi all, I haven’t written for some time, I’ve tried many times to think about how to articulate the way I’m feeling and come up short. So after working on it for a while, I’m ready to try now.

Problem is, we are all different. We have different drivers and motivators, different goals. I don’t want to be the friend that disagrees, but sometimes I just can’t help myself and I find it hard to support mates unconditionally, maybe that makes me a worse friend, or maybe calling out and hitting home truths makes me a better friend. Only you can make that call.

Over the last 12 months I’ve discovered that a number of friends, and I’m not talking 1 or 2, I’m talking 6 to 8, have been or are in dark places emotionally. It’s made me wonder what I can do, and also reflect on what makes me different, am I immune to it?

ON ME

So I reflect. I don’t think I bottom out so much when things go bad, I have a way of turning off and focusing on positives, completely ignoring negatives and not even dealing with them. Trust me, they exist. It can depress me to deal and think about negatives so I shut it out. Don’t know if this is healthy, but I’m not saying I bottle it up, but I sleep well enough at night, so I suppose it works. I block out the noise and I focus on the now. It works for me, makes me stronger. I think.

Short term goals I find stressful – I like long terms goals and plans.

ON OTHERS

So I worry about others, I worry about their decisions, and I probably over step the line and don’t support them as much when I disagree with the path they take. I am a pretty conservative person, and I struggle to comprehend the impulsive decisions of risk takers. I see the potential hazards and I see the potential fall and I want to provide a nice soft feathery pillow for them to fall on. Am I a bad friend for not wanting to push them all the way up the cliff face? Maybe. I’m still learning about that part of me. Sometimes picking up the pieces of a shattered soul after they crash can be hard, very hard. It can be incredibly draining. So I now believe that what I am doing when I am not unconditionally supporting friends that are taking a big risk, is I am actually protecting myself from their fall should it happen. So maybe I’m being a little selfish. I do only want success for my friends, but what happens if it doesn’t come?

You probably know who you are out there, there are a few of you that I owe a quasi-apology to. I see strong positive happy people often taking what I see as huge risks, jumping in the deep end before anyone is sure about just how deep the water really is, and it just scares the shit out of me. I see the emotional roller coaster, I see them buy their ticket, I see them wait in line, I see them get on board. I see them get off it too. So if it’s you that does this, I’m sorry. Sometimes I can’t bring myself to me that cool mate that says “mate you’ll smash it!” every time you probably need to hear it. I’m probably the one that says “geez, are you sure you are ready for this??”, which feeds into your already existing self doubts, so for that I’m sorry. But I promise to still be there when you step off the ride.

Maybe it’s like eating fruit. If you are over hungry and eat it too early, it is not likely to be ripe, and although it will fill you up, it may not be as satisfying as if you had waited until the fruit was ready for picking. Until you know it is ready to be devoured.

LOOKING FORWARD

I am looking forward very much to 2015 and what it might hold. I’ve lost heaps of weight, I want to drop another 5 kg’s and get down to 80kgs, that will be my playing weight I think. Will help me go longer that’s for sure.

I look forward to running with all the happy trail running people I’ve met, mate ship that is strong and supportive. The Lysterfield Trail Runners has been life altering. And Two Bays offers a great start to the year, I’ve never run further than a half marathon in an event, and never further than 32.6km (which is my longest run). I’m ready but this 28km race will no doubt test me and show me where I’m at.

Then I want to explode at Roller Coaster Run 2015, I want to absolutely blow the 2014 demons out of the water. I am proud of last years effort as my first ever half marathon in a touch under 3 hours, but how far have I come?? I can’t wait to find out. The mountain crushed me last year, I will return in March and give it everything.

The longer term goal of Surf Coast Century in September still looms, I have 5 months to prove to myself I’m ready to launch into the stratosphere of ultra marathons.

BALANCE

It’s one thing I think I have a good grasp of, balance. I believe that my body aligns with my emotions and mentality, if my body isn’t ready neither is my mind. I think I have a good balance there.

There is a saying the body will do what the mind tells it to, but if you keep telling your body to do too much, eventually it will break down. I’m determined for that not to happen.

And so I build slowly and surely, and I could NOT DO IT without the support of my trail mates.

I hope I can offer them in 2015 and beyond the kind of support they offer me.

Thinking sincerely, hope this blog explains my psyche a little better… and helps me become a better friend.

LTR group Pic

CJ

Why do I run?

I finally asked myself this question.

After an epic half marathon at Run Melbourne where I managed a time I was really proud of, 1 hour, 45 minutes, 32 seconds. I swear this result far exceeded my expectations after a very interrupted month of ill health and injury. Hampered preparation + a great result = very sore legs…

I recovered OK by midweek, and readied myself for a huge PB just 6 days later. My boys Dod’s and Sketch were pumped and ready to run 30km. I had never run more than 26.5km, that even that was back in February 2013. I had also never run more than 3 hours before.

I finished the run at 30.1 km in a time of 3 hours, 34 minutes, with an elevation of around 800 metres. Dods had mapped out the entire circumference of Lysterfield Lake, and we commenced at 6am in complete darkness. I had to get out of bed at 5am, after 4.5 hours sleep, in the dark, freezing cold, wet weather, to run.

Why do I run? Why do I share my story? Is it for affirmation that I’m doing ok? Am I trying to prove something to someone? If I don’t run, am I letting someone down if I don’t?

Running has given me something.

It’s provided me with a new sport, and lots of new friends. People that are motivated to improve themselves, and they do it through running. That doesn’t mean that you can’t improve yourself if you don’t run, this is just one medium in which to do so. But it connects you in a lot of ways. Getting better at running longer distances, in faster times; you can not do so without sacrifice. You need to sacrifice time, energy, and you need to endure pain and almost enjoy pushing the threshold of your body’s limits. It has given me understanding.

And running has shown me something.

That not all people understand running. I was one of those people 2 years ago. I never understood a good mate Danny, why he ran. I didn’t care for his sacrifice. I didn’t believe in his efforts or respect it anywhere near as much as what I should have. And now I understand. And I also understand why many of my friends don’t care for what I am doing, and I understand why many friends don’t care much for my running updates. It does nothing to my resolve. Inadvertently, there is no doubt that I feel more connected to those that support my running, and much more distant to those that don’t care. It’s human nature isn’t it? Life. You never stop learning, and soon enough you move on.

I harbour no resentment to non supportive friends, and I harbour no hatred of detractors. How can I when I myself had no regard or care for this vocation just 2 years ago?

Although I do publicise my exploits on Facebook, and I Blog about it occasionally, I like to think that I don’t push my new sport onto anyone. I don’t think less of anyone just because they don’t run; I certainly don’t have a superiority complex. I am one of many thousands of runners, and I’ll never win anything though running apart from personal bests against my own shadow. I can’t hope to compete against people that have been running all their lives. But nevertheless, I’ve stepped up my training. I want to be top 50%, top 40%, I even hope to eventually make the top 20% or better of races I compete in.

So, why DO I run?

I run for my children, so they can be proud of their father.

I run for my wife, so she doesn’t have to grow old with a pot bellied couch potato.

I run for my friends, and for mate ship that I am so thankful to have found.

To a lesser extent, I think I also run to prove people wrong. This is not a passing phase for me, this is not a fad. A lot of people don’t believe in me, I know that.

Currently, I think I lack the self belief and drive to just run for me. I’m not convinced that I would run as much if it wasn’t for those 3 reasons. One day, I might run for me. But right now, it’s not the driving factor. If I sleep in, letting myself down isn’t enough motivation for me.

For me, if I don’t run, I let down my family and my friends.

And I don’t plan on doing that any time soon.

Thanks for listening,

Chris

 

Mixed Bag… The Pledge, The Records, The Hiccup & Clarity.

It’s been some weeks since my successful and very happy return to Spartan Racing, and I have a few things to tell you.

THE PLEDGE

Importantly, I made a pledge to anyone that took the time to read it, and to myself, that I would get to 250km by the end of June. Did I keep that promise? You bet your ass I did 🙂 I managed 283km, at over 8,000 metres elevation. These are some serious achievements for me, I haven’t run this much ever, and it felt great. Running with Dods and Sketch on the weekends, I just feel like I have wings, it’s a fantastic feeling. I know I’m miles off where I want to be, but I know I’m on the right road. No more pledges at this stage, but I am certainly committed to the cause.

THE RECORDS

I just realised yesterday that I have run 755km in the 6 months of 2014, at over 20,000m elevation. I mean, I was proud of that, especially when I looked back at the fact that in the 12 months of 2013 I only did 635km. I am a believer now that although sometimes running appears to be a slow burn of gradual improvement; often it feels like 2 steps forward 2 steps back. Sometimes 3 steps back. I think that when you are running, once you learn that it’s not a smooth journey, once you learn to take the hits and not let the bad days get you down, you begin to realise what you are capable of. So yeah, I’m really proud to be on this journey and have come so far, and to have found some brilliant running friends along the way. And maybe even inspired a few other friends to get a little more active. I can’t ask more than that of them, or myself.

THE HICCUP

SO, I actually reached my 250km target in mid June, but the celebration was short lived when I discovered a painful lump on my stomach. I had some tests and found I had a small hernia. I had no idea what that would mean but I was pretty devastated. However, I just found out today that it’s not a big deal, and I can manage it without any danger, until later in the year and then get the operation to repair it. Now I’m twofold happy – one, I can keep training for Run Melbourne and the Surf Coast Century and the Melbourne Marathon without worrying about it, and second, I get to do all these hardcore things with a hernia. Surely that’s what any Spartan would do.

THE IDEA OF THE SHADOW

I’ve had this idea floating in my head, much to do with motivation and the strange way human minds work. There are so many sayings out there, what do you believe?

Your past does not define your future.

Don’t look back, only look forward.

Remember where you came from.

History means nothing, leave it behind you and don’t look back.

So when we are looking for a way forward, trying to motivate ourselves to keep improving, what do we do? Do we look back, or look forward? There is no right or wrong answer, it’s whatever works for you at any particular time. Sometimes you might look back and your past might make you physically ill; other times you won’t even recognise yourself, puff your chest out and move on. Some sayings are true though, such as you can’t change the past, but you can change the future.

Personally, I think it is not great to be motivated by hating the old you. You can’t continue running indefinitely out of a hatred of the past, or who you ‘were’. It’s all part of the journey, embrace it. Running and physical exertion is tough, but if there is one AWESOME thing I have learned about Trail Running, is you need to stay positive. So many wonderful, positive people on the trails. So be proud of the change you have made, be proud of what you have accomplished and what you have achieved, be proud of what you have become, and be proud of where you are going.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with the saying I just came up with:

It’s ok to keep checking over your shoulder every now and then, just don’t let the old you catch up.

I think I worked it out, I believe that this might define how a lot of us run. If you are constantly in pursuit of a personal best, then you are constantly running from your shadow from the past.

But for me the shadow is my friend; nothing can motivate me more than my shadow.

Thanks for listening.

This blog was written today by the shadow of tomorrow.