Wilsons Promontory 100km 2017
After taking a break from blogging I'm back. No break from running in that time. I just wasn't getting what I needed from posting. Not a lot more to it. I'll skip all the ins and out of what I've done and get right into my most recent adventure.
On the weekend was the Wilsons Promontory 100km. Included in the event were 44 and 60km options. If you don't know anything about the Prom I'll sum it up as one of the most spectacular places on earth, filled with amazing views and Australian wildlife. It is also the southern most part of the Australian mainland. Do yourself a favour and get down here.
Quite a number of work friends competed, and to steal a term from one of the group, it appears we must be a bunch of freaks. All distances were covered. Shift workers and ultra runners made for a massive party house with all in bed by 9pm. The house we were staying at was in Yanakie and that had us about 30km out from the race start. Which sounds like a long way, but if you know the geography of the Prom then you'll understand.
So my race the 100km started at 6am along with the 60km runners. This meant I drove down at a couple of hours before dawn which made for quite the obstacle course. I felt like someone was constantly throwing animals at my car. It was my greatest achievement of the day not to create any road kill as I drove carefully dodging a multitude of wombats, deer, rabbits, kangaroos and wallabies. The other animals from the area that didn't want to play chicken with cars were the echidnas, koalas, emus, drop bears and snakes. Maybe they'd show up later in the day.
Relaxed at the start line. The weather was relatively warm in the morning and for at least the first half of the day it was perfect conditions for running. In the afternoon was predicted a change bringing up to 100km/h winds, rain and a chance of hail. I had a cunning plan in dealing with the weather. Enjoy the early perfect conditions, then enjoy the nasty change in conditions. With the mandatory equipment rules I was carrying about 200kg of safety gear, so I should be right.
A quick briefing followed by an even quicker count down and we were moving in the predawn darkness. A field of headlamps leaving the Tidal River campground made for a great sight. I had so much energy wanting to explode out of me. Straight away I was making use of the increased mind training I've been doing in preparation and used a short breathing exercise to slow myself down. It worked. The opening few kilometres took us out on the road and up Mount Oberon to Telegraph Saddle. It was a long climb, but not crazy steep. Good for a mixture of running and hiking. Mixed amongst the field it was quite a social way to start the day. I was moving well and definitely well within my limits. The sun had now woken up and no more headlamp.
Some flattish single track across the top and then the fun really started. The down hill was the perfect gradient for fast running, but made tricky with mud, tree roots and rocks everywhere. The range in skill sets stood out here. Some flashed down the descent making it look like it was smoothest track ever. Some had a mix of stutter steps, stop and goes or just nice and careful. There were a few slips and tumbles. I took a conservative approach erring on the side of safety. For me that means quite a high cadence and a relative short stride. It keeps the pace up a bit that seems to improve my ability to balance and keep a solid footing on the way down. The key seems to be to keep my centre of gravity slightly ahead of my landing foot. A few passed me, but I passed more and most importantly my legs didn't feel like they were taking a hammering. This fun brought me down onto a nice section of flat boardwalk. With nothing technical to worry about it was a nice smooth and fast section.
Popping out from under the trees we hit the sand of Sealers Cove. Such a beautiful site, even better it's not the 1820's and there is no seal clubbing going on. To continue off the beach was a river crossing and being around high tide, meant the icy cold water was up to my hips. After the first shock, the coldness felt good and seemed to wake my legs up. Up out of Sealers Cove and then into Refuge Cove. The trail became a little more technical with a mixture of gradients and surfaces. It was very enjoyable running, but it required a good dose of concentration to keep my effort level under control. I felt slow going through this section as a kept an upper limit on my intensity, but that seemed to be more my own perception. As I passed a small number through here. Into Refuge Cove and I was happy I was carrying enough water to get through to the Lighthouse at about 50km. At the water pipe there was a good sized line all waiting for their turn to fill up from the tiny trickle of water.
Up and out of Refuge Cove things became steeper. The climb up was rewarded with the amazing view of where I had come from. It was a great sight. Interestingly I remembered a lot of the rock formation I was now travelling from over 20 years ago. I really liked this part and seemed to get a new surge of energy. Roughly 20km in and so far everything was a setting up for my more optimistic goals for the day. A short and steep downhill with a good dose of technical made for some challenging fun before it was time to work against gravity again. The gradient put me in hiking mode up towards Kersop's Peak (which we turn away from just before reaching). Some great and somewhat technical single track drops down towards the beach and provides a challenge to maintain a running rhythm. The footing was uneven and I took a conservative approach through here. Subscribing to the relentless forward progress mindset a slower pace was my best way forward. I knew there were going to be plenty of sections allowing for faster running. Picking my way over rocks, tree roots, through a tiny creek, up and down and around the twists and turns, while taking in some spectacular views was pure enjoyment. It also helped that the weather was perfect.
About 26km in and I was running comfortably down a moderate hill. My left foot landed on a good size rock that was embedded in the ground like all the others, or so I thought. Turns out this rock wasn't as solid as it appeared. It popped out of the ground and my foot slid forward over it.
Rip and pop!
The sound and feeling in my left ankle wasn't good. It can't be bad, not with 74km left to run. It will just need a bit of management and I'll be right to go. Best to start with seeing how it handles standing.... oh f#&k*ng sh^^... that didn't tickle. It might be bad. Better sit down and assess.
Despite wearing compression socks it was clear there was already a good amount of swelling around my ankle and foot. The ankle didn't like being touched and was constantly trying to explain to me something was wrong through the language of pain. At least I had no bony bits sticking out where they shouldn't. Feeling some appreciation for the mandatory safety gear I pulled out my compression bandage and over my compression sock I tightened things up to make sure there wasn't going to be much movement around the ankle joints. What next?
Still clinging to the hope the damage wasn't as bad as it seemed, maybe time would help and I'd just finish later. Anyway time to get moving. Reality sunk in pretty quickly. The difficulty of moving over the rough track, especially down hill was crazy. I was now getting passed by the rest of the field. To everyone's credit the offers of help were genuine and came from everybody. I could have accumulated an unsafe amount of pain relief from everyone, but decided the pain was a good protective mechanism that I wasn't going to override. A pair of hiking poles were all but forced into my hands, but they were better staying with the guy racing. A stick from the side of the trail provided what I needed. The concentration needed to not put the wrong pressure on my leg took over from any feelings of disappointment. Hope of salvaging my race was replaced with reality. There was only one plan left...
...get to the checkpoint at Telegraph Junction where I could get a car ride back out. That was 6.5km away. It was going to take a while. The journey was becoming social as a procession of runners came past me. A few of 60 and 100km runners, but the 44km runners who started an hour later were now coming by. Again everyone offering their help. I was joined by Marcus who had a pre-existing ankle injury that reared its ugly head during his race. He was walking too and provided some company as we hobbled out. After a ridiculous amount of time travelling about 1km I made it down to Little Waterloo Bay. A beautiful beach, but with the obstacle of a creek crossing over boulders. Big steps, drops and no real flat surface made this a problem solving nightmare to not cause more pain. It took time and most of it shuffling on my butt. There was more pain.
We followed the track off Little Waterloo Bay. A sign told us it was 5km to the checkpoint, despite knowing it to be accurate I still argued in my head that it must be shorter. Most of this track was more forgiving. Nothing technical, just some challenging gradients at times and a few rocky or sandy steps that were unfriendly. Mostly I was able to hit a slow rhythm. I'm not sure if the pain subsided a bit or I was just used to it now, but I started feeling a bit better. The slower runners were now passing me and many spent some extra steps with me. It helped. Eventually i was greeted by one of the ex-Commandoes who was manny the checkpoint. Only 400m left and it went quickly.
A chair, soup, jokes and car ride out off the course. Exactly what was needed. Then the weather change came. Strong winds and a good amount of rain. I would have preferred to still be out racing in it, but it was also good to be warm and under cover. This event helped reinforce some of the many reasons I love these races. It is an amazing community that it is extremely supportive of each other. It was great to see the good nature of people.