Sunday, July 31, 2011

New Place(s)

There were five encountered over the weekend.

1. New home in West End: it's close to everything, small inside and surrounded by hills. Within easy cycling distance of Mount Cootha. Perfect.

2. Somerset trail at Mount Mee: headed up there with Vetti and Angela for a casual 3 hour hike. Rainforest, pine-forest, open bushland and great views of the lake. A hidden gem. Walked barefoot for the last 9km, right foot and left calf still giving me some trouble.

3. Friday's nightclub: first time I've been out in the city, first time in a night club. I was pretty underwhelmed - it was mainly colourful drinks, tightly wrapped tits and arses, and people with no rhythmic sense dancing (myself included) - but had a good enough time faring Mike well for his trip to the US. Didn't get to sleep until 5am, at A, S & C's house.

4. Raging hangover: head throbbing, regret, trainwreck. Walked barefoot to the station on Sunday morning to get home in my (only) stylish shirt and Jeans. Classy, I know. Contemplating not partaking in:

5. Nerang-Murwillumbah road and Natural bridge: just beautiful. I have been there before, but not since I started appreciating the outdoors. Caught the train to Nerang and was on the saddle by 1pm, 5 hours behind schedule - great mental training for keeping moving while feeling like garbage. Roadside AGB after an hour. Disgusting.

The initial 20km of rolling hills were pretty demoralising, then the flat road through the Numinbah Valley was an absolute joy. Dispersed within the expansive jungle, towering golden cliffs on either side in the mid-afternoon sun. Got to Natural Bridge pretty much beat, so was glad to illegally dip my legs in the cool water, and take in the geological wonder that is best described by the following stolen picture:

The cycle back to Nerang was a bit of a nightmare internally, but a dream externally. Those tables turned with 10km to go as it started getting dark and I started to feel good.

80km of cycling in total. Worth it.

On a side note, I've been contemplating some lessons to take away from Flinders' Tour:


1. Alternate between drinking water and Nuun, especially when eating gels aswell, to prevent electrolyte imbalances.


2. When Mick and Dave went after the turnaround, I should have stayed at the same pace. We were doing 4:15s-4:30s before that, and in hindsight I really think that I could have maintained that pace until the end, instead of fading to fives and sixes.


3. Wear lube or something between the legs, chafing is not fun.


4. I should always bring my own Ibuprofen, just in case.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Moving on...

Went for the first run since Flinders' this morning. It wasn't pretty.
Made it to the top of Cootha without too many problems, but all kinds of niggles surfaced on the way down: left soleus/achilles, right foot, both quads.
I was thinking of organizing a run up/down Mt. Barney on the weekend, but have realised that it would be ill-advised. Need to recover.

On the said descent, I really took in the beauty of Mount Cootha; glanced to the right across a sweeping green valley with Cockatoos soaring and squawking in the distance.
Had a good hard think and realised just how much I'll miss being able to pop out the door for an easy 8km and get to run most of it on technical trails in the middle of serene bushland.
West End will be different. There'll be the river right in front of me, and the flat concrete which follows it. An easy 8km will be almost hill-less and mostly on footpaths.
Nevertheless, the Toowong side of Cootha will still only be a 20 minute cycle away, so it's not all bad. Once recovered, I'll be heading up there every day.

More poignancy:

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Flinders' Tour 50km: Of Mice and Men

I finished the above-mentioned novella the day before the race and, for some reason, it's poignant ending served to cool the nerves.

My "best laid plans" were:
1. Take it easy up & down Mt. Beerburrum,
2. run consistent 5-5:15 minute kms on the first loop,
3. run consistent 4:45-5 minute kms on the second loop,
4. finish in 4:30.

Ian characteristically muttered "go" and stepped aside, letting the 40-odd runners pass him by. A large pack came together, running comfortably to the base of the climb up Beerburrum. As dirt road gave way to steep concrete we started to spread, until it was just Dave, Mick, Caine and I going together at the front. I was keenly awaiting a shift down-gear to power-hiking, but it just never happened; Mick seemed super-comfortable running up the 30% grade, and we were all eager to follow. We then proceeded to bomb it downhill, making some tight passes and greeting those coming in the opposite direction.

As the road flattened we settled into a solid pace - about 4:40 minutes per km.

My best laid plans had gone awry... but I wasn't bothered, as I still felt quite comfortable.

After we turned left off of that ghastly section of pavement along Steve Irwin way, Nigel and Jordan (and a few others maybe? I can't remember) caught up and sidled in close. It was great running in the pack, bantering, laughing, sharing stories and jumping logs and fences.

As we rolled over gently undulating fire-trails Nigel started to push the pace -"Leave us alone mate!" - before we came to a steep rocky uphill that slowed most of the pack down. I took a bit of a lead here, but was wary of making any statement of intent that would incite the others to pace-related violence, so waited for everyone near the top of the hill. Somewhere around the next section of log hopping and puddle avoiding Jordan and Nigel dropped off the back, so that when we got back into the pine plantations, it was back to Mick, Dave, Caine and I. Through the aid station, where Mandy handed me a bottle of Endura, and I was in and out seamlessly, again waiting for the others.

We went Around the back of the Twins at a pace that was still pleasant, but my achilles began to play up. Mick gave me some ibuprofen, for which I was incredibly grateful; a true gentleman of the sport. Then it was onto some sandy single-track where I opened a small gap again. And again, it just didn't feel right, so I waited for the others as we neared Beerburrum. It was nice to pass the 25km runners and cheer them on just before we hit the bitumen for the final few kilometres to the half-way turnaround. We got back to the school and had a little nibble before turning to run clockwise; to my surprise, Dave hadn't stopped at all, and had opened about 50 metres on us! I ran hard to catch up, and pretty soon Mick and Caine had also fallen back into step.

And then it was time to separate the mice from the men.

Mick surged and surged, accelerating to 3:50 minutes per kilometre. Suicide pace.

I looked left to Caine; he wasn't giving much away through his tinted sunnies, but his laboured breathing suggested a world of hurt.
I commented on the pace to Dave, and he just looked straight ahead with a somewhat disgruntled expression.
Having personally made the decision to slow down after about 2km of this nonsense, it was now a matter of having the courage to let them go. Just let them go...
But I couldn't do it alone, so I coerced and begged and pleaded with Caine to drop off with me.
And pretty soon we did, settling back to 4:30s-4:40s. Slowly but surely, Mick and Dave disappeared into the distance and first and second places seemed secure. Caine was still breathing hard, so I told him multiple times "I'm happy to slow down if you want to", masking the fact that it was I who wished to back off! He later described it as psychological warfare, but at the time I was just trying to help both of us to finish strong.

"Yeah mate, I'm gunna let you go ahead, the calves are packing it in".
We shook hands before I accelerated on the uphill, ignoring my cramping quads. I pulled ahead gradually, before we got to the steep, technical uphill that had presented itself as a fun descent on the first loop.
Zac, you must run it.
The tactitian inside me knew that I'd have to run hard here to bluff Caine, presenting a facade of utter strength and impassability to hide the much less intimidating reality; sick, hurt and weak. Arriving at the top was an utter relief, and I was excited to see Dave hopping over fallen logs about 50 metres ahead. Walking. So I tried to be sneaky, and went past as quickly as possible, receiving a healthy ass-slap of encouragement. It seemed that keeping up with Mick had finally taken its toll.

Ok, crunch time. Run hard some more. Soon enough, he was out of sight, and I was focusing on my twinging, cramping hamstrings. Oh no, oh no, oh no.
I felt that if we didn't deal with the cramping it could be game over, so I thought about it, and realised that between the gels with electrolytes and the Nuun tablets I'd been taking in too much salt. Passing the next runner (in the 10k), I gratefully stinged a couple of mouthfuls of water to restore the balance and felt better immediately.

Through the next aid station I whinged like a child about the cramping, taking a quick swig of water on my way through. After a few kilometres, I glanced over my shoulder to see a guy closing in behind me: 10km runner, 25km runner, Dave?
As he drew level, the mystery man shoved a salt tablet in front of me "here, take this, for your cramps". I was overwhelmed with gratitude and couldn't thank the guy enough. Although a salt tablet was the last thing that I needed, this man had run 2 or 3km from the aid station just to lend a hand. What incredible kindness!

After that point, with under 8km to go, it was pretty much all aboard the pain train - running the uphill sections with the lungs busting and smashing the descents with the quads screaming. Counting down the kilometres.

I slowed to a walk near the top of the rock-strewn Hamburger Hill, still anxiously glancing behind me in fear of a bounce-back by the two casualties of Mick's sub-4s.
Trying not to be overwhelmed with fatigue, reminding myself that I run ultras for the suffering. This is what you came for.

Through the 50km mark in 4:00:30 (damn it! So close to sub 4), there must only be about a k and a half left.

Then the silvery shades of parked cars came into view, followed by the school buildings...and the finish line. Yeeeew!

The first thing I did after crossing was to give Mick a massive, embarrassing bear-hug. He's a great runner, a great person.

The rest of the afternoon was spent eating, talking with everyone and just having a good time in general.
I am so grateful for Ian for organising the event, the volunteers, Nic and Mallani for the bed to sleep in and the lift up there, and all the good friends (old and new) who helped me out:
- Maddie for positive thinking,
- Mandy for handing the waterbottle and the new pair of shorts,
- Mick for the ibuprofen,
- Caine for running with me for as long he did and for picking up my watter bottle and pouch multiple times after my clumsy fumbles,
- Jordan, Dave C, Dave S, Mick, Caine, Tymeka, Nigel, Nic, Mandy, Mallani, Libby, Suzannah among others for great conversation and encouragement before, during and after,
- Delina for that extra burger,
- The guy who spared some water,
- the salt tablet guy,
- and many others.

The best laid plans of this mouse had gone awry....in a good way - I came in 24 minutes under the goal time!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

.......

There is no title to a blog post that would do today justice.

Running with friends new and old for 35km, chilling with them afterwards. 51km in 4:07, second. Realising that hard work; hours and hours and hours on the feet; does not only provide an immediate reward, but bears the succulent fruit of solid race-day performance.

Now: curry, a night at the RE, and then back to uni next week.

(Full report to come)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Final Tune Up - Fever Pitch

Caught the train out to Beerburrum this morning, and had a very snappy run to the top of Tibrogargan and back. Logged 4:10s-4:50s out to the mountain to get a feeling for race pace, then took 15 minutes to get from the final turnoff to the summit. The wind was blustery, the views incredible and the climbing exhilarating - the usual order of things on that great rock. 13 minutes for the last split in reverse, then 4:45s to 5:10s back to the station. Overall, 10.9km in 1:13, 350m vert climb.

And that's where it ends - now all that is left is some sitting, waiting, wishing (see Jack Johnson) until Sunday.

On another note, the hype for Flinders' has reached fever pitch, with talk of the event and its possible outcomes now accross Coolrunning, blogger AND Facebook. It has been billed as ultrarunning's state of origin, due to the large NSW contingent crossing the Tweed River for the showdown. Let's hope it lives up to the hype.

smooth

After feeling like dog for the last few days, I was pretty sure that yesterday's run was going to be a struggle.
Long-story-short, it wasn't; 9km with 250-300m vert gain in under an hour, which is good for me. Although I felt a little low on the climb up Cootha, I was otherwise ok - a great sign for the coming weekend. The legs were springy and the stride was smooth.
The last tune-up run will be this morning, up and down Tibrogargan (hopefully). It's probably ill-advised to tackle such steep stuff the week of the race, but I took last week incredibly easy and still have three days to play with. Oh, and I like climbing mountains...

Friday, July 15, 2011

Flinders' Tour: the big boys

These are the people who I think will make up most of the top ten (mens) in next Sunday's clash:

Jordan Bishop - Consistent, racing well. Has the guts to go out hard and can finish strong.

Dave Coombs - The current king of trail running in South East Queensland; appears to have bounced back well from a neuroma. It's difficult to see him getting dethroned.

Nigel Waddington - Won the Glasshouse series last year, although he seems to do better at the longer ultras.

Walter Brumniach - He's always knocking about somewhere near the top.

John Pearson - Races all distances well, might be a bit flogged from his 12hr/GCM backup, but must still be in fine form.

Nic Moloney - Has actually been training... Watch out.

Caine Warburton - If anyone can pull off a surprise victory, it's Caine. Races the short stuff really well, and has just started getting into ultras. Ran sub-3 at Gold Coast pretty comfortably, by all reports. Blood problem might hinder him, but otherwise I can't see him off of the podium.

Mick Donges - Great runner. Won the Kokoda challenge on the weekend; an outstanding performance at Flinders' may be a bit unrealistic.

Zac Braxton-Smith - 600km and 14,000m of vertical in training in 5 weeks; enforced taper due to achilles issue. Might have accidentally set himself up to peak for this event. Has bluffed his way to a few good results recently. Races like an idiot.

I've probably missed a few runners, apologies to the three people who read this blog.

This is how I'm HOPING the results sheet will look:
1. Dave Coombs 4:25
2. Zac B-S 4:30
3. Caine Warburton 4:32
4. Jordan Bishop 4:37
5. Nigel Waddington 4:45
6. Nic Moloney 4:45
7. John Pearson 4:45
8. Mick Donges 4:45
9. Walter Brumniach 4:50.

Irregular beat?

Not the title of my memoir.

Since that huge weekend, my heart has been going crazy, beating irregularly and much more quickly than usual. Ran 7km this morning, and the legs felt like absolute sh*t because of it.

I think the culprit may be the fact that I went back to drinking large amounts of alcohol after not having partaken at all for 17 months.

In any case, it's pretty damn scary - going to have to stay off the booze for a while and maybe see someone about it...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Not to the top...

...but that's ok.

I timidly exited the door for a run this morning, praying that my achilles would not play up. Went up the usual MTB trail on Cootha, and turned around about 800m shy of the top, as the said tendon was starting to cramp. I had very few twinges on the way down, a great sign. Hopefully, it will be ready to rock come the Sunday after next.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Coming Down

Saturday through Monday was insane.
123km and 17 hours on the feet in three different national parks, a party, dinner out, and a night out in the valley.
Yesterday, I was dog tired, and today I am just low.
Thank the good lord for Youtube:



My achilles does feel much better though, and should be right by the beginning of next week.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Border Ranges: long day, longer night

Mike and I headed up to Binna Burra yesterday morning to do a 43km hike along the Border Track, out and back to/from O'Reilly's.
Due to the achilles niggle, I was not keen for this much distance, so we ended up covering about 33km in 7:40, taking in many iconic lookouts and circuits.
The track had dried considerably and the rainforest was beautiful; gullies and ridges, rocks and leaves, green and grey. Lookouts and views in all directions.
At the 6 hour mark, it felt like I could walk forever on such terrain at that pace; it was just incredibly comfortable.
The sun went over the other side of the mountain late in the day, throwing spindles of gold through the roots and branches. Then it sunk more, and it was dark and cold.
Coming under the "Lamington National Park" sign, I was pretty much overwhelmed with hapiness. Life really doesn't get any better than this.
Yet it did: that night, headed out to the valley with Vetti and Melissa for some cheap burritos and ended up chilling at a friend's place, chatting until 3am. Conversation has to be the best remedy to injury, and that has to have been one of the best three-day stretches of my life.

For the next week (at least), I'll be following a recovery regimen of rest, salmon, repeat. The line-up for Flinders' is looking pretty tantalising, but I now know what is necessary for me to pull anything decent off up there. Run smart. Start slow, then f*ck sh*t up if I feel like it after 30km. I am NOT allowed to run with Dave Coombes from the gun!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Backing up in BFP: signs

Woke up, ate breakfast, lift home from mum's, shoes on, run.

After I'd warmed up, the 45km of the day before were a distant memory - the legs felt great! This may be due to the fact that I wore the beefier Inov8s, taking a bit of pressure off of my lower legs. There is a bit of irony there, as I managed to somehow really hurt my achilles on the way up the Boscombe road trail. Headed up towards Mount Nebo, and turned around after 22.5km. the achilles stayed the same for the first 10km of the run down, but then progressively worsened all the way home.
It didn't take much away from the awesomeness (not strictly a word) of the run though - cruising a high ridge at a decent speed in the middle of bushland in the middle of nowhere. It doesn't get much better than that. In the end, it was 45km in 4:30 with probably something between 900 and 1000 metres of vertical.

I'll take the achilles tweak as a sign to start tapering too - Flinders' Tour is in two weeks, and this has sealed the deal for my entry. Seeing as the next two weeks will be fairly run-less, there's no way that (provided I do line up) I will be taking it easy at the said event. Carpe diem!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Glasshouse long-run: specificity

There are only a few things that need to be said about this long run.

1. It was with Nic, Mallani rode her moutain bike next to us,
2. It was 45km in 4:30,
3. Only had a small piece of cake and some lollies as fuel, taking in 2L total of fluids,
4. It gave me a taste of what I will face at Glasshouse 100 mile:
- Having things go wrong outside of my control that I will want to (but shouldn't) become frustrated at,
- The goat track and the Beerwah loop,
- being on a wide fire trail in the heat of the day,
- Feeling whipped, licked, smashed and destroyed, yet still running (as opposed to walking).

Overall, it was a fun run with good friends.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

AGR

After-Grog-Run - first one in 17 months.
Decided to stop denying my cultural identity last night, went to the RE and sunk 7 beers.
The run this morning was fun, but not pretty.
Pushed through some monumental calf cramps to get to the top of Cootha, then decided to take a technical trail to the bottom (when I was telling myself to hit one of the well-made ones). Stumbled forwards, busting up my knee and elbow, the latter of which feels pretty sore now.

Hopefully, the cramps will subside by the weekend, as there are some sweet adventures in store: Saturday - 48km run with Nic on the parts of the western loop of GH 100 mile that I haven't seen before; Sunday - 43k hike with Mike, out and back on the Border Track in Lamington National Park; Monday and Tuesday - 35km runs in BFP.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Summertown to Belair: Camp is over

I ran 24.7km along the Yurebilla Trail from Summertown to Belair this morning at quite a pedestrian pace, despite the net downhill overall.
There are some fantastic trails in the Adelaide Hills, and I am keen to explore them some more in future visits to the area.
Today is a comma in my training for GH 100mile; the hard yards have been done and I need a week or two of easy running before repeating the cycle again in preparation for the event.
With that said, Flinders' Tour is in about three weeks, and I feel like I really should run it in order to give myself a chance of winning the Glasshouse series (male division). So I might not be putting in any more really big miles in the lead up to GH 100. But then again........

Remarkable Sunrise to cap off a 100 mile week

The title says it all.
Walked leisurely up Mount Remarkable with Dad for sunrise. In the end, we were rained in, and had about 20m of visibility from the summit. Still worth it though, if only for the training in the dark. The legs felt like absolute death on the way down; the left quad was especially tender.
Dad drove us back to Adelaide after another monster breakfast, where I capped off a fine 100 mile week with 11km on cruise control along the Torrens.
Depending on how I feel, I'm keen to head out to Belair National Park tomorrow for a couple of hours of hilly trails.
I am entirely aware that the quality of the blog posts is diminishing in direct proportion to the increase in quantity, but I've just been saturated with so many great experiences recently that there hasn't really been enough time to process it all properly and poetically.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Long Days in the Ranges

Get up, run flat for two hours, have breakfast, get in the car, walk for five hours, get back to the cottage, massage & listen to music, dinner, read, sleep.
That's the way life works for me in Flinder's Ranges.

The run this morning was pretty uninspiring - just cruising dead flat, wide gravel paths. I did see a couple of very light-coated kangaroos though; maybe albinos, but probably not.

Breakfast: Porridge with honey, tin of beans, two slices of toast with vegemite, fruit.

The walk was great, towering red gorge walls, rock hopping, a small climb and awesome views of the gulf.

My feet were well busted up by the end of the day though and needed 15 minutes of attention and emu and goanna oils...each. Somewhere around the top of the second metatarsal on the right foot is a little painful - feels like a nerve thing more than anything else. Hope it clears up.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Remarkable




Melrose is Australia's answer to Leadville, Colorado. Towering above it is one of the state's larger peaks - Mt. Remarkable, at 995m.




Although it doesn't look that prominent at all, it is still a good 700 metres above the town, with a 6.1km trail to the top.



Dad, Paula, Benno and I drove down on Thursday afternoon, checking into the cottage pretty late before smashing down a simple but incredible dinner of potatoes, coleslaw, brocolli and salmon.


Despite the darkness of the night, Remarkable loomed large behind the cabin. Equally was it weighing on my conscience. I sorely wanted and felt a duty to run up it, but with four days of solid running and mountain climbing in the bank for that week already, I didn't feel like my body agreed. The feet, ab and calves were pretty damn sore.


Up on Friday morning in the dim light before dawn, hesistating when leaving the house.


Just run on flat ground...Towards the town.



As the sun crested the edge of the visible earth, I made my way along the dirt road to Melrose, maaaaing at the sheep in the paddocks beside. Onto the tarmac, through the town, TRAILS to the right, through a campground and up.



I have been reflecting recently on how it is a little bit dangerous to run nothing but hills. Your body becomes so used to chugging up and bombing down that you just never feel good when running on flat ground. So, an easy run frequently turns into a mountainous few hours. This can be a bit risky when it comes to injury.



Reach the trail-head, and up some more. Single-track; my favourite. The gradient was gentle and constant, the trail well-groomed, the surrounding land precarious and rocky.



200m down. 400m down. 600m down.


Pretty soon, the surrounding plains opened up before my eyes as I crossed steep fields of scree and the trail became more rocky.


3km down. 4km down. 1 mile to go.



4wd track, more rocks and a steeper angle slowed me right down, but in little time a massive climbable cairn appeared in the middle of this lofty desert mountain. A few timid steps to the top, and I was there. Beautiful.


Running up a big mountain gives you this incredible feeling of internal strength that is so uplifting and sustaining. It isn't the arrogant feeling of "I can bench x amount", rather everything inside you just saying "yes, this is right, all is well".


The descent was nothing short of awesome - bombing over roots and rocks as fast as manageable, treading lightly on the scree slopes and finding random rocks to climb every-so-often.

And then the flat. Ugh.


It felt like the tail-end of a 50k as I turned left onto the dirt road back to the cabin. Probably a hint to reign in the mileage/vertical.


Later in the day, we headed to Alligator Gorge for a bit of a hike; best described by the picture at the top. I was halfway through offending Benno and he was about to give me the middle finger.



Still living the dream.

Lofty

Took the early flight down to Adelaide on Thursday after waiting for an hour to get into the RE the night before, to no avail.

Five hours of sleep isn't conducive to running up a 600m climb, but I guess you just have to go with it.

Rode up to 3km from the Waterfall Gully trail-head, locked up dad's bike and started running. Here it was a "false flat" - an imperceptible climb - so I felt like turd, but was soon into a decent rhythm, running somewhere between fours and fives.

Soon enough, the pub was on the left, the waterfall straight ahead and the mountain above. Started the climb feeling OK; no monumental soleus cramps as has become customary, and I was travelling at a decent clip. It went from straight flats to steep switchbacks as I counted down the metres by the hundred. After a while, the softer inclines disappeared, and it turned into a hard, slow slog. Up and up and slower and slower. Nonetheless, running past scores of walkers and saying hi was keeping the mind on top of things and the pace decent.


Oh God, is this even runnable?



Only 100 metres have passed? Come on!



It can't be far now...



As I arrived at the lookout it started to rain. I wasn't keen to hang around, so after a quick stretch of the knotted calves and quads I started down. Passing people became more difficult here, had to shout "trail right!" like the yanks at nearly every corner. Couldn't seem to get comfortable because of the Inov8s' small heel but was still travelling well and having a pretty good time.



And before I knew it, I was back on the tarmac, busting out 4:30s in an attempt to get back to the bike over an average of 10km/h - an arbitrary goal, I know, but a worthy one in my eyes.



Done - 13km in 1:18, 600m vert.



What a great mountain - Lofty by name and nature.