Like a kid the night before Christmas I could hardly sleep Wednesday night- a combination of knowing I had an early flight and that I was going to be going to Australia to meet up with the international Salomon Running Team. So excited and restless I was I got up before my 3am alarm and made my way to the airport. After arriving in Sydney I didn’t have to wait long for Simon, Hamish and Mal who I was hitching a ride to the Blue Mountains with. These 3 lads were as excited as I, and with Simon at the helm we were quickly in the Blue Mountains and tracking down the Salomon Team. We drove out to CP3, missing the Salomon Runners, which wasn’t all bad, as the easy hour jog with Simon, Mal and Hamish was just what I needed.
Back at the hotel I got to meet my new team mates and we then went out to a local outdoor store to watch the full length version of Kilian’s Kilimanjaro “Quest” as well as a little Q&A. This was a great chance for me to learn a little more about the Salomon Team and get an idea of what a crazy and productive week they had had in Sydney, with public meetings like this all week, spreading the word about Salomon, trail running and TNF100.
Friday was nice and mellow, with the only appointment being the gear check (wow- a lot of gear!). the weather was bloody cold and super windy, with windows and doors banging all night and didn’t sleep well for the 3rd night in a row, waking up tired at 5am race day. This quickly passed and before long we were off. Things started fast with open road for the first part. I must have been around 15th or something, before moving into around 8th and running behind fellow Salomon runner François D’haene from France. We slowly picked off a few more folks and arrived in 4th and 5th at CP1, with Salomon runners Kilian Jornet from Spain and Ryan Sandes from South Africa, as well as last years winner and record hold Andrew Lee in front of us.
I had a feeling the pace was a touch faster than I wanted to go this early on, but it was fun running with Francois and for once I wanted to be more aggressive early in a race, rather than the normal cautious approach I take. At CP2 (38km) I was a 100m or so back from Francois, but super surprised to see Andrew Lee. I was still feeling really good and Francois and I left together, about 4mins down on Kilian and Ryan. I didn’t try to go with the Frenchmen, I knew he would be going after the other 2, but was perfectly happy in 4th. Then at about 40km the shit hit the fan! Suddenly I was dizzy, head ache, sore stomach, even stumbling a little. This sudden onset took me by surprise and I backed off big time, trying to pull my self together. At the small out and back, only a few kms after CP2 I was 12mins down on the leaders, lossing time very quickly. Soon after I was passed by 4 people and walked a large amount of the road sections into CP3. The Salomon boys arrived 1,2,3 and I was now a good 3omins back. The crew at CP3(54km) were great, I left with 2 water bottles, a hand full of water melon and a hand full of rice crackers, still feeling really bad. I was then past by another 2 people on the climb to CP4. This was a steep section with lots of steps, so I was walking but not losing too much time, except when I stopped to try and spew, but nothing come up. At CP4 I had some salty soup and more melon and was finally coming right. On the long 15km down hill I picked up 2 people and was now in 7th and felt like I was ready to race again. I am guessing that I must have cut into the lead 4-6th had on me on the down but lost most of my gains on the 9km climb up to the last CP at 89km. Some easy road running out of the last CP seemed to be what I needed and got me moving along nicely. This last section was fun and I felt pretty good, but I was just too far behind the guys in front of me.
Pretty mixed feelings about this one. TNF100 was some what a last min race for me, tacked on at the end of the summer, but still the goal was high- top 5 and 10hrs, so I missed those big time (7th, 10hr32), but when things got really bad, easily the worst I have ever felt in a race (it was like having the flu for 25km) I was able to stick it out and still finish strong, but I think I lost a good 20mins in the 25km from CP2-4. I always knew this race was going to be a great learning experience, mosty due to being part of the Salomon team and also being a race abroad for me. But in the end I guess I learnt how to suck it up and just get on with it. Having been in that place I am sure I will be a way stronger runner for it. I know I could have done better, but over all I am super happy with the race and result!
The Salomon crew seemed to really enjoy themselves. It was great to see and be a part of. They had a busy week and still preformed really well. Kilian won in a new record, with Francois 2nd. Both these lads ran well within themselves I think. Ryan had a rough patch like me, but still was super strong, running a sub 10hr time for 3rd. The girls had a tough time, but still did great. Julia DNS with injury, then Devon pulled with injury while leading. Jen then took the lead, but twisted her ankle pretty bad! Nerea was leading with about 1km to go, but went off course and ended up 2nd, with Jen 3rd. The course was pretty fun all and all. What single track there was was very fun, with some really nice technical parts and I didn’t even mind the steps/stairs. The roads section were roads and seemed to go on a bit. But that was the course make up and everyone’s on the same course, I didn’t mind them that much.
I have to say some huge huge thankyous for making this weekend so fun- first Anna without your backing this would have never happened for me, and you did such an amazing job organizing everything! Greg thanks for the support, I hope I meet soon in France! Simon, Hamish and Mal- cheers lads for the ride and keeping me in check, was great to hang out, you guys had great results as well! The Salomon crew- wow thanks so much guys and girls! As the “new guy” I was nervous as hell and super intimidated, but that was gone straight away. You all made me feel very welcome and part of the team, I will not be forgetting my experiences in a hurry. Hopefully I will see you again soon- maybe here in NZ?? Francois- that was the funnest 30km I have run all summer- thanks!
Now its time for some rest and recovery. Not sure what running is next, but I do know there is snow on the hills and I am ready to ski!
photos to come