21 Sept 2013
During my pre-race stalking of competitors, a few familiar names left me looking forward to the challenge of a closely contested race, with quite a few guys all within reach of each other depending on how things went on the day.
After a hectic drive from Belconnen into Lake Burley Griffin, we arrived with five minutes to spare before the start, phew! Saw some friendly faces in the starting bunch including Gus Hayes, Pierre Francois and Damo Stewart. Determined not to be that young guy who went out too hard and paid for it later in the race, it was a relief to have Wes Gibson and Paul Cuthbert lead us out at a reasonable pace. I tucked in with Damian Smith to reminisce about our wrong turn during Tour de Ridges last year while we trotted past Parliament House.
Once we hit Red Hill, Wes, Paul, Damo and I worked together to put a bit of time into the rest of the field. Isaac’s Ridge was my favourite section – stories about our favourite races plus some nerdy runner gear chat. Jokes were made about the temptation to take off on the downhill single track but we stuck to our semi-disciplined pacing strategy. The climb up Taylor was the first sustained walking section, and we all followed Paul down the slopes into CP1.
Quick transitions all round, Sarah had my “delicious” powdered food ready to go and we were off towards Mt Arawang. On the downhill single track I took a chance to be the rabbit off the front, figuring that the other guys would catch me on the upcoming flats, but it would cost them a bit of extra effort. Rob Walter sprinted past me on his way to a sub-7 relay team finish, crazily fast! Soon Paul caught me and we ran across the Stromlo grass track together feeling like school cross country kids.
Paul took the lead as we hiked up the fire trails, and I couldn’t see anyone behind us on the switchbacks. I wanted to have a lead going into the flatter leg 3, as I was feeling strong on the hills but vulnerable on the fast running sections, so snuck away from Paul as we came down from Stromlo. The Arboretum section seemed to drag on forever until finally I shuffled into CP2, desperate for sunscreen and craving some water.
Once again Sarah was on top of everything and seeing the ANU tri club relay boys was a boost. It was clear the next leg would be a battle, as I resorted to a walk-run combo through the cork plantation. Brad Carron-Arthur sped past me on his way to the 3rd fastest time for leg 3, having only been called up to race a few days beforehand. However I saw him again a few minutes later on the Aranda powerline track, where some of the course markings had been interfered with. Fortunately Elizabeth Humphries came through with perfect timing and showed us the correct route, thanks!
Black mountain was a struggle but I was spurred on by a steady stream of relay runner reports of Paul being 5mins or 500m behind me, just out of sight. A bit of warm, flat coke near the top did the trick (or maybe it was the fact we were heading downhill again) and my spirits picked up towards Bruce Ridge. It was a lonely, steady jog from here through the footpaths of Lyneham and the stormwater drains of Dickson. The party atmosphere at CP3 was encouraging but I had to stay on task so it was quickly off to Majura.
Hiking up to the saddle, I reached the out-and-back summit section and opted for a rogaining inspired bag drop. A strategic call to my crew at CP3 gave them a bit of a fright, but got me an update on who was chasing and how close they were. I managed to get back from the trig, grab my pack and sneak off before any solo runners came through. This gave me the psychological edge of being out of sight of any chasers, so I really had to concentrate on not taking a tumble down the mountain. A quick calculation told me a sub-10 finish was achievable.
Just before the final Ainslie climb, up popped an aid station with Tom Landon-Smith from AROC, and I managed a “You organised TNF100, both our names are Tom!” I hiked purposefully up the back of Ainslie, stealing a glance over my shoulder where possible. All of a sudden I was running on that damned concrete again, coming down Ainslie and around the lake towards the finish. A cheeky challenge from my mate Jack saw me “sprint” up the final grassy hill – 9:48:48. The training, planning and support from family and crew all came together for a thoroughly enjoyable race.
Thanks to the Sri Chinmoy marathon team and Martin Fryer for a fun and challenging new course. The aid station volunteers were super friendly and supportive. Congrats to the other solo finishers and thanks to the relay crews for the motivation as they flew past us.
Nutrition: Skipped the gluten loading party on Friday night. ~240 cals/hr of homemade mix – 80% maltodextrin / 20% soy protein isolate + flavouring/electrolytes. 500mL water/hr with extra at CPs. A bit of coke at aid stations and 100mg caffeine on the last two legs.
Gear: Inov8 Trailroc 255, Ultimate Direction PB vest.