Race Report (the long version) - go and grab a cuppa before sitting down to read...
When I started running in 2004 I discovered an online running community and was in awe of people that would run these crazy fatass events (generally long trail self-supported running events). There was one event that really stood out for me. The people that I would see on the finishers list year after year and get to know a little about in their race reports gave them in my eyes a certain legendary status.
Who knew that two years ago when I responded to a message from one of the famed ultrarunners looking for someone to run with on the trails around home could it lead to so much? I have to someone to blame for getting me into this. During a somewhat innocent hill session at Kedumba in preparation for the Western States 2007 assault he mentioned that he was thinking about organising a "Rebel" 12 Foot for himself and other WS participants who were all heading over. Even though I had never run longer than 45km (earlier that year) I thought that I would maybe give it a go. Well that was last year where I amazed myself and finished in 11:10 (6th fastest time). It also got me thinking that a sub 11 hour time was possible but when it came around to run the official 12FT in August I was injured and unable to run. I would have to wait another 12 months before I would get another chance.
This year 2008 has been a roller coaster of highs and lows. The year started with some health issues which resulted in me not being able to compete at 6FT this year as I had surgery scheduled eight days prior to the start. Thankfully the surgery went much better than expected and I was able to resume running a couple of weeks later. I have to say a big thank you to my wonderful wife and friends who helped me though this stage of my life.
After running a 100km event in May this year my running hit a bit of low point as I struggled with motivation to start getting back into it and picking up the volume. I was eagerly reading everything I could absorb about running and training but when it came time to lacing up the shoes and getting out there I was finding too many excuses to leave it for another day. But things started coming around and I found myself entered in a local marathon. I made up a rough schedule to follow with the thoughts of running my first sub 3 hour. While the training didn't all work out as planned I found myself getting much quicker during my sessions but I couldn't get excited about getting in my long runs. With two long runs completed in the three weeks prior to the marathon I managed to achieve my sub 3 hour goal. But my body paid a penalty.
The two weeks between the marathon and 12FT was a lesson in terms of recovery and running. It took nearly a week of rest before I could start running again and in the second week I found it mentally hard to run slower than the marathon pace I had recently set. I don't think runs quicker than marathon pace for up to an hour were a good thing during a taper but I was finding myself quickly bored while running over the same routes that I regularly use in training. By the time Wednesday came I was worried that my legs would not recover enough to get me to the starting line. Thursday night I considered not running and I even told my wife that this was going to be my last ultra event for a long time.
Friday night before the event I was ready to pull out but I had offered to drive my mate up and he was meeting me at my house in the morning. I was thinking damn I'll have to run now!
After a short, sound sleep I got up early and ate my bowl of oatmeal made with rice milk, berries and dates and followed that up with a glass of apple juice, a banana and a strong cup of coffee. Mty friend arrived on time and we headed up to the start getting there nice and early which allowed us time to organise the last of our gear and catch up with the other runners. I was surprised after two days of rest how good I was feeling and it made me think that I would be able to run close to the goal I had messaged a friend the night before.
After the obligatory photo the race started right on time and we were under way. I was feeling relaxed and was running behind one of the faster runners thinking I would try and stick to him as long as I could (which I didn't expect to be very long). The track was quite wet and 300m from the start my foot slipped out from under me and I came down hard on the rocks. The pain was intense and I was immediately thinking that was it I'm heading back to the car. Runners around me offered to stop to make sure that I was alright but I didn't want to ruin anyone's run by having them wait for me. So I told them to go on. I was feeling crushed and a little emotional at how quickly my race had changed. I started running again and fell in behind just trying to take it easy down the stairs. Every step hurt and all my thoughts were of dropping out. I was thinking that I could at least get to the river and I will then see how it goes from there. This thinking started getting me angry with myself and when there was a bit of room on the trail I decided that I would start running and see if I could catch up to some of the runners ahead. I was mainly thinking that I might be able to catch up with spud and run some of the way with him.
While it hurt to run it felt great being out there again enjoying the day and trail with some other runners. I opened up my stride a little and it felt like I was running with a limp but I was making progress and before the bridge I had caught up with spud. The running between the road and the river was sensational single track at its finest and I was moving fast.
Together spud and I reached the River in 1:24 and we managed to get across without getting our feet wet. I was worried about how I would fare on the climb up to summit as my hill training was limited to a single session during my marathon preparation and I had only been on the trails once since my 100km in May. I was thinking that I would try and run with Spud as long as I could and when I went on ahead of him I fully expected that he would catch me on my next walk break. It didn't turn out that way and as I had made an arrangement with myself that I would take two of my four nurofens at the top that is what drove me on.
It felt like a real struggle on the hills reaching the top in 2:46 but luckily I felt no worse. I was running along the Range with not a lot of speed but I was still running which was a good sign. Moving along it was with some shock that I saw Tim moving up ahead and I could clearly see that he was shuffling and not having a good day. For me it was good to have his company and we ran, shuffled and walked our way to the Cabins. I was struggling a little through here but I told myself that I would be able to have a good walk break and something to eat when I reached the Caves. So with that thought I started pushing a little more and didn't realise that Tim was no longer there. When I turned around I couldn't see him and I while I thought of waiting I wanted to keep moving to closer towards the finish as I could get.
As usual the run down to the Caves felt long and steep and I was trying as hard as I could to take it easy to avoid killing my quads with the impact as I still had a long way to go. I reached the caves in 4:39 and was amused when I was running down the road towards the tap to fill up my camelbak to see someone taking pictures of me. It was great to meet Kevin Cassidy who had just made it out there to report for one of the running mags. After a brief discussion and a little difficulty turning the tap handle I filled the bladder up about three quarts and said my farewells to start the arduous climb back up.
I actually enjoy the climb from the caves as it allows me time to enjoy my surroundings and eat and drink a little more than usual. Also the pressure of running is removed for some time. I consumed a powerbar, a packet of salt and vinegar chips and washed it all down with a good swig of water. The climb out was long and uneventful and it was great when people starting passing me on the way down to the caves. I passed Tim while he was walking down to the caves and he was not looking good.
About 15 minutes later spud passed me and we exchanged encouraging words and a little after that the slow flow of other runners began passing by. By this time I think I had nearly completed most of the hard climbing and I was about ready to start running again. It's always a fun game to play with oneself trying to guess who the next runner that comes into view will be and today was no different. I expected to see some runners further along than they were and there were some that looked like the were having good days and were further along than I expected. The encouragement from a passing runner is a much welcomed reprieve from the endless hours of time spent alone on the trails.
Running from the Cabins to the campground became a bit of a blur for me and I found that I fully entered the zone where just running along is about all that I notice. I passed a few runners but the time and distance was moving along and before I knew where I was I was running down the Range. The sound of rain falling snapped me out of my trance but then I realised I wasn't getting wet and upon closer inspection I could see tiny balls of ice bouncing off me. Wow it was sleeting. I was thinking that I hoped it would snow.
By the time I had reached the summit before the long downhill back to the river it was about 2pm (6:58) and I realised that I had forgotten to fill up my bladder at the campground. With the cold weather I wasn't drinking much but I knew I was dehydrating and I needed the fluid to be able to take in my main source of calories - energy gels. I was worried being seven hours into the run with no food or water but I spent the next hour running down to the river feeling the best I had all day.
Arriving at the campground at the River I made my way straight to the tank and filled my bladder and started taking in some food, another Powerbar. Everything from my waist down was tight and feeling like it was on the verge of cramping up so I decided to wade straight through the river and see if that would bring my legs back to life.
It was now 8:06 into the run and with the coldness of the water, the food in my stomach and the drink picking me up I had a good run from the river along the single track to the Road and I was even beginning to entertain thoughts of a low 10 hour finishing time. Well those thoughts were quickly diminished when my legs starting seizing up and I was finding it harder and harder to lift up my feet. Thankfully by the time I reached the stairs (in about 9:36?) I still had plenty of light as I wouldn't have liked to have navigated my way up there in the state that I was falling into. I was now forced to use my hands on my thighs to push myself up each step and I was quickly forgetting about finishing in 10 hours and more interested in reaching the top so that I didn't have to take another step. I wanted it to be over and done with. By the time I had reached the car park it had taken me a full 46 minutes to get up those damn stairs and with Kevin and Brick egging me on to break the course record I found myself running again to the finish and the tree. I hit the stopwatch and looked at the time. 10:23!!!!!
Yahoo.... a new course record!
Here is a list of my nutrition for the 90km/10 hours or running:
* 15 Energy Gels (assorted brands and flavours)
* 2 Powerbars
* 2 Muesli bars
* 1 packet Salt and Vinegar chips
* 1 Turkish Delight (small)
* 3 litres of water
* 1 litre of Coke
* 600ml of Gatorade
* 10 Succeed caps
Looking at the list now it doesn't appear to be a lot of food considering how much energy I was likely to have burnt. Someones garmin GPS recorded 57+ miles with over 13,000 feet of elevation gain.
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