Taking part in an event like Badwater reminds me of my performing arts days when I was in dress rehearsal and performance week for a show. Both of these experiences are like entering into a cocoon where you interact very little with those outside of that experience, and it feels like your whole world revolves around the preparation for that show or race. It is utterly consuming and your focus and commitment are at an all time high.
I flew to Las Vegas from NYC and was met at the airport by John Vigil – the “Stretch Doctor” who I met in India in 2011. John was on the crew for Molly Sheridan during The High and I was lucky enough to get a fascial stretch therapy session with him prior to the race beginning. My body really responded to this technique that I searched for someone in Australia to work with (Keith Bearne). The Stretch Doctor was the crew captain for TeamCath and this was his fifth time being on a crew for Badwater – he also crewed Cath at Badwater in 2012. It wasn’t long until I realised that John’s experience would be vital to our teams success.
After a much needed nights sleep after being on the go all over the world for over a month, John and I went back to the airport to pick up the rest of the team. First we stumbled across Mathieu Dore, a delightfully endearing and athletically talented French Canadian. Mathieu had met Cath at a race in upstate New York in 2012, although only spending an hour together, Cath had invited Mathieu to be on her crew after he graciously gave her his gloves during the race after seeing her desperately try to warm her hands up. I soon learnt that Mathieu was the kind of guy who would do whatever he could to make other people’s lives easier. He gave his sunglasses to Cath the morning of the race because she left her pair back at the hotel and his upbeat yet calm personality was something the crew and Cath needed in the challenges during the race.
Mathieu, John and I picked up Cath (the amazing runner) and her Dubai training partner Angeline Tache Wehbe. Angeline, another Australian living in Dubai, had faced the humidity of Dubai and run at all un- respectable hours to prepare Cath for the task of Badwater. Angeline is a running coach in Dubai, is a speedy marathon runner, as well as being the sweetest nurturer out there.
After checking into the Caesar’s Palace we spent the next 24 hours picking up last minute gear items, food for the runner and crew and then packing the Mother Ship. Although we had all just met, we were connecting well and starting to learn each other’s strengths that would play an integral role in the race.
John was Mr Logistics and knew the Badwater course like the back of his hand. We also knew he would be pacing Cath for the final climb up Mt Whitney. Angeline was going to be Cath’s emotional support in the instance that she went to a dark place, she was also going to pace Cath during the significant downhill sections of the course. In addition to being a highly accomplished personal training and ultra-marathon runner Mathieu is a nutritionist which gave Cath confidence that she would overcome the nutritional challenges she had in her Badwater race last year. I probably had the greatest experience racing in heat comparable to Badwater and would pace Cath through the hottest stages.
As much as we hypothesised and planned over how we would pace and tackle certain challenges we were all aware that everything could change once the race started.
As we drove to Death Valley in a vehicle crammed with luxury Voss water, ice eskies and all of our gear, the chatter continued about Cath’s race goals and her reasons for doing the race. Cath’s was racing and raising money for the rehabilitation and treatment for her friend Rich Holland -
In October 2011, whilst training for an Ironman Race, Rich was hit from behind by a car, sustaining multiple life-threatening injuries. These included: broken ribs, punctured lungs, a fractured sternum, fractured right fibula, and severe injuries to his brain. His brain injuries are substantial, the worst of which is a contusion on his brain stem which caused an immediate coma. Rich has what is known as a severe Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and the specific condition he has been left with is known as locked-in-syndrome.
Due to the type of brain injury that Rich sustained in this awful accident, his brain has a loss of motor messages sent to his body and this means he is unable to move his body voluntarily at all. Only time and intense neuro rehab will tell if this motor control will be regained.
All of the crew felt very committed and passionate to helping Cath achieve her goal and we knew it was going to be a demanding race on all of us – having only one vehicle whilst many competitors had two.
I could go on for a long time about the pre-race preparation, but for all of Cath’s training she left many of her final decisions to the last minute. This included what she would wear, what she would eat and the writing down of her race strategy. Of course she had considered these things beforehand, but she was open to new ideas up until the morning of the race. The race gods must have been smiling on her because this strategy actually worked for her as she ended up wearing a yellow/sun protective race buff that was included in the race package. Cath is convinced this played a dramatic role in keeping her considerably cooler than she was the previous year, and the temperature was much higher this year.
For the first 17 miles of the race, Cath (and all of the runners) would run by themselves. Our crew would stop every 750m to 1km and spray Cath down with water, offer her fresh bottles of iced water, aqualyte solution and food – this required us to stretch ourselves along the side of the road as she ran by. We planned to rotate her nutrition from salt and savoury items – small portions, very regularly. Considering Cath was averaging 6.5minute/kms for the first 65kms this would mean we would stop every 5minutes (approx). Within a few minutes of crewing I realised this was going to be incredibly demanding on the crew and there would be very limited, if any opportunity to rest. Without a doubt the hardest race to crew that i know of.
Cath was a clever cookie and went out conservatively. This was in contrast to many runners in the 10am wave (there was also 6am and 8am wave starts).
Cath completed the first 17 miles in 2:52 and was near the back of the 10am wave start. She then picked up Angeline as a pacer as John, Mathieu and I filled up the Mothership with more ice at Furnace creek. For the next three hours, Angeline, Mathieu and I paced (by running behind Cath) for 30 minutes at a time. On our first rotation we were all shocked with the intensity of the heat. I must confess I was nervous about my ability to be able to pace for long periods at a time. The first 42 miles (67 kilometres) are the hottest down below sea level in Death Valley, but by my second time out I had adjusted to the suffocating feeling of the heat and wind and was had calmed my mind down to the task of helping Cath move along the course.
During this period we passed many runners including New Zealand Amy Campbell who was running Badwater for her first time. She was looking strong and focused and I thought we may see her again later in the race.
After Mathieu completed his second 30minute pacing session his face turned pale and he told me he had to switch out, I took over pacing as we moved through Stovepipe Wells (41 miles) in a total time of 7:47. The head wind had picked up and many runners were walking this section, Cath feeling well had the opportunity to move past a few more competitors over a few km incline section. I couldn’t believe how well she was moving and her technique looked very comfortable – clearly an experienced runner over a long distance.
When I went into the vehicle I saw that Mathieu had been really sick and was working hard to recover so he could get back out to pace Cath. With one crew member temporarily out of action, there was more jobs for the non-pacer to cover in order to support Cath in the way she needed to be. Efficiency was crucial and communication between the pacer, driver and crew person was honed in beautifully.
As the sun started to fade and Cath was close to the downhill section (which she planned on pushing the speed up) she needed to look at her heel which had already formed into a blister. Cath tended to this earlier on with some compeed but she needed to remove the compeed as it was rubbing further. We all cringed as a large piece of skin ripped away and a gaping hole in her heel was oozing. A few sternly worded sounds came from Cath’s mouth before she went through a series of options to remedy this situation. After 15 minutes we added a thick protective layer with a hole cut out over the open blister. Cath’s shoes no longer fitted her feet and luckily my spare pair of Brooks fitted her and off we went down the hill. I know Cath must have been in worlds of pain but she didn’t mention her feet again for the rest of the race. TROOPER!!!!
Angeline joined Cath on the 12km+ downhill stage and boy did they fly. At times they were going 4:30km/pace and crewing for them required us to prepare her drinks and food whilst the car flew down the hill. We would jump out of the car run beside Cath as we gave her food and as we switched drinks with Angeline. Everyone was working hard and it paid off as we passed Dean Karnazes before heading to Panamint Springs (72miles). Mathieu continued with Cath through this checkpoint as John, Angeline and I picked up more ice, food, coffee and checked the leader board. It was here that we realised that Cath was only 25 minutes behind Pam Reed and currently placing second female in the race. There was so many people based at this checkpoint, dealing with stomach problems, sleep deprivation, etc. It took us over an hour to get back to Cath and Mathieu and poor Matty was looking pale again as he jumped into the vehicle and John took over pacing up the hill.
The next few hours saw us overcome early signs of Cath’s fatigue by feeding her noodles and getting some coffee into her. She slowed her pace into the Darwin checkpoint (90 mile) as we steadily climbed whilst the sun came up behind us. This was the first and only time that Cath stopped at a checkpoint, she changed her shorts into a skirt due to some minor chaffing, changed out of her reflective gear, had her legs rubbed and drank some coffee from our (secret weapon) french press coffee maker. Although she had walked part of this section her pace was fast and very consistent.
After a 10 minute stop we realised that Pam couldn’t be too far away as her second crew vehicle drove back to see how far behind we were. Cath refusing to be influenced by someone else’s race headed off with Mathieu. As crew and runner dealt with a few sleep and weather demons we had to get back into the day-time crew groove. Crewing in a race such as this really requires everyone to not be sensitive and to have the ability to make light of challenging situations. Luckily John and I embraced this mentality during our weary periods.
From weary individuals to sparked up crew members within an instant when we saw Pam and her crew ahead approximately 1.5kms away. Determined to continue sticking to our plan, Cath only moved slightly quicker once hearing this news. Her focus became streamlined and she required constant reminding on how far we had gone and how far it was to the next checkpoint. Considering all of the race information was in miles, we also had to convert everything into kms. Somehow this was a challenge for a tired minds in addition to all of the other crew tasks.
Within a matter of 10kms or so, we were right behind Pam and I was the fortunate crew member to be pacing Cath as we strongly passed legendary Pam Reed around the 118mile mark. It was the most exciting running moment I have had – and I wasn’t even the runner (crazy huh!). No one felt tired anymore and everyone knew the remaining 17 miles would be intense as we would now be feeling like the hunted dog.
Although we constantly looked behind we couldn’t see Pam behind us as Cath’s pace kicked a few gears quicker. As we headed into Lone Pine (122 miles) we had a 24 minute lead. John took over as pacer at this point and he paced t
he remaining 13 miles to the finish. John was the perfect man for this job and I give him credit for looking after Cath during this 3:41 hours. No doubt Cath was stressed about being caught. For a short period her pace wavered and the rest of us were concerned that Pam would bridge the gap if she was feeling strong. You can never underestimate someone as experienced and talented as Pam. With some encouragement by all of us to increase her pace, Cath stepped it up and I her focus was went to a level that I didn’t think was possible after everything she had gone through. On top of wanting to become first female she knew she was going to be on the line to getting a sub- 30 hour.
The heat was punishing and it was a difficult couple of hours for the crew as we were trying to get everything right from our end.
As Cath power walked the last windy turn to the finish line and we joined her side we were all overcome with emotion as Cath crumbled to the ground at the finish line. In fact I am tearing up remembering how Cath went from being ultra focused to completely vulnerable in that final step. She had achieved every goal she set out for herself and as a crew member you really felt that you played a role in helping her to do so.
In addition to my pride in Cath and amazement at her athletic prowess and mental determination, I feel so blessed to have been apart of this experience. Our team was amazing and I have made some beautiful friendships that I will cherish forever.
I woke up at 7pm tonight and I was in a complete daze. I couldn’t remember where I was but I knew I was somewhere in public and I was hoping my clothes were on. As I looked around it came back to me, I am in Nice and I have just watched the time trial of the Tour de France where the Aussie team Orica-GreenEdge dominated. Yes, that’s right, I had made my way to the rocky beach afterwards and fell asleep in the sun (and I did have my clothes on when I checked).
The past two weeks have been a whirlwind. I flew to London via LA and after 35hours in transit I caught up with friends for two days before heading to Edinburgh for the Film Festival. Talented filmmaker Jennifer Steinman had finished a 90 minute feature documentary-movie ‘Desert Runners‘ that was having its world premiere at the festival. I joined the production team of Jennifer, Yael Melamede (Producer of Oscar winning film Inocente), and Diana Iles Parker doing press for Desert Runners, which was interesting for me as I had yet to see the film.
As I watched Desert Runners on the Saturday afternoon with friends from some of the desert races and a friend from the UK, I experienced the whole gamut of emotions (there was laughter, tears and also cringe worthy moments). There have been several reviews written about Desert Runners and it seems it is well liked – so I am not being biased when I say it is a beautifully crafted documentary. From my perspective, it is an accurate portrayal of the experiences faced by those who tackled the four desert races in 2010. It is not so much a film about running, rather it is a film that looks at the mindset and intentions of those who embark on a challenge such as this. I am super proud of Jen and her team and look forward to seeing where the film will go next.
After Edinburgh I headed back to London for more catch ups, training and then onto the Lake District for the Clifbar10Peaks race. I don’t even know where to start with this race. There are minimal flat sections and as the name describes you have to summit the 10 highest peaks in the Lake District.
My first time at a navigation based race and I suppose I failed in this component by relying on the navigational skills of my friend Mr O’Dwyer. A good team we were as I took the role of dictating the pace. The race began at 4am, so we were up from 2:30 to get to the start point. It was a super long day and the terrain was very unforgiving.
We were either running on/amongst big boulders, through muddy bogs or sliding down sheer slippery rocks. Definitely something new for me. I nearly pulled the plug a few times after a big rock fell on my toe and every subsequent step felt rather painful. Somehow my spirits were lifted by a marshall after the 9th peak (still over 20kms to go) and I decided I was going to see out the race till the finish line.
As you do in most races, Dave and I ran with some great people and the banter was a plenty for the long day out. All in all a pretty great experience and superb training for TDG in September. We found out today that out of the 150 competitors that started the long course, only 45% finished in the 24 hour cut off. It still blows my mind that 75kms can take so long to complete but you only have to look at the photos to get a glimpse at how challenging the terrain is.
When I was in primary school and my teacher asked the class “what do you want to be when you grow up?” my answer was either “a lawyer or an actor”. When I had that same opinion in the later years of high school my Dad (the engineer/accountant/businessman) would tease me and say “being an actor or a lawyer are virtually the same thing”. Despite my Dad’s jest, I pursued both of these career paths through to university where I studied a double bachelors degree in Performing Arts and Law.
I would change my preference in these vocations dependant on the enjoyment my law subjects gave me versus the pleasure I derived from the plays I performed in and movement/vocal classes I participated in. My performing arts posse became my family and during performance season we lived and breathed our characters and our “acting family”, which meant my focus on my impending law exams would fade.
After completing my honours in Performing Arts I had all but abandoned my law degree, until I decided to spend a summer volunteering in a few Indigenous Communities in the Northern Territory. It was here that my passion for what a career in law could bring rose to the surface…. the opportunity to change policy and potentially have a role in bridging the gap in the areas of health and education for Indigenous Australians, through law. So back to law school I went and I immersed myself in my studies and was lucky two years out of completing my degree to secure a graduate placement at international law firm Baker & McKenzie. With the security of a fantastic job in a few years time I decided to expand my horizons by accepting a legal internship in Texas and embark on my first ultra marathon in Chile.
Both of those two experiences changed my focus and as I completed the Four Deserts Grandslam that year – I became hooked onto living an adventurous life and working towards social justice in different fields. I felt so lucky that I found a partner in life that had a similar vision..
Over the past three and a half years, I have been a research clerk, graduate lawyer and then a junior associate at Baker & McKenzie (B&M). For those who know me well (or even not so well) will know that I have worked hard to simultaneously pursue my other passions whilst being a lawyer. To the dismay of some people in the corporate law firm & also to the delight of others, I decided to cross the Simpson Desert whilst raising money for Save the Children within the first 6 months of starting work at B&M. Potentially a career limiting move but I was stubborn in not wanting a career in law to prevent me from doing the other things that I loved and cared about.
At the end of last year I took the last of my annual leave to join Ray Zahab and Impossible2Possible, on a trip to Botswana for a youth ambassador expedition. What an experience!! These experiences taught me that i could live both “an adventurous life” and work “towards social justice” in such a unique way. My constant tension was having enough time to be able to do this.
Deciding to leave my job at B&M (with my final day being yesterday) was a difficult one in some sense but also one of the most liberating choices I have made. Change is frightening to so many people but it is something that I constantly seek and never want to be afraid of.
I have five weeks off where I am travelling to the UK, Europe and the States for a variety of projects. Most excitingly is that I am attending the world premiere of the Desert Runners Movie at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. Amongst all of the projects I will be using this time to refocus and prepare myself for my new job and 2014 running project. Upon my return I will be joining the dynamic, fresh and ridiculously good-looking team at Wealth Enhancers – their motto “a place where dreaming is mandatory, planning is our culture, growing is a daily occurrence, and achievement is normal…” More of those adventures later – but needless to say I am buzzing with ideas and excitement for the next chapter.
Over the past year I have had the delight to be the National Crusader for the League of Extraordinary Women (the League). It sounds like a grand title for an even grander organisation and what the League is achieving in the space of motivating and mentoring female entrepreneurs (particularly young females) is incredible. I feel honoured to be a part of the League whose mission is to create a ‘real opportunity for women to get together to be inspired, empowered and to create long last relationships.’
The four founders, the State Crusaders and myself each take turns writing blogs each week and there is a great resource of material accumulating. The blogs vary from discussions of social media and marketing; how to work smarter rather than harder; questioning the commerciality, scalability and profitability of your business; how women can form strong business relationships and I personally focus many of my blogs on the power of the mind/mental health/efficiency and of course how you can use your passion (for me sport) for the benefit of the wider community.
My recent post ‘How stressed are you today?’ was provoked after reading a leadership article on Smart Blog and reflecting on the attitude to stress in a corporate context. Food for thought for many of us - http://www.leagueofextraordinarywomen.com.au/how-stressed-are-you-today
The race season is in full force and most weekends are now packed with great adventures all across Australia and New Zealand. Just over the past few weekends, trail and ultra runners have had the choice of running at the inaugural Brooks Mount Baw Baw Trail Run Fest, Six Foot Track Marathon, Tarawera Ultra Marathon, Roller Coaster Run, Alpine Challenge- to just name a few. Gone are the days when these events were few and far between!!
I get pretty excited when I look at all of these choices and I cannot help but want to fit in as many adventures and play runs as possible - including a variety of distances, different types of terrain and formats of races. One of the my ongoing concerns is making sure I spend enough time “recovering” so I can fit in as much as possible. I am lucky to be trained by Ray Zahab and as he monitors my training and races – he is quickly learning the signs of when I am fatiguing and not producing quality runs. He definitely notices that my performance is impacted if my hours at work are long and my levels of stress are high – luckily running is also a way of reducing that stress for me, although it doesn’t always lead to quick times.
After increasing my training and intensity, I thought I would write on one of my methods to “recover”.
Compression tights – CW-X
There are many thoughts on the benefits of compression and although I wouldn’t say that all compression garments are beneficial for recovery, I truly believe the right compression can definitely aid in increased performance and recovery. You will often catching me wearing colourful striped full length or 3/4 tights during a race and you will ALWAYS see me in them after a race. I have been super lucky to be supported by CW-X since I started doing ultras/trail running in 2010 and I couldn’t speak more highly of the products and the brand.
Many people in Australia might not know of CW-X but they are big in the States and Japan and are starting to be worn by more and more athletes in Australia.
Dan Bleakman from Ultra 168 and I provided some thoughts on CW-X compression tights in an article last year which provides some discussion on their support and comfort.
Although I love the patterns on the tights (which stand out and are far more fun than any other compression garments I have seen), the best feature is CW-X’s targeted kinesiology support web – which depending on the garment you choose targets the lower back, hamstrings, medial knee, lower abdominals, lower back, itb, hamstrings, knees and calves. This is designed to support key muscles and joints in the same way that kinesiology taping is applied by sports medicine professionals. The high grade compression facilitates circulation during and after activity, minimising the lactic acid build up, so hopefully you can run for longer and longer… During my run across the Simpson I started wearing my short shorts for the first 100kms. As the run progressed I was feeling pain in my knees and my ITB was getting tighter and tighter. There was a moment during the first night that I was in so much pain that I didn’t know how I was going to continue. As the temperature dropped I transitioned into my StabilyX Tight and I noticed that the pain slowly started to subside. I would like to take credit for toughing it out but I am pretty sure that the additional support in my medial knee and lower back assisted.
During the day I transitioned into the 3/4 StabilyX Tight. Even in extreme temperatures, they were incredible breathable and light due to the UV protection rating and being predominately made from coolmax fabric. Importantly I had no issues of chaffing which I unfortunately get when I wear loose shorts for long distances.
I find it hard to be scientific in my discussion of why something works for me, which is a good thing I guess because I am clearly not needing to worry or focus about it when I am running. As the photos shows below, I even like to wear my tights when I am patting goats.
After a big month of work I had been desperately looking forward to escaping to the mountains as a chance to relax and breathe in some fresh air. I had become a wound up ball of stress and I was struggling to find perspective and unwind each night when I came home from work. My patient, loving and supportive fiance (Dr Dan) watched as I furiously packed my gear after flying back from Sydney and commented that this weekend away was exactly what the Doctor ordered.
The running joke in our house and now amongst my running friends is that I have a manual car which I cannot drive. I say I have been too busy to learn this new skill (of manual driving) but I think I probably enjoy having the chance to tune out as I get driven around. Because of my incompetence I had put up a plea on the Brooks Trail Run Fest facebook page for a lift to Mount Baw Baw. Jono Stiberc was super kind and offered to pick me up from my place and we spent a fun car ride as we chattered the whole way, got lost, went to a bar in the middle of nowhere to ask for directions (Jono drank a beer because he was scared not to) and arrived quite late on Friday night.
Chris Ord had organised for a crew of us to stay at Frosti Lodge in Mount Baw Baw and I was so grateful to be looked after and to share accommodation with old and new friends. I had been so frantic with my packing that I hadn’t prepped any of my gear for the mornings race, so I spent the next hour getting my race nutrition sorted and laying my clothes out. The alarm went off at 6am and I felt like I had hardly slept a wink as I walked over to the bus that was taking us down the mountain – so we could run from Walhalla to the top of Mount Baw Baw.
Despite not feeling race ready I was so happy to be there that as I spoke to good friend Nikki Wynd before the race begun I felt a few tears well up in my eyes – I couldn’t quite explain or understand why I was so overcome with emotion. After a detailed pre-race briefing we were off or should I say we were up.
We started on the road which inclined up before leveling out and entering the windy and slightly undulating trails. I got myself in a steady rhythm almost entering a meditative state for the first 10 – 12kms. After this point thing became progressively more challenging. We took a left hand turn across a bridge and had to navigate along a very narrow single trail with overgrown roots. The heat was really starting to beat down and I couldn’t smoothly transition from running to power walking to running – I felt very clunky.
I was happy when we left this section but the next 12kms became steeper and my legs felt like lead and sluggish. I was fatiguing far more quickly than normal and my body was doing a few things that told me this wasn’t going to be my day. As I neared the midway checkpoint I saw Dave Eaddie and asked for his advice on what I should do as I described what was happening. He confirmed what I was thinking that it was probably best for me to stop a few kms ahead, have a rest and if I felt better head out for another run in the late afternoon. Despite having this in the back of my mind I decided to continue a little longer past the checkpoint but there was a voice in my head that kept telling me it was a bad idea – so I ran back to the checkpoint and after getting some more fluids in I took a ride back up the mountain and straight into bed.
A few hours later I woke and felt like a whole new women, I couldn’t believe it. I put on my running shoes and bumped into Beau Miles who came up to present his documentary on running the entire length of the Alpine Walking Trail. He decided to head out with me and we went out on the trails for over an hour and chattered about adventures, study and relationships. I couldn’t have been a different person or runner than when I woke this morning. From here onwards the weekend offered every bit of happiness and delight that I could have asked for. Our Frosti Lodge crew was made up of myself, Deanna Blegg, Darren Clarke, Jan Saunders, Nikki and speedy Daniel Wynd, Dave and Lucas Eaddie, Matt and Martin Coops, Rich Bowles and Vickie Saunders. We enjoyed our communal living and became a supportive trail running family.
Sunday morning we had a leisurely wake up and made our way to the start of the 12km race. Nikki said she wanted to run together which I was pretty stoked to do as we have been meaning to go for a run together for the past six months (clearly poor planners). The sun was shining, everyone was beaming and the trails that followed were superb. I will agree with Coops when he says some of the best single track I have also been on. I felt bad for the fellow that was running behind us because Nikki and I chatted the entire way even though we were pushing relatively hard. We finished the run hand in hand and with a welcomed spray of water.
The rest of the afternoon was spent basking in the sun, eating and cheering other people as they finished their run.
Rich Bowles and I presented to our running friends about our past & upcoming expeditions.
Matt “Grasshopper” Coops took a big group for a technical uphill and downhill training session.
You can tell why his adventure camps are such a hit as he has some great thoughts on running and everyone completely committed to what he was saying as we ran down a technical hill and back up it and back down it and back up it.
The final event for the night was another 12km event over the same course as the mornings run. Deanna, Darren, Jan & I decided to enjoy the nighttime running experience together. Off the back of Coops’s training session I kept thinking of his words of running “light” & with “flow”. Focusing on lifting my body upright as I went up the hills & descending with trust that my feet would find the safe path down.
I had forgotten to take my ay up lights so I stuck on the heels of whoever was right in front of me to benefit from their bright lights. I had one of the most enjoyable running experiences and relished moving in the darkness with such great company. Darren, Deanna and Jan are superb adventure racers and are fierce on the trails. There is such a team focus in all of them and I can see myself getting into the adventure racing scene down the track.
Monday morning saw us put into practice technical downhills running with a 400m descent over 1.5kms. Being able to “let go” isn’t a particular strength of mine and although I started with legs open and light, the middle section which consisted of uneven ground and big rocks had me tighten up and become conservative in approach. Once we got down to the bottom the final run for the whole long weekend was the 1.5km uphill.
Thank you to Mount Baw Baw Alpine Resort, Brooks, Trail Run Magazine, NUUN and Moxie Gear for hosting and supporting a fabulous long weekend trail running festival. Thank you to my supporters Juice Plus+, Brooks, CW-X and Ascend, who enable me to do what I love to do, with people that I love sharing it with.
A piece by Charlie Syme…
In my few short years of ultra running, I have been fortunate to travel and run in some unique location.
I have met beautiful people from many walks of life.
I have learnt the boundaries of my physical capabilities whilst constantly realising my mental capacity is as far as I want it to be.
In 2010, I learnt how to run.
In 2011, I learnt that running for myself when I knew I could already run left me wanting more.
In 2012, I learnt the greatest lesson – that I am most rewarded when I am using the sport of running for a reason outside of myself.
- Seasons of Pain Adventure Race (first team with Daniel Trevena)
- Cycling trip
- Crewing one amazing girl at Badwater
- Tor des Geants with my fiance for our honeymoon.
I have a new favourite trail running location in Victoria. Two weekends ago, Daniel and I went to Mount Baw Baw for the First Series of ‘Seasons of Pain’. It is a mountain bike/trail running race, which for the first race of the series, attracted an impressive field of adventure athletes from Australia and overseas. After a busy week at work, Dan and I decided to do the race as a team, with me doing the two run legs, Daniel the two bike legs and we would run the final 1.5 uphill section together.
We headed to Mount Baw Baw (approx 2.5 hours away) and arrived 30 minutes before the race start and just in time for the race briefing. As the race course was being explained I started to get a little concerned that I was going to struggle and slightly more worried that Daniel, a non-experienced mountain bike rider who was borrowing Chris Ord’s (Editor, Trail Run Mag) bike, was going to struggle even more.
As soon as the race kicked off, we started a gentle climb and I noticed that I was deeply breathing and working pretty hard to keep the pace up – I then noticed that everyone else around me was breathing heavily as well. The elevation for Mount Baw Baw is 1,567 m and although I didn’t think about this at the time, I am sure in addition to the cool air, fast pace and technical course – it also played a factor in making this a challenging run. The first run was approx 9.3kms and had a bit of everything in it: a decent/steady climb, short and sharper climbs, long descents on the ski runs, off trail scrambling and trail-like steps. To top it off we were running through the fog!!
(Deanna and Pez – my new favourite adventure-racing powerhouses!!)
After adjusting to the conditions about 25 minutes in I started to up the pace and my enjoyment levels soared – I couldn’t believe I hadn’t run here before. I came into transition with Daniel not expecting my arrival quite yet and he did a whoop whoop and quickly got on his bike. Dan sped through both of his bike legs (despite having his seat in the wrong position) and has subsequently bought a mountain bike to be able to take part in more of the series.
(Jarad Kohlar – If this guy is hurting, you know it’s tough!)
Two big highlights for me were the 1.5km hill run to the finish line and the competitors who took part in this race. After the race finished – everyone ate, talked and danced away at the Alpine Restaurant. Everyone was so down to earth and had such interesting stories that I could have stayed there all night listening to them. Races like these remind me how much I love the social side of this sport.
With all of this mind I couldn’t be more thrilled to be taking part in the Mount Baw Baw Trail Run Festival in March. I am delighted to be a race ambassador with the fabulous Rich Bowles. The festival will be an opportunity to come away from the long weekend with three runs in your trail shoes. The Saturday has the option of a marathon (see the profile below) or a 1/2 marathon; the Sunday has two 12km options and Monday has the option of a 1.5km uphill or downhill mountain run. See the press release below for more details.
Hope to see a lot of people at Mount Baw Baw for an amazing weekend.
Two of Australia’s best know adventure runners, Richard Bowles and Samantha Gash, have been appointed as official ambassadors for the upcoming Mount Baw Baw Trail Run Festival, taking place on 9-11 March, 2013.
The pair have both recently come off record-breaking runs, Bowles recently completing the double of being the first to run Australia’s Bicentennial National Trail and New Zealand’s Te Araroa Track, a combined total of more than 8,000km.
Samantha Gash, known for being the youngest and first female to complete all of the 4Deserts multiday adventure runs, most recently became the youngest Australian to run non-stop across the Simpson Desert, battling sleep deprivation and dingo packs in the name of charity.
Both runners have big expeditions planned in the near future, but will first line up for the inaugural Baw Baw Trail Run Festival. The pair will be among many vying to become the first inaugural King and Queen of the Mountain, a quest that will see competitors run a total of 57km over three days, beginning with a marathon from the historic gold mining township of Walhalla and finishing on Mt Baw Baw.
They will then choose from a 12km daytime run or a 12km night-time run the following day, wrapping up with two short, technical 1.5km ‘free mountain’ runs on the public holiday Monday morning.
Other competitors may cherrypick from the half marathon, one of the 12km events or a five kilometre fun run/walk in which children, families and those new to trail running are encouraged to join the singletrack action.
“The festival line-up is a great concept,” says Bowles, who usually avoids competitive races, but considers the long weekend outing more of an adventure that happens to be organized with live music at the finishline.
“The marathon route is bound to be an instant classic and a must-do on the trail running scene, being the majority of it runs along the iconic Australian Alpine Walking Track,” says Bowles. “I’ve already run the course as a recce and it is a simply stunning course that really puts you smack in quintessential Aussie wilderness. Of course, the difference from my usual expedition runs is that at Mount Baw Baw there’s a spa, restaurant, bar and comfy bed waiting for me at the end!”
For her part, Samantha Gash is looking forward to the festival atmosphere and entertainment between events as much as the runs themselves, with a film night and trail specific information sessions planned.
“In particular it will be interesting to see who shows for the short, sharp free mountain runs, which puts people smashing down a 1.5km technical course over obstacles and a 400-metre descent. Talk about fast and furious. And then, after a short rest, they have to run back up it again – it adds a whole new dimension that we haven’t seen on the Australian trail running circuit before,” said Sam, who will back up her on course efforts with an inspirational talk and Q&A session.
Mount Baw Baw’s Events Manager, Grant Seamer, says the festival is specifically designed to cater to all levels of run fitness and aptitude.
“We want to offer something for everyone and build a true celebration of the sport of trail running of the community that has grown up around it in Australia . And we also happen to think that we have some of the best terrain a trail runner could wish for up here, and plenty to do for supporters, friends and family tagging along, so it’ll make for a great weekend outing.
“We’re proud to welcome Richard and Sam to the Baw Baw family and appreciate their involvement given their massive running experience. Richard has already been up a few times to continue his scouting and training on the trails and Sam ran in our Seasons of Pain event a few weekends back, and both have offered great feedback on the pure quality of trail running on the mountain.”
Mount Baw Baw is putting on a free return bus service from Melbourne CBD, stopping at major eastern suburban centres en route to the mountain on the Friday afternoon prior to the event weekend.
“We want to make it as easy as possible to get to the event and also create a unique social vibe where people share their experiences and love of trail running.”
Entries are now open at: http://trailrunfestival.eventbrite.com.au/#
The full festival line up includes:
Saturday 9 March
>> 42.2km Trail Marathon, Walhalla to Mt Baw Baw
>> 21km half marathon (a bus will take runners from Mt Baw Baw to Walhalla / Mt Erica on Saturday morning or runners can make their own way to the start lines)
Sunday 10 March
>>12km trail run
>>5km fun run/walk
>>12km night trail run
Monday 11 March
>>1.5km downhill mountain run
>>1.5km uphill mountain run
We will be offering a FREE bus service from Melbourne CBD stopping at the following locations on the way to Baw Baw! Seats are limited. If runners would like to take advantage of this please add the FREE BUS to your entry order online. The bus will return on Monday afternoon after presentations.
- Southern Cross Station
- Caulfield Station
- Dandenong Station
- Warragul Station
- Trafalgar Station
- Traralgon Station
More details to be confirmed prior to the event.