Tim never made it to Kosciuszko, a big wind came and (almost) blew him away.
I had mixed feelings going into Kosciuszko this year. The defending champion is always a marked man and with several less than pleasing runs in recent months I was really only there as a last ditch effort to produce a run that I could say made the year worthwhile. Halfway through the 100km in Italy I had convinced myself that C2K was not worth it and that I should have a break and then build up for 09 but when I returned to Australia I couldn’t bring myself to tell my crew that. They were so committed and enthusiastic!!!
So I made it to the start line. Jo Blake and John Mergler were billed as the opposition with several high quality runners just behind that would eat us all alive if we had a bad weekend. John pulled out at the last minute which changed the race dramatically. John would have pushed the pace and I could have just followed along and hoped to pounce when he started to struggle. Jo was always going to be more conservative and tactically harder to deal with.
With the car packed full we headed off early Thursday morning to Eden and arrived in plenty of time and Linda and Michelle set about organizing the car so they knew where everything was. The weather was nice despite several showers during the drive and a forecast for plenty of rain during the race. Pre race dinner was great as expected. Good food and like minded company, what more could you want.
Race day started out nicely, overcast skies, cool temperatures and a slight breeze. Perfect running weather. Jo and I ran together early on with Lachlan Fraser just behind as we climbed the early hills then as the road descended into the Towamba Valley I felt the pace was too slow (may as well take advantage of a downhill) and pulled away. Later as we wound through the valley Jo caught back up as I wasn’t feeling that great - but I managed to keep up once he passed. I was eating and drinking every 4-5km and my energy levels stayed relatively high. I was mixing short walks with running - managing to avoid the deep lows that have plagued me in many of my previous long runs. At 56km the climb up Big Jack Mountain starts, and Jo pulled up for a pit stop and I moved on up the hill. I gained a lead of a few minutes during the stop but then without trying that lead grew to over 2 hrs over the next 90km. The run across the southern tablelands was greener than last year and much cooler too. I made good progress putting in short walk breaks of 100-200m with food stops and sometimes in between. I felt better than 2007 through this section and while my top speed was probably lower I walked less and in shorter stints and was still running up the hills (with short walk breaks) rather than walking almost all of them.
By the time I reached Dalgety my stomach was starting to say “enough is enough, give me a break” and my food tolerance was becoming narrower. Fruit, creamed rice, pasta and other “wet” foods were going down ok but sandwiches and dry foods were becoming difficult. The Dalgety pub was open and full of drunken locals and it seemed like a good idea to get some hot chips. The third chip got caught in my throat and caused me to gag and vomit so that was the end of that idea and I ran on towards the next obstacle - the Beloka Range. I still felt reasonable here, but stopped to tape the blisters on my right foot and change my wet socks (it had been raining on and off). Once out of the car again the hill flattened out somewhat (briefly) and I felt good enough to run again. Once I got over the top and on the descent into Jindabyne, my energy levels started to fall. I’m not sure if it was the previous 18hrs catching up with me or the declining intake or a combination of the two, but running was getting difficult. I made it up the hill on Barry Way and ran/walked into town. Meanwhile my crew was being breathalysed by the local cops who had no idea such a race was coming through town.
I was about an hour up on 2007 at Jindabyne and very happy with my progress, having only just fallen below 10km/h average. However, from that point on it got increasingly difficult as fatigue set in and I started to feel light headed at times (possibly low blood sugar). Caffeine and sugar helped a little but it was a struggle walk up the hill and I spent time sitting in the car at regular intervals wondering when Jo would catch up. Then as time wore on the wind started to increase and rapidly became gale force. Later on there was horizontal rain that stung the face as well. The gusts were mostly headwinds but occasionally a crosswind or tailwind would blow you sideways or forwards and it became a struggle to stand up as the night turned into day. Eventually Paul and Diane the race directors drove past and the first question was “Do we have to go to the summit in this or will we finish at Charlottes Pass?” They were non committal but promised to return to let me know. Latter again as I sat out the worst squalls of rain in the car a rainbow appeared followed by Paul and Diane with the news that Charlottes was the finish. I hadn’t moved far in the intervening period and was contemplating a withdrawal but forced myself out of the car one more time for the 13-14km to the finish which Michelle walked with me. We were keeping a close eye on the road behind but saw no sign of Jo. Finally we made it up the last climb but could see nothing but cloud until we were within about 150m of the carpark. Shortly thereafter Shelley drove up in Jo's crew car; he was just 2km down the road.
We made it to the end, albeit a shortened end, but the risk of going to the summit on that day after 27hrs on the road would have been too great. It would have been difficult if you were fresh out of bed after a good nights sleep.
In the end it wasn’t the time that I’d hoped for. I was probably on track for a 26hr approx finish (including the summit) before things fell apart. In the end 27:19 on a course that was 18km shorter than last year was not great. On the other hand a win is a win and conditions in the last 40km weren’t conducive to much more than a walk. Awesome effort by Jo to make up approx 2 hrs deficit after midnight and to all the other runners many of whom were out there into the 2nd night.
I’ll hopefully be back in 2009, hopefully in better shape and with better weather.
A big thank you to my crew - Linda and Michelle. Fantastic job both of you. Hope you enjoyed the weekend and hope I can repay the favour sometime!
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