23 September 2013

Dark times atop of Black Mountain!

Sri Chinmoy Canberra Centenary 100km Trail Run

5.40pm on Saturday 21st September 2013 I crossed the line after running 100km in the Sri Chinmoy Canberra Centenary 100km Trail Run.  That moment is one I will always remember and take with me into the future.  In 11 hours 39 minutes and 42 seconds I experienced highs, lows and personal battles that I had not previously experienced in any way whilst competing in any sport.  Ultimately while my performance fell away at stages I walked away satisfied and proud of my first ever 100km race. 

Gear Check.
Rewind! - Kellie and I arrived in Canberra armed with a GPS and the race directors briefing notes where we started our recon of the checkpoints in preparation for the following day.  It became apparent at this point that the summits were going to be relentless throughout the 100km as the mountains dwarfed their surrounds.  From here we made our way to Kellie’s cousin Mat and his wife Claire’s house who kindly hosted us for the weekend.  I then went over to the registration dinner in Dickson and the reality of what was ahead of me was really starting to sink in.  That night I began to show the usual nervous behaviour but managed to get a good 6 hours sleep. 

When we arrived at Lake Burleigh Griffin I checked in and readied myself for the start at 6am.  Some last minute chatter with other runners, novelty photos and embrace with Kel was followed by race briefing and a low key start.  We were off on my first 100km journey!

Start to CP1 (23.7km)
The first leg was largely uneventful.  I began running with Paul Cuthbert, which was great because he knew where he was going and I didn’t.  We were shortly after joined by Tom and Damo at the base of Red Hill, the first of the 3 climbs within that stage.  Throughout we exchanged positions and I ran very conservatively to my plan.  As we approached Mt Taylor I was climbing strongly and feeling good.  On the decent towards CP1 I again ran carefully on the steep fire trail saving my legs for the last 30km. I arrived at CP1 in the lead group and met Kel for a very fast bottle changeover and off I went.

CP1-CP2 (30.4km)
Paul and I approaching Parliament House about 2km in.
At the start of this leg, Paul, Tom and I had put some time into Damo and we were running quite well up to the next climb Mt Arawang.  We all climbed together, however, on the descent Tom managed to gain a small lead.  During the next 10km we ran toward Mt Stromlo within close proximity of each other.  It was about this point that I had a brief moment where I dropped my pace and Paul and Tom managed to get away from me.  I ran into Stromlo park up Mt Stromlo to the Observatory feeling good. 

Shortly after CP1.

At this point my watch showed 50km which I had covered in 4 hours 42 minutes.  It was from this moment I began to struggle to run, it was as though my brain had lost connection with my legs.  I wasn’t overly sore or hurting but unable to manage to run and was reduced to walk on parts of the trail that I felt were runnable.  The 3km into the Arboretum were slow and painful, when I reached CP2 I felt very much as though I may not be able to finish the race.  The time at CP2 was much longer and I used the moment to try and compose my thoughts which were becoming more and more negative.  Kellie was concerned but we decided that I should push on taking it easy and walking where I needed to.
CP2-CP3 (23.5km)
Approaching CP2 - Bad times ahead!
Walking was what I did, about 9km in fact, taking approximately 1 hour 50 mins to get to the summit of Black Mountain.  During that time I had been in conversation with Kel on the phone and I was having some serious self doubts about whether I would continue from the next aid station at Black Mountain where Kel was to meet me.  I had expected to have bad times, what I did not expect was that they would last the best part of 2 hours, in which I only covered around 12km.  I was really struggling to run and walking quite aimlessly when Dave and Andrew came past, they slowed down to see how I was doing. I decided to run with them in an effort to get started again, this lasted about 600m.  As they ran away they yelled at me “make it to Dickson” the next checkpoint.  

As I climbed Black Mountain I had given up, I called Kel to tell her that I would be withdrawing at the next aid station and I let Phil Essam who was marshaling know that I was withdrawing and he contacted the Race Director to advise of my withdrawal.  I then casually walked along the beautiful single track that meandered around the mountain towards the next aid station.  It was here I met Kel and the battle began!  The next 45 minutes involved lots of stubbornness, self doubt, positive reinforcement and discussion about the decision I had made.  

One of the many phone calls to Kel
 I was mentally broken.
At that point I had been doing the numbers and knew that it would take me another 7 hours at that pace.  I seriously doubted that I could get running again.  During this time Kel was joined by Sean and Mel and another runner’s wife Rebekah and as a team they began to try and get me back in the race.  Kellie had been talking to me for about 20 minutes about how she felt I would regret withdrawing and knew that I could go on.  Rebekah came over and assisted Kellie at this point and they both said physically I could continue and that I just needed to get over the mental barrier.  They went and got their cars which were full of supplies shortly after Sean and Mel turned up.  It was at this point when Sean said that if I was to withdraw from this race that in my next 100km race when the bad times began they would be even harder to overcome.  This advice combined with Kellie’s belief in my physical ability and her understanding of me as a person began to eliminate the dark thoughts that clouded my mind at the top of Black Mountain.  It was also around this point that I went to undo my shoelaces, but I stopped and within 5 minutes was kitted back up, had re-entered to race, had my legs rubbed down with Voltaren and was asked by Kellie to give her 5km to the next drink station.  I replied if I am going to start running again you might as well meet me at Dickson which was about another 14km on.  

I gave Kel who now had a huge smile on her face a kiss, then stepped out and nearly got run over by a car almost giving her and Rebekah a heart attack!  As I made my way off Black Mountain I was running freely and felt great, I started overtaking other runners and by the next aid station I was moving freely again.  From that point my mental state was reflective of all the positive things that my crew had said and done at the top of that Bloody mountain!  The plan began to be followed again, running the flats, hiking the steep ups and running the downhills, holding consistent and steady splits across to Checkpoint 3.

CP3 a much better stop.
CP3 – Finish (23.5km)
Approaching CP3, feeling good.
I approached this checkpoint, tired, but no more tired than I had expected, it was my mind that had returned.  At that aid station it was business as usual, Kel had my things together and we briefly chatted.  Kel, Sean and Mel encouraged me to keep it up.  I started on the approach to Mt Madjura and Mt Ainsley knowing that I had run about 10km of the same trail earlier in the year.  I was running the way I had planned and upon reaching the base of Mt Madjura I began hiking purposefully, passing many but only being overtaken by a few of the relay runners.  At the top of Mt Madjura, the highest point of the day, I knew I would finish and was confident that I would do so strongly.  I ran the descents well and was rattling off the km’s overtaking tiring runners who were reduced to the same state that I had been in 30km earlier.  

On my way down
 to the finish.

Summitting the last
Mountain after 95km.

At the base of Mt Ainsley I knew that after 1 more climb it would be a downhill run to the finish.  On the climb up Mt Ainsley I was able to run significant parts of the steep ascent, giving big bursts followed by shorter walking breaks in the last 700m before the summit.  At the summit I was greeted by an excited and massively supportive crew who I challenged to a race to the finish.  This race was briefly disrupted by the idiot who had removed the course markings, causing me to take the wrong trail for 150m or so.  On the steep and stair filled downhill off the last mountain, I was running as though I had stolen something!  The majority of the course markings had been removed which would prove to be very difficult for the runners coming through at night.  It is disappointing that people feel that they need to interfere for no apparent reason.  As this descent was quite steep, I was being very careful, however as it flattened out towards the War Memorial I began to run quicker enjoying the soft grass underfoot that led towards Lake Burleigh Griffin.  

During this time I reflected on what had occurred and was satisfied that whilst I had had a bad period in the middle of the race, I had mostly run according to plan and was about to achieve my goal of completing a 100km run.  When I got onto the path that led towards the finish I noticed 2 runners in front of me, the competitor inside me urged me to pass them, I did so completing that last 5km in 25 minutes.  As I turned up the steep bank, yes, an uphill finish! I noticed I wasn’t the only one bolting towards the finish as it turns out Kellie and I had a tie in our race from Mt Ainsley to the finish, she unfortunately had to park about 1km from the finish line and bolt whilst carrying all my gear to the end.  Nonetheless she made it to the end and so did I, that moment where I hugged Kellie is one I will remember for the rest of my life.  While I was immensely relieved to cross the finish I was also indebted to those I had shared that moment with.  
A great moment!

With my wife and
best bud - Kel

If it wasn’t for Kellie who has always supported me and was my rock on the day, Sean and Mel of MountainSports who have been supporting me sincerely since the start of the year and our new friend Rebekah Markey I still would have been on top of Black Mountain all dressed up with nowhere to run.

I had finished 100km in 11 hours 39 minutes coming in 8th male home.

In 100km I had experienced a lot but in the short time since the race I have also realised a lot.  I know I have a long way to go, my mind can be both strong and weak (of which is my choice), that running 100km is hard but rewarding, that ‘racing’ 100km will be even harder, that I have an amazing wife who will support me no matter how crazy my idea seems to be, that I have gained true friends in Sean and Mel and that with people like Rebekah in trail running, it will continue to be the best sport I have been involved in.

A relieved finisher!
I would like to thank Hammer Nutrition for providing me with the opportunity to run my first 100km race.  Hammer Nutrition are very supportive of trail running and very generous when it comes to supporting both runners and events alike.  I would love to have the opportunity to work with Hammer again and will continue to use their products as long as I keep on running.  With this in mind my focus now turns to my recovery and preparation for the Kanangra 50km Trail Ultra on the 19th October.  This event was my first ever Ultra in 2012 and has been my main motivation throughout 2013.  And after Saturday I will be using my newly acquired experience to ensure that I perform well there.  My goal is sub 4 hours for the 50km, a big ask but a question I am willing to ask of myself.

Gear - Inov8 Trailroc 245, Garmin 110 and 610, Hammer Race Ready Singlet and Shorts, Hammer Headsweats Visor, Nathan 4 Bottle Belt and Dual SpiBelt.

Nutrition - Hammer Perpetuem Caffe Latte 6 to 7 Scoops, 3 Espresso Gels, 2 Montana Huckle Berry Gels, 1/2 a scoop of Heed at each CP and loads of Endurolytes. I also had some pasta and Coke when I was at the Black Mountain Aid Station. I have had plenty of Recoverite in the days since.

The organisors of the event should be proud of their efforts, it was well marked, the aid stations stocked and manned well and the support on the course very uplifting, making it an enjoyed and fun day.

A special mention must go to my coach and friend, Brendan Davies, who has been a major part in getting me to where I am today.  


  1. great result Wes - its all in head!

    You'll smash your next 100km now.

    1. Thanks Ian,

      Great run at Glenbrook on the weekend.


  2. Journey on Wes! Great report and great to see you finish a tough and unrelenting 100km event! It was also awesome to be able to be there and see you finish :-)


    1. Without you there Mel it would have been a much longer day, thanks heaps.

  3. "running 100km is hard but rewarding, that ‘racing’ 100km will be even harder"
    Great line Wes! So happy for you that you stuck at it and got to the end. This first one was always going to be a learning experience, and you have got more out of this run than had it been an 'easier' day out. Mate, as you were racing I was going through my own battles too down in Vic, and you know what, I wouldn't have changed the way that day panned out one bit. I know I am, just as you are now too, stronger, better and humbler for it. Love your work.

    1. Bren,

      Without your support and advice over the past year I'd still be knocking out meaningless and wasteful runs, I couldn't have got where I am without your coaching, thanks mate.

  4. Well done Wes! I saw you at the aid station on Black Mountain whilst waiting for my team mate to come in. You were still there when I left and things weren't looking good for you at that stage. You had your supporters around you helping you and encouraging you. Afterwards, I wondered what had happened to you and whether or not you had recovered and continued running. So, thanks for your race report. I'm excited to read that you did indeed carry on and complete the course. Awesome effort!

    1. Thanks Michael,

      I managed to get back in the right headspace at the aid station. It was a great feeling to finish well.

  5. Great blog Wes. The first half went well, the second not so well - sounds familiar to me! Still 8th place is a great result for your first 100km and hopefully will inspire you for next year. All the best and thanks for the run together.

    1. Paul,

      Great run out there, you ran very well and went so close to a sub 10. I got alot out of running with you guys for the time I did. I wish I could have been there closer to the end but the middle 15km killed me, otherwise I had a great time. I'll get your jumper to you soon.

  6. Thanks all, it was a great little journey I went on. Much appreciation still goes to my wife Kel, as well as Sean, Mel and Rebekah for getting me back on the right path. I'll be much better for it in my next race. Paul I'll try and get your jumper back to you, sorry I wasn't at preso I was way too smashed and needed to get sometime out. Happy running see you sometime in the future.