Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Guiding Mount Barney

An epic back-to-back was completed, when ten friends and I climbed Mount Barney on Monday.
I was the only one who had climbed the mountain before, so onus was on me to make sure that we followed the correct route, etc...
I had tried to make sure that everyone was prepared, but on the morning, we had three jackets between 11, and Andy turned up after having worked a full shift at the RE and not having slept. His nutrition for this full day hike/climb consisted of a banana, and near-empty jars of vegemite and peanut butter.
Still, we got to the saddle without any real problems, but from there the real fun began. We went through thick scrub, over a series of demoralizing false peaks ("fucking hell Zac"). At one point, we were climbing down an impossible-looking slope; near its bottom, we had to move off of a boulder onto a little patch of dirt, and as each one of us did, we were given a huge dose of exposure - just over the right ledge was a vertical drop of atleast one hundred metres.
As we started up again, the confusing mist receded, and we saw the final face of the mountain ahead - a very steep combination of ferns and rocks, completely exposed. I was angry at myself - we should have tracked onto the ridge on the south! - but it would be a little too dangerous, and would possibly cause a mutiny, if we were to go back, and resume climbing from a different point.
I veritably shat myself, afraid that we would keep climbing until it got too technical, and we would have to descend the way we came, without having reached the peak. That would have been incredibly dangerous. It really didn't help that Jacoby, Newman, Lucas, Megan and Bogdan had become a bit negative and were throwing plenty of abuse my way - atleast I had Green, who was sticking up for me. Shams, Zander and Andy were silent and faithful as always, just getting the job done.
We lunched on the steepest of slopes, sitting in ferns and on rocks, then pushed on and on and up and up, until we reached a sort of gully. We followed it to our left (North), to where I thought there were only cliffs, and after scrambling up a rock or two, we had found the mildly beaten track. From there it was a glorious stumble/hop to the top.
We met a ridiculously experienced bushwalker and his son at the summit, who had ascended Logan's Ridge - one of the most difficult. I sheepishly asked them to take our photo and guide us down. Relief! The pressure was off, as this wily veteran took responsibility for the group. The descent was a great mixture of banter, camaraderie and pounded quads. It was alot of fun. Even Newman, who had hated his life when bushbashing at the Twins, had to admit that he loved all of it, except for the part between the saddle and the summit - "hell", as he described it.
All in all, it was a perfect day.
Andy then went on to work another full shift at the RE that night, without having slept. That was a monstrous effort, and he now has the right to scoff at anyone who says that climbing Mount Barney (via the South Ridge) is difficult.

(Photos courtesy of Rage Against the Mike Green).

Saturday, April 23, 2011

How to win a 30km race

1. Originally enter the 10km race

2 Race to a 2km PB the day before,

3. Walk for two and a half hours the night before, from the train station to

4. Your campsite, which is infested with a malicious plague of mosquitoes, meaning that

5. You only sleep for 45 minutes,

6. Waking up six and a half hours before your 10km race is due to start, as the 50km runners leave.

7. Being ridiculously impatient, therefore changing your entry to the 30km, as it starts three hours earlier (7am) than the intended race.

8. Running up front from the gun, even though it isn't a goal race, and feeling like crap in doing so.

9. Stubbornly persisting with the pace of the other leaders, dropping them on the technical terrain, only to be caught on the flat.

10. Charging foolhardily into the creek crossings, while everyone else believes in the sanctity of their ankles.

11. unnecessarily pushing the pace on the downhills, frying your quads and

12. Dwindling the lead pack down to just you and a wily old runner, who seems in much better condition than you.

13. Dropping your waterbottle, so that the other guy pulls ahead, and you can't catch up to him because of 11,

14. Being the subject of divine intervention, with the other dude missing an obscure right turn, yet

15. Still believing that you're in second place, causing you to

16. Bust your gut to maintain the pace so as not to get caught and shoved off the podium.

17. Receiving encouragement from Libby and Mandy at the aid station, and Nic with Bengal, but being incredibly rude and barely acknowledging it.

18. Berating yourself: "you don't f*cking deserve to sit on your ass eight hours a day, you piece of Sh*t" .

19. Not walking any of the hills in the final, very technical section, as you think you can see third place behind you.

20. Crossing the line in (32.1km in 2:21) and then

21. Turning around to see that the guy who you thought had won is just coming in.

That was the deepest that I have ever dug in my life, that I think I found China underneath my quads.

Alun Davies has done a fantastic job with this race, it is alot of fun, and I am eternally grateful to be given the opportunity to push myself beyond my perceived limits.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wild Horse Hopefuls

Although I'm not racing the 50km at Wildhorse on the weekend, I figured that I might aswell still put together a list of the major players (in my eyes).

Greg Swan - second place last year in a decent time (4:28:53).

Jordan Bishop - Bounced back from injury in February, having a reasonable run at Mount Glorious. He's quick, and if he's been training consistently, he could pull off a decent result a la Flinder's tour 53.5km last year (4:44:38).

Walter Brumniach - Third last year under 4:30, and I swear I've seen his name pop up in other places too.

Kelvin Marshall - Runs every ultra event on the calendar, almost always finishing in the top 10-20%, but his leg speed over this shorter distance may let him down.

John Pearson - He's versatile. Races everything from 2km to 24 hours (the latter for Australia, I might add). Won the 12 hour at Caboolture, and a month later jogged a sub-4:30 for the Cliff to cliff 50km. If he goes for it, John will be the man to beat.

Chris Noble - Similar to Kelvin, minus a bit of racing and plus a bit of speed.

Nic Moloney - Has been tapering for the last two months since uni went back, and has recently hit a few shorter races, adding leg-speed to his endurance. He becomes a better 50km runner with every race of this distance.

Seun-Gil Hong - A great road runner, and has recently started hitting the trails. He seems to eat hills, let's see if he can convert that strength to the flat.

Stephen Courtney - Just saw this name on the list. The race is over. Although he is much better on the roads than on the trails, his 50km PB is 3:10 (on a treadmill). Converting that to flat trails, I predict sub-4:00. I don't think anyone else could match that.

I don't know enough about the female runners to comment, but I do know that Mandy Noble will place at the very least.

In the 10km, the previous winner is absent, but second place (47:06) Kenny Arcangeli will be there. The only other runner present who was in the top six last year is big Trev (Trevor Allen), who is a fierce competitor and races everything like his life depends on it. As always, going out too hard could ruin his race. I'm going to have to play it smart, and let Trevor go for the first few km, and only worry if he is still in front after 7km. There are probably many other better runners than me who I don't know, but I feel good about this one! I predict that I'll just have to run 4:25s for the entire race, which isn't too much to ask I suppose (you will eat those words Zachariah Braxton-Smith).

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Running well, blisters, and a ridiculous accident

So, for the past three weeks, I have averaged about 50km of running, 120km of cycling, two gym sessions, two games of touch/rugby or interval sessions and one race per week. Although it has taken some getting used to to only spend about one hour on the trails every morning, I have to say that this is the quickest that I have been running on a consistent basis, with no walking, even when an 8km jog involves 250m of vertical, and 10km and above is at least 350m. I feel really strong, and I reckon this is the perfect amount of training to garner a consistent improvement (well, maybe a little bit more running would be nice).

Secondly, from wearing New Balance MT101s without socks, I have developed a ridiculous blister on the back of my foot. Running this morning, the pain was intense. I really hope it heals before the weekend. Or before tomorrow would be nice...

Thirdly, I was stretching my quad in the shower last night, and hit my foot against the knob, causing a restless night of sleep, and a reasonable amount of pain. Luckily, it appears that only the tendons have been damaged (hopefully).

Fourthly; the weekend. It will be big. Saturday will be a 4km race at Sherwood, Sunday will be a 10km race at Wildhorse, and Monday will be a climb of Mount Barney in a group of atleast seven. I am a bit worried that I will destroy myself in the races, and am also worried that, being the guide, something will happen to someone on Monday, but oh well, that isn't going to stop me (unless of course, I'm injured).

Fifthly, ironically, I'm into the fifth week of this cold, which has not yet cleared up. I slept for seven and a half hours last night, which is usually standard, and am now really, really sleepy. I'm hoping it will go away before the weekend, but somehow doubt that it will.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Round 2

Nic and I battled at Sherwood this morning, this time at the 6km (actually 5.8km) distance. Let's just say that a) the last 2km were hell, b) I beat him, and c) time = 21:15. Once again, the victory over Nic means nothing, as I haven't yet been able to convert such results too ultra-distances, but I hope that the stars align for Cook's Tour, and I can take top spot. I mean that. Nigel Waddington and Nic will be the two main competitors, and I was only six seconds behind Nigel in the 10km at Brisbane Road Runners. Granted, it's entirely different over 80km,. However, with: - new-found climbing legs (which are capable of running 8-9kmph for 500m at 20% incline most days), - the purchase of a pair of MT101s (allowing me to blast downhills), - an abundance of speed-work, - the fact that I have not been over-training, - the fact that my main running asset is the ability to run on very technical trail; anything can happen. I said this before Caboolture and ended up getting my ass handed to me, but this time it really just feels right. The two main obstacles will be: a) going out too fast, b) not getting over this head-cold in time. Speaking of which, it hasn't really improved much over the past week, although Nic did comment that I didn't look so shithouse this morning. It's been hanging around for four and a half weeks now, and has not allowed me to run for more than one hour at a time, without significant breakdown. Only time will tell whether this will be a good thing. Reading back over this post, what was supposed to be a quick summary ended up being a completely self-obsessed rant. My ego needs some serious beating down - I should remember that the winner this morning ran in 18:10. Wow. Need to put up some stats for book-keepings sake aswell. Mins/km avg. = 3:40, 5km estimate = 18:20.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

10km at BRR: the Duel

Saturday night, I text Nic Moloney: - "Hey mate, word on the street is that you're racing 10km at BRR tomorrow. Are the rumours true? Nic: "Word on the street is that I'm going to kick your butt in the 10km!" Zac: "Well well, it looks like we have ourselves a duel". So, after a fairly late night at Bogdan's, I was up at 5am and cycling through uni, over the Green Bridge, and along the river, still feeling like shit from this lagging flu/head-cold/possible minor bout of glandular fever. I was keen for my first sub 40:00, but due to the recent sickness/injury, I doubted that it was doable. I even doubted whether I would be capable of such a time when well trained Arriving at West End, I was indifferent to the race ahead, until I saw Nic and Mallani, and the banter began. After much standing around, stretching, and chatting, we lined up. Nigel Waddington, joint winner of Glasshouse 100 mile last year was there aswell, adding to the ecclectic mix of runners who were, by now, seconds from beginning the race. We went. We went out really hard; I was running with the lead pack of the five and ten k, but I faded marginally fairly soon, and just focused on keeping the 50-or-so metre gap between Nigel and I. There were a couple of runners in between us that I was pretty keen to catch. Nic was no where to be seen, except for at the 2.5km turnarounds, where I teased him and he encouraged me (not really fair was it). 5km mark, still feeling reasonable, under 0:40 pace, let's keep it going Zac. 6km, yes, we're over the psychological hump, you can surely maintain this pace now. 7.5km, ok, let's turn it up. To my surprise, the stocky runner who had partaken in a mutual leap-frogging with me for the whole of the run up just melted away. On the small incline, my uphill confidence (not fitness, but confidence) caused me to accellerate, then disposing of the serious-looking road runner in the Maroon singlet. As far as I could see, it was only Nigel ahead! With 1km to go, it was getting tough. The lungs were not too happy, but we pushed on. I'm gaining! Through the final bend, Nigel catches a glimpse, I'm only 80 metres behind! I sprint to make up the deficit, but so does he, and as Nigel goes through the chute, I relax and slow down a little. In the end, he was about ten seconds in front, but who cares. I finished in third, but who cares. I beat Nic for once, but who cares. The important thing was that I had decimated a mental road-block. New 10km PB: 37:51. This race reminded me of how easy short, fast races are compared to ultras. There was no deep pain in that race. Still, it was a heap of fun. I pushed hard on the cycle home, and I think I have paid for it, with a reasonably sore quad and subsequently ITB. Let's hope it's OK.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Feeling fat again!

I've started eating fish again in an attempt to heal my pesky hamstring tendons. That, in combination with glute strengthening/activation of neural pathways, seems to have worked fairly well so far - they have been very obliging for the last few days. Eating about five hundred grams of seafood per day for the past five days has had another (obviously logical) consequence - I seem to have gained some belly fat. In past times, I would be incredibly downtrodden and upset by this, but now I know the necessary approach. 1) take action: eat more salads & beans, less bread & fish. 2) Long-term attitude: this shows that I'm matching my caloric needs, giving my body everything that is required to heal. All it will take is a few >100km weeks when I'm healthy, and I'll be back to full form. You would still have much less body fat than about ten months ago. 3) general outlook: dude, it's just a little bit of fat, get over yourself. Sheez. Additionally, I think I've broken my right ring-finger and possibly my right pinky aswell. I was playing touch for the Woolworths team (despite not being an employee) in a social comp, and went in for a touch awkwardly, twisting the fingers in question. Any injury that doesn't stop me from running is not an injury at all!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Back to it then.

I have resumed running after a two week lay-off, am incredibly happy to be back on the trails, but am somewhat frustrated. My hamstring tendons and ab muscle seemed to have healed to a certain extent, and were had been getting significantly better in the second half of this week. That was, until I decided to go running with Matt Meck on Saturday morning. What was supposed to be an easy 9km with about 250m of vertical ended up as 20km with 800m of vertical. We kept getting to intersections where we could go home, or go up, and I just kept suggesting; "ah, we might as well...". Matt had a pretty rough time with his ITBs aswell, causing us to walk some flat stretches, so I guess that I should be grateful that my problems aren't worse. In any case, I should go to a physio. I have already tried running more, running less, stretching, wearing compression tights for recovery, massage Arnica and eating animal protein. The combination of running more, stretching, and tights seemed to work the best, so I might have to give that a crack again soon. I have been assailed with thoughts of "will this ever end" and other similar ones, and am disappointed that such problems have reduced the joy that I get out of running. Ah well, seeing as the two-week lay-off made very little difference, another break doesn't seem to be the best remedy. So I will stop complaining and do what I love most: run some more trails.