Posted 17 August 2011 - 06:10 PM
Apologies if this seems a little indulgent to post an in-depth race report a few days after the event, but I often refer back to previous race reports (both mine and others) to learn from the experiences and try to do things better each time:
I had been excitedly waiting for the weekend of 12 Foot to arrive, having not done any decent length runs since NF100 in May and an unplanned Macleay Marathon in June (always a bonus to suddenly have a weekend away at a location nearby a race!), so I'd had a pretty happy week leading up to last Saturday. Having previously completed 12 Foot in 13:27 (2009) and PB'ing those last two races this year, I'd set my splits for a 13:10 goal time.
Knowing that my NF100 experience had been affected by poorly managed nutrition/hydration, I'd packed a fair bit of food and drink, with 4 separate bag drops packed for different parts of the course, one of which I was fortunate to be able to give to B1orB2 to take up to Black Range. The car park at Explorer's Tree was cold (5C), so a quick rethink on my clothing was needed, but you could tell it was going to be a beautiful day with hardly a cloud visible above us. Said hello to some of the mainstays of the ultra scene - Brick, Spud, ERB, Kim, B2orB1 & B1orB2, JustDidIt (without pram and son this time) - and got to meet some others I'd not met before, like Josh and the Ridler. Had a banana and finished a powerade I'd been drinking on the drive up to Katoomba.
Over to the Tree for the pre-start photo, and a quick headcount suggested 15 starters, somewhat down on '09's 28 starters. Spud announced it was time to go and we set off. Running along that first 300 metres, I was amazed at how little some were carrying - them looking like they'd only packed for a 2hr run, whereas my heavily-laden pack looked like I had enough for a 5 day march in comparison.
Safely down Nellies Stairs and was soon running along with Ridler and Brick at a pace a tad under 5min/k. Dropped my first bag at about 5k's (although "looking for a dump site" meant something different to The Ridler), and my second drop at McLellan's Bridge, and got to Megalong Rd just under 1 hr. Decided to slow down and eat an energy bar, then soon after a vegemite sandwich (gotta get that sodium) as I walked that first steep hill before Pinnacle Hill, catching Brick and Ridler just before the sty. The three of us ran well along the single track to the Cox's, passing Martin who'd started at 6am. Got to Cox's in about 1:42, which was nearly 10mins up on my target split. Brick managed to rock hop across Cox's, but after getting halfway across and only wetting one foot, decided a controlled descent into the water was safer than an uncontrolled submersion, so waded across the rest in water up to my knees. It was cold!
Dropped another bag of powerade, chips and snakes at the river, took out my second sandwich, some salt tablets and chips and started the long walk up Mini, soon losing Ridler then Brick off into the distance. Kim soon caught up to me, and we walked along chatting for a few kms. The wet socks, coupled with walking up the inclines, meant that I developed rub spots on the rear of both heels, which soon turned into blisters. Now, ultras, blisters and me are common acquaintances but I was really annoyed that I was wearing the same socks and trail shoes I'd worn at NF100 and some long training runs on the NF course over Easter and not had one heel blister then, nor during Six Foot earlier this year. Obviously, the fact that I was taking it easier meant I was walking more and running less, causing the spot to rub more, as I found there was nowhere near the discomfort when I started running. Eventually, at about the 20km mark I sat on the side of the track to apply bandaids to both heels.
Stayed with Kim until we reached the summit of Mini Mini, having been passed by the three girls just after the new-look cattle yards. Once it was 'runnable' for me, I moved along at my own pace and soon left Kim who was taking it easier than me. The next 3 water crossings were just as cold, but I just took it relatively easy thru the flat of Alum Creek before starting the climb up Pluvi. Ate another banana, had a gel and took out my handheld with powerade for Pluvi. Reached the top of Pluvi in 3:38, a few minutes behind target - clearly I was taking it a little too easy. Saw the car with all the supplies laid out beside it, but decided I still had enough on me so left my drop bag untouched for the return trip.
It was such a great feeling to hit the Black Range with no leg cramps and not feeling exhausted! However, I knew I was getting toward tired, and another blister had formed on the inside of my right heel, so as I was on my own I took out my Ipod Shuffle intending to run a lot of the next two hours. I really should do more barefoot training to toughen up my feet! Although I still walked a lot of the inclines, I was moving well along Black Range and got to Deviation about 5mins up on schedule (4:35). Had caught up to Trailpuddin at the Camp Grounds there and we had a nice but brief catch up before she was pushing me on. I couldn't believe how early Royworlds passed me, so thought he was on track to give the course record a shake. As expected, B2orB1 was next, then Spud, then Brick. For the last couple of years, I've too frequently come across Brick in a battle with his body, so I was really pleased that today he was able to run to his capability, and he was looking strong. Continued to enjoy running whenever I could and the tunes had me zoning out, just enjoying the moment, the scenery and feeling alive, finally arriving at Caves House in 5:50, ten minutes ahead of set splits.
Used the facilities at the Caves, changed into my thermal top and refilled my water bladder, and after a bit more mucking around and chatting to a tourist who'd previously run 6Foot a number of times, I headed back up the hill. All up, 16 mins for the stop.
The climb back out from Jenolan was really painful on my feet and I felt fatigued - maybe from the sitting and standing around I'd cooled down too much - with nothing of the energy I'd felt running down the last km or so to Caves House. The next 3kms took 17:38, 19:40 and 18:32 respectively, and at times the Garmin was showing I was walking at 23-25min/k. Another gel and more salt tablets and I was hoping that this down period would pass soon after I got to the top. Sure enough, by the time I got to Binda Cabins I was just starting to feel like running again, with only a minor bit of nausea seemingly from all the sweet but unsubstantial foods I was consuming. By the time I got to the Caves Rd crossing, I was looking at my watch and wondering how much of the Black Range I could run and trying to work out how much ahead of time I could get to Deviation.
A few times I've been told by more experienced runners "when you feel like you can't run, just shuffle along but don't walk the flats or downhills". The more I ran the better I felt, whereas whenever I had to or chose to walk, I'd start feeling crappier. I've now come to the conclusion that not only do gels and foods help with the highs and lows, but the endorphins that we all get from going for a run also help provide the up times during a long run. With this in mind (as an experiment of one), I made it a mission to keep running at any pace except for any significant inclines.
I arrived at Deviation (7:43) in relatively good spirits, 17 mins ahead of schedule and thinking I was on track for a sub-13hr 12Foot. Knowing the next 10k or so was predominantly runnable, sub-13 became my new goal. Just past Deviation, on that really steep rocky pinch that kills everyone during 6Foot, there was a convoy of six or seven 4x4 utes - the 'Wolf Pack' I think they were called - and a heap of guys standing around drinking beer while waiting for a flat tyre to be fixed, and I had to run through a gauntlet of cheers and waving beer bottles - all in good fun. I was feeling pretty good through here but there were a number of large puddles to go around so I ran harder just in case the Wolf Pack decided to include me and the mud into their fun day out. Once they'd caught up, the steep pinches, loose rocks and fallen large branches meant that I was able to stay ahead of the lead 2 utes for a good 6-7 minutes and I was starting to enjoy being 'the rabbit', particularly as the carry-on from the guys (pretending to jockey whip the truck to race me to the next puddle etc) told me they were decent blokes just having fun and weren't d***heads. Soon enough, the overall effort of the day caught up to me so I stood off the track and waved the guys through.
The next gel really didn't sit well in my stomach, so by the time I reached ERB and B1orB2 at Pluvi in 8:38 (22mins ahead of schedule) I was feeling quite nauseous. However, I had banked on that possibility by including a can of ginger beer in the bag I'd given B1. Bunny told me to get going as the 3 girls and Josh had only just left a couple of minutes before, but I took my time chatting and drinking my ginger soft drink, spending about 10 mins there allowing my stomach to settle. I also transferred a powerade into my handheld, so I didn't have to worry about dropping it on the fast downhill run of Pluviometer. As I left, ERB reminded me that the gap between me and the girls was now "much more than 3 minutes".
Had a fairly uneventful descent of Pluvi, just trying to limit the quad damage by not going too hard. Once I was through Alum Creek, I took out a PeanutButter&Honey sandwich I'd collected from B1 and ate it on the slow walk back up the opposite side of Mini Mini. I'd actually made this sandwich on Friday night along with my vegemite sandwiches, so the contents had now had over 21hrs to soak into the bread. I thought that I really should eat this, regardless, to get the carbs and sugar, but it was a struggle. I threw up before I could finish the sandwich, but this turned out to be a blessing as I soon felt better for it.
Running again over the top and down Mini, I came across Josh just before the cattleyards. He was ok, just paying for his fast paced run to Jenolan. Arrived at Cox's River in 10:05, still 15 mins up on schedule. I'd remembered Shogun commenting on his course record run that "the 2:18 from the river to the finish was humbling and tough", and tried to judge what sort of shape I was in (pretty good actually!) compared to the sort of shape he would have been in given how hard he was pushing himself that day. Admittedly he's a much stronger and faster runner than me, but I figured 2:55 could be doable against his 2:18, so definitely now was chasing a sub-13hr finish time. I picked up my drop bag, pocketing the S&V chips and snakes but packing the powerade and gel in my camelbak. I still didn't fancy crossing the river up to my waist, as it was already getting colder with dusk (it was just on 5pm), so I found a shallow section of rapids and waded across picking my way through the rocks, again only wetting up to my knees.
I had to turn on my headlamp about 10 minutes before the single track opens onto farmland before Pinnacle Hill, and also had a small 1W handheld torch, but still felt I was making good time. At the sty on Pinnacle Hill, I hoped to be able to see torchlight from the girls in the distance to give me someone to chase down, but there was only darkness so figured the girls had powered away. Got to Megalong Rd in 11:16, 24 mins up, and starting to wonder how much under 13 hrs I could do.
I then had a rather unsettling experience on Nellies Glen Rd. As I'd mentioned earlier, I had stashed a bag with drink and food just after coming through the gate about 5k's in. Running along by myself in the dark, focusing my lamp light on the few feet in front of me to avoid tripping over rocks and sticks and listening to my Ipod, I came upon the gate unexpectedly. Realising that my bag drop was behind a tree about 20m behind me, I turned around to backtrack and instantly got a reflection of two red eyes - a wild animal in the middle of the road? Thinking it was a fox (too high from the ground to be a possum), I just assumed it would dart away so I walked off the track, stepped around the tree and picked up my bag. As I turned back on to the dirt road I spotted that the animal was closer than before. It just stood there out in the middle of the road, and blinked as I stood there trying to work out if I'm in trouble. Still too far out of range to see what it was, but clearly from the way it was moving/trotting towards me (as I'm jogging towards the gate) I'm now thinking local dog/feral cat? I was not in a condition to outrun the thing, and could see that the gate had a fair clearance underneath that any large dog could get under. I got to the gate, undid the latch and stepped through. The animal was now running quicker towards me (and I'm crapping myself now!), so thinking back to a Steve Irwin doco (the things that come to mind, huh?) I brought my handtorch up level with my headlamp, then extended my arm out as far as I could reach and stood on my toes, trying to make myself look much bigger. Amazingly, that worked, the animal stopped, blinked again, then took off into the bush. For the next 20 mins or so I was spinning around every 10-15 steps to see if it was again tracking me. It was a good 10 mins before I realised I was running with a plastic bag in my hand, and hadn't taken any of the contents out. To be honest, I didn’t really feel comfortable until reaching the single track that signals the start of the final climb.
I had reached the 86km mark in 11:58, so was trying to calculate how long those last 4km would take. Could I average 15min/k or better to the finish? I swung my arms to try to get a power-walk happening, continued eating snakes, and drinking powerade but avoiding the gels and energy bars I was still carrying. I only stopped once going up the stairs, which was a first for me, but couldn't run until I reached the first car park. Ran from there until I touched the tree - 12:47:34 (a 40min PB).
Bunny and the 3 girls were sitting in a car, eating and trying to stay warm, a quick chat about finish times, then into the car to change clothes, warm up and drive home. It's almost anti-climactic to finish such a big run, then just get in your car and go home alone, but I was pleased that I was able to drive and not cramp up, or feel too tired to drive.
Sunday afternoon, unpacking my pack I found I still had: 2 x 600ml Powerade bottles, 3 x gels, 2x Trail Bars, 2 x Energy Bars and 1 x S&V chips. Clearly, way too much food.
- don't pack as much food, irrespective of the scientific advice re carb intake
- purchase better clothing (arm warmers? Icebreaker gear?) that will keep me warm without being heavy to carry or too hot and sweaty to wear
- consuming 2 salt tablets every 1.5-2 hrs worked really well, with virtually no cramping despite the hammering to the legs on this course
- introduce specific training/time barefoot to toughen edges of soles (not sure what to do about back of heel though?)