Checking out Dharawal State Recreation Area 

Posted by Nick Tuesday, November 02, 2010 5:50:00 PM

On Saturday Linda and I checked out the Dharawal State Recreation Area, which is on the extreme southern outskirts of Sydney and is adjustment to the Heathcote and Royal National Park areas.  On the drive between Sydney and Wollongong there is some really nice open bushland on the western side of the freeway, and we’ve often discussed whether it would be possible to join some of the bushland here up with a Royal National Park track to form an all-trail path through to Wollongong. 

Checking out Dharawal was the first step in the process.  I found this thread on CoolRunning that contained some great MapMyRun links from Mister G, including this one which I downloaded into the Garmin.  The trails are marked as suitable for mountain biking as well, so Linda came along with the video camera and mountain bike to check out the trails.

Dharawal State Recreation Area is quite easy to find – take the Helensburgh exit off the Southern Freeway and go south along the Princes Highway to Darkes Forest Road.  After travelling about 5km up Darkes Forest Road the 10H Management Trail is reached on the left (southern side of the road).

Track Start

We set off along the management trail under a pretty cloudy sky, but the sun soon came out and it turned into a pretty warm day.  I was glad that I kept a small sunscreen tune in the Camelbak and I had about 2l of water mixed with 4 scoops of GuBrew.  It’s always tempting to go out with a bit less water and a lighter pack on days that look pretty cool, but on isolated trails, the benefit of carrying a bit more water/ sports drink outweighs the extra weight.

At about 1.5km in, the MapMyRun route followed a section of track that had subsequently been closed, and I spent a bit of time scouting for the GPS route.  When it became obvious that the intended route wasn’t going to be possible (especially on a mountain bike), we decided to switch to an out-and-back circuit along the firetrails.  The real weakness of the Garmin 405’s GPS route direction is that it is pretty unforgiving when a route can't be completed as mapped.  In retrospect, I should have had some backup navigation aide in the form of a GPS with a map screen or at least a printed map.  A simple A3 print-out of the MapMyRun site would have sufficed.

Track conditions where pretty good, and progress was rapid.


The next surprise came with the creek crossing at 5km.  After 5km of flat, open fire trail, the track suddenly dipped into very steep and rocky decent with a knee-deep creek crossing awaiting at O'Hares Creek.  The steepest grade on the MapMyRun route was 4%, but with a fall in elevation of about 100m in 800m of track, a much, much steeper grade of around 12% was experienced.  The creek section was harder for Linda, who was carrying a tripod and about 10kg of gear in her Camelbak.



After the creek section, the trail quickly settled back into the previous pattern of open, gently rolling terrain.  There was a paved section of road near the North Cliff Coal mine along the intersection of Trail 10B and 10C, and I followed 10B north for about 5km.  The pavement ended soon after the intersection, and the trail followed a gentle decent as it headed north. 

10B is the main north-south road in the Conservation Area, and its also possible to take an alternative north-south path along 10D, although this has what looks to be another steep creek section at Cobbong Creek. 

The image below is a map poster from the start of the track (the intersection of Darkes Forest Road and the 10H Trail).  For first-time explorers, it would be worth getting in contact with National Parks and trying to get a printed copy of this map.  The trails are easy to find and navigate, but its an isolated area without much traffic, and knowing where you are and what's around is wise.


I met up with Linda back at O'Hares Creek, and after another soggy-shoe slog up the hill that was very reminiscent of the Six Foot track and Cox's River section, it was back on the flat trail to the start.  I'd clocked in a total distance of 29km, and had a very enjoyable run. 

I gave our new Hero HD camera a go on the run, and found that my running motion bought my hands into the shot on every stride when I wore the chest harness, and when I switched to the head-strap setup, it was very heavy.  I'd like to give the chest-strap another go with the camera mounted higher and see if that works.  Capturing the Cradle Mountain Run on the Hero HD is the next major project, and having something comfortable to wear that will reliably capture the footage is something important to get right.

For those looking to enjoy Dharawal, there's an upcoming FatAss event in December.  The Dharawal Boomerang - Fire trail marathon will be on 12 Dec at 6am.  Linda is mountain-bike racing this day down at Jervis Bay, so I won't be doing this one but it looks like a fantastic event.

TrailRunner Magazine 

Posted by Nick Thursday, October 28, 2010 7:52:00 PM

The October issue of TrailRunner magazine just arrived in the mail, and is an excellent read for all things trail running.  While the magazine is US-centric and primarily covers trails and races in North America, there are some great articles on training and nutrition.  The photography of trail running events and training from across the world is also stunning.  While most newsagents in Australia won't stock the magazine, international subscriptions are available, with a two year subscription to Australia (17 issues) coming in at a US60 delivered - subscribing now is a great way to take advantage of the strong Aussie dollar.smiley

Two other trail running resources that I love to check out are and the Trail Running sub-site on the RunnersWorld site.  iRunFar is an inspiring site - the driving (or I guess running) force behind the site is Byron Powell - Byron quit has job and moved across the US to follow his dream of being involved with trail running.  Between Byron and Tony Krupicka's blog, you could easily form the impression of trail running as a Buddhist disciple, especially the ultra aspect of it.  Some great information to check out...

Doing it Tough with the Shorter Stuff 

Posted by Nick Tuesday, October 26, 2010 7:32:00 PM

As Linda mentioned, we spent the weekend up at Cattai having a great time at NSW DirtFest event.  The weekend of activities included a 10km trail run on Saturday afternoon (which came in a bit shorter than the promised 10km with my Gamin recording a total distance of 8.3km), and being the only event of the weekend that fitted my skills and training, I gave it a go. 

I find short distances where there is no chance to settle into a running rhythm quite difficult – at the start of most marathons, I find plenty of folks getting out ahead of me in the first 10-15km, and then I’ll gradually real them back in over the last 10-15kms, especially on uphill sections later in the course.  The guys over at MarathonTalk had a great analogy for this – it’s like the tide going out and coming in.  At the start of most marathons, many folks will go out too hard in the excitement of the day, and letting them go is like letting the tide go out.  At the 21-25km point, the tide is fully out, and after that you can start reeling them in on the oncoming tide section.

A 10km event is very different – you’ve got to go hard from the start.  I tried warming up on Saturday with a brief 1km run, but that didn’t seem to help much.  Having a 3:30pm start was also weird – I’m very comfortable now with the nutrition and hydration for a morning start, but kicking off at 3:30 felt a bit weird.  I also don’t get a lot of enjoyment from running hard in close proximity to others on trail runs, particularly if they are just behind me.  You’re never sure if they are trying to pass, and with technical trail conditions, worrying about them falling right behind you and taking you out is a concern.

On the run on Saturday, Sue Thompson, a friend of ours who we know through Sutherland Districts Athletics Club cross-country series, was in the event, and she is a seriously good runner (as well as being seriously good at many other adventure racing activities), so I decided to hang near here for the first bit.  That plan went OK, but my pulse spiked up to around 175bpm, and I didn’t feel that great.  I’ve found that I’m comfortable to run for extended distances (up to 10km) in the 170-172 range, but when I can run at greater than 175bpm, I can maintain the effort level, but my speed actually drops down to below my 165bpm level. 

The course was two laps of the Hawkesbury section of Riverside Oaks Golf Resort, with a step and slippery 40m climb up the escarpment overlooking the River at 1km in.   At the climb, Sue gradually pulled away from me, and the decent from the escarpment let me settle into the race a bit better and get the breathing under control.  After the hill, the rest of the course was pretty flat around some flood-plain sections, travelling along dirt- and grass-tracks.  My pulse stayed quite high (around 177bpm), and I thought that I may as well push it hard while I was out there and see what happened speed wise.

Passing the start area and heading into the second lap, the field had spread itself out, and I was running with a nice, wide gap (>20m) on both sides of me.  On the second climb up the escarpment, I dropped into a fast hike (with my pulse still around 180bpm), and had my slowest kilometre section of the race at 6:18.  Dropping back onto the flat section had the gap between runners even wider, and it was a case of putting in maximum effort to get to the finish in the best time possible.  I found that pounding up and down the escarpment the first time had resulted in a significant lactic acid build-up in my legs, and my running style felt plodding rather than free-flowing, with my thigh muscles fully pumped like I'd hit a hard set of squats.

Coming into the finish was a weird feeling – I’ve never done such a short race, and it felt strange to be finishing so soon.  My time over the 8.3km was a slow 41:26 minutes, but with only one other runner in my Veteran Category, it was enough for a category first place and a very nice Salomon t-shirt prize.  Sue was over three minutes quicker at 37:43 to pick up the female win, and line honors went to Adam Conquest in 32:27.  I sat behind overall Dirt Mistress winner Nina Wright for a lot of the run, and she came in 37s ahead of me in 40:49.

Overall, I was glad to do the run and found it pretty much confirmed that short-course events are a weakness for me.  The intense, short bursts that they represent don’t interest me that much, and I’d much prefer to hook into a trail marathon than 5km on a fast, road course.  I’m pretty much of the opinion that belting myself with a heap of speed work at my age (37 in two weeks) isn’t the wisest option, and will probably lead to injury that will then detract from the distance running that I really enjoy.  I intend to take part in some of the Sutherland Districts Athletics Club cross-country 5 and 10km events next winter to improve on the first quarter of my marathon, but with no real serious intent on being competitive at this distance.

The DirtFest weekend was extremely enjoyable.  On Saturday the weather was quite warm, and I kicked back with the kids while Linda was out with the cameras covering the triathlon.  The weather became overcast and the rain came in on the Saturday afternoon, cooling it down significantly for the run.  We had a great time at the pasta dinner on Saturday night, and Jess made a new best-friend with another 7 year-old girl named Brook who was there with her parents Steve and Janet from Orange.  On Sunday, Linda gutsed out an awesome 50km in nasty conditions in the mountain bike race, and was the only finisher in her division, making it a winning weekend for us.


New Trail Guide - Heatcote Loop 

Posted by Nick Monday, October 25, 2010 9:14:00 PM

As I mentioned in my last post, I used a Saturday training run that didn't quite work out as planned to do the track guide photographs for my favorite weekday run in the western Royal National Park.  I came across the route when doing this years FatAss Lilli Pilli Half (with the 30km Heathcote FullMonty option), during which I became thoroughly lost around Kangaroo Creek and ended up doing a 1km swim down the creek to Audley before continuing on to Warumbul and the Port Hacking swim, which was quite a challenge with a strong incoming tide.  The CoolRunning thread has a good recap from the three of us (me, Dodsey and Olaf) that did the event.

When a run doesn't go well, there is always the compulsion to go back and do it right, and after the FatAss event misadventure, mastering the course sections around Heathcote and Kangaroo Creek became something I was keen to do.  The start of the course at Grays Point is only a 10 minute drive from my place, and after properly mapping out the route on MapMyRun and getting it into the Garmin, every Wednesday morning saw my out hitting this trail.  During winter I used the excellent Ayup head-lamp that Linda and I share (its has bike attachments too) to complete the run. 

As well as giving me great practice on some tough trail conditions, its great for mental toughness training.  I do back-to-back hard days on Tuesday and Wednesday, and getting out of bed at 5:00am in the cold and wet in the middle of winter for 1:45 out on the trails can be a bit of a challenge.  However, once the run is completed, its a great feeling and after a gym session on Wednesday afternoon, its a great feeling with only one recovery run (10km) on Thursday and one hard run (16-20km) on Friday left before the weekend.

Check out the Heathcote Loop and let us know what you think!

Getting the Training Distance Done 

Posted by Nick Tuesday, October 19, 2010 8:45:00 AM

 On Saturday I was planning to do a 34km trail run taking in some new terrain in the Heathcote National Park and joining it up with the western Royal National Park loops.  I had the route in the Garmin, and was already to go for a Saturday afternoon jaunt with the camera in hand to produce a new trail guide for the site.  Events began conspiring against me on Friday night with my 4yo son waking up during the night with a nasty cold, and he ended up sleeping next to Linda with me in his Buzz Lightyear bed.  His coldmeant that he couldn't go with his 7yo sister to a birthday party on Saturday afternoon, which threw the training plans out the window. 

I ended up taking the Saturday morning training spot, and headed off into an ugly looking day with the winds gale force and the temperature around 12 degrees.  The run was going good until I crossed over to west Heathcote and found what looked like a pretty decent track on MapMyRun was actually a cliff scramble.  Not liking the look of the cliff (and figuring it was pretty useless to publish a trail guide that included a section with a dangerous looking decent), I scouted around for 30 minutes for a way day onto the Woronora Pipeline track with no luck .

The section that I was planning  to do a trail route  on was pretty close to my normal Wednesday morning loop, so I changed plan and decided to photograph this route.  Heading back up and over the Princes Highway, I rejoined the track and got some nice shots of the Kangaroo Creek section of the RNP.

One real surprise was bumping into my brother Chris on the remote section between Heathcote and Audley.  I can't remember ever bumping into anyone else on this section of the track - its rough and overgrown in some parts, and as it joins the western Heathcote section of the RNP to the central Audley section, doing it as part of a loop means that you're committed to a long hike - at least 12km.  Chris did has entire 15km hike without seeing anyone else but me.

With a short 25km 'long' run on Saturday, I shifted the Monday recovery session to Sunday, and did a 90 minute bike ride out to Kurnell.  This meant that the legs where fresh coming  into Monday, and I got out for a 22.5km run along Captain Cook Drive out to Kurnell from North Cronulla and back via Cape Solander and Boat Harbour.  The first 12.5km is flat terrain on the road, followed by a hard 10km slog along sand dunes, cliffs and beaches.  The tide was high as I was completing the last 5km beach section, making for slow going on the soft sand at the back of the beach.  With a 5am start, its possible to sneak this one in before work and still be on the 8am train into the city for a 9am start.  The MapMyRun route is here.

Today I've got a hard 22km lunch-time run planned from the Sydney CBD over the Harbour Bridge, up to River Rd at Crows Nest, out to Gladesville and back via Victoria Rd and Pyrmont.  This is by far my hardest lunchtime  run, with some significant climbs and the distance away from the CBD seems to accentuate the distance.  MayMyRun route at here.

Tomorrow morning will round out a hard 3 days of training with an extended Wednesday morning trail run that will take in Karloo Pool and Uloola Falls.  I want to add the Karloo-Uloola section as an alternate extension on the Audley-Heathcote  trail guide I've currently got underway, so tomorrow's run will be a great chance to capture some shots of this section of the trail.

Getting 70km into the legs early in the week will be great, and with the Sydney Hills Dirt Fest this weekend, it is unlikely I'll get a long run in with a 10km trail race planned for the Saturday and Linda racing on Sunday.

Easing back into the training 

Posted by Nick Thursday, October 14, 2010 8:51:00 AM

 This week has been a pretty quiet one training wise after Fitzroy Falls.  While Fitzroy Falls at regulation marathon distance is only a shorter race on the schedule, the distance is secondary to the intensity at which the event is run at, and I gave it a pretty good belting at FF and on both the Coastal Classic on 25 Sep and Mesa Falls on 28 Aug, so it was time for a bit of a drop off in the intensity.

One of the real traps when you're really enjoying your running and largely injury free is getting caught half-way in your training.  The excellent podcast Marathon Talk talked about getting caught half-way with injuries and illness in Episode 37 and the concept applies equally well to post-race training.  There is nothing worse than putting in training that is of too high an intensity to allow proper recovery after a hard event, but of too lower intensity to really trigger any improvement in running times.  For my three runs this week, I've focussed on keeping the pulse below 140 and having an easy session, somewhere between 3 and 5 on the intensity chart.

The day after the race I did a light 2km jog with my 7 year old daughter Jess and then did 45 minutes on a cycle training to flush out the legs.  Monday was a 10km sand run from North Cronulla out to Boat Harbour and back, which is more of a lower leg and foot strength training exercise than a run conditioning exercise.  Sand running without shoes also tends to have a wonderful micro-abrasion effect on the feet that takes off any blister-related dead skin.  As an amusing aside, I was wearing some thongs after FF which revealed I'm about 50% toe-nail deficient at the moment, and I was chatting to an injured runner who was 'admiring' my toe-nails and lamenting that his injury had left him in the unusual trail-runners predicament of having all ten toe-nails present simultaneously.

On Tuesday I did an easy flat 16km around the Opera House, Darling Harbour and Pyrmont, with my regular 16.5km Wednesday morning trail run yesterday.  I was about 8 minutes slower on the trail run than I would be at the peak of training, and took along an audio book on the iPod to deliberately given me something to focus on rather than running hard (I'm making good progress through Theodore Rex from Audible and can't wait for the release next month of the concluding volume Colonel Roosevelt). 

Today is the final easy run comprising a 12km Opera House and Darling Harbour loop, with some intensity returning tomorrow with a 16km hit-out with 8km at lactic threshold.  On Saturday it will be 34km out on the trails doing the trail guide on the western Royal National Park loop, and next week is full steam-ahead in preparation for Glenbrook on 27 November.

Fitzroy Falls Trail Marathon Race Report 

Posted by Nick Monday, October 11, 2010 1:16:00 PM

Saturday morning dawned cold, misty, cloudy and with a light drivel - perfect weather for the 11th Running of the Fitzroy Falls Fire Trail Marathon (FFFTM).  I spent Friday night at Kangaroo Valley with the family, and after a 6am start and a pancake breakfast, we were up at the Twin Falls Cottage around 7am for an 8am race start.  After collecting my race number and event shirt, I made sure I got in the queue early for the port-a-loos - the queue at any event always seems to grow significantly in the 20 minutes before the start, and generally half an hour before the start in the latest that you're going to make it in.

With 30 minutes to go, I was all set with the sunscreen on, the race number attached, and I took a walk around the carpark to loosen up the legs.  It was great to bump into a number of folks that had enjoyed the Coastal Classic race report and video, and the friendly atmosphere of a smaller race event can't be beaten.


The count down to the start went very quickly - the hoodie came off with about 10 minutes to go, and everything felt good to race.  Getting a good starting position is relatively important at Fitzroy Falls - the start/ finish corridor is pretty narrow (as the image above shows), and timing chips aren't used, so the time on the clock applies to everyone no matter what time you cross the start line.  I would have been around 20th across that start line.

The goal time for the event was between 3:30 and 3:40.  Last year was the first competitive marathon I'd done, and I came in at 4:01, so 20-30 minutes quicker than that seemed reasonable.  Last year I was pretty nervous and opted for the extra weight of carrying a Camelbak for the run and refilling it at half-way, while this year I choose a much quicker approach of only carrying 4 Gu gels in a racing triathlon singlet, and relying on water around the course.  There are plenty of drink stations on the Fitzroy Falls course, and with the temperature at 11 degrees at 8am, hydration isn't a big issue.

I dialed in a 4:57 virtual partner pace into the Garmin so I could keep track of where I was relative to 3:30 for the whole race, and that was a good mental aide for totally blocking out what other runners where doing and run my own race. 

Fitzroy Falls has a very nice downhill start, and I felt the best that I'd every felt in the first 10km of a race.  Usually I go out too hard and my shins tighten up as I over-stride and base too much of my pace on the race leaders.  With the virtual partner on the Garmin, I could run easily at the goal pulse rate of 160-168bpm, which is an intensity I know I can maintain over the marathon distance.

As we got off the rural roads and onto the fire trails in the Morton State Forest and Morton National Park, the trail conditions became more difficult, and I noticed my pace dropping below the 4:57 goal to closer to something around 5:15.  The drop off in pace didn't worry me too much - I was still running hard and strong, and was spot on with a consistent 166bpm pulse rate.

Around the halfway point we got some drizzle, and I was a little concerned about tripping with the gloomy conditions and some water on the sunglasses obscuring my vision slightly.  I made sure that I was lifting my feet high enough to avoid hitting my feet on any rocks sticking out of the trail, and that was enough to keep me upright the entire race.

Between 20 and 25km, Fitzroy Falls has an out-and-back leg, and this gives you a good opportunity to assess how you're travelling position-wise.  Out-and-back legs are an interesting experience in a race – if you’re feeling strong, seeing runners who are ahead of you but struggling can motivate you to power ahead and increase your placing, while seeing the leaders powering ahead without too much effort can be a de-motivating experience.  I felt great this year coming into the turn-around, and was amazed at how fresh I was feeling – it felt like I’d just started.  At last year’s event I missed the turn-around here and did fifty or so extra meters before I realised my mistake, so I was focussed on not missing it this year, and I had plenty of other runners around to follow around the checkpoint.

The 10km mark is typically where I feel fully immersed in the race, and 25km in my next mental checkpoint.  The 25km point is pretty much the true half-way point, and you’ve only got a small 17km left which, for most distance runners, is only a comfortable training run.  Coming out of the long out-and-back, I saw a lot of familiar faces, and a friendly g’day and some mutual works of encouragement had me feeling good.

At 28km the FFFTM marathon enters the second, shorter out-and-back loop and the last down-hill section of the course.  From the low-point of 566m at the 29km turn-around, it’s a climb up to a high-point of 710m at the 40km mark, and while there aren’t any killer climbs, it’s enough to tax tiring legs.  I passed another runner (Michael Lawrence I believe, looking at the results) on this section, and he commented afterwards that the climb was deceptively taxing.  I remember really hitting the wall and struggling in this section in 2009, and I was glad I could keep the power on this year. 

Once you start hitting the 10km race and then the 5km race distance markings at Fitzroy Falls, you know you’re really close, and it’s great to see the per-km distance markers kick in – even when you’re wearing a GPS watch and know precisely where you are.  I wasn’t sure if there were other runners close on my heels in the last 5km, but was running pretty close to my maximum, so we very content to keep running my own race and let the results fall where they may.

Seeing the return creek-crossing was a welcome site, and after leaping the water, it’s a slog up the hill to the finish line.  You really hit some pedestrian traffic as folks take the opportunity to go down to the look-out, and you’ve got to keep an eye out to make sure you don’t motor over any stray kids.  As I came up to the finish, I could see it was close to the 3:40 mark, and I dropped the throttle, finishing in an official time of 3:39:49 for 24thoverall, an overall improvement of 21 minutes and 15 seconds over my 2009 time – a really pleasing result.

The entry includes a post-race meal, and I was happy to smash down a Rural Fire Service Catering Unit burger with the lot and lemon solo.  I also got a double Endura Optimizer down along with a V isotonic drink and a cake from the stall.


As well as the awesome performances from the overall winner Michael Donges (3:03:44) and repeat female winner Beth Cardelli (3:17:52) (pictured below), it was a massive effort for Ian Gallagher (3:09:11) picking up a second in his first marathon (his race report is on his blog site).  My former spin instructor Karolyn Joseph had a great race of 4:28:10 on the same weekend as her son’s first birthday and despite two nasty falls, and Brett Sammut powering out a 5:27:44 to beat the cut-off for his first 42km run marathon.  Brett has overcome more obstacles in the last year or so than some face in a lifetime, and his legs are pretty chopped up with some plantar fasciitis appearing in the last week.


With next year’s event close to the Glasshouse 100 (which looks like being my major goal event for 2011), I’m not sure that I’ll achieve the same level of improvement next year, but if I can slice somewhere between 12 and 15 minutes off my time, I'll be very happy.  That sounds like a reasonable if somewhat ambitious goal smiley

Carb Loading with Yoplait Le Rice 

Posted by Nick Thursday, October 07, 2010 8:17:00 AM

I discovered a new super tasty way to get the carbs in leading into a race - Yoplait Le Rice.  Listening to Marathon Talk Episode 11 - The Long Run Show with Midgie Thompson while doing my lunch time run, Martin and Tom were talking about post-run nutrition, and rice pudding was mentioned.  There is something about listening to descriptions of food while running that makes it unimaginably tempting (I made a huge batch of corn patties earlier this year after listening to Born to Run - they where discussed corn patties in the diet section in relation to the cancer survivor).

After coming back from my run, I headed down to Coles and discovered Yoplait Le Rice snacks.  They seem pretty much perfect - easily available at any supermarket, not overly costly, really tasty, low fat, moderate protein, low GI and they come in a wide variety of flavors to prevent taste burn-out.  The Queensland Health website confirm the GI ranking at 55 or lower.  The low GI means that you'd also want a higher GI calorie source like a carb drink immediately after a run, and use the Le Rice as a supplement to pre-race meals for the extra carbs that are targetted for glycogen storage and ultimately race power.

Yesterday I had a Mocha Le Rice with my post 11km-run meal of mixed carb/ protein shake and 3 small Crunchola muffins.  With my dinner of salmon nigiri I had a Cappuccino Le Rice - both consumed cold.  I'm looking forward to smashing down a few more in the remaining two days leading into Fitzroy Falls.

Le Rice have now joined coconut-banana pancakes and low-fat Muesli as carb loading specials smiley

Fitzroy Falls Fire Trail Marathon - Three Days Out 

Posted by Nick Wednesday, October 06, 2010 9:47:00 AM

The 11th running of the Fitzroy Falls Fire Trail Marathon (FFFTM) is on this Saturday, and I'm out to run a PB marathon.  After this years North Face 100 (TNF100), I did a lot of reading and pondering on how to shave an hour and two minutes off this years time to drop into the 14 hour Silver Buckle elite category.  In some ways, the answer is pretty simple - keep my feet in better condition. 

Back in February, I whacked the top of my ankle on a tree root doing the Coast Track, and had some soreness and swelling that could flare up on longer runs.  At TNF100, I was a bit concerned about the ankle, and did my shoe-laces up pretty lose.  This in turn lead to some excessive sliding of my foot inside the shoe, and coming up Nellies Glen into the 67km checkpoint at Katoomba, a blister behind the second pinkie on my left foot swelled considerably, lifting the back of the nail so it rubbed even more, and causing a lot of pain.  The last 2km from the Explorers Tree into Katoomba Oval took a long time (more than 20 minutes), and at that pace and pain, the prospect of a DNF was very real.  Luckily I got some tapping on the toe, a good feed at the checkpoint, and with encouragement from my wonderful wife Linda who was my crew for the day, I was out of Katoomba Oval and down the Giant Staircase before I had too much time to feel sorry for myself or consider not going on.  Once you're down the Giant Staircase, you've pretty much committed to finishing TNF100 - its just as easy going forward to the Queen Victoria checkpoint at 89km, and once there, the last 11km is frustrating but not super tough.

In terms of my goal legs times on TNF100, everything was pretty close to the mark except for taking 4 hours instead of 3 on the 22km leading into CP5 at  Queen Victoria.  So, barring feet problems, a sub-14 hour TNF100 should simply be a matter of keeping the feet in good shape and repeating this years preparation.

Not content to leave TNF100 preparation at that, I noticed that many runners who excelled at long event were actually competitive or specialists at a shorter event, and where stepping up to a longer event with the speed acquired at a shorter event.  It seemed easier to acquire the endurance once you had the speed rather than vice versa.  The experience of Steve Moneghetti  transitioning to the marathon from 10km and half-marathon events, and Andrew Lees' debut ultra-marathon victory in the 2009 TNF100 after a decade being a 6ft Track specialist were some of the key examples of this process.  In contrast, I didn't come across any cases where a 100 miler had dropped down to the marathon and blitzed a sub-2:20.  My friend and occasional training partner Sara Burgess (who recently set the female course record at the Mudgee Marathon and is the female Australian National Trail Ultramarathon Championship in her age catgory with a 4:20 finish in the 6ft marathon for 3rd female overall in March 2010) also advises against spending too much time "plodding around bush trails" because it slows the legs down too much.

This theory is what brings me to the start line on Saturday.  I prefer the longer events and the plodding around stuff, but it seems a 60km Sunday training run isn't the best way to run a faster TNF100.  I have followed the middle distance (55 to 70 miles a week) training schedule out of Advanced Marathoning - 2nd Edition by Peter Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas pretty religiously - I snuck in an extra three races that weren't in the schedule (Nowra King of the Mountain (32km) on 4 Jul, Mesa Falls Marathon on 28 Aug and the RNP Coastal Classic (29km) on 25 Sep), and also couldn't follow the schedule precisely when I was travelling in the US and Canada.  That said, I've followed a fairly orthodox marathon schedule for the last 17 weeks.

Last years FFFTM was my first marathon, so the event also holds some special nostalgic value.  I did a 4.01 (the goal was 4 hours), and all went pretty well. I carried a 2l Camelbak with me, and refilled this at around halfway, and I won't be doing that this weekend.  It was a coolish morning in 2009, and I wore a long sleeve t-shirt which was a mistake.

This Saturday I'm aiming for 3:30 to 3:40.  I ran 3:33 at Mesa Falls, but that was a weird event - its a mostly downhill course, but starting at 1900m makes it a hard one in terms of air thinness.  From memory, the FFFTM course is pretty easy, with nice long rolling sections and not much technical terrain.  At Nowra King of the Mountain I ran my goal 3:30 marathon pace of 5:00 min/km, and that had the total ascent of FFFTM compressed into a 32km course.  In training on flat ground 5:00 min/km is close to my rest pace, and I'm maintaining 4:25 min/km at a race pulse rate of around 170bpm.  So, everything is in preparation for 3:30.  I plan to run with a Garmin virtual pacer set to a 4:57 pace, and very much stick to that regardless of what the rest of the field does.  Hopefully on Sunday I'll be posting about how it all came off  well.

Out on the Trails Tomorrow 

Posted by Admin Saturday, October 02, 2010 1:58:00 PM

The trail guide to the Coast Track has proven to be a bit of a hit with the Coastal Classic run - we've got an incoming link from the good folk at Campbelltown Joggers to the guide, and the page has had visitors into the hundred's checking it out.  Tomorrow I'm off for my final long run before the Fitzroy Falls marathon, and I'll be doing a circular route in the western Royal National Park with a cross-over to the Heathote National Park for the production of my second trail running guide.

This is the route that will be in the Garmin 405 for the morning.

I'm looking forward to the run and having the completed guide available in a week or so.


Edit: I work up to driving rain this morning (Sunday), and opted instead for an easy 22km run from Yowie Bay to Wanda to Bass and Flinders Pt and back.  I don't mind running in the rain, but with Fitzroy Falls less than a week away, I didn't want to risk a big spill on wet, m

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