Last weekend I completed one of the biggest physical challenges of my life, The North Face 100km run through the Blue Mountains. Without going into any detail here is the short summary:
– I was majorly stressing in the days leading up to the start, especially the night before, seeing so many ‘professional’ runners in town with all the elite equipment.
– Woke up at 4:30 got dressed and taped my toes.
– Joined the pretenders in Group 6 at the start. Definitely not many professionals in this group but still a lot of elite equipment.
– It was cold. It did not rain. In fact the weather for the whole race was fantastic.
– 6:55 start. Decided to walk the first 2 km as a warm up but worked out this was pointless and started jogging.
– Caught up to Group 5 at the top of the Furber steps. It was a single lane track from here with lots of people so a nice slow walk/jog along Federal Track, up the Golden Stairs to check point 1 at 10.5km. Feeling good, did not stop.
– Pushed on to Taros Ladder. There was a backlog of people waiting so opted for the slightly longer alternate route. Ended up about 20 people ahead.
– Pushed through to CP2 at Dunphy’s Camp at 31km. Still cruising, all power bars in the green.
– Topped up my water, had a stretch then pushed on to Iron Pot Mountain. This is where it started going a bit off the rails.
– Iron Pot Mountain is out of bounds during training as it is on private land. It is steep; hands and feet steep, with no real path. Anyway, not so bad going up; tough going down. A very steep loose dirt ‘trail’ winding through the trees. This is where I started loading up the knees and favouring untrained muscles.
– Joggled on to checkpoint 3 at the Six Foot Track at 44km. Energy levels in the green, motivation in the green, health still in the green but leaning toward amber. Right foot starting to hurt.
– CP 3 had spectators (including an Elvis impersonator), a Jazz Band (that’s right a Jazz band) and much to my pleasure, cups of noodles and cheese and bacon scrolls. By now I was well and truly over eating sugar, energy bars and cordial.
– I decided I’d walk the next 12km along the Six Foot track to CP4.
– By now the participants were starting to thin out. I got passed by about 15 people who jogged on out of sight. Funny thing was when I hit the stairs at Nellies Glen I caught up and passed every single one of them.
– At the top of the stairs realised my foot no longer hurt but my knees were shot and that running was no longer an option. I was still on the 14hr timeline when I waddled in to 56km check point 4 at the Katoomba Aquatic Centre at 14:30.
– Energy levels in the green, health in the amber pushing to red, motivation in the red. There were almost tears.
– I was convinced my race was over. I had some noodles, a bit of a stretch and a 20min rest. There was still a fair few hours of daylight and was feeling a bit better so decided there was no point quitting yet so set off to CP5. It was only 21km away (yes, that’s what you start thinking like ‘it’s ONLY 21km’)
– This is where it pays to read the instructions! The fourth leg follows the tourist path along the cliff tops from Katoomba to Leura and Wentworth Falls. The guide book contained a 2 page paragraph describing the route. What it should have said was: go down the stairs, back up the stairs, down the stairs, back up the stairs, down the stairs, back up the stairs, down the stairs, back up the stairs, down the stairs, back up the stairs…you get the picture – it was bullshit! And definitely the hardest segment. Going up stairs was not too bad but my knees and tendons struggled with every down step.
– I pulled into 78km CP5 at 19:45. Energy levels in the amber, health in the red and motivation in the red (I was till cursing those stairs). There were almost tears.
– I was convinced my race was over. I had some noodles, a bit of a stretch and a 30min rest. I was still convinced my race was over.
– I saw this other guy and could tell he was having the same conversation with his mother and girlfriend that I was having with mine. We’ve run a good race, no-one will think any less of us, we don’t have to prove ourselves to anyone – except we have to prove ourselves to ourselves. I saw him have a shot of espresso and knew he was going to push on. I took my caffeine tablet too so had to push on (or be unbearably hypo for the next 4 hours). Anyway it’s ONLY another 22km.
– I set off for the finish at 20:15 energy levels in the green, health in the red and motivation in the amber almost green.
– I’d done this segment in training so knew half was downhill and the remainder uphill on a dirt road. Once again the downhill hurt my knees so I opted to walk backwards which was much more comfortable. Bit hard to see where I was going but much more efficient in the end.
– Crossed the Jamison and Leura creeks and started the long slog uphill.
– Somewhere along here I stubbed my toe on a rock, leading to my only blister for the event and most likely the loss of a toenail.
– We made it to the Federal Pass with about six of us spread out over a 100m pushing on to the base of the Furber Steps at around 00:30.
– Luckily, going up stairs was still one of my strong points so I powered my way up reaching the top in 20 minutes (try doing that on a good day).
– I crossed the finish line at 00:55 (18hrs 8sec), energy levels in the green, health in the red, motivation in the green. There were almost tears.
– I’m pretty sore now but nothing that won’t come good over the next few days.
– It’s amazing how much strength of will and instant noodles can overcome adversity.
– Doing a 100km race is not for everyone. Nevertheless, everyone should push their boundaries every now and again to know what they are capable of achieving.
– The Blue Mountains are amazing and I thoroughly recommend everyone make an effort to experience them.