A wake up call

A wake up call…. that’s exactly what the Macedon 30 was. It made me remember that I’m relatively new to this running game, and I can’t back up a 100km event like some of the more experienced runners (Toby Wiadrowski backing up from TNF100 to win the Macedon 50 for example).

The Sunday between TNF and Macedon I went for a nice 10km run with a friend. This was my first run since The North Face 100. We didn’t run hard or fast, and it felt brilliant. Just to be ticking the legs over again, feeling strong, and I remember thinking I had recovered from my first 100 in a week. (I can see all the ‘experienced’ runners smirking here)

Geez was I wrong. After I finished the little training run, I jumped in the car with some mates, and went up to Marysville for a bit of a day out. Coincidently we walked some of the trails that had been part of my first ultra back in November 2012. When I got out of the car, my right leg was in a fair amount of pain, and I hobbled up and down some of the trails. Looks like I hadn’t recovered as good as I thought. It felt like my TFL but I’m still not sure.

Me in action on one of my most memorable days... my first ultra at the Marysville 50

Me in action on one of my most memorable days… my first ultra at the Marysville 50 back in Nov 2012

Anyway after this little hiccup, during the week leading up to Macedon I did what I thought would get me to the start line. I just stayed off my legs and used the foam roller and spiky ball. Come race day, I felt fine. In fact, I was feeling like I was going to run a blinder.

The weather at Mt Macedon was average. By average I mean horizontal rain/sleet, freeze your ass off cold. All in all, very unpleasant. Unless of course you’re surrounded by a hundred or so other runners out to tackle the hills with smiling faces. There were a lot of familiar faces, and great to see a young fella Joel (who dominated the Baw Baw half marathon back in March) make the trip up for the run. I was fairly confident he’d podium after the speed I’d seen him run earlier in the year.

A beautiful pic captured by Erwin Jansen (Dandy Runner) before race start

A beautiful pic captured by Erwin Jansen (Dandy Runner) before race start

With the race briefing done, the thermals on, and some borrowed gloves from my mate Simon (yup, the same bloke that told me to smarten up at the 54km mark of TNF), we all made the way up to the start line. Race Director Brett Saxon played the last post as we walked up to the Memorial Cross, and it was something I’ll not forget quickly. I found myself walking up at the front of the pack, and just the sound of the Last Post and the hundreds of feet hitting the ground, with the wind and sleet swirling around us.

We got to the start line, turned around to run back in the direction we had just came from, and waited. I wished a few of my mates best of luck, and then we took off. It felt great to be racing again, and as I rounded the first bend Mooney yelled out that I was going out too hard. I should have clicked that he knew what he was talking about, but I felt SO GOOD!

Not sure what i'm laughing at but something funny must have happened..

Not sure what i’m laughing at but something funny must have happened..

My mate Bazza who previously focused on the Ironman events was making a come back from injury, and was powering ahead. I tried to stick with him, but decided it was a bit fast for me and backed off. Looks like he was going to have a day out.

I dropped in with AB and Daniele, and we joked about the three of us running together again. We had all finished TNF100 within minutes of each other, and it was great to share the trails with these blokes again. As we got up towards Camel’s Hump, the front runners were coming back towards us. Young Joel Claxton was sitting with the first few and flying. Then a few places back Bazza was looking strong, then a few more runners including first placed female, then I was at the turn around. Hmm, in about 11th place.

This is where I should have realised I was possibly pushing a bit hard.

At the turn around, Lucy (a young up an coming star) caught up to me, and we ran down the hill together. I asked how she was going, she was feeling great. By the time we got to the bottom, I couldn’t match her sentiments. My right leg had started to tighten just like after my training run a week earlier. It didn’t feel too bad, but I noticed it. Not good signs a quarter of the way into a race.

Clocking up some fast kms running down hill after Camel's Hump

Clocking up some fast kms running down hill.

Lucy was preparing for the Big Red Run, a 5 day race across the Aussie Outback. She had clocked up a fast 30km run the day before, and was not ‘racing’ today. We ran the next few kms together and decided we’d stick with each other for a while.

We managed to hold our place in the field and clocked up some fast kms through the single tracks. Some of the single tracks in the first half of this race were just amazing. Undulating, technical, and just damned fun.

Heading down one of the many single tracks for the day

Heading down one of the many single tracks for the day

At about 15k we came up to a checkpoint where my brother was. By this stage I was walking hills because of the TFL, and it was a welcome sight seeing my brother up the top. We didn’t stop for much chit chat, just said g’day and pushed on.

As for the trails, I was pretty surprised how well they were holding up considering the rain from the previous day, and the drizzle that had fallen on race day. There were definitely some slippery bits (as per Dandyrunners photo below), but not as bad as what it could have been. In saying that, I did end up on all fours a few times and unfortunately came across my mate Bazza with a sprained ankle. Looks like his day was over which was unfortunate, he was sitting in 6th place.

Getting some dance moves in on the trail... or just sliding down on one leg. Your call.

Getting some dance moves in on the trail… or just sliding down on one leg. Your call.

Actually, without wanting to contradict myself, there were a few sections that were amazingly slippery. One was a real steep climb up a fire trail, and it was a case of two steps up, one slide back. There was about 5 of us trying to make it up this damn trail and all of us slipped and ate mud at one point. Quite amusing.

Anyway, Lucy and I ran strong off the back of Mt Towrong and then we dropped down off the steps onto the dirt road that lead up to the zig zags. We were told by the little support crew/aid station at the bottom of the stairs that Lucy was second place female. I told Lucy if 3rd place catches us she is to take off. I wasn’t going to be the reason Lucy missed out on a 2nd place finish.

Unfortunately this was where I started walking…. a lot.

Before here Lucy and I were looking comfortable for a 3:15 finish. Faster than I would have expected, but after tackling the zig zags and my leg getting a bit worse, we were going to be pushing it for a 3:30. I shouldn’t say ‘we’. Lucy was running as strong as ever, she just chose to stick it out with me. I recall joking that this was the day I finally stopped talking… If my blog doesn’t show it, and you haven’t spent much time with me, I’ll tell you now. I talk a lot.

Just not when I’m in one of those ‘lows’.

Some people seem to think they only happen in marathons, or ultras. I don’t know if I’m just mentally weak but I’ve hit a low in a 30km event twice. The other time I bitched and moaned as much as I did for the next 10kms was Maroondah Dam 30. I’d decided to help set the course out in 38 degree heat for 9 hours the day before the race. Not the smartest move, and Brett I’m sorry but I wont be doing that again.

Finishing my other Trails+ 30. My brothers first ever event and I held him up... Good times :)

Finishing my other Trails+ 30. My brothers first ever event and I held him up… Good times 🙂

There were glimpses of speed (ok, by this I mean I jogged and didn’t walk) over the final stretch. Lucy motivated me by getting excited with every km we knocked off. We overtook a few people that were in the 30, who I couldn’t recall ever overtaking us. This got me confused because Lucy and I hadn’t stopped at a checkpoint for the whole race. So how did people get in front? Turns out a group of about 15 runners in the 30km event went the wrong way. Having talked to a mate who was part of this group, he’d been lucky enough to miss out on the slippery hill and the technical down and up through the pine section where Dandy Runner (Erwin) took the happy snap of me doing the one footed ‘slide’ dance. This was confirmed when we compared the GPS maps after the race.

The joys of running trails 🙂 Actually, having talked to the sweepers (who did an AMAZING job), apparently they found a fair few arrows thrown off the side of the tracks. Looks like some of the many walkers out there had decided to play a prank on us.

Lucy and I having some fun trying to keep our balance on the single track

Lucy and I having some fun trying to keep our balance on the single track

With a few kms to go we overtook some of the 50km runners and they said Lucy and I looked fresh. I don’t know if it’s etiquette to say people look good when they are in pain but there was no way I could have looked ‘fresh’. I felt like I’d received the ultimate corky on my right leg.

With 2kms to go I did something I never thought I’d do… I used a walking stick. Well, it was a branch, but it allowed me to take some weight off the leg. This eventually got thrown in the bush as Lucy pointed out there was 1km to go. We got to the car park with a few hundred metres to go, and broke into a trot. Through the mist I could see the gantry lit up, and we were going to finish in the 3:30’s. The little victories 🙂

We ended up crossing in 3:37 and I have to admit I was absolutely stoked to have finished. Less then a minute later 3rd place female crossed over the line, looks like if I was any slower Lucy would have had to leave me. Adrian and Daniele came in within the next ten minutes, and they looked as relieved as I did. Not long after finishing, the Trails+ race director Brett Saxon called myself, Matt Bell and Jamie Smith up to the front of the crowd. He kindly presented us with a donation for The Milk Run. A fundraiser Matt and Jamie with their partners and support crew set up to raise money for The Royal Women’s. For more information check out the websitehttp://www.thewomens.org.au/TheMilkRun

Thank you very much Brett, donations like this are very much appreciated. You helped us put The Milk Run tally up over $18,000. Thank you.

Trails+ race director Brett Saxon kindly donating to The Milk Run cause. Thank you so much for all your support over the last 6 months Brett

Trails+ race director Brett Saxon kindly donating to The Milk Run cause. Thank you so much for all your support over the last 6 months Brett

Once I had changed into some warm clothes, I joined some friends and fellow runners to cheer on the winners of the ultra and other runners coming in from the trails. The results went as follows;

Male 50km
Toby Wiadrowski
Dan Langellan
Dan Beard (winner of the Prom 100 two weeks earlier)

Female 50km
Katherine McMillan
Isobel Bespalov
Kirstin Bull

Male 30km
Dion Byas
Sean Sweetman
Joel Claxton (Knew he’d smash it!)

Female 30km
Rosie McCaughey
Lucy ‘life saver’ Bartholomew
Libby Williams

Male 10km
Aidan Rich
Luke Smail
Nicholas Tripodi

Female 10km
Kerry Awerbuch
Bianca Scerry
Lisa Chinotti

I ended the day having a few drinks in a friends spa (who put in a great performance in the 50km event) reminiscing about the day. This is what trail running is about… or at least part of it. The friendships and the laughs you have on and off the beaten track.

All in all a great day, and can’t wait for the next Trails+ race up in the You Yangs. Thanks for taking time out to read my blog. I’m now taking 3 weeks off… completely. These legs need a rest.

Run strong and enjoy the trails



TNF100… My first 100km ‘run’

A week has passed since I finished my first 100km ‘run’. I say run, because I have done one 100km event before. Oxfam. Back in 2012 when I first started running me and a few mates decided to do Oxfam, but lack of experience reared its ugly head and we finished in 20 hours 15 minutes. That’s just slower than the average walking speed and was the toughest thing I had done to date.

I had unfinished business with the 100km distance, but I needed to reassess.

So I started with the basics. Short trail runs (The Salomon Trail series) and the odd long run. It was on one of these long runs early in 2012 that I met my now coach and mentor Richard Bowles. Rich was off to run the BNT, from Healesville to Cooktown. And there I was trying to hold on for dear life to day 1 of his adventure… 33kms. It ended with Rich’s partner Vickie jogging from the finish line back to find me in my dehydrated and cramped state with a few kms to go. Turns out I didn’t have any idea about nutrition. 12 months later in TNF100 bad nutrition popped up again.

Back to The North Face.

I flew up on the Friday with my brother, fellow runners Matt and Jamie and our support crew of Pat, Mon, Suze and Ami. Together we made up The Milk Run Crew. We were raising money for The Royal Women’s (specifically premature babies) which gave me so much drive when I didn’t want to train. Honestly, if you’re doing a big run, and want to raise money or awareness for a particular cause, it will give you so much motivation on those days you just don’t want to train.

By the time we checked in to the hostel and grabbed a bite to eat, it was time to head in to registration.

The hype at the fairmont was amazing… amazing if you liked hype. Turns out all the hype wasn’t working to my advantage and by the time i’d spent half an hour standing up in line just to get my race pack I was probably the most agitated i’ve ever been in my life. I was intolerable. My brother had to tell me to pull my head in at one stage but I wasn’t listening to anyone. I needed to just chill… If only someone had a spare valium or Mary J to pass around I might have been more relaxed.

Enjoying a nice dinner the night before the race with great company

So myself and a few mates that we met up with at the Fairmont went out for dinner. I was craving a meatlovers pizza so that’s what I ordered. A few people have said that a cheese covered meat lovers pizza is NOT ideal food the night before a race. I barely stomached it anyway. I was literally making myself sick with nerves for what the morning would bring.

So I finally got back to my hostel to try and get in the zone. Trying to get in the zone was not easy though with 6 other people in the dorm. I tried taking my mind off it by going over all my gear again, charging lights, watch, etc. Lesson for next time. Don’t stay in a hostel.

4:30am my alarm goes off. A bit of Bob Marley to wake me up… not bad. Downstairs things went pear shaped. I could barely stomach my nutri-grain. Was this a bug? Or was I just worried sick. Literally.

My mate Tegyn talked some sense into me, and I started to chill out as I grabbed my gear, jumped on the bus, and went down to the race briefing.

Back to the hype.

The race briefing was quite amusing, some funny speakers and some people going on about something I still haven’t quite worked out… I think they just wanted us to appreciate what was going on around us (when running). I thought that was a given. A scary part was when the race director stood up and said “There are a thousand of you here, two hundred wont finish”. Turns out he was wrong. Three hundred didn’t.

The race briefing finished, I got a last minute photo with those in the Milk Run, and made my way to the start line. Out of a thousand people I found myself standing with a few mates as the start group 3 took off. This was it. Months and months of training coming down to the next 13… 14… maybe 20 hours?

Heading out from the start line, trying to stay warm

Heading out from the start line, trying to stay warm

I spent the first 15kms or so within a few metres of Jamie Smith. One of my first mates in the trail running world and a pretty inspirational bloke. The 18kms to the first checkpoint went well, got my nutrition down, and then refilled pretty quick. Less than 5 mins at the checkpoint. I was 20 minutes behind my sub 14 split but thought it’s a long day, I can make it up.

Twenty minutes later and this was put in to perspective. I was trying to get a bar in when I dry reached. Interesting. Same nutrition I have trained with for the last 2 months and it has never failed me. About half hour later I was on all fours bringing up most of the nutrition i’d put in for the day, and worryingly a fair amount of fluids. A quarter of the way in to the race and I was on all fours. I expected this at maybe the 89km checkpoint. Not this early in the run.

Not sure when the pic was taken, but loving the trails

Not sure when the pic was taken, but loving the trails

I felt pretty good mentally and still felt strong, so pushed on. At 30kms I was ill again. I decided to call ahead and tell the support crew my nutrition was failing and I needed to pull out the secret weapon. Jam sangas. Whitebread i’d been told was best, and rasberry jam. Winner.

I got through the 38km checkpoint, and just plodded my way to the 54km checkpoint. The only highlights included running a few kms with Adrian Bortignon, a good mate, seeing Tegyn a good 20minutes in front of me on the out and back, and unfortunately seeing Mooney with a bloodied and busted nose from a pretty bad fall. I felt fine walking, but as soon as I jogged for more than a few kms I would be bringing up any nutrition i’d managed to get down. I decided early on to just get water and Hydralyte down, and forget about my bars and gels. They were not working. I’m not sure what’s in Hydralyte Sports but it managed to get me to CP3 and to my support crew.

Power walking up one of the many hills

Power walking up one of the many hills

I got some jam sangas off the crew, re-filled my bladder and bottles, and got ready to head out. Ami pointed out that even though I thought I was getting water in, she hardly needed to refill the pack. Ok, consciously need to drink more water. I also muttered something about the silver buckle no longer being possible. This was where I got a good wake up call. Simon, a mate and fellow trail runner, told me to forget about times, and just enjoy the run. I don’t know exactly what he said, but it was along those lines, and it completely changed my outlook on the day.

As I left the checkpoint I thought about what Simon said. Just enjoy the experience. I then thought about Simon’s situation. TNF100 was meant to be his A race for the year, but a injury weeks out from the race saw him supporting from the sidelines in a moonboot. Here I was complaining about not reaching my dream time, but hell I was still out here running! Simon, I think that those words changed a DNF into a bronze buckle mate.

This high lasted all the way to the stairs leading out of Nellies Glen. I don’t know what these stairs are called. But i’ll call them ‘shit’. Because that’s what they were. They broke me. I ended up bringing up my jam sanga half way up the stairs, and nearly fell over a few times through the dizzy spells i’d started getting. Not to mention the fact my organs felt like they were splitting open by the time I got to the top. As I made my way towards the 65km mark I came out of the bush and saw familiar faces in Dave Eadie and Nikki Wynd.

“C’mon Eastham keep it going”

As I made my way over to their car I don’t know if I said I felt like death warmed up but I know they said I looked like crap. True friends. Dave told me to not wait the few minutes to go to the checkpoint to get some warmer clothes on, I needed to warm up now. Twenty minutes could be too late. On a positive, Nikki had come 3rd in the womens 50km race and my brother in his first ultra had placed 38th! Legend!

I will admit it. I had tears going in to CP4. Not necessarily emotional tears, but I had the worst pains in my stomach. The only way to explain the feeling was each organ was splitting open a centimetre more with every step. Or maybe they were tears because I thought my race was over. Or I was happy for my brother? I don’t know.

I stopped and broke my race rules at CP4, I sat down. Not for long, but I needed to stomach some food. I managed to get some hot noodles in, some fruit buns, and after 15 minutes was ready to go. No need to change the Injinji Trail 2.0s I was running in. They were dry, and still felt bloody awesome. I did put my tights on though, and thermals and jacket. It was going to get chilly.

Climbing up one of the many sets of stairs just as the sun was going down

Climbing up one of the many sets of stairs just as the sun was going down

Two mates who I look up to for their determination on the trails (AB and Daniele) were also at this checkpoint. Seeing familiar faces was such a boost, and we left the checkpoint together. I’m not sure what happened at the 65km mark, but I started feeling better and better with each km. By the 70km mark I had my lights on, music in (first time for everything) and I was flying. I think I strung together 6kms of good solid running before I needed to wind things back a little. But geez it felt good!

I was joined on the 9km climb up to CP5 by a fellow runner who’s lights had failed him. This answered a debate I had between a mate about ay-ups and the brand of light this guy had. Needless to say my lights were still lighting up the road for both of us…. His, not so much.

Heading down some stairs as it was getting dark

Heading down some stairs as it was getting dark

At the 89km mark (checkpoint 5) I came in flying. My brother was there, and geez I nearly teared up seeing him. But what was looking like a sub 18 time at 65kms was now showing potential for a sub 16. I needed a quick refill and to power on out of there.

I’m not sure if it was seeing my brother, my support crew or knowing that all my other mates were still out there, but I left the last checkpoint like I was possessed. A lot of it was technical trail too which is my passion, and I made up a lot of time here. I caught up to Daniele 3kms from the finish line, joined him for a minute or 2 and then powered on. I wont say I demolished the last section, it still took me nearly 1h50 to cover 11kms, but I came in under 16 hours. After 15 hours and 24 minutes I ran through the finish line, as happy as anyone could have been that day.

Me absolutely pumped to have finished the run... probably scared any kids at the finish with my maniac dance over the finish line

Me absolutely pumped to have finished the run… probably scared any kids at the finish with my maniac dance over the finish line

Turns out Adrian came in minutes before me, and Daniele was only minutes behind me. Over 100kms having 3 mates finish within 5 mins of each other was pretty special.

That’s what I love about this running game…. The person who finishes last could have the biggest sense of achievement. It’s about facing the challenges that pop up  in the months leading in to the event, the issues that get thrown up on the day (no pun intended), and the demons that you face when you’re at the lowest of the lows.

These are all matched by an amazing high.

I’m so grateful that I had about 10 friends at the finish line, including my best mate who happens to be my brother. In the one day we had both achieved our dreams, and in doing that set new ones.

Thanks to everyone who has helped me achieve this first 100. And I wish I had a buckle to give you for sticking through this ultra marathon of a first blog. I think it’s appropriate though.

Me and my brother enjoying the end of a great days running

Me and my brother enjoying the end of a great days running