I know I promised an update by Tuesday, but we arrived home late in the day and the subsequent unpacking and cleaning up left us all pretty shattered. I assumed it would be better to wait one more day and give you an update with a clear head as there’s a lot of content to cover here.
All in all, it was one hell of a camping trip. “The Prom” threw just about everything she had at us for the first 36 hours…high winds, heavy rain and hail put our camping gear through a solid field test…passing with flying colours. It just proves you can’t skimp on good camping gear…we’re really lucky to have some high quality kit. Marcelle and I were in an OzTent RV-5, with Angus in a MacPac Olympus. Unfortunately, Melissa’s new tent did not fare so well…virtually imploding on her (and three kids) in the middle of the first night. Unfortunately, this completely torpedoed the desired camping experience and she was packed and mobile the following morning…homeward bound. Dead keen to stay, Mel’s middle-offspring, Josh, stayed with us though…easing the load for Mel and good company for Gus…it was a win-win.
We knew it was going to be bad when Mel was setting her tent up and caught eye of an attached disclaimer tag, stating “…not for use in inclement weather.” Huh?? WTF?? We urged her to take it straight back to Ray’s Outdoors…not cool to be selling her a tent like that when they knew she was heading somewhere like Wilsons Promontory. However, they proved their customer care by accepting it back without question and giving her a much better tent…even discounting it by around 50%. She walked away with a stronger tent and cash. You won’t get that with on-line shopping.
So, with those melodramas behind us it was time to direct my focus back to training. We were there to get away from it all, but we were also there to put me through one of the toughest physical tests I had ever undertaken. At a total distance of 63km, this trail run was three times further than anything I had previously attempted. It flew in the face of so much advice I had received from other accomplished runners…insisting I should be applying “the golden 10% rule”, whereby you only increase your mileage by 10% per week as you build up to your target. Sharpened further by the fact I was isolated, exposed to the unsettled weather and negotiating some highly technical tracks. I won’t lie…my mind was busy with fears of injury and failure.
EQUIPMENT – CARRY
- CamelBak MULE 3.0L with pre-mixed water and Hammer Perpetuem fuel
- Anti-chaffing balm (see photos below for more on that sorry story)
- Leatherman multi-tool
- Strobe light
- Headlamp plus spare batteries
- Two spare thermal tops, socks, beanie (in dry-lock bag)
- Nut, seed, dried berry mix
- Travel Lite Tucker, King Island Beef Jerky
- Hammer Perpetuem powder/measuring scoop allowing sufficient dosage for 12 hours (in dry-lock bag)
- Anti-inflammatory medication, pain killers
- Map including fresh water collection points, hiker numbers and their overnight camping locations
- Anti-inflammatory balm, strapping tape
- Phone/headphones (in dry-lock bag)…no signal, but good for tunes.
While the kit I carried for this run is probably what you’d be expecting, special mention needs to be given to my thermal layering and food provisions. When I began to see the last of the daylight, I cannot tell you how good it felt to slip into my MacPac Marino thermal and beanie…this gear is used by the mountaineering elite and for good reason. On the food side, I’ve already banged on about liquid supplementation and digestion-friendly options but can’t overstate the importance of adding some variety and avoiding the pitfalls of “flavour fatigue”. On this note, I was looking forward to my rations of Travel Lite Tucker King Island Beef Jerky so much it was almost a distraction. Perfect servings of dehydrated, perfectly spiced blue-ribbon beef….nutrient dense, additive and preservative free…thank you very much.
EQUIPMENT – WEAR
- 2XU Thermal Compression tights
- 2XU Elite Compression Short Sleeve
- 2XU Elite Compression socks
- 2XU Runner Shorts
- 2XU Runner Gloves
- MacPac Marino thermal socks
- Tough Mudder Under Armour T-Shirt (compulsory, yes?)
- Polar heart rate monitor, chest strap, G5 GPS and cap
- CamelBak MULE 3.0L (7kg total weight, contents listed above)
- Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra trail runners
The data coming in constantly from my Polar computer was just awesome…motivating, accurate and comprehensive. While the 2XU gear performed really well over the course of the run, drying quickly and delivering on the promise of improved performance and recovery. The CamelBak MULE was faultless.
I know that my last post mentioned that I was going to be sporting my New Balance Minimus trail runners, but after much discussion and debate with Marcelle it was decided that the Salomon runners would be much better suited to the terrain that lay in waiting. As much as it pains me to admit 😉 , she couldn’t have been more right. This was no place for minimalist footwear. The tracks included highly technical stages and my 63km journey took me through small river crossings, boulder hopping, steep camber soft sand beaches, 15-20° climbs, thick mud and slick, treacherous terrain. There were very few opportunities to settle into any kind of rhythm and I was constantly challenged to maintain solid footing throughout the run. I slammed my toes into half-hidden tree roots, slipped and staggered so many times during this run I lost count. The last 15km was in total darkness guided only by my headlamp…so this, combined with tired legs, served up two nasty falls within about 30 seconds of each other. Not wanting to have to drag a broken leg home, I gave myself some “very loud, stern words” at this point (definitely not suitable for publishing).
It’s worth noting that the Wilson’s Promontory terrain was deemed worthy for Australian Army Commando training during World War II. Here’s a shot of the memorial at Tidal River…motivating stuff.
While it was nice to have some tunes to accompany me around the tracks, the constantly changing scenery was really something else. It felt a privilege to be there…the views, the wildlife and the unpredictable weather really made it a pretty special experience. The highlight for me was probably cresting a climb before descending into Refuge Bay. I hadn’t been there before and had no idea what to expect. While I didn’t allow myself any luxury of stopping to take photos, this tourism shot doesn’t do it justice but might give you some idea of this awesome piece of Australia…protected from the surrounding high speed winds, it was totally serene and calm with bright aqua water on white sand. I did mutter a “Oh, wow.” to myself. This was the furthest point of my run and time to turn around and head back to base.
With so much to take away from this epic, my biggest lesson for the day? Chaffing! I finished up with some pretty raw skin on my left inner thigh (and other spots I’m not elaborating on), two black toenails and the odd cut and bruise. For those of a squeamish nature, I would advise against zooming in for a closer look.
When I arrived back at camp at around 9pm, it was a pretty special moment. Although I was on schedule, Marcelle and Gus were getting anxious and the welcome was loud and enthusiastic. I was tired but capable of more…it was the biggest dose of self-confidence I could have hoped for and spoke volumes for my training and preparation. I ran to the Ranger’s Station to phone in my safe return and went off to sit in the freezing cold water of Tidal River to soothe my legs, reduce inflammation and aid my recovery. That night I slept like the dead, with my legs wrapped in my 2XU Recovery Compression tights and socks.
Given the time, distance and terrain I would estimate this was the equivalent of 4 laps of last year’s World’s Toughest Mudder course. In the absence of negotiating any typical Tough Mudder obstacles, this really did feel like I passed the perfect test.
I set my Polar RS800CX and G5 GPS to control my output with an aim to maximise my longevity and simulate the run/obstacle intervals of the race…800m on, 2min recover with a 20min “on-the-move transition” zone for feeding on solids and re-mixing my CamelBak. The mantra “Go as slowly as you like. Never stop.” was applied and worked well.
Distance: 63.1 km
Time: 9 hours 12 minutes
Energy: 7,486 kcal
Ascent: 1,995 m
Maximum HR: 172 bpm
Average HR: 139 bpm
My calorie consumption was massive, but it’s important to remember that with events such as this one, your body WILL operate in an energy deficit. You simply cannot “replace” calories spent on a one-for-one basis. Over the course of the 9-hour run, I consumed approximately 4,375 kcal with an overall deficit of 3,114 kcal. In addition to the calorie consumption component of my nutritional planning, I was pre-loaded with magnesium and was taking electrolyte capsules hourly. Throughout the run, I did not feel so much as a niggle of cramps or any other overuse symptoms, and felt capable of more as I arrived back at camp.
My perfect scenario.