Monday, May 21, 2012

TNF100 2012 Fairmont Resort to CP1 Narrow Neck

I was awake all night with a sinus infection. I almost went through an entire box of tissues trying to clear my airways before the start of biggest race in the Australian Ultra Running Calendar The North Face 100km (TNF100). I felt sick in my stomach. It was either nerves or I had swallowed some mucus through the night and it was sitting in my gut. It was probably a bit of both. I was not the only one who had this head cold and was still racing that day so I was not going to let it hold me back. I took my antihistamines and had my nasal spray and I was ge'd to go.
I skipped the race briefing and chose to warm up outside instead. It was so mild in the Blue Mountains this year. I took off my Inov8 bluff, started the race in just my singlet, compression shorts, bra and socks, cap and Inov8 Roclite 285 shoes plus my UltrAspire Pack, tri belt, gloves and the and all the mandatory gear and started to warm up along the road up the first hill. I always like to run up a few hills before a race. It helps pump the blood to my legs where it is soon to me needed. 
The top 10 women and the top 15 males were offered a GPS tracker to wear in our packs this year. Just before the start of the race each of our names were called and we were introduced and given our GPS units. It was the first time my name has ever been called before an event. I felt like I had finally started to make an impact in the sport. The best of Australian Ultra Endurance Athletes and some special guest from NZ, the UK and South Africa had travelled to the race that day. Finally for the first time this year due to the 6 Foot Track and Mt Solitary Ultra races being canceled, we can see how we all match up against each other.
At 6:55am the count down started 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and we were off. I ran out at the front just behind the fastest International and Australian guys. I had my own race plan. A plan that worked to my strengths. I was to go out fast, but stay under my an-aerobic threshold. So the first 2km I ran at 4 minute pace and I felt great. We soon hit single man track and the pace slowed a bit before we were flung back out onto the road through the streets of Leura. 
I like leading the females. I like to know who is in front of me. I run to how I feel and at that point I felt good, so I went for it. The crowd along the streets of Leura was fantastic. I was cheered by everyone as I ran through the streets. People knew my name and it felt nice. I checked back a few times and I could not spot a female who wanted to chase me down. So I relaxed into a rhythm.
We soon hit the single man track again and along the Prince Henry Cliff Walk and then started the steep descent into the Leura Forrest past the Leura Cascades. Here the pace slowed. The line of runners started to bottle neck I was starting to get held up by the guys ahead of me. I am an awesome descender. I relish anything that goes down. I have to make the most of my strengths. Last year I was held up by by the world champion Nerea Martinez. This year I was getting held up again and I was not going to let it happen. My two main threats for the top position are Beth Cardelli and Julie Quinn. I know I am faster on the descents than the both of them. They are faster than me on the climbs. So this was a descent, and a single man track so I have to run at my pace or else they will catch be before I can make a dent in the field. If you ask for advise of how to run this race most runners will tell you to take it easy in the first 20km then start to build your pace it's a long race. This would work for someone who is a great climber with amazing straight line speed. I am fairly new to the sport. I live by the sea not in the mountains so the climbs are still not my strong point. Julie lives in Canberra near the national park and Beth lives near Kuringai National Park. I live in the Inner West of Sydney near Newtown. If I want to train in the mountains I have to drive for 1-2 hours. I have to rely on my natural agility to get me through. Anywhere on the trail that is single man track I must excel. 
"Guys take the steps two at a time." I suggested. "Take two at a time". No one answered and no one let me pass. "Have none of you guys been down Nellie's Glen? Take two steps at a time it's heaps faster." I again suggested. "Come on pick up the pace otherwise I'll have Julie chasing me down." I again pleaded.
"We don't have steps in New Zealand". Kristian my freshly introduced Barefoot Inc team mate said. Probably not the best way to meet your team mate demanding that he go faster or move out of the way.
With this one of my mates Shane recognised my voice and moved over and said. "First Female coming through move over for Shona". With this I had a clear run and I took the steps 2 -5 at a time depending on railing and if there was a landing at the bottom of the step of stairs or not.  I was an elite gymnast as  kid and I love to jump and leap and spring and use my agility to fly along the trails. I hardly feel like I am using any energy at all. I have to work to my strengths.
At last I could run at my pace and I was off down the steep descent and into the Leura Forrest. I ran on alone and I felt good. Just enjoying the ride of the Federal Pass. It took the guys 3km to catch me again near the 3 Sisters where the track climbed again and I stayed with them until the Landslide. I ran along behind them them and rested. Again the pace slowed a bit. But it was a long race and I needed to conserve my energy for the Golden Stairs that was just up ahead.
We ran on as a group and I kept checking my watch to make sure I was on track with my splits.  We ran over and under trees, longs, through mud along a the track to the Golden Stair Case. 
At the stairs the pace slowed down again and I sat behind the guys. But the pace felt too slow and I needed to get past them. "I've got to get past" I said. "Can I pass?". I'm not use to having to ask so much on a climb and I did not want to pass then get in their way. For the first time ever the 300m ascent of the Golden Stairs did not sting my quads like they had in the past and I asked to pass the guys again. Stairs is what I do. I'm a personal trainer and I make my clients climb stairs all day every day. The guys can pass me on the fire trail. I won't be holding them up there.
I came up the Golden Stairs without swearing or hurting too much and I was for the first time able to run up the first steep climb on Narrow Neck Road. Every training session I have ever done I have had to walk this section. My calves usually scream at me. But today I could run it. I felt good. I was focused. I then spotted a film crew with an Ultra Running Hero of mine Lisa Tamati. She was asking me how I was feeling. Too funny. I've just run 17.5km out of 100km I should be feeling great. "I feel good" I said.
I ran into CP1 Narrow Neck the 18km mark in the first female position. I was 4 minutes faster than my time from last year. I was happy. 1 hours 58 minutes. I was running on schedule for a PB.

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