Ken Smith's 2005 12foot Report

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Just as Kevin began his report with the words of WhippetMan, so shall I. "It was tough, not bludgeoningly tough, but tough enough ..."

Unfortunately and unexpectedly for me, just as last year, the return trip was bludgeoningly tough. I'm no stranger to 'bludgeoningly tough' situations but I did think occasionally as I struggled on, "Surely I shouldn't put myself through this again next year". Which brings me to questions like "How do I improve?" (Sean certainly has) and "What went wrong this year?"

My expectations before the event were seven hours to Caves House and between eight and nine for the return for a total of 15 to 16 hours total. It seemed that I still had some residual condition from my training for 6ft early in the year. Since April my training had lapsed with a change of work hours, at least I would get a good sleep immediately before the event and not find myself as last year asleep on my feet during the event, but on most weekends I did a 40-50k bushwalk/jog.

But again the unexpected and avoidable, this time significant dehydration - thus 19 hours again.

Will I be back again next year? Probably, it's a challenge and a great event. Last year I ended my report with three goals, none of which I achieved, so those stand again for next year. The weather forecast might stop me, but I suppose a bad forecast would postpone the event. Bludgeoningly tough I am used to; I don't seek to threaten my survival. As WhippetMan said "And the snow. How magic was that?". That snow was dumped only four days before. 12ft is a mountain run in winter!

As last year I started with the group and with the commitment to be self-sufficient all the way, only collecting water at Black Range Camp tank going and returning. Unlike last year when I was alone from just after the start for the whole event, this year I found myself in the company of WhippetMan and Tim trotting along at a 'sensible' pace. The company was great and I was comfortably alongside them. When Kevin joined us we were four abreast across the track and I soon dropped back a couple of steps to get a better footing. But I soon noticed that I was just drifting off their pace. Caught them all at Megalong Rd where they'd had a short break and we headed off with Ross. Again I caught them at the Rob Webb memorial - "His spirit runs free". Again lost touch with them and approaching the Cox I met Ross on his way back. We spoke for a couple of minutes about the way I tackle the event, conservatively given my fitness level, with a commitment to complete. Kevin might leave his torch at the Pluvio as an incentive, my incentive is my overnight gear back at Explorer's Tree.

On my own from the Cox again until nearing the Pluvio I met Kevin changing his top. I appreciated the company but was a little concerned for Kevin that I had caught him and eventually drew away from him on Black Range.

At Black Range Camp I refilled my hydration system, having emptied the full 2.5 litres right on target. I had been meeting my expected 7 hour splits but this break put me 10 minutes behind. Met some of the bikers at Caves Rd and then passed the others as I moved towards the caves. A couple of minutes from the bottom I met Merrilee. She was holding a tissue to her left nostril and said she had waited 30 minutes at the bottom for the blood nose to stop but it hadn't so she was continuing regardless. I got to the bottom in 7:01, touched Caves House and started my return. It's good to see that others have reduced their turn-around time at Caves House. On my way up the foot-track I passed Kevin. Obviously he was about 25 minutes behind me, about on my last year's pace. I knew how little I had got along Black Range before it got dark and Kevin's torch was at Pluvio! So I suggested to him that if he decided to quit at Caves House I could get my walking club to collect his torch the next week on their 6ft walk. But he said no, that he intended to complete.

At about half-way to Caves Rd I felt a drowsiness, disturbing after last year's sleepiness, and this seemed to stay with me the rest of the event. Perhaps it was the first sign of dehydration as when I reached Black Range Camp I was surprised how full the hydration bladder still was and I didn't top it up as it was getting colder and I had more downhills than uphills ahead of me.

The last fifteen minutes to Pluvio I used a light. Worried about Kevin. Downhill from Pluvio and I fell over many times, almost a dozen times before I got to the Cox. It seemd to be the soles of my running shoes were not gripping on the fine gravel on the track. Maybe it was just clumsiness in the dark. It hadn't happened last year, it hadn't happened in daylight in running shoes. But it was a painful nuisance.

After crossing the Cox a little later than last year, apparently losing time on the climb out of Alum Creek, I took out my hand torch for the climb up and managed to avoid the toe stubbings of last year. I was slow uphill. Near the top I found myself passing through pockets or waves of cold air. Should have put on the second 100 weight Polartec I was carrying with a snug neck fit but didn't and the cold went down my neck and through my wollen mittens and beanie. It wasn't blowing through, I could feel it through them. Cold. And I was wondering "Is Kevin behind me in his shorts?".

Eventually got to the top of the stairs and the Tree. Looked at my watch. Oh, no, not 19hrs again! I even had difficulty operating the buttons on the watch. Found my pack and given how late it was expected to forgo a bushwalk later in the morning but woke at 6:20 to daylight, found myself packed up well before my friends arrived and happy to be able to stun them by doing the walk, graded medium/hard on our club programme and including two steep climbs totalling 1100 metres. It was those climbs that showed up my condition. I have walked a great deal with these people and normally I am able to keep with them in any conditions. On this walk I had little trouble on the flats and downhill, but uphill they just walked away from me and I found myself resting frequently to catch my breath only catching up to the rest after they had lengthy waits at the tops of the climbs.

Quoting from Tim's report, "For a while I led but I was getting lazy and started to walk even the smallest hill" and "I was not fit for these stairs and they were really tough. I would walk about 5 and then double over and try to catch my breath and then I would repeat". Also Tim's brief posting about how he felt during and after the C2S. I can echo all his words. I assumed I was dehydrated and when I got home on Sunday night and weighed myself I found I was 4% less than when I had left i.e. '4% dehydration', possibly I had been even lower in the later stages of 12ft.

From "Electrolytes and Fluid Replacement: Any Debate? : Maintaining proper electrolyte levels in endurance athletes is critical to performance" by Kevin Setnes and Karl King

Weight Loss Consequences:

  • 0 to 2 % beginning thirst, performance loss at 1.8%
  • 2 to 3 % thirst, 7% performance loss
  • 3 to 6 % cramps, strong thirst, 20% performance loss
  • > 6 % severe cramps, heat exhaustion, coma, death

Another interesting article is at, "FUELING FOR ENDURANCE : The 10 Biggest Mistakes Endurance Athletes Make And How You Can Avoid Them" By Steve Born

From "Advanced Marathoning" by Pete Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas, p39 "Let's take a look at the physiology of dehydration. When you sweat, the following chain of events occurs: Your blood volume decreases, so less blood returns to your heart: therefore, the amount of blood your heart pumps with each beat decreases, so the less oxygen-rich blood reaches your working muscles; therefore you produce less energy aerobically and you must run at a lower pace" [on level ground, but the more obvious effect is on hills].

"Studies have found that dehydration of 2% of body weight leads to about 6% reduction in running performance."

In August 2003 I did a solo 9ft track from Explorers Tree to Caves Rd and return. I used 6 litres of water and Gatorade and paused once, for two seconds, climbing the Nellies Glen stairs. My experience on the Great North Walk, where water is readily available, is that I need to use 600 ml/hour during winter and 900 ml/hour during mild summer days. This year on 12ft I used 2500 ml to Black Range Camp - just over 5 hrs and slightly higher than my normal exertion level. Not quite enough it seems and my intake apparently got much less as what was left of the day and the night progressed, total use for the event was about 4000ml.

Ken Smith Sydney, Australia