2008 The North Face 100
Over the weekend of the 17-18 May 2008, I attempted my first ultra marathon. It was set in the scenic Blue Mountains about 2 hours out of Sydney. Below is a summary of my recollection of the event.
On Friday afternoon before the race, I caught a train to the Leura train station from Sydney Central Station. Costing only $12 for a 2 hour trip to the Blue Mountains, a very easy way to get there.
Arriving at Leura, I ventured out to the local shops to get a map and directions to my accommodation, at this point; I hooked up with another runner, Zac (from globetrekker) who was also heading a similar direction. So we had a good chat about the race as we made our way to our respective accommodation.
At about 5.30pm Friday afternoon, I ventured to Race Registration to get the maps and get an idea of who was actually competing in this event! After the registration Zac and I had the buffet. Always good to have a hearty meal before an event, so I dug into the prawns and lasagna especially. During the registration Zac realised I had an excessively large pack for the event – being new to this sort of thing, I was going in with the multi day adventure race in mind (with a huge 30 litre pack), fortunately Zac had a 20 litre one, thqt was the same brand and fit, just a bit smaller, so I borrowed that for the race. This turned out to be a huge blessing, as no other runner had packs bigger than 20 litres.
Had a good night sleep at the Leura York resort, and checked out at 6.15am to give me enough time to get the start line and drop off my 2 drop bags. The drop bag points were at the 52km and 85km points, where we could pick up the bags with additional goodies in them.
Having no real idea about the course was a good thing and a bad thing, on one hand it gave me no fear of what was ahead, the otherside was that I didn’t know when I should eat (carb up) for a big hill or whatever.
The race consisted of 6 legs and 5 checkpoints, each check point was manned and the volunteers offered us with a range ofg energy drink, lollies, fruit buns, carbo shots and hot noodle soups. This was absolutely awsome, as all the other events I normally do, is that we have to provide our own food the whole way, this was a very welcome surprise.
Here is the course profile:
Start (York Fairmont Resort, Leura) – Checkpoint 1 (top of Golden Stairs, Narrow Neck) 15km
With the race briefing over, we were off at 7am sharp. Apparently there was a police escort, by this time I was near the back and had no idea. I figured I would just do my own pace and see how I go. The simple plan of running the flats, and walking the hills seemed to be the common consensus amongst most of the runners. I just hope that I walk faster as well, as I don't want the officials packing up just behind me!
The first leg everyone was in good spirits, lots of chit chat and humorous jokes (Thanks for the chats Steve Cooper), with a bit of road running out of the way, it was straight into the single track, rocks and stairs. Running along the base of the 3 sisters, it was an awesome sight looking up to the cliff faces. Where's Glenn with the camera?
This leg finished with a stumble up the Golden Stairs, approximately 200m straight up. Interesting as my training included only Mt Coot-tha in Brisbane, and that's 100m gradual gradient. All good though, I made it to the top to meet some lovely officials with lollies, bananas and some enduro. Sweet!
Checkpoint 1 (top of Golden Stairs, Narrow Neck) – Checkpoint 2 (Dunphys Camp) 36km
The next leg was on fairly flat fire trail terrain, with a few drop offs. Pretty impressive views across the blue mountains, with clear blue skies and lush green rain forests. Climbing down the steel ladders added a change in muscle usage and a bit of a novelty component.
Checkpoint 2 (Dunphys Camp) – Checkpoint 3 (Old Ford Reserve) 52km
Continuing along the ridge, provided some scenic views, and a good distraction that I had already gone 36km. My body was feeling good, and I was still shuffling along on the flats where possible. This leg had a point that you could establish where some of the other runners were, with a double back of about 2 km, so you knew who was in front, and who was on your tail. Not that I was overly concerned, but it gave me some more motivation to keep going at a reasonable speed.
With a couple of hills in this section, I was starting to get used to the separate 200m climbs
Checkpoint 3 was a welcome sight, getting my drop bag (not that I had much that I could use in it), but it came with a chance to stop and get into some warm gear. As it was now 5pm, the sun was decending fast and the night chill was just upon us.
Checkpoint 3 (Old Ford Reserve) – Checkpoint 4 (Echo Point) 66km
Checkpoint 4 (Echo Point) – Check Point 5 (Queen Victoria Hospital) 86km
The leg started with a 700m decent down the cliff faces, via stairs. We were told unless our legs could handle going down 900 stairs, we should pull out now. No way was I going to stop here... So down the stairs I went. I am sure the views would have been awesome if there was light!
Checkpoint 5 (Queen Victoria Hospital) – Finish (York Fairmont Resort, Leura) 100km
A seemingly easy 15kms to the end, seemed to go for ever. I had a few cases of sleep walking and thought I had missed a couple of turm offs. The markers on this leg were certainly further apart which managed to give me concern a couple of times that I had missed a turn off. Trekking through Wentworth Falls I am sure would have been lovely if 1. It was light 2. One had the energy to look around and appreciate what was around. By this stage the finish line couldn't come soon enough, and after some road running before getting to the finish, I made it to the end, feeling pretty good! I had the usual paranoia that I was going to be over taken by another runner in the last couple of hundred of meters, but I manged to belt out the last 2kms with some regular checking over the shoulder. The Leura Resort was a very welcome sight, although the run around a large part of the resort to get to the finish line was bit of a killer.
Finish time: 23 hours and 36 minutes. Happy to be sub 24 hours!
Results are here
As usual, finishing the race, I sat down to try to rest and recover, and managed to seize up a bit. I had the daunting task of walking back to my hotel, picking up my bag and walking to the train station – probably another 2 kms. Just what I didn’t need. Fortunately one of the partners of another racer (Claire) offered me a lift to the train station. I don’t think she will appreciate how grateful I was!
Thanks also to Matt who met me at Sydney Central with my other bags! A very welcome sight as I was not looking forward to more time on trains than absolutely necessary.
Then it was straight on the next flight home and the road to recovery begins and looking forward to the next AROC / ultra marathon event!