It’s fair to say that the Trailwalker Series across Australia is really hotting up as the years tick over. Melbourne was no exception as the three big guns of Team Muttley, the Melbourne Midday Milers and Trails + did battle head to head up front. On the day Team Muttley took out the honours in a new record time, not only in the Melbourne Trailwalker, but the fastest time in any Trailwalker anywhere globally. No mean feat we hear you say. As part of our follow-up, we caught up with the machine that is Chris Wight, who formed a quarter of that team to chat about what they did, how they did it, and what Chris’ plans are for the rest of the year.
You had a pretty sharpish team pulled together for this. When did you guys decide to have a crack at TW and who was the driving force behind it all?
I guess you’d say that Rohan Day and Michael Clarke were the driving force behind it, but it probably started back in 2008. Michael, Rohan, Bryan Ackerley and I ran TW that year and won in an event record 11:26. The following year I was injured but supported Michael, Rohan and Bryan (along with triathlete Anthony Rule) while they came in 2nd behind the Midday Milers Team who ran 10:45 and broke our record. Rohan, Michael and I came back again last year with Clint Van Beveren with the aim of going under 10:45 and despite Clarkey coming in with not insignificant medical issues (cracked ribs courteous of his dog tripping him up on a run a few days before the event) we managed to run 10:23. That run made us realise that on the right day we could go under 10 hours. Clint had Ironman commitments this year and Kev was an easy choice as a replacement.
How did you personally feel like you’d recovered after the 3 peaks race?
I felt like I’d recovered pretty well. I’ve been logging significantly more kms this year than I previously ever have and it seems to be paying off pretty well. The week after 3 peaks was pretty easy but I think I still logged about 120km. The Mon-Thurs before the race was just half hour a day with some fast stuff included on Monday and Wednesday to sharpen up a bit.
Did you target a sub 10 finish time or were you going for the outright win?
We wanted sub 10 and the win. We planned to run a sub 10 hour pace and to worry about racing if need be towards the end. We didn’t think any other team would be able to go significantly faster than 10 hours so we ran our own race under the assumption that if another team was having a good day and in front of us that they would still be within striking distance late in the race.
What are the different strengths do you think of your individual team members?
Tough question. Looking at the team there isn’t too much I can think of in terms of individual attributes that leads to success. That said, Clarkey is a (self admitted) numbers man can tell you anything you want to know regarding pacing on the go. He could tell you distance between checkpoints, how fast we did it in 2011 and what the planned time was to go sub 10. His table of splits was to the minute and looking at it now after the event, it is pretty remarkable at how close his estimates were.
How did the day pan out for you in terms of the team personalities. Often these events are about looking after your lowest common denominator, did you have a set of rules that you all agreed on in terms of the approach?
Absolutely spot on about looking after the lowest common denominator and this changes constantly through-out the day. We stick pretty close together and run 2×2. If anyone is having a bad patch the strongest runner at that time goes and runs with them and helps them out whether that’s keeping them motivated or making sure they stay on top of nutrition and hydration. Sticking close together and pacing off the weakest (at that moment in time) runner avoids the stronger runners blowing anyone else up.
How did you guys get on during the 10 hours on the trails?
Great. I’d say it’s another great strength of our team. We managed to stay focused but have a laugh often to keep us relaxed. Rohan singing along to his ipod was a little painful while I was having a low patch but thankfully it only lasted an hour.
What kind of race tactics did you employ?
definitely sitting back and waiting. The Milers and another team went out pretty quick but we kept to what was comfortable for us. We were 4 minutes down on our splits and about 5 minutes down on the Milers at Olinda (38km). By Mt Evelyn (61km) were in front of our splits and the Milers were in sight, just over 2 mins down the trail. At this point we made sure not too excited and pushing too hard to take the lead. We just sat back, kept to our pace and ever so slowly let the Milers come back to us. We eventually ran past them at about 80km when they were walking a hill. I think we put about 30 minutes on them in the next 6-7km. To the Milers credit they managed to overcome what must have been a pretty bad low point to finish strongly.
What kind of gear and nutrition did you guys take on?
A pretty big mix. For hydration Rohan went with a tri-style fuel belt, Kev with a dual bottle waist pack, Clarkey a mix of camelback and a single handheld and I just went the single handheld. We’d trained enough on the course that I knew all the tap locations along the course filled my bottle in between checkpoints.
Nutrition was majority Shotz Gels at varying intervals dependent on the runner. Kev, Clarkey and Rohan grabbed some solids (simple sandwiches/donuts) at some checkpoints and all of us grabbed the occasional handful of grapes or watermelon.
Have you got plans to return next year and defend your title?
Right now I’d say No. We’ve done this quite a few times and I’m not too sure on we could improve on this years performance. I mean we could shave some minutes but I don’t think it will compare to the satisfaction from being the first team under 10 hours.
What advice would you offer to other teams having a crack at TW?
Training together as a team is really important to get used to each other pace but the most important point is looking after each other on race day. You also need to be honest early when you’re struggling so that the other team members can help you get through those low patches. No point trying to put on a brave face when you’re in trouble it’ll only cost you farther down the trail.
If you want to do it fast, you need to not waste time at checkpoints as well. Our crew is unbelievable, we barely break stride. We have one crew member for each runner who meets us at the entry to each checkpoint with a bag containing everything we need for the next leg. We grab what we need, dump our rubbish and anything else we don’t want to carry and drop the bag, all on the run. Our crew will collect the bags and restock them for the next checkpoint.
Will you be having a crack at the Sydney TW and challenging Team Quality Meats two year reign?
It has been mentioned but I don’t think it will be possible this year. Coordinating four different people’s commitments (and those of their families) is pretty difficult and something that would take a bit of planning if we were to seriously look to do it.
What are you personal plans for the rest of the year?
I’ve pulled up really well after Friday so will probably just make sure I feel good running the rest of the week and if so look at getting hold of an entry to the North Face 100. Later in the year I’m pretty keen to focus on Glasshouse 100 and will probably head back to You Yangs 50 Mile as a lead up to it. Towards the end of the year I’m tossing up between Great North Walk 100 and Kepler. I’m really keen to do GNW but running that will be dependent on whether I can get in training on the course to familiarise myself with the navigation. I’d like to fit GOW in there too but doubt I’ll be able to race that after Glasshouse so it might just be run at a fun pace.