Journey to 50 Miles - GSER PART TWO

It's time for an update from one of our Run Vault Performance coached athletes, Lachlan Smeed, as he continues his preparation for the GSER 50 Miler....

If you haven’t read the Part 1 (go and do it) but as a bit of a reminder…….. I had been through a tough training block - looking forward to tapering and attempting my first 100km race, Western Branch Ultra Marathon.

Now, it happened to just be luck, fate or Voodoo (or whatever you want to call it), I ended up rolling my ankle running immediately after finishing the last blog post. Now, I have the attitude of generally thinking “she’ll be right”. So I tried to keep training in the weeks leading up and the ankle kept rolling, obviously a good sign going into Western Branch. I continually re-rolled it just about every time I went for a run…….. I was ropeable (pissed off), I thought that I would rather be a DNF than a DNS at Western Branch. In the end, I bought copious amounts of strapping tape and secured the ankle (it could not move, even if it was hit by a truck). If it didn’t hurt to run, it will be alright.

Race day came, and it was a cold (had to de-ice the car windscreen), dark, rural Queensland morning. Arriving to the Mt Stanley Camp Draft grounds, tents and campervans were covering the paddock, with a few fires keeping all runners and support crew warm. It would not warm up for the entire day with many runners staying in thermals for the whole race. The race went through various terrains including unfenced farmland (cows/bulls giving you the stink eye), multiple creek crossings (what felt like hundreds) and just downright beautiful mountains. Now, the race itself came and went, as well as the highs and lows. During 50-85km mark, the only person I saw apart from aid stations was the Race director driving around, this mentally challenged me, as I am social and enjoy a yarn. In addition, the course itself is runnable for the entire 100km, making it hard to justify when to walk and run. The internal battle of justifying walking continued till the last 10km, where the sun went down, and I managed to muster some energy to try to catch the person in front of me (fellow Run Vault athlete Ross Murphy - my number one competition). Running into the night and down to the finish line, where the Race Director was ringing the finish bell was special, so many emotions in completion of my first 100km, well till I looked at my watch, which read 99.80km (I ran some circles post-race to make sure it hit 100km). This ended up taking a total of 11hrs and 50mins.

I would recommend this race to anyone running their first 100km, it is beautiful, cheap, well organised, family feel, and you get to explore remote country Queensland! Big shoutout to Timothy Walsh at Western Branch/ Dead Cow Gully.

Following this euphoric moment, I decided to get my ankle sorted (turned out to be a grade 2 sprain, slight tearing of ligaments). During this time, I ended up catching COVID, not from my students, not from events, not from socialising but from my wife (I thought I was immune). This didn’t knock me around as much as what I thought, however, it was my resting heart rate that would not go down, or it would elevate exponentially when exercising (e.g 6-7min/km at 170bpm). This remained so for another 3 weeks and took priority over ankle (which healed nicely), making me feel as if all my work from earlier in the year to improve fitness was in vain. Jamie, would have seen in my Training Peaks notes, how frustrated I was. 

As I was starting to recover and get fitness back, I managed to race (a loosely used term) the Guzzler 50km, hoping to better my time and have a solid benchmark of improvement over the last year. Yet, I soon realised that I had not recovered fully, and my ambitious goal of sub-6hr set earlier in the year was not met (finish time of 7:12 hrs). I seem to say that every one of my races is emotionally draining, but this has got to be one of the worst, with texts to friends saying, “I think I might have made a mistake doing this race” (18km into the race).

Once a disappointing Guzzler was finished, I immediately prepped to line up for The Clint Eastwood Last One Standing (AAA Racing- 6.7km loops every hour on the hour). Again, my training had started to resume back to normal, however, I was not doing any high intensity workouts and trying to figure out the slow diesel train pace (~7min/km). This training included, slow and fast 6.7km loops, loops at weird hours (4am pre work), loops without contact lenses in (blind as a bat without them) and loops with food/drink breaks. This worked well, as I managed to smash out 24 yards (164km, again 1 more km than Ross Murphy) and complete a miler. Now, most people find the mental aspect tough for this event, however, I found zoning out easy with the biggest issue coming from the shoes I wore during the first few laps (New Balance 1080’s) with the ground bruising my feet. Once changing to Hoka Bondi 7’s, I felt like I was on clouds, and all was good. Despite this it is safe to say that I will not be running at Oxley Common for a long time.

I would like to thank Jamie, Rob, Andrew Moore, Jon Gooding, Craig Dodd and anyone else that managed to drop in, help with food (noodles, pizza, coffee), fill water bottles and Mountain Goat Trail Runners for assistance with the marquee (one of the best running clubs in QLD). Thanks again to all those who aided me.

Since DNF’ing at LOS, I have moved away from the flat ground and have transitioned to hills. Trying to get at least 650m of climbing across 10km (which is hard around Brisbane) to match the GSER profile. This includes climbs around Mt Coot-Tha (29km with 1550m climbing) and Camp Mountain (infamous chainsaw break) (20km with 1300m).

Providing more details on current training, it is very similar to my previous blog post, but now is aiming to build up hill climbing and elevation change (aiming to be close to 6000m of vert) before tapering begins. I have managed to put my pride aside and pick up a pair of poles to train with (they do help). It will be an interesting time over the next 9 weeks pre-race day, but will involve excessive vertical climbing, lots of foam rolling and cursing the idea of signing up to GSER.

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