King of the Mountain (Newcastle Cross Country) – Scott Alderia 50
Race Date: July 29th Results: 2017
This race result is one of the highlights of my running career. I went into the race feeling hopeful I could match last years time of 2:03:50 or maybe slightly improve on it, didn’t give myself a big change of going sub 2 hour. To get 1:58:10 is to me like Runlab's mantra of “achieving my impossible”
Back in 2015 I had a massive setback that I thought might be it for me running. A few months after running my first sub 40 minute 10K at the Sydney 10, I was taken out by an autoimmune disease, Reactive Arthritis. Docs aren't sure what set it off but it may have been a flu vaccine that I had as my elderly parents are in the risk category. Anyway, over weeks, discomfort turned to pain, and after admission to hospital my knees swelled with fluid and I could barely walk a few metres. After diagnosis and a week in hospital I was discharged, but still not very mobile, on anti inflammatory pills and eye drops. Eventually I was able to start limited training, first on the bike trainer, then some short rides and runs. Slowly I built back up, managing to compete in the iStadium Half near the end of 2015, in around 1:34:00 or so.
In 2016 fitness returned and I got some half marathon PB's and did the 2016 KOM, in 2:03:50 at the time I felt very fit and was sure that growing older Id not be able to break that time.
In the weeks before this years KOM, Id got a good result in the Winery Half new course of 1:25:29, with hills. In the weeks before this Id changed my training a bit, no more really long 35 km runs in Glenrock, more normal 20 to 25k runs but mirroring the Flyers training regimen by adding a Thursday long interval set such as 6 x 5 mins @ 10k race pace with 400m float @ 5 to 5:30 pace, in addition to the popular “Los Federales” Tuesday morning intervals at Federal Park Wallsend. The Flyers idea of doing speed work on soft grass is unbeatable, so I do that as well.
In the weeks before KOM, I tapered as well as I could, though having the Winery half so close couldn't be helped. Indeed it seemed to have helped my training. In the week before I ran NXC Kitchener hard, but on great advice from the wise Al McCloskey took it easy then on. No Sunday long run, and slower intervals ran at half to full marathon pace only, and a reduced Thursday set, and a 4km easy run on Friday, so hopefully I was all set. The legs felt a bit strange with the reduction in training, I've read that's a good sign. I finish off by having normal dinner then the infamous Aldi lasagna just before bed, so I'm fueled up with no undigested food.
Race day: 2 wheet-bix with skim milk and some Sustagen, that's it. Arrive Mt Sugarloaf, Flyers singlet, Skins Long Tights, and Altra Paragidm 2 zero drop shoes. 2 gels in the pocket, any hydration will be from the drink stations. I also took 2 salt tablets shortly before the start in case of cramping as I'm on a low salt diet.
Race briefing done and down to the start line. Self seed a row or so back and we’re off. I may have looked silly but I had 2 watches, one the Garmin 920XT has a dead barometric altimeter, so I record my runs with a Suunto Ambit 3 run. I wear the Garmin because of its extra functions such as “race an activity” I had last years run downloaded to it. It will give me real time updates as to how far ahead or behind Id be as the run progressed compared to last year. As the first few kms passed and we settled down I was a few secs ahead.
The leaders pulled away, Viktor and some others passed me and slowly forged ahead. I saw I was still slowly adding seconds to my time ahead so just maintained pace, further along some steeper hills came and I worked harder but couldnt get closer to Viktor. The ol tummy was a little bit upset too as it sometimes gets on hard runs but perceived effort and heart rate were ok, HR sitting on around 145 sometimes lower.
I hit the hills pretty hard pointing the toes to avoid heel striking trying to use my feet and achilles as springs to store energy with each step. Knowing the big descents to come Im reluctant to go flat out and smash the legs too hard on the initial downhills. Viktor stops at a drink station at the top of the 2nd highest hill on the course, Im ok for hydration and keep going.
Now the big descent is on, time for the brakes to come off. The occasional glance at the watch shows me hitting 3:30 pace but I daren't glance away too long, there’s an element of danger here, a crash as Paul Fenton said in the race briefing could well be a trip to hospital. Ahead I see Dave Robertson and some others, and I soon manage to reach them. Vlad the race winner powers by on his way back up, then the other leaders go past we all shout encouragement to each other such is the comrade of running. We run pretty much together down to the turnaround drink station, where I take my first gel and wash it down with an Endura drink from the station.
Now what comes down must go up, and Gravity will ask me to pay what I earned on the way down. Thankfully the tummy has settled down and again I concentrate on form, pushing off with the toes and keeping the heels off the ground where I can, taking smaller dolly steps on the steepest parts. More and more runners come down the hill, we often do high fives as they go past. Ultra runner Scotty Baker powers past me on his way up, Im just behind Dave, he does the ultra runner's push on the knees brisk walk on the very steepest parts I too briefly walk the draining humps they are very steep, most of the time I try and just jog slowly over them. I manage to catch up to Dave though we dont get to talk much this is NOT conversational pace hehehe. Dave pulls ahead. I grab another Endura at a station, and take final gel at the next station at the top, which is a great feeling to get to.
At last some downhills, I power on and catch up to Dave again, he is flying and we both hit the downhills fast hitting 3:20 pace. Dave pulls ahead and I thing the worst is behind us now. But with such a hard effort this final phase seems to drag on and on. 6 Kms to go, barely a parkrun left, then 5 to go, slowly the kms wind down. The last km seems to go on for an eternity, but I look at the time ahead and estimated finish times and cant believe what I see. Despite the legs getting tired I power on excited by the finish time that awaits.
I hear the cheering and applause before I pop over the final rise, then there is the finish, packed with people both spectators and those who have finished the KOM and runners ready to start the normal cross country races. Dave finishes amid applause and cheering. Then Im spotted and more cheering and applause comes. Wow what a way to finish, amid shouts of “Go Scotty' I cross the line, gleefully accept my finish card and stop my watches. The card says “7”. Wow Ive came 7th amid a field of quality runners. I look at my watch and see a huge 5 minute 40 sec PB staring me in the face. I seem to recover well and try to keep moving, Viktor finishes, then Col Goodenough, last years winner, amid more applause and cheering. Lots of hand shaking and congratulations the comradre is just brilliant.
Finally we head over to get our cards scanned and am beckoned over for some beautiful hot soup, I also take my protein drink I always have after a hard effort, scoops of protein powder and sustagen. I also tuck into the BBQ food, fantastic organisation there most appreciated.
Head back to the finish to watch more runners finish and catch up with them, we all chat about our experience, Viktor calls me “Speedy Gonzales” for my knack of disappearing on the downhills hehehe.
Congratulations to all who did King of the Mountain, it is my toughest race on the 2017 calendar for me and indeed the toughest local race to Newcastle other then the GNW 100 races. Newcastle Cross Country have an incredible event here, so well organised, safety paramount with race numbers taken at all drink stations, which were plentiful, more then enough to keep me well hydrated. Hard-working volunteers were great, a lot to do setting up the remote drink stations and so on and the value for money for this race just incredible, I don’t think there is any other trail race of this calibre anywhere in Australia that offers so much for so little outlay. Thanks also to the photographers who captured us so well.
Thanks also to all the sponsors and to everyone who worked behind the scenes or anywhere to make this such a fantastic event. Finally thanks to running groups like the Flyers, whose training program certainly gets the results.