Sometime last November, I got an email from my old pal Des (who I ran a fair bit of the 2008 Marathon des Sables with) asking if any Tent 82 folks fancied running the North Face 100km race in the Blue Mountains to the west of Sydney Australia – it seemed a shame not to !
Fast forward six months and I found myself down under and on the start line. I will save the reader a step by step account since it probably won’t mean a lot but … the route was along existing trails with a seriously beautiful mix of dusty ridge lines covered with small shrubs, steep descents and climbs into and back out of what felt like primeval rain forest and a series of linking fire roads. Other interesting features included a number of sections that ran along cliff top ledges and one descent on fixed vertical ladders (rigged for the event).
There were five control points located at 21km, 38km, 54km, 67km, and at 89km – all of which provided more than enough food and drink. One Control Point even had a pizza stall (in case you didn’t want anything from the BBQ they had set up).
Highlight for me on the route was leaving Katoomba and running along the cliffs just as the sun was going down. Low point came just short of the 50km point where the heat of the day was taking it’s toll on mind and body.
Fairly early on in the event, I decided my target time was sub 15 hours, with about 2km to go my watch packed in and I had no idea how much time I had left. Topped out to see the finish line clock sitting at 14 hours 59 minutes and 40 seconds which leg as much of a sprint finish and accompanying bull roar to cross with only 10 seconds to spare. Des finished a few hours later and under the 20 hour mark that was required to get one of the North Face belt buckles.
The race had a joint winner – local boy Andrew Lee and more interesting ex-Shettleston Harrier (now Melbourne) boy Stu Gibson. Not only did Stu help set the new course record but he also finished 11th overall in this years Marathon des Sables. Had a bit of a chat with him after the prize giving on Sunday.
I haven’t done a pile of analysis on the results but around 650 runners started with just over 100 DNFs – a fair number of folks struggled with the drop in temperature when it got dark (which was rather nice for the non-Australian folks). I was 86th from those who finished.
It is kinda hard to recommend a race on the other side of the world but should you be inclined to visit Oz …the North Face event makes for a nice little side trip.