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Sept 2003 - Glasshouse 100mile Trail Report

Sept 2003 - Glasshouse 100mile Trail Report

by Sean Greenhill

First, Some thanks must be given.... my long suffering mother Gayl for coming up to QLD yet again for yet another round of unseasonable heat, to drive her car on dirt roads in the middle of the night. Tim Turner and Adrian Pearce for pacing me during the night. Ian Javes and his team (Bill Thompson, the Halls, the Malcolms etc) for organising the whole thing, The Ladies Man for putting up with me on a hot and tiring day, all the competitors for making a point by entering one of the benchmark events in trail ultras, Elly Peters, Helen O'Connor and Martin Horne (my medical/ sport science "support crew", the people who saw fit to text message me (or ring me!) during the race (you know who you are), the staff at Maroochydore Coles for dealing with my weird dietary cravings....

I entered this year's Glasshouse in a fairly subdued state of mind. Having run Western States in June, I took five weeks of easy jogging to recover and found myself only seven weeks out from Australia's sole trail 100 mile run. Figuring I already had a good endurance base, I did one 56km run in the Watagans with Dave Criniti, then concentrated mainly on speedwork and averaged around 120km/week. I did figure that, at 89 kg, I was too heavy for optimal performance in this running lark, so via Coolrunning's resident exercise science brainiac, Elly Peters, I contacted Dr Helen O'Connor, a sports nutritionist who had previously worked with the likes of Pat Farmer. With Helen's assistance I dropped from 12.9 to 9.5% bodyfat in the space of six weeks and my form improved noticeably as a result.

Tim Turner, who was also going to do Glasshouse as his first 100, and I entered the Lake Macquarie Rogaine (12 hour) on the last weekend of August as a training run but it went pear shaped-Tim ruptured a ligament in his ankle and our Rogaine was over in 3 hours, as were his chances of running the 100 this year. The first Saturday of September I knocked over a minute off my 10K PB, then ran another 6 hours in the Watagans the next weekend (as a substitute long run for the aborted Rogaine) and the next Saturday (the day before I headed up to QLD) Dave and I ran the "Bridges" loop, where I took a minute off my best time for the course. All good signs.

The week before the race Carol LaPlant, Phil Brown, my mum Gayl and I spent much of the week covering the new course, assisted by maps and some guidance from Bill Thompson. The last few years the course was an 80km circuit run twice, this time it had a 115km "western" section consisting of several interconnected loops, and an out and back 45km "eastern" section.

It was blazing hot (into the 30s) all week leading up to the event-I went down to Glasshouse Mountains Sportsground (the start and finish) on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday to run some intervals and had to cut the sessions shorter than I anticipated, suffering in the heat as I was. The forecast was for the heat to continue into Saturday but cooler weather on Sunday. The nights during the week were quite cool however-but once the sun rose, the temperature shot off by 9am.

13 starters for the 100 fronted at the Sportsground on Saturday 27 September. A fog hung over the grass and our breaths were misting despite the warmth-indicating a very high dewpoint, not a good sign. A few remarks from RD Ian Javes (who was also competing) and we were off at 5.32am. Pretty quickly I was jogging along with Ian Wright, Jan Herrmann, Kieron Thompson and Walter Brumniach. It was obvious right away the pace was too fast, but despite that the 5 of us ran most of the way up Mt Beerburrum about 10K in. Kieron turned to me and said that the splits for the first two aid stations were ahead of the splits he'd put together for an 18 something hour finish!

After descending from Mt Beerburrum I was running with Ian Wright and Adam Barron; thinking of what Kieron told me I informed the guys that the pace was too fast for me and I walked quite a bit of the way to checkpoint three. It was already getting warm and I was sweating profusely.

The first four aid stations we would only pass through once during the run, so I didn't bother sending drop bags to them, but they also had rudimentary aid for the same reasons, so I carried five doughnuts in my pocket as fuel for the first 28km. I was eating a doughnut at every aid station (thanks for the tip Dave), had three bottles and in the early going was alternating sports drink and water; as well and popping a SUCCEED cap every hour.

Heading out to four, memories of previous years came back-this part of the course, at least, was unchanged from earlier years. A few sandtraps, a dicey left hand turn, then rolling dirt roads through the pine State Forests, with glimpses of distant peaks, which we will all run around by the time the day is done. Usually it's at this point that you realise that it's a bloody big piece of real estate out here and running 100 miles really is a long, long way. I was slowly reeling in Jan. I tried some conversation but-at only 20K-the big man was suffering from the heat, dripping with sweat and not feeling like conversation, it seemed. I ate another doughnut, we arrived at Four together (along with 50 mile runner and former 100 finisher Roger Guard) and then I left the aid station ahead of Jan, climbing up through the pines.

After negotiating a bit of crappy Goat Track I ran into Five (28km) after about 3.12, wolfed down my last doughnut, weighed myself (up from 86 to 88kg-I normally put weight on during these things), ate part of a sandwich, then added a can of creamed rice and packet of chips from my drop bag and walked out to allow the food to settle. I was ahead of my projected splits for a sub 24 hour finish, based on Ian Wright's run from last year.

The 6km from Five to Six contains the notorious Goat Track and Hennessey's Hill; usually I figure about 1.10 is a good time to do it in. I negotiated the eroded gullies and fallen trees and logs and jogged into Six in gathering heat, right on that 1.10 schedule. More creamed rice and chips here; the sports drink of choice wasn't to my liking anymore so I switched to a combination of coke and water in my bottles. I jogged out of Six onto the "new" course; from here on it would all be different to previous years, commencing with the much-discussed Powerline section.

Just after leaving Six a lanky, shaven headed character caught me up; it was The Ladies Man. He'd posted on Coolrunning about eight weeks prior that he was interested in doing the 100 and outlined his recent training; I was doubtful and had advised him if he was serious, he might consider entering the 100, seeing how far he got and learning the lessons for 2004. But he was good company now as we crossed the Woodford Rd and looked down onto the Powerline.

This was a section of eroded, crappy trail through a small valley several km long that started with a treacherous decent, then rose and fell in a succession of short, sharp hills, gradually working towards the next ridgeline. All exposed to the sun-the temperature was getting debilitating by now-so "I love Ian Javes" was not uttered by either of us on this stretch. It was deceptively long-we'd reach the top of another climb and didn't seem to have gotten any closer to the end of the valley. I was well and truly knackered when we reached the turnoff at the top of the ridge and we jogged through pleasant forest for a few minutes before turning onto a broad dirt road for the final few km down to Eight.

Kelvin Marshall-only running the 50 mile today-appeared from a side trail and mentioned he'd gotten lost. He fell in with us and the three of us ran together until we crossed another road, when Kelvin realised he was heading the wrong way. We gave him some directions and he headed off in the opposite direction whilst we ran on a dirt road through pleasant farmland into Eight.

Given the heat, I elected to go for liquid nutrition and fired down a can of Slimfast; Kieron's partner Meagan was here and I asked her how things were going at the front of the field. Walter and Kieron had run together all the way to here and apparently at a pace that had him quite worried; which seemed to tally with my opinion (and Kieron's observation) that the early pace had been way too quick. Seeing as he was the defending champion here, he had been quite worried about Walter, who won the 50 mile last year; so they stuck together and didn't give an inch.

Ladies Man was taking a little longer than I thought optimal so I tapped him on the shoulder, said I'd see him out there and left. From Eight we ran two loops through a new section called the Basin; I trotted up a hill past a farmhouse, then began a long descent down an old dirt road, eventually bottoming out amongst more farms. A few km of rolling terrain through burnt out areas before the trail emerged on an old rail bed and began a long climb back up to Eight. This was one of the worst parts of the course, along with the Powerlines-this climb just went on and on and was open to the sun and heat. Ian Wright came running down, heading out for the second loop complaining that the conditions had reduced him to walking all that first loop; Adam wasn't far behind him. After the first loop of the Basin, Eight represented approx 53km.

Another can of Slimfast; I was starting to get blisters on the backs of both heels, which I had never suffered before-ever-except at WS and this event. I was wearing different socks and different orthotics but the same shoe-the otherwise excellent Asics Gel Trabuco-so I resolved to change shoes (into my old NB 1220s) when Gayl returned from her shopping trip and started crewing for me late that afternoon. Puzzling, as the Trabucos hadn't given me any problems on long training runs.

Again, I tapped Ladies Man on the shoulder and said I was going; back down the rail trail I had just climbed up, then a hard right hand turn and a pleasant half hours running along the old rail bed through rainforest country. A left hand turn (the markings were quite good right through the Basin section) and it was more rough surfaced stuff with short ups and downs (no shortage of gully country in the Glasshouse Mountains). The Ladies Man caught me up on this 11km section and we arrived back at Eight for the last time after about an hour and a half, the last long climb up the rail trail in the sun leaving us in very poor spirits.

Gayl was waiting at the aid station; she'd finished her tourist activities a bit early; so I sat on the back bumper, changed my shoes, drank a beer and a Slimfast, and got ready to leave, by which time The Ladies Man had already left. Apparently we were now in equal fourth place-Ian Wright, Kieron and Walter were ahead, but Adam was behind us somewhere. We hadn't seen him-turned out later he'd taken a wrong turn. Ian Javes was just leaving for the second loop after finishing a can of XXXX; Jan came trudging up the road looking very poor from the heat. I gave him a few encouraging words and headed out on the longest stretch between aid stations on the course-almost 12km to Seven.

After returning along the dirt road we'd approached Eight from originally after completing Powerline, Ladies Man and I turned onto a windy section of logging trails; quite pleasant actually, and soft underfoot, we got some good running happening here, with the odd walking break mixed in.

We arrived at Seven to find we had moved up another place and were now in equal third! Ian Wright hadn't arrived, and he also had taken a wrong turn. (I thought the markings were adequate all the way, except for a stretch at night between Seven and Five.) Adrian Pearce was there-ostensibly a crew person for Adam, we'd corresponded by email before the race about the possibility he might pace me at night, but I'd never actually met him till now. Nice to put a face to a name.

I didn't feel like eating much but got some food down and we ran out together, describing a convoluted loop that would return us back to Seven. It seemed interminable but also quite scenic in parts; there were a couple of stretches alongside billabongs that were pleasant; I mentioned to TLM that the temptation to jump in and cool off was very hard to resist!

We talked; he filled me in on some of the QLD races I'd read about but had never done, like the Tamborine Trek, and from his youth in the Tablelands of SE QLD, to his experiences with the Hashers. By the time this loop was drawing to a close I was feeling pretty beat-mainly from the unrelenting heat I suppose-and running was getting to be a struggle. Our return to Seven brought up 85km and my worst patch of the race. Ladies Man got organised quickly so I told him to go ahead on his own; I needed to eat and get my act together. I was about half an hour ahead of my projected sub 24 splits; maybe I had gone out too fast?

I spent 20 minutes here eating slowly; Ian came up from behind, confirmed his navigational error, and remarked he was blistering badly. When he left I still felt no better really than before, so I figured I may as well get going and see what happened. I collected my lights and started walking in Ian's wake back towards Six.

I started to feel a bit better but took it easy all the same. It got dark; on with the lights; jog a bit; jog a bit more. I emerged from the eucalypts to run alongside a pineapple farm, then into the trees again near the Powerline and back up the hill to Six-93km down.

I sat down and changed from my tritop to a coolmax t shirt; I also ditched the Fuelbelt in favour of a Camelbak, which could accommodate batteries for my lights and a longsleeve shirt, if it got as cool later on as it had been during the week. I still didn't feel like eating much so just asked for a few slices of bread to be buttered; while this was happening I turned to Ian, who was in a chair nearby and who was pulling out due to his blistering. "Hey Ian," I said slowly, "has it ever occurred to you that we're involved in a really stupid sport?" This got some chuckles from Gayl and the aid station crew (Jane Thompson and Art van Wensveen) and some thoughtful musings from Ian.

Munching on the bread, I headed out into the dark... I had slipped into a mental approach of "just do it"-make forward progress, don't think about how much lies ahead, and the finish will come. Very Zen.

Down a hill, up a long hill, down the other side, and I was jogging along a rolling dirt road, alone in the darkness, heading out towards the black shadow of Mt Beerwah silhouetted against the clear night sky. This stretch of 8km involved 3km of dirt road, then a five km section of Goat Track style gullies and crap that we had all dreaded doing last year. I wasn't alone for long-a car came up from behind and parked next to me. Adrian got out and said he was ready to pace me to Five. We reached the turnoff to the Goat Track pretty quickly; I picked up a stick to use as a trekking pole- good for taking the weight off my feet-and in we went.

I found the uphills painful-as my shoes would rub against the blisters on my heels-but otherwise we made good progress. I asked Adrian about triathlon-specifically with an eye to the 2004 Ironman WA race-and he was bloody good in helping with navigation on a section where there were no tags. I think we made a pretty good combination for two blokes who had only just met.

This leg seemed to take forever, but when we climbed up the last steep pitch to the forestry road a few minutes up from Five, we found we'd actually moved quite well and would get to the aid station earlier than I said we would.

101km was up. Weight was back to where it was at the start of the race; 86kg. I worked my way through a box of hot chips Gayl had bought; even ate part of a burger. I was feeling fairly good, but started to get cold and shivery. Had to get moving. Adrian was going to go and see how Adam was going; Tim would pace me for the 14km back to the Sportsground and see how his ankle felt.

From Five, the course follows a bitumen road downhill for a few hundred metres, then swings onto a long downhill on dirt, climbs partway up a steep ridge then drops off it via some fairly hairy footing, then a long stretch through the pines before emerging at Matthew Flinders Park, aid station One (112km). This section was interminably long in the dark... just dragged on forever, and I was fairly subdued when I hauled into One. So much so that I walked most of the four km from One to the Sportsground.

A check of the watch told me I'd arrive there a couple of minutes after 11pm. I charged Tim with the responsibility to kick my arse out of there if I hadn't departed the Sportsground by 11.30-I wanted to have at least 12 hours for the last 45km, just in case something went wrong (last year I'd covered the last 45km in about 7 and a half hours). We thought we might see The Ladies Man running back towards us on the way out to the Eastern Section but we never saw him-indicating he must have been at least 45 minutes, probably more, ahead of me. Earlier on I had sagely told myself that, seeing as this was his first foray beyond 88km, he'd inevitably come back to me during the night and third place would be mine. My master plan didn't seem to be working out as I envisaged.

Once into the Sportsground (116km) I weighed myself again (85kg-down one kg from starting weight) and started to get some more food in, but I was feeling that tired that each chew of food seemed a mighty effort demanding all my concentration. Proceedings were that slow that I started yawning whilst eating and feared I'd fall asleep in my chair. Tim pointed out that 11.30 had arrived and started giving me alls orts of aggro looks but I was pretty ponderous in getting my act together again. Finally Adrian and I left at about 11.35-he'd pace me out to Wild Horse Mountain (aid station Nine) where Tim would take over again whilst Adrian got a few hours sleep and prepared for Sunday's 30K race.

For a guy who was having trouble staying awake, I made pretty good time (with Adrian's assistance) to Nine (125km); again, a mix of flat dirt roads and logging trails. The good folks at Nine-the Malcolms-gave me a coloured chip to place in a box on top of Wild Horse Mountain just to verify I'd gotten to the top. The climb up WHM mountain itself was nothing fancy-a concrete driveway went all the way to the top, and it wasn't particularly high... a quick admiration of the mountains and the coast (as they appear after midnight) and we hiked back down to the bottom and Tim took over the pacing again.

The Ladies Man was well over an hour ahead... seemed unlikely we'd catch him now, so as Tim and I trotted along under a black sky punctuated with thousands of white sparkles, our conversation shifted to when we'd see the leaders coming back towards us. Walter and Kieron were still together apparently, but their pace had slipped from crazy fast... to the extent that, as the time clicked by and we still hadn't seen them, we wondered if they might not get in in under 24 hours. Tim and I wondered what sort of creative abuse we could come up with... that it was just NOT ACCEPTABLE to attempt to win this bloody thing and take SO LONG about it... we debated whether telling Kieron and Walter that they had the honour of "the slowest winning time in the history of the race" would be good form. We decided against it-if they had been pushing each other for 140 odd km by the time we saw them, they might not take smart remarks in the best of humour.

The course from Nine to Ten pretty much followed the bank of a creek the whole way, a mix of good and sandy logging trails, plus a little cross country Bill had added in to keep things interesting. We were more than halfway out to Ten when we saw several lights coming back towards us through the dark. I had predicted in advance that psychologically the Eastern section wouldn't be too bad as runners would be coming towards you in both directions, but it was still a surprise to see someone out there after all the buildup. Kieron was in the lead, with Walter on his shoulder and Tony Howes, Kieron's pacer, bringing up the rear. Some quick shakes of hands and "good on you" and "well done" and we passed each other in the night. Looked like they'd get in in under 24 with a little time to spare... but who was going to win? Would it be a sprint finish across the Sportsground after 100 miles running shoulder to shoulder?

Within 5 minutes we saw another light coming towards us. We were thunderstruck-The Ladies Man emerged from the night, looking determined and moving fast. He had made up a hell of a lot of time on the leaders and was now within striking distance. I tapped him on the shoulder and told him to "go for the win" and we parted ways. Not long after I started to feel flat and it was a real effort to drag myself into Ten (134km).

Tim pointed out that I seemed to crash after around an hour of leaving an aid station, so I tried to get down some extra food here (two cans reamed rice, some chips) before dragging myself out for the 9km loop that would bring us back to here.

It was essentially a reverse P shape through more pine plantations, again following creeklines most of the way. It was starting to get cold even when I was on the move. Not much was said on this section-I was feeling so flat we walked a great deal of it, and the 9km took an hour and a half. The sky was changing from black to blue to grey as we passed some grazing horses; we could see the lights of Ten and another light coming towards us; Jan.

He had risen from the depths during the heat of the day to run hard during the night, catch up with and then pass Bill and David and was now striking out alone on this loop, 9km behind me. Remarkable, but then again, Jan is one of the toughest and most unflappable humans I know. I had said to Adam the previous morning, a century beforehand, that Jan could walk into a brick wall, and the wall would suffer. He was proving me right again; what a tough bastard.

The second visit to Ten was 143km. Bill Thompson was sitting in the aid station going about things in his usual calm, Queensland way. Tim and I dropped lights and I pulled a long sleeve shirt over my t shirt; getting very chilly out here. I also gave my Camelbak to Gayl; with the lights no longer required, I no longer needed it for carrying batteries. I'd do it on the handheld bottle only from here. Bill rose to leave, to follow Jan; Tim and I then left in the opposite direction. 18km to go. Gayl drove past on her way back to Nine a couple of minutes later; she gave us a few words of encouragement as she passed by.

We also went by David McKinnon, who was on his way out to Ten; a few murmured greetings were all any of us were capable of. With Jan so far back (but closing, no doubt) and the leading three already finished or very close to, the incentive to push myself was gone, so I walked almost all the way back to Nine in pretty much an hour and a half. The sun had risen and chased away the chill; at Nine I shed the longsleeve and t shirt and donned my Coolrunning singlet. I collected another chip to deposit at the top of Wild Horse Mountain; Tim and I hiked slowly up, dropped the chip, admired the views again, and then made slow progress back down. I was relying heavily on my makeshift trekking pole on the downhills; Tim's dodgy ankle was turning painful.

I collected two more cans of creamed rice off Gayl, put them away, and Tim and I set off for the final 9km. It was anticlimactic; I wasn’t going to catch anyone and no one was close enough to get me from behind, so it was mostly walking. I just couldn't be bothered running. We did see some kangaroos near the western side of Wild Horse Mountain; apart from that little was said as we saw the Matilda Roadhouse coming up; only a few minutes to go. The leading 30km runner passed us, closely followed by second place; the third placed 30K man came by just before we drew opposite with the Sportsground o the other side of the road; Adrian.

Tim backed off to let me soak up the last few hundred metres; I started to run again, crossed underneath the Glasshouse Mountains Road, up and onto the Sportsground. A pumped fist and I crossed the line in 27.11, a new PB but not the time I had hoped for.

I felt pretty good. No real fatigue; I stood around chatting to Gayl, Adrian, Tim, Ian Javes, Lisa Smith the race photographer, and Kieron, who had tied for the win with Walter. We waited for Jan to come in, and he arrived exactly 30 minutes after I did, slumped into a chair, dripping with sweat, and opened a beer. Once we saw he was in, Gayl and I drove back to the motel for what I was craving the most; a shower and the opportunity to clean my teeth. Then back to the Sportsground for lunch and the awards. Of 13 starters, 7 finished the 100 in under the cutoff-a fairly typical attrition rate.

My recovery has been much better than my two previous 100 mile finishes; I'm nowhere near as badly fatigued and the disrupted sleeping patterns and appetite evident after last year's Glasshouse and, to a lesser extent, this year's Western States have not been apparent this time round.

Ian Javes announced at the awards ceremony that he was standing down as RD; which seems to be placing the event in some doubt. Hopefully another Race Director can be found; as Australia's only 100 mile event, Glasshouse is a benchmark in this country's ultra running.

Sean Greenhill
Sydney, Australia

Sean has also written the following articles that are published on CoolRunning Australia :
  1. [Dec 2004] Coast to Kosi 236km
  2. [Jun 2004] Poor Man's Comrades 96km
  3. [Sep 2003] Glasshouse 100 mile
  4. [Jun 2003] Western States 100 Miles
  5. [Jun 2003] Auburn Journal interview with Sean before WS100
  6. [Jan 2003] Bogong to Hotham 60km
  7. [Sep 2002] Glasshouse 100 mile ( + photos)
  8. [Aug 2002] Katoomba to Mittagong 137km
  9. [Aug 2002] 12 Foot Track 93km
  10. [May 2002] Sydney Trailwalker 100km
  11. [May 2002] Thin Blue Line 88km
  12. [Mar 2002] Six Foot Track 46km
  13. [Feb 2002] Cradle Mountain Run
  14. [Sep 2001] Glasshouse 100 mile (DNF at 110km)
  15. [Aug 2001] 12 Foot Track 93km
  16. [Jun 2001] Wilson's Prom 100km ( + photos)
  17. [May 2001] Sydney Trailwalker 100km
  18. [May 2001] Lost In The Dark Run
  19. [Apr 2001] Brisbane Water Bush Bash 50km
  20. [Mar 2001] Six Foot Track 46km
  21. [Feb 2001] Cradle Mountain Run
  22. [Dec 2000] The Blue Labyrinth 50km option
  23. [Oct 2000] Glasshouse 100 mile (DNF at 100km)
  24. [Sep 2000] Royal National Park 50km
  25. [Aug 2000] Lost Worlds of Kuringai 56km
  26. [Aug 2000] Mt Wilson to Bilpin 35km
  27. [Jun 2000] Started the Glasshouse Trail Email-List
  28. [Jun 2000] Shoalhaven "King of the Mountain" 46km
  29. [Mar 2000] Six Foot Track 46km
  30. [Jan 2000] The Toughest Race in Australia - Bogong to Hotham
  31. [Sep 2000] Glasshouse 50mile/80km
  32. [Apr 2000] Glasshouse 50km
  33. [Dec 1999] The Blue Labyrinth - Original Route
  34. [Aug 1999] Cities Marathon
  35. [Aug 1999] Mt Wilson to Bilpin 35km
  36. [Jun 1999] Shoalhaven "King of the Mountain" 46km
  37. [May 1999] Sydney Morning Herald Half-Marathon
  38. [Apr 1999] Canberra Marathon and 50Km
  39. [Mar 1999] Six Foot Track 46km

Feel free to E-mail him at bigmig@tig.com.au.

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