Sri Chinmoy Canberra Trail 100 – A first ascent
This year’s Canberra Trail 100 was my first attempt at a 100km race. While not a stranger to long distance endurance events, the longest formal foot race I had previously completed was 21km, so needless to say I was coming into the event a novice. In summary, this race is a serious challenge of mind, body and soul and this year was no exception.
Friday night registration was a buzz of excitement and camaraderie as teams met (some for the first time) along with solo entrants to check-in. The My Rainbow Dreams Café hosted us all for dinner while every aspect of registering was overseen by a very proud Prachar Stegemann whose contented demeanor expressed: ‘These are my people’.
Welcomed by a beautiful clear day, perfect running temperatures and very little wind – it was near perfect conditions for the race. There was large group of solo competitors and huge number of teams making this year the largest field, eclipsing the inaugural event in 2013 by 1 runner.
Andé and Mike at the start.
What attracts me personally to endurance events like the Canberra Trail 100 is the human connection. As soon as the race was underway at 6am, the process of getting to know your fellow competitors commenced immediately. There is an intensity to the relationships that you develop while completing a race like this, especially as the day wears on, as your vulnerabilities are exposed.
I was very fortunate to meet a very excitable, affable and genuine fellow at the start of the first leg named Justin ‘Timberlake’ Hiatt. An accomplished runner (including a UAT 100 finisher this year), Justin was very generous with his advice and was an absolute joy to run with. Throughout the day we experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows but encouraged each other to push through until the end. It was so special to meet a kindred spirit out on the journey, along with his Dad David, partner Ellen and Mum Jane.
Mike and Justin celebrate the completion of marathon #1 on the ascent of Mt Stromlo.
During the in between times I was also fortunate to run a few kilometers with Andrew Donaldson, who was competing in his 26th 100km event in 7 years! Andrew is an absolute inspiration and was happy to provide plentiful advice about endurance running. After the picturesque and challenging (i.e. traumatic) ascent off Black Mountain, I had the pleasure of running with another supreme athlete named Trish McKibbin. Also running her first 100km, Trish’s mature approach and humble character will undoubtedly make her one of the ultra-champions of the future!
In terms of my key ‘lessons learned’ to pass onto future aspiring entrants, here is my top three (all you experts can skip this bit!):
- Set Out Slow – aim to run the flats of the first 50km 30 to 45 seconds slower than your cruising pace for a 20km run. For example, if your cruising pace is 5 minutes / kilometer, set out at a 5 minute 30 second pace. Andrew Donaldson drew me a virtual graph that illustrated that fast is flat when comparing running pace over time.
- Walk The Ups – walk all the steep ups and even the little ups if you have been running for 5kms non-stop. It changes your blood flow and gives tired muscles a quick break. Whatever you walk you will more than make up for in the flats and the downs.
- Practice Fueling – use your chosen energy sources during training sessions and do this lots. Feeling nauseous during the event was one of my biggest challenges.
Justin Hiatt informed me that a lot can happen in the second half of a 100km race. The race winner, Nicholas Hamilton ran out of water during leg 2 and dropped back to conserve energy until he could refuel at the 2nd transition. He was moving well when he passed Andrew Donaldson and me on the paddocks before Black Mountain and finished in a time of 11:01.
Andrew Donaldson who was in 5th place at the second transition calmly worked his way through the field from the very start to finish second in a time of 11:11. Andrew caught up with Justin Hiatt and me a few kilometres into the third leg, which is where we gave Justin some space to enter and dig himself out of a “dark hole”. Andrew encouraged me almost all the way to the Summit of Black Mountain but has inspired me for life!
Trish McKibbin caught me toward the base of Black Mountain and towed me over O’Connor Ridge until Lyneham High School. Trish finished third overall in a time of 11:25! Another 20km and I reckon she could have picked up Nick and Andy – she was so strong and methodical out there.
Abhishek Tiwari ran a solid race from the start and was only passed by Nick, Andy and Trish relatively late in the race to finish fourth overall in a time of 12:06.
The start of the 4th leg was my time to visit a dark place myself, brought on by nausea and exhaustion. To illustrate, kilometers 80 to 82 took 34 minutes in flat terrain!! Thankfully my friends Trev and Nat Fairhurst came out to help me take my mind off the pain – if anyone could understand what I was experiencing it was these two. Another friend Travis Haslam then arrived to get me running again for a few kilometers until the start of the Mount Majura climb.
The turning point in my final leg was the ‘wooo hooo’ arrival of Justin ‘Timberlake’ Hiatt who was back from oblivion and excited by the prospect of sunset over Mount Ainslie followed by a jubilant finish.
Smiles back at 92km and cadence still matching...
For anyone who knows Justin, his enthusiasm for life is infectious, and we set off again with a matching cadence as we had throughout the whole race.
Justin got his sunset!
All downhill now to the finish...
Overall, there were 35 solo finishers from 54 starters and every one of these athletes made lifelong connections and has an amazing story to tell. Take Anthony Miles, Morgan Pettit and Caroline Warner who finished together at 11.15pm in a time of 17 hours and 15 minutes – I am in total awe of these three and hope that I can hear their story of the 2019 Canberra Trail 100.
A vote of heartfelt thanks to: Tash, Amelie and Ciaran for being my support crew; My friends who came out to cheer me on (thanks Dave, Mel, Ellie and Penny) including those competing (well done Heather, Alina, Michelle, Rach); Andre Camilleri (finished in 16:05) for encouraging me to try an ultra; Joe Howland for keeping my body functional, and to the selfless Sri Chinmoy team for yet another inspiring event to challenge one’s self and build the social fabric of our Canberra community.