The North Face 50km – 2014

May 19, 2014 § Leave a comment

Here’s my race report for TNF50 2014.

And here’s last year’s for good measure.

After a delicious dinner at Leura Garage I had a dozen dreams about running and they were all bad. Then the alarm went off and it was dark and chilly and I asked myself some hard questions such as WHY.

The new start and finish at Scenic World Katoomba seems to have helped shift this race into top gear in its 7th year (2nd year for 50k distance). Certainly the infrastructure was a whole level up in terms of size and impressiveness; the inflatable finish line is history. Kudos to AROC. I didn’t spend any time at the nearby Christian Centre event hub other than to pick up a new race number as mine was a DNS but it seemed to offer a rather less cosy and rather more religious experience than the Fairmont Resort.

photo 4

The world-class thick and glossy race program. I think ClifBar got the raw end out of this ad placement. *Not my toes

I wasn’t looking forward to the confected Y-shaped 5k road run to start, but I understood the need to both split the runners and gather the spectators. It was okay. I got to say hello to a few people (and then say hello to them again a few minutes later). The human witch’s hat was a cute touch.

Kilometres 8-13 were frustrating as my (comparatively) good technical and stair skills atrophied behind a long, slow-moving queue on the Giant Staircase and well beyond. Note: I was allocated a Wave 3 start although my Wave 2 request turned out to be perfectly legit. Also through here I had a drink leak that soaked my backpack and singlet and necessitated a brief stop to fix (my fault). And another leak of a different sort.

There were a lot of on-course photographers. Like, probably too many. I hope I don’t embarrass myself, my family and the race organisers.

After the 13k water station I found a bit more elbow room and enjoyed the next section through to the Fairmont (were we supposed to spit on the lawn?) and beyond to Conservation Hut and Wentworth Falls. Slow jog up Tableland Road and out of the 28k checkpoint after about 5 minutes.

I started the big Kedumba descent almost on 4 hours, which was a little slower than I’d hoped but after a while I worked out that the second leg would be quicker. Heaps and heaps of down and then some up and down and then about 12k of increasingly steep climbing. I applied myself to grinding this out with everyone else and hoped the legs would keep responding (they did).

There were a few times over the last 10k that I thought ‘Wow, this walking sure hurts so I might as well run a little.’ Heh. Encountered quite a few people bent double or legs-up with cramps and/or nausea. An ultra is such a race of attrition. I offered to rub someone’s calf but he waved me on; all of us with our private battles.

During the last 5km of shady single track it seemed like I had a chance to go under 7 hours but it was not quite managable; I got to the bottom of the final cliff just prior.

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The sweetest course marking of them all!

As I pushed up the final few metres of the Furber Steps section I could hear the finish line party and thought ‘Shit, it’s going to be so embarrassing if I can’t run up the finish chute.’ LOL. But I managed to get the legs moving and even savour the finish. It was a really great welcome!

photo 1

The numbers: Pretty happy with 7:13 (last year I took 7:47).  7 hours was the stretch goal and I came fairly close. A Wave 2 start might have made the difference (or maybe all that early bushwalking meant I had the energy to finish comfortably).

Mostly I’m glad that my split rankings improved with every section – from 345th at 10k to 215th at 50k. So I doggedly overtook 130 people. The final 5k gives me a split ranking of 96th out of 711 finishers, which shows how many people suffered in the dying stages (or died in the suffering stages). Even runners with a much quicker overall time than mine.

photo 2I ate…not much. I’m not that big an eater on long runs and didn’t want to feel ~bleugh~ for 20k like last year. A gel at 13k, 28k and 41k. Not even two of my home made date-and-nut energy balls (the other two were mostly crumbled up and scattered). A couple of cubed inches of Vegemite sandwich (turned into bread soup with a swig of water).

I drank…about 3 litres all up, maybe a bit less. Some Hydralyte Sports with a bit of extra starch dissolved in, a bit of Endura, and plain water. In the latter stages water feels like a treat. ‘Okay drink some sports drink now but next time you can have…A SIP OF WATER!’

I sustained…very sore legs, sore shoulder muscles (from backpacking), two bruised toes (always the second ones) and that’s about it. I’m lucky in that I rarely blister.

I wore…Inov-8 Trailroc 245s, Salomon 10l pack, Skins long socks, Nike short shorts, NSWIB singlet, SUB arm warmers (official photos will show these progressively rolled down and eventually discarded), 2XU visor, Jet Black sunnies. There was no gear check but it was all there in zip-lock bags.

Sad postscript: My traditional start line jumper, a heavily moth-holed and over-extended woollen skivvy, disappeared from the bit of fence that I tied it to. Goodbye old friend 😦

What’s next? If I keep at it there are three appealing events I’ve not done before: Bogong to Langford (I’d never make it to Hotham within cutoff) and Mt Solitary Ultra (the bit between the Col and Golden Stairs is new territory for me) and Glow Worm Trail Marathon (looks so pretty). It’s not clear whether I qualify for either of the first two races so the first challenge would be getting an entry.

I don’t know if I’ll do TNF again. It’s exciting doing a high profile event but I’d like to support some quiet demolishers and enjoy less congested tracks. Would love to trail run in New Zealand some time – it’s sort of a spiritual home for me. Should probably also be more careful to choose different events to the faster half, at least for the next few years. It’s brilliant knowing he’s out there on the same course but it makes parenthood at an away-race even more complicated and costly, and all the training and lead-up a bigger juggle than it already is.

Plus running isn’t everything 😉


Some perfect strangers at Sublime Point the day after the race



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