19 May 2015

Sometimes You Trip – Sometimes You Fall – Sometimes You Get Knocked Down: My TNF50 Story

Sometimes You Trip – Sometimes You Fall – Sometimes You Get Knocked Down

Athlete Forum
TNF50 2015 was an event I had been looking forward to since November in 2014 as it was part of my plan to run off a good block of prep from Buffalo and to try and run deep into the podium come race day. I had been very careful with my approach to training after Buffalo, mindful of the need to recover but allowing enough key sessions to keep the form I had built in training for the 75km event.

Needless to say I felt very good, both physically and mentally, in the weeks leading into TNF with everything pointing towards a good showing. I had ran all but the 7km on the road of the course 3 weeks out covering the distance in 4:35 and adding to this a decent but not brilliant half two weeks out. My confidence was high after a good run on my usual hilly 10 mile taper hit out 10 days out. This all made me feel that I could run the 50km course to plan and come out with a positive ultra experience.

Thursday and 9 days until race day and I felt sick, not super sick but I knew I was being affected by a bug so I took an extra rest day and hoped to get by it asap. I had some fitness testing at the Uni over the weekend and managed a Vo2 test and an hour on the road but the weekend finished with me feeling quite sick. On Monday Tuesday I felt much better and was feeling as though I was on the mend, I only had a lingering cough and otherwise my legs were feeling great and energy high.

Athlete Forum
This was brought undone by the middle of the week and my battle to be well at the start was becoming more unlikely each day, I was coughing more, feeling tired and unable to control my heart rate. It is hard because I had brought the bug into the house and passed it onto Kel and Beau (who loves to sneak into our bed of a night) and we were just lengthening the duration we had it for unfortunately. I wanted to avoid medication I was sure that would be disastrous for my race but in hindsight I should went to doctors at first sight.

I travelled to Katoomba as planned and was lucky enough to be involved in the official activities as part of the athlete forum. I enjoyed the opportunity to discuss training and racing and the buzz about was definitely one of the reasons why I race. I turned in an early dinner and retired to get an early night when the first of my several issues arose, my brand new bladder was leaking and I only had one. I called around and located a replacement from Sean Greenhill and while I was out picking up the spare it was also being found out that Blair had forgotten the hose for his bladder. Kel rang to see if I had one and that was the part of my bladder was ok so we had one bladder functioning between two us but the spare saved me come race day!

Off and racing!!!
I went to bed and rose at 5am for breakfast, and as I feared my symptoms hadn’t improved and I was still sick, although I wasn’t feeling too bad but it was going to be hard to say what was going to eventuate come 7:07am. With food down and gear sorted we drove to the busy, crowded and crazy start line that is TNF100AU where I was due to run the UP Coaching warm-up at 6:30am. I managed to get through this without a hiccup, all the UP’ers were ready to go and I hadn’t really noticed any problems at that point. I did the usual before hand and made my way to the start shute after a kiss good bye to Kel.

At the start line my heart rate was high, around 120, which is much higher than normal for me but I just put that aside and waited for the gun. I made my way over Andrius as I knew he was the man to beat and we took off at a quick but not crazy pace towards Cliff Drive. As we hit the incline the pace surged and a lead group formed of around 8 or so and I was quickly aware I was not up to it, my heart rate was 156 and I was wanting to walk so I pulled back and dropped into the next group 25m back. I checked my watch and nothing had changed, my effort to output was too high and my heart rate was still maxing out as though I was on the edge as I would be in a shorter race.

Just past the 3 Sisters and struggle street.
So within the first km my race was regulated to a long run and I had decided to hold back hoping to feel better along the trail somewhat. I again joined the front but only after getting them back on course after the lead bike missed the Narrowneck turn. I reassessed again and by the turn around point I was feeling ok but still overdoing it and I was again dropped easily on the steady incline back to Cliff Drive. Even the flat wasn’t allowing me to make up ground so I just ran to feel and pushed on towards the first lot of single track somewhat surprisingly ok with the idea my race was done.

I ran back past the start and I’m sure I look like death warmed up, I was really tired for 30min in and not running comfortably at all. I hit the single track and began my run over the cliff tops towards CP1 knowing it was going to be hard going but the slower pace may help my effort get under control. It didn’t and I can sum this section until Lillian’s Bridge as a steady decline with my running down ok but going up and the flats were a battle. I had some good folk around me and I swear I coughed them away but I was still moving in the top 20 and on track for a 5hr or so time if I came good.

Wenty Falls - literally moments before it all unfolded
After the 14km water point it was now becoming evident I was screwed, big time screwed. I couldn’t run well and was again working way too hard for my output plus I felt very tired, to the point I would expect at the end of a 10hr run. I hit Wenty Falls positive but by the time I made it to Conservation Hut I was not regulating my temperature and barely moving which was not helping with me getting warm again. I tried to run but got dizzy around the car park so I decided to walk onwards with the hope it would pass, the dizziness did but I was cold and weak. After climbing out of the falls onto the Kings Tableland section I tried to run again but didn’t really go anywhere, I even felt like laying down for a rest but was sure that wouldn’t end well so I decided against that option.

Wenty Falls - legs were hollow and sore.
The stretch to CP1 was a mix of shuffle/walk and I took for ever to get there, adding to this a stream of runners were going past me and I knew my day was done. I finally arrived at Queen Vic and Kel was concerned and I was bloody cold ready to make my way into the tent to have a think and warm-up. I felt faint, weak, cold and asked the doctor to assess me as I put on my thermal and rain jacket in an effort to warm-up. I was around 34 degrees and although this came up to 35 my race was done, the doctor said I could go back out if I warmed some more but I wasn’t too keen on getting hypothermia after the Kedumba descent so I stopped my watch and had a cup of tea.

My race was done but my weekend wasn’t, not by a long shot.

Finally warm-up and out of the race...
I went back to the house to have shower, warm-up and get changed. I really wanted to avoid the finish for a bit so we headed over to Olympian Rock and were lucky enough to see the top 11 come through from the 100. They were smoking at the front and although both Bren and Tucks weren’t in the hunt it was a good 45min of away time for me. I was again ready to enjoy the race, the sun had warmed my spirit and the little outing had done its trick. I must say seeing how hard they were running at that point also reinforced the work I need to do to finish the 100 in the future.

I made my way to the finish to watch the runners I had coached come in and catch up with the atmosphere at the end. I was amazed but not surprised with the winning time and to see the record go down was awesome, but the 2013 finish still is the best and will be hard to beat in my eyes. I enjoyed a beer and a catch up at the end while waiting for Blair to come home in 12:50, a massive PB! He smashed it and I was so happy for him!

I saw half of my clients finish and to see their faces afterwards was just reward. They had all trained for months and to have them all finish and meet their goal was a major satisfaction and relief for me. I took inspiration from all of them and could not have been prouder of each runner, I must also thank Brendan for having me on board at UP Coaching;

Steven Paterson 50km – 6:56:18 first ultra 
Mark Skinner 50km - 7:25:26 first ultra
Amy Daniel 50km - 05:53:44 12th Overall
Simon Collins 50km - 07:57:25 first ultra
Robyn Bruins 100km - 12:27:43 7th Overall

So do I regret anything from the weekend? the answer is simply no. I had to start the race but probably could had stopped a bit earlier and in future will be more aware of the warning signs. I struggled and my race was a disaster but the TNF100 weekend wasn’t’, it was a great experience! I just wish I had have been better to enjoy it that little bit more. I offer no excuses nor do I expect any sympathy, I stand by my choices, especially when it comes to running. I will be back to fight another day and with the right preparation will meet my long-term ambitions.

So did I trip, did I fall or did I get knocked down? I just think I it was bad timing in the end.

Thanks to both Hammer Nutrition and Inov-8 Australia/Barefootinc. for their support. Also a big plus to Sean at Mountain Sports for working outside the box on the Friday night with my bladder issues too.

Also to be part of the The North Face 100km & 50km Australia 2015: Race Report Competition my favourite bit of gear were the WOMEN’S APEX ETIP™ GLOVE as they kept Kel's hand warm and my Inov8 gloves in my pack!