Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Mountain/Hill List 2010

For book-keeping's sake, for something to look back on, and to make myself feel better about a year that involved three months of reduced activity due to injury, I am posting a list of the mountains (and hills that are called mountains) that I have peaked in 2010, and how many times I have done them. The heights are approximate, and I always started at between 50 and 450 metres (although generally at around 50-100).

West of Brisbane
Cootha (250m) - about 100 (65 in the last four months, and I didn't record or get out as much the rest of the year).
Nebo (600m) - x 2.
Glorious (700m) x 1 (starting from the saddle between Mount Nebo and her).

The Glassies
Tibrogargan (350m) - x 4 (plus a bonus half, where I started from the beginning of the real climb).
Beerwah (550m) - x 2.
Tunbubudla East (350m) - x 2.
Tunbubudla west (300m) - x 1.
Beerburrum (280m) - x 2.
Miketeebumulgrai (220m) - x 1.
Elimbah (130m) - x1.
Coochin Hills (280m & 250m) - x1.
Ngungun (250m) - x1.
Tiberoowuccum (220m) - x1.

South of Brisbane
Barney East and West peaks (1350m, 1300) - x1 (up the East first, dropped into the saddle then climbed the 300m of vert up the west).
Warning (1200m) - x1.

South Australia
Ohlssen Bagge (950m) - x2.
St. Mary's Peak (1150m) - x1.

One Tree Hill (500m) - x1. (In the Dandenongs, Victoria, via the 1000 steps).

Fat's Festive Fatass

Yesterday, a fairly big (by ultra standards) group of people went for a somewhat-social jaunt up Mount Nebo. I say somewhat social because I, like many others, will try to compete in any context.
Nic started off the first climb at the front, with a large group running behind, but gradually Steve, who I met that morning, and I reeled him in. The three of us ran/walked in front and together up and down the hills, before we made our way onto the slightly downhill singletrack near the top. We blasted through the mud at a ridiculously quick pace (set by Nick), getting plenty wet and dirty, before taking a wrong turn and running the road to the Cafe on top. My quads/hamstring insertions were really sore, and I debated taking a ride to the bottom, but only for a split second. After slurping down some powerade and eating a muesli bar, I rejoined Nic on the trail, with Steve not too far behind. We passed the rest of the runners, who were coming in the opposite direction, and had spread out to a certain extent.
Steve soon caught up, and I let him run in the middle, as I had to let off some serious gas. When we returned to the fire-trails, I was really pleased that the other fellas slowed to a walk on the few instances that I had to retie my shoelaces.
We stayed together, chatting about running, travelling and culture, among other things; while blasting some 4:35s on downhill sections and walking the steep ups. Nic's stomach was starting to hassle him, however, and with about 8kms to go, he gradually slowed until it was just Steve and I running together.
Steve seemed alot stronger on the uphills, while I had more speed on the downs. I kept cajoling him to reduce the pace, but just ended up running as quick as him; we were both hurting pretty badly, but he seemed to be in slightly better shape. This was confirmed when we hit the final 500 metre section of tarmac, where we battled it out. I slowed to a jog in the last 200, seeing that Steve was much stronger, while he was running around 14km/h into the intersection that marked the start/finish. In the end, he put about 15 seconds on me, but I didn't really care - I was happy to have ran well and made a new friend. The final time was 4:48 for 47km with about 1200m of vertical; but the best part was that I negative-splitted the run. This is impressive for me - even though the return leg was mostly downhill - as I usually go out way too hard, and then crash on the way back. I didn't push myself too much at first, as it wasn't really a race, and this allowed me to finish strongly and give it a nudge at the end. This was augmented by the fact that I ate plenty of muesli bars, and had adequate sports drink over the morning. Additionally, despite having run way quicker than I do in training in this event, I am not very sore today at all, although it could have been a different story if I decided to go for a run. Instead, I played plenty of backyard cricket, sprinting around the tennis court with alot of pep in my step.
This Fatass run has given me confidence for Hares and Houds; I will be able to start at my own pace and still finish strong. It also makes me more enthusiastic about the prospect; if I race it properly, I wont have to spend a week on the couch like after K2D. Let's hope that the niggles abate before then!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Kurrawa to Duranbah

Here i my belated race report from K2D, earlier in December.

We were up at 0315 to drive down to the Gold Coast for this one, and I must've slept for only four hours. However, as we lined up at the start, I realised that the 60km run/walk up Mount Glorious on the back of a completely sleepless night had adequately prepared me for this. Nic wished me a good race, and we were off.
I started at a ridiculous pace, running through the streets of Broadbeach with the chase-pack; a mixture of upper-end 25km runners, and some of the fastest 50kers.

I felt suprisingly good, despite the pace, until my calves started to cramp around 15kms. My fears of going too fast were reinforced when I talked to Tressa Lindenberg, who had recently finished eigth at the 50km World Championships in Dublin. Nevertheles, I managed to stay near to her through Burleigh Heads and over the bridge, until I had to take an ill-timed dump in the bushes. This robbed me of a couple of minutes, and by the time that I had returned to the course, I was no longer running with the hot-shots, but was still around tenth place. I pushed hard to the turnaround, encouraging a 25km relay runner who was just behind me. He pulled ahead on the final hill (that I would see again on the way back), while I slowed to a walk, overtaking the guy in the blue shirt who had been running in front of me since the pit-stop. I hit the turnaround in 1:55:28, realising that I had nearly PB'd 10km, and had definitely PB'd the half-marathon and 25km. I would certainly fade later on, I thought, but I believed that a sub-4:30 time was assured.
Sure enough, I was passed by a few people on the way back, including Nic at 35km, who had seemed dead at 30km.
I had made the mistake of bringing gel-lollies to keep my energy up, without having tried them first. They were pretty chewy and very hard to keep down; I hacked up small amounts regularly. I had also forgotten to bring salt, which was the cause of the cramping which I had not experienced in the past.
From 35km onwards, I ran with Trevor, who also seemed to be in a world of hurt. At first, I would pull away from him when running, but when I walked for a bit, he would catch up. However, after the 40km point, he appeared to have been given a new lease of life, and was definitely the stronger runner out of the two of us. With about 6km to go, my mind was fried from the cramps, and I had to let him go. It was a shame; we had worked really well together.
I then proceeded to walk more frequently, and then from 46km to 49km I did no running. My chance of finishing under 4:30 was shattered, but it was really my own fault. I couldn't find the strength when I needed it, and really psyched myself out, using the cycling trip the week before as an excuse.
With 500 metres to go, I was nearly caught by another runner. I thought of conceeding my place to him, but decided to pull what is becoming my signature move; I ran really hard for 300 metres to demoralise him, an then cruised to the finish for a final time just under 4:37.
My race had been good, despite the fact that I had made a host of elementary errors (food choice, no salt, going out too hard). I was incredibly grateful to all of the volunteers working the aid-stations, to Trevor for helping to drive me onwards, and to Nic, who had given me a lift up and back and plenty of valuable advice.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The couch and the Desert

So, I didn't achieve my goal at Kurrawa to Duranbah 50km; 4:37 was my final time. The fact that I hit the halfway point in 1:53 immediately highlights one of my mistakes. Anyways, I will post a longer report in the coming days.
On Sunday night, I flew out to Adelaide, and spent the next five days sitting on the couch, eating, reading, but above all, watching Spanish arthouse cinema. I was pretty disgusted with myself, but I'm sure that I needed the rest.
Then, on Saturday morning, Dad and I loaded the car up and drove for about five hours up to Wilpena Pound, an incredible natural amphitheatre in the Flinder's Ranges. We were incredibly well equipped, making camping at the massive commercial ground on the edge of the pound pretty luxurious.
I convinced my Dad to climb Mt Ohlssen Bagge on the first day (941m), which was a climb/descent over 6.5km with about 400m of up and the same of down. He groaned and puffed his was up, but got there in the end, and was "deeply satisfied" after we had returned to camp and had our dinner of polenta, broccoli and eggs.
On the second day, we set out to climb the highest peak in the Flinder's, St. Mary's, which stood at about 1150m above sea level. The climb itself involved only about 600m of vertical though, over 21km, but all of it was concentrated in about 4km, making it steep and rocky. We were pretty afraid of being blown off a narrow ridge at one point, with the winds blasting at our sides, towards a not so insignificant cliff. Dad was pretty good here, although he needed plenty of breaks, he maintained a solid pace while we were walking, and I didn't hear a word of complaint. What an ironic reversal it was though, from the days when I was struggling behind him on the bike and on foot, trying my best to keep up.
In the end, it took eight hours, and I was pretty exhausted, probably due to the heavy pack to which I was unaccustomed (I was dad's mule) and residual fatigue. I kept trying to talk dad into a flat walk the next day, but he was sceptical of how his body would feel. To my surprise, when Dad woke, he said he was up for another climb of Ohlssen Bagge. I was a bit unenthusiastic, as my hip had started to play up again, but was happy to go along for his sake. We went slowly, but I was still tired by the time we came down, and rueing my apparent lack of strength/condition.
The week on the couch had fried my brain, so I really needed the weekend in the bush to get me back to reality. I really enjoyed both parts of the week, and will be continuing a hiatus from running probably until the Fats Festive Fatass up to Mount Nebo on the 28th, which I will run provided that my body is ok. Then, my body permitting, I will be running the Hares and Hounds 55km on the 9th of January, before starting a long and slow prep for Cooks Tour 50 mile in May. That's the plan atleast.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Ultimate Birthday Gift

Day 1 - Early worries
On November 29, at 5:49am, I coasted out of the driveway and onto the road. It had begun, but I was not as serene as I had been at past races. I was worried; as I made my was along the Mount Lindesay Highway towards Beaudesert, my quad was giving me a large amount of grief. Additionally, in general, I felt like trash. After two hours in the saddle, I pulled up at a bus stop and sat down to eat. Then and there, I contemplated dropping out: this trip could ruin my body, and make me unable to race the week after. Then I reminded myself that I had stayed out late the night before, and I was just warming up: from then on, I had very few thoughts of quitting the trip.
Just past Beaudesert, I saw her in the distance. The peaks of Mount Barney were towering silhouettes in the background, but Mount Lindesay to their west was the most interesting - it was shaped like a wedding cake that was leaning to one side. I marvelled at the sight, humbled by their size. The sun was out and the road was flat, allowing me to build some speed as I cruised between hills and arid cow paddocks; the livestock looked gaunt and frail, and hopped away when I approached. After stopping in Rathdowney, I turned onto the bumpy road to the base of Mount Barney, my legs being peppered by the small climb. I had intended to camp in the bush, but when I found a commercial site for $12 per night with showers, taps and a safe place to put my bike, I decided to take the safer/more comfortable option. I ended up having to walk up a 3km stretch of dirt road three times, first to find the camp, then to retrieve my bike from where I had first locked it.
With my tent set up at about 3pm, I sat on the grass looking straight at that beautiful mountain and reflected on the day. The solitude of the place gave me time to think, and I was able to make myself aware of all of the thoughts floating around in my head. One that was really bugging me was about my tick-bite from the week before. I had not cleaned it properly, and there was a rash around it, so I was very afraid that I was going to get blood poisoning. I figured, from past experience, that if it turned septic, I had about six hours to get to antibiotics before something bad would happen. Thinking about it now, I probably would have had closer to ten hours. I went to sleep with this heavy on my mind, but managed to get in a long slumber, if my afternoon nap was counted.

Day 2 - The Risk
I set of walking towards the mountain with rampant feelings of anxiety coming from my gut. Sure, there were a few potentially dangerous elements on the cards today, but they didn't seem to be causing it. I was just anxious for no reason; an annoying condition that I thought would have been eliminated by the peacefulness and solitude of the surroundings. I had intended to take the Southern (Peasants') Ridge up the mountain - definitely the easiest route, but I found the South-East ridge first, and wishing to start upwards as soon as possible while being afraid of overshooting Peasants' (which is mildly impossible), I decided to take it.
At this time, it was raining on and off, and the wind was howling in a similar fashion. I questioned the safety of rock-scrambling under such conditions, but knew that this would be a rare chance to climb a large peak. My route-finding skills were supremely tested, as I tried to find ways around exposed rock faces that became ever more frequent as I climbed. At one point, I found myself on the ridge about five metres wide with a 30 metre drop on either side, climbing up the rock. My fear of heights reared its ugly head, and I started to make contingency plans: if I got stuck or lost, the SES would not start a search until 36-48 hours later. I had told my mum that I was out of phone reception and would not be texting her that night, and I didn't tell anyone at the campsite where I had went. Bad move, if only for the fact that it increased my anxiety.
At one point, I found a tick in my leg, and got pretty livid with it (due to my ridiculous mental state), before calming myself and pulling it out.
After a long while, I reached the top of the East Peak, but I was not jubilant as there was very little view due to the clouds, and I still had to drop into the saddle before climbing 300m to the top of the West peak. As I headed down and found the campsite at the saddle, I had almost talked myself out of hitting the West. But I figured that I did not want to have that regret in my mind which would cause me to return there in the future (yes, I was not too keen on the Mountain at this point). This was my chance and I had to take it. So, I started up the west scaling steeper and steeper rock, through thicker and thicker bush. At one point, I went up a short pitch that I wondered how I would descend, and as I reached the summit, I realised the impossibility of relocating that same route to take down the mountain.
I was right: I had a false start on descending, having to return to the summit to get my bearings and on the second attempt, I nearly headed down the west-side of the mountain into thick forest. A compass would have come in handy.
I went down through rocks and scrub, until I came accross an impossibility. I was on a small dirt ledge, which hung over a sheer face with a drop of 7-10 metres. What I would have to do, is to climb about five metres accross to the other side of the cliff, which seemed more forgiving. I turned around and tried to approach the better part from above, but it too was at the base of a steep drop-off. So I stepped out, onto the cliff, exposing myself to the possible fall. After I had made it a couple of metres accross, I just thought "this is stupid, you're going to fall. There must be another way down”. I climbed up a bit, and eventually managed to find a way through. I had to bumslide down pitches of flat rock, and crash through thick scrub alternately. I got to the saddle, exhausted, but found the South Ridge down with few problems. At this point, the sun had come out, and as I hopped over the rocks of the route doen and walked the final sandy stretch, I realized that it had been worth it. I met an old-timer from Caboolture, and chatted to him about the Glass House Mountains, reproaching the unpreparedness of people who try and climb Mount Beerwah. Oh, the irony.
I got to the campsite, bought ice from its owner and sat down facing the mountain, cooling my knees. I had underestimated the dangers of the mountain, but I came away from her with a lot of route-finding, navigation, and rock-scrambling experience. I also realized that I should buy a compass.
That night, I chilled with a young couple who also went to UQ by their fire, telling stories and appreciating their company.

Day 3 – Gruel
The sky was grey when I left the campsite, early on the third morning. My problem quad was quite upset for the first two hours of cycling, as I tested it with a long climb on a low gradient to make my way into New South Wales. The countryside was a mix of lush, flat English pastures and Papua-New-Guinean-style jungle on the hill-sides; it was a pretty incredible contrast. I crossed the border, and after a rattling descent through the wet, I hit flat ground. I pedaled with a low cadence in a high gear, because I wanted to build some serious speed. Wrong option. When I hit the next set of rolling hills, my quads were out of juice, although the problem one had loosened up. I had to use a lot of mental power to get up and over them, before I pushed the final flat into Kyogle, on a stomach that felt empty. I regrouped with a few almond & hommus wraps on the curbside, before timidly exiting the town. From there, it was more rollers into Lismore. The rain was relentless and driving, but I warmed to it, and loved the idea that some motorists would pass me thinking that I was crazy. On the final flat stretch into this regional centre of Northern NSW, there was a brutal headwind that sapped me and reduced my speed to a pathetic level. I arrived in Lismore almost having talked myself into staying there for the night, but after a break and some encouragement from the woman working the information kiosk, I was ready to hit the final climb of the day. Riding up through the outskirts of the town, I started to feel good in the saddle, riding hard and noticing a certain smoothness in my cycling. I hit the plateau, passing through some beautiful old-timey towns, before dropping into Ballina. Eleven hours and 165km after starting that day, I arrived at a small motel on the outskirts of the beach town. I then had some fried rice and a giant omlette from a chinese restaurant and watched TV, actually feeling comfortable about my laziness for once. I had worked so hard on the bike that day that I believed I had deserved it: it was one of the first times that this had happened since I started training for ultras.

Day 4 – Keeping Going
I got out of bed without complaint. This had been the same for my first two mornings on the road: I had a purpose to fulfill, a simple yet difficult goal to achieve that I had to chip away at. I knew what I had to do to succeed. Maybe contentment is waking up without wishing to sleep in.
I downed ten weet-bix with soy milk and a detergent-grade coffee, and before I knew it I was out the door heading up the coast. I had some intense saddle-rash that really troubled me whenever I got off of the seat and back on, causing me to wonder whether I could really endure it. However, like all such things, my mind molded to it, and it abated. I arrived in Byron Bay after tackling a combination of flat land and rolling hills along coastal marshland, and there I went for a very short swim. Mistake. The saddle-rash was really irritated by the saltwater, and made the next few hours pretty excruciating. I travelled along the backroads, tackling small climbs and taking in the beautiful countryside. I can't say that I was in a deep reverie though, I was constantly checking the systems and thinking about foot. There was a 150m climb at one point, upon which I was graced by the presence of many other cyclists, which really zapped me, and I was almost destroyed as I made my way into Murwillumbah. Stopping to have a lunch of four veggie patties in flat bread, I thought about what still lay ahead on that day. I would have to get to Mount Warning (another 12km away) and then walk to the top and back down (which I had thought would take three hours) before hitting the sack. I calculated that the day would last twelve hours in total because of this, and felt intimidated by the sheer volume.
I followed the signs as I exited Murwillumbah through its Northern suburbs. Eventually, the ones directing me to Mount Warning dwindled, until I found myself on a country road with not a significant mountain to be seen. I checked the map; yep, I had made a wrong turn. Although I probably only lost 90 minutes in total, this event completely demoralized me, and although there would have been time, I decided not to climb Mount Warning on thiat day. I started to calm down as I reached the campsite at its base, but I was still a tiny bit despondent, as I realized I would have about 150km to cycle and plus a mountain the next day. As a result, I set my alarm for 3:30am, but after lying in the soggy tent in my gritty sleeping bag, wearing my only dry garment (a pair of shorts), I surveyed the condition of my body. I would probably wreck myself if I tried to do the whole walk and cycle, so I decided to catch the train to Brisbane from the Gold Coast. This would make tomorrow’s ride a 60km parade, so my alarm went to 4:30. In my fragile mental state, I also started to fear the leeches up on the mountain. There was no logical reason; they could not hurt me and I could get them off easily, but I was nonetheless pretty anxious.
Due to the incredible strain on my hormonal system of long days of exercise, I had quite a bit of trouble sleeping, and probably got in about four or five hours in total.
Day 5 – a New Gear
As a result, when I awoke, I was pretty unenthusiastic about exiting my sleeping bag. Nevertheless, within thirty minutes, I was strolling up the road to where to trail would begin. Due to the monotony of walking up steep tarmac, I was still completely unenthusiastic about the mountain or the ride, two things I would usually love.
The road became steeper and steeper, until the thin but well built trail took over, and I began to hop along the rocks, through intermittent rain. At some point, I felt a twinge in my right glute, which spelt trouble for me as the trail turned into a steep rock scramble. I went slowly, and nursed the leg, but the damage probably wasn’t as severe as I was treating it to be. I got to the top, and had a look towards the coast, which I could just make out through the clouds. Although I couldn't see much, what was visible was spectacular.
Descending was a lot easier physically, but the downhill pounding really played on my mind. I just really wanted it to be over by now, so for the last kilometre-and-a-bit down the trail, I started running. To my pleasant surprise, I did not hear a sound from my glute, which was surely a good sign. Walking down the road was even more trying, but I managed to get my mind off of it by focusing on the incredible Gondwana rainforest, and by singing at the top of my lungs.
Returning to the campsite, I packed up my gear surprisingly quickly, and was on my bike by 10am. The climb had taken five hours instead of three, but despite the fact that I did not really enjoy it (due to fatigue), it felt like it had gone much quicker.
I had decided to wear running shorts for the final cycle, and they seemed to do me a lot of good – the saddle-rash had all but disappeared as I made my way back through Murwillumbah and towards the Border Ranges. I had looked on the map the night before at the squiggly line across the mountains that marked the road. Although it was very near to a 700 metre mountain, I believed that the climb could not go nearly that high.
I made my way out of the valley, through field of sugar-cane and then started climbing. After 500 metres of uphill road, my legs were as good as toasted, and I said that I would soon get off and push my bike. I rounded corner after corner, telling myself that the climb would end at each one’s completion, but it really didn’t. I knew that I would not be able to cycle to the top, but as I got further and further up, I knew that I would not get off of the bike. I ground up and up, until I was moving at a walking pace, exhausted. I could not go on, but I refused to stop. That was the hardest that I have ever worked in my life, the most that I have ever pushed, without exception. And it payed off; as I climbed higher and higher, I became faster and faster – I had found a new gear. I was in pain, but I no longer suffered, and as I crossed the border and began the descent I raised my fist jubilantly. I now properly surveyed the scenery for the first time on the trip; I was surrounded by towering mountains covered in jungle, dispersed between the tranquil mist of the low clouds. It was beautiful and I was content.
I hit the flat going into Currumbin and pedaled like crazy; it was the fastest that I had travelled on the entire trip. I sprinted up the Gold Coast Highway, getting a massive boost from the traffic, despite the fact that the pollution that they emitted was searing my lungs. I made my way inland to Varsity Lakes Railway Station, careening through roundabouts, relishing the bike lane and the smooth road. Arriving there, I sat down and started to rip into a loaf of banana bread, not exhultant, but not depressed, maybe just a little more peaceful.

On Sunday, the second day after the adventure had finished, I went out for a two-hour easy ride to round of my weekly mileage of cycling. I reflected on the trip, and came to a realization; I love to suffer purely and needlessly. Those five days had helped me to remember this aspect of my personality, and to accept it.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The birthday adventure in numbers

I will write a report about these past five days when I get my head around everything that happened, but for now here are the numbers and a general rundown.

Day 1: 7hrs
cycling - Brisbane, Beaudesert, Rathdowney, Mount Barney. 120km, 547m ascent.

Day 2: 9hrs
Walking/scrambling - Mount Barney East & West; up SE ridge, to saddle, up West Peak, down Southern (Peasants') ridge. 20km, 1250m vertical (approximately).

Day 3: 11hrs
Cycling - Mount Barney, Summerland Way to Kyogle, cross-country to Lismore, Ballina. 165km, 923m ascent.

Day 4: 7hrs
Cycling - Ballina, Byron Bay, Mullumbimby, Tweed Valley Way to Murwillumbah, accidental 10-15km loop, Mount Warning Holiday Park. 115km, 570m ascent.

Day 5: 8hrs (5w/3c)
Walking/scrambling - From Holiday Park to top of Mount Warning. 18km, 1080 vertical (approximately).
Cycling - Murwillumbah, Road 98 over the range to Currumbin, Burleigh Heads, Robina, Varsity Lakes. 59km, 443m ascent.

Cycling - 28hrs, 459km, 2483m climbing.
Walking/scrambling - 14hrs, 38km, 2330m ascent/descent.

Weekly hours of training: 42.

A funny thing that I notice on first sight is that, although the distance walked was 8.3% of that cycled, the vertical gain on foot was 94% of that on the bike. This arises from two factors: there wasn't TOO much vertical on the roads, and the walking/scrambling was really steep, especially on Mount Barney.

Health permitting, I will be spending alot more time in the Mount Barney area these holidays, it is absolutely spectacular and humbling, the solitude was something else.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Low Motivation - time to taper!

This morning, I put in my last key session before I will head off on Monday.
I caught the train to Caboolture, cycled to elimbah and ascended Miketeebumulgrai. My motivaion was very, very low, probably due to some serious overtraining. My quad was not too happy either. The fact that I was up at 0345 to run to my mum's place and pick up my bike may have contributed. In any case, I had intended to cycle to Wild Horse, and climb that bad boy, but I felt bad enough in the saddle that I decided to cut it short at Beerburrum, and just climb that mountain. It gave me 150 more metres of vertical than I would have had otherwise, so it wasn't that much of a soft option.
I put in a few sprints on the bike on the way back to Caboolture Station as my motivation rose, to round out a fairly average but totally awesome session.
I now just have two glasshouse mountains left before I have climbed them all. Wild Horse is simply a formality - 130m. Coonowrin, on the other hand, will be the most difficult, although not the highest. I am confident that I can do it, I will just have to believe in myself!
Anyways, Saturday and Sunday will be all rest (besides backyard cricket), before I lean towards true adventure on Monday (provided my quad is ok) and set off South for five days.
The plan is to cycle down to Mount Barney on the first day, ascend/descend her on the second, cycle to and ascend/descend Mount Warning on the third, and cycle around the coast and home on the fourth and fifth.
I'm not sure how relevant this trip will be training-wise as preparation for the Kurrawa to Duranbah 50km, which will be run a week after I return. The goal is sub-4:30, which is quite ambitious, considering the fact that I have put in about two speed sessions (tempo hill-climbs) in the last month. I figure that the large endurance base attained from cycling and hiking will give me a platform upon which I may push myself very hard. Also, my last 50km pb (4:45 for 53.5km) came when I was 5kg overweight, slightly injured, had run about five times in the five weeks preceeding, and had put in a two-hour run/climb of Tibrogargan the day before. Therefore, if I go into K2D lean and mean, well rested, with a good endurance base behind me, and the right mental attitude - I will have a great chance of putting up a good time. However, the body and mind need to get through the trip without breaking down - I am under no illusions; it will be quite a test, and I expect to have to "go to the well" multiple times in order to keep going.
But as many people are aware, the well is my favourite place in the world.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Another two days, another two adventures.

On Tuesday Bogdan, Charlie, Mike, Newman and I headed Northwards in the Sigma, bound for the Glasshouse Mountains. We put in off-track ascents of the twins, which involved a not insignificant amount of rock scrambling and cliff avoiding. There were a few highlights: after listening to Matt complain for the entireity of the first ascent, I said that he was like Frodo from Lord of the Rings. Bogdan replied that he was the ring itself, Newman adding "a burden to be carried". Climbing to within a couple of metres of the top of a cliff, to see a snake coiled in front of me was another, as well as Mike hitting a red-bellied black snake with a rock from about five metres away. Bogdan's shouts whenever he slipped were pretty classic aswell.

Then today, I did le tour de scum; from Brisbane to Beaudesert, Boonah, and then Ipswich, cathcing the train home from there. It was 156km of near-misses by trucks, angry tradies yelling obscenities at me, bumpy roads and inclement weather - although there were some pretty nice looking peaks along the way. The struggle would have been worth it even without the peaks.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

An epic end to an epic week.

The night after putting in the PB on Mount Cootha, and watching my brother graduate from year 12, I just could not sleep at all. It wasn't anxiety or anything, I just did not feel one bit tired. It was probably because of the fact that I ate a packet of crumpets an hour before hitting the sack, to do some last-minute carbo-loading for the next day. After alternating between reading and just lying there between 11pm and 3am, I decided to cut my losses, and to treat it as sleep deprivation training - I went running.
I walked out of my front door, and ran down past Matt's house to the Greenford Street entrance to Mount Cootha. My legs were really twingey, most likely because of that fact that I had not actually had any chance to recover since the PB.
I must have seen about 20 cane toads as I made my way along the wide fire-trail; once I actually kicked one without realising it!
Pretty soon, I was into Brisbane Forest park, but I cannot say that I was able to find a rhythm. Because of the state of my body, my stride never really felt comfortable. I eventually came to a fork somewhere along the trail, turning left, and down towards Gold Creek Reservoir (although I was unaware of it at that time). Having descended a good 250metres (vertical) to the dam wall, I started to make my way around the small body of water, noticing how incredible the single-trail around it was. My left hamstring started to pang at one point, a nuisance which would stay with me for the rest of the run. The single track soon became overgrown, and I found myself trudging through long grass, at between knee and waist height. I had to keep reigning in my mind at this point, which was getting fairly despondent about a variety of things. Keeping a positive attitude was the key. I exited the long grass as the trail began to climb a steep hillside, hoping that it was heading towards Mount Nebo. It wasn't: pretty soon I was at the dam wall, the 1.5 metre-high steps of which I had to scale to get back to the starting point. I then trudged back up towards the fork, went right this time, and made my way towards Mount Nebo. The next section involved some pretty overgrown trail, and some ridiculously steep ascents and descents. I eventually decided just to take the road up the Mountain, and exited the trail. I was passed by plenty of cyclists, bikers, hoons, and families on day trips on this section, and did not really enjoy it due to the residual fatigue and the tarmac. After what seemed like a like a lifetime, we had arrived at Mount Nebo, then stocking up on supplies, and calling my Dad. I had agreed to meet him at our place at 1pm, but there was no chance that I was going to make it, so we agreed to meet for lunch on Mount Glorious. What could be loosely classified as a running cadence was maintained down the saddle between the two mountains, but as soon as the climb began, my running for this outing seemed to be all but over. Nine hours, and between 55 and 60km after I had began, I waltzed up to Maiala Cafe to await my dad on Mount Glorious.
He and Paula arrived, and we all had a really nice lunch together, before walking to a lookout to savour the view.
We all had curry at the Ceylon Inn that night, and I said goodbye most of the rest of my family, as they were heading off to Vanuatu that day. I then went out for a small party at Megan's house and stumbled into bed at 12:30.
What a week: two full days of cycling and hiking/climbing, a PB on Mount Cootha, and a very slow and relaxed ultra run/walk. The residual fatigue has not yet hit, but I'm hoping that it wont until the week before Kurrawa to Duranbah, when I put in a very serious taper.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

PB for Cootha Climb!

This morning, I was pretty undecided about whether or not I should go for a run. This was because I had only had one rest day since going on an adventure which involved 15 hours of excercise over two days. My quad felt twingey, and my foot, although better, was still suspect.
Meh, just run.
I put on the pillowy racing flats again, and noticed the pep in my stride right when I started. I debated running the traditional 8km route at a tempo pace, but then I got a better Idea: try for a sub-ten-minute on the climb of the said route. So I slowed down to warm up, and anticipated the fun that was ahead.
I started to burn it as soon as I went past the sign denoting the start of the MTB route up Mount Cootha that has become a staple. I took really long strides on the initial rolling hills, and probably pushed too hard on the ups. When the climb proper began, I really started to push, but as I kept looking at my watch, it seemed that I had little chance of coming in under ten minutes.
When the grade increased, I didn't compromise, but I noticed that I was very much in the red zone - I was about to ease off when I looked at my watch, realising that time was still of the essence.
I looked up to see the final switchback, and knew that all I had to do was push hard for the last 250 metres from there to make it. I thought about my Grandma's emphysema for inspiration - make good use of your lungs Zac! - and felt a bit like hurling in the last 50 metres.
I burst on to the road in 9:51, a new PB by 47 seconds!
The run home was lethargic to say the least, but I am now left puzzled/inspired by my body's weird powers of recovery. It was probably largely due to the massage that I had yesterday.
I am now thinking to future speed goals: sub-nine-minutes on FT, and I want to crack ten minutes on the Honeyeater track, for which my current PB is 12:33, run on very tired legs.
Physically and mentally, this has been a good week; let's hope it continues with my first serious long-run (since injury) tomorrow. Hoping to get a marathon done - let's see how my body (especially left foot and quad) hold up.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The adventure season begins in style!

After having finished the uni term on Monday, the first thing I did was to stock up on supplies. What better way to celebrate the end of term than by carbo-loading and then being outside for two days straight!

On Tuesday morning, at just before 5 am I struck out on my bike. I leant Northwards. The first 90 minutes were pretty difficult: my glutes were still sore from playing football in the park a few days before, and my left quad kept whingeing (harden the @#$% up!). I copped some magnificent views of Brisbane Forest park: it was truly beautiful. After I went through Dayboro, I started to loosen, the quad quietened down, and the glutes were unnoticeable. Perfect timing: I then had to bend myself up a 500 metre climb of Mount Mee. It was surprisingly...easy, but still hard enough for me to excorcise some demons on the way up. Then came the descent into D'Aguilar - spectacular views all around, and the boring, noisy run along the highway into Woodford. 5km North of Woodford, I turned East, heading for the coast. In the back of my mind, I was apprehensive of the short and sharp climb over the Bellthorpe range. It came earlier than expected, and was alot easier. Just under 2km with just under 200m of climb, not too bad even after five hours in the saddle. The only problem was my right knee; it musn't have been tracking correctly, as the inside of it became very sore. I felt it on every pedal-stroke. No problem - basically all downhill and flat from there. I cruised through Beerwah, resting for ten minutes (for the fourth time) and chomping down a Marmite and Chia seed sandwich. I hit a pretty deep low after that, struggling through Landsborough and over the Bruce Highway. About 5km out from Caloundra, I lay down on a bike path to get some rest. The concrete felt ridiculously comfortable, and I think that I saw a wombat in the scrub next to me. I then picked myself up and cycled over Little Mountain (very, very little) and into Caloundra. After messing around with one hotel (who wanted a $250 cash bond), I went to a small motel on the main parade. I got in at about 1pm, with 150km in the legs. I then headed to the beach for a swim, which was pretty underwhelming, and back to the motel room for a snooze. Up at 6pm for Indian, and then a bit of tv before bed.

The next day, I woke at 6:30am, had an unnecessarily hurried breakfast, bought some vegemite (for the salt) and set off. I had intended to ride straight home, but I had a better idea. I felt crappy down Steve Irwin Way into Beerburrum, and was much the same when I parked my bike in front of Tunbubudla East (one of the Glasshouse Mtns), to make a cheeky ascent. It lived up to my expectations: there was no track to the top at all. I hopped boulders, climbed up logs, and thrashed through scrub and grass, before bursting on to some flat rock, which gave me a fantastic view of the rest of the Glasshouse Mountains. I was still feeling pretty rubbishy, and was getting annoyed by the massive flies that circled me. I then went through some thick scrub, which took longer than expected, and reached the summit. After kissing the cairn, I started to descend down the other side. A big goanna scuttled up a tree in front of me, and gave me a hiss for staring at him/her for too long. It was then through some scrub, which became thicker and thicker, and steeper and steeper. At one point, I looked up from my feet; past a row of bushes, I could see ground 20-30 vertical metres below me, directly in front. This didn't make sense - I thought there were no cliffs on this Mountain! It was a good exercise in mental versatility. I panned sideways, and ended up getting to a cliff with a near-vertical drop of about 5 metres. I made my way accross and down it, being very wary of the destabilising effect of my backpack. I descended through a gully small gully onto the track, then taking the fire-trails back to my bike. I was intent on doing the Tunbubudla West aswell, but my mind shuddered at the thought of more bush-bashing. Note to self: learn to love bush-bashing. From there, I cycled through Elimbah township, and felt good on the way to Mount Saddleback/Elimbah. I found a 4wd trail near enough to the hill (it is only 100m above sea level), and followed it along to see if I could find a way up. Nope - bushbashing again. My mind came up with plenty of excuses not to: my niggling hip, my foot, what if I run out of food/water, risk of snake bite, etc... In the end, I didn't talk myself into it - there was no logical argument that I could think of - but just did it. it was mainly thrashing through long grass and rock hopping to get to the top. I then went down the other side (don't I ever learn?) and came accross a cliff. This time, I was able to avoid doing any real climbing by simply manoeuvring around it, while making my way downwards. I got to the bike, cycled into Caboolture with plenty of pep in my legs, and caught the train to mums house for a dip in the pool and a feed.

I was not that elated when I finished, but that's because I never really went to the well on this two day trip: it roughed my quad, hip and foot up enough as it was, I didn't want to put myself out for the whole summer. A great two days, with a few more lows than highs for some reason, but with the constant understanding that my emotion was pure. What a great way to ring in the holidays: a time for great adventures!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

50 runs since injury!

Continuing my prolific streak of blogging and running, I have made it to a significant milestone with my second run of this recovery week: 50 runs in the 60 days since I was last laid up with injury! I have put in 59 Mount Cootha climbs during that time aswell, and hope to get to 100 by the end of the year.
The tendinitis in my foot is persisting, even though I have been taking it easy over the last few days: maybe rest isn't the best solution? I figure that I should just keep running in the hope that it sorts itself out. Stupid, I know, but I'm an optimist.
Having reached this milestone, I will now start to concentrate mileage into a few runs per week. I'm thinking of doing something like:
Tu-4-6hr run/walk (hilly),
Th-8km tempo (flat),
F- 5km walk (steep hills - barefoot),
Sa-4-6hr long run/walk (hilly),

This would be followed by a week of 4x12km run/walk (M,W,F,Su), with weights or rest on the other days.
The rationale behind this is that, in the past, when I have put in a few longer runs per week, and had plenty of rest otherwise, I have improved the most, and have had very few niggles.
Also, a wild human (as opposed to us zoo humans) would have gone on a few long hunting runs per week, gorged on meat, and then lazed around for the rest of the time.
Thirdly, it will allow me to have some sweet adventures in the uni holidays. I'm thinking I will stick to Bribane Forest Park a fair amount, but will go up to Glasshouse or maybe even down to Mount Barney a few times.

Being Homeless

In the interests of finally moving on from my experience last holidays, I have just written the following passage of free-verse.

I sat in the pub, talking to mates, detaching myself every-so-often to return to the dread of my gut for the night that would await. 9pm, 10pm, 10:15, 10:20, 10:30pm, time to go. Wish farewell with sorrow. Get on my bike, ride to the trailhead. Rain. Up the wide trail, right, left, down the narrow, right on creek-bed, left up hillside. Get into my hammock. Difficult, cumbersome. Fear: will someone find me? What was that noise? Is that someone nearby? Burning fear coming from my gut. Sleep is poor. Lonely: I am displaced, estranged, alone with my book, my thoughts, my fear. Anxiety: I can’t wait for the night to end.

Wake up: new day. Glad to be rid of the night. Train. I love to train: purpose, direction, burn, passion, fun, love, life. Finish training: what now? Boredom, boredom, anxiety rises slowly but surely from the depths of my stomach. I go to the canoe club, open up the shed, creep behind the canoe rack, wriggle onto the filthy mattress. Fear is still present: what if someone comes early in the morning? What if someone comes now. Alone: people, lives of others, become objects, become threats. Ability to love wanes. I sleep alone, fearful.

I tell my dad when I visit him in Adelaide. He barates me, tells me I'm crazy, acts differently around me. Estranged now from my own blood. Detatched. Alone.

I have enough one night. My instinct takes over. I cry. I have given up my quest. Six months it should have been: less than three weeks did I last. But I’m going home. Home, to where there is security, people who love me and people who I love. With others, I’m safe. I’m Safe with others.

Everything is in perspective. My everyday existence is perfect. I have realized the key to happiness: having a positive perception of other people and sentient beings. Opening yourself to them, not categorizing and stereotyping. Ultimate compassion is ultimate happiness.

Now begins the road to adjust my thought patterns, so that I may be reintegrated into mainstream society and re-learn to love others, and to not fear anything, for my life is perfect.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Prolific Blogging

I know that the amount that I am posting at the moment is pretty excessive. However, the number of posts that I write is directly correlated with the amount that I run, and since I have upped my mileage this week, I have upped my posting aswell.

Following on from my post a few days ago about how my body works in strange ways, after having felt pretty horrible on the trail yesterday, and reaching 101km in the process, I went out to a barbecue last night. I had a great time, chatting to the Chileans, and keeping an eye on Keiran (she had advised me to do so). In the end, we arrived home at about 11:30pm and I was in bed at 12am. "There goes my study tomorrow," I thought. Surprisingly; I woke up at 5:30, and within ten minutes, I felt like I had slept for fifteen hours, not five and a half. So I did what I always do when I feel good - I went running. I put in 9.5km and one and a half climbs of Mount Cootha. It was a great run, the only downer being my painful foot. My calves felt pretty good the whole time, although my quads were like mush.

At 110km, this has been my highest mileage week ever, not including race week for Sri Chinmoy. Maybe it is possible for me to get up to 100 miles per week. As always, though, a slow build up is what will get me there.

Eight weeks of fun: 48.5, 55.4, 37, 67.9, 105.2, 52, 63.5, 110. Total = 539.5

Friday, November 5, 2010

Brisbane Forest Park

Today, I felt like rounding out my weekly kilometreage to 100km, but my legs were certainly not up for any ascents/descents of Mount Cootha.
As a result, I set out to enter Brisbane Forest Park for the first time in a few months.
My legs started off probably at 70%, but as soon as I hit a 1-2% uphill gradient, they felt like they were starting to swell. This eased fairly quickly on each hill, but I knew that I would be doing a fair amount of walking.
It brought back old memories when I hit the tarmac of Boscombe Road, which had been upgraded since I last ran there, I remember cruising along there before dawn, with nothing in my world except for what I could see in the light of my headlamp.
I arrived at the fence between Mount Cootha Forest and Brisbane Forest Park and hesitated for a moment, but without reflecting. I just hesistated. It was very odd, but soon forgotten as I made my way along South Boundary Road.
At the time, I felt like garbage, and my running form was absolutely horrible so I was not enjoying it as much as I should have been, but I realise now just how lucky I am to be within very close reach of a good 100 square kilometres of wilderness. It is such a beautiful place - rolling bushland and blue skies as far as the eye can see - plus plenty of wide firetrails for the keen runner/walker/mountain biker.
I was a bit disoriented on the way back, and managed to miss the turn off to Boscombe Road. My mind did not like turning around and going back the way I came, but I managed to pick up my attitude fairly quickly, although not taking a waterbottle was probably a bad idea. On Mount Cootha it's OK, as there are bubblers everywhere, but in BFP the only water sources are creeks and reservoirs - maybe I could take an empty waterbottle and some purification tablets next time?
In any case, my kidneys seem to be very well conditioned at the moment - I went for two hours without water, and I wasn't really cramping at all, although I was craving some H20.
when I returned to the Gap Creek Reserve, I did guzzle about 500ml from the bubbler there, but I probably could have made it home without it.

With my best interests in mind, I will not be running at all for the next eight days. I have a bunch of niggles that will not go away unless I do something about them now. In that time, I will work on strengthening my body - especially my calves - and swimming. It's not that I absolutely HAVE to rest, it's just that I don't want to get injured a few weeks down the road, when the uni holidays roll around, and I will want to be adventuring as much as possible.
Life is good.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Recently, the Flamenco version of the tango "Volver", sung by the beautiful and talented Estrella Morente has been been deeply embedded within my brain. I can't stop singing it while studying, and when I was running this afternoon, it was in my head the whole time. Something about the song is just incredibly catchy - I think it's the melody, and the fact that it switches from major to minor numerous times, not to mention the incredible classical guitar which accompanies Estrella's wonderful voice. The lyrics though, or rather, the title (which means "to return" in English), may be regarded as ironic to my current situation. It could be interpreted in many, many ways. Firstly, I am returning to Mount Cootha, which has become my spiritual home, every morning. I feel like I am returning to my old self in regards to my ability to focus mentally, and I have returned to fitness - to the days where I put in the largest amount of kms on the trail. I am very happy with my effort over the last three days - I have done 10 hours of training, including 70km of running/walking (1,300m vertical), and 1:15 of cycling, with a massive PB for the Cootha climb up the Flat Taringa route (see older post). The unprecedented part is that I have been splitting it into two sessions per day, which has allowed me to squeeze as much mileage as possible out of my battered body.
However, I have also been hurt, as in the past. On run #1 this morning (upon which I felt like s#!t might I add, although I am still so grateful to be out there) at some point I managed to fuddle something around my right soleus/achilles. It was a dull pain that has lingered. It seems not to be too bad though, seeing as I was able to run again in the afternoon, and it didn't worsen upon doing so. Despite my hubristic belief in my own diagnostic skills, I will not jump to any conclusions, and will rest tomorrow and perhaps on Friday, or even for a whole week if necessary. On the pain scale, it is pretty low, but I want to sort it out as soon as possible, so that it doesn't linger with me for weeks and then resurface down the road.
On a side note, I was reflecting today on how great my housemates are. The combination of Jed's easygoingness and Keiran's motherly, caring nature is really unbeatable, especially when coupled with the fact that they are always up for a chat.
Great week so far.

Monday, November 1, 2010

My body makes very little sense.

After having put in a very sluggish 21km run yesterday morning, I felt decidedly perplexed that my body had not recovered after two full days without any excercise.
After the run, I felt like trash throughout the morning, and into the early afternoon, but at just after 3:30pm, having just watched the trailer for the film "Once a Runner", I felt ready to go again, although my quads felt like mush.
For the first time in two weeks, I decided to don my pillowy racing flats; I had not worn them in a while because they seemed to aggravate the tendinitis. The run to the trailhead was pretty average, although I felt better than I had that morning. I ran quickly but with poor form down the initial wide trail, and up to the Flat Taringa route, which has become my portal to the world of Mount Cootha. However, against my better judgement, as soon as I made the right turn on to the single-trail, I started to haul ass. The extra protection of the racing flats allowed me to fly along the rolling hills, and I was able to maintain a long, strong stride when I began the proper climb. I kept running, pushing hard on the 5-10% inclines, and just soaking up the 10-20s. I knew that I had a shot at a PB for the climb, so I kept pushing, even though my hip started to niggle me a bit. I came out of the trail-head in 10:38, blitzing my last PB of 12:50. I then put in a pretty rubbishy descent of an unmarked MTB trail, climbed up the other side via the Slaughter Falls trails, and chopped my way down the Steep Taringa trail home. Needless to say, my foot was pretty rooted by the end, but I was satisfied with the PB.
I'm still trying to understand how that happened.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The half century

So, since my last proper run-stopping injury, I have managed to put in a full climb of Mount Cootha 50 times in 50 days, over 41 runs. Initially, this would seem to indicate a certain amount of consistency in my training. Well that is true to a certain extent; I have been consistently tired, my quads have been consistently funked, but I have consistently been having a good time on the trails. Now, to the inconsistent element. My weekly kilometreage over the seven weeks since injury would be the best example: 48.5, 55.4, 37, 67.9, 105.2, 52, 63.5. While I do not believe that 100km is really that much, compared to the numbers of other ultrarunners, it certainly put me into a deep deficit, that I have been struggling to pay back over the last two weeks. This week, I think that I will try having three days without running, and just concentrate the mileage in the other four, to see if that will help me to recover while still allowing me to put up (hopefully) something nearer to triple digits. With that said, my hip niggle has returned, and the tendinitis in my foot continues to linger - so we'll have to pay them some consideration.

Into exam block, and still happy to be out there running most days.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Running through the pain.

So, after my big week of running last week, I thought that I had escaped without being harmed.
Think again.
I have discovered that the pain in my foot is most likely extensor tendonitis, instead of a stress fracture. This means that it is reasonably "safe" to keep on training regardless, although it may start to hurt like a mean mofo. Icing the affected area seems to abate the pain, and it is never as bad after running as it is before.
Nevertheless, I feel a fair amount of fear and uncertainty about my near-future of running, with questions like: will it actually heal by itself? What if I break down? What if it causes other problems?
The last question has been partially answered - my left inner-quad feels very twingey, and the place where it connects to my hip seems to pinch when I lift my leg too high. However, provided that I continue to take it easy this week, it SHOULD sort itself out (having now said that, it probably wont).
In any case, I had five good weeks of running, and was bound to have a bad one pop up at some time, so I am not bitter about it. I am still enjoying just getting out there everyday.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

"After" latin America by Walter Mignolo

To me, this passage from Mignolo's article would be the best way to describe the history of the modern world to a being from another planet: "The confluence of "discovering" a new continent, on the one hand, and expelling Jews and Moors from the Iberian peninsula, on the other, gave Western Christians the opportunity to translate their local view into the universal perspective that shows up in their world maps (like Mercator's and Ortelius' that I referred to in the first chapter). Colombian philosopher Santiago Castro-Gomez described this moment in terms of the emergence of the "hubris of the zero-point."4 That is, an insidious confidence emerged from the belief that Europeans occupied a universal locus of observation and of enunciation from which the world and its people could be classified. The radical shift in the geography of knowledge at that moment consisted in the subsuming under the Christian perspective of all other loci of observation.
This is, precisely, what the theological politics of knowledge was all about. The very idea of "modernity" cannot be separated fiom this shift, made possible by the simultaneous triumph of Christianity over the other religions of the Book, the emergence of a new continent, the navigation as well as physical and conceptual appropriation ofthe globe, and the subsuming of all other forms of knowledge."
It sums it all up really.

On the running front, I turned my long run into a back-to-back set, putting in 17km and two climbs on Sunday aswell. This meant that my weekly mileage went from 67km one week to 105km the next. This was admittedly stupid, but if I just take this week really easy (20-35km), and work off of a two week build up, one week easy cycle, I should be able to have fun and induce a training effect. Nonetheless, the hard week has put me well into deficit, and I should need this entire week of taking it easy to return to form. This effort has also caused some more tendons in my foot to flare up/become damaged. They get a bit sore when I sit down for long periods, but when I stand up and walk around, the pain abates. I think I will go canoeing tomorrow, just to give my legs a complete rest (I went cycling this morning), then have a few more easy runs/cycles, with a rest day on Sunday. That's the plan, anyways - and I know that, when it comes to running, nothing goes according to it.

Friday, October 15, 2010

28 Runs Later

So, I have returned from injury, and have managed to be on the trail quite frequently. Today, with a 5 x Cootha run/walk I passed a significant milestone - 28 runs since returning from injury. This makes it my best streak of consistent training since April this year. That is pretty pathetic, I am aware, and my own fault, but I am still glad to have made it this far. I have had some lingering foot problems, and my right knee still seems to drop in a bit, causing problems with my hamstring tendons, but as long as I take it easy next week, and then keep building up slowly, they SHOULD sort themselves out. I am incredibly grateful for this, for just being able to be out there everyday, to be on Mount Cootha, to be in nature. In the course of these runs, I have attained a level of intimacy with and love for this area that motivates me to run even more. I feel like I am starting to exit the funk (fingers crossed) - my OCD/anxiety seems to have calmed down, and although I need some extra sleep, I feel pretty good physically.
I will back today's run up with a cycle tomorrow - between 60 and 120 minutes, depending on how I feel, and then jump into the easy week. It should look a little something like this (depending on how my body feels) - Monday PM - walk up Mt C with Keiran,
Tuesday AM - Single climb of Mt C,
Wednesday AM - Single Climb of Mt. C,
thursday AM - Single Climb of Mt. C, PM - Climb with Bogdan,
Friday AM - 60 minute cycle - rolling hills,
Saturday AM - Single climb of Mt C,
Sunday AM - 30 minute cycle.

After that, as ong as my body holds up, I will go for about 80-90km the next week, and 90-100km the week after. Then I will take another easy week, perhaps culminating in the Mount Cootha mousdash (10.5km) if I feel up for it. If my training keeps going well, I should have the legs for it, but I just don't want to have to take time to recover afterwards. I say this because my instincts would make me race the run, instead of just hitting a tempo climb and then opening up. Probably not then.

In summation, I am in a good place at the moment, and am really enjoying my life.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


The main questions/ideas raised in one of my subjects, Politics of theory in Latin America, are what is Latin America?, What is the 'Latin American condition'? and in what way do the geographical/natural features of the continent shape the political landscape and the character of the people?

One notes that a sort of continental identity has arisen from the pain, mistakes and struggles (of all kinds - social, economic, political, physical) that all of the nations have suffered at the hands of the Spanish, the Caudillos and modern despotic rulers (atleast according to Jose' Marti'). It seems to have brought a sense of pride to the nations, that they have endured (or been shat out the other end, depending on how you look at it) and continue to exist.

As a result, I fell into a deep reverie on Australia. What is Australia? What is the 'Australian condition' (if it actually exists)? Here are my opinions, embellished in a pseudo-Sarmientine manner.

The autochtonous people of this country, who once were made of the land have been massacred, and those who survived were torn away from it, like a newborn from the arms of its mother, and placed in front of a stern Colonel, who 'educated' them, and taught them how to live. Rightfully, some wail and scream of the injustices that were done to them, while others sleep in chemicals to distill the pain. Lo and behold, the sumptuous fruits of modernity and colonial ambition! They have been marginalised to such an extent that they are considered disfunctional from birth by the government, and are therefore given the funds necessary to support themselves. Thanks to our forefathers, they make up very little of the current Australian population, and have an equally minimal effect on our national identity. But these people know the land better than any cartographer, better than Flinders or Simpson, for once they were the land.

The heterotochtonous people have undergone very few 'National' struggles - the Japanese in Darwin is the only example that comes to mind, Gallipoli seems secondary. From whence comes such a strong identification with a nation that has existed for three generations? The struggles of those first convicts who arrived on boats seems plausible - they were oppressed by the harsh hand of the law, which had fallen rightfully upon them. When convicts are released, they will immediately seek out sensual pleasures - they believe that they have the right to, as they have been deprived for so long. To this day, we are a nation of consumers - probably second only to the US. The traditional man sits idly watching footy with a beer in one hand and a pie in the other. He commutes for more than an hour a day in a four-wheeled drive that could run down a Rhino. If his beer is spilt, he looks for a fight. If someone asks him to catch the train instead of driving he is indignant, he feels deprived of his God-given right as an ex-convict to extravagant consumption. He was imprisoned in the past, and now he quietly imprisons his wife; dismissing her and demanding that she meets his desires. But (I would say thankfully) our national identity has been diluted, owing largely to immigration and the all-destroying monolith that is American pop culture. Culturally, we are now, in my opinion, 5% indigenous, 20% true blue Aussie, 10% English, 40% American and 25% foreign (Indian, Asian, etc...) Culture is dynamic. So Australian culture and the Australian identity is no longer comprised of Utes and footy, but of a combination of a complex range of influences. This lack of solidity may be troubling and confusing to some, but to me it just confirms the real answer to the question of "What is Australia?".

Australia will always be defined by its geography. It is the grandfather of the continents, withered by time, looking scornfully upon the young bucks of the world. America, with it's jagged peaks and violent volcanoes is but an angsty and troubled teen, looking to prove its worth in impressive geological features. Old man Australia sits in his rocking chair, as flat as a pancake, smiling whimsically upon the silly white figures that tickle his edges, convinced of their dominance over him. His heart, Uluru, has been touched upon by people, but there has been no colony established on top of it, or even near to it, except for the purposes of harbouring tourists who look in wonder at the core of this unconquerable being. And all around it is desert, most of which could never independently support human life. It is guarded by ruthless reptiles and unendurable weather; Like many old people, he has become obsessed with home security. Crocodiles wait in the rivers of the North, and sharks circle the continent. To the South, in case Antartica gets any ideas, he has placed the Nullarbor plain. Shrub, dirt, salt lake - the groaning landscape continues like this for thousands of kilometres. The human inhabitants are there to prove that it is possible to live in such an environment, and their only source of water is a train that comes from Adelaide or Perth. The old man distracts the people with his abundant exterior, keeping his insides to himself.

I now smile when I think about how I slipped over while atop Mount Beerwah a few weekends ago. We don't own this continent, it owns us.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Setbacks and MORE Recurring Lessons

So I went out for a half hour run on Friday morning, to see if my metatarsal had healed. I cycled up to the Chapel Hill Road (CHR) trailhead, and broke into a good rhythm as soon as I had gotten off the saddle and on to my feet - it was as if I had not taken any time off at all. I ground up the first climb on wide fire-trail, and then entered the single track which heads up to the CHR trail. My body warmed to the task, and the climbing was surprisingly easy (easy being a relative term); I was only really working in the final 100 or so metres. I debated power-hiking to the top of Mount Coot-tha from there, but thought it better to just hit the road for a few minutes to round out the run. As I descended CHR trail, I saw a wallaby shoot into the bush - the first that I have seen on Mount Cootha or even in BFP. At this point, I was starting to be reacquainted with my body, listening attentively to every little pang of pain, following the rhythm of my breath, and ensuring that my form was tight. If for nothing else, this run was valuable just for that reason. It helped me to remember another reason why I enjoy running - to achieve a level of intimacy with my own body that is impossible in any other discipline, mental or physical - for me at least. I saw some single track to my right that I had not touched before after descending a little more, and turned on to it. This is definitely a contender for best trail on Mount Coot-tha - it was technical with rolling hills, allowed me to pass by groups of beautiful, singing Currawongs and even gave me a view of Mount Barney at one point. All of this, in just 20 minutes, and my metatarsal had not said a word!!! Imagine what it will be like when I get back to 2-hour long outings! I can just do half an hour of this per day to build fitness now, I thought - and started, as is my usual habit, to make training plans for the future.

Alas, all was not well in the realm of my body though. I first noticed a small twinge on the top of my knee, and then to the side, especially as I was climbing. I was focusing on my form, but the pain persisted and worsened when I exited the trail on to the hard top to get back to my bike. I went up a gradual incline, and it became a lot worse. I then looked at my watch - it said 30 minutes - so I decided to walk the final 100 metres to my bike to prevent myself from worsening the problem. About 50 metres from the bike, I saw a group of walkers, and in my foolish pride, I ran the final bit back to the bike. That made it unbearable. It is very likely that it is an ITB problem, as there are very few other causes of lateral knee pain.

Here are the factors that I think may contribute to the pain:
- Being undertrained for Flinder's Tour but still running it, and causing a similar problem,
- Returning to training too soon after flinders tour,
- Reducing the amount of hip and glute excercises as a result of substituting gym with climbing,
- Cycling alot, especially on hills out of the saddle, thereby overdeveloping the lateral component of my quads - causing poor form when running uphill,
- and Running with soft and uneven shoes.

From this, effective remedies can be extrapolated as follows:
- Resting from running if necessary, then building up slowly,
- wearing flat-soled shoes,
- strengthening my glutes and hips,
- stretching my quads and ITBs,
- desisting from cycling where possible and trying to stay in the saddle when I do cycle.

I will be seeing Ann (the physio) on Tuesday to get some advice from someone who really knows what they're talking about.

It seems fairly simple, but my motivation to do anything but just get out there and run at the moment is fairly low. Seeing as I am currently quite sick as well, I am considering a week-long exercise hiatus. It may do me some good - allowing ALL connective tissue to heal, my endocrine system to recover, and my motivation to return. I have been flirting if not engaged with burnout and overtraining for basically the whole of the past two and a bit years since I stopped playing rugby and started getting fit. This has especially been the case since I started ultrarunning. My strategy in the past was to take on a training load that was well beyond my capabilities and hoping not to get injured or sick, but for my body to make the necessary adaptations to handle such a load after three or four weeks. This worked when I was training for the 11km birthday swim and the canoe trip, and it worked for those beautiful five weeks earlier this year when I was training for the Glasshouse 50 mile. However, in the first instance, I succumbed to extreme endocrine fatigue after the second day of my supposedly three-week-long canoeing trip in Spain, and was barely able to walk a kilometre for the next two weeks without having an emotional breakdown, after having given up the trip on the fourth day. In the second instance, I had actually managed to make the adaptation, and was in brilliant mental and physical shape after Yurebilla; nevertheless, I had adapted so well to running slowly over hilly terrain, carrying a few litres of water and a few snacks, that when I made the error of doing speed training and running to uni with a backpack on the Monday after that 56km beauty, I managed to injure my calf - putting me out of consistent running for five weeks, and warranting a DNS for Cook's tour. I am starting to see a pattern here.

A better approach will be to build up slowly, placing periods of recovery into my training program, and trying to remain content with the amount of running that I am doing at any given time. To this end, I have employed the services of a coach, who has written an eight week program for me that I may begin once I have built up to 1 hour of running, five days per week.

As always, the key word is patience: patience in allowing myself to heal, and in performing the necessary exercises to rehabilitate my injury; and patience in building up slowly and allowing myself to recover when necessary.

Some people would quit running if they kept getting frustrated like this. Aside from the fact that I enjoy running too much to do so, if one analyzes the root cause of any problem in which one finds themself, it is ultimately one's actions and one's perception of reality that are the causes of the problem, or the causes of them viewing a potentially beneficial situation as a problem. I acknowledge that all my injuries have been my own fault, and WILL correct my mistakes now. That's another reason why I love running; for the lessons that it provides and the virtue that it instills in the practitioner.

Saturday, September 4, 2010


So I ended up moving to Chapel Hill today; my place is about 1.5kms from the Russel Terrace/Chapel Hill Road trailhead. Being injured but eager, I have devised a route for a sweet bi- or tri-weekly run that I would like to build up to when I get healthy. It involves going over Cootha to Matt's place, and back the way that I came. It would involve 300 metres of gain and 300 of loss and would be 12.5km long, with all of the climbing and descending occuring after 2km of relatively flat road (and therefore finishing before the final 2km), which would allow me to get my legs warm first. It looks like the perfect run for building fitness, once I am able to run again. Obviously, this is all just speculation, as it doesn't look like I'll be running for the next few weeks.

What I can do, however (touchwood), is paddle. I have been hitting up the Brisbane River for between 60 and 90 minutes for the last five days, and my body is starting to enjoy it. The plan is to build up to 12 hours-per-week of canoeing, and then when I can run, slowly replacing that time with running and then ultimately doing 2x1 hour of canoeing and one climbing session per week, with about 140km of running - 70kms over the weekend, and 70kms through the week. This would be the ideal situation for me, and I know I can build up to it, over about 15 weeks. It will take some almighty patience though, something which I have generally lacked in the past.

It seems that the "determination" and love of running which get me out the door every morning is the same thing that causes me to push too hard. I need to learn to wait - I should always err on the side of caution.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Climbing while falling.

To the normal person, going from homelessness to living in a five-bedroom house in suburbia would seem like a very positive move. To me, it has been anything but.

The first week, I was comfortable - I hobbled around uni (as I was still recovering from Flinder's) contentedly in the knowledge that I would recover in a warm bed each night.

The second week saw my soul squirm within my body, as the desire to run again took hold. I started running on the Friday, attempting to rebuild my love of motion and the moment, which had been fairly well pounded out of me at Flinders.

The third week was going well, until I overheard something on the radio about the horror flick "the Human Centipede". Intrigued and misguided, I watched the trailer. "That Image" was burned into my retinas, and plagued my mind for many days. I had to keep reminding myself that it was only a film, and that no one would really do such things.

During the fourth week, when I had just about gotten over the centipede, my mind began to run away. The images from that trailer were replaced with worse ones of the horrific things human beings actually do to each other, and for inadvertently bringing them into my mind I felt inconsolably guilty. This seemed to be an attack of OCD, which was probably exacerbated by the Ibuprofen I was taking for my foot pain (I had had random anxiety after taking them for the first time).

In the fifth and current week the technological excesses of my current residence - two computers, four phones, three TV's etc... - caused me to have a small breakdown of sorts. It was at that point that I realised that I needed to get out of my Mum's house and back into the real world. The life experienced within the cozy walls of a well-equipped house is so abstracted from reality, so devoid of real emotion, that I hesitate in calling it life at all. So, by the end of the week, I have calmed my guilt/anxiety attacks by reading the words of the Dalai Lama, and have found a new place to live. It is about a mile from the trails in Chapel Hill, which is brilliant, but brings another another problem to mind - the spectre of injury. My left ITB has flared up like nothing else due to wearing soft shoes on a few occasions, reducing me to a pathetic 25km of running this week and I fear that I have the beginnings of a stress fracture on one of the metatarsals of my right foot. This is frustrating, and has left me feeling quite directionless, as far as running is concerned.

However, the positive is that this is how it should be. I have been re-reading "Born to Run" this weekend, and it has brought back some very fond memories. Those first five weeks of Uni this year, in which I logged 360kms (with two sumptuous 100km weeks and the same number of 50km long runs) may have been the most directionless that I have been in my life. Sure, I was supposedly training for a 12-hour track race, but I would roll out of bed each morning and hit the trail for no other reason than to become my surroundings and to relish in the joy of fluid, metronomic movement. I had no direction, as I was completely savouring the moment - the beautiful ecstasy at some points and the delicious fatigue at others. I now remember what I have to do to overcome my anxiety and to love life again: remove my material dependences, lose my direction, and be in the moment. First, I must let myself heal. Then I will build up slowly. Then I will run as much as my body wants, and as much as my joy permits. So with directionlessness in mind, I may not race at all next year, and if I do, it will be a spur-of-the-moment thing.

Additionally, during this time, Bogdan has introduced me to indoor climbing, which is becoming a fixture in my training routine, and will replace gym and possibly swimming aswell (atleast for the time being). The instinctiveness and childish joyfulness of the movement matches that of running the way it should be done.

It seems that my mental doldrums and despair over the last five weeks have served to set me back onto the road to this positive directionlessness. So with all this in mind, I will take a valuable lesson to my new home: everything works out for the best.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Glasshouse mini-adventure: recurring lessons.

We headed up to Tibrogargan on Sunday morning so that I could introduce Bogdan to the kind old grandfather.

I made a mess of the navagation, sending us on a backstreets course through the Northside, when we could have gone on the Bruce Highway. For some reason, I had thought that Old Gympie Road started near brisbane, and that we could follow it to Beerburrum. I was wrong.

We parked at the side of Steve Irwin Way and ran/walked to the base of Tibro (I had no shoes on. The beginning of the climb is the usually the hardest part, and today was no exception. Bogdan kept up really well (considering that, from his account, he was out of form), and we made it to the top in moderately good time. The view at the top was better when shared, but not as good as the climb down (at least in my opinion). It was at the summit that I suggested - forcefully - that we have a crack (with all due respect to the mountain) at Beerwah - the pregnant mother, as there really couldn't be a better day for it. Bogdan reluctantly agreed to have a go as we were making out way down. There were fewer people on the mountain this time around, so it was a lot safer and easier than the time before once we arrived at the most technical section near the bottom.

I put my shoes back on and we hightailed it back to the car, as I knew that we would be pushing it for time if we wanted to complete the climb of the Mother Mountain and get back to Brisbane in time for the start of Bogdan's shift at Coles (2:30pm).

We arrived at the end of the tarmac shortly thereafter, having snacked on the meager rashions that we had brought, then running to the trail-head and running/walking to the beginning of the climb. Like the first time that I climbed Beerwah, I shat my pants (figuratively) on the first small pitch of smooth rock with a few handholds. After that, we both made light work of the weathered and amply hand-holed (not strictly a word) section of the mountain. I kept encouraging Bogdan, but I probably did it frequently enough to make it very annoying for him. I then selfishly pulled away from him, as I really wanted to make it to the top before our pre-set turnaround time. Bogs caught up on the flat section, but I separated myself from him greatly on the final rocky-outcrop-filled section of the climb. When I saw the summit a few hundred metres ahead, I broke into a run/scramble, bloodying my big toe in the process (yes, I had removed my shoes at the base of the climb) without really noticing until I arrived at the top. I said hi to the people who were savouring the view, kissed the summit rock, and skipped back down to Bogdan to drive him to the top. He got there about two minutes after the turnaround time - seemingly exhausted, and had a quick glance at the beautiful 360, while I had started to descend. In doing so, I was full of arrogance, and not revering the mountain in the way that I should have been. As a result, she taught me a lesson. I stepped on to a boulder quickly with one foot, slipping, pivoting and then "SMACK", landing on my stomach knees and elbow. There appeared to be little damage, so I was able to keep going, with Bogs in tow. I should have been more alert, as if I had fallen a few metres ahead, it could have been off the side of the mountain. I had a lot of trouble finding the right trail down, so I let Bogdan take the lead, and we managed to take a wrong turn. We were making our way down the mountain, unknowingly, towards a cliff, when we should have been going across it. The scrub got thicker and thicker - Bogs suggested that we turn around, but I thought we could navigate our way back to the path. Eventually, after I had started to become a bit negative, we decided to head uphill again (I should have listened to Bogdan at first), and found the gradually sloping trail with a fair amount of effort. The rest of the descent was pretty uneventful, except for a few unintended bumslides, and some difficulty deciding the best way down for the final 20 metres of vertical. Hitting flat ground with no more mountain beneath me was quite a relief; we chugged down our water and ran/walked back to the car. Bogdan's knees flared up a bit, as I had predicted, and mine started to swell because of the fall. The one on the right was hit right in the middle and it feels quite sore when walked/run upon but it is responding well to ice.

I feel quite guilty that Bogdan may have missed the first few minutes of his shift because of me, in detail: 1. my poor navigational skills in the car, 2. Our poor concentration on the mountain (I was supposedly the experienced one and should have made better decisions) and 3. my forceful suggestion that we climb Beerwah. However, being the good bloke that he is, he seems not to be pointing the finger.

In any case, that was an enjoyable adventure with some important lessons (that I should have learnt by now anyways):
1. Read the map properly,
2. Bring more food and water,
3. Respect the mountain,
4. Stay alert for the right trail.

Anyways, here are the stats: about 7km in 3:50 (what an incredible time!) with approximately 620m of climb and the same of descent.

My feet were externally munched after this outing, but were structurally alright. They look pretty cool though.

Friday, August 20, 2010


I woke today feeling pretty average from the cold that I had picked up on Friday, so I thought it best to have a rest day. I played some easy tennis for a few hours with Benny early in the morning, and when I came back inside, it felt as if the cold had basically disappeared. As a result, I scrapped my plan of rest and did a bit of errand running. I went down to Graceville State School to vote first of all (Greens in Senate and House of Reps).
Making my way from there to the Oxley Common, I focussed on mastering my running form again, but it was hard in my Mizunos, as the inside of the forefoot is lower than the outside. Consequently, my left knee flared up a bit when I got to the common, as did the right hamstring, meaning that I had to stop to stretch fairly often. I really fell into a rhythm at the common - the surrounds made me feel like I was in the middle of the Lockyer Valley, not 6kms from the CBD. I was in a very positive place (mentally): I started contemplating racing Glasshouse in September, but then realised that I didn't want to miss out on another two weeks of running while recovering. Exiting the common on to the busy Sherwood Road, I realised just how peaceful it had been there.
I'm going to have to take trips out to that place more often - I might even make it a daily run when I have returned to full fitness. Or not: Mount Cootha is still much too appealing of a weekday morning.
From there, I went to the fruit shop in Sherwood, stocked up for the week and caught the train home. Total was around 10km in about :50 and change.

Errand-running: the most productive and enjoyable way to spend an hour.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Mini-Adventure 2xTibro

On Sunday morning, I had to pop a few ibuprofen to calm my feet down after having run the roads for 50 minutes on Saturday barefoot.

I caught the train up to Caboolture, intending to get the connecting service out to Beerburrum and to cycle from there to Tibrogargan for a bit of a climb. The train was delayed, so I cycled from Caboolture to Beerburrum. My quads didn't like that at all, and I started to rue my lack of condition and fitness.

When I was walking up to the base of the mountain, my mind felt really hazy and I was becoming a bit unenthusiastic. All I had to do was to remind myself of the alternative - sitting on my ass in front of a book or a computer - and I was mentally back in the game.

Upon arriving at the mountain and beginning to climb him, however, my legs seemed to have plenty of juice - I warmed myself into it, completing the first climb fairly methodically and slowly, and scrambling the second at a sometimes-dangerous pace. I saw the other people (mainly bushwalkers) on the mountain, and remembered that I couldn't be in such a poor condition.

I decided to try a few more ambitious sections of rock face this time, the most notable being a 5-metre high section of vertical exposed rock, with a drop of about 15 metres. This would be nothing for a real free-climber, but I consider myself to be more of an ambitious trail runner than a mountaineer. I chickened out of a few others, but I will definitely be try a few more next time.

Plenty of people commented on my lack of shoes on the way up; one woman calling me crazy. Yes, it would be crazy if my feet were completely uncalloused, but since they are fairly thick-skinned they will be more responsive, flexible and gripping than any shoe on the market.

I was less impressed with the view from the top than I usually am, however, the climb was so fluid, beautiful and joyful. This probably signifies a paradigm shift more than anything else; from being focussed on the results to being focussed on the journey. I need this to translate to my running now - I would like to get a consistent four months of training into my legs before I start to focus on racing again.

50 minutes of cycling and 120 minutes of walking/climbing later, I am pleasantly tired - but not exhausted. This is a great substitute for fortnightly long runs, and I will use it to stop myself from going crazy until I can cruise through Brisbane Forest Park for hours on end again.

I'll take the camera next time too, and write a report which isn't as piecemeal.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Getting Back into it.

So, now after nearly two weeks without running (but with much hobbling), I am finally back into it. The first few outings are always a bit difficult; you don't have that same fluidity, efficiency and downright joyfulness that was there when you were at your peak. You have to focus your mind, to MAKE yourself enjoy it.

Today, on my sixth run back (barefoot, might I add), I felt indifferent before the run, normal once I got going, but when I hit the uphill near to my halfway turnaround, something happened. My feet stopped hitting the ground, and started brushing it - my back was straight, my head was not bobbing up and down, my legs felt weightless, and I smiled. I was running the way it should be done; with good form and joy.

Now begins the long path to build up my mileage again. I am looking forward to it.

Flinder's Tour 50km Race Report

Here is my ridiculously long and self-glorifying report of the Flinder's tour race up at Glasshouse a couple of weekends ago.

I cycled the 500 metres to the start line (at Beerburrum Primary School), under a light drizzle of rain, and checked in with the race director with a feeling of resignation. I took solace in the fact that, despite being the youngest 50km runner, I was not the most inexperienced. For many, it was their first ultra. Marina, a vegetarian living in Samford told me the she was pretty nervous, and seemed to doubt herself. I chatted to a few of the kind people whom I had met at Sri-Chinmoy – Suzannah (“Badwater Suzannah”), Nic, Tamyka and Libby to name a few –received a bit of advice from them (walk Mount Beerburrum, just take it easy, etc…), emptied myself and made my way to the start line. Ian Javes, our friendly race director, gave a few instructions, and then anti-climactically muttered “GO”. We were off.
I settled in at an uncomfortable pace with the lead group of about 10 people, telling myself to slow down, and that I could never run 50km at this pace. I ignored the voice of doubt, and instead listened to the Ibuprofen pills clacking together in my shorts. I talked to Stevie, who said he had run the Gold Coast Marathon a few weeks beforehand in 3:04. “Wow”, I thought. “There’s no way that I could run a marathon that fast, he’s going to toast me”. I moved up into about fourth or fifth on the ridiculously steep path to the top of Mount Beerburrum, alternating between walking and running. I was going much faster than I was used to, causing the problem calf to cramp badly. On the descent, I was passed by Jordan, who was really pounding it, and it seemed like I wouldn’t be seeing him again. When we hit the flat ground, my running technique fell apart, as I could no longer run on my forefoot due to the calf. That is not a good sign with 48kms to go. I fell in behind a hardy-looking veteran on the next section of trail, watched his feet, and just followed. My quads felt similar to how they had about eight hours into Sri Chinmoy at this point, but because I was intent on dropping out, I figured that I could keep going at a quick pace until the end of the first loop. I then pulled away from the veteran, after having been intimidated by his running experience and caught Jordan, chatting to him about a range of things as we tackled the wide fire-trail that circled Tunbubudla. We were caught by the veteran eventually, and continued to talk, the most interesting conversation topic being the idea of drafting while running (as it is done in cycling); its advantages, having to work less than the man in front of you; and its disadvantages, copping farts in the face. Jordan tried this technique, and the disadvantages were proven. We were now occupying positions 4-6, about 500 metres behind the leaders. Upon entering the next heavily wooded section, we were caught by the women’s leader Peggy Macqueen, who seemed to be in much better form than the rest of us. I pulled away from them on a gradual incline; I have no idea how or why, and went to see if I could get closer to the leaders. Peggy caught up to me and then went by as we hit a technical section of uphill. The rise was only gradual, but I was incapable of running it. I looked ahead wistfully, seeing peggy disappearing over the hill. The 24km runners then came past in the opposite direction, forcing me off the trail, but I was happy to receive some encouragement from them. Around this time, I was informed that the leader had gotten lost, and had dropped out; now there were only three in front of me! I arrived at the school, to see that Dave Coombs and Peggy were having a chat at the aid table. As soon as they saw me, they scrambled, and seeing this, I rushed through the aid station, eating some boiled potato with salt and half a banana, and refilling my water bottle. The thought of dropping out had all but left my mind – I wanted to see if I could hold my position. As I was leaving, Libby told me that I was doing pretty well; “don’t worry”, I replied. “I’ll blow up soon”.
On the dirt road past the school’s oval, I went past Jordan (who was running in the opposite direction), giving him a high-five, as I did to Lee. He must have been a few minutes back at this point – phew. I then was told that I looked strong by Nic, and ordered to keep going by Suzannah. Amazingly, my hip had not deteriorated at all during the time I had been running. Sure, it was painful, but it wasn’t anything that would stop me from moving forward – maybe the Ibuprofen had paid off. To my surprise, on the way down the rocky hill, I passed another runner. I was now in third. I had to work hard to really put some time on him, doing so by pounding the descents. This was not a good move, and my feet would pay for it later. I slowed to chat with the 24km runners when I passed them, which really refreshed my mind, and at one point even caught a glimpse of Dave and Peggy – about one kilometer in front. I really wanted to catch them, but after being informed at the first aid station that they were “too far ahead”, my mind narrowed to one thought: keep third place. I could see about five hundred metres behind me, and there was no sign of Jordan. I still had to walk many sections, but ran quickly when I could. Keep third place. I chatted to a few more runners before getting to the aid station 12.5km from the finish. At this point, my mind really started to unravel, the pain was really getting to me, but I was still thinking in the present. I thought about my Grandma (who has emphysema), and how I should cherish my ability to breathe and to run, in order to drive myself forward. I walked all of the hills, thinking that Jordan must surely catch me soon.
Amazingly, I arrived at the last aid-station still in third place. My hamstrings cramped immediately when I climbed the gate to get there, and I informed the volunteers of my poor condition. “Just 3.5km to go”, they said. The actual race length was 53.5km, so at this point; I had actually covered 50km. I was ready to finish then and there. I walked the next uphill section of dirt road, noticing that I had been in the same place two weeks earlier during my adventure. Just before the right turn onto downhill single-track, I looked back to the aid station, now about 400 metres away, to see that there were no 50km runners there. Keep third place. I kept passing 24km and 10km runners, receiving and giving encouragement. At some point in the last 3kms, I began to get bolts of pain shooting through my left foot every time I hit the ground. To mitigate this, I began running on my toes with that foot, noticing that my calves were now not nearly as bad as before. I really just wanted it to finish. I was counting the seconds, counting the metres. “When I get to that tree, there will be one mile left. Ok, now there’s only 1500 metres.” I kept looking over my shoulder for the fourth-placed runner.
With 1km to go, I passed an old fella in the 10km race, who reflected poetically that he felt “like something that’s come out of a dog’s behind”. That was probably the best way to describe it for me as well. I was still checking over my shoulder every ten seconds, after having decided to slow down, and maybe even to walk the rest of the way. And then I saw it; there was someone in a gray shirt behind me catching up; I thought it was the old fella, so tried not to worry, but eventually realized that it was Jordan. “You are Joking!” I exclaimed. With 400 metres to go, he was about 100 metres behind me, and by shouting, asked if I wanted to finish with him. I said yes, but immediately reversed the decision in my mind. I wanted to see who was stronger.
Being in front of him, I had the upper hand - all I had to do was to show my strength (being a relative term) in order to demoralize him, and then jog to the finish. I lifted the pace, and lifted it some more, until I was going basically all out. Jordan later said that after he had seen me, he just thought that he “didn’t have the sprint finish in him”, so he faded back, and must have taken the last 300 metres fairly easy. I on the other hand, ran for my life, not thinking about my form, or the structural damage that sprinting with destroyed muscles would do.
I only realized that I had really secured third place when I was 100 metres from the finish. I had stopped myself from being complacent earlier on, but now just let everything go. I tried to cry, but there were no tears, so I crossed the finish line moaning while sprinting, with my arms raised in the air. I kissed the earth and sat down. I had always thought of myself as a slow runner, never worthy of any quality times or placings. My personal best for 50km was somewhere between seven and eight hours (albeit on very tough courses, run by myself), completed with months of solid training behind me. I had STARTED the race exhausted, injured, and, undertrained, but had finished it in 4:44:08, a time that I thought I was not capable of. The winners had finished a good twenty five minutes before me, hand in hand, in an amazing time of about 4:20. I was happy with third though; my self-perception had been drastically altered.