It was a casual question on my Wednesday night social trail run with Bunyaville Trail Runners that prompted my entry to the Nerang 50 - “Are you doing Nerang at the weekend?”. I didn’t even know it was on but that question triggered a rapid succession of thoughts such that by the time I got home I just needed to check a couple of things before entering.
Once I’d checked the date and time, and that it wasn’t full, I checked with Peta whether it was ok - she was sceptical that it was a sensible idea six weeks out from North Face, questioned whether I would break myself - but I managed to persuade her, and thus myself, that it wasn’t a completely ludicrous idea.
And so at 3:50am on Sunday morning after less sleep than I’d have liked I was getting out of bed and putting on my race gear, eating breakfast and having a coffee, before a quick drive across to Albany Creek to pick up Paul, a fellow runner, before a dash down the Pacific Motorway to the velodrome at Nerang where the race starts.
After the usual pre-race preparation (race number, lube, sunscreen etc.), I was ready for race start in good time and after a few words about navigation from the race starter, we were off. For about 200m before hitting a bottleneck (the stile into the State Forest) and then came to a halt! Still, once through that it was on and upwards. Even at 6am it didn’t take long to start sweating!
I was very very conscious that it was going to be a tough day (my initial estimate was around 6 hours) and my mantra of the first of the two 25km laps was “nice and casual”. While on a course like that it’s almost impossible to avoid being out of breath, it’s best to minimise that as much as possible. As such, for most of the first lap, if I was running, I was running at a pace that, at that temperature, I felt able to run all day.
The first lap was fairly uneventful - I was about 20m behind Paul for most of it, and it was good to travel at a very sustainable pace. By the end of the lap, I was looking forward to a 5 minute breather at the checkpoint as I refilled all my bottles. It was 9am at this point, and warmed up. The idea of a second lap in those conditions when the first really hadn’t been that easy (I distinctly remember thinking about not looking forward to the second time around) was tough, but I’d made far too many compromises in the first lap that not doing the second lap would have made the whole day an absolute waste of time.
And so I continued onto the second lap. I knew I wasn’t running as much but I didn’t really feel that uncomfortable - I managed to continue at a pace that I could sustain in those temperatures. Sometimes cloud cover really helped, sometimes there was a breeze, and those times were great for the short period of time they lasted! But when I was running, I was doing well, and overtaking other runners.
At about 5km into the run, I was just catching back up with Paul, who hadn’t spent as long at the checkpoint, when I heard him asking someone if they were ok. They said they were, so he carried on. I got to the same person and he was just sitting there. I asked if he had everything he needed, and at this point he said he was out of water. He said he was ok and would carry onto the checkpoint, but I knew that wasn’t going to happen without water. As I’d done a complete refill (so I probably had 2.5 litres) I knew I could spare quite a bit so gave him what I thought would get him through. I don’t really know what happened to him after that - I would be surprised if he finished.
Anyway, with my load lighter I was able to push on through, and a bit later passed Paul who was suffering from cramping, and some of the other runners too. By the time I got to the 37km checkpoint I was happy to be able to refill my camelbak (my front bottles containing energy drink were about half full still, so I left them as they were). I also had a couple of cups of water and a couple of flat coke too.
My recollection of the second half of the first lap was that it was the easier of the two halves, and that there were no real tough hills after the ‘gutbuster’ shortly after the midway checkpoint. How I managed to forget so many hills within 25kms is beyond me - suffice to say there was a lot of walking in that final quarter. It was also so hot that even at the top of hills I was no longer able to run immediately. But once I did get my breath back I was able to run - certainly it was never really my legs that were holding me back.
I used my energy drinks as a kind of reward strategy - sipping on it every so often to keep my spirits up. And once they were almost empty, I siphoned some of my remaining water into them so that I could at least have some vaguely flavoured water! I was a bit surprised at how little water I finished with, considering.
The second half took about 3:25, probably just under half an hour slower than the first half. Given the very different conditions, I’m happy with that. I finished in 6:27 which, when comparing to races such as Glasshouse 50 in similar temperatures but less elevation, seems about right for me.
I do think it was an excellent training run, and gave me the opportunity to test my race and nutrition strategies and suffer a little with heat and elevation. I think it proves that I’m about six weeks ahead in my training compared to this time last year (as I reckon I could have done last year’s TNF 50 yesterday - TNF 50 is harder but cooler) so just need to keep training well to be able to survive the 100.
I’ll have to take this week as it comes - I wasn’t too sore or stiff this morning but it could be worse tomorrow! And of course Saturday is Pinnacles so we’ll see how Nerang affects that.