Saturday, 3 December 2016

Alpine Challenge 100 Mile 2015 (Running Wild)

Event Date28th November 2015
LocationMt Bogong (Falls Creek), Victoria, Australia
Distance100mi / 160km
Relative DifficultyEasy Moderate Hard Extreme
StyleMostly self-sufficient, trail ultra-marathon
TerrainSingle trail and fire track. Some very steep ascents and descents.
Aid StationsReasonably regular (~ every 15km), though fairly basic.
My PositionDNF (destroyed at 112km)
My Time21h32m
Winning Time23h03m
Drop Out Rate40%
Weather on the dayWarm / hot, sunny day. Clear cool/cold night.
Course (Strava)Alpine Challenge 100mi Course (112km of it)
Event WebsiteRunning Wild - Alpine Challenge
Enjoyment Rating1 2 3 4 5
Lessons LearntI brought a new pair of trail shoes (Salomon S-Labs) a few weeks before the run, and they were a half a size too small. I had a gut feeling at the time that the size was going to be an issue... I should have listened. 
The 100 mile course is exactly the same as the 100km course, with an additional 60km loop out towards Mt Hotham and Feathertop.

I ran the 100km course in 2014, and the 60km Pole 333 - Pole 333 loop as training run. I've got descriptions of both of those runs in their respective posts.

I made two major mistakes running this race. The first (critical) one was attempting a very long run in shoes that were too tight. By the time I got to the 90km mark, I had a single, but sizeable, blister that enveloped my right toe. At 112km, the Harrietville aid station, I could hardly walk on it. Ultimately that blister was the major reason for pulling out (the first time I've aborted a race). Lesson learnt.

The other mistake I made was being too focused on saving energy. I entered the race knowing I hadn't trained enough, so I devised a strategy to deal with the lack of training.

I wouldn't spend an extra energy running down hills, I'd conserve as much as possible on the ascents, restrict my pace on the flats, limit talking to people, and even keep my mind as quiet as possible. In retrospect, a stupid strategy!

The whole reason I run these events is to enjoy the experience. How could I possibly enjoy it with that strategy? Foolish, stupid strategy, and it didn't help me one bit. Another lesson learnt.

The run itself (as an event) is awesome. The course was the same as the the 2014 100km course, with an additional loop from Pole 333 out to Mt. Hotham, down to Harrietville, up Mt. Feathertop, and then back to Pole 333. I've got notes on both of those parts of the course here, 100km course, and here, Pole 333 loop.

Other things worth noting (not covered in those posts) are the Mt. Loch carpark - [alt. 1815m] (near Mt. Hotham) and Harrietville - [alt. 520m] aid stations.

Depending on how fast you're running, you'll go through both of these aid stations at night. The Mt. Loch carpark aid station is indoors. I've been up there late at night a few times (in the spring months), and it's often cold.

That coldness is particularly noticeable if you're still running in sweet dampened daytime gear (shorts and top). It's a good idea to put warmer kit on as the sun goes down, before the temperature drops, and before you start the steep ascent to Mt. Loch (which most people walk, hence getting cold).

If you don't, you risk having to freeze your arse off taking damp clothing off in the dark on the side of the trail at altitude in the cold.

When you leave the Mt. Loch aid station, you have a 17km section that descends from 1800m to Harreitville aid station, at just over 500m. I got to this aid station in the middle of the night (about 2am). Harrietville is in a valley, and despite being a significantly lower altitude, was quite cold.

I was expecting the pub (hotel) to be open, and hoping to be able to get inside for a while to warm up. But the pub closed at 11pm. If I hadn't pulled out of the race at Harrietville it wouldn't have been much of a problem. Because I did pull out there, I didn't have any place to go to get warm. I didn't have anything warm to wear in my drop bag, and my body temperature dropped quickly.

Thankfully (and I think I was quite lucky) the guys manning the checkpoint let me use their room in the hotel to take a quick nap and get warm (while I was waiting a few hours to be picked up).

The lesson here? If you don't have a support crew that can pick you up relatively quickly in the middle of the night, make sure you put warm clothes (or a blanket) in your night time drop bags!

One final note. Bon Accord, the trail that connects Mt. Hotham with Harrietville. I ran this trail during a training run a few weeks prior to the race, and the length and steep descending sections nearly destroyed me. It got me again in the race.

By the time I got to Washington River, the first 8km section of the trail had turned my optimism of finishing the race (that I felt at the top) into negative thoughts of defeat at the bottom. On this occasion I let those thoughts get the better of me... Bon Accord 2, Matt 0.

The day after the race I felt sick and bitterly disappointed about pulled out. I would have to come back in 2016.