|Perfect running area! Blue Mountains National Park.|
Me being me, the drama of course all started before race day. On May the 11th I had closed up the running store where I work as normal and was getting change before heading home to get ready for my holiday. Half way through getting changed I thought to my self 'have I locked the back door?' so I stopped what I was doing and jogged up the little stack of stairs we have in work to check the door and obviously I had already done it but on my return down the steps not thinking I was only in my socks I slipped off the top step and came tumbling down and crashed into the door at the bottom. Now these steps are not high by any means by the suddenness of the whole thing had shocked me and worse still I had actually landed on the outside or my right foot with all my weight. After picking my self up and sorting things out I left work and started on a slow run home, only to find that I could hardly run on my right foot at all and it had started to swell! Not a great start at all, on upping the pace of my run I found that with striking the trail with my forefoot at pace didn't aggravate it as much. Sunday evening is always workout night with some good friends Emily, Lar and of course Gem, not wanting to let them down I decided I would just go along and take the session as normal like any other Sunday. Again trying to do the session as fast paced as I could due to the pain in my foot.
|Enjoying my time in Sydney before the race..|
Monday morning I was up and ready to fly to Australia in time for the weekends race. Packing 2 pairs of running shoes, Hoka Stinson Trail and Hoka Bondi 3 as I wasn't sure what pair would be best for my sore foot. After being in Sydney for a few days and noticing my foot wasn't getting any better at all and it was still swollen and very bruised on the outer pad of my right foot. I decided to have a little jog to see how it was, waste of time that was got about 70 meters and was limbing with pain. Ummm.. what was I going to do I was so pumped for the race as it was going to be one of the greatest and toughest races I had ever done but the prep wasn't going to plan! By this time every shoe I had taken was really painful and decided to wear flip flops as at least this would allow my foot to spread as it wanted to do and hopefully start to heel. I must admit by this time I was really starting to get upset and annoyed at the same with it all and I owe a big thank you to my lovely little Gem and a good friend Emily who kept my spirits high and trying to keep me positive and ready for my race what I wanted to race so much. So thanks girls!! Big love to you both as I think with out you both keeping my spirits high I think I would of given up and not raced as I still had bad vibes in my mind from my poor performance in Tarawera Ultra from the month before.
The Thursday before heading out to the Blue Mountains just out side Sydney I decided the only thing I could try was to go and buy some new runners and get a bigger size than normal to help fit my fat foot into them. This seamed to help a little as I had more space around the foot and with them being a pair of Hoka One One there was some awesome cushioning under foot. It's been a while since I had paid full price for a pair of runners but needs must!
|Pure heaven to run around!|
On arriving in Katoomba (Blue Mountains National Park) me and Gem decided to be a tourist in the morning and do some sight seeing and just enjoy the environment we were in.. Friday evening the buzz around the Scenic World in Katoomba was huge as all runners had gathered in the Expo to collect their race numbers and get our final briefing from race organisers before the big day the following morning. This really picked me up as there is nothing I love more than the hype and vibe being around other runners all excited to go play in the mountains! Any runners reading this blog post with understand what I mean, it's a huge buzz inside knowing that in the next few days you are going to take to the trails with all these amazing people..
|Making sure on everything the night before.|
4:15am on May the 17th the alarm roars out, Race Day!! After checking all my mandatory kit again and filling up water bladder in my Nathan Sports Vapor Cloud race vest I was ready to go. For anyone who wants a comfortable race vest with plenty of room and pockets for all your kit lists and nutrition needs I highly recommend trying out The Nathan Vapor Cloud! 12L in storage capacity and a 2L bladder makes it a perfect race vest for them longer runs. Well worth your investment!
On leaving our hotel me and Gem walked over to where we could get the special event buses who would then take us down to the start line in Scenic World, Katoomba. On arrival we had a full double decker bus to our selfs and off we went to the start area. I had a little jog around and my foot wasn't painful but not enough to stop me racing now and I was now determined to push though and complete this world iconic race. Due to larger numbers involved in this race the start was set off in pens and at slightly different times so as 6:30am approached off when pen 1 with the elite athletes in. Next up was pen 2 where I was placed by the organisers and at 6:33am we were off into the darkness to take on our challenge of completing the gruelling 100km mountain run what involved a elevation change of nearly 26,000ft!! And just to top it of around 4000 steps too :-) Gem set of in pen 3 and started at 6:38am off onto the trials..
|A small section of the stairs!|
Half way through leg one of the race I start talking to some fellow runners and amazingly found out one of the guys who I was talking to was someone from back in the UK who I had been talking to over Twitter over the weeks building up to the race. Like they say 'It's a small world!' On arriving at checkpoint 1 I hadn't had too many troubles so far apart from my foot was increasing getting worse each step but was also going numb.. The first part of the course suited me perfectly as it was lots of ups and downs and over some very technical terrain under foot in the darkness of the forest in the middle of the Blue Mountain National Park. I quickly grabbed some water and some snacks and pushed on to checkpoint 2 afraid if I stopped too long my foot wouldn't get going again.
The next section of the race was a great mixed combination of single file technical tracks and a litre more open fire road tracks through the forest and beyond. I really enjoyed the undulation of the route and was running well and felt great! I also knew I had to push a little harder over the first few legs of the race as when the sun finally came out I would suffer and have to slow a lot as I just can't run in the heat at all and being in Australia this was never going to be any different in the heat! By this time my right foot had gone to the point of numb and I couldn't feel much as in what was going on with that foot but in my mind that was good as it wasn't causing me pain any more and I could just think about the task ahead rather than running in pain...
Over the next section I started to struggle a little for one the course was getting really tough and climbing and descending steps was actually starting to zap the energy out of my legs. Then to top it all off the sun had started to blaze down on us and take it's toll on me.. It didn't actually get that hot but for me 22-24 degrees for me running felt like a double heat wave! My times had started slow and I had started to doubt weather I could actually go for the glory of running sub 14 hours in my first attempt and claim the famous Silver Buckle! On doing some calculations in my head whilst running I noticed I couldn't keep running at this slower pace or I would miss out on going 14 Hours and finish on about 14:30.. Not bad seeing that I went into the race with sub 15 hours or dream of sub 14 hours. But now I was in the race I wanted that sub 14 and my silver buckle!
|Crazy rock formations around the park.|
Over the next 3/4 hours I went through every emotion you could think off as the course was really taking its toll on me.. I went through the good, the bad and the ugly patches with my legs starting to feel like led and my upper body getting stiff and a sore neck to top off my foot but thats what Ultra Running is all about right? Keep working and take each step at a time and drag your body to the finish line in anyway possible. On reaching the next check point I figured to take a longer stop/rest and then push on for all or nothing! On filling my Nathan pack back up with water and snacks I decided I would have half a pot of noodles from the aid station with the hope that the high volume of salt in there it would stop cramps and allow me to run hard to the finish. As there was no Coke Cola on the course or any other fizzy drinks to get the sugar from and I was over just drinking water by this time I took the gamble to drinking a cup of a Australian brand sports drink. What I never do as it could go either way on your stomach but I had to try if I was going to race to finish and make up this time to go sub 14 hours.
Off I went down the track with the bit between my teeth of getting this Silver Buckle what I could only dream of when I started this race many hours before. My next few KMs were actually really quick and all under 4:30 per km pace for the next 4-6kms and I had started to feel a little more positive and begun to believe if I could just hold on for the next 23km I could actually do it. The KMs went by one by one and I was edging towards the finish. Knowing that the final 10kms of the race was going to be hell as it was all up hill and finished with 900 steps before a quick 300 meter sprint to cross the line. I decided not too slow up too much before the climb as if anything I was going to get up the climb at some pace as I love to climb in races and find I'm stronger at this then just flat running! My Suunto Ambit bleeps and its 10km to go... And up we go!
|The world famous 3 Sisters along the course!|
The final 10kms actually went by pretty quick as I just had the finish line in my mind and my Silver Buckle with a nice cold drink of Coke Cola :-) I passed many runners over this last section possibly even 10-15 runners who had really started to struggle with the final climbs and steps. I gained a little confidence on passing each one and kept pushing on with out looking back. I also noticed some people were trying to move their packs around etc.. as they had started to rub with the bouncing from all the up/down hill running we had done, but that was one thing I didn't need to worry about at all with my Nathan Sports Vapor Cloud Race Vest as it has never caused me any bother and fitter like a glove around my back and chest. Thanks guys for designing such a superb race vest!
|Finish Line in sight!!|
On approaching the bottom of the 900 steps I took a glance at my Suunto and knew as long as something horrible went wrong now I was going to go my dream of sub 14 hours for this course but this didn't make me slow at all, now it was all about how much could I go under the 14:00 hour mark by now.. Using the side rails on the steps I did everything I could to get up them steps the quickest way and to the finish line. Suddenly I had hit the top! and with a board walk and a final sprint finish over the 150 meters to the line I had completed the race in 13 hours and 40 minutes...! I couldn't actually believe I had managed to go the distance under 14 hours and with 20 minutes to spare. As I crossed the line I through my arms up in the air and smiled like a kid at christmas, the Silver Buckle was mine and was waiting for me on the finish line to collect.
|What it's all about! Sub 14:00 hours for my Silver Buckle..|
After letting it all settle in for a bit I grabbed my free Chicken Soup and drink and went to get comfortable inside in the warm and waited for Gem. Looking at my phone was out of this world ,the support I had received during the race mind blowing, my mum and dad and nan had stayed up the back in the UK to follow my progress and messages from friends and our house mates in New Zealand either on Facebook or Twitter was overwhelming to read. A massive thank you to everyone who supported me before/during and after the race! It truly does help get you out of a bad patch in a race to know so many people are rooting for you!
|Enjoying one of the up hills sections!|
17:31 Gem crossed the line to complete her first 100km race! And what a course to take on for your first one, very proud of her and her efforts.. Amazing stuff, I think she has bit of a bug for Ultra Running now like myself..
Thanks to everyone who takes time to read my blog posts and all the people to gave me the love and support during the event and the times around each event! Nathan Sports NZ for their backing and support with some of the worlds most leading hydration solutions from bottles to race vests. Thanks guys! :-) If any one would like to check out some of their products visit their site here: http://www.nathansports.com Time for a quick recovery now in time for the Christchurch Marathon in 2 weeks..
|Welcome Home from our House Mates Chris and Rachael!!|
Kit choice was my Nathan Vapor Cloud Race Vest, Nathan 330ml bottles, Hoka One One Stinson Trail, Silva Trail Runner Head Torch, Black Diamond Ultra Poles, Salomon shorts, 2XU Half tights and an Adidas vest.
Hope you all enjoyed!
Cheers Paul xx
|Sums it all up!! Who's in next year????|