Brendan aiming to break his own course record in 100-mile race so tough many fail to reach finish line
The GNW is a race so tough that in some previous years less than half the starting field have reached the finish line.
Our athlete Brendan Davies is no such quitter. In fact it was he who, 12 months ago, blazed a trail around Australia’s biggest and hardest 100-miler to set a new course record.
With a stack of awesome international ultra performances under his 2013 belt, Brendan will return to the GNW this Saturday determined to run even faster.
Brendan looks ahead to the race, and writes about the innovative new products he has been testing, including the inov-8 Race Ultra Vest, in his latest blog.
The GNW is a tough Australian 100-mile race, taking runners through subtropical rainforest, eucalypt forests, creek crossings and eventually coastal bush-tracks, all along the renowned Great North Walk hiking trail just north of Sydney.
It is late Spring in Sydney and things are hotting up here. The recent bushfires that have affected many regions around Sydney (including my local area, the Blue Mountains) have been contained but the high temperatures and lack of rain makes them a constant threat.
The conditions usually play a massive part in this race. In some of the hotter and humid years, the DNF rate has been over 50%.
It is a challenge to manage yourself in these types of conditions over rough terrain that includes over 7,000m of elevation gain.
Last year’s conditions were an anomaly – cool and perfect for running. It’s no wonder all the race records were smashed, including the one by me in the 100-mile.
My time of 19 hours 27 minutes will be tough to beat, but given it is again forecasting cool temperatures, it could be bettered.
I know I am a much stronger and fitter runner this year and have already raced over 100 miles this year when placing fifth in the Ultra Trail Mt Fuji in Japan.
This is the toughest and biggest 100 miler in Australia and New Zealand. It will also be my last big race for the year before I have a bit of a rest over Christmas. I am super-keen to finish the year off with a bang!
I’ve had a great 2013 so far, winning five ultra races and seven other races up to marathon distance. My highlight was smashing Kilian Jornet’s course record at the TNF100 in Australia.
For Saturday’s race I will wear my inov-8 Trailroc 245 shoes, which not only guarantee super-comfort but awesome grip on all trails.
I will also use the inov-8 Race Ultra Vest for all my gear, nutrition and hydration needs.
I have been using the ultra vest -which will be available to buy from February -for several months and recently wore it when finishing fourth in the Hakuba International Trail Race in Japan.
This race did not require copious amounts of mandatory gear – just a Windshell jacket (inov-8 Race Elite 105 Windshell), a phone and 500ml of water. Throughout the race I was never more than 8km from an aid station where I could refill my bottle with water.
My setup was one inov-8 500ml bottle filled with water in one side pocket of the ultra vest and my gel flask, electrolyte capsules and a bar in the other pocket to balance it out.
If the race hadn’t had as many aid stations, or the temperature was hotter and fluid requirements therefore higher, I would have used both 500ml bottles in the side pockets and used the top pockets of the vest for the other gear. I even may have even decided to go with the more familiar bladder option.
This is the beauty of the Race Ultra Vest – it has immense flexibility when it comes to race day setup. It enables you to cater specifically for the individual needs and requirements of different races.
I put my windshell and phone in the back compartment of the ultra vest. The interchangeable straps on the front allowed me to form the vest snug around my body without it ever feeling constrictive and the main back portion of the vest formed around the shape of my back very comfortably.
The race was a mixture of some tough ascents, steep slippery descents, technical trail and flat gravel road running.
Throughout the run there was no movement or bounce at all from the pack around my body or back.
Although the conditions on the day were quite muggy, it did not hinder my body heat dispersion. This is a classic trademark of minimalist inov-8 gear; you have all you need with this vest but nothing extra to weigh you down!
I was perspiring a lot throughout this race, but due to the non-absorbent material used in the ultra vest, it did not become a ‘weight’ on my back.
I guess the real workout for this vest was on the many steep, muddy, technical descents during the race. I found I could comfortably bomb down these without having to worry how the ultra vest was going to behave on such sharp corners requiring a range of motions. It stayed stable and secure at all times.
The drink bottle elastic that secures the bottle by looping over the top did the job and the elasticised side pockets kept my other gear and nutrition snug to my body. The same went for the gear in the back compartment.
During the race, using the drink bottle was fast and simple, the bottles came out of the pocket easily and slid back in. It is possible to do this with one hand. Like any race, I chose simpler, less technical sections of the course to take a drink or a slurp from my gel flask. Likewise, refilling the bottle at aid stations required just a quick and simple unscrewing of the lid.
The standout feature of this pack is the unique position of the side pockets for the drink bottles. The pockets sit above the hips on the side of the body between the arm swing. No other pack I know of has tried this positioning. It works so well!
My arms swung freely in my natural running gait and never once touched the bottle. I’ve used the pack many times now and am amazed at how much room there is between my body and arm swing. This is real innovative design at work!
The ultra vest ticks all the boxes. It is light, comfortable, secure and offers several race day setup options.
Read a full independent review of the inov-8 Race Ultra Vest by ultra running journalist and guru Ian Corless (www.iancorless.org)