Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2013 is here. Let's start it with a 100km Ultra.....

2nd Jan, 2013:

Well, 2013 has fallen upon us. What a year this is going to be after setting a reasonable base of training in late 2012.

What better way to kick off a year of running than a 100km Ultra Marathon. It's the middle of a hot summer here in South Australia so long distance events are almost unheard of. However, a few distance runner enthusiasts (otherwise known as nutters in most circles) have decided that we will turn a 34km trail event on 6th January into a 100km run by loading the front of it with an additional 65ish Km's.

To make this close to bareable, we are starting the night before the actual event, and timing our run so as to meet the starting line of the 34km trail event at the starting time. Unusual I know, but creative too.

This means around 10 hours of pitch black night running through a variety of terrians. What an adventure this will be.

I'm feeling comfortable with the challenge given I had my biggest month of training in December of just over 200km's, and have tapered well in preparation.

7th Jan 2013:
How quickly things can change when out on the trail..........  Firstly, what a night!  After setting off in comfortable yet slightly warm conditions for the first hour or so, a solid starting group of 18 were heading north along the foreshore for 10km's before turning east towards the hills.  Loads of talking, giggles and jokes and a generally positive outlook on what was no doubt going to be a long and tough night ahead.

After only an hour on the feet we all agreed that our pacing was way ahead and even after dropping back a little our arrival at the first aid station was going to be 1.5 hours early; so the call was made to the volunteers, who arrived simultaniously with ourselves.  I'll never forget the spread that was put on by all the volunteers that night; when you also consider that this was not a formal event but merely an organised social run for a group of nutters.  Thank you to all that came out.  It must've been a big night for you too.  This was a lenthy stop of around 25-30 minutes making the legs just a little tight when setting off again.

Continuing up the pavement until we hit the trailhead into Blackhill Conservation Park.  Another lengthy stop making the legs whinge and whine for a kilometer or two.  Refreshing change to get off the unforgiving pavement for a while.  Some nice twisting, rocky, single track incline was a welcomed sight.

A mix of single track and fire track continued for approx 7km until we hit Montecute Rd between the 2 Conservation Parks.  Another short stop as we regroup and people fill up water stocks with a reliable water tank. 

A gentle stroll along some bitumen for 10 minutes before we hit the daunting incline that we all knew was coming...... Chapmans.......... 250m incline in just under 1km.  Certainly a testing climb in typical conditions, but after 48km's it's where you hear multiple murmurs of profanity around the group on the way up.......... (not that I did any of that....... lol)

OK, the worst was now behind us.  Now we just have to deal with the unprepared for cold conditions.  30-45km/h cool winds mixed with a cooler night than expected meant many were getting chilled to the bone.  Stopping at the Norton Summit aid station was a tough ask for me personally standing there in 'skins' half tights and a sweaty singlet made me lose body temp real quick.  I was only saved by the off chance that one of the volunteers thought to bring a blanket.  Not a common tool needed on a January summer night between day temps of 31 and 36 degrees.

After loosening the legs up again and getting body temp back up I began to feel the best I'd been for hours.  This next stretch seemed to go reasonably well, even though we had one more nasty climb that most hadn't mentally prepared for.  But knowing there was a stop at the top of it as well as the start line of the official race that we were meeting up for made it bareable.

We were there....... Top of My Lofty.  Ready to start the Summit to Sea 35km race.  That was a long 11 hours and time probably took more toll on our legs than the 66km distance did at this point.  I wanted to set off right away as we were allowed to since it was self timed; but I decided not to and waited for the official start.  A decision that may have cost me big time!  Feeling 80-90% at this point physically and still 100% mentally, I was still confident of a solid finish.

Off we go and shortly after the Garmin buzzed over to 70km and I felt great.  Possibly the strongest and most positive since about the 15-20km point.  What a great position to be in.  Loads of people around, some familiar faces, and many new ones.  The warm sun behind my back giving a chance to stop freezing for a change.  A 100km PB was in sight even though I'd accululated almost 2 hours in stop time.  Some encouraging words from some of the 35km runners when they asked if I was one of the crazy 100km runners and how they congratulated me for such an effort.  This really helped a lot.

Unfortunately, such a buzz and a strong position can change quicker than I'd ever thought possible.  Hitting a change in direction near a train station, I took a wrong turn missing a thin chalk line arrow, taking me a couple of km's the wrong way before a realised.  This cost me!!!!!  Emotionally it smashed me.  It may have only meant around 20 minutes in total but I just wasn't ready for such an issue.  I was on my own, not sure where the error was until I seen one of the 100km runners (Nick) across the other side of the train line.  OMG, what have I done.  I like to think I'm a very positive guy with a strong will, but somehow this stripped me.  I tried multiple times to get on top of this but nothing worked.  Trudging on for another 5-6 km's and somehow I took another wrong turn but this one cost me less as I was more aware to turn back if unsure.  By now the hot sun that a 36 degree day brings was out in full force.  Zero cloud and minimal shade in wide open streets was beginning to get to me.  Yes the legs were sore but lookng back at it a day after, I've run harder in sorer conditions.  It was my head.  Emotionally I was empty.  A mix of the previous errors, no sleep for the night and now a scorching sun was wearing me down km by km.

I was not sure exactly how far I had left to go due to the errors, but at approx 7-8 km's to go I noticed one of the other 100km runners (Ryan) hopping into a car; as they must've been pulling out.  I had 30 meters to make a snap decision, and as such I pressed STOP on the Garmin and asked for a lift back to the finish.  That was me done too.  Nearing 93km was enough for me that day.  Could I have finished? I think so.  Was it worth it for me at the time?  I don't think it was.  For 30 minutes prior I was struggling to stay hydrated no matter how much I guzzled down and the hottest part of the day was still to come.  Given it was only a social event, not a formal race, I seen no point in taking myself to the limit.  I was also cautious of overdoing it given the 12hour event I have in a few weeks.

It astounded me last night how quickly my condition changed.  Within just 10-12km's I'd gone from 90-95% to almost ZERO!  It may be a DNF in real terms, but to me it is another 93km run under my belt.  93km's of experience.  Exposure to my first overnighter of which I handled exceptionally well.  An adventure spent with extraordinary people doing extraordinary things.  I have no regret in making the snap decision when the opportunity came as I think it was right for me at the time.  Sometimes it's a tougher decision to pull out than it is to push on.

The underlying value here is 'learn to become more emotionally fit'.  This run may have taken a bit out of me physically up to the 80km point but it obviously took more out me emotionally.  More than I'd thought it had.  Those little mistakes in hindsight are not that big of a deal; and generally it would'nt phase me.  So why did I let them get to me so?  Was it the heat? Was it no sleep all night?  Was it some other factor?  Was it a mix of them all?  Whatever it was, I MUST learn to overcome these challenges out on the trail.  I MUST learn to pick myself up when I have nothing left.

I gained a lot from this session.  Not just the running or the beautiful sights and time with great people; but in the latter sections when out on my own I faced some terrible demons that no weekend long run or midweek hillsprint has ever slapped me with.  I was challenged in a way that I'd hoped I would be.  Next time I face such a heinous chapter in a run, I'll know what I'm up against.  BRING IT ON!!!!!!


  1. Great write up Matt, thanks for the report. Even though it wasn't a formal race, its still an amazing achievement to run that far, and without sleep, so well done.

    Astonished that it was so cold given it was 44C two days before.

    I used to work on oil rigs and often right through the night, I once worked 30 hrs straight so I know that lack of sleep definitely wreaks havoc with your reasoning and logic skills, so that combined with the heat is probably what got you (in my opinion). I wonder if lack of sleep is something you can train for?

    Quick question: How long did you have to wait at Mt Lofty for the start?

    Did you all stick together until Lofty?

  2. I don't believe it was any one single factor, but more the combination of all together. As for 'training' for lack of or no sleep, I'm no expert but I'd think it's more a matter of being more prepared or aware of how it affects you. I'm not convinced running dozens of times with no sleep will make you a better overnight runner anymore than just making yourself mentally prepared for it would do.

    At Norton Summit we agreed to split into 2 groups to give a better chance of faster runners making it there on time for the race, and even with some navigational hiccups the lead got there 35mins before the start. Ideally I was hoping to get there around 6am (1 hour before) and head off straight away. Had this happened I think I would've been a lot stronger on the way down and would've avoided the main heatwave.

    I can't wait to tackle it again next year...... I think it could knock it over in 13 hours