Following his recent win in the inaugural Brisbane Valley Rail Trail 100 miler, Cam Munro gives us a warts and all account of how his race went.
“Where are the beers? I thought you would’ve at least had a six pack waiting for me”.
These were the first comments made by my crew mate Mick Thwaites (aka Fiddy Cent) as we entered the car to make our way to the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail 100 mile pre-race briefing on the Friday afternoon.
Ringing in my ears was also the comment made by my 14 year old son Sammy on the Tuesday night before the race as I prepared all my race day gear (a lot earlier than I normally prepare) – “Perfect Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance.” I wouldn’t have expected anything less from Sammy Boy. Then there were the final words from my coach Marty Fryer (aka The Professor) – “Run relaxed, fast, free and smile. Leave your mind back at home and just be.” Having only been coached by Marty since the start of the year, his relaxed, humble personality and love for running had definitely rubbed off on me. Throughout the lead up to BVRT 100 Marty’s unique but simple techniques to coaching seemed to be suiting me and proving worthwhile in my training. Chosen as one of my ‘A’ races for the year, the BVRT 100 would also give me a qualifier for my main goal for this year, the Coast to Kosciusko Ultra in December.
We knew it was going to be a fresh start and it did not disappoint. It was close to zero degrees as I went about my usual pre-race rituals before leaving the motel room. Mick wasn’t stuffing around either – I felt a bit like a superstar to be honest. I hardly had to lift a finger – Mick had packed the car and the eskies and was ready to chauffeur me to race start. Then came the lock of the door and the drop of the keys into the key drop-box outside reception. “Mashed Potatoes!!!” I proclaimed. I have seen some funny stuff in my time but observing Mick trying to get his fingers and hand through a slot in the key drop-box took it to a new level. There we were, two grown men, at 5am, pitch black, in the middle of Ipswich trying to fit our hands through a gap no wider than a slit in a piggy bank, all the while looking like petty criminals desperate to collect some mashed potatoes. Hilarous!!
Jordo met Mick and I at the race start and after a short briefing from race organiser Alun Davies, and a few photos, I was lining up with 36 other avid but crazy runners for the inaugural BVRT 100 mile ultramarathon. For me, the minute or two prior to race start is quite surreal as a range of emotions and thoughts rush through my body. However, knowing the endless work and sacrifices I had put into my training and the support I had from family and friends, I was ready to suffer, I was ready to enjoy the moment, I was ready to run. Then came the countdown 3, 2, 1 – we were off …!! As we exited the Ipswich Grammar School Grounds, I had a slight lead on a small group of runners including Team Bean runner Deb Nicholls. “Straight ahead Deb?” I asked. “Yeah, straight ahead Cam, but don’t quote me on it.” Then came the yelling of fellow runners – “Left … left.” Losing only about 15-20 seconds, I passed Deb, who was apologetic. We had a laugh and then continued on the right course.
The 23km to the first checkpoint in Fernvale was sensational – beautiful trails, a slight breeze, the sun rising and a perfect temperature. Settling into race pace I focused on nutrition and fluid intake: something I have seemed to really struggle to nail in big races. However, under the guidance of Darryl Griffiths from Shotz Nutrition, experimenting and working tirelessly in training in the months prior, we constructed a plan for race day. Saying that, I could have destroyed the $5.95 all day breakfast that was displayed on a sign as I ran into Fernvale! After a quick change of flasks and replenishment of gels, it was off to Coominya I go.
The day was shaping to be a cracker weather wise and I had well and truly settled into a good pace. Running parallel with the Brisbane Valley Highway after leaving Fernvale, the course took us over some rolling hills and along some single MTB trails through Lowood, under the heritage listed Lockyer Creek railway bridge (where I was greeted by race organiser Alun Davies) and further onto checkpoint 2 in Coominya (43km). I did have a chuckle through Lowood as I ran past the local skate bowl and some young larrikins yelled, “Run, Forrest, Run!” I shouted back in my best Forrest Gump voice, “My mama says these were magic shoes, they could take me anywhere.” I was feeling fresh though, the body was responding well to my nutritional plan and having run the first 42km (marathon) in 3hr 30mins, I knew I just needed to stay patient and relaxed.
The next part of the course took us through some beautiful forestry tracks, over Logan Creek and onto the climb of Mount Hallen. Although not much elevation shown on the map, you certainly knew you were climbing, for me it seemed to go on for ever. After what seemed an eternity I was greeted by some supporters near the top which gave me an extra boost. The run into checkpoint 3 in Esk (67km) was quick and, looking at my watch, I knew I was going to make the checkpoint prior to the 57 mile runners starting. A short time later I was greeted with cheers from runners, support crews, volunteers and my trusty crew.
Researching the course in the months leading up to the run, I came to the conclusion the race could be won or lost in the section from Esk to Moore, a distance of approximately 45km with checkpoint 4 at Toogoolawah somewhere in the middle. What I didn’t anticipate was how quickly the day heated up and my core body temperature started to rise. Although the max temperature for the day was only around 22-23 degrees, towards Toogoolawah I started to slightly overheat. Knowing I just had to keep it together and stay relaxed, I heard the sound that made my day. “Go Uncle Cam, go Uncle Cam.” Up ahead at the Toogoolawah checkpoint I could see two small figures standing next to Mick and Jordo. I then saw the old man standing there with them. The stubborn old bastard, who 12 hours earlier was in hospital, had brought my two nephews Baxter and Raff to cheer me on and cheer me on they did.
A quick chat, a cool sponge down and a quick feed, saw me leaving Toogoolawah and heading for the diverted road section to Moore. There were benefits to this road section that I had spoken to my crew about prior to the run. The first was that they could meet me at any intersection along this road and the second was that my pacer Mick could join me for part or the remainder of the run. However, the downside to this section I was quickly learning, was the feeling that started coming across my body.
I started to suffer a bit on the uphill sections and was struggling to keep my nutrition down. It was at this point, that Mick decided to keep me company, constantly motivating me and keeping me focused on the job at hand. I’m sure I speak on behalf of most long distance runners, that at some stage during a long race/run, you hit a low point. I like to describe it as the time the ‘devil’ comes and sits on your shoulders and starts questioning you, “Why the hell are you out here on a Saturday afternoon when you could be sitting on the beach with a cold beverage and fish ‘n chips?” “Just start walking, your legs hurt, have a rest, relax.” Well, I was nearly there, I felt like the ‘devil’ was sitting on my shoulders however was failing to say anything.
The 100km mark also brought another amusing moment for the day. Due to a few stomach issues, I decided to try some solid foods. As I was consuming some of this food, my nephew Raff, started to have a chat to me. It was at the same time that my stomach rejected this food and I projectile vomited right in front of the little man. My brother later told me that when Raff arrived home that day, he role played me having this vomit, a performance that nearly brought tears to his eyes. With just over 60km to go, I knew that this was where the race really started. After a low point that lasted a bit longer than what I anticipated, I slowly found my running legs again and with the help of my crew, I cruised through the beautiful countryside into Moore.
A quick change of clothing and collection of my headlamp as the sun started to set and Mick and I took off for the short 7km to Linville. I had well and truly found my rhythm again as we were greeted with rolling hills through the first few kilometres and as darkness fell, the course flattened out as we hit Linville.
It was fantastic to arrive at this checkpoint, as I knew it was being manned by the Brisbane Trail Runners and mate Brad Duncan, who I hadn’t seen for some time. After a quick chat with Brad and Jordo, Mick and I set our sights on the next 23km to Blackbutt. Seeing Jordo all rugged up at Linville, I realised that the temperature was dropping quickly and that it was going to be rather fresh in a few hours. The section to Blackbutt consisted of a long and constant gradient that represented most of the elevation on the BVRT.
At some stage during the run I knew I had to let Mick unleash his Jetboil cooking device, a compact system that is perfect for any runner, support crew or camping enthusiast. Mick had been like a kid in a candy store in our motel room the night before, showing me the Jetboil and how quickly it boils water – a mere 2 minutes and he had a cup of tea ready to roll. As we ran into Blackbutt the temperature was dropping drastically and I was craving a cup of tea. Speaking for the first time since Linville, I asked Mick for a cup of tea. Nearly falling over from shock, I could tell Mick was excited as he prepared the Jetboil and brewed a cuppa that went down a treat.
The last 19km had a bit of everything: uphills, downhills, gates (Stewy Grills favourite) and grid crossings. The maintained trails helped and I found myself getting into a good tempo for the final drive into Yarraman. Knowing my GPS had run out of battery in Blackbutt, I had no idea of the distance remaining until I observed some street lights through the trees. For only about the second time since Linville I spoke, “S*#t Mick, we must be bloody close, how far to go?” Mick’s response, “About 1.5km I reckon.” It was at this point the smile returned, I patted Mick on the back and thanked him as we hit the last 500m. Crossing the finish line first in 16:07.23 (under 16:07 if Deb hadn’t sent me the wrong way at the start, LOL), I celebrated with a few fist pumps and high fives with Mick and Jordo. I was completely and utterly spent! Knowing the course was a touch long, (I calculated 165-166km approx.) I was also stoked to realise I had run sub 16hrs for the 100 mile distance.