All My New Friends Are Goats

I was once told that the word goat can be broken down to go-at. This word was traditionally used to describe a common male behavioural characteristic. Men are compelled by circumstance, biology and psychology to be out in the world having a go-at something.

With that in mind, yesterday afternoon this goat decided to brave the wind and rain and have a go-at running some trails in the You Yangs (approx. 60km southwest of Melbourne). During a break in the rain as I climbed towards the ‘Saddle’ on the backside of Flinders Peak, my attention was caught by a noise in the undergrowth a few metres to my right.

It was a first for me….wild goats! A group of five were making their way through the scrub. Three of them paused atop some rocks and looked back my way, resulting in this photo opportunity:

YY Goats

Added all together we were six happy goats. You never know who you’re going to bump into when exploring some trails.

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Chile or….Bust!

Running In The Desert

This is the week that Thomas and I (LongBuddyRun) were to be tackling the Atacama Crossing in Chile.

Instead, we remain in Melbourne….and I am housebound, foot elevated, struggling to walk.

What happened?

In a word…injuries. Collectively:

  • 1 x PCL strain
  • 1 x viral tonsillitis
  • 1 x hip/back strain – limited to 20 minutes walking at a time for several weeks
  • 1 x severe ankle sprain

We recently (and reluctantly) made the decision to postpone our 4deserts adventure. This was done at some expense (the entry fee is non-refundable), but we didn’t want to head over there to merely survive the event. We want the experience to be positive…not just hard.

The Atacama Desert, Chile
The Atacama Desert, Chile

I am still formulating a plan for another adventure before Xmas, ankle permitting. If things fall into place I will share the details here.

LongBuddyRun.org

Today is National Buddy Day. A day to ‘band together’ to help reduce bullying in Australian Primary Schools.

Thomas Jones and I are ‘buddying up’ to complete a series of ultra marathons in the world’s most spectacular deserts to help raise awareness of this cause. We have committed to completing all of the 4Deserts ultra marathons over the next 3 years. These self-supported events are held in some of the world’s greatest deserts (Atacama, Gobi, Sahara, Antarctica), with competitors covering 250km over 6 stages.

In the process we will be working with the Alannah and Madeline Foundation to promote the amazing work the foundation does to keep children safe from violence. As part of our journey we will be visiting schools to talk to students and teach them about resilience and how to be a better buddy.

Our adventure starts with the 10th anniversary Atacama Crossing in Chile this October. For more details please visit:

https://www.amf.org.au

http://www.betterbuddies.org.au

http://www.longbuddyrun.org

LBR

Epicness Lives Here…..But So Does Stupid

Epicness, thy name is Macedon.

The moment had arrived. My first ultra-marathon. I felt like I had been carbo-loading for this day my entire life.

As Thomas and I set off with a field of approx 40 runners at 07:30 we had a plan to tackle the 50km course. When I arrived at the finish line (minus Thomas) some 9 hours later, almost nothing had gone according to plan. Plus, those things that did go to plan I wish hadn’t. It was NOT a good plan.

Still, I am now an ultra-marathoner.

I can honestly say that I enjoyed every moment of it…..except the last 5 hours.

What Went Wrong?

Our max distance covered in training prior to the event was 30km – 35km. It was important to move efficiently and conserve energy if we were to achieve our goal of arriving at the finish in reasonable condition (i.e. not empty). In October we will need to cover 250km in 6 days, carrying 10kg – 15kg in our packs. With that as the goal, we wanted to finish the 50km and (almost) feel like we could do it again the next day. This was not achieved.

Trouble Strikes

Thomas fell on a rocky descent at 17km and wrenched his knee. We strapped it up and pressed on through the 19km aid station before he decided he wouldn’t be able to finish. We then went our separate ways. Thomas had to walk to about the 26km mark before getting a lift back to the start/finish line. A scan of the knee is pending…hopefully nothing long-term. (Only 146 days until the Atacama Crossing!)

A Bad Sign

At around the 25km mark I started experiencing cramps in my thighs. This was unexpected. We had routinely been completing trail runs of 5hrs duration, at a faster pace, without the faintest hint of a cramp. My fluid and energy intake was consistent with training. The course was familiar. Conditions were perfect. What was different?

Well…in order to conserve a little energy, we had decided to walk a number of the ascents. These are climbs that we would normally run up in training, just to get an increased workload into the body. You don’t actually gain that much time over walking and it is less efficient when considering the additional energy expended. This seemed like a smart, conservative approach, in-keeping with our overall goal of finishing less than totally spent.

WRONG! This was a really dumb move. In my case I’ve spent much of the past 2 years training my body to be calf-dominant when running (as opposed to relying on the quads). The calves are stronger, more durable and recover more quickly…better for covering long distances. Striding up the climbs engages the leg muscles very differently. Specifically, much more work needs to be done by the quads. Oooooops, hadn’t trained for that.

By 35km my quads were totally bombed, with the hardest part of the course still to come. I managed to struggle on to the finish, but miles outside my target time of 7hr 30min. On a positive note though, my calves felt as fresh as daisies.

It just goes to show that you’re never too old to make a rookie mistake.

A massive shout out and thank you to Brett from TrailsPlus and the team of volunteers that helped stage the event. Especially those hardy souls manning the remote aid stations (40km, 45km, 48km). They had to wait a loooooooong time for the likes of me to arrive.

Key GPS Data

Distance: 50.5km

Ascent: 2,429m (most in the back 20km)

Descent: 2,464m

Calories burned: 5,966

Recovery Time: 120 hours!

In case you’re wondering how to go about trying to replace 6,000-odd calories, my advice is – “Don’t think. EAT!”

Photos

Registration @ 06:30:

Registration 06:30

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No. It’s the world’s tallest smurf:

World's Tallest Smurf

TJ doing his thing pre-race:

TJ

There’s a trail there somewhere (just before Thomas had a fall):

There's A Trail There Somewhere

Runners just ahead going up Zig Zag Track:

Runners Ahead

The Memorial Cross @ 31km:

Memorial Cross

Last aid station @ 48km:

Last Aid Station

Finish!:

Finish

Mount Macedon – 50km Preparation

Camel's Hump, Mount Macedon VIC

Next weekend (Sunday 11th) my buddy Thomas and I are entered in the Mt Macedon 50km trail run organised by TrailsPlus: http://www.trailsplus.com.au/macedon/ . For both of us this will be our first official ultra-marathon.

With that in mind I headed up to Macedon this morning for one last recce of the course. I was intending to explore the bottom 20km on the southern side of the mountain, as this is the section of the course that I am least familiar with. It also represents the final 20km of the race (30km – 50km). The last 2.5km sees an elevation gain of approximately 500m. Nice! That’s bound to be a fun finish next weekend.

So, after 3+ hrs of exploring some new trails, with plenty of missed turns (the course is not yet marked) and a few kms of backtracking, what did I find?

A packed car park:

DSC_0354

A downhill trail I could barely see:

DSC_0355

What goes down, must go up:

DSC_0357

Steps under the railway line:

DSC_0362

Wrong way. Go back:

DSC_0358

Another tunnel as I turn and head back towards the summit:

DSC_0360

With weather conditions being what they were (cold, wet) there was hardly anybody on the trails…so plenty of alone time in which to explore.

It will be a much different scene next weekend, with competitors tackling 10km, 30km and 50km events. I’m looking forward to seeing how the body holds up.

I’ll leave you with a scary thought:

In 5 months time we’re going to need to average 40+km a day.

For 6 days. In the desert. At altitude.

Cool.

Those Buddy Runners

It has been nearly two months since I lasted posted to this blog. But, it has been an eventful break.

Camel's Hump, Mount Macedon VIC
Camel’s Hump, Mount Macedon VIC

In a previous post I wrote about my buddy Thomas and our decision to travel to Chile and compete in the Atacama Crossing in October of this year. Early on in our planning we decided to partner with a charity to make the adventure about more than just two guys running across a desert. After some deliberation we settled on the Alannah and Madeline Foundation (AMF) (see https://www.amf.org.au).

AMF Logo

Since contacting AMF our little project has grown significantly. We have now committed to tackling all of the annual 4deserts runs over the next three years. Our rough timeline looks something like this:

  • October 2014 – Atacama Crossing, Chile
  • June 2015 – Gobi March, China
  • February 2016 – Sahara Race, Jordan
  • November 2016 – The Last Desert, Antarctica

Each of the events is 6 stages / 250km / self-supported. More details are available at http://www.4deserts.com.

4deserts Logo

We will shortly be launching a website and social media campaign to chronicle our adventures and promote the amazing work done by AMF.

More to come…