Alistair Allen

The following is a consolidated overview of my race day, which was broken into three (3) phases and 22 stages, with supplementary notes and conclusions at the end.

Phase I: Start (00) to Warby Corner (08)

The race started at fast pace, moving at 4:30-5:00 m/km, in a smooth, winding single trail on packed earth descending 300 m over the first 5 k into Howman’s Gap (02) under shade. This pace was a little hot – so in a considered move, I backed off to 5:00 m/km in the descent to the creek (04) at 11 k in

The descent to the creek had moved from slick single track, the recently graded fire trail with fist sized lose quartz rock, debris with negative cambers and multiple small sections of steep drops (20%+) that required concentration & patience on form and maintaining quality lines.

I opted to cross the Creek (knee deep, across football sized rocks) sans shoes. This was because:

  • The course was dry;
  • There was 50+k left and had planned to stop at the crossing and focus on Summit; and,
  • I used this point to refresh the pressure in the calves.

The ascent of Spion (˜1100 m in 7 k) requires some diligence and respect. It is broken into two distinct parts.

The first, is the ascent to the Spion ridge (05) – which is modest gradient (˜15%), with a heavily rutted/graded track swept free of trees. It requires concentration over footfalls, but is moderately technical at best and can be completed with moderate effort (power hiked), in preparation for the severe second section.

Ascending to the summit, the track moves into far steeper gradients with larger, sheet stones, hidden rocks, shrubs and saplings on the trail. Patience must be exercised as climbing becomes more difficult (>20%)

Summiting, the smaller Spion and onto the ridge line – the trail opens up into oft seen exposed vehicle trail. With stunning views on either side (Mt Beauty/Falls Creek) – the ridge running is enjoyable, but moderately technical in sections before becoming fully runnable into Warby Corner. I was patient, allowing my legs to return whilst approaching the Aid Station.

Race Update [˜12th back of Mid-pack], Feel good, nutrition/water on point, no physical issues]

 

Phase II : Warby Corner (08) to Pole 333 (15)

The intention was to “push” through this section, and gain as much position and time as possible – I deliberately took my time at the aid station (08), took on extra calories/water noting the exposed conditions and effort expended on the climb.

The descent on buffed out fire trail to the AAWT turnoff (09) was pristine vehicle track with rammed earth and crushed rock. It should (and was) run at good pace, noting it was in exposed conditions. The turnoff to AAWT (09) was well marked, and this section of trail was technical on a varying mix of terrain in alpine scrub (tussocks, hidden rocks, mud, turns, fallen trees, water, etc.) – thoroughly enjoyable, and barring the first 5 k, probably the most fun running of the day. Breaking out onto more vehicle fire trail (10), it was a buttery flattish segment to the half way point at Langfords Hut (11).

I was in two minds at Langfords, regarding hydration/nutrition after passing two runners coming in. I opted for caution and took in extra before heading out

Race Update [˜10th, moving up], Feeling it a bit, nutrition OK, water a concern, stomach issues (minor) and elevation drawing on the effort]

Pushing out from Langfords, the trail continues on quality compressed vehicle track, but still quite exposed to sunlight (and wind, although not present). The turnoff to the carpark (12) however was not marked, and cost the lead runner (DNF) and another runner ahead of me to lose time. This small detour was broken trail, with a modest elevation gain which required a hike out. The last section to the carpark (13) was more fire trail before crossing the road and following the pole line along the AAWT to Pole 333.

At this stage, I began a down patch – that I worked my way through as I descended along the pole line on the gravel, then, super slick rubber matting towards the SEC Hut (14)

Race Update [˜8th(?), moving up], Checking myself, water/food ok, stomach problems (real) and running legs deserting me. Must be patient and have faith – the race will come back to me

The section from SEC Hut (14) to Pole 333 (15) was my worst, as I struggled with momentum and concentration. This section (after recent snow), is highly technical to move across quickly. Running in either a culvert or across tussock fields, in soggy earth/mud, hidden rocks and knee length bushes was challenging and relentless in the exposed environment. Making it to Pole 333 was a boon – and a time to regroup (

Phase III : Pole 333 (15) to Finish (22)

Departing Pole 33, I knew it would not be long before I would have to reach into the well. Departing 333 the track quickly improved into a runnable descent through similar terrain down the Fainter Track. This track is C road, and is runnable with a nice 2 km descent into the final aid point at Pretty Valley Pondage (16). Stopping quickly for some water and orange, I moved on – the final gradual push before climbing Mt McKay (18) on buffed out vehicle track at modest gradients (˜3-10%)

Towards the summit, my bottom hit – and I reached down for some motivation and was rewarded. Always a beautiful moment to have the rush of euphoria erupt and bring you back to life, perhaps why many of us really challenge ourselves in these events.

The ascent of Mt McKay is small (˜1km, 15%), on large stone vehicle track and I powered up it, knowing it was a roll to the finish. The descent needs some patience, as it is easy to clip toes and twist ankles – but reaching the bottom (19) and powering across the last vestiges of tech terrain back to the road, greeted by a grinning RD who quipped “like that hill I put there?”. [Note : In fairness, I did!]

I breathed a sigh of relief. I knew I was going to beat my “A” time by at least 25mins. Head down. Push to finish, and try not to lose it too bad on the finish line. Failed at that part.

Finishing events of this type can affect us in different ways. For me, it is a spiritual connection to my lost children. A deeply emotional and personal connection that can only be achieved under periods of extreme duress and achievement. For my angels, thank you for guiding me.

Observations:

  • Preparation for AC is key. It is a challenge for a reason, and will be unrepentant if you are ill prepared.
  • Have your nutrition down and have faith in it. You will have down periods, and don’t over react
  • Practice with your gear frequently and use the right equipment for this race.

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