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Running hot and Cold- GNW100 2013

 

Last year was my first attempt at the GNW100 miler. I ended up leaving Checkpoint 5 freezing cold and shivering with hyperthermia, only to return 1.5 hrs later to withdraw and a DNF. This year was going to be different; I could feel it, just how different however, I could never have dreamt!!

 

This year I was going to be a finisher!! I so wanted to be part of a very small family of incredible individuals, the ones that have stood on that beach and have Dave Byrnes put a medal around their necks and say the words “Congratulations, you are a GNW100 Mile finisher”

 

We got to the start, registered, weighed in and then were able to have a great time catching up with fellow runners, some of whom I’ve only met through Face Book, so it was great to finally meet face to face. This year there were only 5 Berowra Bush Runners running, 2 doing the 100K and 3 doing the 100M. We all got together, had pictures taken, and then listened to Dave’s race briefing. It was during this briefing that something really struck home. When I had first looked at the weather forecast 3 days earlier, it had said HOT, then COLD! I had resigned myself back then to take it easy during the day if it did get hot, and leave the running for the cooler times. These thoughts were reiterated by Dave almost word for word during his briefing, and that was when I decided that the most important thing for me is to get to that finish whatever I have to do!

 

Standing on the start line is always great, nothing flash, nothing fancy, just a bit of nervous chatter and a lot of laughter, then 5...4...3..2...1. heeehaaa. The cheers from the crews, supporters, family and friends always bring a tear to my eyes.

The temperature was quite nice at the start, with plenty of cloud cover, if things could stay this way it would be great. Some runners have such great road speed and really took off, I was feeling great and for the first time ran up the whole road including the hill after the railway bridge, but didn’t get my heart rate up. I got chatting to quite a few runners and really enjoyed the whole experience along the road.

 

I began saying “My Race...My Pace” I want to get to the finish!!

 

The climb up to the comms tower at the top of Heaton Gap was pretty much uneventful, just one foot then the next... I must get to the finish! It’s just a hill...get over it!! When I got near the top, I could see two other runners ahead, one of them appeared to be Damian Smith-3rd in last year’s race!, a brilliant and talented runner. Bugger does that mean I’ve gone out way too fast?? Quick stock take, no, heart rate still very low, legs feel great, I haven’t pushed at all yet..All systems go!

 

I met up with Damian and David Heatley (winner of Cradle Mountain) along the fire trail just before you enter the forest. I don’t think I caught them as much as they waited for me, as while chatting with Damian, he asked if I knew the way through the forest and would I lead. Great... two brilliant runners pushing me through the forest, this is going to hurt.

Dave took off once we hit the fire trail about 3k from checkpoint 1, with Damian and I really able to have a great catch-up and to hear about his brilliant performance at the Great Ocean Walk100, what a great guy! He said that he was having a few heel issues and would take his time at the checkpoint to sort it out, which left me to run by myself from then on till the next Checkpoint.

 

My checkpoint strategy is very simple, in and out as fast as possible. Today at checkpoint 1 this was no different. I use Tailwind Nutrition as my sole source of fuel and electrolytes. It pre-mixes easily with water, can be used in backpacks and is used as your hydration source as well, so takes no extra weight or space in your pack. I had premixed Tailwind allowing for 200calories per hour, broken down into two 500ml bottles on my chest pockets and just a little over a litre (10-15 sips/hr for 2 hrs) Salomon s-lab5 pack bladder. My incredible and superhuman crew consisted of my wife Rebekah and my daughter Ryleigh. The use of Tailwind really made things simple, all I had to do was drink 500ml every hour right from the start and I would be staying on top of my nutrition, electrolytes and hydration, nothing else to think of but have fun and enjoy the scenery and experience.

 

I was physically feeling great, and here I was leaving Checkpoint 1 in 5th place in the Miler!! !! I managed to keep my emotions on track however, as I just kept saying it’s a long day and an even longer night ahead, I must get to that finish!

 

Things would however change very quickly along this stretch, the clouds began to clear and the sun came out with all its glory and fury to seek vengeance for being cool last year! Within about half an hour it had gone from tolerably hot conditions to stifling hot with a hot dry wind on top that left your mouth dry a split second after taking a sip of liquid.

 

I needed to slow down, the temp was increasing dramatically and I needed to get to Patonga..at all costs, just slow down.

I ran most of this leg breathing through my nose to keep moisture in my mouth and running from shade to shade (much like my golf) and walked the longer inclines, but managed to keep a reasonable pace for most of the rest of the way into the School.

 

When I got to the School and weighed in, Id lost 1.8 KG (Started at 71), not too bad I thought for these conditions. I said to Bek that my strategy had changed and not to rush, as I planned on making sure I cooled down properly before taking on the next leg in this heat. Ryleigh put ice in my cap and popped it on my head while Rebekah held a bag of ice on the back of my neck and wrists. I wasn’t feeling bad, but just knew that if I wanted to get to the end, I had to cool down and recover as best as possible before moving on, even if it meant an extra 3 or 4 minutes in the checkpoint. I asked Bek to slightly dilute the mix of water and Tailwind in the backpack, but keep the bottles the same. I felt that getting the extra hydration in this heat was more important and that I was on top of my Calories and electrolytes.

 

When I got to the cattle grid I realised that trying to hold a position or run in this heat was just plain stupid for me to attempt, so I began walking. This was probably the hardest mentally as you know that you can run, last year I did! People are catching you and you feel like time stands still, but I just kept repeating “My race, My Pace”, my goal is Patonga at all costs. It made it even harder as they ran past, but still I walked. Oh well, I must get to “Kiss that wood!”

 

The climb up to the top of that Hill was just brutal, there is no other way of putting it, nothing else will ever explain just how tough that was. When I reached the top, I took a few minutes to cool down, I removed my socks and shoes and sat on a log, it was bliss just resting and knowing the major climb is done.

 

I began to run again, feeling pretty strong, and that well, at least for now, the worst of it was over until the climb up to the un-manned water stop. About 3k along the teh fire trail I began to see Paul Cuthbert up ahead, this made me feel better as I was feeling strong and had taken time to cool down but hadn’t lost too much ground. I passed him with about 1k to go before you hit the single track down to Watagan creek. I decided to take a few minutes and fill my hat with water, splash it over me a few times, wash my face and cool off a little, especially since I still had the big climb up to the water station. I saw Martin hack taking a lie down under a shady tree  oposite the creek, he said he was just enjoyng himself and wanted to cool down. I cant tell you how tempting that was.

 

I made it to the un-manned water stop with Paul Cuthbert having caught back up after I took my time at the creek. Michael Miles was sitting there reading a book enjoying being a spectator. I filled by bottles, cooled my head, wet my hat and had a little chat with Michael. His advice was- You’re silly to push the hills now, wait for the cool front later tonight and then push. After feeling refreshed I carried on running, caught back up to Paul and went past after about a kilometre. I didn’t see Paul again until the out and back section after I had left the Basin. I think that climb had really taken a bit out of him.

 

Running into the Basin (checkpoint3) was slippery, just like the forest earlier, loads and loads of dry leaves strewn everywhere. At the Basin my awesome crew were all there cheering, and there in the checkpoint was Paul Monks, just getting ready to leave. Wow, he had come past me at the base of the big climb when I was walking. A quick Tailwind refill, apart from one bottle in the chest pocket being plain water. This next leg, being shorter, would require less calories, and I could use the water to splash my face and over my head, it was still stifling hot. I drank a sip of coke; it was just what sounded good during the really hot part earlier, almost a reward. I had decided that with 12k on the road for the next leg, now would be the time to change into my Hoka One One Bondi’B. Up until now I had been running in my Salomon slab5’s, they were the perfect choice for all the single track, slippery forest and hill climbing we had just done. Now my legs needed protection from the road pounding about to come. Well, putting on the Hokas was a stroke of genius; it was like strapping on a pair of new legs.

 

About halfway along the out and back section, I saw Paul Cuthbert, and not far behind him Damian and Martin Hack. Next I came across Dave Graham aka “Mr Smiles”, we chatted for a few seconds and he said that he was likely going to pull out as he had Coast 2 Kosi in 4 weeks. Climbing out from the basin turnoff, I saw Paul Monk about 40 metres ahead...wow these Hokas have really helped! Its a long way to go, just remember My Race My Pace!! I want a finisher’s medal!! I stayed with Paul to the top of the climb and then feeling strong, began running. About 2k along Rifles rd Paul came up behind and then went straight passed me. My race, My Pace. I kept my rhythm and relaxed pace going, feeling great. I hit the turn off to the single track that takes you to Cedar Brush rd feeling brilliant, and was really able to keep a steady pace through this section, getting to the road ready to run into Yarramalong and checkpoint4.

 

It was about 3k along the road that I caught Paul again, about the exact same time we both caught a glimpse of Dave Heatley not looking very strong...No way! Second place was just 200metres ahead.

Paul and I began chatting about the day and he said that he had taken a wrong turn at the Basin which had cost him about 15 minutes, which must seriously play with your mind. We passed Dave and wished him well. He said that he was done and would be pulling out at the 100k finish at Yarramalong. I really felt for him. It is never nice to see someone that has put the training and effort into something, not achieve their goal on race day. At this stage I still had no idea about the absolute carnage that had unfolded behind us, with many runners having to be pulled at checkpoint 2. My heart really goes out to them, this course was just plain evil today.

 

Well blow me down, Paul and I were in the top 3 of the GNW100! It doesn’t matter I told myself, my goal is that finishers medal! Whatever happens! There's still a long way to go!

 

As we approached checkpoint4, we saw two people exit and couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw it was Brendan Davies and his pacer Ewan Horsbough. I thought Brendan would have been just about at checkpoint 5 by now! Holy dooly, the closest I’d ever been to Brendan Davies in a race was always and only at the start line!

 

After weighing in, I had only lost a total of 2.1KG since the start and was now 68.9. I went to where my super crew and pacer extraordinaire Rob Sharpe, and many other Berowra Bush Runner supporters had gathered. After last year’s experience, I’d learnt to get warm clothes here, just in case, even though it was still warm. I changed shirts, put my safety vest and headlamp on and was ready to go. My crew had changed the bottles, filled the bladder and after a quick photo Rob and I headed out. Still no eating, the only thing I’d been taking all day was Tailwind and I felt great.

 

About 2k up the road from checkpoint4, up Bumble Hill, we came across two headlights through the trees. No! What the heck was going on? As we came closer we were greeted by Ewan and saw Brendan lying on the track. We chatted for a few minutes to see if there was anything we could do or help with or if they needed anything. Brendan said no, just carry on you’re in the lead now! It was like being handed the Olympic flame, I almost cried right then and there. Rob and I ran about 500 metres before I looked at Rob and asked if he’d ever been at the pointy end of a race, as I’d never. We both just laughed, quick lets ring Bek and tell her, she will never believe us!!

 

After we stopped looking over our shoulder to see if Brendan was racing up behind us, I said to Rob that our goal must remain the same. Our goal is that finisher’s medal and no matter how many people come past us, it must remain My Race, My Pace! I want to “Kiss Wood” (he looked strangely at me and said.. “well my pacing duties only go so far Gav”)

 

Time to run Cold! When the rain started, it got really cold on the exposed ridges or higher ground, but it was still stifling hot in the forest and valleys out of the wind. This made for difficult running as we had put our rain jackets on to prevent a repeat of last year, but then got really hot as well. Our strategy was to run everything we could, and keep a good pace up, but take it easy on the hills and any really slippery technical bits, as we wanted to make sure we could get to Patonga. I was using the Petzel Nao headlamp on adjustable brightness and it was like running in the day (an early Chrissie present from Bek, thank you sooo much).

 

Coming into checkpoint5 in Somersby was very surreal. I was the first runner in, and Rebekah and Ryleigh were there and just as happy, it was quite emotional. We all somehow managed to stay focused on the goal of the finisher’s medal as there is still a long way to go and we had no idea who was behind us or how far. A refill of Tailwind, change over head torch batteries just in case and off we went.

 

Our regular Wednesday night runs at Bobbin head really paid off during the decent to the river, a very rocky and uneven track but we managed to fly down, surely we would have to have run one of the fastest times down Rob said, I agreed and said that if we get passed, it would be by someone that had run an amazing and fast last half of the race and they would thoroughly deserve the win, as we were giving it everything we could.

 

We arrived at checkpoint 6, 15 minutes earlier than projected, so while I weighed in, Rob went and woke Bek and Ryleigh up in the car. We did another quick change, batteries, Tailwind and off we went. This time being warned by Bek that if we didn’t win, she would kick our butts...I got quite emotional here and began to cry at just the thought that I was almost within reach of running down the beach with Bek, Ryleigh and Rob. My Race, My Pace.

 

At the unmanned water stop (which I didnt see, even though I was standing right next to it) Rob did a quick jig as he had now run further than he’d ever run before!! I let him know that once we got to the quarry, I would begin to think that maybe, just maybe we were going to do this! When we reached the Quarry I said that no, when we reached the Road to Patonga and crossed it that then, maybe then we were going to do this! When we reached the road, No still not yet, when we get to the final downhill then! Then we can celebrate!! Running along the road to the last downhill we were being followed by the news crew and every time we wanted to stop and walk, they would appear so we just had to keep running!

 

At the very top of the last decent, it was so fitting to see none other than Michael Miles (un-manned water stop on leg 3) he gave us a high five and congratulated us on being the winners. I think this is the point where it began to sink in! Yes! Yes we were going to do this, but not only were we going to get that finishers medal, we were going to win THE GNW100m, to me, the holy grail of Ultras in Australia.

 

We exited from the bush track and headed towards the car park section. This is when I first heard the bell ringing, signalling a runner coming, and it was for me! Me! I was about to finish the GNW100m, I was about to look Dave Byrnes in the eye and hear him say the words “Congratulations, you are a GNW100mile finisher”. Rebekah and Ryleigh came down the beach to meet us and this is when the tear ducts just gave up, I couldn’t see for the tears. I was about to achieve the unachievable, winning the GNW100mile. Running along the beach like that with Bek, Ryleigh and Rob, the very people that had gotten me there was a feeling I’ll never ever forget and one that I will treasure forever. Thank you so much guys, I can never thank you enough and a very fitting way to finish as a team!

 

Kissing that post just bought about so much emotion, emotion held back for so long that to let it out finally was such a sense of achievement. Then the moment Id been training for, the moment I'd been dreaming about, the moment I'd been running since yesterday for. Dave held up the medal, placed it around my neck and said “Congratulations, you are a deserved Finisher of the GNW100Miler”

 

Life is great; sometimes things just go your way!

 

Thank you to everyone that is involved in this Iconic race. A special thank you to the volunteers who were always willing to help, with smiles abound no matter what time of the day or night, hot or cold, you are amazing people! To all those that finished and those that were unfortunate in not achieving their goals, my hats off to you for giving it your all, and I look forward to the next time we share the trails together. To Dave Byrnes, thank you for your tireless efforts, not only on the day when you seem to somehow be everywhere, but for the endless months of preparation in putting this great race together. And finally to my Crew and Pacer, without you guys, your support, help and enthusiasm (as well as your threats at the last checkpoint Bek) I would never have been able to stand, look Dave in the eye and receive that finisher’s medal. I am proudly a GNW100M finisher!!

Pam Kiss - Melbourne Ironman 2014

 

Well, I had the most amazing race experience and I am still pinching myself to make sure I didn’t just dream it.

 

Luke, I can’t thank you enough for your guidance through this journey. I must admit that I have been a pretty nerdy student and done just about everything that the boss has asked of me but it all paid off in the end and I am one very happy Ironman.

 

JI had a great swim apart from leaking goggles all the way through. I must have been pulled along in the wash as I felt really strong and was rapt to see my time of 1:04. I took my time in transition and made sure everything was right before I headed out again.

 

It was a bit hard to keep my confidence up on the bike as I was being constantly passed and was beginning to wonder if there was anyone left behind me. I had to keep telling myself to stick to my race plan and not to worry about it, but it was getting me down after a while. I was amazed when I got to the last 45kms that I still had enough energy to push that bit harder into that horrible wind, and I started passing some of them.Again, I took my time in transition and headed out easily on the run enjoying the crowds. I had my Garmin set to show my average pace and made sure I didn’t go out too hard.

 

Apart from my right hamstring tightening and causing a bit of grief, I had a great run. I stayed at the same pace nearly the whole way and was again amazed that in the last couple of kms I had enough energy to push that bit harder and finish off my race feeling so good.

 

To come in just under 12 hours was something that I didn’t really think was possible.My whole race plan just seemed to come together. I didn’t eat anything for the whole day, I just stuck to my 200 calories per hour of Tailwind in my drink bottles and I was never even tempted to take any of the food along the way. No stomach issues at all and I felt awesome.

 

It has taken me a long time to realise that going out too hard at the start of each leg is where I have been going wrong as I have always burnt out and really struggled towards the end. So, at the ripe old age of 56, I have finally learned to pace myself and find that I have energy left at the end. I pulled up so well, that the next day I felt like I could almost do it again as I wasn’t even sore.

 

Maybe I should have gone a bit harder, but my goal was to finish with enough energy left to jump across the finish line with a big smile on my face, and I couldn’t be happier with how it all went.

Chris Papadopoulos - Obsatcle Racer

Event

Spartan Ultra Beast - 42km - 50+ Obstacles - 1700m of elevation throughout the course - 34 deg Celsius - Completed in 9hrs 50min non-stop

 

I have never done a race of this length before. I have not even run 42km, let alone an obstacle race of this distance. I did my research for endurance events and this was the summary of my findings:

500-700ml of water per hour

200-350 calories per hour

This made for some complex calculations for energy gels, fruit bars, energy bars, sports drinks, etc. I was prepared for that too, and had trialed it when I did 2 laps of the Tough Mudder course about 6 weeks ago, and also 2 laps of the Spartan Super 3 weeks ago. I found that after having a banana, gel or a fruit/nut bar that it slowed me down. Felt a little weak, lethargic and needed to go to the toilet too.

When I learned of Tailwind and did some reading, I thought that it was the most sensible thing ever; if it actually worked. I was very skeptical that this would work better or just as well as eating whole foods or gels, and at the same time, still be as refreshing as water and not over power the taste buds. Boy am I glad I was wrong! 

I was initially impressed on how clear the powder mixed into water and there were no bits left at the bottom. The next thing was the taste. No issue at all! I had the lemon flavour, and sometimes I could barely taste it, which kept it at a good intensity unlike flavoured sports drinks.

It was going to be 34 degrees on race day and we had one stop at half way where we could put a box of whatever we wanted. Mine contained 2 large water bottles, pre-mixed with Tailwind. Each bottle had 1.1L of water mixed with 400 Calories of Tailwind (about 2L would last me 4hrs @ 200 calories/hr - that was the plan). My Geigerrig carried 2L in the bladder and I took an extra 600ml of water just in case. The bladder was filled with the Tailwind solution. I also took 3 extra gels and 2 fruit bars.

15 mouthfuls per hour was approximately 0.5L of solution, so I just kept count and made sure I maintained.

I ran with some other athletes for some portions of the race and noticed that they needed to stop to a slow walking pace to eat, and some didn't even take in calories for the time I was with them; just water. These people were ahead of me by 30min by halfway mark. Most people stopped here and had something to eat, banana, gels, bars, etc. I simply emptied my pre-mixed bottles into my bladder and then kept going. Saved me quite a bit of time here too.

Due to the simplicity of my plan thanks to Tailwind, I was able to pass those people that were ahead of me after the half way mark as they were burnt out from lack of nutrition planning. I ended up finishing the course ahead of them by more than 50min.

As for the bars and gels I carried with me, they were given away on the course to various people that were cramping and had run out of nutrition. I had absolutely no need for them.

From 7:15am until 5:05pm I had nothing else apart from Tailwind mixed into my water. Never felt hungry or weak... Only thing that slowed me down (and all the others as well, were severe cramps in my VMO and adductors - inner thigh) - Nothing to do with nutrition (or very little), was due to being unable to train weeks leading up due to stress fracture in foot.

I heard about Tailwind from a fellow obstacle racer, trusted all the reviews I read, and gave it a crack. Total success!

Anyway, long story short - Tailwind worked a treat and got me through no issues. No Gels, bars, GU's, no digestive distress, tasted refreshing, mixed absolutely clear with water.... and consumed literally NOTHING else!

 

Thanks Tailwind! Look forward to my long trail runs in 2014 and all my long obstacle races! ;)

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