The Ultra Easy 100km and its gleeful crushing of the ignorant: a race report

You’ve done a 200km mountain run in September, you’ve knocked out a 240km road run in December, there’s a 100km mountain run in New Zealand this weekend and it’s almost February already – what could possibly go wrong? Let’s just call the previous seven weeks of not running a committed recovery phase.

Seriously, it was Wednesday. I needed 3 more points to lock in a place for UTMB. March 19 for Northburn wasn’t looking good with two other reasons to be in Australia that weekend. The next and final option would be the Ultra-Trail Australia weekend in May, also problematic for work and travel reasons. Nice first world problems to have, but they meant that if I was going to do this I’d better do it ASAP. Only finding out that there was a 3-point opportunity in New Zealand with 3 days to go, at least training wouldn’t be the problem.

Grant Guise had temporarily hijacked The Ultra Easy’s facebook page – I didn’t mention that this was possibly the most cunningly named mountain race ever? How did that slip my mind? The sales pitch was equally deft: ‘Pick you up from the airport then?’

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Tor Des Géants 2015 – part 2 of 3 by Roger Hanney

continued from Part 1 of 3

The room emptied in a quick if not fully sober fashion into the side alley and once again we were on the run, or hike. With an acute awareness that this might take another 100+ hours to get done, nobody was springing out of the blocks hard on cold legs. Even just a few minutes from where we’d spent the uncertain early hours of morning, we could look back and see the white-dusted mountains we had climbed and descended through the night before. In the first light of a blue-sky day, their calm beauty spoke little of the chaos and jeopardy just hours before.

The pass that nearly ate us.

The pass that nearly ate us.

Heading uphill once again it was time to stop and readjust layers, in the usual cycle of too cold to move – get moving – heat up too much – stop to shed layers – feel cold again – stuff it all in pack – get moving again. And of course the other cycle of stop another 80 metres up the track – dig around in bag – find lube – apply to chafed bits – stuff it back in bag – readjust to the left – get moving again.

Even at this early stage, a couple of entrants could be seen coming back down the track, looking like they’d forgotten something. Making eye contact to query what was up, their reply was just a shrug without slowing as they headed back to the checkpoint. To see people pulling out this early at the simple thought of a hill, or perhaps at the memory of rockfalls the night before, was a mixed moment. Yes, this is only going to get harder. There’s more of who-knows-what to come, and it’s a shame you’re not going to be there for it. But, then again, I’ve outlasted you. And even that gutless little coward of a voice, ‘do you wanna pull out?’. The reply was still pretty easy, ‘don’t be a dick, let’s go.’

As we came into a mountain-ringed valley there was some quick photo-taking. This was a stunningly beautiful morning. There was snow behind us, snow and two big climbs ahead of us, but we were here laughing in the sun after a night that exceeded expectations of ferocity, and it felt great.

Only once we hit this valley and turned left would we see what was ahead of us.

Only once we hit this valley and turned left would we see what was ahead of us.

We were a conga line, runners stretched ahead and behind as the power hike revved its engine. Moving up a gentle slope contrary to the flow of the crystal river beside us, we tended left as the next valley revealed the joys it had in store for the morning. Col du Entrelor, a 3030m barrel of laughs we as yet had little idea about rose up in front of us, as similarly stunning snow-covered ridges moved behind us. Trudging a series of switchbacks, the day felt cold again as the wind steadily picked up and grey clouds moved in over the range behind us, soon to block the sun. Continue reading

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Tor Des Géants 2015 – part 1 of 3 by Roger Hanney

Tor Des Géants is a single-stage mountain run easily reduced to numbers – 330km, 24,000m D+, 200 miles, 80,000 feet, 850 starters, 6 life bases, time – but that is not the story of the Tor at all. It is a beautiful adventure, composed of a number of steep climbs, high passes, and sharp descents that will all quite happily break you if you’re not in The Zone.

With a field that at some points must have been spread across 150km, everyone’s experience must be sharply different, however much there may also be in common. With finishers being spread from 200km right to the finish line when this year’s race was ultimately shut down on the morning of the 4th day because of weather hazards, a 2015 ‘finish’ will mean different things for different people. For me, the 205km mark was not deep enough in at all, and I hope to return in 2016 for the full 200 miles.

Even with the premature closure of the race, it was still my longest time on feet and at 15,000m D+ it was also the greatest amount of climbing and descending I have yet done. But I wish we’d been able to finish what we started. Most of us were utterly psyched for it.

This is where it all started, the weekend in Utah in 2011 when I met Beat and he ruined my illusions that you could become a total badass by running just 100 miles, by telling me about the 200-miler he’d just done. Damn it.

I first heard about the TDG in 2011 when I met Swiss-American Beat Jegerlehner (pronounced ‘Dingle Manhammer’). A mutual friend put us together on a hire car booking from Salt Lake City to the Slick Rock Ultra a few hours away in the Moab Desert, as we were hitting the same airport just 5 minutes apart. Back then, as I prepared for my first 100-miler, the idea that people were running 200-milers filled me with awe and some envy. With such a focus on the distance I didn’t even tune into the elevation gain – a whopping 24,000 metres for an average gradient of 14% across the entire course – until finally entering the run of a lifetime earlier this year.

now THAT's an elevation profile.

now THAT’s an elevation profile.

Since then, it has meant training based entirely in the pursuit of increasingly longer steep bits, repeated.  Continue reading

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A Great Weekend in California

I’ve been thinking about getting this blogging thing going again. On the one hand, friends who write well inspire you to get back into the practise. On the other, when they’re doing it so well, it’s good enough reason to share theirs instead🙂

To be fair, on top of being a great host and a good friend (who I’ve now actually hung out with – yay!) Jill’s a published author whose books Be Brave, Be Strong, Ghost Trails, and 8,000 Miles Across Alaska are all quality reads for fans of adventure and extreme endurance.

So here’s Jill’s latest post from Jill Outside. She sums our weekend up nicely – except for the unsatisfied bit. To run again with my friend Beat, to finally meet Jill off the internet, to get sweaty biking then sweaty running, even with the race being cancelled on the Sunday with short notice – I had a blast. Thanks guys!

Jill tells it better here.

Fun was had

Fun was had

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Coast2Kosci 2014 Race Report, by Roger Hanney

Writing race reports after properly long runs easily turns into an exercise in self-indulgence. Let’s face it, there’s a reason the whole world’s eyes turn to watch Usain Bolt run for 9.5 seconds but generally glaze over when runners talk about feeling a second or third wind at the second rising of the sun.

So, Coast2Kosci 2014, short version – ran smooth, hobbled a bit, got wet, how fun was that?!

Coast2Kosci 2014, longer version.

It would be fun to one time read a race report where somebody really complained about their crew. Something along the lines of, “these guys couldn’t tell a sports drink from a ginger biscuit. I called them Team Guantanamo because they frequently blasted loud noise at me and wouldn’t pass the water, choosing instead to leave me in uncomfortable positions when all I wanted to do was go to the toilet.” This is not that report.

Where else would you be at 5:30am on a Friday?

Where else would you be at 5:30am on a Friday?

If you’re going to run 240km alongside 49 of the most committed endurance runners in Australia on the first weekend in December, it’s helpful to have at least one person on the crew who knows what that distance feels like. It’s even better if they’ve done the same race themselves. To have 3 such runners on your crew, and for each of them to be a great mate (or girlfriend… or course recordholder) is ridiculously fortunate.

Dave Clear, Rob Mason, Jess Baker – you legends, thank you.

Starting line, Boydtown Beach 5:30am Friday 5/12/14

Like a joke that’s only funny to a handful of people, you just had to be there. It’s like a family reunion for ultrarunners, in the middle of almost nowhere and before the sun has even had a coffee. Random.

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Posted in Badwater, Bondi 4, C2K, Challenger ATR, Extreme, Hoka OneOne Australia, road running, trail running, ultra, Ultrabalaton | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

You know you’re running 240km when…

Screen Shot 2014-11-28 at 12.45.18 pmSo this is it, a week from today, 50 runners each with a support crew tagging along by car will pound out 240km on foot from the south-eastern shoreline of New South Wales to the top of Australia.

We have all subjected ourselves to different methods and levels of training. Some of us have raced a lot, some of us hardly at all. Some runners have made it down to do course-specific training, many of us have instead just tried to find the longest hilliest roads we can near our home locations.

Now it’s taper time. Even as the legs itch to go for a run, some of us worry that if we take even 6 days off running we’ll forget how to do it. Ironically, the other favourite activity now left to us is eating but with our favourite calorie-burning activity on hold, we’re on reduced rations for this kind of fun too.


Early morning training brings its own rewards

When training goes well, it reinforces a positive belief in the outcome of the race itself. We know who the top runners are, but many of us simply hope to reach an eventual placing somewhere in the midpack without any bones breaking or tissues tearing or organs collapsing. And if they do, well, we hope that training will still give us the strength we need to drag ourselves across the line before we get timed out.

Nutrition strategies are in place, timing plans set to dream, pragmatic, and parachute finishes have been worked out, I’m still thinking about which socks are going to get the thumbs up, and have obviously already made my shoe choices. Super crews are champing at the bit, ready to enforce hydration needs and keep runners on course at night when the sleepy zigzags set in anytime between 9pm and 5am.

The great thing about running 150 miles is that it’s always going to be a new experience. Even running 100km on the same course has a particular freshness to it each time you race, but with a race as long as Coast2Kosci anything can happen. It might be scorching heat, headwinds, dehydration, rain, extreme cold, poor visibility, injuries, blisters, nuclear chafing, nausea, fatigue, mental weakness, or any other factor that can slip beyond the runner’s control, but whatever it is, you know that your only choice will be to deal with it as efficiently as possible and bust on through, regardless. Running 240km is a massive challenge, no doubt, but the real challenge lies in how you deal with whatever happens during that 240km.

Seaman's Hut at the 228km mark. Still some real work to do here, but you know you're going to get there now.

Seaman’s Hut at the 228km mark. Still some real work to do here, but you know you’re going to get there now.

To paraphrase half of the Race Director team, Paul Every, ‘ours is a sport where you don’t have the luxury of thinking about anything beyond your next step’.

Racing starts 5:30am, Friday December 5 Australian Eastern Standard Time – follow here. Messages of support welcome!

If I'm looking this happy on December 5th, my crew probably need to kick my ass a lot harder.

If I’m looking this happy on December 5th, my crew probably need to kick my ass a lot harder.

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Sakura Michi International Nature Run 2014 pt.2

by Roger Hanney – with thanks as always to my workplace and insanity-enabler Hoka OneOne Australia – Hoka One One is the only running shoe with enough crazy genius for my liking.

Having already run for over 10 hours, thoughts turned to evening and the night, cold, and distance ahead. We had long put the city of Nagoya behind us, and although the increased steepness beyond the 100km mark wasn’t expected to be savage, the sustained gradual climb of the last few hours had definitely been getting into all the places you’d expect – hips, glutes, head!

Running through the rolling green beauty of Japan, dotted with towns and villages that seemed to live so comfortably within their natural setting, it was hard not to feel both blessed by the moment and intrigued by the prospect of what lay ahead. Any ultramarathon is a landscape in its own right. A familiar landscape seen and experienced through a different lens after an unusually long time on feet or in an atypical physical or emotional landscape is an almost entirely different place than usual, a place that defies simple cartography or contours, and can’t be shared through anything as neutral as a camera.

Within the realm of exultation and fatigue, all flavours and colours take on an emotional electricity. Maybe the runners who don’t experience that change too deeply have an advantage over those who seek it, or perhaps the opposite is true.

2,000 cherry blossoms, 1,000 awesome volunteers, and 250km of friendly road going from one side of Japan to the other. What's not to smile about?  :)

2,000 cherry blossoms, 1,000 awesome volunteers, and 250km of friendly road going from one side of Japan to the other. What’s not to smile about 100km in?

Which ever may be the case, this was amazing. Every cherry blossom exploding in the slowly lowering sunlight was a personal message from Ryoji Sato, the humble bus driver who had personally planted each tree more than four decades before. Each one was a promise that the next 150+ kilometres would hold incredible beauty to balance the pain that must surely come soon. Each cheered ‘Kudasai!’, and although they didn’t yet implore me to keep going I expected that the struggle would begin in the deep dark. It doesn’t mean anything to run the first 50km of a 250km race well. Anybody can do that, and in fact the inexperienced runner like me is more likely to do that. But to run the last 50km of a 250km run well, that’s the elusive goal. Continue reading

Posted in Coast2Kosci, diabetes, diabetes and ultramarathon, Hoka One One, hot video, racing the planet, road running | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments