Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Triple: Warning Sign

My initial feelings towards Caine and Dave's planned triple ascent/descent of Mount Warning were apprehension and a belief in my inability to complete such a run.

Entering TNF100 and chatting to the boys about it has completely changed that.

Now I can't wait - what better way to celebrate your 20th birthday than by spending a long morning in the mountains with friends.

Will there be some jostling for position? Undoubtedly. The wise ones will stay out of it, but the young guns of the group are sure to get involved. I don't want to. But I always say that.

Ben Duffus' illustrious mountain running credentials (U20 Australian team) will cause him to rabbit ahead on the first road ascent.
Caine will greyhound him, and by the time we hit the stairs, he'll be nipping at the heels.
I'll bust my gut to stay on Caine's tail, but being the doberman that I am, will have some trouble keeping up. Jimmy B, Dave C and Dan N will lock in beside, and we'll have a great time together, rollicking boisterously uphill.

Jordan will be walking, with Delina and Tymeka ahead, trying to get him to run.

Unfortunately, Ben will get bitten by a brown snake on the scramble to the top, with Caine overtaking him due to his impressive lead-climbing skills. Being the trooper that he is, Duffus will complete the run, but fade through the pack considerably.

Not much will have changed to the start of the third climb, with Ben joining the 4-pack, and us gaining some time on Caine. Webster has gotten in on the fun, but must be disqualified due to his late start. By this time, Jordan is 74 minutes down on the leader and is suffering of heat/uphill exhaustion.

I glance across at Dave and suddenly his glorious beard is glowing. Is that a hiking pole in his hand?...Or is it a staff? The endurance wizard has shown his true colours and floats ahead effortlessly. So THAT's how he ran 161 in 16:45!

Dave gets to the top well ahead of the rest, and with the coast clear, cruises the descent at an easy pace. Just as the car park is coming into view, he catches a glimpse of a pair of boardshorts and a bandana rushing past. Was it the wind?

The answer is no. Jordan had been saving his fabled downhilling ability for the final descent. He pounds gloriously to the ford, turns around, and smiles at his friend some 400 metres behind.

I'm pretty sure it's just going to be a casual training run, but it's always fun to speculate.

In the Sun

1:45 on Cootha this morning, absolutely no idea where that came from after yesterday's trauma.

Some advice concerning skin cancer from a nice girl made me don a shirt while running for the first time in ages.

Monday, November 28, 2011


8am yesterday: 1hr up ad down Cootha. Felt like death.
PM: Massage at the somewhat seedy parlour in Toowong.
4:50am this morning: 2:40 on Cootha with Tymeka. Felt good to begin with so eschewed the water fountain at the lookout after a mere 25 minutes of running. Bad idea. Got to another bubbler after 2:00 and was completely tanked. Tymeka fared much the same.
Walked down to the shops and polished off 500ml of juice, 1l of milk and a bread stick in about ten minutes.

Either the reality that I'm no longer in West End hasn't yet sunk in, or I've just gotten over it pretty much immediately. However, my tendency to listen to sentimental music over the past two days suggests the former:

In other news, Warren sent me this image from the 10k at Rainbow Beach:

Well no wonder that felt like crap, my form was pretty poor - mainly the bent back and bum sticking out.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


After a tumultuous (exciting, depressing, amazing, stressing) four months, it's back to Chapel Hill Road with Jed and the rest.

I'm sure I'll reflect on this more over the coming days but right now, two major differences between West End and Chapel Hill are hitting home.

In West End, I was constantly fluctuating between feeling 0% and feeling 100%; mentally, physically and emotionally. In Chapel Hill, I was consistently baselining somewhere between 40% and 60%.
While the former was exciting, it's not sustainable long-term.

The second difference is best described graphically:

West end;

Chapel Hill;

Unfortunately, this is all just rationalisation. Knowing it's for the best, I'm still pretty damned sad to be leaving.

In running news, I went for 2:15 on Cootha with James B this afternoon, and got completely railed up the Jacksonia climb. The fitness feels like it's there, I'm just so damn tired!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Ship's Stern

Spent my last full day in West End in Lamington National Park; headed up there pretty late with Vett to hike the Ship's Stern track.

All said and done, it was a very casual 20km with many fantastic views and even more leeches.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Redefining Mount Barney

I've always thought of Barney as one for the hikers, climbers and mountaineers; Definitely not a runner's mountain. It's just too steep, too technical, too big, and involves too much scrambling.

Without any intention of changing this perception, Ben and I set off jogging from Yellowpinch reserve at 3:45am. Soon enough, we turned right, on to the South-East ridge. Ben was keen to continue running while we could, but I knew what lay ahead. Better to leave it in reserve! He pulled away a few times, and I got a little frustrated; the conscious reason being that he could quite easily pick the wrong route, the subconscious being ego.

"OK, I admit that this is biomechanically unrunnable"; he let me take the lead and find the way. Before we knew it, we were high up on the exposed ridge, with the sun poking its soft rays through the clouds behind us.

Every so often, we just had to stop to take it in:

The ridge narrowed and widened and steepened and flattened, rolling along with an endless series of variations. The clouds were moving in and the rock ahead was wet. For now, it was calm and quiet.

Pretty soon we'd reached fun city; 300m drop on the right-hand-side obscured by a thin row of montane heath, sketchy looking slabs directly above. Up.

"Ah yes, this must be the really exposed bit"
"Oh no, wait, THIS is the exposed bit"
"Hang on, this is definitely it"

Out of nowhere, the wind picked up to a violent gale and with it came a surge of droplets. The vapour rushed before our eyes. Clearly, we'd reached the hallowed ground of the East Peak summit cone.

The ridge flattened. We passed the weather-beaten campground, and a crop of rocks lay ahead. I went in for the customary ground-kiss and pressed the split button on the Timex.


I really didn't think that it was possible for us to climb Barney that quickly, especially considering that we were hindered by various factors; the weather and my lack of fitness/residual fatigue. Sub-1:30 is the new goal.

After a quick peanut butter sandwich, we resumed. The route down to the saddle was what it always is; steep slab-hopping, sketchy trail-following, and the customary off-route bush-bashing. This was where I hit my stride, brushing past and through spikey plants as if they weren't there. The tables had turned, and I was glancing over my shoulder, ensuring that Ben was close enough to follow.

We came out just North of the world's greatest picnic spot, and reached the Rum Jungle after about 45 minutes from the peak...about 20 minute per k pace.

Now, on to Peasant's Ridge, curious to see how much we could run. Again, my experience on this type of terrain gave me a large advantage; I slip-scrambled quickly down the rocks, pausing every hundred metres to ensure that Ben didn't get lost. Down the chimney, and Peasant's portal.

Before I knew it, were were back on entirely runnable terrain. Weaving through the dense forest, cautious foot placement gave way to reckless abandon. We were going to go under four hours; but the question was, by how much?

We crossed mystery creek and the landslide. The jungle thinned, the eucalypts reappeared. single track became fire trail, and Ben flew past. It was a joy to watch this master of the dirt road open his stride, and I was enticed to follow. I ran as hard as I could to keep close, but with only a few kilometres to go, I knew I was at my limit. I let Ben go ahead, and slowed to a jog.

Across the Logan River, over the cattle gate. As I entered the paddock, the entirety of the mountain presented itself on the left. Its peak was obscured by clouds, but its majesty was still undoubtable.

I passed some hikers, grunting hello above my laboured breath. The final uphill was ahead, and then the final downhill. I took it pretty gingerly; the quads were veritably pulverised.

The car park now lay directly in front, with Ben perched atop a rock.
Touch the gate.


Another great experience in a very special place.

On the drive back, Ben and I discussed what sort of time was possible. Although we were going at a fair clip in places, much time could be shaved.
Carrying a backpack instead of a handheld: ~10 minutes.
My lack of fitness on the uphill: ~15 minutes.
Ben's lack of confidence through the thick bush/down the rocks: ~15 minutes.
Getting off-route down from the peak: ~10 minutes.

So, with a bit of a taper, a little more experience and less gear, something around 2:30 seems feasible.

As it turns out, Barney might just be a runner's mountain.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Cootha Massif


As viewed from the trail up Camp Mountain, on a leisurely hike there this morning with Vett.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Mount Barney #5

"I just realized that I forgot my compass. Did you bring yours?"

"Do you have a topo map for the area"
"Yeah, but I didn't have time to get it"

"Ah, just realised I forgot tweezers for ticks"

"I should have brought salt"

We had almost decided to attempt Savages Ridge (the name is self-explanatory, but it's grade 5-6), but thought the better of it considering our wild underpreparedness. It was time to face the South-East ridge again, which had defeated me many moons ago

A restless sleep was had the night before, due to a combination of excitement and Tymeka's snoring - audible from a separate tent four metres away!
Morning couldn't come quick enough, and I was immediately glad not to have put the tent-cover on:

We set off at a casual jog, and found the turnoff much before I had expected it. Slowing to a walk, the steep uphill began. In the clear weather, this previously disasterous/shitmyselftastic ridge was actually pretty manageable. There were only two or three harder scrambling sections and small amount of exposure.

At a leisurely pace, it took us 2:45 to get from Yellowpinch to the East Peak; a massive PB that I'm now very keen to break with Duffus come Wednesday morning.

...And that wasn't even from the top!

From there, we hopped down to the beginning of Rocky Creek and engaged in some intense route-finding to get up to the North peak. Some sketchy scrambling and very thick bushbashing was required, and at some point a large stone got the better of Tymeka's head.

We then headed West to a rocky bluff, and climbed down a steep ravine. When it became apparent that it's exit would be a bit ugly, we headed back towards the east, through some more thick bush and into the creek that divides the East and North Peaks. False floors were the biggest hazard here, both of us experiencing a couple of awkward fall-throughs.

After reaching the creek, the source of danger switched to the mats of pine-needles that adorned the maze of boulders, which would slip away without warning.

After what felt like too long (it always does) we made it into Barney Gorge, and headed Southwards, to the saddle. I saw a small black snake, which spooked Tymeka, which in turn spooked me, so we took this section pretty slowly and carefully.

There was plenty of idyllic moss:

Past the world's best picnic spot, up to the saddle, and I'd drained the last of my two litres of water (imbecile).
No worries, just a quick jaunt down Peasant's ridge from there.

Or so I thought. By the time the rocks and dirt-slopes gave way to real, runnable trail, I was parched, bonking, and couldn't fathom the idea of running. I hadn't had enough food while I'd had the water to process it. Although there was still half a loaf of bread in my backpack, I couldn't process it without the water. Lucky for me, Tymeka's head was giving her hell, so running the final, flat 4km was not an option. We had some lengthy discussions about drinks and water; it's funny how the mind reacts to such conditions.

500m from Yellowpinch, portrait of a man dehydrated:

about 20km, almost exactly 8 hours on the feet, and 1,750m gain.

But, there would be another twist to this story! After filling up on the apparently undrinkable water at the bathroom tap and eating a bit, we felt much better, so drove around to the other side of the mountain for a quick dip at the Lower Portals.

We started jogging on the 4km trail over to the massive rockpool and I immediately felt fantastic, so just opened it up. halfway through, that changed and it was back to the customary 7-minute uphill kms. The swim was exactly what I needed, but poor Tymeka hadn't brought a change of clothes so could only soak her legs!
After chatting to the masses (comparative to the usual solitude encountered at Barney) at the pool, we set off jogging on the way back. Once again, I left Tymeka behind as I felt better on the ups.
On a technical downhill, I started to feel queasy, light-headed and weak. Slower and slower, then stopping to retie my shoelace. I tried to start running again, but the mind wasn't having any of it. I'd fallen into the deepest bonk experienced in a long time, if ever. Dawdling back, I expected Tymeka to catch up, but still arrived at the car park a couple of minutes before her. Atleast she was running when she came in!

"Let's get to the nearest petrol station as soon as possible!"

1.85 litres of lemonade, 500ml of milk, 600ml of water, a small slushie, and a tin of beans later, we were rattling along the highway back towards Brisbane.

Mount Barney never ceases to surprise me. I expected that we'd get lost because of our lack of navigational equipment, but it turns out that we were pretty much always aware of our location. I did not expect to enter the moistureless hurt-locker of hypoglycemia.

Win some, lose some.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Rainbow Beach Madness

I, among others, experienced something completely new on the weekend:
Being woken up by German tourists at 3:15 on Sunday morning after a restless night of illegal camping, with a sub-40-minute 10km in the legs, knowing that we'd be racing 43km through the sand in 75 minute's time. I think the complexity and oddity of the situation overwhelmed my mind, so that all I could do was relax and be excited about what the day would bring.

Despite being peer-pressured by Caine to enter against better judgment, the 10km of beach on Saturday went off pretty much hitch free. Caine strode out an easy low-37 on the sunny 2.5km out and back, while I had to quote lines from "Lord of the Rings" to myself to come in under 40 minutes. Speedwork may be in order. Tymeka finished up first female in 43:xx I believe, while James watched on, wisely saving his legs for the next day.

The rest of the afternoon was spent chilling with team geek at the Warbus; trying to do handstands, throwing large sticks, talking trash, the usual.

After dinner at the sports club and a nice walk on the beach, it was time to hit the tents and get some shuteye before the main event.

"GO" just after 4:30, up the road outside of the sports club. By the time that Caine, James and I had jostled our way to the front, some dude had already gapped the field by about 50 metres. Who is this man who has dared to disrespect the Trail Geeks!
Caine and I were too busy talking crap to each other to catch him, but as soon as the road gave way to trail, Warburton led the charge ahead. We snaffled him up in little time, and the three geeks locked into formation, battling against this lone challenger. Onto the soft surface of the sandblow we went, and I moved into poll position for the cameras.
We were soon back on the trail, with a continuous stream of egotistical chatter from Caine and I providing some relief for our lethargic legs. We tried to invent some code words for pull back and charge ahead; I suggested "for Frodo" for the latter.
James pulled slightly ahead on a long descent.
We upped the pace, attempting to drop the other runner. "Come on fellas, just a couple of minutes at threshold and we'll lose him", I demanded, but Caine made the good point that it was too early in the race to be making moves. So we let him reel us in, and remained as a group of four for the next hour or so.
James kept us very honest on the downhills (Caine exclaiming "bloody pescetarian"), and otherwise for the most part I was copping the wind in front. Or rather, Caine was copping the wind from my 6am flatulence. Marty, the other runner, seemed to be frustrated at being held up on the single-track behind the three of us, unable to make a pass. We tried to involve him in the small talk, but he seemed to be concentrating on the running. Funny that.
So when the trail widened on a sandy climb, he made his move.
Caine kept by his side, and I busted my gut to remain in touch, a few metres behind. James was fading.
The lactic in the quads was nearly unbearable, and I entertained thoughts of dropping out/pulling back. I communicated this by a hand signal to Caine, but he reassured me silently that Marty was hurting too. It certainly didn't look like it to me!
As we crested the top, Caine and I pulled away, and on the next uphill, Marty was all but gone.
"He's played his card".
By the time we'd reached the beach, we had atleast 200 metres on him.
Caine stepped it up to 4:15s and I was struggling. The hamstring issues were returning. Pretty soon I was shat out the back, down to 4:30s and always glancing over my shoulder to ensure that the gap between Marty and I remained.
A few close calls with 4wds were enough to break me from a deep reverie, and after what felt like a lifetime (but was much closer to 8km) I was watching Caine stride uphill to the lighthouse. I followed suit, the awareness of Marty's ominous presence preventing me from walking.
The climb was much shorter than expected, and not the critical point in the race as Caine and I had speculated. Barring a huge trump card from someone behind, the placings seemed pretty well sorted. That is, as long as I could keep chugging along at a decent clip.
This became quite difficult when I got back down to the beach: a series of rocks presented a good technical obstacle, and the arrow pointing uphill in the opposite direction a minor headache. I just followed Caine's claw-marks in the sand and hoped for the best. If he was lost too, he couldn't beat me!
Along the beach, past many P-platers in their 4wds, dozing families and huge sand slopes. Although the hamstrings were absolutely killing me, it was pretty nice.
As the despair concerning our apparent mislocation was deepening, a man next to the forest waved to me. We're on the right track!!!
It was the friendly runner who'd raced with us the day before; "plenty of dunes in the next section" he warned me.
He was right to: under the beautiful green canopy lay soft sand and 30% inclines. It was picturesque and incredibly demanding. I disappointingly slowed to a walk two or three times, but just churned out 8 minute kms on the uphills otherwise. It was the point in the race where the end felt much further than you wanted it to be.
Mentally, I was faltering between: "Oh my God, Marty's going to catch me, hurry the hell up" and "that joker's been dropped, just cruise it in". I was glancing behind at every opportunity and not once caught sight of him.
The trail hardened, a checkpoint was passed, and a long sloping downhill was pounded. I was trying to channel Jordan's ability to let go and pound it all out. Despite the volunteers' belief that it may have been 11km to the finish, I was sure that it was 4 or 5.
At this point, I was prepared to run for four hours. I'd expected three and a half before the race, but the brutality of the course was cause for revision. Counting down the minutes.
Then came a somewhat demoralising climb: the top of the hill, some 500 metres away was visible. Now's not the time to walk.
Step, step, shit this is slow, step, step, look behind, step, step, where's Marty, step, step, look behind.
Top reached.
The run home would have been an absolute joy and breeze, but the problem hamstring tendons were the most painful that they've ever been. Eventually, I became fed up with the negative attitude I'd adopted to towards it, and exclaimed out loud "It's only pain you f***ing p***y, there are people who don't have anything to eat, and you get all the food you like". Nothing like an ultra to bring on epiphanic moments of self-degradation...or self-transcendence.
Some houses appeared next to the trail...An information centre...The road!

I slowed and slowed around the runway of orange cones, hugged Caine, and came in at a pinch over 3:48.

Marty was there after another 9 minutes, looking pretty destroyed, with James striding easily home another ~10 minutes after him.

What an event. That has to be the best and most difficult course that I've raced on. The soft sand and surprising amount of vertical made all the difference. Joe Raftery, Ian Javes, and all of the organisers and volunteers must be lauded for what was an incredible day.

We spent hours lounging around, chatting, drinking, eating. Watching Tymeka come in after a duathlon (I'll let her tell you that story) and Alun after an assisted adventure race. A swim at the beach was enough to wash away most of the pain, and before we knew it, James and I were crusing down the Bruce at 110, headed for home.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Even warmer

PB'd the 2.3km back-end road climb in 12:02 yesterday, with Matt and Tymeka.
We then went down Jacksonia, which was disposed of at a decent pace (thank you Johanna's massage!) before coming back to the ridge via Kokoda. I was happy to, once again, run the whole of Kokoda up the middle of the track, as opposed to walking or taking the less-steep routes on its flanks. We then chilled our way down Powerful Owl (well, I was trying to run hard, but Matt and Tymeka were taking it easy), before returning to the Botanic Gardens. A very satisfying 13km with a touch over 400m of vert conducted at a decent pace, maybe a little too close to Sunday's race.

Caine encouraged me to do a lead climb at Kangaroo Point on Friday. It was awesome! Such a range of emotions experienced, mainly fear and intense focus.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Rainbow Beach contenders, coming from the pretender.

43km race up North this weekend, should be a cruisy/low-key antidote to the insanity and hype of GNW.

Cainus Warburtus has said that he'll be treating it as a training run but still expects a comfortable win. A calf issue is threatening to derail his plans for a fourth (correct me if I'm wrong) victory at an obscure, low-key trail event this year. Now has a 16:52 5km and a 4:36 mile to his name aswell. Yikes.
Big Trevor Allen is in the mix; expect him to go out hard, and with a solid 48 hour run as a base, finish strong. That is, if he isn't smashed from the 5km the day before.
This event will mark Kelvin Marshall's completion of every single possible, conceivable running event on the planet, with some awesome results to boot. The big question is, will he stray into the ocean over the sandblow, never to be seen again?
James Bamber talks himself down a fair bit, but is always up there. If he has a good day, and the three listed above don't, expect a big lift in self-esteem for this diminutive runner.
Alun Davies is coming off a fantastic result at the Glasshouse 100 and has finally gotten the better of a nasty injury. Seems to fare well when the going gets tough, as evidenced by some harrowing walk-ins at the 100 miler in previous years. Accordingly, watch out for this guy if there are temps in the 40s or a cyclone hits the North shore.
Zac B-S has a mouth much quicker than his legs. May be hampered by a couple of rolled ankles and has lacked form and mental toughness since a failed attempt at running 100 miles. However, some great vert has been gained recently. Is this the stage for SEQ ultrarunning's Paris Hilton to make a comback?
Or will some unknown quantity make their presence felt?

Tymeka for the win on the ladies side of things.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Warm Lap

As opposed to a hot lap.

Ran the 10.5km and ~300m gain road loop of Cootha today after a 7km cycle and ten minutes of warming up the ankles in the shower. I somehow rolled both recently, and they're quite sore!

The effort was definitely there, but the speed wasn't - mainly due to smashed quads, tight hip flexors and general fatigue.
12:12 for the 2.3km climb made for an ever-so-slight improvement on last Thursday's effort.
After this was some odd, intense chest/neck pain, before I booted myself into a better pace near to the Channel Nine antenna.
A frustratingly slow descent followed the lookout (I think it's time to take up speed work!), but a massage this arvo should loosen out the legs so that I don't have any such problems come Sunday.
49:22 in the end, happy to nip under 50 minutes

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Return of Matt Meck

The big fella's just returned from New Zealand, and so we teed up a run on Cootha this morning.
Ran up the bulk stair trail from Simpson's Falls, encountering a random assortment of Tibetan Prayer Flags near the top. From there, we jogged around the steep trails/non-trails on the Toowong side of the big hill, before descending via the Powerful Owl trail/road back to the Botanic Gardens. I ran for another k or two with Matt towards uni, before turning around and returning to the bike.

Apologies to the readers for how ridiculously topical that paragraph was.
And now, the hidden staircase, which leads on to the most non-existent of all possible trails:

Saturday, November 5, 2011


A series of three classic Cootha runs from Thursday to Sunday was completed this morning, with a snailish climb of each of the three steepest Climbs on the Chapel Hill side of the mountain; Reservoir, Summit & Chapel Hill Road.

Before this, cycled for 45 to the Greenford Street trail head, and cruised some sweet MTB trails with Ivan. The big fella gave out some great tips on technique (watch the trail in general, not just the specific obstactles, push gently through the gears, etc...), and we found a new ridge near to Kokoda that I'll have to bushbash/run up sometime.

Wasn't sure of the decision to go for a jog afterwards, but you never are I guess. It seemed to be the right choice in the end, as I got a good 400m of running climb into the legs over 7.5km and 1:03. The pace was pedestrian, but it doesn't really matter when you're grinding up 40% grades.

The cycle home was even slower, but it was a good way to complete a fantastic session.

Friday, November 4, 2011

King of the whinge

Moaning, bitching, whingeing; this activities seem to have taken a front seat to everything else recently.
I think it's time for a large dose of HTFU.

Was alighted to this fact on a Saturday morning run with Caine and Ben. I was complaining or the entirety of the first hour, until someone pulled me up on it, and I decided to pull my finger out. Still ran like a mentally deficient wombat for the rest of the outing, being shat out the back on every climb, and teased mercilessly on every downhill, but it feels good to remember that my problems are my own fault.

25km, 1200m gain, 2:30. A fantastic run that included a new trail and a little 20 minute dessert of bush bashing at the end. Caine pulled up with a calf blowout, hopefully it heals for next weekend, when he is likely to gain his first ever victory against me at the Rainbow Beach trail marathon.

This, after another great run on Thursday with Tymeka: 13km, 420m gain, 1:17. That followed four hours of sleep, but both of us still managed to pulverise a bunch of cyclists up the 2.3km back-end road climb of Brisbane's big hill (12:15 split for a solid tempo effort), before an all-running climb of the Kokoda trail (the name says it all).

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Courage and floating

I've made my decision, all I need now is the courage to act it out.

Recently, the blog posts seem to have been coming with two topics/themes/days/events, so I thought I'd continue the trend.

In running news, had a good 1:50 with 550m vert on Cootha this morning.
After cranking it out on the longest route to the top, I started to feel good, so put in some quicker climbs and descents, including an all-running ascent of the Summit trail (40% grade in places). Decided to head back to the bike after 1:10, I bumped into Tymeka and a friend from the academy, so put in one last uphill to the lookout.

I've started to run hard on the downhills, "floating" them where possible. It's much more enjoyable and in some ways less fatiguing than running slowly on the forefoot, pitter-pattering down.