Monday, March 06, 2006

Martin Fryer - Taiwan 24hr Report

Just got back to Oz late yesterday and would like to thank all CRs, ACTrunners, Orienteers and of course my family for their encouragement and congratulations. Thanks to AURA, IAU and ACT Sport & Rec for helping with funding, and to Ian Cornelius for his hard work at coordinating the team and getting smart team uniforms together at pretty short notice.It was certainly an experience of a lifetime.

I am proud of my own and my team mates efforts - we all gave it our absolute best on the day in what were very demanding conditions. We all had a number of horror patches but I just had less than the others.The course was a real killer - a 987.7 metre loop with about 650m of white CONCRETE path, 350m bitumen, a short sharp hill, lots of sharp turns, narrow convergence channels in sections where we ran parallel with another race (Open), large concrete bollards in the centre of the path at a few points, slippery wooden boards over some potholes, all sorts of gutters and foot obstacles. The park itself was in the northern part of Taipei city and was next to a big soccer stadium, one of the subway stations, and the domestic airport. The latter meant that we regularly had large aircraft performing their final descent only a few hundred metres above us and flying directly up the middle of the running course!

Weather at the start was humid with the sun threatening to break out for the first time since we had been in Taipei- not sure of the temp but felt like about low 20s. It rained fairly consistently for most of the second half of the race and was quite heavy in the last few hours, with quite a few puddles on the course later on. Wind was variable ranging from quite light to quite strong at different times throughout the race. As expected, the pace was ridiculous at the start of the race but I just did my own thing and tried to run steady 11s (K/h) for the first 6 hours to settle in. I had lower back/glute spasm issues for quite a lot of the race (had a few long breaks to get pressure point massage) and my hammies and achilles were sore for long sections as well. I was pleased that I was able to stay close to my pace plan up to half way (121K at 12h) and then run a good second half without too much fade (112K for second half).

Once I had a taste of getting into the top 20 the adrenalin kicked in and I raced my butt off for the last few hours, targeting the next place getters one by one. With an hour to go I was 13th and quickly picked up another few spots to get into 11th.Now I could see top ten was possible and set the Russian and Korean as targets. After a big surge I passed the Russian with 25 min to go but he passed me when I walked the hill. Now with 20 min left I knew I had to forget the luxury of a walk break (despite my body screaming for relief) and tried to stay with the Russian. The strategy was to either sit on him and pass him right at the end if I could, or pass him early and hold the lead. I chose the latter - I passed him with another big surge with about 18 min to go and tried to break his spirit by going as hard as I could.

The last 15 min went on forever as large crowds of people yelled and screamed around the start/finish area and all the crews were egging on their runners for one final push. All of a sudden, people who were in death marches were all running like maniacs that had been given the Frankenstein serum. At this point my body wanted to collapse so I tried to con myself mentally into thinking I was running a short cross country race - my lapsplits in this last half hour were suddenly going well under 5 mins and 230+ was a definite if I could stay on pace and just hang on.With 10 min to go I was thinking just 2 laps to go and decided I could sustain one last super surge. This turned out to be a mistake as with 5 min to go I experienced the worst lactate bear in the legs and lower back and was right on the edge of getting the wobbles. I backed off the pace hoping for the lactate to clear and hoped that I had enough lead up on the Russian (I didn't look back).

It was down to 5 min to go - one lap and neither the physical bear or the Russian bear would get off my back. I ran past the team aid stations for the last time and Diane from our crew was screaming at me to hold on. I was at the point of muscle seizure in the legs and back and felt some spasticity coming on. With 2 min to go Diane had cut across the course and was going ballistic so I knew it was going to be close.

When I turned into the start/finish chute where the lapscorers were the crowd were going absolutely berserk with a countdown of about 20s to go as I crossed the timing mats. At the end of this chute was a sharp 90 degree right turn. I rounded this turn and immediately ran into slower runner traffic- one of them stepped out in front of me as I tried to pass and during my attempt to avoid them my back and legs completely seized up and I did a spectacular face plant into the concrete path. I quickly tried to get myself up, hoping that I hadn't been passed- 4s left- another half dozen steps or so with my upper torso bent at 90 degrees from the waist and then another seizure and complete face-plant into the footpath in front of the medical tent when the gun went off to end the race. I think at that moment I permanently left part of my soul on that little piece of footpath in YuanShan Park in Taipei.Unfortunately the Russian passed me during these falls and I missed out on a top ten finish by less than 200m (with 9th place only another 200m in front of that).

People were all rushing to me- they put me in a chair and dutifully marked my finishing spot. As I started to lose colour vision I remember hearing Diane's voice asking me if I was OK and in the background hearing some locals yelling out Ozzie, Ozzie Ozzie! I was quickly moved to the Medical tent where half a dozen or so Taiwanese in white coats converged on me and took my vital signs while trying to force me to drink a few warm cans of the local electrolyte drink (aptly named Pocari Sweat). IV drips were placed in both arms, with the left one being painful as the student doctor missed the vein for the first 2 attempts and left some horrid bruising. My blood pressure had recovered and I felt much better after an hour or so. I had pretty bad blistering on both feet as I had not stopped to treat the multiple hot spots that had come on with about 4 h to go. Both achilles were blue/black and my quads were pretty seized up.

Now, 4 days later I can walk reasonably well but the left achilles is still quite bad and both achilles and feet are still a bit swollen. Paul, Mick and Simon were probably all a bit disappointed with their performances but they all battled hard and will no doubt bounce back with some big totals in the future. They will probably post their stories later on but here is what I can recall....Mick got bad gastro distress fairly early on and lapsed in and out of good form throughout the race - I had never seen him run before - he has a smooth and consistent ultra style which would beat all of us on a good day. I can see why he has a 245 and a 250 to his name as well as many others over 200.Paul had various issues including back spasms and fatigue and seemed to be either moving very well and fluidly at around 9K/h or walking in a slow type of stupor. He had quite a few stops for massage work but, as usual, seemed to arise from the grave and suddenly crank out very consistent laps. He was confidently heading for 200+ at about the 16h mark but things seemed to go pear-shaped for him in the last 4h or so.

Paul was a great team captain and had to deal with ridiculously long team briefing meetings the day before the race. Paul's words of wisdom to the team before the start of the race were "It's just like a party- just eat, drink and have fun". Simon's first 24h race would have been disappointing for him as he started really well. He was a few laps up on me up until about 12 hours and he was moving effortlessly. Unfortunately his ITB went south not too long after halfway and he bravely walked (slowly) the rest of the race chatting up various women of Scandinavian origin- he's a good listener! No doubt in my mind that Simon has 240+ in him in the future.

Our superb crew Val, Diane and Hillary were simply awesome and were dead tired themselves after a long night - they fed, treated, massaged and motivated us through a very long night. Great job girls! Well, in my current bruised and battered state I will leave it at that- at this stage I really can't be sure if I will even make the start of 6 foot - if I do it will probably have to be in easy mode as I am wary of these achilles at the moment. I look forward to catching up with everyone at future events. I would strongly encourage anyone that has the dream of running 24 hour races to just train hard and do it.

The results will come if you train hard and you are patient. It would be nice to see a stack of 200K+ runners available in Australia in 2006/2007 as people come out of the woodwork and give it a go. While like many others I prefer trail running, I have to say that this type of running is still very satisfying and provides enough challenges to satisfy even the most hardened masochist.

Martin Fryer

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