Tuesday, September 19, 2017

TRT 100

TRT 100

This year has been a special and amazing one for me. I have had the pleasure of watching Ambers belly grow with our soon to arrive son, spent some amazing time on trails in the mountains and canyons around home and been blessed to have some great runs. This years TRT 100 will occupy a special place in my memory. The day was beautiful, I got to have my best run to date on my home trails, with friends and have my wonderful wife crew me.

My training for TRT was a little bitter sweet. Normally Amber and I do much of our training separate, needing to focus on different things, but we can often put together some great long days together in the back country. This year with her being pregnant we were not able to do nearly as much, though we did get some great hikes in, and these are my favorite days I spent getting ready this year.

TRT this year was meant to be a warm affair, with highs in South Lake Tahoe near 90, and I know that may not sound warm to some of you, but for those of us that live in the mountains 90 is way too warm. I had a plan for managing that heat, Ice and fluid, lots of both. One great thing about the epic winter we had is that there was still plenty of snow patches on the course to use to cool off. I had also done the majority of my training runs in the previous month during the hottest part of the day.

One great thing about running a race in your home town is being able to sleep in your own bed, make a proper breakfast and head to the race. Sure I still had to wake up at 3:00 in the morning, but I was able to stumble to the kitchen start coffee and make some eggs and veggies. With breakfast down we loaded up in Bertha and headed out, meeting up with my pacer and crew member Alex on the way. We arrived with plenty of time to spare, I plugged in my phone to listen to some music to pump me up. Slayer played loud. Funny thing is I didn't realize the outside speakers were turned on. So, to the guy getting ready next to us I hope you like Slayer, otherwise, I'm sorry you had to listen to that.
Down to the start we headed. It was great to see friendly faces and have some conversations before the start.

Waiting for the start.
Soon enough George was giving us the final instructions and then counting us down, 3...2...1 we were off. My strategy was to run the first 50 conservatively then pick up steam, pushing hard in the final 20. The first climb up to Marlette Lake went quickly, conversation between the runners started and we enjoyed the sunrise as we neared the top of the climb. Down to the lake we then dropped. The morning air was cool and the lake was beautiful. We skirted the shore line and then began the climb up to Hobart aid. We were in and out quickly, I only stopped long enough to drop my light in my drop bag.

Soon we were climbing up to the first and possibly best view of Lake Tahoe, from Marlette Peak. Sure enough we were treated with an amazing view as we neared the top of the climb and rounded a corner. Shortly we were over the ridge and traversing a large snow field, I was in the lead of the group and promptly took us(I think we were a group of 4-5) off course. After a minute or two we saw another runner taking the right path and quickly ran to join him. The route T's back in with the official TRT and soon we came to a wall of snow with steps cut in. It is amazing how much snow there still was in places, and how much work the race crew had put in getting the trail ready.The next section of trail has great flow and is a fun down hill. The lead traded several times as we tried to find our all day pace. Soon we were passing by Twin Lakes(which I haven't seen this full in years) and were on our way into Tunnel Creek Aid for the first of 6 visits. Again we were in and out in short order and headed down to Red House Loop.

The descent in this part of the course is steep, sandy and rutted in places, I let a couple runners pull away on this part, wanting to save my quads a bit, thinking "it is still early." At the bottom of the hill we crossed several creeks, this felt great as the day was already starting to heat up. As we began the first part of the climb to the next aid station we bunched up into a group of around 8. We chatted and joked, one runner from Spain joked that he had enjoyed running with us but it was time for him to go and feigned sprinting off. We laughed, knowing that he is a Olympic marathon runner and would surely be looking to make a move soon. Up to the Red House aid station, with its Wizard of Oz theme, filling bottles, and we were off. This next section the pace kicked up a bit. For a while is is a false flat, and we started to put in some work, the group started to spread out a bit. After a couple miles of solid effort we turned to climb back up the steep hill we had come down. I put my head down, started to swing my arms and settled into power hike mode. This hill sorted the group out more and soon I was alone. About half way up I saw the 50 mile front runners(Bob Shebast and Peter Fain at the time) come barreling down the hill, Threw out some high fives and took in some stoke and continued on.

I came back into Tunnel Creek Aid, and was in a hurry to get back out so I filled a bottle and was out. I glanced back and noted one runner not too far behind me. I tried to settle my mind and not allow my self to speed up. I needed to remain relaxed and save some energy. Slowly I pulled ahead and mostly out of view. I kept questioning my self as to whether I had gone out too fast. I was in the lead less than 30 miles into 100, that is a long way to run in the front. I assessed my effort, very comfortable,  I was feeling antsy to run faster but forced myself to save it for later.

 Shortly I was into and out of Bull Wheel aid, and looking forward to the Tyrollean Downhill. It has been a while since I had been on this section of the trail and had forgotten how far it was to the turn off for the down hill. I enjoyed running over several more snow patches before finally turning onto the downhill. One of these days I need to ride my Mt bike on this trail, it is swoopey, and fun to run, but purpose built for bikes. It is the kind of trail that begs to be run fast and hard, which I did not do, sort of. I admit to letting the trail get under my skin and letting it rip a couple times, and then reeling my self back in. The easiest way to kill your running legs is with exuberant downhill running.

I finished the downhill, came into the parking lot of Diamond Peak just in time to see my dad walking his dogs across the parking lot. I hollered at him, gave a wave and continued to the aid station where I was greeted by my amazing wife, mom, sister and brother in law, pacer Alex and my friend Ryan Peel(who was crewing Steve Powers on what would be a great first 100 performance). Amber and team quickly had me outfitted with fresh bottles, ice bandanna and sleeves a coconut water and some calories. It always gives me a boost to see my family during my races.
Look at that baby bump on my baby.

 Off I ran, to climb the  infamous Diamond Peak hill. This climb is no joke. There is very little running involved in getting up this hill.  Again, head down, swing those arms and power hike.
Soon enough I was at the top, through Bullwheel Aid and on to the fun flowing single track. I was feeling good and moving well, still making sure to keep my effort in check. Back into Tunnel Creek aid and the smiling faces of the Silver State Striders. I took a couple extra minutes to refill my ice, down a coconut water and take in some calories. Off I went, looking forward to the great views at the top of Marlette Peak. From here to the top of snow Valley peak went smoothly. I stopped in a couple of the snow patches to refill my ice bandanna and sleeves. The temperature was really starting to rise, I made sure to try and keep my body temperature in check with ice, snow and water when ever I got the chance.

Marlette Peak. Photo by Gary Wang
By the Snow Valley aid station I was ready to tackle the long descent and get the second 50 rolling. I filled my bottles, got some ice in my bandanna, and headed out. This downhill begs to be run fast and hard, I let it roll a bit more than I should have, just having fun, and by about half way down I started to get really warm, my arm skins were dry and ice bandanna was pretty much gone. I figured my best bet was to get to the half way point quickly while trying not to over heat. I felt ok up until I hit Spooner Lake, on the rollers along the lake the heat really started to effect me, I was feeling a little nauseous and my legs felt heavy. I rolled into the Stone Henge aid to the cheers of my dad and brother in law. Happy to see my crew/family, I dropped bottles, got new ice and downed a juice and was out.

Amber getting me ready to head back out.
 It didnt take long up the next climb for the heat to bring me back down. I was walking where I should be running, stomach was off. I thought I was going to puke. And my mind found its way into that dark place. I was questioning whether I could hold on to the lead. How far back was the next guy? Did I go out too fast? Why am I falling apart? By the time I made it to the top of the climb I was at my lowest point of the day. At this point in any race I just focus on my steps. I count them, 0-100 and then start over. Its a little thing I picked up when I was trying to improve my stride, and I have found that it helps me get out of the dark and into a neutral place. I couldn't tell you how many miles I have passed just counting steps. Silly I know, but it works for me. Shortly after this point I also realized I was overheating, so I went into every creek I could find. Thankfully from Marlette Lake up the next climb there are several places it was easy to get wet. By the time I came back into Hobart Aid I was feeling better. I grabbed a coconut water out of my drop bag, downed it, and was off. The view going over Marlette peak was enough to bring me the rest of the way back and by the downhill into Tunnel Creek I was letting it fly, fully enjoying not holding back. Into Tunnel Creek I went ready to go. I decided that I needed to put in a hard effort on the Red House Loop, try and put in more of a gap on the person behind me. I had no idea how much of a lead I had, but I wanted more.
Giving a smile for Tiffany Anderson as she made her way to her first 50 mile finish.

 Down I ran, giving the descent every thing I could. At the bottom I again submerged in the creek, making sure to try and cool off a bit. I gave the next climb a hard effort and pushed all the way to the aid station. At red house my stomach was again a little off. I noted a tea pot labeled pickle juice(and some other things I failed to notice). I poured a shot and down it went. Holy hell!!! that was spicy, my face cued one of the volunteers to to point out the that it also had apple cider vinegar and something spicy. Wow, that did not go down well. I chased its with some Orgina and was back on the road. I pushed the last 2 miles of fire road as hard as I could, definitely burning some matches. By the time I hit the steep climb back up to Tunnel Creek I was ready to do some hiking. As I hiked up the last bit of the climb I saw the eventual 2nd place runner Evan bombing down the hill, followed shortly by two other runners. I figured I had about 40 minutes on Evan, but I had no idea what place he was running. Into the aid station I went, helped again by the amazing crew(Kayce Green was always there making sure I had what I needed). Back on the trail, now really starting to push myself. 
I enjoyed being able to run at a harder pace, but was starting to feel the fatigue of the day in my legs. The sky had clouded over and I could see rain showers off in the distance. A little part of me wished for a sprinkle, but a bigger part dreaded the thought of a thunderstorm causing the race to hold runners at aid stations until it passed. 

Into and out of the Bullwheel aid station I went, and before too long I was at the Tyrollean Downhill, this time I pushed the descent hard, ignoring the ache that settled into my legs half way down. I just focused on the joy of flying. I really have gotten to love running downhill fast, it is a very exhilarating, freeing, and never fails to bring a smile to my face. 

 Coming into Diamond Peak for the second time.caption
I finally came into Diamond Peak, ready for some calories and a break from the downhill running. Amber and Alex had me fueled and my shoes changed in short order, and Alex started his duties as pacer. I had enjoyed running solo for the first 80 miles, but had been looking forward to Alex joining me. I always enjoy running with Alex, and he is always able to dig deep when I need to put the screws down. We started our journey up the steep ski hill, and man did it hurt this time around. We buried the pain of pushing by getting straight into conversation. Before too long we had reached the top, turned around for a quick observation of the awesome view(it was shaping up to be an amazing sunset.)

We talked and ran as the sun sank, turning the sky to the most amazing red and gold. These are the moments that you remember in long days on the trail, part of the why I go out and do this. Alex is great at reminding me to eat on a regular basis. If I declined to eat when he tells me to he reminds me again soon after. On one of these occasions I agreed, though my stomach was feeling more off than it had in a while. I sucked down a gel(lemon GU) and instantly had to walk, my stomach had had enough. Alex asked if all was good. I lied and said I just needed to walk for a second. Then shortly after I was on the side of the trail puking everything. It was EPIC. After what seemed like forever my stomach let up and we started to walk. And I felt better. I hadn't realized how off my stomach had been until I emptied it out on the trail. Shortly we were running again, and by the time we were into Tunnel Creek for the last time I was actually hungry, for real food. I grabbed a ham and cheese sandwich, some ginger ale, and we were off. We ran the next section a little slower than I had hoped. I needed to get in some more calories, so I ate what I could, and drank my ginger ale. The sun finally set and we turned on our lights, pushing on. 

We came into the Hobart Aid station, filled up, and the crew there were stoked to see us. They had written down the time I had come through on my 3rd pass on their cutting board. I downed some coconut water, and we were off. I was feeling much better and was able to run much of the climb up to the Snowflower Peak AS. Our conversation flowed, and we enjoyed the cooler temps. We were greeted by the Boy Scouts volunteers. We chatted briefly as we grabbed some food and then headed out. I told Alex that my plan for this down hill was to start out steady. I wanted to be careful on the more technical upper section, and increase the pace as we descended. The upper section went smoothly, and as the trail mellowed out down further I began to ratchet up the pace. Alex was a champ, handling my ever increasing speed. About 1.5 miles from the turn to Spooner Lake I caught my left foot on a rock and was instantly falling head long into a tree. I managed to roll just enough to avoid hitting the tree trunk and landed in the dirt at its feet. I bounced up in a cloud of dust. I was unscathed, save the toe that had born the brunt of the rock that tripped me. Alex and I laughed at how dirty I was and headed off. At this point I started to run with everything I had, eventually dropping Alex, feeling the excitement of knowing that I was going to win, going to come in under 19 hours. If I pushed I could break 18:30. I pushed the last mile around the lake hard, goose bumps on my neck. I came into the finish line with a huge smile, greeted by George Ruiz, my parents, sister and brother in law and of course my amazing wife Amber. 

George Ruiz greeting me at the finish
My final time was 18:29:09.

I couldn't be any more stoked with how this day went. I have heard people talk about a magical day on the trails in a race, and now I know how it feels. I have to give a huge thank you to my parents, sister and brother in law for coming out to support me. To Alex Larson for crewing and pacing, I really couldn't have done it with out you. To George Ruiz and the entire Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Runs crew for putting on one of the best races I've done. And to Amber, my wife, best friend, partner in adventure, and now in parenting, I really couldn't have realized this dream with out her support, experience, and love. 

My Gear:
Altra Lone Peak shoes, the best shoes I have ever run in, they never let me down.
Amphipod hand held bottles(first 80 miles)
Ultimate direction AK vest(the old one for last 20)
Tailwind in my bottles. This stuff is amazing.
Gin Gins for my stomach and cramps. They work wonders at keeping my stomach calm and cramps at bay

Enzo Wyatt Weibel was born 09-12-2017 at 7:43AM. Our newest adventure has begun.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Canyons 100 K

The Canyons 100 K is one of my favorite races for many reasons. It is close to home, on the Western States trail,  on beautiful and demanding trails, and it is put on by an amazing group of people. I was both looking forward to race day and nervous. I was excited to see old friends, make new ones, and just be on the trails. This winter, in Tahoe, was not exactly conducive to training. I had spent a fare bit on time on the treadmill and back country skiing(and boy was the skiing great), but I had been sidelined for 3 weeks in the middle of my "training" block. I was nervous about my ability to run competitively, feeling a bit undertrained. I had run 20 miles of the course 2 weeks before and had bonked worse than I had in years. Initially I had wanted to run sub 11 hours and had hoped to finally crack the top 3. Competition was going to be strong and as doubt crept in I talked my self into accepting just running to finish. A couple days before race day, as I got my race kit together, I had a mental shift. I figured I should just go out and give it everything, race. What's the worst that could happen? I blow up and walk it in. With my mind made up Amber and I pack up the RV and headed down.

Race morning arrived, I was up early to eat and do my last check on my kit and drop bag. We arrived at the start with 30 minutes to spare. Amber gave me a kiss for good luck and headed off to her duties as a aid station volunteer and sweep (She ended up sweeping 18 miles of trail at 5 months pregnant. My wife is a stud.) I wandered around saying hi to friends, wishing each other luck, and as the final minutes approached I made my way up to the front.

3, 2, 1 GO. We were off, moving at a fast pace up Foresthill Rd. The pack of 530ish runners all heading for the same single track. Thankfully there is more than a mile of pavement to spread out the field before we hit the single track. Though we were running slightly harder than I care to run at the start I knew being in the front pack would serve me well when we got to the single track and the creek crossing at the bottom of Volcano Creek. We hit the single track at the bottom of Bath road and spread out a bit. The light was still dim, making the footing a little tricky going down, so I took it a bit slower. Before long we were at Volcano Creek where slack lines were set up across the water and a safety person was in the water to make sure the runners all crossed safely as the flow of the creek was high and fast. We hit the other side and settled into a good rhythm of running and power hiking. I found my self keeping pace with Mark Austin, a runner that I had enjoyed climbing with at Silver State 50M in 2015. Before long we were coming out of the single track on to the fire roads outside Michigan Bluff where we caught back up with Bob Shebast and Riccardo Tortini. We all chatted a little bit until we began descending, at which point Bob and Ricardo were quickly off the front. I didn't feel I had the miles in my legs to begin bombing the downhills, Mark agreed, and we let them go. There was still a lot of race left.

Shortly we were in and out of Michigan Bluff aid station, only pausing long enough to drop some trash. Soon we hit the single track descent into Eldorado Canyon. We cruised the down and were soon at the bottom and the next aid, where I filled 1 bottle and grabbed a gel and hurried out to catch back up with Mark. We pushed the pace a little, chatting and enjoying the  morning. The climb out of Eldorado is long with great views highlighting the ruggedness of the canyons. I think it was on this climb that I noted the bumper crop of poison oak lining the trail. It would be a miracle to not end up with its annoying rash. We popped out of the single track at Deadwood Cemetery, a place that I have fond memories of taking lunch and nap breaks with Amber. Soon we were coming into the Water Pump aid station, where I do believe one of the volunteers, from Silver State Striders, was the same one that had helped me get a rock out of my shoe at Castle Peak last year(I kept cramping every time I tried take off my shoe). We were quickly back on the trail. Mark said that the 50k front runner was 20 minutes up on us. Wow we thought, how the heck was he going so fast. Soon we hit the descent to swinging bridge where Amber was waiting to cheer me by. I have to give a big thank you to the people that worked on this section of the trail. I ran it 2 weeks before race day, and it was a mess of fallen trees. Down down we went, passing the 3 leaders of the 50k and Bob and Riccardo as they returned up the trail. It looked like we were within 10 minutes of the first guy, and only 3-5 behind Bob and Riccardo. We hit the turn around, grabbed out Hoka wrist bands and headed back up. The climb back up to Devils Thumb is a steep grinder and I was thankful to get it done in the still relative cool of the morning. At the top Amber was again waiting, and I stole a quick kiss.

Back at the Pump we filled water and headed out, back down into Eldorado. This is a long, 4.5 mile descent that is really fun. You have to watch your self to make sure you don't crush your quads or catch a toe and land on your face. Mark and I did a good job of doing both. The climb back up to Michigan Bluff was uneventful, and we started to push the pace a bit. Near the top I told Mark that I expected he would probably drop me in the near future, and that I had enjoyed running with him. He told me he wasn't feeling great and it was probably me that would be pulling away. We came into Michigan Bluff, i refilled and downed 3 extra cups of fluid and headed out, only to quickly need to walk to keep the fluids from coming back up. We walked for a few minutes then began to trot, then run again. We got to a short road climb where Mark pulled off to pee and I kept moving thinking he would catch up. By the top of the climb and the turn to Volcano Mark had not caught up, I looked back, didn't see him and assumed he had been telling the truth.

I allowed my self to bomb the downhill into the canyon and pushed the climb back up to Bath Road. Soon I was coming into Foresthill and saw the crowd of spectators and finishers of the shorter races. People cheered and volunteers grabbed my drop bag for me. I was helped with new fluids and cheered out of the aid station. The cheering and other runners gave me new energy, and by the time I reached the single track of the Cal Street section I was moving well. I knew that if I wanted to have a chance of staying under 11 hours and keeping 3rd I would have to put in some hard running. I tried to keep my focus, not let my mind stray to keep focused on the section at hand. To think of how far was still to be run would be folly.

I was soon at Cal 1 aid, filed bottles and hat with ice and was back on the move. I have run this section of trail many times with Amber, in fact it is the first run I ever did longer than 10 miles, and also when I learned to never trust a ultra runner on distance. I know it well and made sure to run the flats, downhills and easier ups, and to power hike and take in fluid/nutrition on the climbs. This is where keeping it together is important. So far my body was doing well, I just needed to make sure I stayed hydrated and kept the calories trickling in. Cal 2 came and went with some familiar faces from Donner Party Mt Runners. The next section is one of my favorite sections of downhill, it's fast and has good flow. I took advantage of the mojo this section provides and carried it on. It seemed to take forever to finally reach the bottom and the river, where the trail rolls along through grass and sand, always a energy suck. Soon I was on the fire road into Ruck-a-Chucky aid where I was passed first by Bob then Riccardo a couple minutes behind him. they seemed to be around 30 minutes up on me at this point. At the aid station I was quick to refill and made sure to down some extra fluids, knowing the return trip was going to be long and hot.

About 5 minutes out of the aid station I saw the 4th place runner headed to the turn around, Lon Freeman, who was looking strong. He had passed me after this point both of my previous times at this race. My stomach was angry from forcing extra fluids, and my left quad was threatening to cramp. My first thought was that he was going to catch me, and I started to have a little pity party. I'm guessing my sugar was low because I was resigning my self to easing off the pace and just cruise it in. I then saw Mark and he gave me a high five and told me to go get that podium. I ate a Gin Gin, then a gel, downed some more fluid and told my self to suck it up. Do I want a podium spot Yes....Then your going to have to hurt.

I pushed my self to run harder. I only had a half marathon left to run. I could do this. My energy returned. I also began to see more and more runners, including friends, on my return trip. Each time I would pass runners I would take energy from there smiles and give them a good job. Seeing friends and getting high fives always makes things better.

It was getting hot, and I kept wanting to pull my shirt up to let the air cool my stomach. After trying to keep it pulled up for a while it dawned on me that I should just take it off. Best decision ever. I ran way more comfortable with the shirt off. I dunked my head in every stream I crossed and did my best to stay hydrated. I was back through Cal 2 and still moving well, with purpose. I came through Cal 1, looked at my watch, and I finally felt like I would be able to break 11 hours. Now to just not get caught. I pushed hard the last 4 miles, constantly thinking that 4th was just behind me. My left quad and right hamstring both kept trying to cramp, each time I would slow the pace a little, eat a Gin Gin and drink, and each time I was able to keep moving. Each switch back I would glance back to look for a follower, never daring a look on the straights. Finally I heard the road that signaled the last mile and I realized I was going to pull this off. I pushed that last mile a hard as I could and it still felt painfully slow. Finally crossing the line in 10:45. Good for 3rd place and a PR at the distance.

I'm super stoked with how the day unfolded. I feel that I am racing and training smarter. I'm getting to understand how my body works best, and actually listening to it. I am again super happy with my gear choices. I ran in the Altra Lone Peak 3, which is a great shoe. My only issue is that I had to size up 1/2 a size. But after I got them adjusted right they have been great. I also wore my trusty Ultimate Direction AK vest. That thing has thousands of miles on it and is still comfortable.

I also would like to send a huge thank you to the entire crew that helped put on this amazing event. Well done. I also want to thank my amazing wife for supporting my running, Im looking forward to our next and biggest adventure, a little boy. I also am thankful my Mom and Dad were able to make it down to the race and hang out with Amber's Dad and Step Mom. It's so cool that they get on so well.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Alpine Challenge 100 Mile and Vacation

I first started looking at the Alpine Challenge 100 miler about 2 months prior to the event. We were driving home from Ryan's race at the Bear 100. I hadn't planned on doing a fall event, but at that moment we were waiting to find out if I was going to miscarry again. The next couple weeks were filled with doctors appointments and then a d&c when my body didn't miscarry on its own. Mid october I decided I needed something to focus on and I signed up to "race". I knew I wouldn't be my fittest, but I also knew the challenge of getting ready in 6 weeks would give me something else to focus on. I had a solid base from a summer spent on the JMT, but August and September had been very low mile months. I primarily picked Alpine due to the date (we had time off work) and that fact that is was a Hardrock Qualifier. 

There wasn't a lot of information online about the event. I knew it had about 26,000 ft of climbing and was over an unmarked course. Aid stations were going to be unlike anything here at home with most of them having water fills only..... oh and they would be much further apart. I think the longest section without a checkpoint was about 30 miles. I also had to carry a large amount of mandatory gear.  

  • Waterproof and windproof jacket with hood—(gortex, pertex, entrant, japara, nylon or similar). NB: plastic rain poncho, wind jacket, water resistant jacket, etc. is not acceptable.
  • Waterproof and windproof pants—(gortex, pertex, entrant, japara, nylon or similar)
  • Spare long sleeved thermal top and long johns (polypropylene, wool or similar). Cotton, coolmax, lycra and any compression garment will not be acceptable.
  • Beanie/hat/balaclava or buff (1 only)
  • Windproof and waterproof gloves
  • Waterproof map of the area and course notes (preferably laminated or in a waterproof map case or zip lock bag). Spatial Vision—Bogong Alpine Area 1:50,000
  • Compass or GPS plus spare batteries for GPS. Find out how to use your map and compass here http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2015/01/how-to-use-a-map-and-compass/
  • Lighter or waterproof matches
  • Whistle
  • First Aid kit including
    • Emergency space blanket/bag/light bivvi sack or equivalent
    • Personal First aid requirements, bandaids, antiseptic, painkillers etc
    • 10 cm elastic bandage for snake bites/sprains. NB: cotton crepe bandages are NOT acceptable
  • Fully charged mobile phone and portable mini power bank (1 phone per solo runner/2 per team or relay team—Telstra provides the best coverage)
  • Torch/headlamp and spare batteries
  • Back up torch/headlamp (including spare batteries)
  • Food—for the run and emergency food if lost (energy chocolate is good)
  • Water—minimum 2 litres capacity. More recommended if forecast is hot
  • Waterproof bag to keep your compulsory clothing dry (plastic bags/zip lock bags or dry sacks are fine)
  • In addition all participants must carry the following safety equipment provided by event organisers:
    • Personal Location Beacon or similar (1 per solo/team)
    • Emergency heat pack
  • Ancillary Equipment:

    • Spare clothing/runners (with support crew)
    • Sun screen

    After looking at the gear list all I could see was snake bite bandage. I watched videos on how to apply and thought to myself it is early spring there and still snow on the ground... how bad can it be. I tried to get the gear together in my Ultimate Direction Peter Bakwin pack, but I couldn't get it to fit and this was without having water in the pack. I ended up wearing my UD 20L Fastpack. 

    I did as much training as I could reasonably do in 6 weeks without overdoing it. My biggest day was doing the Hilloween hill climb on Oct 29. Thanks Julia Millon! Without this I would have been completely, instead of mostly, unprepared for the steep ups and downs of the Alpine Challenge. I ended up getting nearly 16,000 feet of climbing done in 25 miles. 

    Finally we were on out way to Sydney. We had rented a camper van with the plan of post race heading to the coast and then driving it up to Brisbane. We landed in Sydney and the race was in the mountains about 10 hours away by van. We landed on Thursday and the race started 5am on Saturday. Only a day and a half to get there. It took us over 2 hours just to get out of Sydney. The van rental place didn't have maps and just sent us in the general direction. Driving a manual on the left hand side didn't make things any easier but eventually we were on the highway and making good time. The next day we got up early and headed to the race venue. The road to Falls Creek was super tight and windy. Eventually we got there and found our hotel. There was no one there. We hung out there for a couple hours trying to find a way in or anyone that would help. No luck.We tried calling, but the phone we had bought and put over $20 in credits on wouldn't complete the call. I started having a massive meltdown and told Ryan we should just scrap the race and head for the coast and start the vacation part of our trip. Eventually one of the neighboring hotels told us that the hotel had recently been sold and was no longer open. Thanks Priceline! Closed hotel that was already paid for. At this point I was done. 24 hours of air travel combined with 12+ hours in the car and I just wanted to go to the beach. Ryan then found out we had been rebooked into another hotel a street over. Not ideal pre race stress, but we were finally checked in and headed to the pre race briefing.

    Fun little camper van! Ryan cooking me breakfast in bed. 

    Day before the race shake out run. 

    There was a special pre race briefing just for international athletes. The topic of this was SNAKES! Good times. Turns out they are all venomous and some had been seen the day before on the race course. We learned how to properly apply our elastic bandages. I'd already seen the videos online, but this somehow made it all the more real. Their fangs are supposedly short and would feel like branches hitting the leg or ankle if we were struck. We were told the snakes would be small compared to rattlesnakes back home and would probably be in grassy or leaf littered areas. Okay I got it.  The main briefing reviewed the course and I marked my paper map and reviewed both of my GPS files. I had downloaded the Gaia maps of the area and a file with course outlines on it.

    Finally gear was all sorted and pack was ready for the next day. The 5 am start was cold! The first 4 or so miles of trail were fantastic! Perfectly groomed sweet flowy slightly downhill singletrack. I was somewhere in the middle of the conga line keeping a comfortable pace on the mellow downhill. We had been warned at the briefing that after this nice section there would be a steep downhill on a fire road and after that we would start to climb. I took it easy on these first sections, and soon I was down the "steep" downhill where we'd been told to take it easy. I was thinking that this wasn't too bad. It was all perfectly run-able. Then the first climb started and I got into what I thought at the time was the "rough" section. It had been a double track that was terribly overgrown. The footing was tricky, but I enjoyed the climb. About halfway up this climb I was already pulling out my phone to look at the GPS to see where the "road" went. It was so overgrown that I couldn't pick up faint track that was winding its way up the hill. 

    At about 15 miles we passed through the first checkpoint at Warby Corner. This was a water spot. It was also where I'd see Ryan and pick up my food for the next 30+ miles. At this point we were on a nice fire road and I thought I'd seen the worst of the trail. Oh how wrong I was. I did a quick stop changed out my food and filled up my water. I left my puffy with Ryan as it wasn't part of my mandatory gear and hustled out of the checkpoint. 

    The next section started on a mellow double track for a couple miles and then we made a right hand turn that followed a pole line. The trail quickly got steep and narrow and then almost completely petered out. Two guys flew past me and I tried to hang with them, but it wasn't happening. It felt like we lost 3000 ft in 3 miles descending to the river. I was using my poles to slow my descent and try not to fall on my face. The trail didn't switchback, but seriously went straight down. I knew my quads were going to hate me. This was only mile 17 or 18. It was going to be a long day and night. With all the overgrowth on the trail it was hard to see footing and all the branches kept hitting my legs. All I could think of was SNAKE. There would be no avoiding a snake if there was one there. 

    I finally got down to the river and was super happy to be done with that section. I stopped at the river and filled up my water. We had been told in the briefing that we could fill here and again at a river crossing at about mile 40. Other than this I didn't know where water would be available. The temperatures were heating up and the water was cool and refreshing.

    The climb started and it was just like the other side. Straight up. I was so glad to have brought poles and I enjoyed the climb much more than the descent. The higher up I got the more the trail started to level out. I climbed up from the jungles to almost tundra like vegetation. The trail became more defined and easier to follow the higher I got due to the lack of vegetation. 

    Following the pole lines

    Straight up

    Mt Bogong

    The ridge line at Mt Bogong. I promise there is a "trail" in this photo.

    Following the ridge line down.

    After all that climbing I had forgotten how much I had struggled with the previous descent and was looking forward to making up some time on the downhill. This would not happen. The first section of the descent was rocky and technical, but then I got to the tree section (see photos below). For what felt like 10 miles, but was probably 2 miles the trail went through a section with downed trees. My quads already hated me and now I was climbing under, over, and through trees. I'd run shuffle a couple steps and then have to stop and figure out how I'd get around the next obstacle. By the time I got to the bottom and the next water fill my legs were done. I filled up and started walking up the next hill. This was a perfectly runnable uphill fire road and all I could do was power hike. I didn't get passed on this 5-6 mile section heading into the Warby Corner checkpoint so I guess everyone else was broken also. Through this entire climb I could feel that my feet were starting to get macerated. With every step I could feel a crease under my right foot.

    Warby Corner snowman.

    Heading into Warby Corner for the second time.

    Finally I was at the checkpoint! Ryan had brought in my second pair of shoes and dry socks so I sat here for about 30 minutes with shoes and socks off to let my feet dry out. I took advantage of this time to eat some real foot and lay down with my feet elevated in the sun. I didn't care if I was losing time. If I didn't fix my feet here, then I would be done later. I still had 55ish miles to go and I was completely broken. I should have had Ryan get photos, but I was lacking energy to do anything other than eat and breathe at this point.

    I finally shuttled off down the trail. It was a slight downhill perfect fire road and I was reduced to a walk/shuffle. I had lows in racing before, but I'd never been reduced to a walk this early in a race due to destroyed legs. I had no energy and wasn't looking forward to 55 miles more of this. Ryan came with me on this section as his car was at the next checkpoint. He had hiked in to Warby Corner. I was happy to have the company and without his gentle prodding probably would have quit right there. Warm beaches and lounging around sounded like much more fun that what I was doing at the moment. Ryan kept telling me that it would get better. It did, but not until sometime the next day.

    Somewhere between Warby Corner and Langsford Gap

    The next checkpoint at Langsford Gap was only 4-5 miles away and we eventually got there. I filled water again not knowing if there would be any creeks to fill in between here and the next water point 18 miles away. I said goodbye to Ryan and headed off. From here we followed an aqueduct and it was flat dirt road. I kept walking. My legs were done, and I felt completely demoralized. Pole 333 was the next checkpoint and where I'd have to decide if I would continue on with the 100 mile or head back to the finish for the 100K. I did a quick check on how I felt and I wasn't any worse or better than I had been at Warby Corner so I made the left hand turn towards the 100 mile course.

    The course got steep and rough again and after a lot more downs and ups I was watching the sun set as I was headed into Loch Car Park. It was completely dark when I was about 30 minutes out from the check point, and I stopped to add layers and pull out my light. I could see the flashing lights of the CP on the mountain across from where I was. I could also see the headlamp of a runner headed my direction. Ryan ran out a quesadilla and some positive energy out to me! He asked if I felt any better. No, I was definitely not better, but I didn't feel any worse. I went inside at the checkpoint and put on my fleece tights and jacket and headed back out into the night. I got lost several times on the next section. Route finding on an unmarked course in the dark on trails that are often not much more than animal tracks was tough. I checked my GPS frequently during this section and recognized my mistakes early preventing them from being disastrous. This section of trail had jungle like vegetation and I kept tripping and falling. My poles saved me from the worse of the falls and a couple miles out from the aid station I saw another headlight. Ryan had hiked out to run into the CP with me. He lied and told me I was doing great and didn't look that bad. I didn't believe him, but it was good to have him with me even if just for a couple miles. At the Harrietville CP I got in the van and ate a cup of noodles. I put my legs up for about 20 minutes before finally motivating enough to get back out there.

    I had about 20 miles to go and it was 2am. The race has a 44 hour cutoff so I'd make that even at my pace. Leaving this CP was the biggest climb of the race. I was feeling a little sleepy so I took a caffeine tab and all of a sudden I was on fire. No, I wasn't running, but I was a power hiking fool. I passed 3 people on this climb and had another in my sights. The climb went on forever, but it seemed my legs were finally coming around. The top of it ended with an out and back to Mt. Feathertop. The last half mile was steep and rocky with what looked like endless drop offs on both sides. I'm not the biggest fan of heights and doing it in the dark had me down on all fours climbing. I got up to the top with another runner just as the sky was starting to turn orange. It was going to be a beautiful sunrise, but I wasn't going to hang around here to watch it. Soon we were down on the main ridgeline and I made another pass. I was finally running again!

    The next section was Diamantina Spur.  The course notes said "Diamantina Spur is steep in places with lots of loose shale and rocks—descend with care". How understated! Sections had the brush cut back, but the brush was across the trail. I kept tripping and falling on the brush. The steep section involved some down rock climbing. Around this time I caught and passed the lead female. I might have looked bad, but she looked worse. She said her GPS had run out of batteries and she'd gotten lost several times. I wished her luck and quickly moved along. I was super glad I'd brought along the larger power bank with me. The extra weight had been worth it. My GPS had been my lifeline, especially at night. Yes, I had a map and compass, but with trails being more like animal tracks it was far easier to follow on the GPS. I started moving really well after the descent and onto the last major climb of the course. I knew Ryan would be hiking out on the course to the Pole 333 CP and was looking forward to seeing him. It was a little over 6 miles from Pole 333 to the finish. I was actually going to pull this off.

    The last 1.5 miles of the course actually had the only course markings of the entire 100 miles and this was because we were following ski hills rather than trails at this point. It was a super painful descent, but I finally made it to the finish in 29 hours and 47 minutes.

    Totally exhausted I hung out at the finish line for a couple hours trying to get the energy up to get back to the van. Ryan went and arranged for a hotel again that night as sleeping in the van without a shower might have been a really bad idea.

    So, a month out what do I think of the race? I still think it's the hardest 100 I've ever done for a variety of reasons. Unmarked course, no real aid stations, check points/water points that were very far apart in places, and a big gear list all made it hard. The toughest thing for me was mentally and physically I wasn't prepared for the race conditions. Living in the Sierra I'm spoiled by amazing single track climbs and descents. While I was prepared for large elevation gains/losses..... I wasn't prepared for them being in such few miles. There was a lot of run-able miles in between these large climbs/descents. The straight ups/downs and the rough trail/track conditions destroyed my legs. Walking for nearly 50 miles demoralized me. I hadn't trained appropriately for the conditions I faced, and I paid the price. Am I glad I did it? Hell yes! I got my Hardrock qualifier for next years lottery and I got to complete a tough beautiful course. I wish I'd known more about the course in advance as it would have made the journey a little more enjoyable. I wouldn't describe this as a typical US 100 miler. It was so much more. It felt more like an adventure race. Looking back it was a great experience. Amazing what a month of forgetting the pain can do!

    Thanks to Paul and the Alpine Search and Rescue for putting on such a challenging tough event! Everyone out there was super helpful and friendly.

    My I'm totally over this face.

    Course map. Looks like I spent 3+ hours not moving! I knew I'd spent a fair amount of time not moving while filling water, drying feet out, and route finding, but over 3 hours!?!

    Lounging at our hotel post race.

    Now we were off on vacation. 2+ weeks of driving from beach to beach and we worked our way to Brisbane.

    The view of Mt. Bogong from Mt. Beauty.


    There were birds everywhere. We could hear Kookaburra most days in the campgrounds. We would stop everything and listen to their calls.

    Rainbow Lorikeet

    Flying foxes. There was 1000s of them in the surrounding trees. That night there was an epic thunderstorm and every time the thunder boomed we could hear them shrieking.

    Tasmanian Devil

    The best fish and chips

    Kangaroo learning how to take a selfie

    After running 100 miles this felt good!

    Although we did do some running.

    Found a fantastic little 10 mile coastal trail from Port Macquarie.

    We ended up returning the van in Brisbane and flying into Sydney where we would spend the last 2 days of our trip on foot. There is no better way to see a city. Sydney is my new favorite city. Amazing public transport and a really fun vibe. Friday night the whole city seemed to be dressed up and ready to party. We stumbled upon fireworks over Darling Harbor. We called it a night at around midnight and people were still waiting for tables for dinner.

    Sunset drinks at the Opera House bar.

    The next day we got up early and ran from Circular Quay (where we were staying) out to Bondi. At Bondi we discovered a coastal path that went to Coogee. That section of path is a must do. Originally we were going to take the bus/train back to the city, but decided to run back exploring along the way.

    Fun city running!

     Bondi Beach

    Coastal path

    We got back from that adventure around 1pm and hoped on a ferry to Manly.  Since our 20 mile exploring run hadn't done us in yet we went for another exploring hike/run to the headlands where there are old military remnants from WWII.

    View from the Ferry


    Overall an amazing and relaxing trip. Having the 100 mile event at the beginning was tough, but it was nice to be able to not spend half the trip waiting to race.