This run used to be our staple ‘final long run’ before the big dance three weeks out. Now, it’s just another regular training weekend run as the stakes for places gets higher each year. From Yarramalong through to Patonga is known as the ‘back-half’ of the course and roughly 70kms in length. Technically it’s not half in terms of distance, but for most people racing on the day, it’s halfway in terms of time. The climbs on this section are smaller, but the terrain is arduous.
The train has a number of start times from Yarramalong, with various people setting off at different times, all with a view of finishing roughly together. In total there were around a dozen to fifteen people out there doing something, which again is a fantastic turnout for what is a ‘training run’.
On a personal front, this was to be my first serious training run in two weeks since our out-and-back from Cedar Brush to Congewai school. It also marked the first day of real heat too. The temperature hit around 26-27 celsius we reckon, but on race day it will be signficantly warmer and more humid too. As I ran down towards the final descent to Patonga Beach I tried to imagine what it would be like with an extra 103kms in my legs and another 10 degrees added in for extra measure too. It was then the dawn of realisation hit me as to why this race is so freaking hard.
Marcus and I, along with his pacer Russell began out journey at 4:35am from Yarramalong after an extremely early alarm at 1:30am.
The climb out of Yarramlong is gradual but interesting with headtorches and a good change to replicate conditions on race day for both Marcus and myself. We moved steady (well most of us, who managed to stay upright hey Marcus?!), reaching the road in a rather pedestrian 50 minutes, but good enough for me given the need to take things easy in the early stages after the lower right leg injury. This steady pace continued as we chatted away, reaching Somersby School in 3hrs 10 mins. By no means setting the world alight with times, but solid and sensible.
It’s here that things started to go downhill for me. I’m not sure what happened but I think it had something to do with not getting the Perpetuem doses quite right. I deliberately carried a ‘heavier’ load with a view of making it last longer. But I don’t think this mix was good for me as stomach issues started to come on. I had a God-awful section here, stopping four or five times to relieve myself in a way that only Gordi, the running mad Kiwi would be proud of 🙂 Despite this, the section was done in 1hr 55mins, with Marcus and Russell a few minutes in front of me.
Hitting Mooney Mooney Creek, Russell’s wife was very kind to have made the journey to meet us and offer a refill of water and some much welcome Coke. I had to pay the bushes another visit here, and instantly felt better afterwards, but then made a rookie mistake.
These trips to the loo meant that I was very low on nutrients and pretty dehydrated, but not quite feeling it yet. Instead of taking a few minutes to get some water in me, I just filled the bladder and we headed off again. The first 10kms of the final section is pretty tough going over some gnarly trail, before it opens up onto firetrail for the last 15kms or so. I felt great now, and was positively bouncing around on the rocks and plateaus towards Patonga. I was steaming through the water however and I couldn’t get enough of it, and by the time we hit the waterfall I was pretty worried about ‘deadman’s suck’.
Marcus kindly lent me some water and off we set again, not before Darrel and Gareth had come charging through. The guys had a great run, finishing some 20 minutes of so in front of me in the end having started a little after us too. I was struggling however. The onset of dehydration was well and truly with me, and my stomach was started to tie itself in knots. I was not in a happy place, but still onwards and upwards. Marcus left me here, and it was now about knocking each km over as conservatively as I could without doing further damage. I calculated that I had 4kms to go until the road, where I’d made the decision to run down the road and hopefully be able to get water from a tap somewhere.
A few kms out from the road, Brian Cardelli, Beth’s husband made an appearance as he headed out on the trail to meet her. He gave me half a litre of water which I duly downed and was a bit of a lifesaver to be honest. I felt instantly better and then trotted along towards Patonga along the official route instead with a bit of renewed vigour and a sense of urgency in a bid to ensure Mr. Vize (who’d started a few hours later) didn’t overtake me.
I hit the finishing post in a time of 8hrs 50mins, pretty much spot on what I thought was doable for the day given the lay-off. However it made me realise that much quicker is possible given the stomach issues that dogged me for quite a bit of the way. Still, there are no excuses – just things to learn from and make sure I don’t repeat in future.
All in, a great day out of the course too, with some great running from the guys too. Everyone has their game faces on now for race day. Can’t wait – it will be immense.