Geoquest Adventure Race

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Since Wilson’s Prom I’ve been building towards the Mountain Designs Geoquest Half, a 24hr team adventure race with navigation, mountain biking, kayaking and running. All male or all female teams are allowed to enter but the emphasis is on the premier (mixed) category. A few leadup events included winning the 6hr NSWRA Gibraltar Rocks rogaine with David Baldwin and practicing some night navigation with my teammate Oliver Johns at the ACTRA 5hr Kowen Forest night rogaine. This was Oli’s longest run to date, and here we were a bit scared to see Seb Dunne and co. training for the Geoquest Full (48hr version) by MTBing for a few hours out to Kowen, smashing the rogaine, then MTBing home!

Keith Conley, Tom Brazier, Sarah Buckerfield, Oliver Johns

IB Bandits – Keith Conley, Tom Brazier, Sarah Buckerfield, Oliver Johns

Keith Conley is an AR veteran but the rest of our team were newbies. We had a pretty solid grounding in at least one discipline (Sarah – orienteering, Oli – MTB, me – trail running) but predicted we might struggle with kayaking and transitions. One of our strengths is navigation, with all 4 team members being individually competent.

studying the maps

course release – almost wetting our pants

During the course release on Friday arvo, we almost wet ourselves with excitement at the prospect of the relay orienteering leg, predicting that we could make some big gains against other teams with only 1 or 2 navigators. Soon after that, I nearly wet myself with fear when we heard about a swimming leg – fortunately only 2 members had to complete this and I was spared by my friends.

course overview

course overview

Studying the maps and marking our course went pretty much to plan (with Keith developing a severe stress headache!) and our rough time estimates predicted that we would be racing to finish by sunrise on Sunday! Em and I helped the team to relax by sharing some of our Tinder conversations with the locals. GPS data of our course route.

rough time estimates

rough time estimates

Saturday 08:00-08:53, split rogaine/swim in pairs

map for split leg swim/rogaine

map for split leg swim/rogaine

This leg would spread the field out a bit to avoid the certain chaos of an inexperienced MTB peloton! The key strategic decision was to figure out how to maximise time efficiency using two separate pairs of people to complete the swim and collect a few checkpoints – hopefully with both pairs finishing around the same time. Keith and Oli nailed the swim and checkpoint C while Sarah and I grabbed the others in a clockwise loop (plus shortcut across the creek and barefoot run into transition). We finished just 3 mins after the lads and were first team to complete this leg, woohoo!

08:53-10:54, sandy MTB

small contact patches of tyre surface area made it tough going through the sand for Oli

small contact patches of tyre surface made it tough going through the sand for Oli

The first MTB leg looked straight forward on the map. We were in the lead pack of 3 or 4 teams and shared a bit of drafting on the first section of road. Then we hit the sand and chaos ensued. This was not really a skill that many of us had practiced or mastered. We soon figured out that it helped to just relax into the drifting and just keep spinning an easy gear – if you stopped pedaling you would dig in and fall. Next we experienced a highly unexpected mechanical problem – Keith’s pedal simply fell out of the crank. Upon inspection, the thread inside the crank had almost rubbed flat, so there was barely anything there to screw the pedal back into. We jammed it in as best we could and limped through to the next transition.

10:54-12:41, trek to South West Rocks

Straightforward team trek with a bit of single track, hill climbing, headland views and a few km along the beach to finish.

12:41-13:09, orienteering relay

This was awesome fun. Our whole team can nav confidently, and it was a nice change-up to a more intense tempo. While our teammates did their legs, the wait provided vital preparation time for the next 3 legs without support crew contact – we needed MTBs, head torches/bike lights, running shoes, inflatable pack rafts, paddles, 7hours food/water. This translated to really heavy bags.

13:09-16:04, MTB with 700m pack rafting

inflatables 2

It didn’t look this graceful during the race

The best laid plans didn’t help us on the pack rafting. We used a setup based on the photo above, with the front person using their hands to paddle in a backsculling movement while the forward facing person used a modified kayak stroke. Oli and I were concerned about our bike cleats pinching a hole in the raft so had our feet precariously nestled on each other’s inner thighs – gotta trust your teammates! We could hear a slow leak in our boat so we set off quickly, aiming to reach the other side before too much air spilled out. We were hoping this was an internal leak between the two layers of the boat. Our paddling setup was too speedy for Keith and Sarah, whose bikes were pretty much falling off their boat, so we had to hang on to an oyster pole and wait for them to avoid violating the 100m team separation rule. We bungee corded my PFD to their boat and grunted it out against the wind/current. Our paddling position was limited by the bikes and made for an inefficient, shoulder only paddle stroke – slow going and extreme fatigue in such small muscle groups.

16:04-18:44, Way Way rogaine

We arrived just before sunset in equal 2nd with Keith’s brother’s team – GuRus! Sarah’s nav made short work of the first two checkpoints with a pack of 7 people in tow behind her, then our two teams diverged to collect different 3rd checkpoints. We bumped into fellow Canberrans Bear Hunt, who were only 2 CPs behind us and mowing their way through the field (as per their race strategy).

After a dense bush bash for our 3rd CP, we were coincidentally reunited with GuRus on the way into our 4th and final CP – we just couldn’t get away from each other! Our 2.5hr rogaine effort would turn out to be a significant advantage over the majority of teams and we left Way Way picnic area in equal 1st.

18:44-20:13, MTB hills

Oli’s prowess of riding with no hands while re-folding the map and placing it back in the map board saved us some crucial seconds on this leg. A couple of minor distractions and we were out of the forest and back on the road, getting our pace line on as we headed into Scotts Head.

20:13-21:57, car shuttle

Quick little car shuttle with our awesome support driver Em Cheyne! We were planning to nap in the car but we were ahead of schedule and buzzing so nobody really felt like sleeping. There was panic at the kayak start as we were the first team to arrive and the volunteers were not aware of the location of the paddles that we were supposed to use! A bit of a hunt around and the crisis was averted as we located a trailer containing the stash of paddles.

21:57-00:20, kayak

We rugged up for this leg as it was pretty cold. By this point it seemed a safe bet (barring any disasters) that the race for line honours was between us and GuRus, as we reached the halfway portage point together. We pulled away slightly on the second half but ended up together again at the final transition area.

00:20-02:35, beach trek

dunes satellite

satellite image for final beach trek

A quick change into dry clothes, shot of coffee each and we were on to the final leg. Keith’s ankle had been getting progressively worse all day and at this point any attempt at running 3km on roads sent stabbing pains through his leg. So we walked towards the beach and watched GuRus run ahead. The only CP on this leg was located in a sand bowl (pic above) and we were approaching from the East-West track on the northern edge of the map. We marched through the dunes and overtook GuRus, leading them into the final checkpoint.

finish line with GuRus

finish line with GuRus

Once we crashed through the scrubby dunes, ready for the final 6km beachfront stretch, we had a friendly chat with GuRus and came to a mutual agreement about the finish proceedings. There was a beautiful lightning storm flashing just off the coast as we made our final approach to Hat Head and crossed the line at 2:35am Sunday morning, beating the sunrise by a good few hours! GuRus followed us in 10mins later for 2nd place, and our mates Bear Hunt would also make it in before sunrise for 3rd place in mixed!

Aftermath

Official results

GPS Tracker Replay

Gigantic thank you to our support crew (/photographers/chefs/mechanics/medics/physios/drivers/legends) of Em Cheyne and Geoff Conley. We now realise how intensive support crewing is for an AR, I think it’s a safe bet that their job was much tougher than actually running the race!

The race HQ was in Crescent Head, which was so amazing that Sarah had to take advantage of the surf on Sunday morning, Oli practiced his bike skills and I did some recovery/exploring.

Presentations with world champs and Geo Full winners, Seagate

Presentations with world champs and Geo Full winners, Seagate

All the AR people were super friendly, and seemed excited to have some fresh/young blood  checking out their sport. We also got to meet Seagate (world champions) who won the full race during a Sydney pit stop on their way back to NZ after winning Expedition Africa. These guys are freakishly tough but still basically seem like normal people! Adventure racing seems to involve complex logistics, heaps of organisation and is fairly expensive, but I’ve got to say I’m hooked. Our team is looking at the Wildside AR (5 day race!) near Newcastle in October. Glow worm next weekend!

$400 fine!!!

$400 fine!!!

Public service announcement – on the way home during the Monday public holiday, we were smacked with a $400 fine for obscuring our number plate with our bike rack (despite last minute home made attempt for once-off bike rack use). No demerit points but hefty penalty, watch out!

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Wilson’s Promontory 100km (La Sportiva/Running Wild)

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Race info – La Sportiva / Running Wild / AURA

Flew down from Canberra on Friday arvo and met up with La Sportiva teammates Gill Fowler and Matt Adams for the drive to Wilson’s Prom. I’d never been before and everybody was raving about the beaches/views. Personally I got a rude shock when Google maps told us we had a 3.5hr drive to get there, I didn’t realise it was that far away from Melb! We had a quick Cranbourne stop to pick up the essentials like beer, wine and canned soup (perfect mix of salt, protein, carbs and more salt, with minimal fibre). The low key vibe of the Running Wild events lulls me into a false sense of security, but I remembered that this was only the third time I had raced 100km, so I needed to respect the challenge.

course map by Chilli Man

course map by Chilli Man, basically a big figure 8 plus Mt Bishop loop at the end

It didn’t take long for us to meet the Prom wombats while setting up tents on Friday night. They were everywhere! Quite a few people had close encounters at night with them foraging through tent vestibules looking for food, even pooping on tent pegs. Anyway, a few hours of crappy sleep (lucky I got 10 hours the previous night) and it was time to race! Future Running Wilders beware – Paul Ashton’s mandatory gear checks actually occurred on this day!

Pre sunset starting line

Pre sunset starting line

6am start meant an hour of darkness. Firstly for our 4km uphill road slog, which felt surprisingly pleasant – uphill running practice must be paying off (thanks JP and Titou!). This was a good chance to chat and suss out the competition. It seemed like there would be a front pack of 6 guys in the 100km. Gill reckoned she might pace us until the 60km course split off from the 100km. Some people had really bad head torches and I don’t know how they coped on the next section. It was still dark for the awesome, rocky, muddy, single track descent towards Sealer’s Cove, and (even with Ayups) I was struggling to tell the difference between surface water and deep mud, so I ended up with a new coat of brown paint on my Anakondas, but there was no slipping or sliding.

Damian Smith, Chris Roberts and Gill Fowler at Sealer's Cove (photo by Beardy?)

Damian Smith, Chris Roberts and Gill Fowler at Sealer’s Cove (photo by Beardy?)

I caught up to Rob Zwierlein and we ran together from Sealer’s Cove until the 4-ways at Telegraph Saddle, making pretty good time through rough undulating single track (6min/km average). He knew the area very well and made a couple of speedy nav decisions that helped us get through the campgrounds quickly. The tracks were generally easy to follow but split off into a maze at each campsite. We couldn’t see the guys behind us on the beaches so I figured we had a 5 minute lead over Toby Wiadrowski, Damian Smith, Dan Beard and Chris Roberts who I knew would be stalking us closely. Rob stopped to collect some creek water and (maybe for the first time ever?) I snuck away on an uphill, running a fire trail that I would normally walk.

An out and back down to South Point was probably my highlight of the course. Techy single track winding down to the Southernmost point of mainland Australia! On the way back I could check my splits to the chasers. Rob 5mins, then bam-bam-bam-bam: Toby, Damo, Chris and Beardy around 10-12mins.

On towards the lighthouse – a few short steep pinches that I power hiked up – providing much needed rest from running. Gill breezed through in the opposite direction, leading the 60km outright, a lead which she would hold through to the finish for a new course record.

Nasty little pinches on the lighthouse out and back, plus a beautiful beautiful fresh water tap. I lingered here a bit longer than I should have and refilled all my powders and bottles. As I left it seemed like Rob had almost caught up to me again, darn! On the bright side, I escaped from the out-and-back section before Toby/Damo/Chris/Beardy came through, which I hoped would give me a mental edge up on them.

Stephen Upton's best 'Ord pose'

Stephen Upton’s best ‘Ord pose’ on his way to 3rd in the 44km race

The section heading North from lighthouse to Waterloo was possibly the toughest of the race. Overgrown single track and one of the biggest continuous climbs on the course. Plus we were around the 60km mark and feet were starting to get heavy and not go where you tell them to go, damn rocks! Although it was a really good excuse for some hiking, which always perks up my spirits (I swear I actually like running, but hiking is such a relief).

Back to the Telegraph Saddle 4 way junction, and on to Oberon Bay. This fire trail was a bit demoralising – 3km of soft sand heading towards the beach! As if it wasn’t enough, I went to drink some of my purified creek water, and realised that I must have filled it too close to the beach, because it was salt water! Gross! It was a relief to hit Oberon Bay and the next fresh water tank.

Then another km of soft sand running. I was really starting to get sick of that, but forced myself to be practical about it. The inefficiency of travelling across sand is that there is so much give in the ground, and you can’t ‘push off’ firmly. This means that walking and sprinting are a massive struggle, because they rely so much on pushing. I’m pretty sure the most efficient method of transit is fast step POSE style running – focusing on pulling your feet up with hamstrings and falling forward with your bodyweight, rather than pushing off with every stride. Anyway I theorised about this over a couple of spurs and beaches then I was back to Tidal River! As I ran towards the start/finish/80km checkpoint, the clock was on 7:59:xx so I put in a little burst to get the 80km in sub 8hrs, woohoo!

Feeling good after 80km in 7:59:xx

Feeling excited after 80km in 7:59:xx

My recollection of this checkpoint is basically:

  • Stephen – “how are you feeling mate?”
  • Gill – “less than a half marathon to go!”
  • Matt – “let’s get a photo for stalkbook!”
  • Shane Hutton – “what fuel do you need in your bottles? Let’s get you outta here!”

At this point I had 3h18m to complete 20km under the record time, but for all I knew Rob and the others could be a mere km behind me. It was important to keep concentrating and eating/drinking/pacing responsibly to avoid any disasters/bonking.

The Mt Bishop boardwalk loop was a pretty cool place to run, and the ground was firm underfoot! I was stoked for another hiking climb then a rocky single track descent. My feet were a bit heavy and I kicked my toes quite a few times but avoided any major stacks. Rob and I passed on the summit out-and-back, high five-ing and assuming we probably wouldn’t see each other again til the finish (20ish minute gap).

The final 10km was a bit of a grind. 3km of road running on a douche grade uphill, followed by a few km of beach running (guh, I thought I was done with this!). A final out and back to Pillar Point, then sprinting 7min/km for the 2km back into Tidal River. New CR! The depth of the field definitely helped speed us up as we had 6 guys pushing each other all day.

Phew, made it!

Phew, made it!

Rob came in 30mins later, also under record time. Chris 3rd, Damo 4th and Beardy 5th. Toby had some stomach issues and bailed at a respectable 80km. There were new records in the 44M/60F/80F/100M so I’d say it was a pretty successful year. It definitely helped that conditions were perfect with mild temps, no rain and minimal wind (despite the ominous forecast of wind/rain).

Congrats to all the runners who attempted/finished the courses and thanks to everyone who made the day possible. Matt Adams and La Sportiva for personal and race sponsorship, Paul Ashton (Running Wild) and his volunteers for organising the event, Bogong Equipment for event sponsorship.

Presentations by Paul Ashton (RD)

Presentations by Paul Ashton (RD)

Coming up I’ve got:

Buffalo Stampede

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Caine Warburton (La Sportiva/Kokoda Spirit Racing) coming through as first A/NZ finisher!

Caine Warburton (La Sportiva/Kokoda Spirit Racing/etc.) coming through as first Aus/NZ finisher in the 75km utlra!

Australia’s first ever official skyrunning weekend did not disappoint. Maximum vertical with plenty of steep climbs/descents made for carnage on the day and plenty of DNFs. Damiano and I drove down from Canberra and arrived in Bright on Saturday just as Dakota Jones was finishing up with destroying the 75km ultra. As everyone who saw him on the weekend will tell you, he is a monster. There was a lot of confusion at the finish as talk spread of Ben Duffus and Blake Hose being withdrawn (kinda scary that these lads can push themselves so hard they can no longer stand up) and who was going to come in for 2nd place. It was super exciting to see La Sportiva teammate Caine Warburton come in to win the trip to Europe as first Aus/NZ runner home. What we didn’t realise was how close a battle it had been, as Andrew Tuckey came over the line ~30secs later, and Grant Guise no more than a minute after that, exciting to watch! Had a chat to Izzy Bespalov who seemed remarkably composed and relaxed after smashing out the 75km and finishing 4th female! Props to anyone who finished, especially the people who finished in the dark and got bucketed on to boot!

Clarke and Cooba McClymont making it home!

Clarke and ‘Cooba’ McClymont making it home!

After watching the top 10 finish, we checked into the campground, setup our tent and headed to dinner at the pub. This was when it started pouring rain and we realised that the fly of our tent was still open (oops!). Luckily we had a few spare towels to dry the inside of the tent, and it turns out hand-driers are very effective at quickly drying sleeping bags and mats!

Automatic hand-drier /sleeping-bag-drier at Bright Holiday Park

Automatic hand-drier (/sleeping-bag-drier!) at Bright Holiday Park

Daylight savings tagged out on Saturday night so we got the bonus of an extra hour’s sleep PLUS we started the race in daylight without head torches. Dropping from the Saturday ultra to the Sunday marathon was a great choice! It was a pretty relaxed start and the prime suspects (Vajin Armstrong, John Winsbury, David Byrne, etc.) took off with their pack of chasers, about 15 of us in total. In my head, the profile of the course was basically:

  • Mystic, big up/down (steep climb, steep descent)
  • Clear Spot, big up/down (steep climb, steep descent)
  • Keating Ridge, small up/down (run-able climb, smooth descent)
  • Buffalo Big Walk, very big up (standard climb)
  • Chalwell galleries – undulating 7km loop

Heading up Mystic I dropped off the back of this lead group, wary of pushing the pace too early (it was pretty convincing when every single ultra participant I spoke to advised starting conservatively as the course was brutal). The steep descent down Mick’s track was super sketchy and I didn’t really know what technique would work best, so basically tried to stick to the edges where there was a bit of grass to stop the mud from sliding around so much.

Steep hiking up Clear Spot - photo credit Mark Lee

Steep hiking up Clear Spot – photo credit Mark Lee

The next checkpoint at the bottom of the Clear Spot climb was the first of many encounters with crazy cowbell ringing spectators. This was a really cool aspect of the weekend that added to the atmosphere and also provided a bit of information about how far ahead/behind you were of the people around you (based on the bells going crazy every time a runner goes past). The Clear Spot climb was about 2km of very steep hiking, and I started to pick up a couple of places against the people who could outrun me on the first climb – nobody was running this one!

"Easy" running into the CP after the Clear Spot descent - photo credit John Power

“Easy” running into the CP after the Clear Spot descent – photo credit John Power

Next up on the ridiculous descent from Clear Spot was the Warner’s Wall track, where I had my first and only stack. Plonked my glute on a rock which hurt at the time but didn’t provide any lasting irritation. I was following Edwin Perry down here and I’m pretty sure his surfing skills came in handy as he slid quickly but smoothly down through the mud. There were a few km’s of easy downhill fire trail heading in to the next CP, where I saw JP setting up a shoe-change pit stop for Pierre-Francois Loos – exciting strategy using beefier studs for the slippery first half and lighter shoes for efficiency in the second half. JP said I was only 9mins behind John/Vajin so I thought that was pretty exciting, and it meant that there must be a few guys within reach of the 12 or so that were still ahead of me.

Heading up Keating Ridge was hard work, as it was mostly run-able. I preferred the steep early climbs that everybody had to hike. I caught James Stewart through here, who had smashed the early climbs but informed me he was done for the day. The smooth rolling downhill was great, and it wasn’t long before I saw Clarke and Caine on the Buffalo Rd and cruised into the next checkpoint.

Alright views from Buffalo

Alright views from Buffalo

I figured the Big Walk up Buffalo would take about 1.5hrs, and I was keen for some more hiking uphill and less running. Felt pretty good up here, overtook a couple more guys and I figured I should be into the top 10 by now. Just as I was running low on water, I hit the open rocky section with waterfalls and made use of this pure-ish water refill opportunity.

buffalo views

At this point I was pretty content to defend my top 10 spot and cruise through to the finish, just when Chris Wight stormed past me and (figuratively) gave me a much needed kick up the posterior (thanks!). I attempted to cling on to him as we ran into the chalet carpark and started the 7km Chalwell Galleries loop.

Damiano Luzzi filling up for the final 7km loop - he walked the whole race to avoid aggravating his ITB problem.

Damiano Luzzi filling up for the final 7km loop – he walked the whole race to avoid aggravating his ITB (because obviously withdrawing from the race was never an option).

In my attempt to chase Chris, he dragged me past two more guys who seemed pretty keen to see the finish line soon (including Joel Fitzgerald, who smashed me at Mt Buller earlier in the year). On the little out and back section of fire trail, I saw Vajin and Dave Byrne running side by side, briefly wondered if they were heading for a sprint finish or had some kind of pact going on.

We got the Chalwell Galleries section, and despite Moe and Caine’s advice to ‘go down as soon as possible’ I ended up on top of the rocks gazing down on a 3 metre drop, before realising that we were supposed to slither through the tiny gap a metre or so back. I felt like I pushed pretty hard through to the finish – didn’t see Chris again but I also stayed away from the guys behind me. Crossed the line in 4:48 and 7th place, meeting my (vague and un-researched) targets of sub-5:00 and top 10. Turns out I also snagged the 18-29 age category win thanks to all the guys who beat me being 30+, woohoo!

Rocking trail tan at the finish line. My 2nd ever run in the Bushidos, not a blister in sight and I only stacked it once while descending (I gather this was relatively good)

Rocking trail tan at the finish. My 2nd ever run testing out the new La Sportiva Bushidos, not a blister in sight and I only stacked it once while descending (I gather this was relatively good)

It turned out there was a bit of drama in the front of the race. John Winsbury had led for a long time, until halfway up the Big Walk when he started cramping. Vajin and Dave took the lead to duke it out, until they hit some hikers at Chalwell Galleries which clogged up their route and brought them back together, so they decided to finish together. I thought the course might be too muddy for my Helios shoes but they seemed to work pretty bloody well for John and Vajin! I’m super keen to give the ultra a crack next year. The course was challenging and the atmosphere was awesome – I hope we get to see more Skyrunning in Aus!

Jeremy Walker at the finish (crazy guy ran an extra km to make sure he clocked his first marathon distance on the GPS)

Jeremy Walker at the finish (crazy guy ran an extra km to make sure he clocked his first marathon distance on the GPS)

Next up is Wilson’s Prom on the 3rd of May.

Sky marathon resultsSky ultra results.

La Sportiva Bushido coming soon to Aus!

My Strava.

ANU Inward Bound 2014

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ANU runs an annual competition between the residential colleges, where teams of 4 runners are blindfolded, driven around on buses then dumped in the bush somewhere. We take maps and compasses, figure out where we are (hopefully), then race 30-100km on foot to the “endpoint” (somewhere else in the bush). There are 7 divisions with 8 or 9 teams in each div, totalling around 250 runners plus heaps of volunteers and support, so it’s a logistical nightmare and pretty epic event. This event is student run, so mad props to the committee for getting a successful IB done in 2014.

The division 1 course seemed physically easy but navigationally difficult relative to past years. I think our route was a bit under 80km with about 2000m elevation gain. You can check out our route and all the other teams/divisions on the tracker website (we are Griffin Div 1). We started about 10km NW of Wee Jasper near a quarry, then finished at Cotter Dam.

I’ve made a little video using some footage from the last few hours of the race (figured it was ok to mess around with the camera once we were no longer busting our guts to race to the finish line).

Here’s a bit of a timeline:

Friday 1700 – scrutineering. Basically this is where we get our gear checked to ensure we have all the compulsory safety equipment and accessories required to make it through the race safely. One of the requirements is 200mL sunscreen for the team. We had a 110mL tube and an 85mL tube… awkward. The scrutineers were eventually satisfied after we assured them that every member of our 4 man team had pre-applied 1.25mL to our skin.

Bright eyes before the bus trip

Bright eyes before the bus trip – me, Dan, Jack and Tom

Friday 1800 – blindfolds on! We are blindfolded and board the buses that will be our home for the next few hours. We had mini buses this year which was more comfortable than usual and reduced the likelihood of rubbish banter with a big crowd of people. We were given a special envelope with an “extra compulsory map that you will need for the course tonight” and the speculation began. It ended up being a decoy map of Bateman’s Bay, just to mess with our heads.

Friday 2300 – blindfolds off! We get to see our course information for the first time and start looking for clues. The way private property works is that we can’t trespass, unless the property is listed on a “whitelist” of places where the committee has sought pre-approval from landholders. We were skimming through the whitelist and noticed “Brazier’s Mum’s house” on there – good one IB committee, that’s in Belconnen so not really going to help us!

Plotting endpoint and selecting possible locations

Plotting endpoint and selecting possible locations

We plotted the endpoint coordinates – Cotter Dam! However, the drop location was pretty tough and we couldn’t find many reliable clues to reveal where we were. We did find a mailbox for a homestead and treated this as our number 1 clue. My team headed off second behind Ursies (but in the wrong direction), hit a major road, realised where we were, and ran back through the starting point an hour later. It turned out that the mailbox wasn’t located AT the homestead, rather at the start of a 10km road that leads to the homestead… oops! This was a disappointing mistake and self-imposed handicap, but in hindsight I would probably make the same decision with that information – hopefully just realise the error a bit quicker next time.

Saturday 0000 – So we started in 9th position and began overtaking a few teams who had started in the right direction but were now trying to locate themselves exactly in the Wee Jasper quarry/forest. I guess there was a silver lining to our bad start – at least we could pinpoint our location. This was really important as there was really only one legitimate path to the east – all teams had to hit a small branch of the Hume + Hovell walking track. This was a fun technical downhill track to run in the wee hours of the morning with heavy packs!

Saturday 0300 – we got to the town of Wee Jasper in equal 3rd with Fenner (safe to say we have a little bit of a personal rivalry with them), while B+G and Johns were both a few hours ahead duking it out for 1st. Fenner decided to try a shortcut through the mountains, while we took the slightly longer but flatter road around (that should allow for faster running). I thought this was a cool experiment in pacing/route choice but it was a lot of effort to go to just to see the difference between the two routes!

Saturday 0500 – we were grinding out a pretty solid pace along Doctors Flat Rd for the first 50km or so, heading past Mountain Trails horse riding – one of our guys remembered this place from his high school adventures! I reckon this is the hardest time of the race as everyone feels a bit cold and sleepy. We just had to keep kicking on until the sun came up, that’s always a solid boost to morale.

Saturday 0700 – we had pushed pretty hard along Doctors Flat Rd and had about 25km to go, when some of the boys started cramping up and having a less than lovely time. So it kinda stopped being a race and became more of a “let’s survive and get to the finish”. However, the sun was coming up and our circadian rhythms were telling our brains to wake up, which helps a lot! At this point we got the gopro out and started doing some video logs, now that we were doing less try-hard racing.

Saturday 1100 – I got distracted doing videos and accidentally turned off early before Vanity’s Crossing over the final river, so we had to do a little bush bash for 200m or so (the cramp guys hated me for this). A painful little 5km shuffle from there to endpoint and we finished about 12:30pm, coming in 4th for division 1 (about 40mins behind Fenner, bummer!). B+G had finished around 10:30am, outrunning Johns comfortably in the end. Full results on the IB website.

Coming into the finish line

Coming into the finish line

Some teams didn’t finish until about 8pm on Saturday night, which is pretty crazy after being awake since Friday morning. It was generally a successful event though, with only a few teams out of around 60 having to pull out/get picked up in cars. There were some crazy stories floating around when we had our debrief the next day – it’s amazing to hear about some people finishing the event who sound like they had no idea what was going on the whole way through. If you ever have the chance to be involved with Inward Bound – it’s a unique and incredible experience. I’ll be back again next year if they’ll have me.

Gear: La Sportiva Helios – lightweight for efficiency and moderate grip/cushioning suitable for fire trails, single track or roads (you never know exactly what surface you will be running on in IB). I missed my little 12L Ultimate Direction race vest – instead had to use a 30L hiking pack to fit all the maps and compulsory gear, so much bulk! Conditions were perfect so most of the warm/dry gear stayed rolled up in the bottom of my pack.

Nutrition: Roughly every hour – 500mL water plus 60g home made powder mix (80% maltodextrin, 20% soy protein isolate, pinch electrolytes/flavouring). Some LCMs for morale and refills coming from dirty paddock/creek water treated with Aquatabs!

Next up is the Buffalo Stampede, this weekend! Not ideal for my racing calendar. I feel pretty good physically, but I’ve dropped from the 75km to the marathon – mentally I feel like it will be difficult to get psyched up again so soon, but we’ll see how it goes – sure to be fun regardless!

6 Foot Track, Razorback Weekend, etc.

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Hectic times since Mt Buller at the start of Feb. I’ve started full time work and taken on coordination of their social running group, done a few races, split my shin open, bought a road bike, and signed up for some exciting events later this year. I’m enjoying the La Sportiva gear, alternating between the Helios and Anakonda for training and racing.

Pierre Francois-Loos designed a challenge called the Canberra Classic Three Peaks. There was a 1 month window to complete a loop via any route that included the 3 summits of Ainslie, Majura and Black within Canberra’s inner north. Submissions were via Strava/GPS. Basically this was a sweet little 1.5-2hr time trial with some navigation required and a few different competitive route options. Martin Dent ended up running the fastest loop, but I think JP and I went pretty close to the most efficient route choices. Strava.

ACTRA 3hr (John Harding)

ACTRA 3hr (John Harding)

ACT Rogaining Twilight 3hr at Stromlo. It was a long day – 3hr race on a Thursday night after work. Teamed up with Dan del Rio, reliable mate from uni. At late notice we were joined by Carl Reich, talented young nav guy from NZ. We smashed the first 1.5hrs, then made a big booboo at sunset and jogged around the last hour. Damiano Luzzi from ANU and his teammate cleared the course and dominated the competition! Strava. Results.

Stromlo Stomp Start (John Harding)

Stromlo Stomp Start (John Harding)

AMRA Stromlo Stomp 22km. Hilly fire trail race organised by John Harding. Ended up being wet weather which made the trails nice and mushy. I had a win after being pushed most of the way by Paul Cuthbert. Was good to see plenty of the ANU crew preparing for Inward Bound show up for this race. Strava. Results.

little bits of dirt touching my shin bone

little bits of dirt touching my shin bone

The day after Stromlo Stomp was a routine group run up and down Mt Tennent. I only made it part way down before having a stack and catching a stick with my shin – it dragged a nice little hole in there. There was a fair bit of blood loss so we bandaged it up and hobbled back down the mountain. 90mins later heading to the hospital for 7 stitches and a frustrating 2 weeks on crutches to avoid popping the cut open again.

PP6hr

PP6hr – big rock slab, Jack taking a whiz

ACT Rogaining Paddy Pallin 6hr. I was off crutches and keen to do some… walking. This event was in the Yankee Hat area with some sweet views. It doubled as a navigational qualifier for the upcoming ANU Inward Bound event, so in addition to the regular 50 or so rogaining crew, there were a couple hundred uni students bashing around the bush. Strava. Results.

6FT (credit Leonie Doyle)

6FT with Martin Fryer and Ewan Horsburgh (credit Leonie Doyle)

6 Foot Track was supposed to be an A race for me this year and the original goal was around 3:40, but I ended up being in survival mode! After 3 weeks off training due to the split shin, I was well rested but a little out of form. It was a highlight to share a house with some Canberra heroes – David Baldwin and Julie Quinn (rogaining champs, crazy adventures), Hanny Allston and Graham Hammond (orienteering and hectic alpine adventures), Steve Hanley (MTB/AR guru and more recently, a runner!) and Martin Fryer (insane multi day racer). I smashed the downhill to Cox’s in 1:07, fave part of the race. Struggled uphill to Pluvi and kinda gave up on sub 4:00. Ran steadily along Black Range and realised with 5km to go that it might be possible to sneak under 4hrs. I busted my guts on the downhill to finish in 4:01. I’ll be back. Hanny destroyed the field and finished a few mins outside the course record, with Jane Gordon and Julie Quinn making up a Canberra trifecta for the podium. Strava.

Razorback Canberra crew

Razorback – Canberra crew

La Sportiva Razorback weekend – a few of us made the road trip from Canberra down to Harrietville, arriving at midnight on Friday night to setup our tents. After 5hrs sleep, I opted for the conservative 40km option on Saturday morning. The climb up Bungalow Spur to Feathertop summit is relentless but not particularly steep. La Sportiva teammate from Qld, Caine Warburton, shot off into the distance, chased by Stephen Upton, Jack Chenoweth and I – we had some little battles on the 11km climb. The fine weather made for glorious views along the Razorback. Caine put some time into me, and I got away from Stephen and Jack, making for a relatively cruisy descent down Bon Accord spur. This was lucky, because it was hard enough to make gradual progress down there without tripping or slipping on the leaf littler and uneven, slanted track. It would have been chaos trying to race someone down there. After finishing 2nd behind Caine, we retired to the river for ice baths while watching our mates run towards the finish line. Sarah Buckerfield was first female over the line, claiming some noteworthy scalps (such as Matt Adams – a podium finisher from Mt Buller skyrun). Strava.

Bon Accord VKM finish line

Bon Accord VKM finish line

Saturday night presentations at the pub were a good chance to catch up with the La Sportiva crew, including Gill Fowler who opted for the double of 64km Saturday + VKM Sunday (I think she was the only one who subscribed to the longer=slower=easier logic). There was a massive storm during the night and we had a bit of tent leakage, with a few people ending up sleeping in the cars! The rain cleared up in time for the Sunday morning VKM, but heavy fog made for an interesting atmosphere. There was a 5km buy-in, a jog to the Washington Creek start line at the base of Bon Accord spur. The single track start would be a bit crowded, luckily there were only 9 of us toeing the line! A few guys showed up and started a few mins late, including Jeremy Walker who ran the course downhill before turning around and coming straight back up again! James Stewart and Caine Warburton battled it out up front while myself, Jack Chenoweth and Mike Hotchkis settled into a rhythm. This VKM course is as close as I’m going to get to favouring my strengths – it consisted of a few km of steep hiking, then some sneaky technical downhill, and some more steep hiking. I snuck away from Jack and Mike on the downhill and held on to cross the line in 3rd, but the series champ started late and beat me on net time. Strava.

ib mock drop

Inward Bound mock drop

I’ve been doing some training with my ANU college, Griffin Hall, in preparation for the upcoming Inward Bound (IB) event. The most exciting training sessions are “mock drops” where we practice the process that will happen on race night – i.e. being blindfolded and driven out into the bush, then trying to figure out where we are and what our preferred route to the finish is. These sessions usually only involve a ~20km route, which is a fair bit easier than the 100km we may have to do on race night/day.

I’m looking forward to getting back to some uninterrupted training, but had some variety last week. Ducked back into uni for the interhall hockey grand final, which resulted in very sore glutes from all that one sided lunging, but we won so it was worth it. Also figured I should learn how to kayak, after signing up for the Geoquest half (24hr) adventure race in June this year (with Keith Conley, Sarah Buckerfield and Oliver Johns). An intro to kayaking session at uni on Saturday included practicing wet exits and T-rescues. It was a bit strange hanging out underwater waiting for someone to come and help you flip back over.

A few big events coming up:

  • Inward Bound (28/29 March) – ANU team navigation race, ~100km. After coaching a squad for the last 3 years, I’m pretty excited to just be a runner/nav this year.
  • Buffalo Stampede skyruns (5/6 April) – I might bail to the mara instead of the ultra depending on how I feel after Inward Bound.
  • Wilson’s Prom 44/60/80/100km (3 May)
  • Geoquest Half 24hr Adventure Race (7/8 June)
  • Glow Worm Trail Mara (14/15 June)

Mt Buller VKM/Skyrun weekend

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Sat 1st Feb – Mt Buller VKM – my strava

Sun 2nd Feb – Mt Buller 22/36/45km skyruns – my strava

What’s a VKM? A Vertical Kilometre (VKM) is not really my cup of tea – intense uphill running – but it was good experience. For the European VKMs, the courses are supposed to have 1km elevation gain within 5km (or less) of course – think 20% gradient and hiking/scrambling uphill. It’s a bit harder to find 5km in a row of that terrain in Australia, and the Buller course was about 8km long for 1km ascent, which meant the gradients would be a lot more runnable for most of the race.

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Things on top of mountains

After 10 days off running/exercise (wisdom teeth removal and corked glute) I was pretty excited to get away for a weekend of running adventures, but also a bit nervous about remembering the old left foot-right foot routine. Getting to Buller early allowed me to scope out the course and help RD Paul Ashton (Running Wild) and race sponsors Matt Adams/Stephen Upton (La Sportiva/Bogong Equipment) setting up the finish line and marking the course.

Scoping out the VKM finish with elite company - Emma would end up (1) and Bronwyn (2)

Scoping out the VKM finish with elite company – Emma would end up 1st and Bronwyn 2nd

A dirty 6am start was necessary on Saturday so we could finish setting up the finish line, then we headed down to start line at Mirimbah to meet all the excited runners. I wore the Anakonda shoes for the VKM because they’re pretty light and thin-soled (4mm drop) with aggressive tread – we wouldn’t need much cushioning for a purely uphill race.

VKM start Moritz

First 50m of the VKM (I’m in 5th spot)

I tacked on the back of the lead pack for the first km or so then backed off into survival mode. Robin Rishworth and La Sportiva teammate Stephen Upton overtook me, then I held on to 7th place in 67 mins. The winner, Jordan Harries, blitzed everyone to finish in 52mins, with Aaron Knight and Moritz auf der Heide getting under 60mins to round out the podium. Emma Kraft was first female in 74mins followed by Bronwyn Humphrys about 90s later.

Saturday arvo was disgustingly hot so we packed up the VKM markers then waited til 5pm to setup the skyrun finish line down at Mirimbah and have dinner at the Merrijig pub with everyone else.

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On Sunday morning we picked up Izzy and drove down to the start. I wore the Helios shoes for the 45km skyrun. They’re light and grippy but with a bit more cushioning which would help on the 10km downhill finish when tiredness would be creeping in and technique might get a tad sloppy (still 4mm drop but bigger stack height due to foamy midsole). They seemed like the most popular choice on the day too!

The 36/45km courses started with the same climb as the VKM on Saturday. I paced myself better today, and was only a couple of mins slower up the mountain but felt MUCH better. At the Buller summit I was sitting in 3rd position, with Moritz and Joel Fitzgerald ahead of me then a few 36km guys close behind. Cruising through the village and down to Howqua Gap was fun and fast running, then we started climbing again towards Mt Stirling.

Howqua Gap (somewhere near halfway)

Howqua Gap (somewhere near halfway) [Photographer: Richelle Olsen]

I figured Moritz and Joel must have been powering along and would be pretty tough to catch, but motivated myself with the idea of defending 3rd position from the chasers close behind. Lots of hiking up towards Stirling. As I came back from the little summit out and back, I saw Chris Roberts and Dan Beard (45km chasers) as well as Stephen Upton (leading the 36km woohoo!) so they were very close behind me.

The out and back to Craig’s Hut was hot, hilly and exposed to the sun, probably a low point of my race. Apologies to the volunteer lady with the camera at Craig’s Hut who kindly asked if I would like to venture 10 metres past the turnaround point to have my photo taken at the hut. I replied ‘nah I don’t give a shit’ which actually meant ‘apologies but there are guys close behind me so I have other priorities right now and need to keep moving’.

After getting back over Mt Stirling, I figured I was home free when I made it to the 10km downhill turnoff. It was a bit of a rude shock when Chris Roberts popped up behind me with a friendly ‘oh good, we must be on the right track if we’re both here’. I freaked out and tried to pull away from him, logic being if I showed/feigned strength then he would give up and back off. This made me work pretty hard for the last 6km or so, but I opened up a small gap and we ended up 3mins apart at the finish.

I crossed in 4:55, happy to go sub-5hrs but pretty sure I can improve upon that next year. Moritz almost cracked Mick Donges’ 4:14 record from last year, with a big gap to Joel then another big gap back to me. Lucy Bartholomew won the chicks’ race in 5:30 followed by Izzy Bespalov in 5:44 (woohoo!).

Collapsing at the finish line

Collapsing at the finish line

Nutrition: I was super slack in the heat and only consumed about 3 hours worth of home made malto/protein mix (700 cals) over the 5hr race. Drank plenty of water with some electrolyte tabs, 0.5-1.0 L/hr.

The river was glorious at the finish line, as the temperature was beginning to soar by 11am. Huge props to the runners who were still battling through the course around lunchtime in that heat. I was particularly stoked to hear about the 36km podium which was a combo of La Sportiva team and ANU mates. Stephen got his revenge on the course for last year, it was good to see Damiano finally race without any injuries and Matt… not bad for a rock climber.

36km presentations

36km podium – Matt Adams (3), Stephen Upton (1), Damiano Luzzi (2), Paul Ashton (RD)

Thanks to the La Sportiva team for shoes, gear and banter over the weekend, Paul for scouting interesting courses and organising the hordes of crazy runners and to all of the other volunteers who made the weekend possible.

Next up in the La Sportiva series is the Harrietville weekend on 15/16 March – Bon Accord VKM plus various Razorback options (22/38/64km), get on it.

Bit of a delay getting this posted up because I started full time work this week as a graduate and it feels like a race just to get to sleep every night. I don’t know how some of you guys manage family/work/training/social/sleep!!!

Bogong to Hotham

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12th Jan 2014, Vic Alps

Ice bath

Mt Beauty/Sth Tawonga ice baths

Spent a few days camping in Mt Beauty to scope out the course and do some MTB with Pierre-Francois Loos. Turned out to be a good option as some of the intersections seemed to cause a fair bit of confusion on race day. Weather was pretty warm but the river was amazing.

Our tent embassy

Pierre chilling in our tent embassy (probably uploading to strava)

It always looked like a strong/competitive lineup but there were a few late withdrawals that we found out about at the briefing (Rob Walter sick, Ben Duffus injured). This was my first big race as part of the La Sportiva team, so it was exciting to see the friendly faces of Stephen Upton, Izzy Bespalov and Gill Fowler. I was a little bit intimidated by the net ascent of the course elevation profile – we would have to climb hills without getting equivalent downhills as a reward!

B2H Elevation Profile

B2H Elevation Profile

On the way up Bogong I saw the lead pack take off with Stu Gibson, Blake Hose, Chris Wight and Andy Lee, followed by a few chasers – Damon Goerke, Rowan Walker, Robin Rishworth. I think I was 8th to the summit behind these guys, and that was the last I saw of Stu, Blake and Damon. I had planned about 1:40ish to the summit but the adrenaline and competition meant I was there in about 1:25. This was exciting but I knew I needed to control my pace a bit more or it would hurt later.

I overtook Robin and Rowan on the downhill to Big River. This section was fun – amazing views and a steep track winding downhill. Rowan caught me again on the Duane Spur climb. It was a mental battle getting up there and I was relieved to have some Canberra banter to distract us while we hiked up to Roper’s Hut. Rowan took off on the flats and I’m not really sure what happened later but he must have ended up with a wrong turn as I never saw him again (including the finish line).

Had a quick chat to Ben Duffus at one of the checkpoints – I was kinda relieved not to be racing against him, will have to wait until Buffalo! At this point Mick Keyte and Jono O’Loughlin caught me as we passed Mt Nelse. There was a fun little single track stretch then we had made it to Langford Gap. Martin Fryer and a few others were super helpful which made for a speedy bottle change/sunscreen lather then we were off and running again.

Mick and I would end up running more or less together from here to Pole 333. We overtook Andy Lee having a rough time of it, then the volunteers at Bogong High Plains Road told us Chris Wight had dropped and we were actually sitting in 4th/5th, which was a pleasant surprise!

I was a bit of a mess on the next section along the high plains leading to Pole 333. The heat was overwhelming and I was struggling to make myself keep calories down. Pretty much walked anything that was a slight incline. There was a small trickling creek that proved to be a bit of a lifeline – some ice cold water down the back of my neck felt pretty damn amazing. Mick also had plenty of motivational chat for me as we reminisced about Razorback 6 weeks ago.

We strolled into Pole 333 checkpoint feeling pretty content about being 4th/5th place, when all of a sudden 3 people appeared about 100m behind us (in hindsight I’m guessing one of them may have been Beth). I freaked out a bit and saw the situation as 5 of us all next to each other racing for 4th position. There was a small downhill to Cobungra Gap then a relatively small climb up Swindler’s Spur before the rolling fire trail to the finish. I figured I needed to get away on the descent or they’d smash me up the hills. With some encouragement from Mick I took off like a crazy person on the downhill, struggled slowly up Swindler’s and didn’t see anyone again until the finish, where Mick held on strongly to 5th spot.

400m to go!

400m to go!

My time of 7:47 was pretty much what I planned (7:30-8:00) but I was absolutely stoked to end up 4th. There were a lot of navigational issues, heat issues, plus the standard stomach/cramp stuff that hit everyone. I found the course really tough. The technicality of the tracks was exaggerated a bit but there was just SO much climbing in the first half, and combined with the heat that made for a mental struggle all day long. Although I guess these were relatively amazing conditions compared to the storms and bushfires of some other years. Podium was Stu Gibson, Blake Hose, Damon Goerke, with Stu challenging the record (3mins short!) and Blake going under 7hrs as a 21yr old. In the women’s, Beth Cardelli (CR), Gill Fowler, Steph Gaskell.

Hotham summit with La Sportiva teammate Gill Fowler (2nd female!)

Hotham summit with La Sportiva teammate Gill Fowler (2nd female!)

Thanks to Andy Hewat, Brett Saxon and their crew of volunteers. It was amazing to see such well stocked and staffed checkpoints in remote locations that could only be accessed on foot. Well done to all the podium finishers, exciting to see the course records being broken or challenged! I have newfound respect for anybody who attempts or finishes this race – huge mental battle. Also thanks to Mick Keyte for the mid-race motivational speeches, Pierre-Francois Loos for being a fun/patient travel buddy and La Sportiva for the shoes/clothes – no blisters/problems all day on that front!

Results

Strava

Gear: La Sportiva Helios shoes, Ultimate Direction PB Vest

Nutrition: About 5-6hrs worth (1250-1500 calories) of home made maltodextrin/protein/electrolyte mix plus some coke/HEED at checkpoints, I got a bit slack with eating in the heat