I had heard of this concept a few times some months ago but it was always associated with road riders. Joe knows I love a challenge and encouraged me to do it as a run. The idea intrigued me and I agreed to give it a go.
Choosing Mount Sugarloaf for this event was a no brainer, she is the first thing I see out of my kitchen window every morning, she is my playground (almost) every day, I know her ridgelines and gullies better than most.
With no events on due to Covid and me not doing any structured training for months I went to where I thought would be the lowest and easiest part to access Mount Sugarloaf and measured up one of my favourite sections of trails on my watch to the highest point being the lookout.
To make it official meant making a segment in Strava, which I completely mucked up. I don’t use Strava and a friend Mark had to be shown how to use it. I called the segment “Goddess of the Sky” which I’m sure some people would think is a bit of a wank, but Mount Everest was originally known by the Sagarmāthā meaning “Goddess Of the Sky” in Tibet, I thought the name was beautiful so went with it.
On August 27th, a week after my 50th Birthday, I had a challenge and the segment organised. I originally thought I would do the run on the 11th of September but thought bugger it I will bring it forward to the 3rd of September, why wait it’s not like a week of training is going to make a difference anyway.
The segment up and back equalled 7.8km with an elevation gain of 395m, gradient 10%. Mostly technical single trail, a couple of little climby sections with a few stairs thrown in at the top to the lookout. I needed to do 23 laps, a total distance of 178km to equal the elevation of Mount Everest which is 8,848m.
I found to be an interesting and difficult challenge to get my head around as I had no time to aim for, I honestly had no idea how long it was going to take me. As it is a solo event I had no one to chase and no one to stay ahead of. The whole idea of the challenge is to reach the equivalent in elevation, that it. The only rules are you have to do it as a continuous event, so you can’t stop and start again the next day and you aren’t allowed to sleep.
I decided on the best location to set up a hub toward the top of the mountain where I could easily pass, I originally thought it would just be me accessing stuff out the back of my car as I went past, but was stoked when Joe volunteered to stay and crew. I’m incredibly lucky and grateful to have an amazing bunch of family and friends who also called up, dropped in &/or gave up their time and volunteered to help out.
The weather gods decided I needed one of the hottest days to kick start Spring off. The lowest point of the mountain was around 31℃ with not the slightest of breeze, after a dozen laps or so I dreaded going down there as it was stifling hot but at the top it was around 24℃. I’m not sure how low the temperature got during the night, but with such a big difference from top to bottom it meant that as the night wore on I got cold really quickly when I stopped at the hub.
For most part I ran happy but did have a low point around I think lap 19 or about 3am when my quads started getting a bit smashed from so much descent and I wanted to go to sleep. It was also around this time I was almost wishing I had picked an easier segment and one that wasn’t so technical. Normally anything like this I would train my sleep deprivation so it was interesting to see how I coped with not being able to have a nap. Massive big thank you to Mel, Geordi and Joe for helping to get me through that section of the night, it was not pretty.
The night sky was lit up by a beautiful big full moon and the sunrise was one of the most stunning, the sun had painted the sky a vibrant red and orange, I felt it was giving me an indication there was an even hotter day to come. I couldn’t help but think that as I was heading back down to the bottom of the mountain I was running into the bowels of hell.
And to wrap it up
Food - I did start off relying on Tailwind but for whatever reason my stomach decided 70km in that was enough of that so it was potatoes and coconut water with some scrambled eggs thrown in.
As always I can trust my inov8 and injinji duo to hold up over this distance and not give me blisters or any problems
As for training, even though I didn’t do a single once of training for this event it does show how important it is to have a good strong solid base. So do your strength training and don’t underestimate how beneficial walking the dogs can be.
Total time on feet 33hr 30min
Although there were many highlights one of the most amazing gifts I received when I finished was an eagle feather from Geordi. Mt Sugarloaf is shaped like a Wedge Tail Eagle and is the totem (or social emblem) of the local Awabakal people. So this was an incredibly thoughtful and a very special gift to receive and one I will forever cherish.
Recovery - none needed, I honestly had no pain or fatigue so clearly didn’t try hard enough Lol (but that is testament again to a good strong solid base, so do your strength work)
Shoes: inov8 X-Talon 200
Handheld flask: inov8
Hat: TailRunner Trucker
Head lamp: Petzl Nao