Friday, November 9, 2012

Sleep’s 2012 Review

As my 2012 running season drew to a close after Sunday’s BMJs 10k handicap race, I thought a few 2012 running reflections were in order.

Depending how you look at it, 2012 could be defined as either a year of cancelled events, missed opportunities, reoccurring niggles, general apathy towards running, or more positively defined statistically as my most outstanding year yet!
The year started with a 33k run in the extreme January heat. Lugging close to 80ks up Bees Nest Hill almost brought me to tears before hobbling home and wishing I owned an intravenous drip.
Soon after I got serious-ish.
Routine and discipline returned like an old lost friend. Discipline that paid immediate dividends with the first win of an amazing 2012 winning streak!
Yes I’m talking about race 2 of the Mountain Sports Dirty Tri event at Lawson swimming pool. I had my old nemesis ‘The Animal’ hot on my heels all day after his famous annihilation of the local record for the Hawaii Ironman bike leg a few months earlier.
After such a big win it’s sometimes hard to refocus on other goals. What could I aspire to after a Dirty Tri win at Lawson? After some lengthy consideration and strategising, I refocussed and set my battle sights on the classic Running Wild Narrow Neck (the Nek) Night Run in mid January.
After an eerily misty 7:30pm race start I was locked in a head-to-head along the Nek with another local nemesis of mine, Brenden Woodford Davies. His constant surges along the dead flat and straight bits of the Nek was a tactic, I must admit I had never seen before in trail racing.
After smelling weakness in BwD, I pounced. Snap (in my left hamstring to be precise), and I was now clear of BwD. After running in the dark for the majority of the return trip I turned on the head torch, lowering it to mid-thigh so I could actually see the ground thru now very think mountain mist.
Enter 2012 victory # 2.
Usually by Australia Day I am fit enough to do a 6 foot track course Recce where I usually sustain a femoral stress fracture. By late January I am also usually talking up the chances of running a sub 2hr 10min marathon or a sub 1m 40sec 800m. However this sense of over confidence didn’t re-arrive until late February this year.
But to be honest the race along the Neck was the longest run (except for the one noted above) I had run in the previous 12 months.
So this year’s Australia Day was marked by my first 2012 run over the ‘6 Foot Simulator’ training course – my favourite ‘Glenbrook -Woodford –Springwood, 36ker’
February 2012 was spent preparing for 6 foot track – you know the usual drill. Wake up tired; go to bed tired, efforts in the NP, pool recovery session, etc etc.
After a near perfect smoke screen regarding my fitness I was very disappointed when 6 foot track was cancelled just 24 hrs prior.
The only slip up in my brilliant fitness subterfuge was being caught by Scam’s wife while on my 3rd or 4th set of race pace efforts in Sun Valley one Sunday prior to the race.
When this piece of Intel reached Scam he promptly pieced together, with other pieces of scant info what I was up to - with this Intel ending up on a few public forums.
The substitute run on the day of 6 Ft was an attempt to break my PB from the Grose River up to the FT on Grose Rd. The toughest set of stairs in the BMs. I missed it by 1 second, running 16mins 48secs.
So, the following week I went on a camping trip (see last blog entry).
After the camping trip, and not wanting to waste February’s training, I entered TNF 100.
However after a 50k LSD on 1st April my right inner calf blew up. This run was on the Simulator extended to Warrimoo. That was it, I needed rest. My usual 12 week per annum limit of training had been reached. TNF 100 was to be as a spectator for the 5th year in a row.
But that’s not the end of the winning streak.....
Fast forward to September and enter the classic BM’s Joggers 10k handicap race series. This series is now 40 years old – and is possibly the longest running running series in the world. What, you haven’t heard of it? Well, you’re about to.
Running approximately two or three 10k runs per week I was happy with a 36m 20sec run. I was also happy to beat the other 5 starters, including 3 of the fairer gender, Rob spilling on his one good knee and some bloke pushing a pram. Hey, it was a win in a very lean year so I am counting it in my streak.
Again on the first Sunday morning in October, a few more BMMC joined for the monthly 10k handicap. With all the new comers (a BMMC quorum was attained) I was in charge of carrying Evie’s mandarin to mark the turnaround point. Has anybody else been to a race briefing where they say “run to you see the mandarin on the ground after the 2nd empty puddle, then come back here”.
Time for 10k of Septembers time + 12 seconds and win # 4
I am also claiming the win for the orienteering race in the Rutkowski’s back yard at the annual JPR (Jimmy Perrett Racing) team meeting in October. Taking down Orienteering masters of Ed, Earl and Jimmy O’Brien, on a highly technical course and well planned course was still a win. #5.
And where this very self serving post all started - with the November BMJ’s 10k win in October’s time + another 15 seconds slower. Win #6
What a great year of running...... I guess.
2012 at a Glance
  •  Dirt Tri – 1st
  • RW narrow neck – 1st
  • 6 foot – cancelled due to Noah 
  • Mt Solitary – cancelled 
  • TNF 100 - DNS 
  • Kokoda challenge - DNS (i stopped entering races about here)
  • Sept BMJ – 1st 
  • October BMJ – 1st 
  • RW Narrow Neck race (DNS or even enter) 
  • RW Mt Portal race (DNS, on spectator duties) 
  • JPR orienteering race – 1st  
  • November BMJs -1st

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Latest camping trip in the Wollemi

There are endless ridges in the Wollemi with no names or that draw any particular attention on a map. There are infinite twisted canyons, crevasses, scrub, bassalt capped mountains, sandstone gorges, rocks, cliffs and caves that cover areas the size of a Northern Territory cattle station. Groups of otherwise unremarkable red contour lines that twist and bend around occasionally named blue lines that denote the creeks and rivers, providing just enough tangible information to navigate the Wollemi on foot if you choose.

Within this seemingly invisible and unknown land are small traces of an extremely long history of human occupation. This history is of a continuous and unbroken connection to the Wollemi that was first brought to worldwide attention less than 10 years ago with spectacular and amazing discoveries of some of the world’s oldest recorded art and cultural histories in the form of ancient Rock Art. To think, as Europeans we believed up until these discoveries that the Wollemi was too rough to traverse or live in – shows just what little understanding we have of such places and their role in Australia’s very long past.

The trip started with the routine drive up Putty Rd to the beginning of the designated Fire Trail that I would use to move west towards the Colo River. After caching the car near Putty Road and then the mountain bike at the end of the FT, I put on the gators, gloves, rolled down the sleeves and reacquainted myself with the prickly scrub. After a few years of good rain, and no major bush fires in the Wollemi for a decade the bush was thick and brutal, or as some claim “impenetrable”. The first 4 kilometers (or grid squares) took 2 hours to bash down to the first creek where I would get water.

I soon found Clews Cave (see Topo) and then proceeded to climb half way up The Island with spot height of 545m before climbing down a narrow pass to the Colo river. This pass drops 280m in just over 300m – close to a 45 degree slope.

The Island as seen from above Clews Cave

I then progressed downstream to the junction of the Colo and Wollangambe rivers to find a place to camp. The river was high (not that I have a comparison) but looked like a flooded river by its brown disturbed colour. I wrapped the pack up in the hutchie cover and swam across; only to see the best beach in the Wollemi was back on the side of the river I had just come from and 100m downstream. So I swam back across after filling up the water bottles from the fresh looking rapids charging into the Colo from the Wollangambe.

Pic 1. View of flooded Colo at Wollangambe R
Pic 2. Camp Site (left beach)

Pic 3. Some bloke from 1943

What a night. No rain, but I could hear the long distance rumblings of storms further up stream. In the morning the river level was lapping up towards my sleeping area, and the stick I had put in the sand to mark the river level was missing, presumed to be down at the Windsor Bridge.

Day 2 started with another crossing of the Colo, then up the Wollangambe for 300m before turning right up a large unnamed creek. After several hundred metres I attempted to venture parallel to the Creek on higher ground to avoid the vines and boulders that made the creek slow and tricky work. I eventually decided to ditch the creek and try my chances climbing up onto Clews Ridge. Bugger me, the scrub had started out nearly impassable and only got worse. Undergrowth usually gets thinner as you rise from a creek, but today it only got thicker. At some stages I could only throw myself into the scrub and then cut myself free of vines that entangled me.

I eventually reached Clews Ridge and then made my way East to the highest easterly spot height on Clews. From here I could see Main Creek to the North and the high point of Clews ridge to the West. View of Main Creek from Clews Ridge east

After a bit of sun baking, lunch and a search for sign of human occupation I headed west along Clews. The only sign of human contact was an old head torch laying on a cliff top that I carried out. By now it was 1pm and getting pretty hot. Thoughts of sitting and waiting it out occurred, but I had plenty of water (5 litres) and agreed (with myself) to go slowly to preserve water loss. By 3:30pm I had found a 25m long cave off one of the intermittent tributaries of Main Creek. The cave had 40 hand stencils (including a childs), one stone axe stencil, possibly two boomerang stencils and what looked like some smudged out anthropomorphic figures. The cave also had various stone arrangements that looked like they’d been put there yesterday along with a lump of dirt where you would naturally put the fire. It was obvious the last fire in the cave had been buried by the most recent inhabitants who occupied the cave, possibly as recent as 130 – 200 years ago?

The cave was perfectly located 20 metre in front of two small active waterfalls with fresh water, plus a small wading pool for learn to swim lessons.

After a few photos and a search for more sites I went and found a camp site for my night ahead. Then that night the rain started, first lightly, then more heavily. By dawn the rain had been joined by thick fog. It was a night spent thinking about ‘what would it be like living out here’.

Day 3 started retracing my steps east along Clews Ridge through unrecognizable bush. Its amazing how less than 24 hrs ago I walked this ridge in the opposite direction, now could recognized none of it, partially due to the fog and rain I was now in.

The gamble.
Instead of taking the 4 hours to retrace the route I had taken to get up onto Clews ridge the previous day, I planned to attempt a rapid descent down a steep reentrant that would take me directly down to the Colo –and save hours of walking.

The risk was, I had 10m of rope, that when folded in half = 5m. Therefore, after any ledge greater than 5m that I roped down meant I was committed to the descent. If I then found a ledge greater than 5m that I couldn’t get down, and I was also unable to climb back up previous ledges I would be trapped between ledges and I would need to trigger the epirb (very embarassing). The map indicated just enough space between the red contours line, but it was still a gamble. The Google Earth image I had, had a big shadow over the re entrant - so it gave no additional information . After 3 ledges (of less than 5 metres) the final ledge was about 10 metres – however I was saved by the fact that a tree of 40 metres had grown beside the last ledge and I could shimmy down it to get down to the Colo. Phew – a small amount of relief.

After another crossing of the Colo I soon headed up The Island and retraced the almost 45 degree climb. Imagine a set of stairs 300m high and that is also a waterfall, that’s what it was like. A great climb. By about mid afternoon I reached Clews Cave and set up camp. Another raining night with cover in a cave, this time in a bigger cave including a small feast of finishing off the last of my food, including half a kilo of Deb mashed potato and a tin of Spam.

Day 4 started with an early rise and bush bash back to the MTB and a 90 ride to the car on Putty Rd. Back in the car, the first thing to do was coffee at Windsor……and to work out what day of the week it was?

A good start for my TNF 100 training for May.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Gee running is great!

The Blog is back.

Ahh I forgot how bloody hard distance running was.

Went for my first 3hr run in 10.5 months last Sunday.
See link to my Garmin data.

After almost a year of inactivity due to serious injury and being more busy at home than usual (new twin boys), it’s time to kick on the shoes and try a few LSDs to see if I can finish 6ft track in 9 weeks time with a bit of respectability.

Sundays run was one of the top 10 hardest runs I’ve ever done. By the time I got from home to the bottom on Bees Nest Hill I was thinking about pulling out as I believed I couldn’t go any further. Just then I remembered a quote I heard once, “when you think your body has gone as far as it can, you are usually at about 40% of what it can do” Here i was, not even half way thru the run, thinking of stopping and that quote, of all quotes, pops into my head.

I started at 3pm (a new family friendly start time) and it was 30+ degrees. Funny how you forget that the heat may impede your ability to do your first 3hr run back. I ended up drinking almost 3ltrs of water, one Gatorade and a gel. Needles to say when I finished I had to lie down and have cups of water and food brought to my bedside as I tried to recover....

Friday, December 10, 2010

Sleep's Top 10 Sporting Motivational Videos of all time

Number 10.
Hey, he got as far as he was going to with hard work, sometimes you just need a break. Chance favours the prepared. If the World record holder cant stay on his skates, thats his problem. #10.

Number 9.
You were either one or the other: a Mark Allen fan, or a dave scott fan. The two best iron men ever go head to head in the "Iron War of 1989". Many a young kid watched this video over and over. Possibly worth a higher ranking than 9th, but.... This race changed everything in the sport of triathlons for ever.#9

Number 8.
Rocky, a man always capable of striking a chord in the under dog in all of us. This speech while not a sporting moment per se is as sporting related as you can get. Stop making excuses and believe your worthy.#8

Number 7.

A video played at most BMMC events nowadays as motivation. The look on the face, the sound in the voice, the body language, the reference to State rail services when a legend wearing a pink dress finds out who won his race. All the trash talk on CR stopped fairly quickly after this video went viral.#7.

Number 6.
We smashed em like guitars. Klim broke the world record in the opening leg, then thorpie swam over the top of "Worlds best sprinter" garry hall jnr. in the final leg. This was the peak of a male swimming wave for asutralia. A swell of australian talent and belief that was started by K. Perkins in the early 1990s. #6.

Number 5
Mateship, tradition, running and gallipoli. Whoever thought to blend a running movie with a war movie was a pure genius. My mantra on the hills: "What are your legs? Steel Springs, How fast can you run? as fast as a lepard, how fast are you going to run? as fast as a lepard, then lets see you do it....." #5.

Number 4.
I was 7 years old when I saw this race on TV (brisbane comm games mara). It was the first time I thought gees running looks kind of cool. Hail deek. He gave hope to all us big runners.#4.

Number 3.
I was lucky enough to be in the Olympic Stadium on the night of this race. When Cathy Freeman won the 400m earlier in the night, yeah it was cool. But the 10,000m was historic. The 2 best runners ever, in the best race ever, racing in their prime. Truley historic. #3.

Number 2.
Plagued by mishap, after mishap. The 100th anniversary of the Tour in 2003 wasnt meant to include an American said to be 'too rich', 'too old', 'too american', 'too big' to win against all the odds. The 'Tour Gods' threw everything at lance in 2003and he threw it back. After two bike mishaps, no team suppport and Ulrich who didnt wait.... lance goes on to set up the tour win by putting 400 kilowatts per/hr in anger through a set of cranks to destroy Ulrich....again chilling stuff to watch. #2

Number 1.
People remember where they were when man first walked on the moon. I remember where I was when this swim was on. The best sporting comeback/ or moment in history. I still get chills down the spine watching and thinking about this one, and what it did for australian swimming. He was last onto the Aust team, last into the final by a few 100th/ sec, trashed by every newspaper and expert commentator, but had not a single doubt in his own mind he would take Gold.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Woodford Dam Trail Race: Race Report

The 2nd race of the RW Trail Running World Series

What a great course this race featured. I had been to Woodford Dam only twice before for swims in summer, but had never actually run around this area. And, if you are the Sydney Catchment Authority I totally deny this first sentence.

What was presented to participants was a good mix of single trails, a few stairs, fire trails, a dam and lake, a conventional tar road, 2 good hills to climb and a field of like minded ‘trail people’ to run with.

The Race Director (Mr G) started the event and we took off down the first hill. The Welsh exchange student was my early pacer. Brendan D and Prince Donga set a solid early pace and were soon out of sight. However we could still see them running up ahead as they missed the first turnoff into the bush. Someone (who will not be mentioned in this report) suggested we all be very quiet and duck off down the track the 2 leaders had missed.

After a pleasant run past some waterfalls, and a few nice swamp bridges, we were back on a main track and then a road on our way down to Woodford Lake and Dam.

By this stage the missing leaders had reassembled with our group, including a runner who when I looked at I thought: “gees that bloke has really long arms and would probably make a good swimmer”. It was Long Arms himself.

We ran down to the Dam chatting about war stories and future running agendas. Prince Donga mentioned his plans to defend his recent sizzling outright victory in the Fitzroy Falls Marathon come next year. Brendan discussed his plans to relocate his household to the trail running capital of Australia, the Blue Mtns in efforts to properly prepare for 6 Foot Track.

The talking abruptly stopped as we started up the big hill. Slowly as the grind continued I felt a small gap emerge between my two followers. This hill was a baby pluviometre.

While I am no way fit enough, or light enough to run fast at the moment (I’m 78.9kgs), I attribute the good climb up the hill to 2 things. Firstly, a lot of regular short runs and swims lately that have kept my legs and breathing systems in reasonable condition. Secondly, the fact that all runs recently have involved mini climbs of some sort (Sun Valley, Old Bathurst, Portal, Grose etc etc).

But now I had a big dilemma. I was where I didn’t want to be, or think I would be - in the lead. The plan to have a pleasant swim in the Lake when I got back down the hill was now over.

Something happens when I see a starter’s gun, or sense competition. The hairs grow on the back of the neck, and my palms get sweaty combined with a dry pasty feeling under the tongue. Suffice to say when I find myself near, or at the front I have absolutely no chance what so ever of running easy, or to a pace commensurate with my fitness. Its time to suffer.....

Also, Scams recent comments about me, and I quote: “not having a race winner’s singlet to wear around” could now be force fed back to him as little pieces of Humble Pie – just as soon as I could get back to Woodford. Funnily enough, he has been very quiet about the race all week.

So I sucked in a caffeine Gel at the top of the climb, and started drinking and refilling the water bottle as if I really meant it. Thank you Scam for the motivation

Coming back down the hill, the left ham string snapped (again), joining the right Achilles insertion point that had passed away some 12 months ago. If they were kept warm and comfortable, and were spoken to nicely - we would all get back to the finish line together.

Doctor Phil joined me at the bottom of the mini pluvio on his Mtn bike, shooting some marvellous footage against the back drop of the Lake for the ‘Best of RW Trail Series 2010’ that is coming out soon on DVD and Blue Ray.

It was a rather enjoyable and hard-paced run back to the finish. A second refill of my water bottle with energy drink at the last aid station boosted the energy required to keep the legs going.

If I got caught, the plan was going to be: use the last hill before the finish to hold them off. Luckily they didn’t come, and it was all over soon enough.

Thanks to the RW race organisers. To Scam - gees the singlet is comfy.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Another 3 Peaks Trip Report

(click on picture above to see 2 of the 3 peaks)

Why you would enjoy trudging along Narrow Neck ridge late on a cold Saturday night, alone, and after already running, walking and bashing through 80 of the toughest kilometers you could imagine, and being continually drawn back to do so many times, may be a tough question for some? - myself included. This trip report will try and answer this question.

Shogun, a man often attracted to the nemesis of something Wild and challenging, and I had been talking about doing a 3 Peaks/ or Katoomba to Mittagong (or both at once) walk for about 2 years. Finally last weekend we actually turned words and bravado into preparation and action and arrived at Narrow Neck (NN) to attempt a 3 Peaks trip. We were looking to set the record of course.

We set off shortly after 4:30am from the official starting point (see Ashley Burkes 3 Peaks page) and headed off to the Coxs. It was a blisteringly cold and windy pre dawn first hour as we arrived at the end of the NN F.T just as the first glow of the sun was coming over the horizon, faintly lighting up the Burragorang Valley to our East. Appearing ominously in front of us beyond the Wild Dog Mtns we could see the shape of the peaks we planned to climb. It was shogun who asked, is that cloud off in the distance or the Mtns we plan to climb??

We made great time to the Cox’s jogging all the way down past Medlow gap, Mobbs swamp and finally down Yellow Pup ridge. After a quick refill of the water bladders we headed up Quoagang. At this point we were feeling great, hitting the summit after a 2hr 10min climb, including a few pics of an aggressive looking monster black snake.

We were quickly on top of the Gouagang cairn and then off down the South buttress to Whalania Ck. The rock formations down the South ridge are magnificent and splendid, if only we had more than a few moments to enjoy such a great place.

Soon after starting our rapid descent down this tricky spur it was decided we would take differing paths. Shogun, after assuring me he had taken several modules in Wilderness studies in High School - and that he was in fact a professional map maker, decided he would push on down to Whalania Ck back to the Cox’s River and then home.

I thought to myself, of all the god forsaken places to be left alone on your first 3 Peaks trip, this would have to be at the bottom of my bucket list. I had ideas that the Creek back to the Coxs could take a full day to cover the 8kms, and that Shogun would be out here alone over night – and that I had some part in getting him into this situation…...

These thoughts were put aside as I pushed on with the comfort of “No, he told me he did Wilderness studies, he’ll be OK” and “of course he can read maps, it’s what he does for a living”, along with “he is a very tough self sufficient bloke, don’t be his mother”.

Next was the aptly named Mt Paralyser. In total going up Paralyser, signing the book, getting down Paralyser took 2hrs and 3mins. From Kanangra Ck to the cairn on Cloudmaker, via Storm breaker took a further 85mins. Halfway up to Mt Cloudmaker I narrowly missed placing my foot on a healthy looking adult Brown snake. Were there any small snakes out here, or were they all giants? As a reflex I jumped away from the snake, so did the snake from me, and we both went on our way - with a good shot of adrenalin carrying me for the next few minutes or so.

Upon staring the jog/ walk from Cloudmaker to Dex Creek, shortly after 4pm, I bumped into a solo female camper, Heidi who had just lost the track in a fashion similar to the BMMC trip in June. By 5:45pm I was down crossing the Coxs once more, glad to have had light coming down Mt Strongleg.

At this point I reflected. I had had a dream run, every peak had been ticked, no mistakes with navigation, no tracks lost. To go any faster you would have to be in real top shape (which admittedly I am not at the moment) and I estimated that even at 100% fitness you may, at the very best, save only 30-45mins on the accumulated time so far.

From the Coxs it took me approx 5hrs 45mins to get back to the car on the Neck, compared to 3hrs 15min for the run on the way in. Albeit, I slowed a bit, I walked a bit; I even took at few extra small rest stops. But hey I was buggered, I had just done the 3 peaks return from the Coxs in under 10 hrs, plus ran 28kms to the River before I started. Not to mention the run home was all UP HILL, not downhill!. So I stopped beating myself up for positive splitting by approx 2.5hrs for the return from the Coxs.

As I was climbing up Yellow Pup in the fading light I glanced up Whalania Creek and thought of Shogun, who I was sure would be lying up somewhere around a fire cursing my name in his good mannered way. I also thought how tomorrow is going to be when I have to come back out here for him, not to mention the awkward phone call to Mrs Shogun! Would I now have to look after his 7 or 8 off spring?

All up it took 19hrs and 5 mins to finish, being one of the top 5 hardest days of my life. (mind you 3 of my top 5 feature the 3 Peaks). Arriving back at the car shortly before 11:40pm

The real surprise, and to my great delight was that Shogun’s car was gone when I got back to my car. He had finished about 10 to 30 mins in front of me. Legend! He had gotten himself down Guoagang, along Whalania Ck and found his way back onto the track from memory. Travelling along creeks can be slow work but he could read a map after all, and those Wilderness lessons did pay off. I never doubted him for a second (of course), but theory and practice can be different things, however Shogun had nailed it like a true Bear Grylls. What’s more, I could now sleep in the following day. Happy days

While I haven’t actually answered my opening question, to me, its adventures like this that keep you in touch with a raw reality about who you are - and what you are capable of doing when you need to. And when set in rugged, remote, beautiful and potentially hostile surrounds, combined with the quiet whisperings of nature they draw out a strange rejuvenating and relaxing energy. Particularly for work on Monday when someone asks ‘what you did on the weekend?’, and you say ‘oh I went for a bush walk on Saturday and mowed the lawn Sunday – just a quiet one”.

I think it was better put by Mallory or Irvine who said in the 1920s (just before they reached the summit of Mt Everest on their ill fated trip) when asked why they climb? one of them said something like:

“To those who don’t understand, it can never be explained”.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Grose Valley Trainign Run, from Faulconbridge Point (25ks)

Instead of just writing about my runs (or lack of them), I thought I would do a photo journal of my Sunday run.

This run is by far my favorite run of all time, and the most prolific run I have ever done, with variations of it having been run continuously since 1988. My long run as a kid was to a marked tree about 4kms from the home.

Start at Springwood High School (see picture of the round about), head out Grose Rd to the Lookout (10ks, see pic of lookout), then head back 1km (see picture of singles track start)and turn left down to the River.

Then Climb up the two cliff ledges, now with rope, shown to the left. Average HR shown in picture.