You might have been forgiven for thinking you were in the wrong place up on the Central Coast this weekend gone by. I remember getting to the top of the climb at Heaton Gap where there was cloud and mist and a few kms down the road, I was shivering. Was this really the GNW, the race that has served up 42 degrees in years gone by? It was a weekend of the unexpected and the downright brilliant performances that saw all four records broken as if they were wafer thin biscuits that had just been dunked into boiling tea. Yes the weather would have played a massive part in allowing people to run these times, but the fact remains that they still have to be run, and a few people (including my good self), misjudged ability and reality. It’s a fine line between pushing it and blowing it.
But before we launch into the winners and record holders, there are a few people that deserve mentions. Both these guys have made eight attempts at this race, one has finished them all, the other finished his first this weekend. Andy Hewat showed his class and determination to clock up number eight, while Grant Campbell broke his duck for his first – massive congrats to both.
The first biscuit to be smashed was the 100km men’s record, where the coast’s prodigal son, Clarke McClymont took off where he left UTMB and gave a perfect demonstration of how to run this course. On his way to recording the first ever sub 10 hour finish, he also smashed apart 3 leg records too and my mind is still boggling at how he managed to sustain over 10kms per hour for the entire distance. Sure enough, 20% of the course is actually on road, but don’t let that fool you – there’s 4,500m (or 13,500ft) of climbing in that 100kms. There’s also climbs that rip a new one out of your rear end no matter how may times you ascend them, not to mention the 3-4kms of awkward jungle in that first section that has you slipping on tree roots and fighting off the leeches, who incidentally had a field day in the lush wet conditions.
Clark’s performance puts him right up there as one of Australia’s best over this distance on trail if were talking seriously hilly and gnarly 100km events. If only we could get our rear ends into gear and mix and match the country’s best in an Australian series over varying terrains, it would certainly make for awesome viewing. To see a video of Clark finishing, click here.
Next up was Brendan Davies earth-shattering sub 20 hour 100 mile performance, or rather 108 mile if we want to be exact about how long this course is. Brendan flew into the 103km mark in 10:43 and from there we knew it was on. To clock 19:27 is an outstanding effort in what is also his first 100 miler. Brendan is a class athlete who can shout PBs across all distances that as runners we’d give our right arms for, and it will be interesting to see what next for the man from Woodstock Runners. If you’re looking for two of Australia’s male ultra runners of the year, you could barely split a grain of rice between Clarkey and Brendan.
The next record to go was the women’s 100km, and it will be interesting to see what race director Dave Byrnes does here as it depends upon your opinion. Technically, new girl on the block, Gill Fowler was the first into Yarramalong over the 100kms in 12:22, but she was entered into the 100 miler. Winner of the ladies 100km race was Beth Cardelli who came in 14 minutes later in 12:36. Some would say Gill is the fastest female at GNW over 100kms and Beth won the 100kms. Others will say that Beth is the 100km record holder as Gill was entered into another race. Whatever your opinion (and it’s not ours to judge), both girls showed class to come in under the previous record and stroll into the finish without their headtorches.
And finally, the word of the day goes to Gill Fowler for her dazzling 100 mile win and new ladies record, plus a gold medal in a time of 23:58. We mentioned Gill in our pre-race write-up as a dark horse to watch and that she could be there to pick up the pieces should things falter at the front. Well, not only did she pick them up, she threw them around, re-arranged them and shoved it all back in our face. What an amazing performance from someone who is well-known on the rogaining circuit and has competed at the World Championships.
We took some time with Gill to get a bit more background on her, where she came from and how she thought her race would pan out…
Tell us a little bit more about yourself and your rogaine background?
Post school I spent most of my weekends outdoors climbing, canyoning, walking or riding with friends who also introduced me to rogaining. In 2006 I completed my first 24 hour rogaine and haven’t looked back. For those of you that don’t know what rogaining is it’s the sport of long distance cross-country navigation. Since then I have rogained socially and competed in State, Australian and World Championships. What I love about rogaining (and ultras) is that it takes you to fantastic places you normally wouldn’t see. I always ran a little, but started running more after I entered the first Wild Endurance event in the Blue Mountains. I realised I better do a few training runs to keep up with the team, so I started running with “Warwick’s” Saturday morning bush running group – it’s always a great way to start the weekend. I enjoyed the event and also when you tell a few friends you are going to have a year of running (back in 2009, I think), they keep reminding you of it, so I entered a few more events.
Do you think your rogaine background helped you?
Rogaining definitely helped me on this course. I knew I could do the time, as I have done many 24 hour events. I just didn’t know if I could do the distance as you don’t cover nearly as much ground on a rogaine because a substantial amount of rogaining is off-track. As a rogainer, the map in hand was a norm and a comfort as I didn’t know the GNW course very well. My compass even came to use early on, when I followed someone right instead of left at the first communications tower, and sure enough I was running north, not south. I went back to a golden rule of rogaining…don’t rely on other’s navigation. Rogaining has also given me a lot of night navigation practice. I loved being out on the GNW course at night, the time and distance just flew past.
What were your expectations for GNW?
I didn’t have a set race plan or high expectations for this race, as it was my first 100M. I just wanted to see if I could complete the distance. My aim was to reach Patonga (if my body held up) and just take on one checkpoint at a time. I had given my support crew splits for 25, 27 and 30 hours, and said I’d be somewhere in the middle if I was running well. This meant I put some extra stress on my support crew and pacers, as I was way ahead of schedule. Sam Isbell, my first pacer had to catch me from Yarramalong, as I beat her to the checkpoint. I was glad to see her smiley face on the track not too far from Bumble Hill.
I was definitely running to feel, and kept surprising myself km after km, as my legs were happy to keep going through the motions. Between checkpoint 1 and 2 I had a few niggles, but I then settled into the run. But if you saw me on the road at the 100km mark I had a big smile, as I had just run my fasted 100km.
I only started thinking of a finish time as I came into Mooney Mooney and knew 24 hours was achievable. But then halfway through this last stage my smile faded a little – there were a few too many stairs for my liking. Mel Selby, my 2nd pacer kept me moving as I started to slow and the elusive 24 hours was slipping out of reach. We got to the gate at the top of the fire trail near Patonga, looked at the time, crossed our fingers and ran. The end result, just over a minute to spare.
What was your nutrition and training plan for the race?
Eat on the hour, which is more than I would normally do, but I knew I’d need energy to get through the run. A mix of gels, half energy bars and muesli bars. It seemed to work.
Training wise, I am guessing I did less than most people out there. I’ve been battling a hip injury for the last 12 months, which unfortunately meant a few DNF results this year, and after a failed attempt at North Face I spent a few months trying to fix the injury in time for the World Rogaining Championships that were at the end of August. I didn’t have a set training plan, my weekly average was low, generally under 80kms up to 100km for a few weeks in Oct to test my leg. None of my training runs peaked over 40kms except for 2 – a race I did in September in Italy (55kms) after the Rogaining Champs and one hit-out on the course from Cedar Brush to Watagan Creek return (my only course training). I still did a few 6 to 24 hour rogaines this year, as they are less impact on the body as there’s more walking time, we generally only cover around 70-80km in 24 hrs depending on the terrain, this and riding to work helped keep my endurance and fitness up.
What are you plans for 2013
Not too many plans yet for 2013. I’m going back to the Vic Alps for Bogong to Hotham, as I need to get further than Cleave Cole Hut. And now that I know I can run 100 miles, the Alpine Challenge in March is tempting, but I’ll continue to do both ultra and rogaines.