Kokoda Spirit Racing

Trials and tribulations of the KSR trail running team.

Dan’s Buller SkyRun 36km Race Report: From Mirimbah to Buller to Stirling to Bad to Worse

Sometimes we have bad races. No doubt most of you have already read about an exceptionally great race from Moritz, so now’s your opportunity to insert those empathy chips as I take you through what I am now referring to as The Worst Race I Finished.

My lead-up to this race had been a bit sketchy, but with plenty of positive signs. On the negative side, despite being in some of the best hills form of my life up until December, I’ve spent the past few months on exceptionally flat terrain, sneaking away once a week at best to find some moderate hills. I’ve also just been through a stomach bug – nothing really severe, but it did hamper a few long training runs.

For the positives, my training has certainly been consistent. Flare-ups of old injuries are common for me, but until a couple of days before the race I’d enjoyed well over a month of daily running (with a couple of pre-planned cycle days thrown in). On top of this, my speed and flat work had been coming along exceptionally well, no doubt as a result of my new flat training conditions. So a 36km run seemed very doable, even with a big hill (Mirimbah to Buller Summit) at the start. With the 36km and 45km races sharing a start time and the first 21km of trail, it was Moritz who hit the single track first, with myself settling in behind (possibly because nobody else wanted to try and chase Mo up the hill!). My initial thoughts were very positive – I was full of energy, nicely rested and the quads seemed to remember what to do again. I stayed close on Moritz’s heels until one of the first steeper sections, as I’d made the decision to move my hike threshold right down just in case my quads decided to blow up. I immediately let another runner pass, and by just over halfway up the 8-ish kilometre hill I’d lost sight of both leaders, though I was feeling very comfortable.

Looks good, don't it?

Looks good, don’t it?

By the time we left the coverage of the forest at the lower slopes, I knew something wasn’t quite right. I was having real trouble convincing my stomach to take any Gu, Powerade or Perpetuem. I slowed down for half a kilometre to see if the change of pace corrected anything, but after no breakthroughs, I picked up the pace again. Moments later, a confusion over course markings and having misheard the instructions 45km runner Tom Brazier yelled as he reeled me in at the final push (not Tom’s fault), I took the first wrong turn of my racing life and ended up half a kilometre off the course. Shouting obscenities at my feet, rabbits, birds, flowers and every other unfortunate thing to enter my eyeline, I rejoined the race having slipped from third back to who-knows-where.

Summiting at Buller and realising my quads had fared quite well, I resolved to use my flat speed to start weaving my way back through the field, though I figured catching Mo by his turn-off at Mt Stirling would now be out of the question. But moments after passing through the village I realised that my stomach’s aversion to food and liquid was getting worse – and that my quads simply weren’t recovering from the climb at all. Gentle descents, flat sections and ‘douch-grade’ hills all felt like extra vertical. Getting worried, I decided to ignore the fact I was being passed and walk towards the low point at Howqua Gap, with a focus on re-fuelling then trying to turn my race around.

Into Howqua Gap - and walking already.

Into Howqua Gap – and walking already.

What I’d hoped to be a brisk walk turned into a grim death march. My stomach threatened to regurgitate anything I put in, and my legs ached on every gradient. At less than 15km in, I was feeling as if I’d already covered 80km. The ascent to Stirling was beautiful (as was the whole course, really), but all I could think about was getting to the aid station to see if pure water went down any better than my Perpetuem and Powerade was. Thankfully it did – I still struggled to drink as much as I should, but I took at least 10 minutes to stand in the shade and take in watermelon (the only food that seemed to agree with me).
With a bit more fluid in the system, I allowed myself to jog down the final long descent, a fantastic 15km-long section following the Delatite River. The heat (probably low to mid 30s in the valley by then) had originally worried me, but the more I sweated the more I seemed to be able to take in water, which was a good sign. By this time Mo had flown past me at around twice my pace, despite having covered an extra 9km more than I had.

I finished in Mirimbah at least 45 minutes slower than I had planned. Over 36km I’d drunk little more than a litre of water and eaten just a single packet of Gu chomps and a handful of watermelon. I cramped, vomited, cramped again and wasn’t able to eat or drink anything apart from soft drink till more than three hours after the race. Even after I finally started eating and drinking normally I weighed in at 65kg – probably the lightest I’ve been since high school.
While I know what went wrong, I have no idea why it happened. I’d worried about a few things before the race – most notably my lack of hill training and the heat – and had done all that I could to prepare for the prospect of them being a big issue on the day. But sometimes that’s not enough to stop you from having a really bad day on the trail.

Weird things happen during races. This is why race directors make sure we carry whistles, first aid kits and thermals in summer. It’s why they put huge amounts of water on the course and recruit armies of awesome volunteers to stand at remote aid stations. Because the longer we run, the more likely we are to have something really weird happen!


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This entry was posted on February 12, 2014 by in Uncategorized.

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