You’ve seen the video, now read the report…
In a bit of a ‘guest post’, Quality Meats member, Chris Turnbull affectionately known as ‘T-Bull’ by his friends gives us his blow-by-blow and honest account of their race last week in the Sydney Oxfam Trailwalker… Enjoy!
2011 Oxfam Trailwalker Sydney – A Quality Meat Story
Thank you very much to all who donated to Oxfam through my team, Quality Meats. We successfully completed the 100km Trailwalker course with all 4 team members (mostly) intact after the 12 hours and 9 minutes.
A special thanks also to those who dedicated their day to supporting the Quality Meats as crew. I know this is not an easy task, moving between each checkpoint during the day, setting up all the gear and treats just to have the runners pass through like a tornado, then picking up the piecing and rushing to the next checkpoint. The crew did a great job, allowing us to focus on our job of running. Our crew for most of the day was the full Mountstephen outfit (grandpa Dick, wife Katrin and the two mini-Mountstephens), Cam (aka Marcus Warner), Shann Turnbull (thanks for the early morning drop-off!), and Amanda Vining (keeping her fiancé in good nick) and many others who helped at the end of the day.
Our time was similar to last year (about 2 minutes slower) but the course and conditions made this a tougher run. I think the gaps in the lead times and attrition of team members in the other quick teams show this.
Below are a couple of stories of how the run unfolded.
The Start – CP1 (Cowan)
We jumped in to the front of the crowd lined up for the start, next to team HTB (with formed quality meat Joey Sprange and formed crew Mike Taylor) and team Endurance (with giant Gordi and a few other quickies). There was a lot of talk before the race of strong competition this year (as is the talk every year). We knew the runners in these teams were capable of going under 13 hours if conditions were right and they didn’t have too many surprises. We weren’t planning on being tied to any splits – just listen to our bodies and pace ourselves accordingly.
We were impressed by the seriousness of many of the teams at the start. Lots of lycra, professional running gear and focussed faces, especially the girls teams! I don’t think we looked anything too serious in our trackie dacks, we were all pretty relaxed and knew what we needed to do to get ourselves ready – for the most part this including a fistful of vaso and ensuring our stunning new meat hats were on.
The proverbial gun went, and we were off, staying tight together. Unlike last year, there were far fewer silly hero teams sprinting off the start line (though I condone it – good on them for trying an early breakaway haha). So by the first turn 20m in Quality Meats was toeing the front along with Endurance.
150m in is the first climb that you hit like a wall. It’s a road as steep as a set of stairs and you’re yet to get any warm blood in your legs. We marched up this, jogging the slightly less steep bits and from the top of this we ran off, a little surprised to be in the lead so early. Our main threat, Endurance, was still running alongside. As we reached the first main highpoint of the first leg, after going around the dam, we started to open a small lead on Endurance which then continued to slowly stretch.
Half our trail chat must be making up new nicknames amongst our team. New meat, Jono Worswick, landed the proud call sign Warhorse which stuck for the rest of the day. This leg had warhorrse working hard as he had far less time to prepare for the race and was not so accustomed to the steep climbs. This had him briefly tagged as JonoDown along with Jono O’loughlin (or Saveloy), now JonoUp (who is the opposite, quick up the hills, and relentlessly winging about going too quickly on the downs!).
Monty, who normally runs like a sheep dog up these climbs was having some trouble warming up one of his calves. You could see this was starting to irritate him but he’s got so much experience and strength we weren’t especially worried (sorry monty!). At first he even tried a Cadell Evans trick by pretending to do up his shoe lace while stretching it but this was soon seen through.
Coming into CP1 we discussed our needs and checked we were all fine to stick with our plan of not refilling bladders until CP2. We ran straight in (catching the officials there a little by surprise), sculled a cup of sports drink each and were on our way again, hardly stopping to walk.
CP1 – CP2 (Berowra)
There is a small, say 100m, ‘out and back’ to CP1 and we were surprised not to see Endurance here. We were running well within ourselves but it was still a nice pressure release to have some room at the front.
A few km along the single track from CP1 we came across someone who had decided to pitch their tent in the middle of the trail, with tent strings tied to the bush on either side. Amid being shocked and laughing at this we gave it a shake as we hopped over and gave the silent inhabitants a warning of the 2000 people heading their way.
A few km on from this and our first trouble for the day – Sav popping his ankle. He was running in front of me and it bounced and rolled sideway off a rock. He grunted and came to a limping stop. The swelling had instantly inundated the area and initial thoughts were “were f___ked”. I was forgetting that Sav obviously has far fewer pain receptor cells in his brain – shown from many things including his acceptance of regular chafe. After a minute of staring and considering taping it up on the spot, he hobbled on like the little (big) train that could. It slowly eased up a bit in movement but stayed painful and a dangerous risk of re-rolling until we got to CP2 to strap it.
The day was already much warmer than our training sessions and while climbing up to the rise before dropping into Berowra Waters, I had my first deadmans suck (empty water bladder). This is 3L in the first 2.5hrs, more than planned but happy to be staying on top hydration. I ducked ahead on the decent and got a quick top up at the tap.
Coming into CP2 we called ahead to Katrin to have the chair and strapping tape ready for Sav. Similar to last year, CP2, the first checkpoint where we can meet our crew, was a bit of a shambles. A few minutes taping, some messing about and we were off again. Like last year the crew got an idea of what we need from that CP and after leaving we discussed how we could do it quicker next CP. From then on we basically got it dialled, with little flapping about and unnecessary time wasted.
CP2 – CP3 (Bobbin Head)
Coming out of CP2 we got our (almost) last glimpse of Endurance as they approached the CP. It was good to see them still putting some pressure on us but I knew our pace was well up on theirs based on our ankle incident. This was not to say they were not going to remain a threat. Most of their team also ran the Jabulani Challenge a few weeks prior and I saw their talent, especially on the flatter and less technical terrain of which there is plenty on the tail end of oxfam. I heard at the next CP that Gordi was doing it tough but I know from nearly every training and every race he can almost be in a coma but still stuffing gels in his mouth – and with that energy going in – he just doesn’t stop running. We were all pretty relaxed on this leg. I remember Monty and I running up front while Sav and Warhorse chatting away up the back like a couple on a first date.
Bobbin Head checkpoint was fairly efficient, no sitting doing but still trying a few things. I tried to vary from my gels and grabbed some killer pythons and an energy bar to munch on while running out – this probably caused my belly some troubles over the next few legs while it struggled to digest.
We heard from the crew we had really moved ahead of Endurance by 10 or 20mins or so.
CP3 – CP4 (Sphinx)
A short fire trail leg up some switchbacks (hairpins) and then along a ridge. We ran most of the switchbacks bar a few pinches where we enforced a walk to ensure we stayed in the green energy zone, then put some pace along the top of the ridge. This was ride was less sun exposed this year with the clouds providing some protection from the sun (or was I dreaming this?). I always find the sphinx checkpoint good fun. No crew but bubbling Oxfam volunteers excited to see the runners coming through. We had a cup of water and moved on.
CP4 – CP5 (St Ives)
It’s a nice trail leaving the Sphinx, shaded and technical to keep it interesting. I think it was about halfway through this section on one of the climbs that Sav started feeling a few cramps pinching and so started bombing the salt tablets. I could feel the early cramp signs as well though they were not grabbing me in the legs yet.
CP5 – CP6 (Kambora)
St Ives Showgrounds is the largest “out and back” on the course and at this stage we got a final pass of Endurance. They were all looking strong and still running as a cohesive pack, we threw out some high fives and last good lucks. Everyone in trailwalker is starting to feel some fatigue in their legs by this point so it’s good fun to see how fresh-faced everyone can look when they pass another team – not wanting to hint at any signs of weakness.
On this leg my cramps started to pinch and I slurped hard on my water, quickly running it dry. This was not the best as I then ran the following 40 minutes without any and still in the fairly hot part of the day. Monty and Warhorse were both starting to look really strong here. When we got to Kambora, both Sav and I sculled about a litre of Gatorade in an attempt to recover from dehydration.
CP6 – CP7 (Davidson Park)
300m out of the CP, Sav and I were struggling at the back when his belly started to give back everything he’d put in it in the last hour. It was one of the largest chunders ive seen and it was coming out quick enough I thought it was going to knock his teeth out. This was some good amusement for the team and immediately after he perked right up and bounced along to the front of the group, leaving me in what we call ‘sick bay’ or ‘the ambulance’ running at the back alone. This was my turn to suffer and my pace dropped a lot.
Running along the river toward Davidson Park, Warhourse returned an offer of mine from earlier in the day to carry his pack. Unlike him at the time, I accepted, threw it over for a good 30 minutes and focussed on dragging my sorry bum along as quick as I could. We lost a fair but of time on last year here. Coming into the next checkpoint I had my pack back but my speed still limited.
CP8 – CP9 (Ararat Reserve)
The next leg I continued to struggle. I ran at my own pace up the back. Not fun haha. We didn’t lose too much time on last year here but really needed to claw some back if we wanted to beat our overall time. Towards the end of the leg it was cooling a lot and my cramps were starting to subside.
At the final checkpoint I thought we had pretty much blown a chance at beating last years’ time. We were efficient but not too rushed at the checkpoint, knowing the second place team had probably not come into the previous checkpoint by then.
C9 – Finish
Contrary to what we were all expecting, we all, including me, ran out of the checkpoint pretty strong, with a good tempo pace. The stretch of fire trail was easy running and a relief to be able to sweep the feet along close to the ground without too many trip rocks and branches to snag a cramp on or bite the dust.
When we hit the short stint of single track I dropped back again, struggling with low blood sugar making it difficult for me to see and concentrate on placing my flippers. This was over quickly and we were back on road and starting to sniff at our last year’s record again. We knew we could improve significantly on last year’s split over the last leg.
We all powered along the pavement with renewed motivation and the feel of really racing again. Across the spit bridge and a good tempo run up the other side. By here my speed was back and I heard a few groans from the more vintage meats about preferring it when my pace was making it easy for them. Sav was still running strong up the front.
Coming into the final kms it was good to see Monty had a hint of human in him as he had gone fairly quiet up the back. He may have just been sneaking a little nap in prior to the imminent celebration because he surged past me on the final hill into the finish – though did show a mean tour de france style teeth grit (see finish line photo).
In the final metres we brought the team in tight to enjoy the spoils, probably the first time of the day we actually ran together tight as a four! Crossing the line was a relief, as was the sight of a few cold 6-packs from our awesome crew. The fact we were slower than last year’s time by 2 minutes meant little. We were happy to finish with all four of us still intact, getting a win widened the grins.
Congratulations also to Endurance for maintaining the second position throughout the day. Sorry for not sticking around at the finish – I would have liked to have given you a ‘shweaty’ high five and beer on the line.