Tuesday, 28 May 2013

The beautiful way.

The cool air on my body, the smell of the trees and the lure of the trail.  An excitement in my heart and free will of my spirit to be set loose on Gods beautiful creation.  A low murmur of expectation between athletes, the sun warming my skin and a glistening in my eye of what might or might not become in the coming hours.  The trail calls my name...into the unexpected.

This week, I listened to an inspiring podcast about trail culture.  The boys at Trail Runner Nation asked listeners to blog or just talk about what it is that makes our sport special and incredibly unique.  This is something that I feel a true kindred heart toward and believe it to be something so amazing about trail running, but in particular ultra trail running.

Putting others before yourself is not something that happens a lot these days, but is something expected in trail running.  For an unknown glorious reason, the partakers in ultra marathons would prefer to help a brother or sister out in a time of need, then run a personal best in a 50 mile race.

Conversation between runners is always positive and more often than not, entertaining about what some lunatic has done, a crazy race that exists or just open, honest, heartfelt talk about matters of the heart...family, love, struggles...whatever flows throughout the kilometers.

A smile is something that is never amiss on a trail too.  Even those in the lead, streaking out a beautiful stride, always have time for a G'day and a smile...generally laughing at the bloke wearing Jesus sandals and covered in tattoos.  The encouraging words from the rabbits up front and the plodders at the rear of the field warms your heart and pushes you on, where you might have once stopped from exhaustion....'if they believe in me, maybe I can go just a couple more k's'.....and on it goes!

To do an ultra marathon on trails requires a certain amount of toughness that's without doubt, but at the souls of the amazing people who run them is of a love for nature, finding out what the human spirit and body can do, a passion for the out doors and a willingness to do something that 90% of the population think is lunacy!

Very rarely will you ever find rubbish on the trail, and if someone has dropped some by mistake, another runner will pick it up.  Aid stations are not a litter of plastic cups...more made of warm smiles from volunteers, polite assistance for those in need, appreciation for the time spent to help and some ripper food, usually home prepared.

Countless hours marking courses, individual finishing prizes, arranging medical forms, ensuring runners are ok and all at a minimal entry fee is something that should not be taken for granted.

Trail running to me, whilst I love the running and the personal challenge, is more about the friends I have made and the familiar faces I see at the starting line, usually in the dark, and get to run with, catch up with, share their joys and sorrows and continue and interconnection that can only be found whilst running ridiculous distances.  The trail running culture, and in my case the ultra running community is about family.  We are all a little mad in one way or another, but I have a warm, genuine love and passion in my heart for my comrades, amigos, brothers and sisters.

Being in nature, trail running, being free from the busyness of life is an incredible and passionate part of my life.  As a Christian, I feel God most closely when on a beautiful single track in complete admiration of what He has created for me to enjoy and share with others.  If you haven't experienced trail running, or trail culture, it is hard to articulate.  I hope though, in some small way, I have been able to share what this breathtaking and soul enriching culture means to me.  Now go out and run....run free my mas loco family!

To listen to the mentioned Podcast mentioned, check out Trail Runner Nation at - http://trailrunnernation.com/2013/05/bob-crowley-josh-katzman-trail-running-culture-are-we-at-risk-of-losing-it/

Monday, 20 May 2013

The Grills Grit and another ripper Podcast!

Well crew, this weekend gone saw the almighty Cooks Tour being held from Woodford Qld.  Last year there was a 50mile event which I did, however this year saw that one dropped and only a 50k being the longest option.  It was however to be a momentous day given my sister Melinda was travelling up from Melbourne to take part in her first event over 30k, let alone a trail Ultra! 

We all met up on the Saturday

I'm running!
and had a good catch up before hitting the sack, trying to get some sleep before the big day.  There were a few nerves from Mel, and a bit of roudyness from my kids, so sleep was a bit ordinary.  None the less we woke up bright and chipper ready to hook in Sunday morning. 

We headed out to the race start and met up with a heap of old buddies!  The great thing about ultras, and in particular trail ultras is the familiar faces you see at every event, and the true characters that partake in these long runs!  It was awesome to talk some rott with Coach Jeff, Rony, see Lori for the first time since returning from Africa, Lee and Dion, Alun, Ian and a heap of other friends and smiling faces.

Before long we gathered at the start line and headed off into the cool morning air.  Flippen ridiculous...so cold I had to start with a shirt on.  Ugh!  That didn't last long though and it was off before 6:30am.  Melinda, Dad and I all settled into a nice easy pace and enjoyed the morning banter.  Melinda came into the event with an ITB problem and given the distance, the course and her injury, it was a big ask for her to even make the start line.  Before about 10-15k was up, it was evident that her leg was causing some considerable drama.  Down hills pretty much reduced her to a walk and were slow going. 

Shortly after the 15k mark, we headed toward the infamous powerlines.  Most people hate them (as did I last year at the miler when I had a chest infections!) but I love them.  It is gnarly, brutal up and down trail for a few k's.  This was SUPER tough on Melinda.  The look on her face said it all and by the time we got to the end of this section, I really thought she was going to drop at the next check point.

To her credit though, she kept a good pace on the flats and up hills and once she got a little running in, we were moving along ok.  We arrived at Checkpoint 8 and saw Ann smiling face!  She is one of the amazing volunteers that sits in the middle of nowhere to help us runners out on race day!  Our crew on the other hand was no where to be seen?? (I think they were drinking coffee) but we battled on. 

The western and eastern loops here are tough little buggers and I always feel like I'm kind of heading into a dungeon to do battle.  I have bonked hard on the western loop and it is a bit of a mental landmark for me.  Melinda was reduced to the 'çrab' on the steep downhills but powerhiked the ups well and ran constant on the flats.  After completing the western loop (and having a good laugh at a strange man hiding in the bush to ambush us (Coach)), seeing our beautiful crew of my two girls, Tegan, Mum and my grandma, we headed off for the eastern loop.  After an awesome climb up Cooks lookout we arrived back at Checkpoint 8 before the trip home.

Now these two loops proved something to me.  I don't want to sound pretentious here but in running, it takes a far bit to impress me these days...and my sister did just that!  She was hurting and had no right to even finish 20k let alone battle on in some rough terrain...but she did.  More on that in a bit.

After leaving Checkpoint 8 (and some first aid for Melinda by the Doc) we started the relatively rolling to flat terrain home, 12kish.  Melinda was running really well on the flats and we were making up some really good time.  Where once at Powerlines I thought we were looking at about 7hrs finish, we were now looking at sub 6hr 30min and finishing strong.  We continued to spot competitors in the distance and push Melinda along to catch them.  We reeled them in one by one until about 2-3k from the finish Melinda got super upset.  We figured out that she must have got a big blood blister under her toenails (which I used to get all the time) and she had stepped on some un-even ground and burst them...very painful.  I talked her through it and she kept on running. 

About 1-2k from the finish we spotted Lori and worked real hard to try and catch her.  We pushed Melinda every bit of that last 12k but we just couldn't quite the dreadlocked, sandal wearing hippy (my sister from another mother)!  She got us by about 70metres.  We finished the race in 6hrs and 20min and I couldn't be a more proud brother.

The crew...with offspring in tow!
So...the title of this blog...The Grills Grit...this is something I came up with along the way and it is quite evident to me that this family possesses a never say die, push through the pain, never give up and do the impossible attitude.  As I said, my sister impressed me.  She was hurt, and hurt bad.  I know that 95% of the population would have dropped out and just put it down to the injury etc...but not a Grills!  She was tough man and kept those legs running!  I remember what it was like to do my first Ultra and it HURT...and I wasn't even injured!  To see her push through the pain, never complain, and just get down to business was amazing!  I will remember The Grills Grit and her determination in my future races that is for sure!  I am super proud to have done this race with the old boy and my sister...what an experience!

On a personal note, we ran much slower than I usually do, but that is irrelevant.  Today I feel fresh and never felt tired on the course.  I soaked up the beautiful nature, positive conversation and lovely 6ish hours training on my feet!  I have some massive plans for the rest of the years racing and this was a great building block!  Thanks to Dad, Melinda, my beautiful family for being support crew once again, all my friends (new and old from the day) and my sponsor Chris at the Mower Doctor Bundy for helping another event go amazing!  RIPPER!

As a last note, I have been at it again!  I have been the guest on another Podcast with the Coach!  I would love it if you have about 50minutes to spare to jump over to the below link and have a listen.  We are mainly chatting about the upcoming Bundy's Fat Ass event, as well as footware, diet and just general rott!  GOLD.  There is also a link below for the Facebook page for the Fat Ass...send me a request on there and keep up to date with what should be a super fun event!  Lastly, I have attached a link below for my affiliate link to Luna Sandals.  If you are looking for some amazing footware, get on over there and get hooked up!

Well guys, that's it!  Thanks for reading, hope you are all stella and training hard!  Love you all, peace, respect and plants!  Run Free...TattooRunner

Bundy's Fat Ass - http://www.facebook.com/groups/642144945811703/

The Podcast - http://www.coachjeff.com.au/2013/05/18/coach-jeff-podcast-316-running-podcast-088/

My Luna Sandals affiliate link - http://www.lunasandals.com/?aid=4c7p5f3p