North Face 50km

A few observant folk have pointed out that I’ve never got round to posting a final update on running the North Face 50km trail run back in May.  So having just obtained a few pics of the event I thought I’d let my kind supporters know how it went… and THANK YOU of course for all the great support! It’s raised over $2,000 for the guys at Greyhound Rescue and I know they were extremely grateful for the much-needed cash. So if you’ve got a spare 20hrs or so please read about my day below… and the website’s still open if anyone feels inclined to donate more after reading!! https://give.everydayhero.com/au/john-mcfadzean

I was running the North Face 50, a 50km trail run through the beautiful Blue Mountains around Katoomba, as the 2nd of 2 endurance events I signed up to this year (the first being the 3 Peaks 235km cycle around Falls Creek). Having run a lot of trails around Sydney’s Northern Beaches in the build up to the event I was under no illusions about just how much effort was involved running that distance with so much climbing (over 2000m!)

The morning of the race was glorious- it seemed we were lucky to be getting one of those idyllic clear, crisp (albeit a little cold first thing) Blue Mountains days. Having eaten my porridge and chia seeds (secret weapon and energy source of the Incas- they’re still going strong, right?!) and prepared my food for the run (bananas, dried figs, mashed sweet potato, and some dodgy home-made energy bars- mmmm!) Mel dropped me off at the start line in the Fairmont Hotel, Leura, happy in the knowledge that this would be the last time she’d be called on for support duties!

The race kicked off at a respectable 8am, and with the sunshine starting to take the chill out of the air the atmosphere was pretty festive. As we crossed the start line I felt great, a week of very little running before the race had cleared up any niggling aches and pains. As we left the Fairmont gardens to join the first of the day’s trails I got into a solid pace which I knew I could maintain and started to move up through the field a little. Straight away the trail began to narrow, plunging and climbing around the gullies and cliffs edging Leura, an immediate indication of the terrain we’d be facing for the rest of the day.

At this time in the morning the sun was still coming in sideways, making running through the woods both stunning and a little arduous as the rays through the trees led to a constant strobing light and shade effect as we ran. At least this is the excuse I’m going with for what happened next…

Hundreds of kilometres of training, hours and hours of trails without a single mishap, yet despite all of this on the 4th kilometre of running today I failed to notice a tree root, twisting my ankle badly on it, and fell head over heels coming down hard on my knee. I quickly jumped to my feet, rubbed the damned ankle to check it didn’t feel broken, and carried on running. It was immediately sore, and my knee ached with some pretty dramatic blood streaming down my leg. The thought of running 46kms on hilly trails at the best of times is pretty daunting, so this development had really spiced things up!

TNF1337_00125-web

There were 2 checkpoints- at 11km and 37km, and I thought I’d see if I could make it to the first checkpoint before deciding whether to continue. By about 8kms in my ankle and calf had turned a pretty unpleasant blue colour and was already swollen. At the 1st checkpoint my ankle had swollen to the extent that I had to loosen my trainer, so clearly I had to make a decision. All those miles of training, all those kind donations…

So with a combination of unreasonable optimism, anger at myself, a little stubbornness, and even a little nagging thought that ‘well, dying trying makes for a better story than just giving up’, I decided to go for it.

There was no point in going slowly as that would just prolong the pain, and even stopping for a couple of minutes at the checkpoint had caused my ankle and knee to begin to seize up. Ironically, it was going downhill which hurt the most and I was reduced to a hobble on the serious downhill stages, meaning that I had to make up time going uphill. So began a long day of being passed by people going downhill, only to be re-acquainted with them going up- not the ideal use of energy! The scenery was a fantastic distraction from all the hills, but it was astonishing just how hilly this route was- I honestly don’t remember a single flat bit of track. As we hit 25kms my food was keeping my energy levels up and I was in a near hallucinogenic state which actually felt pretty good (seems that pain and joy aren’t all that far apart!)

 TNF1345_00146-web
Then came the steps. Oh the steps! After a lengthy hill climb from the bottom of the forest valley I was faced with a cliff leading up to Katoomba. The Giant Stairway is an incredible engineering feat of around 1000 steps clinging to the side of the cliff which rises a few hundred metres, and it is a very tough climb, especially after 25kms. At the top I naively thought that was the end of the steps experience…
 TNF1353_00156-web

We reached the 2nd checkpoint at 37kms, I was exhausted but pretty sure I could finish. The checkpoint had loads of food and drinks and a well-meaning medic who insisted on treating my dodgy looking knee. He was quite concerned about it so I decided not to show him my ankle which looked really quite scary by this stage. After a day of eating all the right things to keep me going I spotted a huge box of gummy snakes, bears etc, and concluded the last 13 kms would be completed on a massive sugar-high!

Man I underestimated that last 13 kms- up and down and up the steps we went along the cliffs. Just when you thought you were on the same level as the finish line we’d plunge down another set of steps into another gully. I don’t think I’ve ever heard so much colourful language about steps before!

With 6 Hrs 45 mins on the clock I finally crossed the finish line in Fairmont Hotel gardens, Leura- exhausted, slightly delirious, and really quite proud of what can be achieved when you put your mind to something.

 TNF1304_00507-web

John.

This entry was posted in News. Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

4 Comments

  1. Jenny
    Posted November 29, 2013 at 8:47 PM | Permalink

    What a fantastic effort. Cheers.

  2. Elizabeth
    Posted December 1, 2013 at 5:03 AM | Permalink

    Great effort John, I was exhausted just reading your adventures……..

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

*
*

  • Make a Donation


    NOTE: Donations are tax deductible.
  • Online Shop

  • Subscribe to our mailing list

  • Sponsors