Thursday, May 19, 2011


Myself and about 800 others lined up for a 100km jog through the Blue Mountains last weekend at the 4th edition of The North Face 100. The weather was pretty much perfect for running with clear skies and temps around 2-11 degrees in Katoomba, which felt a little chilly at the start but once on the move felt just right. Most of the first 5k on the course is actually on bitumen which I didn't like, but it passed fairly quickly and we were soon on some really nice singletrack and I felt much more at home. It wasn't long before we started to hit some of the stairs which a lot of the trails in the Blue Mountains are known for. Due to my reluctance to do any kind of training that I don't enjoy, I hadn't done any stair running leading up to this event..this was a mistake! There are hundreds of stairs on this course and I really suffered on some of them going up and down. I felt generally comfortable and relaxed through the first checkpoints at 18 and 38k, where I filled up my water and grabbed some mandarines (don't seem to work as well as oranges). I ran and chatted with Paicey a bit on Narrowneck as well as a few others travelling at a similar speed. Congrats to Paicey and all the other QLD crew, Robbie, Steve, Danielle, Luke, Sean, Mark and others. Robbie and Steve were on fire, both running around 12.5hrs! 

The first low point for me was at around the 40k mark on the steep descent from Ironpot ridge, despite leaning heavily on my poles, my knees really protested here and I had to stop and give them a break on the really steep sections. I came into the 54k aid station in 6.40 felling pretty good apart from some knee and quad soreness. I stopped here a bit longer than planned (12min) due to my usually very reliable crew, Sal, being late! Initially I did get slightly stressed about this when the rest of the group I had been running with left while I waited around, eventually I relaxed and realised a few minutes of extra rest would probably do me good. After some flat/rolling fireroad we got to some nice rolling singletrack on the Six Foot track before the hardest climb on the course, Nellies Glen. After 60k the 400+ steep stairs on this climb are brutal! 

I came into the 67k aid station in 8.30, inhaled some chips and a PB&J sandwich and got going on the long leg to the last aid station at 89k. After a few ks of mostly easy running on the tourist trails around Katoomba I came to the Giant Staircase, the hardest part of the course for me. My pace down the hundreds of steep stairs into the valley below slowed to barely moving and there was nothing I could do about it, my knees just refused to take the abuse. I went down backwards on some of the steeper sections and also stopped a few times to give my knees a rest. It was a relief to hit the bottom and my knees and quads immediately felt better on the flat which I was able to run without to much discomfort. The last long climb up Kedumba is quite easy (no stairs-low angled fireroad) but I had forgotten to eat for a little while and suddenly felt a little light headed and started to move very slowly, so I stopped for a minute and forced down a couple of gels and put on my headlamp. With a few k to go before the last aid station I also ran out of water, I will start with 2 litres for this leg next time. 

Heading for the bright lights with 11k to go.

I came in to the 89k aid station at just over 12 hours, I knew from talking to Darren about his run last year and looking at the splits that this section could take a while. It took me close to two hours to cover 11K!! The first few k out of the aid station is an uninspiring stretch of slightly uphill bitumen which I was unable to run. Most of the course after this is on nice technical - but slow - singletrack until you pop out onto the grass at the Fairmont resort for a short jog to the finish line. I came over the line in 13.58.54, a time I'm very happy with, just sneaking in for a silver buckle. 99 runners made it in under 14 hours this year and 59 last year so maybe we'll see the silver buckle time drop to 13 hours in future editions!

GPS details are here (the elevation is way out, should be around 4000m, and I forgot to stop it for 10min at the end)

I can't help but compare this event to Bogong to Hotham, which I ran for the first time in January. If you have read my B2H report you will know how highly I rate it, I really can't recommend it enough. B2H is a stunning point to point course with demanding terrain, run mostly on singletrack with very few course markings and there is no bitumen or urban element.. Bogong feels like a bit of an adventure. Having said that I did enjoy TNF100 (mostly). It's a huge challenge and the views out over the steep valleys and up at the impressive orange cliffs were fantastic. Body willing I'll be back next May. 

Now that I have enough qualifying points I just need to decide if I'll enter the UTMB lottery to celebrate my 40th birthday next year!..or maybe Western States? To be honest, I'm shit scared of both!


Shoes - Montrail Rockridge - great
Pack - Ultimate Direction Wasp - 390 - perfect, the standout piece of gear
Bladder - Platy Hoser 1 - 100 - should have swapped to bigger Platy for the long leg
Poles - BD Z pole Ultra - 260/pr - cut off wrist loops, perfect
Headlamp - BD Storm - 110 - great
Backup headlamp - BD Ion - 30 - mandatory
R'Jacket - OR Helium - 180 - mandatory. didn't use
R'pants - Golite Reed - 160 - mandatory. didn't use, had to carry from CP4
Fleece - Patagonia Capilene 4 - 220 - mandatory. wore on last leg, got a bit warm
Thermal top - TNF GTD - 120 - mandatory. wore the whole way. like Cap 2 better
Thermal bottom - polypro - 110 - mandatory. didn't use
Beanie - Buff - 20 - mandatory. wore early and late
Gloves - polypro - 40 - mandatory. wore early and late
Reflective vest - 150 -mandatory. we had to wear this on the last leg
Space blanket - 70 -mandatory
Compression bandage - mandatory
Matches-                           "
Firelighter-                       "
Whistle -                          "
Drysack -                          "
Maps -                              "

I also used Gurney Goo and had zero chaffing

Yep, this event has a serious amount of mandatory gear!

Fuel - eLoad gels (every 30 min), eLoad Zone caps (2 an hour), a few PB&J sandwichs, some plain chips, a few mandarines, a fruit bun and some chocolate biscuits

Thanks to the AROC crew and all the volunteers for a great event.

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