Trials and tribulations of the KSR trail running team.
The inaugural Ned Kelly Chase in Victoria last week was only my second ultra ever. And I still find it strange to call this a race report. That might be because with the term race I associate speed. And can a 100km run be about speed?
Well, as I found out.. IT CAN
But let’s start a bit earlier:
Two weeks after setting a new PB (2:30:55) at the Melbourne Marathon I knew I was in good shape and ready to hit the roads for a distance sane people would usually only tackle by car. From the Gold Coast we sat out with 12 guys in a mini-bus to take on the 18hour drive down south. I was a little shaken up after the long trip but with the Ned Kelly Chase only being my second ultra I had no high expectations anyway and wasn’t worried too much.
After having a quick look at the start area, which was located right next to the caravan park where we stayed, we had a relaxed dinner in town. We pretty much went to bed soon after since some of us would have to get up as early as 3am to crew. Luckily I wouldn’t have to start before 6am and was able to catch some more sleep. This was because the race director had set different starting times in order to have everybody finish around the same time in the afternoon. Fun runners first, the fast guys last!
As Caine had briefed me before Rick Cooke would most likely be my only serious competitor in the race. But since 100km can be quite long I was actually looking forward to having some company.
Together with three other relay teams we started off with a 4:05min pace and the first thing that came to my mind was: is that even doable? God forbid smart?
To be honest, I hadn’t really done my homework and I had no idea what times would be possible on such a course.
To my surprise the pace felt really comfortable and Rick and I kept chatting about races and training for probably about the first 15km or so with the occasional pee break in between! Even after about 30km into the race we had not slowed down at all and I was beginning to wonder whether this was the way to go but Rick seemed content and it definitely wasn’t the time to express doubts.
Shortly after, Rick started to have Achilles-problems though, had to drop back and finally out of the race. So I was on my own and not really sure how to approach the rest of the race.
Besides having doubts I ended up slowing down only a little bit to a 4:10min pace. The course was beautiful at that time with far reaching meadows, grasslands and only the occasional street to cross and I was still enjoying myself and didn’t feel tired at all. The temperatures were also perfect in the morning with about 6-7C at the start.
After about half of the race the course turned to a street and I was quickly approaching the second major checkpoint at km 50. Temperatures were rising and finally reality started to catch up with me. Before, I had been on a sub 7hour pace for the full distance, which only 5 Australians have ever accomplished, but with full exposure to the sun and no companion alongside me I had to slow down.
I managed to get comfortable at about a 4:25min pace and moved on to about km 70. This part of the course was on a main road with no shade whatsoever and considering the stage of the race we were in (km 70) it was actually a little dangerous. Cars were passing right next to the runners and as many will know an exhausted body quickly starts to stagger.
Now running ultras is not only about physical preparation. If you ask me the mental state of a runner might even be more important. If you can run a marathon, you can run a 100km. But you need the mindset.
The stretch of the race from km 70 to 90 was when I had to dig deep and apply what I have in store in terms of mental skills. I had missed one of the aid stations before and was running out of fluids. Luckily some other runners and spectators were able to help me out. But I was still hurting badly and if it hadn’t been for the race I would have curled up in a foetus position and gone to bed!
Punching in some extra power-gels finally got me back on track and from the 90km mark onwards I knew I was going to make it. It is amazing how the mindset can contribute to recovering in an ultra. Out of a sudden I was feeling well and went back to a 4:20min pace all the way to the end. Little cramps in my left calf and the general fatigue couldn’t stop me and after 7:39:15 I crossed the finish line.
Taking home the victory with about a one-hour gap to second place was nice. But what I am really happy about is the way I was able to recover in the race. These experiences teach and tell you that there are huge ups and downs in races. But they are manageable.
My nutrition worked very well in this race. I used the following:
-power-gel every 45 minutes
-2 salt tablets every 40 minutes on first 50km and every 25 minutes on second half of the race
-pieces of cake and fruit at aid-stations
-0.75l of fluids in running-backpack (refilled once) on first 75km
-two hand-flasks with total of 300ml on last 25km (refilled twice)
-water and extra energy drinks at aid-stations
Overall I am very happy about this race. It was well organized and I was able to share the experience with some good friends.
Even though my time is nothing to be ashamed of I feel like I could have done a lot better. A slower start and a personal crew could have done the job. But there will be more races to achieve faster times at. Maybe at next years Gold Coast 100.
I have now recovered well (strangely had no sore muscles at all) and went back to training the next day. But I guess I suffered a little bit in a different way. Three lost toe-nails were the prize. But who needs those anyway..