THE GREAT NORTH WALK 100s
2006 RUNNER COMMENTS AND STORIES
I rated myself with no chance of a win at the start of this event, so the end result just goes to show what can go wrong - and right - in a race of 100 miles. I dropped out last year at Checkpoint 3, so I was determined to keep going this year. The legs coped well with the hills & the distance but I had bad blister problems from about 60 k, which required a lot of attention for the rest of the race. I thought I would take about 27 hours and with good feet I still think that is realistic.
I guess people analyse these posts hoping for some tips from the finishers, to help them through their own race next time. I can say what my approach was, but in the end, we each have to figure out, by trial & error what works.
Training: Its an endurance event with a huge amount of walking, so definitely need to do plenty of walking in training. Three weeks ago I ran the Brindabella Classic hard, as did Blue Dog, but then concentrated on walking during the last few weeks --- my training stats for 6 months was pitiful, at 51 k / week walking & running on average and 65 k / week over the final 6 weeks, but add in 1500 metres of mountains per week & it starts to make sense. And anyway, its also what we have done over the past few years which counts as well...
Gear: Last year it didn't feel right & I noticed the weight, so this year I tried to get the pack weight down to 3 kg. I tried the water bladder thing last year but reverted to bottles this year. Carried a max of 1.8 litres but less at night. At each aid station I drank about a litre and plenty at the water drops. I wasn't very scientific about it -- 1.2 litres of water plus a 600 ml bottle of electrolyte worked OK, plus a salt tablet every 4 hours during the day. I think I had a cup of tea or coffee at each of the last 4 checkpoints which I find stops me getting drowsy.
Food: This year I tried long-life UHT flavoured milk, packed with calories & easy to swallow; one at each aid station. Also iced raisin buns with butter on the long sections, plus a bowl of tasty pasta at Checkpoint 4 and a few chocolate bars, biscuits & cheese sticks.
The Heat: From noon to 3 pm I was aware that heat exhaustion was a real danger, especially as this coincided with the very hilly section 3; so I mainly walked for 2 or 3 hours and got through it OK. (Try taking off the backpack for 10 minutes at a time & slinging it over the shoulder to help with cooling on your back...)
Navigation: I had no real disasters; just 1 or 2 places with 5 minutes of uncertainty. That said, I was very careful this year: I had the map out all the time and used it, as well as the instructions, constantly. If it didn't feel right, I stopped immediately and went back, then looked again for a marker or track.
I would like to thank everybody at the aid stations (hope I wasn't too bossy....); I didn't have a crew but the volunteers were fast & efficient.
And I won't ever forget that feeling of satisfaction after 30 hours, as the trail emerged from the jungle onto that beautiful beach at Patonga.
Here is my 2006 race report. Sorry it is lengthy, but I have developed a great affinity for this race.
After all the pre-race preparations, an enjoyable pre-race dinner, and the customary race-morning nerves & apprehension, it was great to get the race under way at the stroke of 6:a.m. on what promised to be a bright and clear day.
About four kilometres into the run I ran through the first of several patches of noticeably warmer air than what we had been running through, a sure sign that the predicted hot temperatures for later in the day would eventuate. This served to confirm that my strategy of having a race plan which could be adjusted to the existing conditions would probably be put to good use.
Shortly after leaving the bitumen and ‘heading bush’ at the Wakefield Trackhead (6.3km) the course began to gain altitude and settling into the race, I enjoyed the feeling of confronting the big challenges ahead.
I ran the first section much as planned, not attacking the big climbs and descents but trying to conserve energy and be kind to my body. I had come into the race with a few lingering injuries which would require smart management to enable me to continue and ultimately complete the event.
Much of the first section is well-shaded, and with a steady yet moderate effort I was slightly ahead of my schedule with only a few km’s to the first checkpoint. It was here that I had my first geographical mishap, running strongly downhill to be confronted by …… a dead-end.
This is very demoralising. You immediately wonder how far you will have to back-track to get back on course. Hanging like an anvil over your head is the knowledge that the race is in fact over 109 miles (175.3 km) in length, and you really, really, really do not want to cover any extra ground, or more importantly, use any extra energy other than necessary..
Turning around and heading back up the steep incline, I was very filthy on myself, yet 600 metres later was very thankful to find the turn off I had missed, so not too much damage done. It had the usual GNW post and symbol with directional arrow, AND some course-marking pink ribbon attached to a nearby tree limb to attract attention. How the heck did I miss all that?
I still managed to finish the first section several minutes ahead of my schedule, and after refuelling and restocking my supplies, headed off from the old Forestry HQ down Wataqan Creek Road and into section two, towards Congewai. Somewhere ahead of me were seven other runners.
As late morning arrived, Ian Wright (CR IDW) passed me, and the ambient temperature headed dramatically upwards. I made a decision to ease off the pace a little, as further along, the Congewai Valley is surrounded by mountain ranges, and with little wind or breeze, it acts like a vortex, sucking in the heat and trapping it there. For good measure, after that lies the toughest and most physically demanding section of the course.
I could not remember the large amount of uphill that dominates the first half of section two from last year, so was very relieved to put that part of the course behind me and finally start the long descent which has several kilometres of good steady running in it before it levels out further down at Congewai Road.
Again running a lovely long downhill, and enjoying the easier kilometres that in this race seem like a gift, I noticed the track becoming slightly less navigable. Just through the next stand of tall trees, and surely I’ll be able to pick it up again. Damn … no track! I know if I continue downhill, I’ll hit Congewai Road, but dismiss this idea as the bush ahead becomes overgrown and impenetrable. There is a fence line to follow, but the bush has reclaimed the space right up to it on either side, it’s totally impassable.
Reversing, I trudged back up the hillside, following the path that led me astray, and trying to pick myself up mentally. I know I cannot keep covering extra ground, and I am also aware I am in a solid position in the race, but have now given the other competitors two chances to make time.
About a kilometre uphill I find a marker and get back on course, running well until I come to a large gate. I didn’t look, but presume it is locked. It wasn’t there last year, and there is no mention of it on the course directions. I lean on it, looking for a course marker on the other side, but can’t see one.
Frustrated, I back-track, and after a few hundred metres meet up with Kim Cook from the Terrigal Trotters. I tell him that we are lost… the track leads to a closed gate. He tells me that you just open it and continue ahead…. that last year the gate was left open. I am cursing my presumption that the gate was locked: we pass through it and about thirty metres ahead, obscured from the gate by a small shrub, is a course marker. Breathe, relax, it’s all good.
I decided to push ahead of Kim, and shortly after I reached the fence line which borders Congewai Road. While contemplating how to negotiate the barbed-wire fence, I hear Kim call out to me from about 100 metres to my right, where the stile to climb over the fence is located. He is giving me a really weird look, and I know he is thinking “how the hell did you end up over there?” I dunno….
Once on Congewai Road I run as much of the remaining 6.5 km to Checkpoint 2 at Congewai School as I can manage. At 34C, it is seriously hot, and I run out of water with about three kms to travel. Within minutes my throat becomes parched. About a kilometre from the checkpoint, the road crosses a delightfully clear stream, but in my focus to reach the school, the thought process of ‘stream = water = drink’ doesn’t register.
Here I also meet up again with IDW as he is heading off into the third section of the event. Ian says he is going to walk for a few hours. I’m not sure if he is familiar with what lies ahead, but the course doesn’t give you much of an option of running anyway.
On arrival at the School I rehydrate and restock, grab my headlamp and head off for the toughest section of the race, currently in ninth position. There are two monumental climbs ahead, and I again use my plan of steady progress uphill so I am fresh enough to run where possible.
At the unmanned water drop before the second climb, I find CR Kanangra. He is suffering cramps but gets to his feet and heads off up the hill: very tough, very gutsy. I refill my hydration pack, wet my shirt and hat, and again set off at a maintainable pace up this cracker of a climb.
Four kilometres of unbroken climb later, I traverse the highest part of the course, at 550 metres of altitude. While at the summit, I receive a phone call from Spud, who has been running with Whippet and T-Bone Tim. Spud asks me to inform the race officials that Tim is unwell and delusional and will withdraw from the event and wait at the water drop. I tell Spud that Tim is always delusional, but I’ll pass the message on anyway when I reach Checkpoint 3 at The Basin in about one hour.
Before reaching the Basin I meet CR MRX, who says he is lost and has covered quite a few extra kilometres. He follows me back on track, but slips behind as he is low on water. Shortly after, I find James Grove heading back along the track towards me. James says we are lost and have missed the turn off to The Basin. I assure him we are in fact on course, and The Basin is about 7 km ahead of us, most of which is easy downhill running.
James trailed close behind for a while, and shortly after, as I narrowly avoided running up the back of a black-snake, I turned to warn him. By the time he turned his Ipod down and removed his earphones to hear what I had to say, he had gone well past it. Hmmm.
Entering CP3 at The Basin was wonderful, with genuine applause from all assembled there. As I enjoy some warm food and change into some clean gear and shoes, sitting opposite me is Jonathon Worswick; he arrived at CP3 well before me, but says he is in a lot of difficulty and will withdraw. He really didn’t look well, and it’s a shame that such a classy runner is out of the event. I hear that six other runners have withdrawn from the race back at CP2. Oddly, this is quite motivational. I feel lucky to be in good shape, and I am keen to get moving again.
Replenished and wearing the full night-running ensemble, I backtrack 3.5 km to the turn-off that will take me on the big climb out of The Basin. It will be dark in about one hour, and the brief twilight in the bush is magical. Again I take the 1.5 km climb easy, and at the top it levels out onto Kingtree Ridge Road; a dirt road with a nice layering of leaf litter in places that provides a lovely running surface for tired feet.
I continue running steadily at a pace I can maintain, as the next 17 kms of the course is very runnable; a mixture of downhill and flat running on firetrail, walking track, country lanes and bitumen road. Making good time and without seeing another runner, I arrive at the village of Yarramalong several hours later and head to CP4 at the school. I have covered 103.7 kms, and feel a bit tired, but it’s good to catch up with an old friend Keith King from Terrigal Trotters, have a feed and a 20 minute break. Tux, who will be my pacer for the remainder of the journey, is looking enthusiastic and ready to roll.
We leave CP4 at about 10:30 pm and begin the long haul up Bumble Hill. The slope is not too steep, and we mix in some running and walking for several kms until we branch off the track beneath the huge power lines, which are humming away to their own tune throughout the quiet of the night. The last few kms form a big uphill arc, and it’s a good spot to look behind and see the headlamps of other runners winding their way uphill, but tonight there are none visible in that stretch of trail.
Following the trail underneath the power lines, we shortly cross the summit of Bumble Hill at Greta Road, and turn onto Cherry Lane. Several kms along the laneway I begin to feel uneasy, as I don’t recognize the greenhouse structures and market gardens that border the laneway. We’ve been looking intently for the turn-off along this section, but have somehow missed it. Retracing our steps, we find it about 600 metres back along the lane. Someone has thrown a discarded road sign on the ground, and as we ran past it the first time, I saw it reflecting brightly in the light of my headlamp. It was just distracting enough for me to miss the GNW signpost about a metre from it. Grrrrrr.
Back on course, we follow the trail three kms down to Dead Horse Creek, and endure the hard 1.3 km slog up the opposite side of the valley onto Tooheys Road. It’s a fantastic name, but there isn’t any beer. Two and a half kms further on we find another unmanned water drop, and while attempting to remove & refill my hydration pack, I get hopelessly tangled in the reflective safety vest I am wearing. In frustration I throw a tantrum and rip the thing into shreds, chucking it at the water drums as a memento of our visit.
Foolishly, I have neglected my usual routine of eating every 25 minutes, and have not eaten for the last few hours. I am now paying the price, experiencing deep lows where I just want to lay down and go to sleep. I’m literally out on my feet, to the point where I can’t speak coherently and at times cannot walk a straight line.
My pacer Tux seems indifferent, and as he heads off I follow him, too tired to object. I decide to run a little, as it seems easier to stay awake. Not awake enough though, as 500 metres later I miss the next turn-off and lead us merrily down a really steep gradient for over a kilometre before I become aware that something is amiss. It takes us nearly twenty minutes to scramble back up the slope and find the turn-off.
The trail takes us downhill and across Ourimbah Creek and along the lush Ourimbah Valley. It’s quite flat through here, but there isn’t much running happening; it’s just walking with a spot of shuffling every now and then. The next ten kms contains two more severe climbs, and after the first we take a short break while I place fresh batteries in my headlamp.
Descending into the next valley, we bottom out and cross a small creek before the next climb begins up to Kilkenny Road. The climb seems never ending; it wasn’t this long last year. Finally reaching the fence-line at the top, we skirt around it and join Kilkenny Road. This leads onto the ominously named Dog Trap Road, and shortly thereafter we turn onto and follow Wisemans Ferry Road the last kilometre into CP5 at Somersby School, with over 132 kms in total behind us.
At the checkpoint I inform my crew that I need to eat and hydrate, treat the blisters that have developed between my toes and take a ten minute power-nap in order to continue. The crew boss flatly rules out any sleeping, but I look after the other needs and try to motivate myself. It’s become very easy to rationalise pulling out, but I console myself with ‘there’s only a marathon left to run’, so Tux and I head off down Silvesters Road for what should be the shortest section of the course.
We continue with a mix of slow running and walking, and pretty soon the course deviates from last year’s course onto the new course, a gentle downhill gradient that takes us all the way to Mooney Mooney Creek. The running down here is superb, and quite amusing, because as the dawn breaks I closely follow a bush turkey for more than 1.5 km metres down the trail. Frequently it runs to the side of the trail and has a quick look, before taking off again down the middle of the track. It’s surreal, like a cartoon.
Levelling out alongside the creek, the running is again easy, and we make good time. Following the course instructions, we come to a gate. The track goes off in three different directions. The next instruction says that 100 metres past the gate, you go underneath the F3 Freeway bridge. We take the most obvious route, and run about 400 metres before heading back to the gate, not having seen a bridge. We then follow our second choice, which loops around and after a while joins the first trail we took, so we again head back to the gate. There is only one choice left, and it heads steeply uphill. Up we trudge, for about 1.2 kms, and the slope gets ridiculously steep as we near the top; it’s almost a climb. We reach the summit, to find a dead-end.
We head back to the gate. It’s so steep, we could nearly slide down on our butts. We reach the gate and then think with enough clarity to look at the altitude directions on our instructions, which tell us that the pass under the freeway bridge is at 45 metres of altitude. We just went up to 176 metres. I am so frustrated. We can’t find a freeway bridge that is over a kilometre long, with umpteen thousand tons of concrete and steel suspended above the river which is next to us. We can hear plenty of motor traffic noise, but it seems to be coming from all directions high above us.
We figure that there must be another gate, and head off on our first-choice-route again. We reach where we previously turned around, and about 150 metres past that, around a small bend, there is a big bloody gate across the trail. Even better, there is a truly gargantuan monster of a bridge suspended high in the middle distance. We have spent an hour looking for it, and ten minutes after passing beneath it, we reach CP6 in third position, just before 8:30 a.m.
Ten minutes or so later, we trot out of CP6 for the last section of the course. We run for a few kilometres before crossing a creek via a suspension bridge and making the short climb to a T-junction. Turning right, it’s only 22.5 km to the finish at Patonga. We read the instructions incorrectly, and turn left, and climb steadily uphill on a rough & rocky trail for over two kms before arriving at Girrakool. Arriving there, I know we’ve stuffed up big-time, and we receive a text message from our crew saying that two runners had left the last checkpoint about 30 minutes behind us.
I ask Tux for his mobile phone. I’m going to ring the crew and ask them to pick us up here at Girrakool. Yep, pull out of the race. I calmly tell him I’m shattered, mentally and physically, and can’t possibly get my head around continuing for another 25 kms. I’ve got no issues about withdrawing.
In reply, he turns around and trots off, pausing just long enough to look me straight in the eye and quietly say ‘keep moving’. I’m stunned. I haven’t got the strength to argue, and I’m cursing his non-confrontational attitude and composure. I walk after him, thinking it’s pointless and futile, because I am going to collapse shortly anyway.
It’s a bit quicker heading back downhill, and I am surprised at how quickly we reach the T-junction. We figure that the guys who left the last checkpoint 30 minutes behind us are now about 15 minutes ahead of us; we’ve spent about 45 minutes off course. This seems to spur me on, and I’m amazed when I ask Tux to let me in front on the flat and downhill sections, and for him to take the lead on the uphills and drag me through. We maintain a strong pace, and I know I am pushing myself way past where I have ever been before. I don’t comprehend it at all, but while it’s happening, it’s all good.
After running well for a little over three kms, Tux leads me over the crest of Scopas Peak and suddenly stops dead in his tracks. I’m wondering what’s going on, and he says to me ‘hey mate, look down there’. I follow where he’s pointing, and about a kilometre ahead I can see the two runners who have recently got ahead of us. They don’t look like they are travelling too well, so we take a long drink and an energy gel and set off after them.
Pretty quickly we caught up, and as planned, ran straight past them in an attempt to put them well behind us. One of therm gave chase for half a km or so and then dropped off. We didn’t ease off the pace too much at all, with me having flashbacks to last year’s race when I was passed with only seven kms to the finish.
Several kms later we commence the drop into the last big descent of the course and cross Myron Brook, passing by the delightful waterfall. From there it’s a steep & nasty climb up to the 4WD track and the last unmanned water drop, where we refill our hydration packs and wet our clothes down for the final 15 kms of the run. It’s hot, the temperature is again in the thirties, and midday is not far away. I’m really pleased to be running third again, the same position I finished last year, and feel reasonably confident about holding my position to the end.
For the next ten kms we push on, taking the odd glance behind us looking for chasers, and happily seeing none. Crossing Patonga Drive is a milestone; there is less than four kms to go, and it’s nearly all downhill. As we trot down the red dirt road to Warrah Trig station, a Parks Ranger drives alongside us and asks what we are doing. Tux fills him in, and he’s not sure if we are serious. We are smiling, but only because it’s nearly all over.
As we take the winding path that descends down Patonga headland, I can hear Tux giving a few involuntary grunts of effort. I contemplate that he has run well over eighty kilometres in his role as pacer, and it will go unrewarded. He’s never run a marathon before, but ran Six Foot Track last year. On top of that, he’s also put up with my complaining, negativity and mood swings during our time together. He wanted to have a look in at the ultra scene for his own future reference, and he got to see a lot. If he crosses to The Dark Side, he’ll go well, because he has the right mix of focus and temperament. He’s also a stubborn bastard (his words, not mine).
We exit the headland track onto the beach at Patonga, and as we close in on the finish, there is a lot of people applauding & cheering. I grab Tux’s hand and raise it in the air, because I want to acknowledge the huge input he has made. Frankly, I would have withdrawn if not for his efforts.
The last hundred metres is fantastic, with friendly faces everywhere warmly acknowledging what really is a great achievement. The event is just so demanding, and I’m really pleased to lean over and kiss the finishing post at Patonga Wharf.
People tell me that I have finished in second place, relating Tugger’s demise at about the 168 km point. I really feel for the guy: he’s lying across the road on the grass asleep. I’m also very happy for IDW who has won the event, especially as he tells me it is his first win in any race.
The next few hours are terrific, spent having a swim, a few beers and watching the other finishers come in. They are all special, and the emotion and relief is clearly evident on their faces as they reach the finish. It’s a great atmosphere, and I particularly enjoy watching Eagle complete his run. He has had tunnel-vision on this event since his shattering withdrawal at 132 km last year, and overcome a severe stress fracture of the femur in the few months before this year’s race. A man on a mission, and for him it’s mission completed.
At the brief presentation ceremony, the Race Director Dave Byrnes congratulates me on being the only two-time finisher in this event. That’s kind of nice, and I’ll be attempting to maintain the streak for as long as possible. For me it is the premier race in the country, it has everything.
Special mention must go to my wonderful better half and crew in this race, Bernie G, who was ably assisted by Tux’s better half, Genevieve. They provided the means and support by which it was all held together. Thanks so much.
Cheers, Blue Dog.
This is my first post. After finishing on Sunday at Patonga (Kim Cook), it has taken me some time to get my body and mind back together (still not there but moving forward). I will post a full race report later. Apologies for the number of thank you messages below but they all need to be said.
What an experience to step onto the sand at Patonga and have what sounded like hundreds of people cheering you up the beach to the wharf. You can’t help but break into what seemed like a sprint to me. Then to see fellow Trotters, other support crews, other runners and finally my support crew manager, partner Debbie waiting and cheering made the whole journey worthwhile.
The weekend brought out some extraordinary performances and none more than from the support crews and in my case, Debbie’s. I think that waiting and not knowing must be the hardest thing. For me as a runner the time seemed to pass fairly quickly, although sometimes the kilometres didn’t pass that quickly. I must thank the other support crews for helping and supporting each other.
Thanks also to Lyndon and Bruce who kept me going during different sections after the 100km mark. You both kept the pace moving but more importantly kept my mind busy. Thanks also to Steve who I ran with for most of the first 100km, glad to see you finished and sorry I lost you with about 12km to go.
A big thanks to Dave Byrnes for getting this event up and running and not being deterred along the way. Thanks also Dave for your confidence and support.
I congratulate all of the runners who fronted up on Saturday. There will be some that this event will not suit, but I think most will be back to give it another go. I would not count on better weather conditions as I think it will always be a factor and will become part of the character of this event. Imagine what those valleys in stage 1 would be like with another couple of days of heavy rain.
I came into the event having never run a trail event and with a distance running history of two road marathons and one road 50K ultra (Canberra 2006). I substituted this inexperience with some great preparation including training on the course in the conditions, reading and learning from the race reports from last year and the many postings this year (thanks Tugger for the Nutrition tips) and finally leaving nothing unplanned as far as things that might go wrong. I will go into the above in more detail in my race report to follow.
Whilst all of the above increased my chance of making it to the finish line, you do need to believe that you can go the distance.
Thanks go to Tim for the use of his gators in the last section.
Finally congrats to all the finishers in the 100km and to Miss Gazelle and Steve Guest my fellow Trotters and training partners well done on gutsy efforts.
And finally to those that experienced Patonga Beach IDW, Blue Dog (thanks for the beer mate), James Grove, MRX, Eagle, Lawrence Mead, Spud, Whippet Man and Bill Thompson.
It feels great to be listed within this group of achievers.
Well so much to say about an very difficult course, and amazing experience in running and for me personally a wonderful result. My time is irrelevant just getting to the finish inside the cut-off was all that mattered.
Some of you may recall that in mid May I had a serious stress fracture above the left knee and as a consequence could not run for 3 months. That only gave me 3 months to regain fitness for this event. I thought it would be difficult but decided to attempt it.
I started off with lots of slow laps of the Bay (where talking 75 minutes for 7k). One Sunday Aunty was running in the opposite direction and turned around and joined me for a lap - 'So your on a cool-down lap' she says. I say 'no this is a flat out tempo run at 10 minute ks'. She had serious Ironman training to do but she then came out with me each Sunday for 3 or 4 what must have been to her very slow and boring laps and some weekdays. Never once did she complain about the slow laps but we did get faster and soon had them down to 40 minutes. Times improved and 4 weeks after starting back running I quietly entered the Sydney Marathon although I had had only one long run of 35k .
At the Sydney Marathon Aunty was my pacer from halfway - or I think she was there to pick up my pieces when I collapsed - we surprised each other with a very comfortable 3.42 finish. A few weeks later I was off to the Melbourne Marathon for a very comfortable 3.17 finish. By then I thought the recovery was going well
These are my thoughts - I am no expert and have the experience of just 2 ultra's so I would place more credibility on the comments of those with much more experience than me.
Did I have a GNW race plan? Yes.
I believe that there is a tremendous amount of time that can be taken off the course in the first 2 sections and the Section after the Basin to the checkpoint 4. From Checkpoint 4 to Somersby is easy and time can be made but at my pace you are through there in the early morning and just keeping awake is difficult let alone try to make up time. Having got that time 'in the bank' you then run to keep it or give as little back as possible. To get 'money in the Bank' and the paln to lose it is not my usual race plan (I advocate even pacing) but this is not your usual race and so a race plan to suit the course must be put into place.
My other plan was to make the Checkpoint stops a quick as possible. So for 1 & 2 they were about 5 minutes. The Basin was longer because the night gear was put on and the next the same as the night gear was removed. I had a prepared list of what to do and referred to it before coming into the Checkpoint.
I was out of Checkpoint 2 at 2.00pm and so had 3 hours in the Bank. Got out of the Basin at 8.00pm - so I broke even. Got out of Checkpoint 4 at midnight and so had 4 hours in the Bank. I was then in a position to give back and hour in the next 3 sections and could still make the cut-off time.
Between 4/5 I gave back an hour - running at 4.00am when all you want to do is stop and sleep is difficult. The difficulty for me is not the running but trying to stay awake. I knew that to push at this time would be foolish and might undo all the time in the bank. So with pacer Dazza we went steady and walk most of the section. I gave half an hour back at the next section but that included a 20 minute stop at the checkpoint to make sure we had plenty of water etc and we took time to cool down before heading out for the last section. By then I had 3 hours in the bank and I estimated I would run the last section one hour slower than the cut off time allows - I ran it 1 hour 15 minutes slower. So the end was I was home comfortably within the cut-off time - I kept 1 hour 15 minutes in the Bank.
How did I manage the conditions?
Well first of all I wore a heart rate monitor and I tried to keep my heart rate below 65% of max - on some hills that is impossible and the heat and other factors can push it up but no matter what the factors are I wanted to keep the HR steady and low. I used a 3 lt Camel back and filled it at every chance (thanks Diane). I didn't carry additional water but perhaps I am more of a camel than an Eagle. Food the usual wide selection of carbs but early on ate a lot of nuts and cheese.
Navigation. It can be an issue however I didn't get lost except we had some concerns at about 163k - I think just about where Tugger went wrong. Other than that I rarely needed a map - just lucky to have a memory for that kind of thing.
At the Communications Tower I came across Lawrence Mead who I had not meet before. He was resting after that monster of a hill - as I got to the top we nodded and we then stayed together until about 171k - he seemed to slow and I felt strong and so I just moved on towards the finish. Thanks for the company over the 26 hours or so - I am sure without you I would not have gone as steady.
Thank you to Dave Byrnes and Terrigal Trotters for a great challenging event. The difficulty of the course and distance between checkpoints is known, the weather is the same for each runner and so to enter you must take all this into account and then run on the day according to your fitness and the conditions allow - then have a little bit of luck.
Congratulations to all the starters for facing the challenge. If you did not make it to the finish this year then learn from the experience and come back next year better prepared. Congratulations to all of the other finishers. Tugger what can I say - how cruel to happen to such a wonderful person and athlete. I am just pleased you got out of it and could enjoy some chips with Aunty.
Finally a special thanks to my crew and pacer - Aunty and Dazza. You both did a wonderful job and I was so pleased to share the experience with my special friends and running buddies.
OK it's long. But so was the race. Don't say I didn't warn you:
The Longest Day: GNW 100 miles Nov 11/12 2006
Time loses all meaning. My GPS/watch had long expired and my regular old watch had completely died so I had no idea of what the time was. We had been running, walking and shuffling relentlessly for a day and a night and most of another day. It felt strangely liberating yet I was constantly aware of the time pressure we were under. It was Sunday afternoon and we were about 150 km into the Great North Walk 100 miler. The cut off is 36 hours and although we had been surfing the cut-off with a healthy buffer of up to 2 hours, it was becoming clear that our progress over this last section from Checkpoint 6 to the finish on Patonga Beach was slower than we expected. We came upon a National Park sign saying “Patonga Beach 15 km” with an arrow pointing south. Fantastic! We were on track to finish with a good hour and a half up our sleeve. Spud said not to trust the sign. I said that even if it were a couple of kms out we were still good. An hour later I could hear Spud groan as I caught up to him sitting at the unmanned water drop. He had his map out and the distance was still 15km to Patonga! God, would this race never end?
Saturday morning at Toronto seemed like a lifetime ago. In some ways it was, as 37 of us had loaded up camelbaks of varying description and run off into the hills. I had settled in with a group of mostly familiar ultra faces, including Tim and Spud, with the three of us planning to run together as far as possible. The starting line-up was like a who’s who of ultra-runners. The morning was hot and I was sweating heavily under the load of 3.5 litres of water plus food and emergency gear. But our spirits were high and our hearts full of anticipation mixed with a healthy dose of fear. This was big. GNW is tough. Throw in 30 C plus temperatures and high humidity and you begin to wonder why we do this. But not for long. Once off the bitumen and rolling along the single track high above the valleys, there was no questioning why. This is what we do. This is who we are.
The race director Dave Byrnes gave a warning about the first section. I remember the same from last year when I did the 100 km version. He warns that the first leg is brutal and as tough as anything over the rest of the course. This is no understatement. There is a short respite when you drop back down to the valley to cross the highway. A quick visit to the service station to refill the water bottles and it was climbing again. You seem to be forever climbing or descending on this run. Take a look at the course profile and it tells the story: over 6000 metres of elevation gain and another 6000 metres of loss. After the big climb to Heaton’s Gap there was some fun technical stuff through the dense rain forest. By the time we reached CP1 we were warm and moving well. The field had already spread out as people found their pace. We were in and out in less than 10 minutes. Checkpoint volunteers wearing suits and runners no less. One of them asked me if it was uphill to the checkpoint. I looked at him quizzically. It’s all uphill, I said before realising he was taking the mickey. Someone filled our bladders while I quaffed a can of baked beans and grabbed food and maps for the next section. Spud and Tim were already off down the road.
It is hard to imagine a race where you can take 5 hours to get from CP to CP. The logistics weigh heavily on your mind. Have I got enough food? Will my water last? And the temperature was rising. I had flown in the day before from a week of Victorian weather that barely reached the low teens. And here I was with the forecast nightly minimum that was higher. No chance to acclimatise. Just keep the fluids up and take a Succeed Cap every hour. On the climbs, salty sweat ran into my eyes making them sting. And my achilles ached. I had injured it badly 3 weeks earlier at Brindabella and had only run twice since. To make matters worse, I had discovered that my trail shoes that I had planned to wear were shot (likely the cause of the achilles injury) so I would have to wear a new pair. Foot suicide: 100 miles on rough terrain with brand new shoes. Best not to think about it. Actually there was lots of denial going on this weekend. Spud have driven up the night before after a U2 concert and only managed a couple of hours sleep. But this was GNW, and you just had to be a part of it. As my achilles warmed up it troubled me less. If I spent too long stationary then it would stiffen and I would limp until it was loose again. Seemed to work. Just don’t spend too long at checkpoints.
There was some good running to be had through some fantastic bush with great views on this next section. Through the dense dark forest the track was tricky to follow. And leeches. Were there leeches? I looked down at one point and my gaiters had come to life. There were a dozen leeches concertinaing their merry way up to bare flesh. As I picked them off more would climb on. Despite the tricky navigation and leech picking, we made steady progress, even up the steep climb to the famous hugging pole where a photographer immortalised our torment. We were playing leapfrog with a couple of runners with rogaining backgrounds. If we slowed to a walk, Spud would start running again. We started calling him “Running Boy”. As opposed to us walking, whinging boys in the rear. At one point he took off in front of us and missed a clearly marked turn. We contemplated letting him go on before relenting and calling him back. Eventually we got away from the two rogainers. Then we passed Grant sitting in the shade cutting up a ripe mango. It looked so good, I joked that we could probably take him and share the spoils. He laughed but I fantasised about eating that mango for the rest of the run. Eventually we started the long drop to the Congewai Rd. I dreaded this section and for some reason remembered it as being all bitumen. It was nearly all gravel but still offered no respite. We could see runners spread out for kilometres ahead of us, baking in the afternoon sun.
On this long hot flat road that leads into the school at CP2 the sun was merciless. I pushed on ahead and Spud caught me up and ran alongside. We passed a sorry looking Hermie. He pulled out soon after with many others at CP2. I was cooking. My brain was frying inside my skull. The soles of my feet were burning. I had to get there as fast as possible. Tim pushed hard to catch up. Maybe too hard. I was looking forward to the rest while we waited for him. But the relentless heat on the exposed road beat down on Tim and by the time he shuffled in he was struggling. I stripped down to my shorts and went to the bathroom and washed my feet and face. It felt great. There was ice water for the bladders and our crew, Chub and Topcat had joined us now, and they had watermelon and oranges that went down a treat. Before I had redressed Tim had recovered and was ready to go. I gutsed down my can of beans, grabbed all my night gear, hoisted my heavy pack and limped off behind them, falling into step again.
This short out and back section had allowed us to see other runners. On our way in Dog had passed us as he turned into the farm. And Miss Gazelle looked strong not far behind him, despite wearing what looked like a pair of waders, presumably as a deterrent to snakes and leeches. O’Runner was coming in as we left, looking very dejected. Eagle and Lawrence had left just in front of us, making short work of the aid stations. Spud said we had been there over 30 minutes. It seemed like a lot less. I couldn’t believe it but Tim had benefited and my feet really needed the cool-off. We began the gradual climb through the forest. I felt very ordinary. The food and fluid from the checkpoint swished around my distended stomach. Tim deteriorated again as the heat drained all our resolve. As the trail kicked up we stopped and sat down. We discussed the merit of pulling out at 100 km. I had come into this race with no expectations, with a poor preparation that saw me only manage about 15km per week for the last 5 weeks due to injury and illness. The fatigue, heat and nausea now made it easy to think of stopping. Spud came back looking for us. We were definitely slowing him down. Off we went on the gruelling climb to the communication tower.
A goanna scurried across the track and startled us. It clawed its way up a tree and we admired its colour and classic prehistoric form. Then a bizarre thing happened: we were heading downhill. We knew this was wrong. This was the longest climb of the day and we had a long way to go. But up, not down. Tim caught up and we decided to back track, with much swearing and cursing. And there it was, under the goanna’s tree: the sign pointing UP the hill. We must have nearly stepped over the sign. On we went having lost only 15-20 minutes. This climb is brutal. I knew if I stopped again I would be in trouble. Tim fell behind and Spud waited to help him. At the top, I sat in the shade by the tower and when Tim arrived he was in bad shape. He was dizzy and clearly heat stressed. He stretched out on a log and I resisted the temptation of a photo at his lowest point. Very unlike me to be so merciful. Must have been the heat. We rested until he was up to continuing but as we ran along the ridgeline it was soon evident that he couldn’t go on.
Decision time. Going back would mean the end of more than just Tim’s race, which we would do if there were no other option. We looked at the map and worked out the next valley had the unmanned water drop with a serviceable road. We just needed to get a message through to our crew at CP3 where there was no phone reception. We tried the RD and then the Sat phone at CP3. No signal. If we continued into the valley we would have no signal there. So we rang someone whom we knew would be following the race and could keep trying on a landline to get through for us, Vegie Girl. We also rang Dog who was on the next peak and would be at CP3 soon. Confident the message would make it we descended into the valley along some of the best running with rolling single-track. Over a few fences, across Watagan Creek and up the short but seemingly steep climb to the road and the water drop. We refilled our bladders and sat Tim by the road. The crows circled overhead like buzzards waiting for a carcass. I relieved Tim of his last vegemite sandwich, figuring he wouldn’t need it as much as I did. How come someone else’s sandwich always tastes so much better? We waited for a while until he convinced us he would be OK and when we saw Bill striding through the paddock we knew that our time buffer had dried up and if Spud and I were going on it had to be now. So we were climbing again. Was there no end to the climbing? At least now the sun was sinking in the sky. Some respite. Well, so I thought.
Our buffer over the cut-off was gone. We would have to push hard and make the most of what little light we had left. I had recovered and was eating and drinking again. I had stopped taking salt tablets to reduce my fluid retention. Spud upped the pace and I settled in for the ride. We descended into the next valley in fading light but pushed up the other side and crossed Pig and Sow Road before we needed our lights. Into the basin we went, paying close attention to the trail markers and our maps. I was getting tired, the pace was telling. I recognised some trail markings and the infamous junction where so many had gone wrong last year. From here to CP3 lights kept coming back towards us as people returned to the junction before the climb out of the Basin. It is amazing how you forget great sections of the course. Kind of a self-preservation where your mind erases the tough stuff. Every light was potentially the CP. But after several runners had gone past we finally saw the glow sticks marking the impending aid station for real. And like a phoenix in the night, CP 3 opened up before us.
Where’s Tim? First check. He had been picked up by Chub and was asleep in the car. We could relax. I was offered a seat but was worried about my achilles so stayed standing. Our crew gave me some salty cream of vegetable soup. I had some coke, soup and then things went bad. Real bad, real fast. I sat down. People were offering me things and all I could do was let my head sink between my knees. My mind was swimming. My resolve drained away and I closed my eyes to stop things moving around me. Was this it? Time to stop? Would I have to pull out? No way. Not like this. I felt ill. I just wanted to curl up in a ball. I knew if I could get moving I would come good. I forced down more soup, grabbed new maps, hoisted my refilled pack and looked for Spud. Into the night we went. And out of it came Bill, bounding through the scrub. He was our barometer. We knew he would be close to the cut. We were still in this race. I dug deep into my reserves. Focus. I had added motivation to keep me going. A few weeks before the race a friend had suffered a serious spinal injury in an accident. When something hurt I swallowed my self-pity and just got on with it. No, I was not giving in that easily. Back on the trail I came good eventually. Well relatively good. I knew now for the first time, that I would finish this race. Focus, really focus. We were nearly halfway there.
I forgot how long the climb out of the Basin was. But I remembered the long downhill that brought us out onto the road at Cedar Brush Trackhead. It was great to be running through the night. And I definitely remembered the endless bitumen of the road into CP4. We planned to run as much of this as we could, but we both seemed low on energy. Or was I just slowing Spud down again? One thing for sure he had stopped singing U2 songs. During the walking stretches my mind would shut down and I would doze off only to wake when the surface changed to gravel on the shoulder of the road. This is the worst part of the entire course. Mind numbing, endless road. It goes on forever. Eventually the farm lights gave way to the town of Yarramalong and we ran into the school to flashing lights and clapping hands. I dropped into a chair and accepted a huge bowl of pasta. Stories of dropouts told the tale of a tough race under tough conditions. Spud decided to dress a couple of blisters and I pulled out some dressings but my checkpoint malaise had struck again. My cognitive functions seemed to leave me. For the whole next leg I felt guilty for not having dressed his blisters properly for him and promised to do so at the next CP. Horrie looked at me with a worried expression. You all right Whippet? No. You gonna pull out Whippet? Horrie, I’ve got a bucket full of excuses and any one of them would do right now, but they’re all soft. I’m going on. I ate as much food as I could while my pack was refilled and got up to go. It was clear that stopping at checkpoints was not good for me. I really wanted to finish this race. Now more than ever.
New territory. Last year I had only entered the 100km. So I had not seen the rest of the course. Spud led the way. I was struggling. We followed the markings and the maps, checking regularly and were soon back in dense bush. The directions were great but I was convinced we were going around in a big circle. I actually said to Spud I would love to see a trace of his GPS for where we had just been. I reckoned it would show a great big circle. I think his batteries had gone flat as well. He constantly checked the map and I scoured for trail markers and telltale footprints. Eventually we emerged again onto open fire trail and the ever-welcome little red GNW symbol kept reassuring me. The light started permeating the sky and gradually the veil of night lifted. We hit the unmanned water drop and topped up. We switched our lights off and ran easily in the pre-dawn light. As the day dawned I found new strength and picked up speed on the long descent. A single-track broke off to the right and the little red man said go this way. And this way I went. Straight down. I flicked the spotlight on my Apex back on as the technical single-track demanded more respect in this grey light. Spud called from behind to make sure I hadn’t missed the turn. Down, down we flew past Stringybark Point. It’s hard to believe we could run this fast after so long on our feet. It didn’t last for long. For every downhill there was a punishing up.
We were gradually seeing more civilisation and eventually climbing, yet again to Somersby and CP5. I felt good for the first time at a CP since CP1. We sorted through our stuff, grabbed food for the new day and ditched our night gear. I cleaned my teeth, always a godsend after hours and hours of sweet and then salty food. I guzzled some coke and later wished I had filled one of my bottles with more of that magic brew. We said goodbye to our crew with Tim taking over as replacement for the last two legs. And we were off. Quickest stop for the entire race so far. We were now following split directions on the new part of the course. Spud had paced Dog on the old course last year and found the change far more scenic despite being longer. He even started singing to me again. However, his thick Irish brogue meant I had no idea what he was singing. Probably U2 again. There was magnificent trail running following the Mooney Mooney Creek. Soft forest floor with a shady arch of trees and a gentle downhill grade. We flew along despite weary legs, conscious that the day would soon heat up. Our spirits were high. At one point there was even a sprinkle of rain that cooled us momentarily before simply increasing the humidity. As the cloud cover burnt off the sun bit into our exposed flesh and we entered our second day of oppressive heat.
Under the spectacular expanse of the Newcastle Freeway bridge and over the old Highway bridge to the screaming sound of Sunday afternoon motorcyclists. CP6 was a welcome sight. It signified our last point of contact before the finish. Again we were quick, keen to keep moving. Along the river, over the swing bridge and then the most brutal of climbs. I had what I term a “Duane’s Spur moment”. Actually I had several of them. Reminiscent of the killer climb on the Bogong run. Step after step. Huge steps. Quad straining steps. Running boy was out of sight, again. The sweat clung to my brow, the thick humidity defying any surface evaporation. My feet burned. My achilles ached. And my heart pounded in my chest. Would this never end? Spud no longer sang. We spoke only when we needed to. It was now all about finishing, nothing else. Periodically, I would see something in the bush only to find it gone moments later. I saw a car, then a shed and then a roof. Was that an elephant or just a really big rock? I looked across to a neighbouring plateau and saw a block of flats. I was hallucinating! Just great. I asked Spud if he could see the flats and they morphed back into a pile of tiered rocks. Then I remembered him asking if I could see a chair in the bush earlier. And I didn’t feel quite so silly. Well not quite so, for now anyhow. The heat was oppressive. We crossed a cool, fresh creek and filled our caps letting the icy water run down our backs. The next creek had a small waterfall and I stripped down to my shorts and dunked myself under the icy torrent. Glorious. I was tempted to immerse my shoes to cool my hot feet but so far I only had one small blister and didn’t want to push my luck. The short break was a blessing as we continued climbing and descending until we were picking our way across the sandstone escarpment. The trail was tricky to follow with small painted arrows the same colour as the fungi on the rocks. At one point Spud ran out of track and I found an arrow fashioned out of sticks pointing the way. Imagine this section in the dark? The sun was burning my neck and ears. My feet felt like I was walking on hot coals. There was little running to be had as the unseen clock ticked away. And then we spotted that Parks sign to Patonga.
After the water drop there was lots of open fire trail that should be run-able. But we were tiring, well I certainly was. The distances seemed disproportionate to the map. We wound on and on until we rounded a high headland and I heard Spud cheer up ahead. As I rounded the corner I hooted as well as I saw water and sand in the valley below. Beach. But no, it was a dam backing onto the tip. We were still miles away. The roller coaster of emotions was amplified by the intense fatigue and heat. We passed some race volunteers walking up the track and they checked our numbers and rang them in. They said we were probably still an hour and a half away! Well, at least we were assured we were on the right track.
Every turn of the map was one step closer until we hit the bitumen of Patonga Drive. We were palpably close. Jan drove alongside us and stopped to wish us well (having missed the cut at CP3). He had finished last year and his wishes were heartfelt. We were so close. We ran on, stride for stride or shuffle for shuffle. Past the Warrah Lookout and into the bush above the beach. We heard cheering and my first thought was they could see us through the trees. Then we thought it was for the presentations. Turns out Lawrence was finishing just in front of us. Down, down we went for the last time. We hit the beach and it was truly surreal. Boats were bobbing in the harbour. Kids were playing on the sand. And here we were emerging from our great adventure. And there was cheering and clapping, echoing down the beach. The jetty seemed so far away and the sand so hard to run on yet my legs knew what to do and all the pain melted away. Smiles from ear to ear we jogged across that beach soaking in all the emotion, savouring our achievement, tears of joy welling up. As we reached the finish we grabbed each other’s hand and raised them triumphantly in recognition of our partnership, the journey shared. Does it get any better than this? Thanks Spud for sticking with me and getting me across that line.
This race is about survival. It is about testing your limits, knowing when to stop and when to push on. It is about camaraderie and teamwork. It is about experiencing all the highs and lows that an ultra can dish out. It is about fantastic scenery and incredible terrain. But above all else it is a voyage of discovery. You look within yourself to see what’s there. If you’re lucky you may discover an inner strength that will lift you above the daily grind and fill you with the knowledge that you have what it takes to overcome adversity. There is a small but growing club of ultra runners who can say they have finished the GNW 100. It is a tough club to get into but definitely worth the effort. When you step onto that sand at Patonga Beach and you hear the supporters raise a cheer as one and you look at the ocean and the sand and the boats and the daily life going on all around and you realise you have emerged from the greatest adventure and no-one can take that away from you, you can’t help but want to join our club. Look into the eyes of the finishers and you will see why we do this. Thanks Dave for sharing your vision. See you all in Toronto next year.
I ventured into unknown territory during this run, staying on my feet for 35 hours, by far the longest time on my feet, surpassing Trailwalker a few years ago by some 12hrs. After pacing Blue Dog over the final 68kms last year and covering a few sections of the first 100km in training, I was keen as mustard to get out there and sample this fantastic adventure that is the GNW100. This was to be my 12th ultra for the year and there are not many prettier or tougher trails around.
As it transpired it was going to be a very busy weekend with U2 concert obligations on both the Friday and Monday, I called it my GNW “sandwich”. Only thing was I feared I might have bitten off more than I could chew. When I first heard about U2’s rescheduled tour dates I feared the worst, I would not start, but there was no way I was going to miss out on this one. It had to be run. With the craziness of cramming so much into one weekend on my mind, I scaled back my plans of “racing” it and decided to team up with Mellum and just push for a finish and treat the race as a trailwalker type team event. This would turn out to be a wise decision.
After Friday nights concert I zoomed up the freeway arriving in Toronto about 1.30am, 3 hrs later I was awoken from my slumber by my phone alarm. Wow, was that really 3 hrs? I quickly dressed, grabbed my stuff, ate a tin of creamed rice (one of many for the day) and drove to the start line. It was already bustling, upon arrival. Most runners seemed to be ready and waiting to get going. I had organised my drop bags the day before so it was just a case of finding the corresponding bins and then trying to get into the right mental frame in readiness for this epic.
And an epic it is, I’ll quote the homepage of the website:
“the course passes through rugged and spectacular terrain and is a demanding challenge for all runners. Entrants need to cope with precipitous ascents and descents, muddy trails and creek crossings, slippery rocks and roots, and hard-to-follow trail. There are a number of sections where running is impossible. There will be no marshals on the course and all runners will need to be capable navigators and prepared to travel at night in remote areas on difficult trail. Runners will also be required to carry certain equipment and must carry sufficient water to last them between checkpoints, which can be up to 30 km apart. Add to that, 108 miles of trail with 6130mtrs of ascent and 6144mtrs of descent. Giddyup!
Dave Byrnes rang out the usual warnings and last minute stuff. I felt like I was on a massive hangover even though I only had a couple of beers the night before. Everyone seemed to have their shit together, or so it appeared. The forecast was for a hot weekend with temps to reach mid thirties. The predicted heat combined with over 6000mtrs of elevation gain and loss through remote country ensured we were in for a tough couple of days.
We set off bang on 6am with the field quickly starting to spread out. I settled into a comfortable pace running with Tim and Andrew about mid pack I guess, at times running with Eagle, Mister G, Bandanna and Allison Lilley. It was already warming up and with sweat starting appear on my forehead after the first few hundred metres I knew we were in for a hot one.
It took me a while to get going, I was still ringing in the ears and slightly deaf from the concert. It was nice to hit the trails after a few kms of bitumen and then the hills and there are lots of them. Running very conservatively, power walking the ups and gliding the downs was the go. I felt left out, with both Tim and Whippet opting for trekking poles to take the weight off their knees whilst helping with the climbs. The course gets real pretty very quickly as we enter higher ground along the ridgeline of the Sugarloaf Range, steep drop offs either side affording wonderful vistas with awesome singletrack running ending with a nice drop down to Brunkerville Gap and the crossing of Freemans Drive.
I ducked into the servo for a much-anticipated coffee, to alleviate the caffeine headache I was quickly developing. A quick top up at the water tap and then the climb to Heaton Gap and the communications tower, this is the first real tester on the course and a good appetiser for what lies ahead. We were travelling well, soaking up the early morning rays, still in the comfort zone as we made our way to the lookout. Another top up at the water tank, we then drop into lush rain forest with some tricky technical stuff along the valley floor. We traversed dry creek beds all the while keeping alert for GNW trail markers. Along here we enjoyed the company of a couple of rogainers who were entered in the 100 miler. There were plenty of leeches about already; Andrew seemed to be constantly stopping to pick them off his shoes. The views from MacLean’s lookout at the top of the next climb north to the Hunter were magnificent; we paused for a photo.
We pulled into CP1 to be met my a suit wearing Kevin from the Terrigal Trotters complete with Elvis tie and of course Elvis blasting out from the car stereo. My U2 honeymoon was over. We refilled, ate some and made for Georges Rd and the run along the beautiful Myall Range, a wide, hard packed firetrail that allowed some nice running. At CP1, Eagle came through and passed us, my competitive instinct told me to go with him and I was very tempted but decided to stay with the team. In truth I probably couldn’t stay with Ray at the rate of knots he flew off at.
We regrouped again as Whippet caught up after spending extra time stuffing his face full of baked beans. Nice running through the forest and again with the hills, this time the long climb to the infamous hugging pole. I actually enjoyed this climb and upon cresting noticed a photographer busily snapping away with a huge sadistic grin on his face. Looking at the post race photos he certainly captured some beaut moments. I recalled Tim’s photo from last year, this year there were plenty of similar faces of torment captured.
Again we played leap frog with our rogaining friends. After a while the track becomes narrower and we began our descent to Congewai Rd as the mercury steadily rose. I was chugging away on my 3ltr camelback ensuring I stayed as hydrated as possible. I also carried a handheld with 600ml of electrolyte. This worked well and I never ran out of fluid. The long haul along the road through the valley to CP2 taxed us as the sun bore down on our backs, no shade and no wind, it was brutal. We passed a struggling Hermie and then met Blue Dog as he entered the Glenagra farm. Tim fell off the pace or maybe it was Andrew and I upping the pace in an effort to get out of the heat, seeking the respite of the school. We arrived there and met up with our crew for the first time. Chub and Topcat had everything read for us, iced water, fresh fruit slices, suncream, great stuff. We sat down, ate, drank and retrieved our night gear from our drop bags. Tim arrived about 5 minutes later looking pretty wasted. All up we stayed there for a good 30 minutes but we needed to. I was itching to get going again knowing we had the toughest leg ahead of us. I had a fly net in my drop bag and decided to try it on; about 100mtrs out of the school grounds I pulled it off again feeling somewhat claustrophobic. O Runner came into view as we trudged up the road looking tired and dehydrated. I was surprised to see him; his was one of many navigational mishaps for the day.
Tim had pulled up well at the CP but it wasn’t long before things started going south for him as we neared the first climb after traversing the farms and paddocks at Glenagra. I pulled ahead on the climb, always keeping the boys within eyeshot. However, at one point I turned around and couldn’t see them anymore. I ran back down the hill and noticed both of them sitting down near the bottom. I called out. They regrouped and started climbing again. At this point I was thinking they both might not make it as Whippet was having some stomach issues, too many cans of beans at the CP I reckoned. Andrew pushed on to the communications tower while Tim battled on behind. I stayed with eyeshot hoping, praying he would come good. We sat down at the top of the climb next to the communications tower and ate and drank waiting for Tim to recover. He was dizzy and disoriented and frankly looked like shit. It was not looking good. I had hoped the break would serve him well but it wasn’t to be.
We walked along Cabans Rd toward Flat Rock lookout discussing our options. Tim made it clear to us that his race was run and he’d pull. We decided the unmanned water drop near Watagan creek was the best option with a serviceable road and rang ahead arranging for him to be picked up. The satellite phone number didn’t work so we tried Blue Dog who was making his way up to the highest point of the course at Mt Warrawalong and Vegie Girl who was following our progress too. We were assured the message would get through. With help sorted, all we had to do now was get Tim down to the water drop. I was amazed we didn’t get passed along here as we walked a good 7-8km of very run-able terrain. As it transpired 8 runners would pull the pin at the last checkpoint CP2 just 52.5kms in, a testament to just how tough this run is.
We left Tim at the water drop where he assured us he was ok. He did look a lot happier after sitting down. Andrew stole his last sandwich before we left for the climb up Mt Warrawalong. As we were leaving Sportsman and Peter Lines arrived and then we noticed Bill Thompson crossing the paddock off in the distance and that was our cue to get going.
The climb here is tough with very loose gravel on steep ascents making for treacherous footing at times. Whippet and I pushed on fairly hard trying to make up some of the time we’d lost over the past few hours. It was nice to finally arrive at the highest point of the course at Mt Warrawalong, I thought back to the recon run I did here a few weeks prior. It was starting to cool down now as the shadows grew longer, our original intent of reaching the Basin before dark would not happen.
We ran well down into the next valley, crossed Wollombi Brook and then climbed up toward Pig and Sow Ridge road. I mentioned to Whippet the course directions could do with adding this drop to the creek and subsequent climb back out. Once at the top on Wild Boar Rd, I tried to push the pace in order to cover as much of the gnarly terrain on the way into the Basin in daylight as possible. Andrew remembered the way well from last year, so no navigational mishaps as night fell. We spotted a few headlights coming back out of the Basin, at times mistaking them for the CP itself. We then saw Eagle and Lawrence at the Lyrebird Trail intersection; they had a good 90 minutes on us we figured. We bid them farewell and mentioned we’d see them later at Patonga beach. Next up was Kanangra looking focussed and determined.
The final stretch into the Basin seemed to go on forever, we were delighted when the CP finally came into view with some glowsticks hanging from trees signalling its arrival. A great reception greeted us, and after checking on Tim (who was a asleep in Chub’s car) we sat down and tucked into some hot soup, once again our crew doing a great job. I remember putting my soup on the ground for a few seconds only to pick it up again and find it was leech infested, creamed rice please. Horrie refilled our packs this time while Topcat and Chub made the soup and coffee. Diane, Chonky, Aunty Karin and Bandanna amongst others who were still there providing lots of support and encouragement. Whippet had another CP moment only this time he really looked quite ill. I thought his race was over then but full credit to him he got his shit together and got up. We stayed at the Basin for quite a while but again it was required.
Just after exiting the Basin “vortex” we came upon Bill who makes this stuff look so easy, he was singing as we passed, obviously delighted to be nearing the CP and looking forward to his steak and glass of Guinness. Shortly before the track diversion heading back uphill we bumped into Sportsman and told him not too far to go. Paul Every and Pem also appeared soon after.
The climb out of the Basin to Walkers Ridge Forest Rd was a drag. I remembered this was an area a few runners got confused last year making there way to Kingtree Ridge Rd and I rued not having the specific course directions and the detailed map for this area with me. Still the notes we had made sense and finally we were on the long descent to Cedar Brush Creek Rd. At one point we couldn’t see any markers as the trail narrowed and became fairly overgrown. We were just about to turn back when not that far ahead we spotted a trail marker… phew, what a relief it was to see them little red signs. I think it was around here that I started to become quite fatigued, the high of the Basin was starting to wear off and we both knew there was some pretty mundane bitumen running to be had into CP4.
We emerged from the bush and out onto the road, a gravel road that soon became bitumen. It was around midnight and we were both tired. At one stage along here I started to go into micro sleeps as we walked. Every so often I would start running again in an effort to awaken myself from my slumber, only to find myself on the soft shoulder staggering. Whippet was feeling the same wave of tiredness, we longed for CP4 at Yarramalong to appear.
Over the last few hours I had developed some hot spots on both balls and heels of my feet (most likely from a lot of walking) and was looking forward to a change of socks and shoes at the next checkpoint. Just before the CP we noticed red and blue flashing lights in the distance, I presumed it was an ambulance at the CP thinking the worst, it turned out to be our welcoming beacon.
The checkpoint was great with lots of food, pasta and hot soup. I downed a tin of creamed rice and changed into my CR tritop, sat down and peeled off my socks to reveal some nice blood blisters on both heels. Whippet went into CP oblivion again but was still cognitive enough to give me some antiseptic swabs and two dressings for my feet, legend. I should of burst and drained the blisters but instead opted to leave them be. As it turned out it didn’t take much running for them to pop all by themselves offering immediate relief. It was nice to have some fresh clothes on; I grabbed my spare Garmin from my crew bag too. Whippet got up again, composed himself and we made an exit. Allison and Sportsman arrived just as we left.
So 103kms covered and from here I knew the rest of the course bar the new section along Mooney Mooney creek. I was feeling better now and fresher for the rest. We entered the bush again along Bumble Hill Rd and started descending into the valley. I remembered a tricky turn off here heading back up hill that Blue Dog and I and others missed last year. No mistakes this year, we carefully picked our way through the night crossing some damp patches of mud along the way. We dropped into the valley once more along some technical trail where you had to stay very alert picking up the trail. I turned on the 3W led on the Apex for the first time through here; it did a wonderful job lighting up the canopy covered forestry trail. We crossed Dead Horse Creek and climbed again up to Mulligans Ridge along a twisting and turning trail. At one point we were convinced we’d just ran in a big circle. Alas we emerged on Tooheys Rd and the unmanned water drop, relieved we hadn’t stuffed up.
Dawn was now breaking and with it our spirits soared as we ran down to Ourimbah Creek along a wonderful singletrack, soft and lush under foot. Whippet flew off into the distance enjoying the gentle descent. It started to rain and I began to sing again. This was truly the best moment of the run for me. It was day two and around 24hrs in, the cooler temps of the early morning and accompanying rain exhilarating. We climbed once more passing Hidden Valley, a lovely part of the world where an early morning horse rider greeted us. We turned right back into bush, yet another climb before emerging on the bitumen of Kilkenny Rd. CP 5 at Somersby Public School was now only a few kms away. We had made up some lost time through the last section with some good running and were fairly confident we’d get through the next stage with enough of a buffer for a more relaxed final section. (yeah right)
The CP was very quiet with only a few Trotters about and of course our crew. More refilling, refuelling and an opportunity to drop off the night gear. Tim was now crewing having recovered from the previous days heat stroke. I wasn’t too keen on the spring water and asked Topcat to replace it with water from the crew car. We bid Topcat and Chub farewell as they had to get home, we would now have Tim as our crew for the remainder of the run. More coke, coffee and a packet of salt and vinegar chips, there was even some boiled spuds on offer.
We only spent 10 minutes or so there before we left, determined to get to Mooney Creek in good time. This is where the course diverted from last years and instead of going through Somersby proper we pick up the GNW running parallel to Mooney Mooney creek. Superb running, a slight downhill gradient on soft trail, shaded canopy, magnificent, we made good time down past the dam and to the crossing. I fielded a few calls from Vegie Girl, Undercover Bro and Tony from work, all offering encouragement. Before long the huge expanse of the F3 freeway loomed overhead, we knew we were nearing the CP. I knew the Mooney Mooney Bridge wasn’t too far ahead after crossing it a few times during the annual Poorman’s Comrades fatass run.
It was bloody hot again and we looked forward to a cool coke. A quick stop we needed to keep moving, I grabbed some bananas before we left. I enjoyed the section along Piles creek before we crossed on the suspension bridge. We were now back on the course from last year at the intersection to Patonga and Girrakool. The next climb was brutal, in the heat of the day, sun belting down on us as we clambered our way to the top. A short flat bit and then another drop back down to Piles Creek and Myron Brook where we stopped at the waterfall and took some time out to get the core temp down. The icy water was heavenly; we scooped it up with our caps and drowned ourselves in it, refreshing us in readiness for yet another climb.
This last section should not be underestimated no matter how good you feel. It’s relentless moonscape at the top over Leochares and Scopas Peaks is very exposed hard sandstone plateaus, with no respite from the sun. It seemed to take forever for us to finally arrive at the unmanned water station having earlier read a signpost indicating 13km to Patonga and then realising at the water drop we still had a good 14km to go. We were also experiencing a good dose of the sleep monsters through here, convinced we’d see something in the bush only to realise it was a rocky outcrop or tangled bush or something else. At one stage I was convinced I saw a grotto complete with a statue of the Virgin Mary carved out of the sandstone. I was about to point it out to Andrew but thought better of it. We just kept on plugging away following the little arrows that were graciously painted on the rocks, without them there is no discernable trail. In fact this whole section looked so different from last year, a result of recent bush fires maybe?
We skirted Mt Wondabyne and then picked up a 4WD track. Then the weirdest thing, I recalled being able to see the ocean around here last year and right enough I looked out beyond the trees and let out a yell to Andrew. Then we both yelled out triumphantly thinking yes not long to go now. The realisation that we were in fact looking at the Woy Woy garbage depot and mistaking the “sand” coloured structure for the beach left us deflated. We stopped checked the maps again and figured we were in fact a good 7km out from Patonga, silly mind games playing up late on.
A few Trotters then appeared coming up the up the track. They called our numbers in and then informed us we had a good 90 minutes to go. We calculated we should be ok time wise and well under the cutoff but weren’t taking any chances so we started jogging again. Finally we crossed Patonga Drive and entered Warrah Trig road. Jan Herrmann pulled up in his car offering some encouragement, which was nice. We were nearly home. Just then Sean Greenhill called, I informed him we are about to drop down to the beach. We heard some cheers coming up from below as we entered the trail descending to the beach. We were almost there.
It’s just after 5pm on the second day as we hit the sand for the first time. What a feeling, the culmination of 35hrs of hard bush trekking, a sharing of space and time with like minded, crazy headbangers. My mind wandered back to this same moment last year whilst pacing for Blue Dog, this year there was to be no pacing, we were about to notch up a GNW100 mile finish, a damn fine achievement. To share it with Andrew was the icing, we stuck together for 35hrs helping each other through this adventure and fittingly raised each other’s arms as we crossed the line. The welcoming cheers from friends, family and crew was a nice touch, I was surprised to see so many people still around. Blue Dog pointed to the GNW post and motioned for us to touch it, a fitting finishing ritual no doubt. I gladly obliged.
Looking back at the race now, some two weeks later I can say that it is without doubt the toughest 100 miler in the country and apparently on par with some of the hardest 100 milers in the US. I can only compare it to the Glasshouse 100, as that’s the only other one I’ve run. GNW is indeed, to quote Jan Herrmann, “Trailwalker on Steroids” and should be prepared for as such, lots of bushwalking, clambering over rocks and lots of hills, which equates to a lot more time on feet. I went into this event treating it as a very long bush walk/run type event. As it transpired, a sensible approach can in fact lead to a “Bradbury” type finish with plenty of dnfs along the way. It’s a gem of a trail through some of the most spectacular country on offer. I truly hope this event becomes a classic and cements its place as one of Australia’s premier trail runs. I will be back next year to race this one; hopefully without any distractions.
Once again, thank you Dave Byrnes and the Terrigal Trotters.
Edit: Oh and the U2 concert the day after was a ripper, lined up all day for mosh pit access.
A few more comments on the run that may be of interest to someone out there, but probably not. A bit long winded I'm afraid. Preparation. Having failed in 2005, I knew this could well be my last attempt so I'd better get it right. I decided to spend at least 10 days in the bush away from computers, phones, grog etc so why not on or near the course. Louie de fly kindly dumped me at the end of the bitumen near Teralba. It was very hot and dry – the two packs must have weighed about 35kgs with 7 litres of water and two of fuel for starters. Managed to get past Heaton Lookout to camp on the first day. The downhills were treacherous. The course on race day was near perfect compared with this. As a matter of interest I lived on the muddy dam water just before the zig zags after cp2 for a day. Just didn't need to add tea or coffee. I got right through to Patonga but only averaging about 20kms a day. I never used the maps or instructions, just followed the GNW signs. Spent the last Tuesday before the run cruising without the packs. Then back to Lou's on Thursday via Wondabyne station. The run. Great to see such a crowd at the start with many familiar faces. I felt I'd done the work so had a good chance keeping to my schedule that had me arriving in Patonga at 5.55pm. After the start talked briefly with Jan and John before they took off and I settled comfortably at the rear along with the support vehicle. Stopped briefly at Heaton Gap before the first big climb. I had made up a brew here last year but decided to skip this luxury and save 5 minutes this year, as the next section is one of the hardest to keep up a good average speed. Passed John and Jan (who had lost his mobile) and a few others on this section but still arrived 10 minutes behind schedule. Luckily had a 20 minute stop scheduled so cut this back to 10. Check point 1 was just great. Getting served coffee, bacon, sausages and eggs by blokes in suits was a first for me. Left here on schedule in good spirits. Teamed up with Sebastian for much of the next section. He was recovering from the flu so was feeling the heat a bit and I pulled ahead on the downhill down to the road. Surprised to find so many bodies lying around on arrival at cp2. I really didn't think it was that hot. Possibly one of the advantages of walking. After cp2 caught up with Paul and Pem and we chattered away until the climb. Paul had already decided to pull out at 100k. I left them at the start of the climb, changed down a gear, and made it to the top without stopping, passing Grant on the way. He was feeling the heat a bit but soon cooled and we took off towards Flat Rock lookout where we met Alison. They then ran off but I caught them on the steep downhill to Watagan Creek. Grant said he was overheating. It was probably the hottest part of the course here and it was nearly after 6pm. I bombed on down, passed a bloke waiting to be picked up on the road just before the water drop. I knew there was a nasty rough climb out of the valley so had scheduled in a noodle soup stop. Soon had the gas stove roaring and cooked up a litre with boost home dried chillies. Meanwhile Alison had arrived but there was no sign of Grant and we both started to get a bit worried. Alison suddenly leapt to her feet – she had nearly been bitten in a very sensitive spot by a bulldog ant. She was worried about the climb ahead and I said that that would have got her up there like a rocket. She took off while I finished eating. Still no sign of Grant but the farm was close and I knew more people would be coming through soon so I took off up the roughest part of the course. Luckily it only goes on for about 15 minutes and then it was very pleasant late evening cruising through tall forest. I caught up with Alison as she was getting reflective jacket, lights etc organised. She had made it up the hill no worries. Then it was off to the basin. We caught up with another couple of blokes (I think it was Peter and Ron). I rather fancy myself on the rough terrain so asked to pass and I would see them at cp3. No wrong turns this year, so arrived in good spirits and with a cold Guineas waiting things don't get much better. Soon had the stove going and the steak on. Rice and cream to follow, change of clothes, just ahead of schedule, things were looking good. After the climb out of the basin, it is then fairly easy going until cp4. That said, for me the 12k up the bitumen is the most difficult part of this run. Two hours of boring stuff armed with a large dog whacker. Arrived OK at cp4 but with little appetite and couldn't even face having another Guineas. A cup of tea went down well and I got out of there on schedule soon catching up with Peter. I tried to talk Alison into continuing, she looked OK but her decision to pull out had been made. Peter said he wasn't good on hills so I left him soon after the road on the long easy climb after cp4. There are 4 climbs on this section so it shouldn't be underestimated. About half way through this section the dawn arrived and soon after that I had a nice stop at the creek at Stringybark Point. An easy road section is then followed by a nice but strenuous section including 2 climbs, the last bringing you in to Somersby. I ordered up Bacon and Eggs but they said sorry, not on the menu. I had bacon in the pack and eggs in the drop bag so they soon had them cooking. After a couple of coffees I left munching the b and e's with no great appetite. No sign of Peter. The route to cp6 is pretty easy going but hard on the feet in parts. I had several sore spots and a nice heel blister and kept kicking rocks with suitable cursing. The Moonie Creek crossing was a non event. It was heating up nicely by the time I reached cp6. To my astonishment they said that no one had finished the course yet. So where the hell was Tugger? I tried to eat and was about to leave when Peter ran in. Said if he sat down he wouldn't get up again. Not a good sign as it is pretty rough going from here to the finish. The friendly check point people wanted me to have some coke but I said it always let me down. Luckily they persuaded me to carry a litre for later. I left just before Peter but he soon caught me and went past. I caught him on the climb after the suspension bridge and he said he was overheating and feeling totally stuffed. He signalled for me to pass and I told him there were a few creeks coming up where he could cool off. At the first I dunked the shirt and hat then kept moving. This section has lots of ups and overs and downs and is hard on the feet, much of it being on pure sandstone. At about 3pm I reached the large creek with waterfall below. Decided to reschedule my 10 minute break here and cool down. I was going to have it at the water drop. Drank plenty including electrolytes, then took off the shorts and sat more or less fully dressed, shoes and all in the freezing waterfall. Actually left here feeling cold, the legs and feet much better. I'd filled up all my water containers with the cold creek water so went straight past the water drop. I had seen no sign of Peter and I think this is where he dropped out. Now it was just a matter of averaging 5km an hour through all the wildflowers. Sounds easy but I really had to push it. I notice in the results that I did the 2nd fastest time over this leg. After 4pm I started in on the coke and then had slugs every 20 minutes. Seemed to give me a bit of extra energy. It was 5.35pm when I hit the lookout and I had this dreadful feeling that I wouldn't make it. So, better start running for the first time and once I got moving it wasn't too bad. The feet soon went numb and I did good time down to the beach. Great relief on checking the watch to see the finish with heaps of time up my sleeve. Great crowd to see me over the finish line with ten minutes to spare – the RD had kindly postponed the presentations. Thanks to all the organisers and check point people – great stuff. Comparisons. I've done a few runs/walks in the states and the nearest comparison would be Massanutten in Virginia. It also has a 36 hour time limit but is only 100 miles. Food and drink. As a matter of principal, I always try and keep eating and drinking separate. Difficult in the heat. I used endura + vitamin C every 3 hours, always when not eating. Tried to eat normal food at normal times. Carried 3l of water, dried fruit, nuts, cheese, olives, chillies, cream, yeast all the way and nibbled as I saw fit between check points. Small stove from 2 to 3 for soup and cooking dinner at 3. Cheers until next time Bill
With the weather forecast in the 30's for both days, the days leading up to race day were filled with nerves. Runners coming back for a second time assured virgins on the Coolrunning website that this was all part of the excitement of the day and to enjoy the moment.
Friday night was an early departure from work, heading up to Warner's Bay for dinner with about 30 other people doing the run/crewing/pacing/support. It was a laid back and enjoyable dinner at Mama Mex's, and it was nice to meet some of the runners before the big day.
Heading off to the motel for a good nights' sleep was never to happen. At 12.30am, the guests next door decided it was party time. And party they did....still going strong until we left, about 4.30am.
Kids in tow, we drove to the start at Teralba, where Colin helped Dave in setting up the start whilst I tried to have a little bit more sleep with the kids, watching a DVD in the car.
The Mayor of Teralba (aka Kevin Andrews) showed up, donned in suit and complete with Elvis tie and running shoes. It was to be a sight to behold at every checkpoint.... and a warm welcoming one I may add, that I was to discover later in the day.
Unlike most races, it seems Ultras take on a personality of their own, with warm welcomes and introductions from many entrants, it was like comrades coming together to tackle a monster, united. And a monster it was....
Start to Checkpoint 1
Heading off from the excitement at the start, we hit the tarmac for the beginning of the adventure. As I waited for Dave's "Go", I thought about how lucky, selfish and greedy I was to be able to spend the whole day running. This brought a smile to my face and I knew then I would soak up every moment of the day, no matter what was in store ahead.
Colin was our following car, but we lost him quickly as we headed over the railway line via the pedestrian crossing. I wasn't to know then that he had gone around the other way to meet us, and I didn't see him again until later that night at The Basin.
As we climbed a short hill and headed along the straight road to the first turn, I passed Paul Every and Pem with great hesitation, knowing that Paul was such a fantastic ultra runner and knew what he was doing, I expected him to remain in front of me. But I had no choice, I couldn't run any slower without my knees hurting, so away I went.
We hit the first turn into the bush, met by our loyal Terrigal Trotting Mayor , Kevin, and Photographer, Greg Aurisch. With a big smile, I disappeared along the track, ready for the first sojourn up a hill. All being familiar territory, and plenty of runners to follow, I settled into a cruisy pace and took time to appreciate the scenery.
Halfway up the ascent before Archery Road, I met a horseback rider who greeted me with "haven't you guys heard of horses? It's much easier!" At that stage I wouldn't have swapped positions with him for the world. I was lapping up this wonderful morning run. I got a small stitch in my side, and it was to remain with me for the entire journey, which became quite irritating after a while, as there appeared no logical reason for the damn thing to be there in the first place.
It wasn't long before we were running along our first ridgeline, enjoying the spectacular views across Lake Macquarie on our left and the Hunter Valley on our right. I decided to take it pretty cautiously here, not wanting to come a buster at such an early time in the run. I was quickly overtaken by quite a few of the guys who are always much faster and more surefooted through this terrain, and was quite happy to step aside and let them pass, taking the pressure off and allowing me to cruise at my own pace. It wasn't long before we hit the 15km mark, and saw the Ampol service station, along with Kevin Andrews, Dave Byrnes and Greg Aurisch.....I think there were a couple more spectators but I was too busy yelling out to Kevin how sexy he looked in his suit.....then trying to cross the road without being hit by a car in all the excitement.
Heading up the step stairs became sobering, knowing that this ascent was the beginning of many difficult ascents to follow. Most of this run saw me swapping positions with Lawrence Mead, Kim Cook and Steve Guest. It was somewhere through this leg I collected the hitchhiking leech from hell. I saw him trying to wiggle his little body through the mesh of my shoe and thought "ah, he won't eat much. Not worth stopping for". A couple of other runners stopped to remove theirs, and I naively thought they were wasting time for something so innocent. How wrong I was to be!
As we approached the hugging post, at the top of one of the major climbs for this leg, Greg was poised for a camera shot. I wasn't going to drape myself over it with a look of exhaustion...mentally I had to remain superwoman.... so a composed sideways lean on the post with a smile was all I was prepared to offer. It was here Greg named me "Gaiter Girl", and this was to remain my namesake for the race entirety (and maybe longer.....but I haven't seen any trotters since!).
About 1k out from checkpoint 1, Lawrence and I witnessed our first lost runner, who had taken a shortcut through the bush, unknowingly. He was tired and cranky and made it very clear that he wasn't going back to go the right way.
Got to checkpoint 1 just ahead of Kim and Steve, to a great welcome from the Trotter volunteers for Gaiter Girl.....and was warmly greeted by Elvis and his master.
Checkpoint 1 to Checkpoint 2
Lucky to have Greg Aurisch refill my bladder (the camelback bladder!), I quickly refilled my pockets with gels and left after just an 8minute stay. I was pretty keen to keep moving, although the desire to hang around for a chat and a BBQ was very strong.
Heading down the road for such a long time, with nobody around, I began doubting I had come the right way. I stopped and waited quite a few times, but nobody else came along. Eventually I bit the bullet and continued, and over the next rise was Georges Road, the next turnoff.
Heading up Georges Road was pretty nice, and I soon got into the groove with running and my thoughts started wandering into a daydream. At 33km this all came to a sudden halt, as my right shoe clipped a rock and sent me soaring headfirst to the hot dirt and rocky ground below. Trying to protect my map, my fingers were sharply bent back and most of the force was taken by my shoulder. This fall hurt quite a bit more than the last and I suddenly panicked that I wouldn't be able to continue. I got up pretty quickly, pride in tact as nobody around but the sharp pains through my fingers suggested some serious damage and I couldn't swing my arm forward when I ran, with the pain of the shoulder now searing with every move. The panic suddenly left and the John Cleese tantrum started, with me cursing and kicking dirt at my stupidity. Just as I was about to kick a tree, I realized that I was mobile enough to keep running, and decided that I could shed a few tears along the way whilst I ran, instead of hanging around doing it here.
Off again, but a bit slower to start, I found holding the map with my fingers held them comfortably enough to reduce the pain to a dull roar. My biggest fear now was tripping over again. I knew it was very likely and I was extremely scared that I would not be able to handle the pain again to those bits of me already hurting.
I managed to start cruising again, but my right foot kept catching on rocks, really unnerving me and reducing my confidence to zero. It wasn't long before Kim and Steve caught up to me, and I was a bit relieved to have some company for a little while.
We all stopped at Baraba campsite together, where Steve had some respite as he was not feeling well, and Kim had a sandwich. Kim had promised this was a good beer stop but it was just a beer mirage when we arrived.
After our short stay, we headed back to the track and met up with Lawrence, and started down the descent to Congewai Road.
The boys took off at a blistering pace, leaving a cloud of dust behind as I picked my way through the trail, still cautiously, down to the road.
Catching up to the boys, Kim told me Wayne Gregory (blue dog) was not far in front. I picked up the pace and started to enjoy my run along Congewai Road to Congewai Public School.
Passing the track head for the next stage was exciting, and I started feeling good again, despite the pain in my shoulder and fingers. The sun got lost behind a cloud temporarily, providing a bit of respite from the heat.
The greetings at Congewai Public School were fantastic, Elvis included, and I was spoiled by the trotters (yet again) in filling up my bladder and helping me prepare for the next stage. A quick toilet stop but it still took 20minutes before I headed off for the next difficult leg of this adventure.
Checkpoint 2 to Checkpoint 3
Again I started this leg alone, but it was very enjoyable, greeting runners coming the other way, heading towards checkpoint 2. I hit the track head and headed for the first large climb, to the communications tower. Passing the cows wasn't a problem, but I decided to walk past, just in case.
The climb to the communications tower wasn't as bad as the last time, and I was surprised to reach it so quickly, especially being 50km into the run and fatigued and in pain. It was this leg of the journey I saw 2 goannas. One a spectacular specimen almost my length, scaling a nearby tree as we both eyed each other off. I was thankful my rigid fingers didn't entice him to me as a rare but attractive bush tree.
I was really looking forward to the downhill hooning after the tower, but quickly settled for a walk/run pace when my foot hit another rock. I was very very mentally fragile about falling over again.
It took a very long and boring time to get to flat rock lookout, and it wasn't surprising to feel my spirits lift when I finally did so.
This was perhaps the hardest part of the course, mentally, as I am sure I ran for about 2 hours, but my calculations kept telling me I had 30km to go. It took a long time and a few leeches before I reached the 66km unmanned water stop. I was so thankful to be able to water down the Gatorade in my bladder.....the sugar content was far too high and I could think of nothing worse than eating anything sweet....so the gels remained with me until the finish. I wiped my forehead and a huge amount of salt came off into my hand. I wondered how effective it would be to lick the salt....but wasn't desperate at that stage so decided against it. I was desperate to brush my teeth, and made a mental note to pack my toothbrush and toothpaste for my next ultra.
It was at the unmanned water stop where Kim and Steve caught up to me, and I knew I had to kick on without a chat or I would find it harder to start again. The next 6k took me almost 2 hours and the crappy ascent with rocks giving way and sliding beneath every foothold down the sandy slope was a real pain in the bum....and hand....and shoulder...etc..
Eventually I got there, and soon after realized I had no water left. So I played it safe and walked/run the last 8km to the Basin, so as not to overheat. It was a really magical part of the run, knowing that Colin was waiting at the Basin and that the journey was not far from being over....about 4-5 hours away. My navigation calculations at this point went haywire....as you would expect from any maths teacher, and I soon became very upset that I was not going to reach the finish until midnight. I cycled between emotions at this point, sometimes feeling elation and sometimes feeling despondent, but forever feeling pain in the damaged bits.
I knew there was another climb to come....but wasn't quite sure where it was. Eventually I settled into a comfortable jog, and kept the walking for the hills again. I felt a lot more confident with my footing along the track, as opposed to the groomed roads with the sneaky rocks. I got a stupid song in my head, only stupid because I didn't know all the words but really wanted to sing it. It was "Sky Rockets in flight, Afternoon Delight, Aaaaaaafternoon delight". I tried singing it out loud once, but found my voice had deteriorated and my lungs hurt, so I just hummed along as I ran.
I suddenly came across the brown basin sign...the one we are supposed to ignore...and I realized I had misjudged the distance left to travel by about 5km. This put a spring in my step and I started getting excited about seeing the Basin campsite very soon. As the landscape changed around me and I passed the large rocks, I started getting a big lump in my throat and all emotional about approaching checkpoint 3. Maybe, in hindsight, it was just sever lack of water and a dry throat.
The cheers from checkpoint 3 as I came around the bend and over the hill were, again, fantastic.
I didn't check how long I stopped at checkpoint 3 but it was long enough for a hot cup of tea....yummmmmmmmmm....it really hit the spot. I was tempted to have some cooked potatoes....but thought they may have been cold and couldn't have stomached them if they were.
Steve Guest always reminded me in training that once you got to the Basin, you were pretty much on the home run. Keeping this in mind I was very eager to head off again, for the final leg, mostly in the dark. Colin put my headlamp on as I couldn't use my hand at all, and filled my bladder with water. I was ready.
Checkpoint 3 to the Finish
Having a little bit of daylight left, I was keen to reach the turnoff before dark, but not terribly concerned if I didn't. I passed Kim and Steve on the way, reminding Steve of his words of wisdom that it he was pretty much on the home run now.
Passed a few runners at this point, but I wasn't concerned about staying ahead of them now, just excited about this last leg and enjoying every moment of it as I approached the finish.
The climb out of the Basin wasn't terribly spectacular, having to stop to replace my new batteries as the others were flat, even though they were new too.
I was very thankful I had the opportunity to run this leg with Kim, Steve and Colin in the dark prior to race day as it made a huge difference to my confidence in navigating out in the dark on my own now. The day I ran it in daylight with Steve I don't even remember the turns and terrain in much detail, if at all.
The run down Kingtree Ridge Road was long but magical, with my first encounter with fireflies, lighting up the night with their orange glows. At first I though they were runner's headlamps behind me, then realized there were a few too many of them and runners normally don't use orange lights (derr!).
I was very eager not to miss this last turnoff, so became rather anal in my cautiousness of finding the walkers' rest area, moving to a walk after halfway down the road. This created a slowness I was not happy with, but I kept telling myself it was better to be safe than sorry (thanks mum for that saying....it came back this night to haunt me).
Finding the turnoff created huge excitement within, and I set off on a much awaited run to the finish.
I saw a frog on the way, startling him from his nighttime cruise through the GNW backwaters. I also took a wrong turn, but was now so familiar with the terrain it only lasted about 10metres before I backtracked to the correct turnoff.
As I neared Cedar Brush Trackhead, I heard 2 other runners catching up, and was quite happy to have some company on the road home in the dark. After hitting the road, the two runners passed by me quite quickly. I wondered how fast I was going now, as by this time I found it very hard to predict, being tired and fatigued.
The last part of this run was not quite as monotonous as I had expected, despite having nothing to see but a small ray of light bouncing in front of me. I heard a car and it was Colin heading to the finish from checkpoint 3. After Colin passed, my spirits must have lifted as I felt my pace improve and I started gaining on the two runners who had passed me earlier. Meeting them at the intersection, with just 3k to go, I headed off for the final romp home, no fear of weirdos in cars or animals on the loose....all those fears were when I handed Dave my entry form so many weeks before.
Almost to the finish I met Brian and Mike, waving their torches and cheering me on. Wow, this was so exciting. Into Yarramalong suburbia and the elation was indescribable.
The final run past our milkshake stop and round the bend, to be met with strobes flashing and a familiar driveway ascent to the finish. Cheers from lots of people, but having been following a little white dot for the past 3 hours made it impossible to see the faces of all these people, and I felt a little like a stunned deer. I couldn't even make out my time in the dark for a while.....then gradually read those magic numbers...16:38 and whatever the rest was.
Well, the royal treatment was well received and is something very special I will cherish forever. Col Wood's magnificent homemade vegetable soup, the pasta and steak sandwich, Jo Ridley's mouthwatering pineapple cake (and I don't like cake), Liza's brilliant massage, Colin's okay massage, Jonathan King's care to my leech interrogations and the cups of coffee brought by various Trotters, including the wonderful Barb Byrnes, and of course, Kevin Andrews and Elvis. I thank you from the bottom of my heart to the top of my feet. I am so proud to be a Terrigal Trotter.
* X-ray of fingers confirmed two fractures.
* The leech from hell resulted in a dose of antibiotics and a tetanus injection, and blood soaken shoes and socks had to be binned.
* Great feeling of joy and accomplishment, and a burning desire to do it again, with the aid of a toothbrush and toothpaste and no gaiters.
What a run! Just to set the record straight - I wasn't severely dehydrated at the point of "getting lost"... my mind just wasn't strong enough after going around in circles. I was feeling great with just 10ks to go and then made some very silly decisions like running an hour in the wrong direction when I was actually on the track. I came across private property on a dead end road and my mind just went berserk! I waited for hours for another runner but no luck there.
Anyway, no excuses at all - my mind was weak and I am feeling friggin woeful now. I cannot understand why I made such a STUPID mistake but there is no problem with anyone or anything but myself. After suffering hugely in the early sections, I was so happy to 'run them out' by the evening only to capitulate. Great event and great course! The navigation makes it special for me, but I need to be more prepared in future. I totally stuffed my drop bags and entered the last two sections without any maps (cause for disqualification anyway) or food/electrolyte. I wasn't even going to go down for the run the day before because of circumstances but glad I did despite making a fool of myself! Anyway, at least Tom doesn't seem to mind. Congratulations to all finishers and everyone who gave it a go. Can't wait till next year when I will really spank the 24 hour mark. Thanks to all the volunteers and to everyone for their hospitality (99, MRX, Bill, Auntie, Diane etc etc etc... you're all a bunch of groovers). The mind will be less black in a few days and I will remember all the great things... the people, the scenery, the beach at Patonga, the chips, the beer! Bugger, I have to go to work.
The year leading up to the race Pulling out at 100km in the 2005 GNW100s, I had decided that GNW100s was the event I enjoyed more than any other and I would plan my calendar for 2006 around that race. Having done 12 hour Coastal Classic in January 2006, followed too soon by a 3 hour run around my local lake I developed a muscle imbalance/overuse injury which began showing up every time I ran for more than 45 minutes. So I stopped running for more than 30 minutes at a time (averaging only once or twice a week) until I recovered, incorporating more sleep to allow my body to repair itself and better nutrition which I believe is found in whole, fresh, ripe, raw plant foods. I've had brief periods of falling off a raw vegan diet over the last year but have been 100% raw for the 3 months leading up to the race. With these changes I found myself performing noticeably better with less training and I felt like I was getting endurance for free. With the Old Great North Road 43km nicely placed in July (a month before Oxfam Trailwalker Sydney), I used it to test whether my injury had gone away and whether my endurance had fallen away with my lack of training. I was completely comfortable until the 30km mark from which point I fell into a slump. Every run I go in I seem to bottom out soon after the 30km mark (Warrumbungles, Bilpin Bush Run, Coastal Classic). * 5 weeks until GNW100s: Completed Oxfam Trailwalker Sydney in 18 hours 57 mins having barely run once a week since Old Great North Road. * 5 weeks until GNW100s: I was playing tag on ice skates at my sons birthday party and went down, giving deep bruising through my knee cap and the bit beneath where the quad attaches to the knee. For a week, my left knee involuntarily locked back when I walked. I couldn't even manage a slow jog. * 4 weeks until GNW100s: Couldn't jog but the locking of my knee was lessening. * 3 weeks until GNW100s: I started a daily slow jog up Mount Ainslee (240 elevation) as part of a 1 hour return trip to Canberra City Centre. A few light niggles in the knee to manage. * 2 weeks until GNW100s: I was looking for the steepest hills on Mount Ainslee and doing multiple laps. * 1 week until GNW100s: Time to taper :-)
GNW100s 2006 - Race time!!! It was awesome to see so many familiar faces at the pre-race dinner. I didn't go to eat, just to pick up on the vibe. I'd eaten 3 avocados on my afternoon trip from Canberra and was to eat 6 oranges before going to sleep. Arose at 4:50am having spent at least 3 hours completely wired and alert. I always fall asleep within minutes at night, so it was obvious I was excited and the reality that the race had arrived had finally set in.
I made the mistake of putting stuff for the finish in with my CP6 gear, so when I dropped out at 100km and got a lift to Patonga, I had no clean gear.
During the race this year I consumed only raw, whole foods. Over the 100km I consumed 3 celery stalks (for sodium), 4 hass avocados (some fats), 20 medjool dates (carbos), 9 oranges (not many calories but go down well on the run), 4 bananas (carbos), 2 large mangos (yum!!!) and about 6.5 litres of water. Like in my other races the sweet foods were hard to eat after 30km. The mangos seemed were the best food for me during the race and always went down well. I had so many oranges to CP1 and half way to CP2 that I didn't touch them for the rest of the race. I carried 4 cut oranges for 75 km for no reason!!! I changed into fresh trail running socks (and t-shirt) at every checkpoint and didn't get any blisters at all. To the horror of most runners reading this, I ran in the same Brooks shoes as the previous year (nearly 600km in races alone + training...could be time for a new pair :-P
I started the race nice and slow after going out too hard last year. Carried a 2 litre camelbak bladder and drank 1.6 litres to CP1 having decided it was unnecesary to fill up at either the service station or the Heaton Lookout water tank. I ran alone up Heaton Gap this year and found it much easier going, travelling slower at my own pace. A race high for me was again was running through the rainforest past Heaton Gap with a sense of great freedom and a big grin on my face. An eagle sized bird flew out from the canopy above the creek here with all the noise I was making stomping through the beautiful area. I had a light fall at about 20km and my calf cramped briefly. I cramped 5km earlier during the Heaton Gap climb last year but both years I backed off and the cramping doesn't happen again during the race.
CP1: (Arrived 1 hour 40 min before cut-off)
I filled up my camelbak on arrival (I forgot to last year resulting in serious dehydration by CP2) and cut up 4 oranges to carry with me (and cut my hand in the rush...). I loaded a dozen medjool dates, a mango, a celery stalk and 2 avocados into my camelbak. I ate 2 avocados just after CP1 which gave me energy hours later but I think contributed to my struggle along Georges Rd. Fats in your bloodstream coat the insulin and blood sugar delaying the sugars from being released to your cells. With me at my worst, Eagle came running by as though he had started late and was ploughing through the field. I found it helped me to cool a little with my sleeves rolled up, my shirt tucked in my camelback straps across my chest and my lycra pants riding high. Must have looked a sight!
Half way along Georges Rd my feet were very overheated and kept getting hotter which was pushing my core temperature up. O'Runner came blogging by on his Blackberry at which point I decided it was necessary to lie in the shade at a high point on the ridge...one of the few places a cool breeze could be found. I lay there on my back, in thick leaves with no concern for the spiders or biting ants, and ate my mango. Spud and 2 others went by. I was hot, so sorry but I don't recall who else went past, but they were looking at my mango with puppy dog eyes...sorry guys! But you were right, the 3 of you could easily have taken my mango. I was defenseless at that stage. After 10 minutes on my back I was cooled enough to continue. My 2 litres of water ran out on Congewai Rd, 15 minutes prior to arrival at CP2.
CP2: Congewai Public School
Thanks to Terrigal Trotters for some ice which went straight to the groin to cool me down, along with several cups of ice cold water. It was a shame to see Rodney had twisted his knee and was unable to continue. I heard that 8 people (including experienced trail runners) had dropped out at checkpoint 2 (52km) from heat exhaustion. I left CP2, 1 hour 30 min before cut-off after a (40 min?) rest and felt a million times better, but damn it was still extremely hot.
In the exposed flat sections past Glenagra Farm, I felt the pinch of the heat (same as last year). It's amazing how draining the heat can be. It can take you from feeling fairly fresh to nothing.
I began the tough ascent to the communication tower. It was like playing frogger trying not to step on all the ants that were literally racing down the mountain. 2/3 of the way up I stopped for 2 mins to try to cool at little. Bill Thompson came walking past so fast that I didn't think he realised it was uphill (and the toughest of them). I stopped again 3/4 of the way up for about a minute, then drudged to the top where Bill was having a brief stop (looking fresh as a daisy). I ran/walked past Bill for several km like a yo-yo. As fast as I'd run ahead, he'd catch up. I came across Allison Lilly having a rest and soon after realised she was the same Allison who almost joined my trailwalker team a month earlier...small world! We stayed together until the long, winding decent to the Watagan Creek crossing. 2/3 of the way down, I was overheating again. After slowing down my core temperature was still climbing so I decided I had to stop and cool off. It was quite humid in the valley even though the bite of the sun was leaving us. I lay down on the narrow path, took off my shoes and socks, ate a mango (divine!!!) and closed my eyes for 10 mins not concerned with being devoured by march flies. Cooled down and ready to continue, I was found sitting down on the job by Paul Every and Pem Dechen as they came trudging down the decent. I was to continue with Paul until Yarramalong and Pem until the Basin. With Paul having been sick the day before the race, he was forced to take it easy and his walking pace suited Pem and I perfectly. Several de-leech stops were required enroute to the Basin. Of note was a magestic line of fungi along a log, about 2km from CP3. Through this period I was going through all the mental justifications of why I should pull out (without disappointment) at the Basin. We crazy humans have an amazing skill for justifying huge compromises from what we truly want out of life. Fortunately, staying with Paul (what a legend) kept my motivation strong enough. The truth was that my body was in a fantastic state compared to the previous year and I had no valid reason for not continuing.
CP3: The Basin
Paul and I left CP3 right on the cut-off time (well...more like we were kicked out of the CP...after being pampered by the support/volunteers...thanks guys!), so we had to make good time to not risk a DNF. It was a shame to pass Jan and Louis entering the Basin only 30 mins behind the cutoff time. Awesome effort!
Of concern to Paul and I was the 1.1km climb out of the basin to a firetrail which took us 25 mins! Apart from that we made good time to Yarramalong Rd. I race walked along Yarramalong Rd, falling into microsleeps for about 20 minutes until Paul caught up and suggested I run to stay awake as it is less monotonous. I felt awesome jogging and pushed into a solid run for a hundred metres before dropping back to a jog. I was to repeat this for most of the 8km remaining. My quads were in great shape at the finish unlike the previous year. I could still lift my knees to my chest and do a full squat unsupported. Only eating raw food during the event this year was a significant thing for me to prove was possible (and beneficial)...but I wonder whether the results were psychological gains because of the result I wanted to achieve
CP4: Yarramalong (25 minutes before cut-off time) I decided I was satisfied with finishing the 100km feeling so good, and wasn't keen on chasing cut-off times on my own being unfamiliar with the rest of the race (Paul had long ago decided it was sensible to stop at 100km). I later realised there was only about 1.5 hours of darkness left...glad I didn't think of that at the 100km finish or I'd still be out there Having no support crew at any CPs, it was a pleasant surprise to find my mum had been waiting for 3 hours at Yarramalong (unfortunately worrying unable to contact CP3...but that's what mum's are for!)
Got home about midday Sunday, slept from 1pm til 5pm then again from 11:30pm til 6am and drove back to Canberra for work on Monday. No rest for the wicked!
On Tuesday (2 days after the race), I went for a run/walk up Black Mountain (200m altitude gain) which got the heart rate going much faster than normal, but I was amazed that I had NO sign of muscular soreness which is typically felt worst on day 2 after an event. I'm convinced raw food, at least 8 hours of sleep regularly, and low km training definitely works for me.
I think the most important thing in these races is not to push too hard at any point and recognise when a short rest (e.g. lie on the trail for 10 mins with shoes off) is more beneficial than pressing on with detrimental effects you may not recover from.
Lawrence, well done on exorcising the demons from last year and making the 100 miles!
Extreme thanks to Dave Byrnes and the Terrigal Trotters for providing the opportunity to reconnect with nature on such a rich journey of self-discovery with such an amazing tribe. See you all next year!
I have finally finished my report. I have enjoyed reading all the other reports. Some are classics, especially Bill Thompson’s. I saw him pull the stove out as I was leaving the unmanned water stop and thought, that’s a tactic I had not considered. My race was preceded with a series of minor injuries, on an approx 2 weekly cycle. I would be just getting back into training, when another would appear. 2 weeks before a hamstring spasm meant I had to miss a training run that was my only chance to look at part of the trail. On the Tues night before the race, after training well, I later developed quad pain just above the knee. By Thursday I started to feel further pain in that knee which was more worrying. It reminded me of cartilage injury I had this time last year in the other knee, which put me back 6 months. I was seriously debating wether to pull out, but as it was a race close to home, I decided I would go and at least check out the trail as far as I could. Even late on Fri night, I could feel a bit of pain stepping down out of the caravan I stayed in. Saturday morning was race day. I tried to ignore all thoughts of injury and my plan was conservative. Start out slow, walk the hills and assess things as I went. I teamed up with Louie on the first hill and ran with him till near CP1. The conditions were warm and humid until we crested the first ridge, when we were greeted with a cool dry Nth Westerly wind. This was refreshing and a good match for the clear panoramic vista to the West. However, I knew that if the wind stayed from the West that it would soon warm up. We caught up with Allison Lilley and Peter Lines after the climb to the Communications Tower. We were travelling well after the solid climb. Louie suggested about 5 hours for the section, but I estimated well under, based on out current position. Allison then said that the bush section ahead was very slow and that she had ran sections at 20 mins/km in training. She was right. It was very rough, slippery as well as steep in sections. My GPS log showed the 6k from 20k to 26k taking 1:24. There would be several sections of the race that were just as slow. It was a relief to hit the 4WD track leading to CP1. Peter and I ran well and pulled in after 4:53 hours. I felt quite fresh, which was a nice surprise. My plan was to have a quick stop, but my spare hydration pack, which I had prefilled, was leaking, so I had Horrie fill my start pack. I knew the next section would be long and hot, so I also had two hand bottles filled with Endura, giving me 3.5l of drink. I did not drink all of the 2l I started with in section 1, but knew the next section would be “thirstier” I ate some food I had ready as well as a sausage sandwich and grabbed a bag of food I had prepared to take with me. 12 minutes went by and it seemed like about 4 or 5. Upon starting off, I realised I was carrying a lot of weight. I had food left from section 1 which I overlooked, plenty of gu’s and plenty more in my pickup bag. Next CP I would make sure I wasn’t overloaded. After sorting myself out, I caught up to Allison and Peter and ran along the 13km of 4WD track. Allison drifted back on the solid hill up to the Barraba Campsite, and then it was back to the bush. I estimated somewhere along that section, that I would not need all of the fluid I was carrying, so I emptied a litre or so as I ran. I was not enjoying the Endura - it tasted sickly after a the first hand bottle, so I dumped the other one and some water. The first part of the first long descent was nice and gradual. It was easy running on a soft trail. The descent soon got steeper, with switchbacks that demanded more attention. As we neared the road, I realised the section was going to take longer than I thought. This meant I would require more fluid than I estimated. I hoped I had enough water left! I would look real stupid dumping water and then getting dehydrated. We hit Congewai Road, which leads straight to CP2, and it was quite hot now. It was early afternoon and the hottest part of the day. The road follows a valley, with little protection from the sun. We ran and walked some, walking the shady sections and gradients. Half way along this 6.5km of road we slowly caught Grant, who made no mention of any problems, but looked to be doing it a little tough. I also ran out of water here and wondered how thirsty and hot I would be at CP2. On arrival at CP2, I was a little thirsty, but quite hot. I was also being chafed by the Speedos I wore under my short skins. I took them off and applied some sportshield to my thighs. That was my only problem in the whole race, and it didn’t bother me again. I had plenty to drink, some food and slashed myself with plenty of water. I had packed a small towel to dip in ice water and drip over my head. It worked so well that I took it with me on the run, draping it over my shoulders and neck. It was effective for another hour or so. I rewet it at the unmarked drink stop and used it for cooling for another hour. A longer planned stop became over 30 minutes, the time spent cooling off seemed to fly. Far too long, but a nice break. CP2 was to be the end of the race for a few runners, so I was probably wise being conservative so far. Allison ran in just behind us and left CP2 with Peter and I. We passed a few hot runners coming into CP2 and sighted the 2nd Comm tower, After an easy section of road, 4WD and trail, we set ourselves for one of the biggest hills. Over 400m rise in 2.5km. It was not straight up, but included some downhill sections, which meant that the steepest sections were really steep. My elevation profile showed the last 100m rise was over the last 300m of trail. We then ran along the ridge before the descent to Watagan creek. My Garmin battery expired right on 11 hours along this section. We found the creek crossing and walked up a steep pinch to the unmanned water stop. Allison has fallen behind, but caught up here. It was a real meeting place as the Mellums were organising for Tim to be picked up and Bill Thompson also pulled in for a stop. As we left Bill whipped out his stove to make his soup. We climbed the hill and further on we passed the highest point of the race. Allison had caught us and sometime after dark we spotted a light weaving up the hill behind us, gaining ground. I guessed it might be Paul Every, as the light bearer was moving well We reached a level road section, which we ran, and the light dropped back. Every time we walked it got closer and receded as we ran. It got intriguing until a slow steep section, when the runner caught us. It was Bill Thompson who was walking all the way. His walk was much faster than us but slower than our run. He joined us for a while, then in a steep downhill bush section, said “I might just pull ahead if I can” With long sure strides he almost bounded down the hill leaving as behind. I found the night running to be almost as uncomfortable as the day. It was warm, humid and still. I took my light off regularly to let my head cool off. From CP2 on, my knees were not handling the downhill very well. Every step brought a “burning sensation” to me knees, usually part relieved by the next flat or uphill. Apart from this, my legs were in reasonable shape. Our group of 3 headed towards the Basin. The final bush leg of 2.7km seemed to drag on - we needed a stop. We passed Phil and Andrew coming out of CP3 and finally reached it. I appreciated a rest, cool off, and a little hot food. The supporters here were great, cheering and encouraging the runners arriving and departing. On leaving the Basin stop, I actually felt quite cool and wondered if I had overdone the dunking I gave myself, as the air temp had dropped a bit. I was well refreshed from the break and I felt stronger on the return trail. I warmed back up after 2k or so, and the next hill made sure of it. We tackled my last real hill, a 150m “tiddler”. Allison had indicated she would be finishing at 100km, so it was also her last hill. Peter was still planning to do the full 100 mile. As we ran along the next ridge, I counted down the kms. I looked forward to the almost 12km road section into the finish at CP4. I had taken it easy so far, so I should be able to make up a bit of time, with no risk of not finishing. We passed Bill again, as we ran. A tough downhill section dropped 200m in 2.2km to the Cedar Brush Trackhead. I was really glad to be finished with the downhills, but now was the time to do some real running. This was the disappointing part of my race. I ran for 4 or 5 km, with a few walk breaks, but was not going too quick. I slowed a bit and Peter and Allison caught me up and we ran together again. After a few more Km, my knees became painful, so I backed off to a walk. This rested my knees, and over the last 2 km, I mostly ran and picked up a bit of speed for the last 500m. I had fallen behind by 7 minutes in that last section, so a poor finish for me. I was a bit disappointed in my time, but extremely happy to have finished the 104km. I sat down and checked myself. The knee I was worried about was fine, but the other one has some swelling just below the kneecap. Horrie prepared an icebag and I gave it a good icing, I had left my wagon parked at the finish, with a mattress in it. After I got my gear together I climbed in for a sleep. My knee was quite sore, even kneeling on a soft mattress, but my thoughts were only on sleeping. I woke late next morning and dozed till about noon. The swelling had gone and I appeared to be uninjured! It’s a bit hard to tell when you are aching all over, but I did pull up well in a few days. I drove to the beach for a swim, then to the finish to clap the last 6 runners in. I can’t imagine how bad I would have felt finishing the 100 mile, as I would not have made it. My admiration goes out to all the runners, especially those who not only ran much faster than me, but much further.
It was great to run with Louie early and Bill at times later. Allison is a real inspiration to what is possible. She runs a bit over 50 mins for 10km, yet can run 100km in competitive time, and finish fast as well. Peter was also a surprise. This was his first Ultra beyond 45km. He has done several Ironman Tri’s, paced himself well and was strong all the way. He picked up speed after CP4, hoping to make the finish cut-off, but halfway through the last leg, had to pull the plug at the only possible pickup point.
In summary, my first long ultra trail was a great experience. In my present condition, 100 miles seems beyond me. I have entered Western States 100 mile next June, so I had better up the training. I know I need to be able to push myself harder and longer, mentally and physically, and learn to overcome sleepiness from 1am on. My only other Ultra was a 24 hour track event in August. In that I suffered from extremely sore soles of feet. In this race I used gel inserts, and even allowing for the softer surface, my feet felt much better than I expected, with no real discomfort at all.
Well done to Dave and his club members. It was an Ultra effort by them. Thanks to Horrie who assisted me at the checkpoints, and to the other crew teams who were very encouraging.
Possible changes to the race might include a more difficult qualifying limit, and different qualifiers for each event. Also a 50km finish option to CP2, for the less adventurous/crazy.
PS I have found my headlamp to be extremely useful around the house- working under the sink, putting out the garbage, painting at night, checking under the car bonnet etc etc. Much better than carrying a torch.
I received the results in the mail today. The CD photos are a great record of the race.
Hi, this is my first post here (I'm Pem #58). Thanks to Dave Byrnes, the Terrigal Trotters Club and all the wonderful volunteers who putting on this amazing challenge. This was my first trail run and even though I pulled out at checkpoint 3 - I am thrilled that my inaugural trail run was the GNW100. I'm definitely coming back next year wiser and well-trained. I was a bit overwhelmed by the posts and the quality of the runners so if I appeared introverted, please understand it was just in awe of the situation I was in and the company
My deepest, deepest, deepest thanks to Paul Every for letting me tag along with him and avoid getting lost. I'm sorry that you weren't feeling that great but you were truly a blessing for me....and you continued to the finish of the 100km - congratulations on your tenacity and also to Grant Campbell for pulling off those leeches - I thought I was going to pass out - next year, I'll be running with salt shakers and tweezers slung across my shoulders to ward them off.
The next bit may be viewed by some as a stream of consciousness so you can skip over it ....but if you're a newbie wanting to attempt the GNW100 - you might find it amusing to read it - I sent it out to some non-runner friends who had wished me well:
I totally underestimated the toughness of the terrain, Initially, I thought 400-600metres climbs were easy-peasy but the entire elevation gain during the course of the run was 3,811m of ascent and and 3,799m descent. When I think of it now, it is with much respect, that’s akin to climbing from sea-level close to the capital of my country in the Himalayas. When the Race Manual said "precipitous ascents and steep descents" …it didn’t really sink in, I think it should have been sung out by by a blues singer like Etta James saying, "child, I’m telling ya….it is pre-ci-pi-to-us and st-e-e-e-e-p, don’t fool ya mountain ass into thinking it’s a joy ride…hell no! it is pre-ce-pi-to-us …and don’t let nobody tell you different!” ….I think that would have go through to me!
random thoughts... Climbing up some of the ascents on virtually all fours because I thought if I straightened up, I would topple down and daring not to look up to see how much further to go and daring not to look back down for fear of vertigo, forcing yourself to get a grip and just concentrate micro-second to micro-second is indeed an experience Running with 3litres of water, supplementary liquid food, rain jacket, compass, maps, basic first-aid kit, sunscreen, vaseline makes you wonder at the life of pack animals. Running out of water 4km from checkpoint 2 at the 52.5km mark with the sun beating down mercilessly on you as you shuffle your way up what seems to a never ending dirt road on a valley floor with barely a hint of shade really makes you wonder how people survive in the deserts. Feeling what you thought was a cool drop of water on the back of your leg and marvelling at the timing of mother nature to come in just when you feeling pretty dissipated and struggling to climb up some moss covered rocky ascent, only to look down and instead of seeing a perfectly formed droplet of water, you see a stringy leech that’s getting ready to sink itself into you for dinner…makes you appreciate the ironies that life has to offer.
It’s a beautiful country out there and again it is with much respect that I look at it now. It was an awesome and humbling experience. I’m grateful that I did not get lost because I was blessed to be able to stay on track with a tenacious ultra-athlete called Paul Every who was having a ‘bad day’ - so was not zipping up the vertical climbs and zooming down the steep descents. Maybe I could have gone faster alone but the gamble was whatever time I made up, I would more than likely lose in trying to navigate my way looking for obscure trails. My sense of direction is not the best and a point of banter with friends so I accepted that I would use my inaugural trail run as a precursor for other trail runs in the future and forget the 'speed' factor ...which gradually became, the "let's just get out of this $^%#@$^%#@%$#^%@# valley so I can pass out and die"....factor
Having said all that, I’ll definitely go back out there but better prepared and a whole lot wiser.
By the way, I’m happy to say, contrary to some people’s opinions *I am not nuts*….you should see these other guys and in the future I’ll be gauging my “nutty” factor against these guys because they are out there (and I mean that in the best sense possible and…with much respect!)
Congratulations to all runners who started this event, and especially to those who finished. And thanks to those who have written detailed reports – I relied on the 2005 reports to help me plan my run this year.
I finished at CP3 when I failed to meet the cut off time. I was relatively unaffected by the heat (I had done my usual heat preparation, running in multiple layers and lying in a hot bath), and although I got lost with RMC for around 15 minutes at one stage, it was my fault and I found the course notes and maps were excellent.
For me the steep up hills were the source of my demise. Although I am not fast, I handle downhills and rough terrain fairly well. But I have never been good on up hills - don't have the aerobic capacity in my genes unfortunately. It's not the elevation itself in this particular event, but the steepness of the inclines.
Based on the times of notable runners in 2005, I gave myself at best a 50/50 chance of finishing, so I'm not surprised or seriously disappointed by the result. I got to run in a beautiful part of the country with a bunch of fellow runners for 18 hours, and that is reward enough.
My KT26’s proved excellent once again, with no blisters. I see we have a new convert in Jan. At one stage he, Bill and I were together on the course, all decked out in the latest in trail running footwear technology. The movement is spreading.
Thanks to Dave and his team who from my perspective did everything magnificently. I think the run as a lot of magic the way it is, with limited aid stations, etc.
Good luck with upcoming events everyone - C2K and B-H are just around the corner.
I am still coming to grips with my first DNF. It is a sobering experience.
The day started out well, ran on and off with some esteemed company (Eagle, Mister G, Whippet, Tim, Spud) up to the Ampol service station.
Then with Mister G navigated the technical section from the water tank (where I refilled the bladder) through to Checkpoint 1 (as he put it "this is not technical, this is just sh*t"). We lost the trail for a brief moment in a creek valley, and had to backtrack perhaps for 5 minutes, and am thinking that a whole group of runners must have passed us at that stage, including Louie, Sportsman and Allison, because when we pulled in at CP1 they were ahead of us. My support Horrie had pulled out a chair, and I gulped down water, coke, electrolyte, fruit (both fresh and tinned), jellybeans and a jam sandwich.
I noticed that Bill Thompson had just left the checkpoint, and I joined him to the next CP. He is good company. I was amazed at Bill's fast walking style, I needed to jog just to keep up. We sat down for a few minutes at a campsite (thanks Bill for the pitted olives, I will definitely remember to take them next time!), and it was then that I was getting very light-headed. I had enough water with me at that stage, I was just feeling the heat. I had been suffering from a head-cold all week, taking Sudafed tablets to relieve the nasal congestion, and that definitely didn't help my cause. As a result of all these factors, I started drinking more water than what I had planned to have.
By the time I reached the Congewai Road I was cooking, the road was boiling and a few km later I ran out of water, with perhaps 5km to go to the CP. I was feeling nauseous, and I remember at one stage bending down and putting my head between my legs. I thought at one stage jumping into a dam. I shuffled into CP2, still with about 1.45 hours spare before the cut-off. My neck and back were covered in heat rash. Horrie supplied me with bananas, coke, electrolyte, water and more water, and I was very grateful for that. I also had some very salted chicken soup. Trying to stand up, my legs suddenly cramped badly. Nothing I could do about it, they just spasmed and went into complete shut down. It was then that I realised my race was over, and wisely made the decision to pull out. Felt really disappointed, as I really had looked forward to the day, and I have never done a DNF before. But I guess there is always tomorrow to look forward to.
Horrie and I shared a beer at a pub nearby and then proceeded on to the Basin, where we supported and cheered on all the runners coming through, and then on to Yarramalong where I was very proud to see Allison come in.
Huge congratulations to all the finishers, inspirational stuff. Eagle, thanks for all the best wishes and advice, they were well appreciated. I have learned a lot from you.
Horrie, thanks mate for all the crewing, you are always sincere and willing to help out others without hesitation- an absolute credit to the ultra society.
As to the race itself, of course we all knew what a brutal course this is and what we were in for. It is not for the fainthearted and not to be toyed with. The GNW track is breathtaking and and we are privileged to have this on our doorstep. Well done to the RD and a big thank you to the Terrigal Trotters volunteers for organising this event, I hope it grows in stature.
My only concern though is that with the CPs being so far apart, if a runner did become ill, and needed emergency treatment, it would take a very long time to lift them out, and God forbid, it may be too late then. No one would wish that. We could not contact CP3 (because they were out of mobile reach) to notify them that Tim needed assistance at the unmanned water stop (could this not have been manned?). Perhaps next year there could be marshalls (with a car) placed at some road points (ideally with some first aid knowledge and emergency medical supplies) for such an occurrence. Also, it would be wise to have "what-if" scenarios done to prep the CP volunteers for any contingencies. Horrie mentioned that when he spoke to the CP3 volunteers, they were unsure what to do in any emergency, with the comment that "the runners know best, as they are the ones who are experienced".
As to me, I would love to have another crack at this event - have enough food left over to last me until next year.
I thoroughly enjoyed this my first solo trail ultra. Congratulations to Terrigal Trotters and David in particular for having the courage to stage this event. Your team of volunteers were fantastic. I had no crew of my own but they attended to my every need. A special thanks to Diane Every for helping me in CP3 and to the delightful lady who bathed my wounds at CP4. (How I got them is another story) [Ed.: See below]
As most of you know I set myself the target of a sub 14 hour finish. As it turned out this was wildly over ambitious. To achieve this target I knew I'd have to run with Tugger for as long a possible. This I managed as far as CP1. Whilst, in hindsight I believe this was a mistake of strategy, it did allow me to observe him at close quarters. Now I have raced with a lot of fine athletes but he is outstanding. I am very sorry to hear that misfortune overtook you mate. I could scarcely believe it when I heard.
I would also like to make mention of two others who, even though we were rivals, took time out of their own race to help me. Martin Schott came to my rescue between CP1 and CP2 and insisted on giving up some of his own precious water to me to tide me over till I reached the valley. (Rookies I know.)
The other was eventual race winner IDW. He came upon me between CP2 and 3 spreadeagled on the ground with sever leg cramps. He stretched them out for me and then on the 2nd attempt was able to help me to my feet. He then insisted on walking the next 500m holding me by the arm. It is incidents like that that make this race special. Ian congratulations on your win and thanks.
Additional posting: It all went wrong for me near the aptly named Mt Warrawong. I knew that navigation could be an issue here and as I hadn't had the chance to check out the course I made some notes of my own from the maps at home. So when it the GNW veered left off the Bar Trail and my note made no mention of it I went straight ahead on the Bar Trail!!! Had I consulted the course directions I would have read " Turn left on walking track"!!!!! To compound the error when I realised I was mistaken I didn't back track but decided to strike out across country to rejoin the track. Big mistake. I have walked in many places but never have I struck scrub so dense and unforgiving as in there. Lawyer vine and wait a while grew in impenetrable thickets. Every movement was restrained by their razor sharp tendrils. I fought may way ahead often on hands and knees and sometimes on my stomach. I eventually reached a small creek which I followed to a larger creek. I knew the course cut this creek about 500m upstream so I followed it up but soon my way was barred by moss covered boulders and rotten logs so it was uphill into the scrub once more. It seemed scarcely possible but here it was even worse than on the way in. After about 30 mins I was forced back down to the creek again. I pushed along there for a while before regaining sufficient strength for a final up hill assault through the scrub. Through gritted teeth I forced a way through and eventually broke out onto the Pig and Sow ridge. Here I turned left onto the road and sure enough came to the track junction in about 100m. From there the rest was comparatively straight forward.
My race did not go the way I wanted. Apparently your brain shuts down once you get over a certain temp. Not what I call a fun experience. It was a hard course and a hot day and I have already started to analyze what I need to do next year. Firstly I need the focus of an eagle, the heart of a whippet, the stubbornness of a Blue Dog and the ease of a potato.
After I dnf’d and had a sleep, some food and water and once I felt human again I became crew. As crew I got to see the adventure unfold and it was glorious. I have so such respect for everyone out there. For the runner, their crew and for especially the volunteers who sit there all night making it happen.
Well done to everyone that got out there and gave it a go.
To those that finished. What can I say? Bloody f**king fantastic effort!!
Thanks Dave Byrnes for having the vision. I would say a very successful second year. Look forward to next year.
ps. Thanks Veg for getting on the phone and getting help
pps. Thanks to Topcat and Chub for being a great crew.
Just got back into Melbourne after an earlier flight than had planned due to a dnf. Pulled out at checkpoint 2 after getting there at 5pm (which was right on the cut). Ran out of water coming off the Myall Range and was already behind time after 2 wrong turns earlier. In hindsight I should have carried more water (had 2 lt), but then the weight issue comes into play.
Coming along the road to checkpoint 2 after 4pm it must have been the hottest part of the day for me, with no shade and no water I was cooking. I had heard from a local it was 35c along that part of the course later in the afternoon. Not a hard decision to pull out.
Eventually made my way to the finish this morning via the organisors after a few checkpoint stops and we had been told Dave Waugh should be in at 8am. Waited at the finish for 2 hours and then heard he was out of water and lost but only 5k or so to go. Amazing drama.
In hindsight I would love to see a few more water drops but it does put strain on the organisors to get them out there. I'm not sure if making a mandatory carry of say 4 litres is the way to go as it just makes the job harder to make the cutoff's with the extra weight and there's no way I'd enter the race if I had to carry 4 litres of water.
Certainly a tough one, well done to all the entrants in giving it a go.
What a tough initiation into the ultra world! I was feeling very comfortable at CP1 but about 5km into the second stage I could sense the heat really having an effect. Having a nav mistake on the descent to Congewai road lost me a little time and I had already started rationing fluid from my camelback (I started the stage with 3 litres). 1 km along Congewai Rd I ran out completely and by the time I got to CP2 was very dehydrated.
After about 30 minutes of try to rehydrate and cool down it became obvious to me that I was going to struggle to digest anything and decided that it would be foolhardy to head out on stage 3 anywhere near the state I was in.
As soon as I stepped back out of the shade into the heat I knew I made the right decision. Spent the rest of the afternoon lying on the lounge at my sister in laws place not too far from the course. Did manage to get down to the 100km finish to see Tugger come through and Joel arrive, to not go back out. At about 10pm I finally managed to eat and drink anything of substance without feeling quite ill.
On the toughness of the course and aid station discussion, I am sure the drop out rate would have been considerably lower if held 3 weeks ago when I did my trial run in much cooler conditions. If you want to keep it tough maybe schedule closer to winter to avoid the complications of the excessive heat from yesterday.