By Rob Martin
My quest to conquer this epic race began in October 2018 when I signed up for the 2019 inaugural edition of The Guzzler Ultra 100K.
Unfortunately as is so often the case in our chosen sport, injuries got the better of me & I downgraded to the 50K (Glass Half Full) version for that year & I had a great race. I knew I would return to find my 100K redemption!
Fast forward to October 2019 & I entered the 2020 event which was to run in late July.
Then of course we found ourselves in the grips of COVID-19 & the race was postponed to November 7th, although I was able to complete the “Virtual Guzzler 50K” on the original race date of the 25th of July with my RCR buddies.
So finally, more than two years after signing up for this race, I was able to fulfil this dream of tackling the beast on the 7th of November 2020.
Training had been good – no injuries apart from a rolled ankle that had rehabbed very nicely & the weather was as good as you could hope for given it was November in Brisbane.
Excitement levels were high as we all gathered at the start line!
We got underway at 6am to the sounds of Motley Crue’s “Kickstart My Heart” – if that song doesn’t pump you up you better check if you have a pulse!
The race starts with a short section of road before the first climb of the day up Powerful Owl trail to Channel 9 – the best idea is to hike this section before crossing Sir Samuel Griffith Drive & then rolling down Jacksonia trail to Gap Creek.
The trip from Gap Creek through to CP1 was cool & easy with all the runners enjoying the beautiful conditions.
Arriving at CP1 at Enoggera Reservoir 17km’s in was an amazing experience with my Crew Chief Glenda & all my River City Runners family rocking out to 80’s tunes & looking after all the runners.
From this point things get a lot tougher as you make your way up First Gate Break onto what the local trail runners call the “rollercoaster”. It’s only around 7 km’s to the next checkpoint, but you need to climb around 500 meters to get there & you have to work for it!
I was running with & having a chat with my good mate John Kilkelly who came down from Cairns for the event when another runner from FNQ, Sonya Alba-Miller who was running in the 50K race & had started 30 minutes later, came screaming past like we weren’t even moving! She went on to take out the 2nd place female on a course she’d never seen before! Congrats Sonya!
CP2 at McAfee’s Lookout around 24km’s in was another awesome welcome with the Brisbane Trail Runners running a checkpoint like they always do – to perfection! Unfortunately to my amazement I saw my mate Jamie Hunter here when he should have been up at the pointy end of the race – as it turns out he had taken a major wrong turn whilst running in the top 10 & had decided to retire from the race after losing a good 30 minutes or so down Holman’s Break. Obviously he’ll need to run again next year!
A quick water & Tailwind replenishment was all I needed before I set off for the “Hell Hole Hustle”.
This is one of my favourite parts of the course where you descend rapidly through rainforest sections before arriving at Enoggera Creek, only to then have to climb out up a very steep & rocky trail which is part of Hell Hole Break. (Luckily this is a segment that all Brisbane trail runners know well & usually train on multiple times a year).
From here we continued on to South Boundary Road & then down Gold Creek Road to Gold Creek Reservoir, around 31km’s into the race.
I was feeling really strong at this point & here we were met by another amazing checkpoint, this time run by the awesome Mountain Goat Trail Runners – it was great to see Chris Dale & Sandi Thomsen (Madonna) & to get a couple of hits of ginger ale to see me on my way. A big shout out to Joey Moore, a fellow Trailien, who also made me feel super welcome at Gold Creek.
Next it was on to do a half clockwise loop of the reservoir before splitting from the 50K course heading off up Leahy’s Break onto Pinnacles (Gold Creek Boundary Break).
I guess this is where life started to feel a little tough – the pre-mixed Tailwind at the aid stations is much weaker than I make it for myself & I started to feel a caloric deficit beginning. Luckily I had three emergency Clif gels with caffeine, so I took one to give myself a boost. I ran all the flats & downhills & hiked all the uphills – before I knew it I was at Creek Road (Leland’s Corner) at 42.2km’s & the kind vollies topped me up with water & gave me a huge handful of jelly lollies – just what I needed!
Leaving Leland’s Corner I ran the long downhill until I hit the creek & then hiked up to the Augie’s Road intersection.
The stretch from there was hot & dry crossing backwards & forwards across the creek bed, and I found sustained running difficult – I was very glad to find there was a water stop at 48km’s where I was informed that 30 runners had already dropped from the 100K race!
From here it was just a matter of moving forward, knowing that my crew would be waiting at the Lake Manchester checkpoint 57km’s into the course. I knew I was getting behind in my race plan, but I just couldn’t generate any more pace for the time being.
Rounding the bend as the Lake Manchester Day Use area came into view was an amazing feeling & I could hear my mates Naho & Irish Nick yelling my name loudly – this clip below is an amazing memory from the day as I arrived into CP5.
I knew I would have a good break here (turned out to be around 18 minutes) & Glenda had laid out all my gear on a mat & set-up a bench seat where I could sit & relax. Irish broke out the ginger ales & I changed my shirt & visor for fresh dry ones after washing myself down with an icy-cold Cool Core cloth. This checkpoint was owned by the awesome Trailblazers Run Coaching Club & I was looked after like a king by Marty Stirling & Mich Martinez – thanks so much guys! Also on hand for support were Ben Green, Joey Moore & Laurie Bristow from the Trailiens – what a welcoming party!
Marty topped up all my bottles with Tailwind, whilst Irish got some ice to wrap in my Cool Core, which he then turned into an ice-cold bandana – bliss! To top off the rockstar treatment Felix Rojas gave me a frozen electrolyte icy pole!
Massive thanks to Crew Chief Glenda & John’s wife Marleen who looked after me, made sure I didn’t forget anything & sent me on my way all pumped up!
I would love top say that I powered on feeling great, but the reality is that it was a really tough slog around the lake – I hiked the flats & ups, and ran the downs as best I could, but fatigue was starting to set in big time. I didn’t stop at the 62km water checkpoint as I still had plenty of fluids on board. In a strange way I was happy to arrive at Job 6 Road, even though (having done it in training) I know it’s a never ending climb, but at least it was progress. After what seemed like an eternity of crawling uphill I finally arrived at Lightline Bush Camp just after 5pm at 70km’s into the race.
Here I struck gold again with the checkpoint being run by the guys from Intraining – not only were Coaches Tracy & Bob Baker there, but also Anna Morgan, an old running buddy from my Dynamic Running Club days in Cairns. Anna set about sorting me out with everything I needed & revived my spirits no end – thanks Anna!
From here the going doesn’t get any easier – not far past the bush camp is the turn off to the infamous Township Break that has broken the will of many strong runners over the years. Some folk like to go fast down this cliff face, but I prefer slow & steady with poles out in front as stabilisers. I got to the creek bed at the bottom without falling so as I could “enjoy” the relentless climb out the other side. I met a runner called Matt during this climb out & we had a good chat until we hit South Boundary Road where I had to stop to get my headlamp set-up & ready for BS Break.
I know BS Break well & I can normally run it strong, but again I was reduced to hiking due to fatigue. A few people passed me in the latter stages, but sure enough before too long I found myself passing the timing point on my way to McAfee’s for the second time on Mt Nebo Break.
Although this section is predominantly downhill, I found it incredibly tough to generate forward momentum – if I wasn’t shuffling I just tried to hike as quickly as possible. Not too far before McAfee’s I heard a runner charging up behind me & I was so happy to find that it was my Trailien’s training buddy & friend May Ceballos – we had a quick chat but I encouraged her to keep moving since she was looking so strong. As it turned out we arrived at McAfee’s very soon after, about 85km’s in, pretty much together. This is where the Brisbane Trail Runners really came into their own & I was also lucky enough to see Ben Green & Joey Moore from the Trailiens again – these guys were following the race from checkpoint to checkpoint & it was so awesome to get their support & encouragement.
I knew I still had around 18km’s to cover, which included Hell Hole again, along with the final climb up Kokoda Track – I needed energy! Very fortunately for me I was looked after by Michael Burns from BTR who waited on me hand & foot whilst I sat by the gas heater gathering myself. He brought me ginger ale, filled my bottles with 50/50 Coke & water & then made me a hearty cup of beef noodles. This lifted me again & I knew nothing would stop me now. May had enjoyed some noodles too & I left a few minutes after her ready for Hell Hole #2.
The second time through this section was much, much slower, but I felt better & stronger now. The climb out of Hell Hole didn’t seem too bad & before I knew it I was back on South Boundary Road. I had a quick chat with an awesome runner called Washington Firmeza just near Gold Creek Road – we’d bumped into each other a few times & he wanted to check that he was going the right way – smart move! From here there was the (what always seems to be) long stretch back to Jones Break that would lead me back to Gap Creek & Kokoda. Whenever I could I started running the downhills, but I felt like it was painfully slow & I just wanted to be at the finish with Glenda & my crew.
As I arrived at Gap Creek Road I put on my flouro vest on to enable safe crossing & then ate my last Clif caffeine gel that I’d been saving for this vital moment – I also filled up a drink bottle.
The only things standing between me & glory was the Kokoda climb. I set off feeling determined & in fact the climb seemed to take no time at all – I guess when you climb it as often as we do it becomes second nature. As soon as I hit the top I crossed the road & then packed away my flouro vest – I didn’t need the extra warmth.
I decided to hike to the Eugenia Trail & then I would run to the finish.
As soon as I turned off Powerful Owl onto Eugenia I broke into a trot that steadily gained in pace. I made my way down the stairs & across the bridge until I could see the lights & hear the sounds of the finish line. When I knew I had a couple of hundred meters to go I fired the jets & then I heard Naho & Irish screaming from the side of the trail. Then I saw Glenda waiting with camera in hand just beyond the finish line…
It was so amazing to have Glenda, Marleen, CJ, Naho, Irish & Jodie all waiting for me with the RCR club tent ready, along with a chair, table, beer & food! Every runner deserves a superstar crew like mine!
We all know that these ultras are a team activity, so massive thanks to:
My wife & Crew Chief Glenda Vigorelli, John & Marleen Kilkelly, Naho Cvetinovic, “Irish” Nick Roberts, CJ Pearson, Jodie Oborne, Joey Moore, Ben Green, Laurie Bristow & Craig Walton. To everybody at River City Runners – thanks for being the best training buddies in the world!
Checkpoint thanks to RCR, BTR, MGTR, TB’s & all the other volunteers!
Congratulations to all the Guzzlers out there – see you next year!