Wednesday, August 29, 2012

70 years in the making.

August 30 1942 my great uncle Thomas Harold "Butch" Bisset died in the arms of his brother Stan, after being badly wounded the previous day by Japanese machine gun fire, just above the village of Isurava, along the Kokoda Track.
Butch Bisset (2nd from left) in PNG 1942
August 30 2005, myself, along with 15 other family members walked the Kokoda Track and installed a plaque adjacent Cons Rock, near the site where Butch died 63 years earlier.
The plaque adjacent Cons Rock where we installed the plaque in 2005.
One night during that trek, while sitting around the campfire, Papuan runners started filtering through the campsite, stopping briefly to fill water bottles before disappearing again into the night. Each runner was wearing a red bib, carrying minimal gear and using a small handheld flashlight to light their path. We gathered that this was a race along The Track and on arrival a few days later in Kokoda learnt that this was the first edition of the Kokoda Challenge race, put on by Kokoda Trekking. I wouldn't have described myself as a "Runner" back then (i'd actually spent the previous 4 months backpacking around Europe and was weighing in close to 105kg), but the Kokoda Track and the Kokoda Challenge planted a seed in mind, that one day i'd like to do this race.
Me and John Hunt, the first winner of the Kokoda Challenge, after i finished my trek in 2005. John memorably came through our campsite during the race sporting one shoe. When one of our party exclaimed that John had lost a shoe, he calmly replied "No, i found one", then trotted off into the night.
Years passed, I started running (not through my ambition to complete the Kokoda Challenge) and the idea of heading back to Kokoda had got lost a little, obscured by the countless other races available to run. Then, mid July this year, I receive an email from Damon Goerke asking if i'd be interested in joining him and a couple other guys to head across and run the Kokoda Challenge. The timing of Damons email couldn't have been more impeccable as i'd been lacking a touch of motivation due to a niggling knee injury, winter weather and an inability to decide on which races I wanted to do for the rest of the year. Kokoda was the inspiration I needed. I signed up and started making trips out to the Dandenongs to run (hike) up the steepest hills i could find.

The actual event itself (including the days leading up to and following) made the Kokoda Challenge one of the most enjoyable and rewarding races (or things for that matter) that I have ever done. The hospitality shown to the international runners by our Papuan hosts was humbling and it was great hanging out and sharing laughs with the local and international runners alike.

I'm not going to go into a blow-by-blow account of the race itself but will touch on a few points.

  • This is without a doubt the hardest race i've ever done. 7500m+ of ascent and decent on the most technical trails i've ever run in brutal heat and humidity. There is rarely an easy step in the whole 96km.
  • The first climb, from Kokoda Village to Kokoda Gap, is the most uncomfortable and miserable I have ever been while running. It took about 5 hours of hands on knees hiking in stifling heat, my legs burning, feeling like i wanted to puke. All I could think about was how was I going to finish this race and that Dave Eadie is kidding himself if he thinks i'm a good climber.
  • After I got up over Kokoda Gap I got myself back together in the slightly cooler conditions and more runnable terrain. From this point on I loved the race and felt strong all day. I've never felt more switched on in race. I just broke the race down into having 7 more climbs to get over and counted them down as I ticked them off.
  • Running through the Villages alongside all the local kids was awesome.
  • Navigation is not a strong point. I already knew this but getting lost 3 times and wasting a good 45 mins reinforced this. It didn't really bother me though as it was totally expected.
  • Nutrition was key. After struggling up the first climb, I took the time to get my nutrition back on track and from then felt strong all day. Shotz Gels every half hour (36 total) and multiple bananas at every checkpoint. The real key though was that I started dropping Shotz Electrolyte tabs in my hydration bladder (in addition to a s-cap every half hour). These got me drinking more and kept my stomach settled for the rest of the race.
  • Thank you to the local who gave me a cold can of coke in Efogi. Best coke ever.
  • Checkpoint services extended to shoe customisation thanks to a local and his knife. I had a couple lugs shaved down that were causing a bit of irritation on the ball of my left foot. Whole process took less than a minute from asking.
  • Given the local runners don't really train (they only walk the track for work a handful of times a year then go for a couple of runs, if any at all, leading up to the race) they are remarkable athletes.
Horace Yauga understandably being helped after crossing the line in 2nd place. Horace went straight through the last 2 aid stations without eating to distance himself from me and ensure 2nd place. Gutsy Competitor. 
  • The care shown by the locals for the international runners that were struggling is amazing. They would walk with and keep the international runners company for as long as it took. I'm sure there is more than one runner that will never forget this kindness.
  • I want to do this race again. I've never been so psyched after finishing a race to do it again the next year. I had previously wanted to do the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc next year, but now i'm thinking i'd rather head back to PNG.
Walking under the arch at Owens Corner. I dare say not for the last time.
Kokoda was a running experience like no other i've had. If hard mountainous races and cultural and historical experiences are your thing, I can't recommend the Kokoda Challenge enough. All the international runners couldn't stop commenting how hard the race is, yet we all felt a touch of guilt at making such comments given the manner in which we crossed the track compared to those who did so 70 years prior. While there were some great performances at this years Kokoda Challenge, in comparison our achievements are pretty insignificant.

Shattered but happy to have another well earned coke in front of me. I think the smile says it all.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Dingoes and Camels.

Heading out the Northern Territory last week i wasn't really too sure what to expect while crewing Samantha Gash on her Crossing of the Simpson Desert. I'd figured that i was going to see Sam pushing herself pretty hard and that i was going to be witnessing a pretty impressive feat, however any expectations i had were thoroughly exceeded.

Sam and Clarke cresting yet another dune.
I will never run the Simpson. Quite simply it's too hard. Sam set herself a style in which she wished to complete her crossing (single push, short naps as required) and stuck to it despite the first half of the run being much harder than anticipated (and km for km harder than the majority of races in Australia). After her first night I thought there was no way she was going to be able to finish without a substantial rest but she relentlessly pushed on through exhaustion and some very bad tendonitis to the amazement of the whole crew. I have massive respect for what she achieved last week and if you feel like acknowledging her accomplishment, what better way to do it than by supporting her cause through her site here.

Sam's performance aside, it was a whole lot of fun out in the desert. The crew that Sam had assembled to aid her in her run was awesome. Non-stop jokes, better than expected food and the occasional beer made for really fun times and it must have been hard for Sam to keep her stops as short as she did and not stick around for the constant shit talking.

New day, same scene. Sam lying out of view on the left power-napping. Everyone else around the fire talking rubbish.
Now back in Melbourne i'm missing the blue skies and sunshine, but looking forward to the getting back into some good training and the races ahead. The niggles i've had since returning to training are starting to get better and i've got some races coming up that i'm very excited about.

First up, at the end of next month i'll be heading to PNG to race the Kokoda Challenge. I have some family history at Kokoda and have always wanted to get over there to race the challenge, and while i'm probably not going to be at my best I can't wait for this experience, however i have to admit that i'm still getting my head around the fact that the record is over 17 hours for 96kms. Mud and hills make for slow going.
Yeah, some hills in there.
Also on the cards is another tilt at Great Ocean Walk 100km. I raced this last year and was having a ball trying to chase down Julian Spence when i had to pull 55km in with an angry left quad. The trails and views are top notch and it's looking like a great field this year so definitely another race to get excited about.

After those two races I might be about done with racing for the year but i have other running plans that i'm probably more excited about than any of my races, but details on those will have to wait for the moment.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


From January 8th up until my last race at The North Face 100 I didn't miss a day of running and averaged about 20km a day. Following TNF100, my original plan had been to have a crack at lowering my marathon PB from 3:06 (my debut and also most recent marathon time from 2006), however following my less than successful trip to the Blue Mountains in May, I found myself lacking the desire to focus on another race so soon and subsequently decided to give myself a 3 week break from proper training to recharge body and mind.

3 weeks has now passed and while i'm not too sure whether the body feels much better (probably due to coming off my mountain bike into a tree), the psyche for running is at an all time high.  My initial plan had been to get in 5 weeks of training before the You Yangs 50 Mile and use that as a training race leading up to Glasshouse 100M in September. While it is hard to argue that the YY50 course isn't contrived (it consists of a number of loops that have you frequently passing through the start finish area), it does make it very easy logistically to run a hard and fast 50 Mile, especially when coupled with the excellent race organisation.

Fast running early at the You Yangs 50M - Just dump a bunch of gels at the start finish area and grab a handful and a fresh water bottle before you start each loop.
As much as I was looking forward to getting out to the You Yangs and chopping some time off last years effort (particularly by not getting lost and adding on additional kms), an opportunity has arisen over that weekend that will keep me from toeing the start line.

A couple weeks ago, Samantha Gash got in touch with me to see if I would be interested in joining her support crew for her epic and very worthy run across the Simpson Desert (you can read all about it here). The opportunity to take part in this experience with such a great group of people was too good to pass up and I can't wait for it to get underway in July.

Is this in store for me in July?.....In reality probably not, but for some reason this is what my mind pictures it being like.
 Besides the change of plan in July, i find myself questioning the other races that i had chosen for myself for the rest of the year am having a hard time locking in a racing plan. There are simply too many races i want to do.

I want to fly out from Alice Springs after the Simpson Crossing to Sydney, get a train to the Blue Mountains and run the Mount Solitary Ultra. I want to run 26 laps of The Tan in August and get a 100km World Champs qualifying time. I want to run a fast 100 Mile at Glasshouse. I want to run the inaugural Surf Coast Century against top competition (Maybe win a Suunto Ambit?). I want to run the Great Ocean Walk 100 (unfinished business and an amazing course). I want to run GNW, but not get lost. I want to run Kepler then spend the rest of the Summer running up mountains in NZ.

I want to do them all, but know i can't. I think i'll have to see what motivates me after another few weeks of running.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

I dared to dream, but in reality I think i was dreaming.

It's been a hard 6 weeks, but a very fun, exciting and fulfilling 6 weeks. I had great runs at 3 peaks and Melbourne Trailwalker and thought maybe i could eek one more strong performance out of my legs before taking a little break. The signs were there to say that i needed the rest after Trailwalker (slight tendonitis in my ankle, tightness in my glute), but there was also some training runs that gave me the sense that there was still enough left in the tank for one more go.

The North Face 100 wasn't initially in my plans this year after I had committed to another go at 3 Peaks and Trailwalker with the desire to run sub 10 hours at the latter. But a strong block of structured training leading into 3 Peaks and Trailwalker and good recovery following them had my thinking it might be possible and I wanted desperately to test myself against the strongest runners in Australia, an opportunity that unfortunately doesn't come often enough.

Coming into the weekend, the talk over the usual forums was that it was going to take close to a course record (9:19) to win it. I figured I wouldn't have the legs for that but truly believed that I was capable of running Sub 10 and figured that would have me in the podium ballpark.

Unfortunately, I never got to find out what I was capable of, as some punk kids stole a bunch of course markers, which resulted in a half of the first dozen runners going off course for 4-8km just before the second checkpoint, 36kms into the race. By the time I reached the checkpoint I was 45 minutes behind the leaders and mentally shattered. I decided there and then that i'd jog through to the next checkpoint and drop out. I had come to the Blue Mountains a little beat up, but with the intent of having a good performance. Once that wasn't going to happen it was an easy decision to save the legs, though by the time I'd made it to checkpoint 3 and run near 60kms, it was pretty obvious that even had I not gone off course that i wouldn't have been capable of a sub 10 hour time, however I think I still would have been happy (and capable) to finish around 10:30.

The organisers couldn't have been more apologetic about us getting lost and the reality is that stuff like this is out of their control. They put on a great race and i'll be back in the future with fresh legs to give it a real crack. Congrats to all runners that finished, I was particularly impressed with Brendan Davies backing up 4 weeks after his stellar run at the 100km road world champs to place 4th, Andrew Tuckey for running sub 10 hours and snaring 3rd place on his debut 100km and Beth Cardelli for her massive womens course record.

 Now, the plan is to take a few weeks off, not totally from running, i'll probably still run near every day, but it'll all be easy and fun. I'm also going to pass on the Gold Coast Marathon, so the marathon PB will have to stay at 3:06 for a while longer. Once i feel the itch to train hard again i'll start building up to Glasshouse 100 Mile in September.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Slightly Humbled, Very Happy.

What a feeling. (Photo courtesy of Oxfam Trailwalker)

It's generally the case with racing ultramarathons, that because of the length of time they take to complete, that if something is going wrong, you have enough time to make an adjustment and get yourself back on track. On Friday, at Oxfam Trailwalker Melbourne, I got a lesson in the opposite and I have laziness to blame.

Early on i was cruising, having a ball, enjoying the trails with 4 mates, the hills were coming easy and we were on track with our time goal to break 10 hours. We did have another team in front of us, but i think we were pretty confident that if we stuck to our plan they'd eventually come back to us, and sure enough coming out of the checkpoint at about the 60km mark there they were in sight, just up the trail. I reminded the guys not to worry about chasing them down yet, but to just stick to our pace as we were comfortable and they'd probably hate being able to constantly see us behind them.

When racing, I like to think I have my nutrition pretty dialled in. Nothing for the first hour, then a gel every 20 mins and s cap every hour. It's a proven formula. On Friday though, things had been going so well that i'd been paying less attention to the timing of getting those gels in, and slowly i'd been building up a calorie deficit that started causing me some serious dizziness just over 70km in.

I think one of the great characteristics of our team, that really aids our success is how well we look after each other when someone is struggling. I let the guys know that I wasn't feeling great and straight away I had Kev feeding me s caps, rohan pushing me uphill onto the O'Shanessey Aqueduct and Clarkey getting me to set the pace. It was a hard slog along the Aqueduct, but by the last checkpoint I was feeling much better and able to finish strong.

Two uncomfortable hours aside, Friday was awesome. To individually set yourself a very challenging goal, then to put in the work and execute a plan to achieve that goal is great, but to set and achieve that goal as a team with 3 great guys alongside you is simply awesome, and i'm yet to find anything else that can give you a comparable buzz. I can't recommend team events like Trailwalker enough.

I have nothing but gratitude and admiration to Clarkey, Rohan and Kev for running those 9 hours and 52 minutes with me and the same feelings for our fantastic support crew, Kim, John, Bryan, Emma and Debbie. I'm sure they got us in and out of the checkpoints faster than any other team.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

It's like running in Death Valley during Winter.

The title of this post is more or less a quote from a book i was reading over the Easter break writtern by Marshall Ulrich about his trans american run in 2008 at the age of 57.

Before i headed off for the Tasmanian 3 Peaks Race before Easter, the general words of farewell from friends and family was good wishes for nice weather and smooth sailing. The weather was anything but that with, wild storms, 60+ knot winds and large swells. Only half the boats in the fleet would make it to the finish in Hobart.

The fact that the weather was so bad over the weekend made my experiences that much better and i'm sitting here, back in Melbourne, a very satisfied man. This is a long post but there is no way it can be shortened, quite simply too much happened that needs to be mentioned.

Pre Race
I'd probably gone into this a little more tired and run down that i was hoping but i've been putting in some relatively solid weeks of training lately and have also been enjoying running a little bit too much to back off to see me reaching the starting line feeling something that even remotely resembled fresh, and was a little worried to hear, after catching up with running partner John Winsbury, that he's training wasn't quite as impacted by the birth of his second daughter as he'd indicated it was in email correspondence is the weeks leading up to the event.

In Beauty Point after catching up with the crew and taking care of some necessary paperwork we headed up to the pre-race drinks at the Port Dalrymple Yacht Club (conductors of the race) and enjoyed that absolutely amazing spread of food they put on while catching up and talking running with Mick Donges, Clarke McClymont, Andy Kromar and John Winsbury amongst others. I also received the bitter-sweet news that the sleeping bag previously required to be carried while running was no longer part of the mandatory kit and left cursing myself that i hadn't packed my Salomon S-Lab 12 pack, that would now have fit everything in.
Team Peccadillo (l to r) - David Blake, John Winsbury, Chris Wight, Charles Meredith (skipper), Neville Boyd, Russell Zylstra (photo:
Start, Sailing to Flinders Island, Mt Strezlecki Run (Good Friday/Easter Saturday)
Last year, with decent winds at the start, Charles made the call to put up the spinnaker while still in the Tamar River, making for a very fast and very, very exciting start to the race. This year was a little different, with practically no wind at the sheltered start line, that saw boats either with the oars out rowing, or in our case with the runners out the back on the pedal powered propulsion system.
On your bike. John and I powering away from the fleet at the start of the race and have a laugh at how ridiculous we feel pedalling a 48' cat past a pier full of spectators. (photo -
Soon enough though, the wind picked up enough for us to put the bikes away and the fleet sailed off across Bass Strait, headed for Flinders Island and the forecasted storms due to arrive later that evening. As soon as the sun went down, John and i decided to head for bed and get some sleep to stave off the sea sickness and get some rest ahead of the 65km run around and up Mt Strezlecki.
Bed - not too shabby at all. Its about queen size and comfy as can be, definitely a lot better than what's on offer in a lot of the smaller boats.
At some point, after drifting off for a while, i was woken by an almighty crack and the flash of lightning. The storm was fully raging outside and the sound of wind, rain and the intermittent thunder claps were almost totally drowning out the yelling of the crew to one another as they did battle. I was actually amazed that i had managed to sleep through the storm as long as i had and despite my desire to head up into the above deck cabin to check out how crazy it was up there i dared not risk getting sea sick and stayed put observing the constant lightning strikes through the small hatch in the roof above my bed.

After, who knows how many hours, and countless numbers of tacks, the crew had to resort to motoring into the dock at Lady Barron on Flinders Island, assuming they'd have to take a time penalty using motors before crossing the finish line for the leg. Even under motors it was an effort to make ground and as we finally pulled up to the dock and John and i headed out of the cabin we finally began to appreciate the conditions they had been sailing in all night.

Immediately after setting off running it was quite clear that nobody would be getting near the (stout) run record of 5:10:04 set in 1996 by Andy Kromar and Tim Sloan. We were running into headwinds exceeding 50mph for the first 30km of the run as we made our way around to the base of Mt Strezlecki and had to deal with gravel whipping up off the dirt roads and trails and whipping our exposed skin. Still we, pushed on and we were pretty happy to reach the bottom of the climb in about 2:25 (4:50 min/km).
Mt Strezlecki - Not the most fun i had on the trip (photo:
Unfortunately, a number of factors conspired to make the trip up Strezlecki quite slow and very uncomfortable. I had reached the base feeling quite good but definitely knew we were working hard holding that pace into the headwind. I'd been taking Shotz Gels regularly and they were working well, however i should have taken one early at the base of Strezlecki to hold off on taking one up the climb, as once on the climb the dizziness (a hangover from being on the boat and a staring a the ground hiking uphill) had me feeling pretty terrible and not feeling like eating anything. The climb was a miserable trudge and unfortunately it was much too cold to really enjoy being at the top as well, so we just got back down as quick as we could, which happened to be not too quick as the dizziness from the trip up had yet to abate. I just focussed on getting down without any accidents and getting some calories in.

John smiles to be back down. Me looking a little more focussed and still feeling pretty terrible. (photo:
Once back on the flats it was only a few more kms before we turned the corner onto the gravel road that would take us back to the port and put the wind on our backs. By the time we made the turn i was back in control of my calories and we were once again making good time and knocking off the kms in well under 5 mins and finished stongly to post the fastest time for the leg of 6:04:22, ahead of Andy Kromar and John Kent from Mobile Travel Agents (6:39:00) and Clarke McClymont and Mick Donges from Appolonios (6:43:33) who would have been considerably faster if not missing a turn.

Only when getting back to the dock at Lady Barron had the severity of the previous evenings storms become apparent. Racing back onto our boat, as is customary at 3 peaks we found the crew hanging out and drying their sailing gear and informing us that race control had put a hold on the race to give teams a chance to make repairs and have a break after all boats (who made it to Lady Barron) were in fact forced to motor in. Other boats were much less lucky and had their races finished less that 24 hours after it all began.
Haphazard - This photo i think best illustrates just how crazy and dangerous it was out there. (photo:
Sailing to Coles Bay, Freycinet Run (Easter Saturday/Easter Sunday)
The race resumed at 2pm on saturday and having not sustained any damage in Friday nights storms, Peccadillo was one of the first crews to sail out of Lady Barron. John and i chatted a while and made sure we got some food into us after probably not eating enough before our run around Strezlecki. Some food in our stomachs, it wasnt too long though before the effects of the fatigue accumulated from a reasonably sleepless Friday night, a hard 65km run around Strez and the drowsiness from taking a Kwell (sea sickness tab) had me heading down for a nap at about 4pm. I had a couple of ok hours of sleep before getting up briefly about 8:30pm to grab a bit of food, but feeling a little uneasy headed back to bed. What seemed like a short time later the Skipper, Charles, was waking me up to see if i'd mind getting out back on the bikes as the wind had died down, "Sure, what time is it?" I queried in my groggy state. "6 AM". Awesome, i quickly chucked on my shorts, and told him i'd be out and soon as i threw down a bowl of muesli as my stomach had set about eating itself during the past 10 hours of sleep. By the time i'd got the muesli down (maybe 5 mins) the wind had picked up again and we were sailing through smooth waters for Coles Bay, which much to Johns and my excitement would have us running the incredible scenic Freycinet leg in the daytime.
A pretty happy John. 14 hours sleep, a beautiful sunrise, smooth sailing and the prospect of running around Freycinet in the daylight. Whats not to be happy about?
As we were pulling up to the dock at Coles Bay, Charles queried us on about how long we thought we take "best case" so that they would know how long they had to get everything organised before heading out again. John seemed to recall that on his 3 previous 3 peaks that he had completed the run in a touch over 4 hours, and given the it was 33km and very technical running, we figured that it might be possible to get around in about 3:30.

We set off on the run and after the initial undulating kms started the climb up over over the saddle to Wineglass Bay, where my legs indicated a degree of fatigue from the previous days run but still felt quite capable of putting in a good effort. The soft sand of Wineglass bay was pretty taxing, but nowhere near as bad as i recalled from last year and we hit the bottom of the climb up to Mt Graham at a touch over 5:30 min/km pace, and i felt confident of being around the 3:30 mark.
Wineglass Bay with Mt Freycinet (right hand peak). (Photo from Tourism Tasmania)
It didn't take long on the climb up to Mt Graham for us to start slowing down though, and we were reminded how technical and tough the running around here was. Despite the slow progress (we were running all but the very steep pitches) we were loving the running and once above the trees and onto of the plateau of Mt Graham i was wishing i had brought my camera along with me, while stealing glimpses of the amazing views and doing my best not to catch a toe and face plant.

I probably held John up a touch on the super steep, rocky decent off Graham, not being as accustomed to such terrain that John has been in his mountain running in NZ and Europe but in no time we made the turn off for the out and back pinch to the top of Mt Freycinet. We hit the top in 2:04, my garmin reading 16km, thinking 3:30 might have been a touch ambitious but sub 4 still on the cards. The next section of running was probably the most fulfilling for the whole race for me. John and i were flying along the technical single track, barely talking, just stepping aside every 10 minutes to let the other runner take a turn at the front, a brilliant idea of Johns to let provide a mental break and keep tabs on how the other runner is faring. Despite the good pace we kept for the next 17km, all the way to half way back up the last climb over to the Wineglass Bay carpark, it became evident that the course was longer than stated (37km) and that the sub 4 hour time was going to be out of our reach. It also became evident to John though that he may have been off on his recollection of his time being just over 4 hours last time he did it.

By the time we reached the last few km of undulating road and beach that would take us back to the boat we were both thoroughly cooked. We kept a solid pace but stopped pushing quite as hard and even stopped for a brief chat on the beach with Mick and Clarke as they headed out at the start of their run before making it back to the boat in 4:10:40, only a touch disappointed. After an exceptionally refreshing can of coke, i took the opportunity to make use of the phone reception and touch base with my parents as we were sailing away from dock, only for them to inform us that we had in fact just broken the Freycinet run record by a mere minute and 4 seconds. On informing John, all i got was a blank look of disbelief, before bursting out into laughter and jumping on Charles laptop to get confirmation. The 3 peaks blog confirmed that we had in fact got the record but also gave us a few slightly nervous hours as the blog also reported that Clarke and Mick had reached the Freycinet summit just 1 min behind our time. Ultimately, they faded a touch but still logged a very quick 4:21:38, while Andy and John took 3rd fastest in 4:38:35.

Sailing to Hobart, Mt Wellington Run (Easter Sunday/Easter Monday)
On leaving Coles Bay I was feeling a little cooked after a tough effort around Freycinet but in high spirits given the reward for our hard work. Bit of food and a snooze saw me over till dinner time and the an awesome stew of meat and vegetables that Nev had cooked up while we were out running. Unfortunately the combination of the Stews tastiness and my greediness had me eating way too much and feeling very average in the rolling waters, which seemed to be getting rougher as we progressed down south. For most of the race Mobile Travel Agents (aka Big Wave Rider) had been sailing splendidly and combined with solid running legs from Andy Kromar and John Kent had maintained a comfortable lead. Just before going to bed however, we determined from the race tracker that it appeared that they had been unable to get through the Denison Canal and had been forced to throw out the anchor and await more favourable tides before they could continue. Meanwhile, Charles had decided that Peccadillo would take the safer but longer route around Tasman Island and was now looking like it might pull off an improbable upset. The sailors were excited, but i was nauseous went to bed.

Lying in bed, i'm not too sure what it looked like up there on deck but it sounded terrible. There were crazy wind squalls, pouring rain and crashing waves, and even from down below in bed it was noticeably colder than it had been at any other stage during the race. At some stage after midnight, in my semi conscious state i heard the motors kick on and stuck my head out see what was happening. Evidently the weather had become so bad that the sailors were at risk of getting hypothermia and had steered us in to Port Arthur to seek refuge from the storm, get warm, dry and some sleep. The chance at the win had been snatched from their grasp but given the conditions it was the only safe option.

Awaking in Port Arthur on Monday morning after seeking shelter from the weather. It's hard to believe to contrast in conditions. What the picture doesn't illustrate through is how cold it is.
On continuing on to Hobart, the sailors were in much better spirits following their rest and the few hours in Port Arthur has given me a chance to get some uninterrupted sleep, which i was grateful for. It turns out all the boats had sought shelter either in Port Arthur or the Denison Canal. Mobile Travel Agents had managed to haul their boat through the canal and were nearing Hobart, while Advantedge and Storm Bay had got an earlier start than us, leaving us now in 4th place.
Mt Wellington. The summit is obscured from view by the clouds and reports had us preparing for -13 windchill and snow.
Before long we were in Hobart and John and i were on our way up Mt Wellington. I was skeptical about what  i had left in the legs but they seemed to managed the consistent uphill grade on the roads pretty well and before long we were turning off onto the steeper trails higher up towards the summit. We kept a good pace, running the lions share of the trail but i was working pretty hard to keep up with John the mountain goat. As we climbed higher we started to see the first signs of snow and i was once again wishing i had a camera and the time to take a photo as we climbed the rocky trail up through steady, but softly falling snow. It was absolutely amazing running conditions and has really increased my excitement and anticipation of getting in more snow running over the coming Winter.

John Kent (Mobile Travel Agents) summiting Wellington a couple hours before us. Noticeably less wind and snow in the above photo. (photo:
As we approached the summit, the moved out from the trail that had been protected from the wind and soon found ourselves running towards the summit structure in blizzard conditions. We quickly ran out of trail/path and scrambled the remaining metres to the summit and after a quick high-five, made our way about getting the hell off the mountain before getting hypothermia. The first few km's of the decent were unfortunately a touch slow while running head-on into the blizzard and trying to get my legs back after pushing hard to keep up with John on the climb up. Although we had summited in 1:25, i'd assumed any chance at the record (2:27) was out of our grasp as the route back down is slightly longer. We were still making good progress and i was confident of a good time which get us the King of the Mountains title and the fastest time on the Wellington leg.

About 5km down we rounded a corner and managed to just catch sight of the runners from Storm Bay. This served as huge motivation as passing them would move Peccadillo into third overall and second in the Multi-hull division. We let out a little cheer when we saw them and instantly the tempo lifted. We quickly caught and passed them and set of down the trail with renewed vigor and before long i was starting to do the math in my head about how long to go and the projected time. Turns out that the course is in fact a little shorter than stated and that just maybe we could get near the Mt Wellington record. Game on. John and i proceeded to give it everything on the way back down and like on Freycinet we were barely talking, switching turns and pushing hard.

Every time i looked down at my watch to check our pace it never read more than 3:25, getting down to 3:00 flat. It was going to be close. We kept pushing, I kept going through the math in my head "If it's less that 2km we might have it". That last 10 minutes seemed to go forever, we hammered down the hill, back into Hobart and down towards the docks. Stopping at traffic lights was out of the question, quick glance either way, throw up a big don't argue hand, the cars can wait for us. 2:27 passed, the second fastest time was 2:29:XX, keep pushing. We rounded the last corner and sprinted across the line, my watch stopped on 2:29:55, they clocked us at 2:30:00. Same diff. 3rd fastest time will have to do, our crew was already into the beers.

Very happy at the finish. 3rd Overall, 2nd Multi-hull, King of the Mountains Trophy.

It wasnt long after the finish that i had one of the longer showers of my life. It was cold in hobart and i longed for a shower that didnt resemble a closet with the kitchen tap coming out of the wall. Physically and mentally i was pretty shot for a couple days, the legs were still in good shape and i ran the day after i finished in Hobart and again in the Dandenongs with Mick D yesterday after getting back into Melbourne. I'm tired and feel jet lagged though from the unusual sleeping patterns and three days of storm interrupted sleep. Today was the first day that i didn't wake up at 3am. I'm happy i feel like this, it makes me feel like i've worked for that KOM trophy and i wouldn't be feeling this satisfied if it was easier. Like Marshall Ulrich not wanting to run through Death Valley during Winter, I don't think i'd want to do 3 Peaks without the adversity, though for the enjoyment and safety of the sailors i'm sure i'd manage just fine.

A massive thanks to Injinji and Shotz for the product they supply me with. There was lot of water, hard gravel and beach crossings over the 3 run legs and despite all the crap that went into my shoes I had zero issues with my feet. No blisters, no hotspots and i didn't take any preventative measures other than a fresh pair of socks for each run.

Although i have been using Shotz gels in training since January, this was the first time that i took them during long race intensities. Getting off the boat on Flinders Island i knew i hadn't eaten enough and that i'd need to stay right on top on my gel intake. I took them every 25 minutes the whole Strezlecki leg (except the climb up the mountain when i bonked) and despite us running hard they went down ridiculously easily. Same for when we were pushing in the second half of the Freycinet run and while trying to chase down the record on the Wellington Run. I never struggled even once to get one down. Back on the boat i drank water with Shotz electrolyte tabs while i was recovering. This easily allowed me to get my electrolytes back without having to take in lots of sugary drinks that generally make me feel bloated.

Thanks to Charles and the crew from Peccadillo, i reckon they have a harder job than us runners sailing those boats in those conditions with as little sleep as they get, and to John Winsbury, who was an awesome and inspiring running partner that kept me entertained with stories of races in NZ and Europe will kicking back on and off the boat.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A Sleeping Bag.

Wanted to post something more substantial, but just realised i've got nothing to combat sea sickness for 3 peaks and need to get to a pharmacy before heading out for dinner. So, instead of a long, drawn out post about how good training running is at the moment and all the things i'm looking forward to about this adventure over Easter, instead i give you what i'm not looking forward to about this race.

A sleeping bag.

Why we have to lug a sleeping bag around 133km of mountain running is beyond me, especially considering we are also carrying a fleece top, thermal top and bottoms, water proof jacket and pants, a balaclava, thermal gloves and a PE bivy sack, amongst other things.

That's all.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Ultras, EAH and Rhabdo.

Little late getting onto this, but just a quick post regarding an article by Andy Hewat in the latest edition of Trail Run Mag, that talks about the dangers of ultra running in regard to Rhabdomyolysis and Exercise Associated Hyopnatremia.

The E-Zine is available for download here.

Definitely worth reading and knowing the dangers of these conditions. I got Rhabdomyolysis after completing Western States in 2009 off about 5 or 6 weeks training due to a broken foot. Naturally i went in underdone but with a firm mindset that not finishing was not an option. I tried to be conservative early but my quads were no match for the long downhill stretches of the course and were blown by Foresthill at Mile 60.

Looking back now I have a bit of disbelief about how i actually managed to push myself through such pain over those last 40 miles. My efforts ultimately gained me a silver belt buckle and a 2 weeks in Auburn Hospital. I won't go into the full details of my stay in hospital but suffice to say that it wasn't a very pleasant experience.

I like my belt buckle, but i wont be pushing that hard again. Last year while racing the Great Ocean Walk 100km, it was evident from pretty early on that my legs were carrying over fatigue from the You Yangs 50 Mile, four weeks prior. At the 55km checkpoint i was faced with the option of keep going and risk damaging a quad muscle, or drop with the knowledge that I just didn't have what it took to get it done on that day, but that i'd be back to running after a few days rest. Easy choice, I dropped, my first ever DNF. I have no regrets.

I think there is a bit of a macho mindset in ultrarunning and that a DNF shows a sign of weakness and lack of ability to handle the pain that goes hand in hand with running ultras. I don't argue that a fair degree of pain is inevitable in the majority of ultra races, but i think that people need to make a distinction between pain and damage. Pushing through when your experiencing pain is one thing but continuing on when your causing yourself damage is another, and everyone should ask themselves, "Which is the bigger failure. To not finish a race, or to tough it out, limp across the finish line and check yourself into hospital?".

For me, I plan to show up at races fit, healthy and fully trained. To race those races as hard as i can, but to show the initiative to stop (or back off) when the signs are saying that i'm putting myself at risk. Those that care about me shouldn't have to be subjected to the worry that i put them through after Western States in 2009, and neither should the Race Directors/Organisers that are taking responsibility for your safety while your running their events.

Friday, March 9, 2012


Tuesday just past marked 1 month until the first race of the year. That’s actually not entirely true considering I lined up at Bogong to Hotham on the 8th January, but that race didn’t really happen, at least not in its entirety (though it was a hell of a lot of fun), and I had a pretty big suspicion that I wasn’t really going to be racing (at least at the pointy end) that day any way.

So, 1 month out from 3 peaks and I’m feeling like I’m in a nice groove. Km’s are more abundant, uphills are getting easier, speed sessions are getting speedier, legs have a constant tiredness but keep doing as requested. Today is slated as a rest day and while I would have liked a bit more of a sleep in, waking up at 5:45 was worth the effort to meet Rich at he Yarra Trails for a leisurely jaunt in near perfect conditions. We’d gone out with the intention of 10km at 6 min pace but after an hour and a half of chatting we’d covered 17km without much exertion. After a stretch and shower it was a big serve of French Toast and coffee, for a much needed breakfast, and now a stroll down to Edinburgh Gardens has me sitting in front of my computer screen. A nice groove indeed

Looking ahead, excitement is starting to build for 3 Peaks, Trailwalker Melbourne and TNF100. I’m still working out exactly how I’m going to tackle the training for these 3 events given their proximity to one another (3 Peaks, 2 weeks rest, Trailwalker, 4 weeks rest, TNF100) but for the next couple weeks at least I will continue as per the current training plan and most likely run 3 peaks off a very short taper (few days), Oxfam off a short taper (1 week) and TNF100 off a 2 week taper. Of course all this is mere speculation, as I have no idea how I’ll pull up after each of the events, but I see this as nothing to worry about at present and am happy where I am at, enjoying my running, doing the kms, finding my groove.

Monday, February 27, 2012

For Once in My Life...

Verbal Kint had a plan and it worked out pretty darn well for him. Myself on the other hand, i've never really been one for planning things out. Sure i've taken the time and written myself training plans but i don't think i've ever really even been able to follow one for more than a couple days.

Verbal Kint knew of the benefits to a plan.
Friends usually scoff when i try to explain that i'm very bad at training. They mistake the fact that i have a pretty decent volume (4500km + last year) and a lot of time spent slogging around the Dandenongs for good effective training. The reality is that i wake up in the morning and do as i please, sometimes that means a hard 25km, others it means hit the snooze button and squeeze in a lap of Princes Park before turning up late to work (i'm talking about when i actually work).

Well, i figured that considering that i actually made a racing plan this year i might take it one step further and once again put pen to paper (keys to keyboard) and get down what i want my weekly training to look like as i head into the start of the years races. Its nothing very detailed, just a basic outline of something that vaguely resembles what i'd like to maybe do on each day of the week.

Now sitting here, one week on, i have my first pre-planned week of training in the bag and i've got to say i'm feeling pretty good about it. I know its early but I think that i've finally worked out a plan, that will get me doing what i want to be doing, yet is still loose enough that i can add some "off the cuff" variety into the weekly routine (routine used loosely).

Mileage (kilometerage?) wise, last week was high for me. It also had 2 sessions dedicated to speed work, 2 dedicated to hills and I got out for 2 rides on the bike in the Dandenongs. The week culminated in an (almost) 5 hour long, hilly run yesterday, and while i battled over the final 10km in the brutal early afternoon heat, my legs were more than willing to dispatch each and every 'pinchy' climb along the route without much argument.

Yes, this new found place i've found for structure in my running has come as a welcome surprise and i'm excited to see what effect it will have once the races start rolling around in April. Between now and then it's just 1 session at a time and work out what exactly tapering involves before jumping on that boat in Launceston on Good Friday.

Looking forward to spending another Easter onboard (and offboard) Peaccadillo. (photo courtesy of: YMCV)

Monday, February 13, 2012

With days like these on offer, motivation for finding a job is not high.

After coming into the Bogong to Hotham feeling wrecked on training that can only be likened to cramming for an exam I’ve been pretty happy in the weeks since that my next race isn’t until early april. This has really taken the stress and anticipation out of training and as a result I think I’m enjoying my running as much as I ever have.

I pulled up a little sore after Bogong to Hotham but returned to running after only 1 days rest (and wouldn’t have rested that day if not for being couchbound with food poisioning) and haven’t missed a day since.  Over the 5 weeks since bogong to hotham I’ve been mixing up my running quite a bit with hilly long runs, short tempo runs, intervals and everything in between.

This past week I was lucky enough to make my way up to Bright to spend a couple days in the Victorian High Country with Mick Donges. Mick took a camera along with him on a couple of runs and the following are a few photos we took over a couple of runs around Mt Buffalo and Mt Hotham.
Lake Catani - Starting point for the run at Buffalo and location of one of the best campgrounds in Vic. (Photo: Mick Donges)
Mt Dunn - Buffalo Plateau. One of many amazing views the plateau has to offer (Photo: Mick Donges)
Running the trail to the Cathedral (seen in background) from Mt Dunn (Photo: Mick Donges)
The scramble up to the cathedral. Plenty of similar scrambles around buffalo to mix up the running and provide an adventurous feel. Its a shame there isn't a more extensive trail network. (Photo: Mick Donges)
Getting ready to roll at Mt Loch Carpark for the second days run. (Photo: Mick Donges)
Mick charging down Swindlers Spur. Initially we couldn't stop commenting to each other how much fun this trail was. Much to our dismay we came across a trail crew half way down rebuilding the trail from Dibbins Hut all the way to Mt Loch.

Nooooooooooo! I get it that it's in Parks interest to make the trails more accessible for more people but a nicely manicured trail in the vic alp high country seems a little out of place. (Photo: Mick Donges)
Excluding the 1.5km of road from the start/end of the Razorback back to the Mt Loch carpark, this (about 3km in length) was the only section of the run not on singletrack. No complaints here. (Photo: Mick Donges)
Diamantina Spur. Steep, rocky, scenic. Cant wait get back up it again. (Photo: Mick Donges)
Mick on Diamantina. After a very steep initial km, it backs off, the trees thin out and the views open up.
The last 8km back to Hotham are via the Razorback. Definite contender for the best section of trail in Victoria. (Photo: Mick Donges)
Not too much of note for the coming weeks, just more training and hopefully trips up into the high country, I’m also pretty keen to get up to the Blue Mountains when 6 Foot is on to spectate that race and check out some of the North Face 100 course then back to Victoria in time to crew my buddy at the Alpine 100 on March 17. Fun times ahead.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

With a Little Help from My Friends.

So a month is a little longer than I had intended between posts and I’d given my current employment status I’m having a hard time finding reason for why I haven’t gotten around to posting sooner.

Probably the biggest news of note, which I am very excited about, is that this year I’ll have the support of a couple of companies to make a couple aspects of my running easier.

 The first of these companies is Injinji Socks. I approached Injinji in early Jan about representing the brand, and am glad that they were willing to throw their support behind me, as they were the first and only sock company that I was going to approach, as they are the only socks that I have used in the past 4 years, and the only ones I want to use for the foreseeable future. Wearing Injinji socks I know that I will be enjoying another comfortable and blister free year of running.

 The second company that I’m proud to have the support of is Shotz Sports Nutrition. For the past few years I’ve predominantly used Gu gels and for the most part have been very happy with them. The one criticism that I had was that they were quite thick, and while initially in races this posed no problems, it would take significantly more effort to get the gels down later (5+ hours) when racing at high effort. After sampling a range of the Shotz Gels I’m confident that this isn’t going to be a problem I’ll be dealing with this year as Shotz Gels are undoubtedly easier to get down than any other gel I’ve tried. Even their Lemon-Lime flavour (a flavour that I generally associate with gagging) went down without resistance at effort. Very important for me considering I get my calories almost exclusively from gels when racing.

I’ve also started using the Shotz Electrolyte tabs this past month and can’t be happier with them. I’ve never liked sugary electrolyte drinks as they make me feel bloated after constant consumption. The Shotz Electroylyte tabs are sugar free, easy to take down (they make you want to drink more) and easy to carry and mix into water on the go.

I cant stress how grateful I am to both these companies for supporting me this year and giving me the knowledge that both my feet and nutrition isn’t something I’ll need to worry about while training and racing this year.