I was lucky enough to be running for GUNN Runners this year which stands for Gu, Nathan and Newton, our sponsors. They dished out gu’s, sports drink, shoes, socks and hydration packs which was pretty awesome.
Training leading into this race was touch and go. I had been having knee issues relating to a dicky hamstring which seemed to get better with strengthening exercises and then my IT band started rearing its ugly head. Nevertheless, I was able to get in my long runs and felt pretty good going in to this event.
Paul, Jono, Damian (team mates) and Gary and Shell (crew) met at my place at 5.10am for the drive up to Brooklyn. Before long we had kitted up and were on the start line chatting to Mountain Sports. They looked fit and were talking a good game.
We took it pretty easy for the first leg running and chatting with Mountain Sports. The time was flying by. Whilst my stomach was feeling good I was making the effort to slam the calories. Key for ultras. Paul was starting to have some issues with his hamstring after a few kilometres which was disconcerting but he was still moving.
We entered the first CP just behind Mountain Sports in 1hr 36 for the 15.6km section.
As we set off on the next leg Paul was complaining about his leg. He was beginning to struggle and it turns out it was a hammy tear – not alot you can do about that. He’s a tough nut though and put on a brave face and kept fighting. Damian and Jono took it in turns to push Paul up the hills which had us all laughing. At this point Mountain Sports were out of sight and we were 15 minutes behind them going into CP2. Paul made the decision to pull out, it wasnt an injury he could run on but a tough call to make. A shame for El Capo but it fired the rest of us up.
We were 15 minutes behind and had 15 kilometres to the next checkpoint at Bobbin Head. Jono, Damian and I made the decision to really give this section a nudge and we took off in pursuit. It felt great hammering it along where we could and miraculously we caught up with Mountain Sports during the descent into Bobbin Head. We cruised into the the CP together however we were pretty toasted from that effort. Damian was openly hurting so we took a bit of time here to re-group. Gary and Shell were great and we focused on getting the necessary calories in us.
Mountain Sports took off ahead of us and Jono and I slowly walked out of the CP to give a chance for Damo to catch up.
We took the next 15.6km stage to St Ives Showground very easily. We still had a long way to go and we didnt want to do anything too stupid at this stage. Damo was still feeling the efforts as he mentioned he was seeing spots and his vision was blurry. I could only encourage him to get stuck into the calories and to trudge along in a low gear. Not once did he complain and he was confident he would come around, he’s got the experience.
After the Sphinx and going into the descent on the single track I caught sight of Mountain Sports again which was a surprise. My memory isn’t too clear here but they edged ahead of us and entered the CP at St Ives Showground 2 minutes ahead of us.
Again, Gary and Shell were there to get us in and out efficiently and my wife Phill had also turned up. I put in my request for a cold 6 pack at the finish and we were off again.
I was feeling awesome on this leg and really felt like taking off but there is still 40 odd kilometres left. I was running ahead of Jono and Damian at this stage in my own little world. They were having a good chat and I was just enjoying being out there in the bush.
As we entered the maze of trails around The Cascades we caught up with Mountain Sports again. We all had a good yarn, possibly too good a yarn as we veered off course. I felt responsible for this as I declared that I knew the area really well (i’ll keep my mouth shut in future). We went up a hill when we should have gone down and detoured by about 1.5km or so. I dont think anyone was particularly fussed about this but once we were back on track Damian, Jono and I ever so slowly edged away from Mountain Sports as we started to get our game faces on.
We entered CP5 at 3.49pm and left just as Mountain Sports were checking in. Time to push it. Damian was back to full strength, Jono was buzzing and I could smell blood. We had around 29 kilometres left to get this done.
We hammered the downhills on the out n back and then entered the single track on the way to Davidson Park. There was barely a word spoken between us as Damian set a cracking pace through the bush. I was at the back of the train hitting a low patch. I was just concentrating on keeping the boys in sight and getting as many gels into me as I could. My left thigh was really beginning to hurt but I didn’t want to slow us down. We had hit a good rhythm and despite the pain it was great to be out there with the guys. We were moving well.
We got into Davidson Park at 5.03pm. We all smashed some coke which tasted great, I had a couple of panadol for my leg and we were off. We had put 20 minutes on Mountain Sports through this section but of course we had no idea at the time.
The next stage to Ararat Reserve was good again. Another strong leg for us with Damian leading all the way and setting the pace. Talk about a second wind!
Again I stayed at the back but started to come to life as the panadol kicked in. A kilometre or 2 before the CP we had to flick on our headlights – always good fun running on the trails at night.
We got to CP7 at 6.06pm , our lead increasing to 43 minutes. Even though we were an incomplete team we still wanted a good result, particularly for Paul – El Capo.
I slipped on my Newton road shoes for this leg as its mostly on hard packed gravel and road. They felt delightful. My feet were feeling pretty tender so a change of shoes was just what i needed. Damo did the same. More coke and we were off.
At this point we decided not to thrash ourselves as the record was out of sight (not that it would count as we were a depleted team) so we just jogged along together and had some good laughs with the volunteers on the road sections.
Fortunately I had run this last leg many times so I knew where I was going. But if you were going in blind then it could be a frustrating leg in the dark as there are no markings.
Going up the steep stairs from the park I shouted out at the lads below to pick it up as we had a chance to sneak in under 12.30. Arbitrary but it motivates me and it motivated the others. So we picked it up and ran over the finish line together in 12.29.
Mountain Sports had a great day out and were the first complete team home. Running with a team is so much more challenging than running as an individual as the likelihood of a low point or an injury occurring is 4 times as a likely. The next complete team were around 45 minutes behind them. Great work guys! I really had great time with you all on the trail.