Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Beerwah 101

Lesson #1: don't climb the mountain when there's a chance of rain.

Luckily, Nic and I DIDN'T have to learn that the hard way today - it started to rain as we were coming down the last (and hardest) pitch of the mountain.
The day began with a well-paced 10km road run out to the mountain, before the real fun began.
We hit the "shit my pants" section, and after climbing for 10 metres, Nic voiced his concern about the extreme steepness and exposure of the gradient; "I don't think I can do this".
Soon enough though, he was through the worst of it, as I scampered ahead trying to remain ever-patient.
The face became flatter, the route hemmed in by scrub, and the handholds more firm. Then we hit the flat ground around the caves halfway up the beauty, plodding over the soft sand. A scramble up the final covered rocky section followed, and pretty soon we were on the summit with the phones out. No space on Nic's Blackberry for photos, so the great Facebook profile pic opportunity was spurned.
The way down was pretty hairy, but Nic managed it well.

Timed to perfection: as we hit the gravel road, the heavens opened briefly.
We then smashed it back to Glasshouse, running mostly 4:30s in an attempt to get to the train in time. My heart sunk as I heard the emission of steam and a sharp toot, but as we arrived at the station, we discovered that OUR train was late (the one I had heard was going North). Relief: made it home in time for work.

101 runs for the year, the second century was kicked off in good style.

Some interesting stats; the first and last 10km (approx) of the "run" were done at an average of 4:40kms. The middle 3km were 32 minute kms.
Oh Beerwah, you are the scourge of my average pace...

Monday, June 27, 2011

Run-hundred

A moderate-paced jaunt around Mount Cootha this morning capped off 100 runs for the year to date. That's an average of 3.8 runs per week. No where near the 7 that I would have hoped for, but under the circumstances I'll take it.
Reaching such a round number brings on feelings of nostalgia, and I feel compelled to list the ten most memorable runs of this first century (in chronological order, with a note on the reason for inclusion):

- Three hour run around a grass-track and car park with Nic and Mallani - the absurdity of it,
- 16km run from Charlotte's Pass to Kozzie and down to Thredbo - the beauty of the alpine terrain,
- Mount Glorious 30km race - mental warfare,
- Caboolture 12 hour - persistence in the face of certain failure,
- 10km race at BRRC - so maybe I can run fast,
- Wild Horse 30km race - deep pain and a win,
- 30km run in the Border Ranges - the rainforest and the mud,
- Cook's Tour 50 mile race - teamwork and the feeling of strength during those last 17 km,
- 35km run in BFP with Mandy and Chris - running up most of the Augies Road climb,
- 34km run at Glasshouse including the Tibro time trial - that incredible feeling of moving quickly and proficiently through a rugged natural terrain with the minimal of material trappings.

The next 100 will begin tomorrow, with a run to and climb of Mount Beerwah with Nic.
The area surrounding my left fourth toe is a bit sore - let's hope it is a minor issue and can clear up without problems.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Warning

There's nothing like a hard-paced 12km road run starting at 1:30am.
Hustled over to West End to meet Vetti and her friends for the drive out to Mount Warning.
What a great mountain; stairs, roots, rocks and a steep scramble to finish it off.
Moreover, we made it up in time to be the first ones in Australia to be touched by the sun on 27/6/2011!
From there, it was down to the beach for a swim.
Great day, many thanks to all who came.

The other 'warning'; thinking about the aforementioned record attempt on GNW, when the logistics of it are taken into account (66 hours of food and water, ferries, navigating on a course with which we are not familiar) I have realised the initial non-chalantness was mistaken. Will put the attempt to the back of the mind (there's alot to get through before then) but keep checking up on logistics and details.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Loop of the Lake - the seed is planted

I'm getting to know the Lake Manchester area fairly well...

This morning, Nic, Mallani, Macca, Bengal and I headed out there for a fast-paced hiking loop of the lake.
The sun was out, and the weather was on the perfect side of warm. A great morning outdoors, which included a quick dip in the lake near to the end.
Pretty good walking pace aswell - 20km in 3:30.

In other news, Nic suggested that him and I have a crack at the Great North Walk through-run record during the summer holidays. 250km in 66:36 is the goal, no disrespect to the boys at ultra168, but that is pretty soft. If we do the first 100km in 16 hours, have a four-hour sleep, the next 100 in 20 hours, have a two-hour sleep and then do the final 50km in 12 hours that will bring us home in 54 hours. It's doable.

The seed has been planted - let's get planning...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Sweetest Summit

Number 76 Cootha climb for the year, well of the mark goal-wise, but there's nothing like an injury scare to make you remember just how great it is to be able to run up a big hill every day.
The quad was OK - a bit tender, a little bit painful, but it did not worsen.
Shoulder was quite sore at times - probably pushed a little too hard at gym yesterday.

Consistent running on steep terrain

I think I've figured out the common features of the best mountain ultrarunners.
a) they run consistent miles, day in, day out;
b) they run these miles on very steep terrain.

Think about it; Geoff Roes only started to churn out victories at every ultra-distance after moving to Juneau, Alaska, where the sea meets the mountains and the trails go straight up.
Anton Krupicka had, arguably, his best race season last year after completing his 100 summits of Green Mountain - he initially described the trails in Boulder as insanely steep.
In training for Hardrock, Dakota Jones has been basically post-holing up the huge mountains outside of Silverton, Colorado.

I always say this, but next week, when I (hopefully) can return to running, I think I'll quit my ridiculous touching-the-stove-to-see-if-it's-hot training method, and return to running for 1-1.5 hours every morning, with plenty of Cootha ascents on the Chapel Hill Road, Lookout, Reservoir and Kokoda trails (the steepest).

Lesson Learnt.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Mountain Blast

I smiled ironically looking down at the wrapper of the powerade bottle on my lap; Mountain Blast was the flavour that I had inadvertently chosen. I let the sun sink into my back for a little while, before looking up at the shop window in front of me. Staring back was a reflection of Mount Tibrogargan, about 4km in the distance; some 350 vertical metres of rock.

What a great morning.

On Saturday, I set out from Roma Street for the hour-long train ride to Beerburrum nice and early. I stashed a plastic bag with some water and a jumper in a drain and filled my SPI-belt (held in my hand) with a compass, a small map, a muesli bar, my phone, go card and bank card before setting off.

The first few kilometres were pretty rubbish, and I struggled to find a rhythm, in part due to the tarmac and in part due to the 98kms logged in the four days before that. Additionally, I was stopping every couple of kilometres to check the map in an attempt to follow the Glasshouse 100 course. I did so successfully around the back of the twins, but managed to miss a left turn from single-track to firetrail. No biggie - I was back on track shortly. It was long, and wide and flat, but this was actually welcome due to the intense vertical that my legs had been subjected to over the past weeks. Eventually, the trail turned upwards and became rocky and rutted, with large fallen trees every 20 metres. Turn Right, turn left, am I still on track? I was given the answer shortly, as I burst onto Glasshouse-Woodford road, where I wasn't supposed to be. No matter, I jogged up to the lookout, before running some dirt roads towards Beerwah. I found a powerline cut, and just ran through long grass beneath it, the trail having disappeared earlier. I got onto Beerwah Mountain Road, turned right, and pounded the tarmac for a good 5km.

And then I saw it; Tibrogargan was looming in the distance.
This was supposed to be a flat run, you've climbed alot this week already, you'll wreck yourself, your problem quad will be destroyed.
But I just couldn't resist.
Turn left down to the carpark, right onto the trail, and up.
Then came some crowded stairs, then small boulders and scree. I had to stop running at this point.
Then came a wall of rock.
I stopped to stash the belt, water bottle and shirt, first texting a friend. Some fat hikers coming down the mountain sneered between themselves about me using my mobile phone.
The idiots don't know that it will take me a third of the time that it took them to get up and down the mountain, and I don't need 10kg of gear or big clompy boots. I skip past them, and scramble up.
I get up the first small pitch quickly and with no problems, then I look up.
Shit, I forgot how steep this is. I'm climbing a giant fucking rock.
I search around for the best way up, panning to the right, running where I can.
Then I clamber upwards like a sun-thirsty lizard, seeking out the warmth.

Anton Krupicka gave an interview recently, in which he said that "There’s nothing more satisfying than the primal feeling of being able to move quickly and proficiently through a rugged, natural landscape...[with] the minimum of material trappings".

And satisfied I was. I could have cried in joy as I clambered up the face, feeling like my calves, my quads, my heart would explode. Soon enough, the trail flattened, and I started running properly up to the summit.

Arrive, view, turn around, descend.

I bombed down the first section, running insanely steep terrain in a sort of controlled suicide. Eventually, that was impossible, so I slip-slided on my hands and feet, passing tens of people, being cheered on by a jovial American who pronounced me "half man, half mountain goat". Eventually, the cliff-face receeded and I hit the rocks. And then the stairs, and then the flat trail.

That was truly the zenith of my existence to date.

After reaching the bottom, I ran a lap of the base, hit a part of the Trachyte Circuit, slugged along the fire roads to Matthew Flinders' Rest Area and slowly jogged the last few kilometres to the Beerburrum General Store.

I stocked up on food and drink, and sat down.
Exhausted. Satisfied.

4:15 on the feet and have no idea of the kms - probably somewhere between 32 and 36. That doesn't matter though. What does is that I experienced "the primal feeling of being able to move quickly and proficiently through a rugged, natural landscape - Mount Tibrogargan -...[with] the minimum of material trappings" .

BUT, it seems to have come at a price. I woke up on Sunday with my left-inner quad quite sore. I played touch in the arvo with friends, and it didn't seem worse. I then stood up for hours while at the Iceworks bar and it DID seem worse. Monday morning, and it is decidedly sore. Really sore. Like, I'd prefer not to walk on it sore. I'm hoping that the niggle has just been a bit exacerbated, but not turned into an injury. Then again, there is no fine line between niggle and injury - it's all in the mind.
It is just a sign to take this week easy I reckon - and I'll probably stay on flat ground the next. It depends how it progresses though - it could be markedly better tomorrow, or it may take two weeks of rest. I will take the conservative approach this time.

It's interesting that just before injury, I'll have an incredibly enjoyable run. I wonder if the run actually feels enjoyable at the time, or if my mind just frames it in that way once I can no longer run.

Stay positive and learn. The lesson is, if you intend to run flat because your uphill/downhill legs are shot, then RUN FLAT. I just need to learn to listen to the smart part of my brain.

Another positive is that I just had the best two-week total of my life - 262.5km with 5,900m of vertical gain. Hence, the need for rest regardless of the quad.

TW 100k Brisbane: Crewing

On Friday I spent many hours sitting in the sun, on the grass, in the forest, doing nothing. I spent many minutes running/walking at a ridiculously slow pace, and very few minutes preparing and giving people food.

Libby and I were crewing for the www.enduranceshop.com team entered in the 2011 Brisbane Trailwalker 100km, comprised of the Nobles; Mandy and Chris; as well as two gun runners from Sydney; Toby and Paul.

Their goal was to win the mixed teams division.
Well, that was out of the window right from the start, as Mandy and Chris had some sort of stomach bug which emptied their stomachs and drained their energy.

Nevertheless, they came into the first aid-station (41km at Lake Manchester) right on target pace - five hours into the race. Mandy was not in a good way at all, and neither her nor Chris would eat anything; not a good sign with some 60km to go. We still managed to get them in and out of the aid station fairly quickly - they were in for seven minutes at most.

Libby and I then drove over to Gold Creek and had our only stressful moment of the day; the race info said that no crew cars could be driven into the Reservoir's car park, and that they would have to be bussed out from the Brookfield Showground. We went to the showground, and there was no sign of a bus or TW staff. So we drove out to Gold Creek; no one was there either. We headed back to Brookfield, panicking a little before winding our way through a car park to find 15 portaloos and the rest of the TW staff. In little time, we were on the bus and heading back out to the aid station. We had a very long wait at Gold Creek, but it wasn't that bad as we chatted to other crews and watched the leading teams come in.

Eventually, I walked up the climb from Gold Creek to the intersection with South Boundary Road, down SoBo for a little while, then waiting on an embankment for the team to come past. I was getting pretty worried, as they seemed to take a ridiculous amount of time - had Mandy and Chris dropped out? It was interesting to see and give encouragement from the other teams, most of which recognised me from when I had run up the trail at Lake Manchester to lead Endurance shop in. Finally, they arrived, in pretty poor shape I might add. Everyone was cruising the downhills well, but a slow walk was the best that could be mustered on the ups; Mandy and Chris must have had no energy. I took orders for sandwiches as we neared Gold Creek, before speeding off to prepare them. This time, we were able to stick to the five minute in-and-out schedule, even with the team's condition and the fact that the Nobles had started eating again.. I walked up a small section of the climb with them, allowing Mandy and Chris to sip on tea, before returning to the checkpoint to pack up and then wait some more.

Back to the showground on the bus, and then waiting for a while before setting up the food platter and walking up the road. I felt sorry for Libby, who didn't even get the excitement of running small sections of trail with the team.
I went as far as the junction between the trail and Boscombe Road, chatting to a race official before seeing the familiar headlamps and hearing the familiar voices.
Another slow run down the road then ensued, before a four minute stop in the aid station. With about 9km to go, there was no point in wasting anymore time.

We then met them near to the trailhead at Greenford Street in Chapel Hill. It was amazing to think that there was a major race with 1200 people going down a quiet suburban backstreet that I run along a few times a week. I went with them for the length of the street, before hopping back in the car and racing around to the bottom of Mount Cootha for the finish.

It was then just a matter of opening a few Coronas for the team and sitting on the esky in preparation for their finish. But even this was not without some drama; we saw four lights coming up the trail, assuming it was them - the announcer even started their spiel ("here comes team enduranceshop.com in 15 hours, etc..."). The lights then disappeared, and we waited and waited before going up the trail in search of them. No sign at all. Libby then figured out that it must have been another group of four unrelated to the race, and sure enough, they came sauntering up the road in little time.

They had finished in about 15 and a half hours. 1.5 hours behind the goal time and, in my mind, three hours behind what they would have done on a good day. Not to be.
In any case, it was a huge achievement for Mandy and Chris to finish, considering their inability to take in food. I think Mandy survived on five gels and five rice-cakes. Incredible.

On another note, Libby and I were the most dialed crew of the day that we witnessed. Even the leading team spent a good 10-15 minutes in each station, Endurance Shop was in for 7 at most. No one else led their team into and out of any aid station and had their desired food prepared by the time the team had checked in. And no one else had the incredible platter of food prepared equally by the team themselves (the night before) and us, even though most of it was left by the end! Although they didn't achieve their goal time, I am deeply satisfied with their performance under the circumstances. It was a great experience, and alot of fun to be thinking solely about someone else for a good 17 hours.

The course for TW Brisbane is truly my home ground - I do 90% of my running on or within 10kms of it. I can't wait to get a team together and do it next year, but wont mind at all if I end up crewing for someone again; it was that much fun.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Indulgence: 1000 miles under the Queensland sky

(ripped from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZ6PkBA8z9U)

From the beginning of this week, there were 14 weeks before the Glasshouse 100mile.
After racking up a decent week of running/hiking (132.5km, 2,900m vert), I've decided that I'd like to cover 1000 miles of training before then. In order to get a decent taper, that means that I will be clocking up an average of 130kms per week until two weeks out from the event.
Needless to say, relative to my usual inconsistent mileage, completing this injury-free will be quite a feat, but I know that all I really have to do is run for two hours on hilly trails for four days per week, 2.5 hours on flat roads once per week, and then do a couple hours of hiking here and there. I'll just have to take it day by day, and make sure that on the rest days, I do rest.

Fun times.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Identity OR modernity

According to some authors, whom I have been reading this week in an attempt to compile an essay, the nations of Latin America must chose between two options for the construction of society: to modernise (westernise), or to profundizar (closest direct translation: deepen) identities.

I think that this can be applied to the personal level aswell; engage in consumerism and reap the "benefits" of the industrial revolution, or develop your sense of identity and attempt to find out who you really are. But, then again, by consuming, you are asserting your identity as a consumer and a member of mainstream Western society IF you were originally a part of this society. So, it probably only applies to individuals and societies on the losing end of the coloniality of power.

When exiting my door this morning for a run, I chose modernity. Four days of identity (trail-running) with self-defining climbs and descents had left my uphill machinery basically destroyed. Rueing the lack of flat trails around Mount Cootha (duh) I decided to run on the road/bike paths; the modern option.

It was a very slow 25km, with a 5km walk on the end. The extra walking kms were due to some wrong directions given by a QR customer service representative at Richlands Station. Basically, 5km after following their directions and heading right down Blunder Road (oh, the irony of this name) I saw a sign indicating that I had entered Doolandella (where?) and was heading towards Browns Plains. I should have gone left. That, and the incessant sound of traffic on the run made me an angry boy.

Pen it in as good mental training - but I can only handle one dose of modernity in my running per week.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Augies Road: the end of a nice back-to-back

Augies Road is now deeply rooted in my consciousness as one of the iconic, classic climbs of Brisbane Forest Park, and one of my favourite trails. It gains about 600m over 5km, climbing from the Northern end of Lake Manchester to near the township of Mount Nebo.

On Saturday, Mallani and I went to Mount Cootha to get some serious vertical into her legs at a leisurely pace. Mission accomplished: six full climbs and three half climbs - 1,047m vertical gain over 13.4km, in 3:00. I think she will now be able to handle the long climbs of Trailwalker without a problem. This session is also great for mental toughness - going up and down the same steep hills multiple times in a row keeps you firmly in the present.

Then, on Sunday, Mandy, Chris and I went out to Brisbane Forest Park to complete their final long run before Trailwalker. We started at the top of Mount Nebo, descended 200m off the side of the ridge in little more than one kilometre and climbed up the other side (same stats).

From there, we went down the gentle slope of Light Ridge Road, before trying to locate Taylor's Break off to the right. We climbed through lantana for ten minutes, then arriving back at LRR. Error.

We eventually did find Taylor's break, and there are only three things that you need to know about this trail:
1. It loses 200m and gains 200m in about 2km.
2. It isn't actually a trail.
3. As such it is the greatest trail ever placed on a map but never built.

From there, we went around the Northern end of Lake Manchester, crossing innumerable creeks and climbing a few rolling hills. I was a bit unhappy with the amount of walking going on, but Chris was under the weather and, after all, it was THEIR training session, not mine.

After many false starts, we began the climb of Augies Road. we ran for about 100m and then slowed to a walk. after the first 10-or-so % of the climb, it flattened slightly, and Mandy began to run. Being the competitive person that I am, so did I. But when Mandy stopped I still had plenty left in the tank, having hit a gel just before the fun began. So, on I ran. And on and on and on, grabbing some spectacular views and arriving at the end of the climb in good spirits and a reasonable physical condition (despite sore feet). That has to be the longest continuous stretch of uphill that I have run without walking (~4km, 500m vertical) and has me excited about putting in a seriously quick time for a Mount Barney Climb (4hrs? 3:30?).

After Mandy and Chris got to the top, we jogged it to the Volvo and stopped off at Boombana Cafe on the way home. It was really nice of them to bring me along on what was one of the most enjoyable runs of my life.

Across the weekend: 8hrs on feet, about 45km and 2,300m of vertical gain and the same of loss. Pretty slow pace, but this is somewhat compensated for by the amount of climbing.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Itch

...to get back to spending multiple hours each day running trail in the hills has returned.

I've thought of some tantalising training sessions:
- 2 x Mt Barney East via Peasant's Ridge - 32km, 2,400m vert gain.
- Mt Barney East and West (Up SE ridge, down peasant's), Mt Ernest - 32km, 2,000m vert gain.
- 3 x Mt Beerwah - 9km, 1,300m vert gain.
- Glassouse deluxe - Beerburrum, Tibro, Tibber, Beerwah, Ngungun, Coochin (cycling between). about 60km on the bike, 18km on feet - 1,350m vert.

They're all pipe dreams at the moment - I've gotta recover completely first! With that said, I may be heading to Barney this weekend to climb the East and West peaks.
Left ITB is still a bit troublesome, as is the right quad.