Today we have a little post from our Director and ambassador, Tegyn Angel. Ok… it’s not little, in fact it’s long and lengthy and has suffered very little in the form of “editing”. But at least it’s honest! Besides, he’s the boss so we guess he can write what he wants hey? – VFUEL AUSTRALIA
Race Report: True Grit Australian 24hr Enduro Obstacle Course Race / 2016 Obstacle Course Racing Association (OCRA) Enduro Aussie Titles. I’m nursing the Endurance Sport version of a hangover right now (or maybe i’m still fatigue-drunk) so you may need to read this to yourself in a slovenly tavern slur. In fact, right now is probably a crappy time to write this but i’m still a bit strung out so it’s helping me focus. Thanks people, i’m using you all for personal gain 😉
I was chuffed to take 2nd overall at the 24hr Enduro yesterday. I managed 14 x 11km laps for a total of about 154km in 23.5 hrs. It was a hard fought battle with the Terminator, Lachlan Dansie, but in the end he was the better athlete and deserved his win! Congratulations mate! It was a pleasure watching you cruise through some of those obstacles so late in the race and you gave me a good appreciation of what it takes to win.
Before I bore you all with the details, I’d like to give credit where credit is due. My crew, best friend and partner, Kellie Emmerson, I couldn’t have done it without you. Full stop, end of story. Having you there every lap was a godsend and I hope I wasn’t too rude! I love you, you rock and my crew-debt balance just received a whopping great deposit. Kellie was there on every lap, helping me refuel and change where necessary, only managing to steal a few minutes of sleep here and there. #BOSS
To all the volunteers out on course: you’re all legends. Being out there all night for us, huddled around those little fires you managed to scrape up as the temperature dropped below zero… Thank you. I made a concerted effort to thank every single one of you on every lap but to those I missed, THANK YOU!
Thanks also to my coach, Mathieu Dore. My training for the past six months has been pretty inconsistent for various reasons and without your programming it would have been a complete write off. A huge thanks to Rin Quistadio for being a deadset legend and allowing me to adopt her as my OCR Mum. Sabrina, Dave, thanks for helping with everything, answering stupid novice questions and in every way giving far more of your time and effort than I could have hoped for. Cheers to Tracy for accommodation hookup!
Obviously a big thanks to VFuel Australia, FitHealth Nutrition and Nunawading Soft Tissue Therapies for keeping me fed and functioning. Without your support I’d no doubt be far worse off than I am. To the Muddy Hell boys, thanks for letting me run around the course and make a fool of myself few times! Deanna, Matt, Sean, Dave, Isaac, thanks for your invaluable advice. Matty Bell this is just your sort of event, both in terms of the course itself and the super positive vibe, and you were sorely missed.
Finally, a big thanks to the warm and welcoming OCR world. I’ve dabbled a few times over the past year or so (Spartan, Survival Run and now True Grit) and everyone I’ve met has been incredibly warm and welcome, without a trace of condescension or “us and them” for a newbie. True Grit was seamlessly run and the partnership between them and OCRA is a perfect match and a credit to each.
Oh, and a big thanks to the MCs for being Dicks. Your derisiveness spurred me on, if only to prove you wrong 😉
WARNING: LARGELY SELFISH SELF REFLECTION FOLLOWS. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.
I love trail running. I love obstacles. I’m not fast or great at either of them but a reasonable ability at both, plus the fact that I’m pretty stubborn, gave me the confidence to give this a crack. I signed up for True Grit because I was told it was a runner’s course and figured i’d only ever be competitive in long course events like this. I seem to be able to keep going pretty consistently for extended periods. Arrogantly, I also saw Lachlan’s 14 lap first place from 2015 and thought I could go further.
I’m very methodical and it was quite disconcerting going from Ultrarunning – where I know how to crew and be crewed and more or less what to expect in terms of fatigue how my body will respond – to an Ultra/OCR hybrid where I knew what to expect of my legs but no idea what to expect of my upper body and more general strength endurance. I constantly repeated Nickademus Hollon’s mantra of “Find the most efficient way through every obstacle” and with blind faith hoped for the best.
Most of my training focused on running, with some good PBs in the Buffalo SkyMarathon and Ultra Trail Australia races over the past few months. My strength work suffered, partly because I was doing a lot of running but also because of injury and travel. I didn’t realise it at the time but a nasty injury to my hand back in February really put me on the back foot strength-wise and I came in to TG feeling underdone in that department.
Perhaps even more common than the emphasis on TG being flat course (450m gain x 14 ain’t that flat people!) was the warnings about the cold. 2016 was even colder than 2015, with temps dropping below zero and ice forming on obstacles, cups at the water station and all over the pit area. I compensated for a lack of knowledge/experience with money and bought a wetsuit, frog skins, 4 different pairs of gloves and untold other gear. I’m glad I did!
See a course map here: True Grit Australian 24hr Enduro Course Map
True Grit takes a military-inspired, simple-is-better approach to obstacles which is perfectly suited to the Enduro format. The obstacles are all straight forward and “relatively” easy which was fine by me, given I did each of them 14 times! In order they were:
- The Vaults; A three wall vault, about 1.5m each
- Commando Crawl; Barbed-wire crawl
- A-frame cargo net
- Cliff Assault; Thick maritime rope, feet on wall up a sand stone rock face, top out and keep going
- Tyre Tread; Tyres on the ground, run through them
- Rope Ladders; Ladders made of rope with timber rungs, climb up and top out on a boulder, come down a different way
- The Boulder; a large sandstone boulder with timber bolted to it. Climb up and top out, come down a different way.
- Ring the Bell; Climb up a rope, feet on the wall, ring a bell and come back down the rope.
- Swimmer Scout; a small dam affectionately known as “Pee Pond” which we had to wade through. Some parts neck deep.
- Individual Carry – Ammo; Farmers-Carry two ammo tins in a loop up a steep goat track and back down
- The Gap; Climb down a cargo net spread between two sections of rock
- Low Wire Entanglement; crawl over a jumble of tires spread out under a span of barbed wire
- Jungle Vine; duck and weave through a section of trees spread with criss-crossing rope designed to slow you down
- Cargo Wall; Climb up and over a vertical stretch of cargo net
- The Tunnels; Crawl or drag yourself through two large lengths of poly drain pipe, partially suspended/immersed in a dam
- Sandstone Climb; Climb up a cargo net suspended over a steep rock face
- Incline Walls; Jump up and climb over a wall inclined toward you (i.e. negative space underneath)
- Casualty Drag; drag two tires around a circuit
- Goat Track; climb/walk up a stretch of track and through a sandstone pinch
- The Crevasse; walk down and through a narrow sandstone fissure
- The Muddy Mile; trudge through a long stretch of mud and water, up to about knee deep and consistently very sloppy
- The Cube; duck under a Barbed Wire fence suspended over neck deep water and climb out of this onto a steel frame. Either monkey bar your way across 8m +/- or climb over the top.
- Individual Carry – Sand; Carry a sandbag in a loop up a steep goat track and back down
- Rope Burn; use a rope to help you walk up a slippery wall
- Safety Net; traverse a cargo net suspended across a small creek
- The Rig; use Gymnastics rings (about 10 in total) to get from one side of a rig to the other, descend via a piece of maritime rope.
- Balance Beams; cross two of three floating pontoons positioned in a small creek
- Great Walls; 10ft wall climb
- Traverse Ropes; (aka Tyrollean Traverse) cross a piece of maritime rope stretched horizontally over a small creek, generally hanging underneath and using hands and feet to “crawl” along it.
- The Ramp; get up a slippery ramp leant against a shipping container and descend via a cargo net on the other side.
My strategy was to go out conservatively and run my own race for the entire 24hrs. This has worked well in the past and I like the feeling of climbing the ladder rather than falling down it because I went out too hard. There’s a morale boost that comes from knowing you’ve gone from 9th to 8th to 7th to… rather than going backwards. Plus, I assumed that my experience in pacing from ultrarunning would set me in good stead compared to my competition who are more familiar with shorter obstacle races or strength-heavy training than with running. Comments like “it’s the running that lets me down” are pretty common in OCR which confuses me a bit given how much of it there is!
I started in about 10th place and from the get go took it very easy. I’d done splits based loosely on average lap times for the three podium runners from 2015 and then factored my own strengths and what I hoped to achieve (15 laps), ending up with some pretty optimistic lap times. I had my first few laps at 1hr 20 and they were 1:14, 1:20 and 1:27, so pretty close on average. From lap 4-14 times slowed up a bit quicker than I expected but I was able to keep them all to between 1:34 and 1:56, the slowest laps including a change of clothes and shoes.
After a couple of laps the sun started to go down and with it the temperature fell. I took a shitty head torch for the second half of lap 3 and stuffed a long sleeve thermal in my pack. After lap 3 the thermal went on and the head torch and gloves were upgraded. I ran like this for a couple more laps before adding a wind jacket and neoprene dive gloves to the mix.
By about lap 4 (give or take) I’d hit second place and managed to hold on to it for the rest of the event. The one timing mat on course was at the start/finish and so the only updates we (and the spectators/pit) got was when the runners crossed back through the pit zone. When I passed Justin Miller (eventual 3rd place) I couldn’t believe how humble and genuine he was! “Are you Tegyn?”, he said “Well you’re now in 2nd!” There were so many people out there in different categories (teams of 2, 4 and 6 along with the solo runners) that I’d never even realised I was in 3rd! When 2nd flashed up next to my name on the leaderboard a few people started to raise their eyebrows, which was fine by me!
I’d like to be able to pick out moments from the trail to talk about, highlights as it were, but in all honesty they’ve blurred into a weird sort of monotone. I don’t mean this in a negative way, as I genuinely enjoyed the whole experience, but rather that the whole race was at a consistently high level of awesome making it difficult to distinguish one lap from another. That said, there are a few moments that stand out even if I can’t remember exactly when they happened! Running with Dan Lollback and heaps of the other Survival Run Australia tribespeople was awesome! Michelle Wyndham always brings a smile to your face with her positivity. Linda Dent, guardian of Pee Pond, was a bright-as-hell beacon that dimmed even the light tower above her. Sabrina, Dave and Barbsy also gave me a great boost out there and I loved our little chats.
Around lap 6 I put on a pair of Frog Skin pants (a 0.5mm neoprene with a thin fleece lining), Frog Skin sock liners, swapped shoes, put a THIR around my neck and squeezed a pair of neoprene BleggMits over my dive gloves. Keeping my hands warm, pre-warming my breaths by putting the THIR over my mouth and cutting the wind all worked very well and this was as rugged-up as I got. In spite of all the warnings I listened to my body, not to other people’s anxiety. So long as I kept moving and kept my hands as dry as possible I found the temperature manageable, even as it dipped to -5℃ and things started to ice up. Pretty stoked not to have to run in a wetsuit!
Keeping my pace consistent through the night, fuelling regularly and continuing to try and improve my approach to each obstacle on every lap kept the motivation high. I’d come into the event having gone off all caffeine for 3 weeks and the No Doze at around 12am and 4am were a great kick! The field thinned during the night and so I made conversation with the Vollies and the few other runners who toughed it out, but even these few brave souls made the course feel crowded compared to a few Ultras i’ve run where you’re alone for hours at a time.
As the sun rose so did our spirits even though we still had another 7 or 8 hours to go! The head torch went ASAP and my lap times sped up again now that I could run less hesitantly. I’d managed almost ten laps by this time and as I passed through the Pit area was told that the one runner in front of me, Lachlan Dansie, had gone down for a sleep and I was now in 1st! Shit, what a way to see in the new day! I ran on this wave of excitement for 3/4 of a lap, motivated to put as much distance as I could between us but also quietly nervous that he’d given up a bit too easily.
He passed me as we hit the Muddy Mile on Lap 12 (or was it 11…) and I tried to hang on. I stayed with him through the Mile and then we hit the Sandbag Carry. The way he nailed those Sandbag and Ammo Box carries made me feel like we were riding an escalator, except I was on the one going down while he glided his way to the top! Bloody awesome, but also disheartening and I reckon I lost the will to fight for First at about this point. When the little voice inside asked “How bad do you want it?”, I answered “Not as bad as that guy!”.
Crossing back through the pit area my crew and supporters were all egging me on to push harder and run him down but I was redlining. Even managing a couple of 1:40 laps wasn’t enough as Lachie knocked off 1:30’s for laps 12 and 13. At one point in 13 I caught him at Ring the Bell and he said “You’re moving well. Looks like we’re going for 14”. Too bloody right, I thought! If the race had been longer things might have turned out differently, but knew I couldn’t keep up with him in a head-to-head, especially on the Carries. But we had plenty of time and I was close enough to make the cheeky bastard suffer a 14th lap so off we went! I backed off the pace and walked a fair chunk of the final lap, trying to enjoy the last trip around the course even as the day warmed up and I finally acknowledged the aches and pains I’d ignored for the past day. Dansie finished 1st in 22:58, about 24 minutes in front of me in 2nd, both of us having completed 14 laps and about 154km. Justin Miller bettered his 2015 result by one lap, taking out 3rd with 12 laps while the first female home, Janet Smith, had an absolute cracker and knocked off 11 laps to take 4th outright.
THINGS I DID WELL
- Pacing. I was consistent through out and my final laps were still pretty reasonable. Laps 12 and 13 and the 6th and 7th fastest, respectively. I didn’t get sucked in to going out to hard and made time to walk and chat with people on course.
- Caffeine. I stopped all caffeine consumption for 3 weeks before the race so the No Doze I took during the race would have more kick. It probably helped me rest better leading into the race too.
- Rest Week. I very consciously got as much rest as I could during the week leading into the race. Not heaps, but more than usual for me.
- No Burpees. For every obstacle you attempt and fail, or are unable to complete, the rules state you need to complete 10 burpees. I’m very proud to say I didn’t fail a single obstacle, even the final passes through the Rings Rig, and so did no burpees!
- Temperature. I managed this well, never getting too cold but also not overdoing the layers and over heating or slowing myself down to much with a wetsuit.
- Nutrition. I fuelled on feel, not to a schedule. In total I consumed 20 VFuel Gels (100 cal each), about 12 VFuel Endurance Drink sachets (200 cal each), 2 cans of ginger beer (2 x 190cal) , 1 Lara bar (240 cal), 2 Aldi Fruit Squeezes (2 x 70cal) and a handful of almonds (50 cal). This works out to about 5200 total calories or 217 cal/hour, a pretty high number and smack on where I normally try to aim for in an Ultra. I also had two No Doze, 6-8 SaltStick Fast Chews and two cups of coffee, but these don’t add to the calorie load.
- Training. While I felt my strength training was less than ideal, I did manage to fit in a good amount of grip strength and pullup work on Matt Murphy’s advice. This was invaluable.
- Body. How else do you say that? Thanks to my body for not chafing, getting blisters, cramping, giving me a stitch or otherwise breaking down. You’re a good egg!
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
- Training. More heavy carries up steep hills. I found these two carries exponentially harder than anything else in the race and the time I wasted on these easily adds up to more than amount of time I lost to Lachie. That isn’t to say he wouldn’t have run faster if I was closer to him, and i’m not suggesting I would have won if I was better at these obstacles, but at least I would have made him work a bit harder 😉
- Head Torch. As methodical as I was with most things, I neglected to check and double check my head torch set up and this let me down. I spent part of lap 3 or 4 running with the equivalent of a dull candle and had to dial back my spare on lap 6 to conserve battery lest it die half way through. Fortunately Kellie had a back up.
- The Head Game. I’m not used to being competitive. I’ve gotten better at it, but as I mentioned above, when I was pushed I backed off rather than pushing myself beyond my limits. I can’t honestly say I left everything out there. I redlined and let a self-imposed ceiling of effort and self-preservation hold me back.
- Shoes. I only brought trail running shoes with me to the event and my pregnant, swollen feet wouldn’t fit in the bloody things after the race!
- Gloves. I knew wearing them would protect my hands both from damage and cold yet I ignored this on lap one because I didn’t see anyone else wearing them. Because I let self-consciousness get in the way of intelligence I was bleeding in two places by obstacle 4 of the first lap.
Thanks very much to Nicole Elfpo Shaer, Amanda Steidle, Rin Quistadio and Kellie Emmerson for the great photos! I hope you don’t mind me stealing them!