29 May 2013

The North Face 2013

The North Face was amazing.

I ran in the 50km event, starting at 8.50am from Leura Golf Club and then following a massive loop of the beautiful and brutal Jamesion Valley winding up, down and across the cliffs near Katoomba and back to the Leura Golf Club to finish.  The weekend was a brilliant experience on so many levels and I was lucky enough to share it with my beautiful wife Kel and some really good friends.

First off the race.  50km starting on the fairways of the golf club and looping around to join the trails heading towards Wenty Falls.  From there we took in the most varied and challenging course I have ever ran on.  It had steep long descents and ascents as well as wooden, metal, plastic and stone stairs up and down, road running, magical single track and one of the toughest sections of either of the options on offer. 

Section Breakdown of The North Face 50km

Leg 1 - 11km Start to Queen Vic Hospital

I went a little hard in the 1st k and had to back off, after 3k of running I was only 10 minutes or so in, a little quick for me at the moment!  I had to use the single track leading over to Wenty Falls to recover as I knew there were a couple of early climbs that would shorten me up some what if I was still cooking and I wanted to be able to get going through them and be ready to hit the fastest section running well.  

Another stupid running face

The start was fast on the fairways of Leura Golf Course

I hit the firetrail on the Kings Tableland feeling good, I could see 5th a few hundred metres in front and used his pace to guide me.  By the time we had hit the road I was closing in on 5th and 4th had come into view.  I began hitting low 4min pace and pushed onto the check point where I had planned to stop and refill my water and a new bottle of perpetuem.
Early on approaching Wenty Falls
I spent too long here and wasted 2 minutes, I would not have stopped in hindsight and now I had to make up the time I got back earlier on the flatter stuff. Kel was here and she offered me some good feedback and it was killing her to watch me fumble about without being able to help.  After a quick fist pump I was off again, it would be 2 hours before I saw Kel again and this gave me motivation knowing she’d be waiting for me at the aquatic centre.

Approaching CP1 just before the long downhill
Leg 2 - 25km Queen Vic Hospital to Aquatic Centre

I left the hospital and did not panic, I just needed to follow my plan and run the way I had trained for.  This meant throwing myself down Kedumba and to Jamison Creek as quickly as I could.  I was running 3.40-50 pace all the way down and really felt good just flying along enjoying the bush.  Soon I was in view of 2 runners, who I found out later were Ben and Caine, Brendan had told me before the race that they where good runners from QLD.  We went across the creek together and began the first climb side by side.

At home on the firetrail

Ben took off a little and maybe got 100m in front early on, this wasn't a worry as the climb is steep for 1km and the gradually goes up for another 1.5km or so.  I ran just off Caine and then we ran side by side for a while until close to the top when I started to pull away from him. I then worked hard on the flatter ridge section and into the downhill towards Leura Creek.  I had put some time into Caine and Ben had also had to work hard on the descent to stick with me, when we crossed the creek Ben and I were neck and neck.

Late in the race descending some stairs
The next climb is nothing short of brutal, long, steep and draining.  I knew what I was in for and dropped Ben after 500m or so, pushing on taking the opportunity to build a gap. I was now in 4th overall and feeling good.  I ran the whole way up the climb onto the single track leading to Leura Forest below the cliffs and then across to Furber steps, this section was quicker than I expected and I arrived at the base of the steps feeling good. I really enjoyed the technical single track sections below the cliffs and this was some of my most enjoyable running on the day.

The walk across Wentworth Falls
Man Furbur Stairs were tough.  I believe I didn't pop them as well as I could have and maybe gave up 3-5 minutes from here to the Aquatic Centre.  I powerwalked them, dragged myself one at a time using the rails to assist with my ascent and then ran when they flattened out trying to keep my cadence high all the time, this helped as I started running once I joined the next road section leading up to the Aquatic Centre.  This road was tough and I did walk for about 200m but managed to get into CP2 on schedule, feeling strong and in 4th place.

No Coke!!
Again I wasted time at the checkpoint.  I should have been in and out but I could not see any coke and had to make do with their electrolite drink, I was not happy.  Kel was there again and though we didn’t get the chance to say much I felt as though she knew I was travelling well and was enjoying the day. A quick goodbye and I was on my way to the finish.

Leg 3 – 14km Aquatic Centre to Finish

Another real test of character and fitness.  This was much more difficult than I remembered and contained 3 fairly savage down then up stair sections in a short space of time.  The 2k to the cliff was through a paddock and was a stress for me as there were plenty of holes and I had to be careful not to roll my ankle. Once onto the Prince Henry Trail I got into a good rhythm running well, dodging tourists and imaging 5th chasing me down.

After Echo Point the trail becomes technical, uneven and very tough.  The course took all the amazing cascades towards Leura, sending us up and down, twisting and turning on good technical trails.  Each descent and ascent was hard in its own right, the first at Leura Cascades was very steep down, Gordan Falls is a long stair ridden climb up and the Pool of Soliam, while being so beautiful and my favorite area in the mountains, made me work bloody hard so close to the line.

Back onto the single track after the long climb
I walked up the steep stairs and ran as much of the trail as I could, finding myself able to get going well when I needed.  It is a weird feeling when your in a good position and your worried someone will pop up behind and run past, normally this isn’t a worry but I suppose with 5km to go I really wanted to hold onto 4th place.

I could see the tall pines near the Fairmont and knew the end was in reach, this gave me a little boost as I came off the last trail and onto the road leading to the finish running really well.  It was only 2k but I really did enjoy the little run leading into the finish as I felt good and knew I had done my best, met my goals and expectations for the run.  I turned into the driveway leading into the Fairmont and followed the pink tape around to the finish line, where a small crowd was awaiting the finishers.  Kel was there as she had been all day and I was so glad to finish, not because I was exhausted, but because I wanted to be able to reflect and enjoy the rest of the experience with her.

Words not required...this is why I run in the Bush!
So I came across the line in 4th position in 4 hours 49 minutes and 20 seconds.  This was 35 minutes behind Vlad Shatrov, the winner and over 10 minutes in front of 5th.  Interestingly enough Vlad had won  the 50km event in Canberra earlier in the year and ran 2hr 55min so this event added 80 minutes more to his time, a true indication of just how hard the race was.
My favourite photo with Kel right there as she was all day

Crossing the line

So it was off to the spa and time for a hot shower.  I chatted with the guys that came in in front of me. To be close to such strong runners in a big race is quite humbling, as I know I have so far to come before I reach their level.  After freshening up I headed out to see Kel and catch up on the status of the 100km event.

We had originally planned to head over to the Hospital to see Brendan come through and offer some support, but he was flying so we decided to stay put so we didn’t miss him finish.  Shortly after Nadine, Brendan’s wife, arrived to the finish.  She was excited, worried and buzzing.  He had be smashing it all day was coming to the finish in what looked like record time.  Nadine was a little concerned with how much water he grabbed but I assured her he’d finish sweet, and he did.

9 hours 16 minutes and 12 seconds, first by a country mile and a new course record.  I have seen some amazing things in sport but this was up there with the best moment I have witnessed.  Brendan Davies assured himself of a place in history and deserved that victory more than anyone could imagine, I was just glad I was there to see it and share the moment with him.

Afterwards we also saw Jo cross the line, sub 12 hours, 2nd female home and with a stellar performance.  The 100km in the girls for 2014 will go way into the 10 hour zone next year that’s for sure.  We then took of and grabbed some pizza and beers, this was the highlight of the weekend for me as I was able to spend it with the people that know how much I’ve put into this race and mean so much to me.

The next day was a crazy one and allowed me to catch up with the guys I’d ran with at camps, meet some new faces and affirm friendships.  I got a massive bottle of wine and a desire to aim higher and work just that bit harder each week.

5th, 4th, 3rd and 2nd Place in the 50km
The North Face is the big race made so special by the little races you run where you meet people and develop your skills as a runner.  The smaller races allow the big ones to be celebrated by all, no matter what time or position we run, because its just about running to most and that’s why it is so special.

* Gear and Nutrition
*  Inov8 Trailroc 245 Shoes.
* Ultraspire Omega Pack.
* Smash 350ml Water Bottles, stolen from my kids.
* Hammer Products
-       Perpeteum Caffe Latte every 90 minutes; 1& a bit scoop per 300ml water.
-       Endrolyte Cap every 30 minutes (8 in total).
-       Espresso Gel every 60 minutes.
-       2.5 litres of water.
* Garmin 610.
* Sustagen Sport Chocolate, Pizza & Beer consumed after race (not all at once!).

Big and special mentions must go to my wife Kellie who has been amazing in her support of me and my running and to Brendan Davies who has been coaching me since November 2012, I would not be here without their support.

1 comment:

  1. Congrats on a terrific result Wes! It sounds as though you nailed your race plan and it was just reward for a lot of hard work in training. Onwards and upwards for you now mate!
    PS You write pretty well for a PE teacher! ;-)