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THE GREAT NORTH WALK 100s

 

RACE INFORMATION

HAZARDS
 
Bushfires    •     Animals    •    Trail Conditions    •    Water Crossings    •    Navigation    •    Traffic    •    Medical
 

Bushfires

The GNW100s passes through a number of forested areas prone to bushfires with limited vehicle access.  September is a month when the fire danger is increasing as summer approaches and average temperatures rise. There have been instances of bushfires burning in, and Severe Fire Danger being declared for, the area in September during past years.  The Organisers will liaise closely with the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) prior to, and during, the GNW100s.

The Event will be cancelled if there is a bushfire burning anywhere near the course which is deemed, after consultation with the RFS and/or the Police, to pose significant risk to Competitors, Volunteers or Support Crews.  Specifically, the organisers will be in contact with the RFS in the days leading up to the Event about forecast weather conditions and likely bushfire risks.  The event may be cancelled prior to the Start Date or called off during the Event if

  • a Total Fire Ban is declared for the Greater Hunter or Greater Sydney Region Fire Areas for either the Saturday or Sunday of the Event (Total Fire Bans are typically declared at 4:00pm on the preceding day),  or

  • if a bushfire is burning within 10 kilometres and it is the view of the RFS that either

    • the bushfire risks becoming a significant threat to Competitors, or

    • fighting the bushfire is depleting RFS resources to the point where they could not adequately respond to a new bushfire threat closer to the race route.

Prior to the GNW100s, Competitors must

  • provide the number of the mobile phone they will be carrying during the Event to the Race Director, and the contact details for someone to be called in the Event of an emergency affecting them personally,

  • provide the number of the mobile phone their Support Crews will be carrying during the Event to the Race Director,

  • provide the number of the mobile phone their Pacer(s), if they have one, will be carrying during the Event to the Race Director,

  • include in their mobile phone directory the phone numbers of the Race Director (0408 430694) and Race Communications Director (0401 679924),

  • install, if they will be carrying a Smartphone (all Competitors must carry a mobile/cell phone), the “Fires Near Me NSW” Smartphone App for use during the GNW100s if they have any concerns about bushfires and/or smoke,

  • ensure they have the latest version of the Detailed Maps and Detailed Directions marked with Emergency Evacuation Routes (EERs) and Emergency Evacuation Points (EEPs),

  • not smoke at Checkpoints or anywhere along the Course, and

  • familiarise themselves and their Support Crews with the actions to take if they are caught in a bushfire:

    • If on foot

      • Cover exposed skin.

      • If on a slope – move across it then down it towards the rear of the fire and find a clearing or already burnt area.

      • Do not outrun a fire, or go through low flames unless you can see a safe clearing.

    • If driving

      • Do not drive in or near a bushfire.

      • Do not drive through flames or smoke.

      • Stop at a clearing or roadside with low vegetation.

      • Switch off ignition and turn hazard and headlights on.

      • Stay inside unless near safe shelter.

      • Keep vents windows and doors closed.

      • Lie down below window level under a woollen blanket until the fire front passes.

    • If a fire cannot be avoided

      • Lie face down under a rock, embankment or in a hollow.

      • If possible get into a pool, pond, dam, and stream – but not in a water tank.

During the GNW100s, Competitors must

  • call Triple Zero (000) with details if a bushfire is observed,

  • contact the Race Communications Centre on 0401 679924 if smoke is observed, possibly from a bushfire,

  • not smoke at Checkpoints or anywhere near the course,

  • carry a mobile phone and monitor it for messages (coverage is generally available at higher altitudes),

  • follow directions issued by Event Officials and/or the Authorities (RFS, Police, etc.), and

  • inform the Race Communications Director of their location and status by SMS, giving their Name and Race Number, if they have been safely evacuated from the course in the event of an emergency.

Animals

Venomous snakes and spiders do inhabit the country through which the GNW100s pass, however they are rarely seen.  Nevertheless, Runners need to make themselves aware of the appropriate treatment for snake and spider bites (click here for details).  Leeches are also common along the trail, particularly in damper sections and during and after rain (click here for details).  Although unpleasant, they are not dangerous in the short-term.  However, bites become itchy and occasionally become infected in the days after the initial bite.

Trail Conditions

Entrants must cope with rough trail surfaces, precipitous ascents and descents, mud, creek crossings, and slippery rocks and roots.  In many places Runners will need to walk because of the nature of the trail, or would be well-advised to walk for their own safety.

Water Crossings

There are a number of water crossings along the Course although, with care, Runners should be able to avoid getting their feet wet.  However, care needs to be exercised when crossing streams after rain and it should be assumed that all rocks are slippery.

Navigation

Although The Great North Walk is marked for its entire length, the markers are sometimes hard to see and the Course is difficult to follow in a number of places.  Great care needs to be exercised in following the Course and all Runners are advised to carefully follow their progress on the Detailed Maps and Detailed Directions which are available on the Race Website, and must be carried by all runners.  If you believe at any time that you may not be on the correct Course, do not attempt to find your way cross country.  If you are sure of your route, backtrack to where you last saw a Course marker and try to find other markers showing the direction of the Course.  If you are unable to work out where you are, move to higher ground, if possible to do so without travelling cross country, and try calling or messaging on your mobile phone for assistance.  The Race Director is contactable on 0408 430694 and you should key this number into your phone’s directory in advance.  A list of other contact numbers will be available at the Start on race day.  If this is not feasible and you are unable to find your way, stay where you are!  Wandering randomly risks taking you farther from the Course and reducing your chances of being found.  If you do become injured, exhausted or ill, STAY ON THE TRAIL.  You will be found there either by another Runner or by searchers.  If you feel dizzy, disoriented or confused, do not risk falling.  Sit or lie down on the trail until you recover or are found.  An unconscious Runner even a few feet off the trail could be impossible to find until it is too late.

Traffic

Runners are likely to encounter vehicles on almost any part of the Course.  Apart from those parts of the GNW100s that travel along public roads, 4WD vehicles and trail-bikes are very common on tracks in the State Forests.  GIVE WAY TO VEHICLES WHEN CROSSING OR TRAVELLING ALONG ANY PART OF THE COURSE.  Runners are required to leave the road or trail surface, stopping if necessary, whenever encountering vehicles, from either direction, during the GNW100s.

Medical

There are significant and possibly life threatening medical risks associated with running in the GNW100s.  Qualified medical staff with transport will be on duty for the duration of the event.  Some First Aid capability will be available at all Checkpoints along with the means to access emergency medical personnel (see Race Communications here).

Renal Shutdown  Cases of renal shutdown (kidney failure) have been reported in ultramarathons.  Renal shutdown occurs from muscle tissue injury which causes the release of myoglobin, a protein material, into the blood plasma.  Myoglobin is cleared from the blood stream by the kidneys and will look brownish-coloured in the urine.  Adequate hydration will help process myoglobin through the kidneys.  Overwhelming amounts of myoglobin may clog the filtering system of the kidneys either partially or totally.  If not treated, renal shutdown can cause permanent impairment of kidney function.  IT IS CRUCIAL TO CONTINUE HYDRATING USING ELECTROLYTE FLUIDS DURING THE FINAL HOURS OF THE RUN AND FOR SEVERAL DAYS FOLLOWING THE RUN OR UNTIL THE URINE IS CLEAR AND OF NORMAL FREQUENCY.

Heat Stroke/Hyperthermia  Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are serious risks.  These conditions can cause death, kidney failure and brain damage.  It is important that Runners be aware of the symptoms of impending heat injury.  These include but are not limited to: nausea, vomiting, headache, dizziness, faintness, irritability, lassitude, confusion, weakness, and rapid heart rate.  Impending heat stroke may be preceded by a decrease in sweating and the appearance of goose bumps on the skin, especially over the chest.  Heat stroke may progress from minimal symptoms to complete collapse in a very short period of time.  Remember that your muscles produce tremendous amounts of heat when running up and down hill.  The faster the pace, the more heat is produced.  A light-coloured shirt and cap, particularly if kept wet during the Race, can help.  Acclimatization to heat requires up to two months.  If signs of heat exhaustion occur, we recommend rapid cooling by applying ice to the groin, neck and armpits.  In addition to drinking at Checkpoints, Runners will need to carry fluids between Checkpoints.  To accurately measure fluid intake and output balance, weigh before and after a training run.  This will help you establish your personal fluid requirements (especially during the heat of the day).  Remember to replace lost electrolytes lost from sweat along with lost fluids.  Every Runner has different needs that should be determined during training.

Risks Associated With Low Sodium and Chloride Counts  Low sodium levels (hyponatremia) in ultramarathon Runners has been associated with severe illness requiring hospitalization.  It is important for long-distance athletes to use fluids containing electrolytes to replace the water and salts lost during exercise.  WATER INTAKE ALONE IS NOT SUFFICIENT, as water intoxication and possibly death may result.  This problem may in fact worsen after the Race, as the non-electrolyte-containing fluid which has been accumulating in the stomach is absorbed.  Potassium and calcium replacement is also important, although these levels change less with fluid loss and replenishment.  Signs and symptoms of hyponatremia include; weight gain, bloating, nausea, vomiting, headache, confusion, incoordination, dizziness, muscle twitching/cramping and fatigue.  If left untreated, it may progress to seizures, pulmonary and cerebral oedema, coma and death.  There are two ways to put oneself at risk of hyponatremia; over-hydration and replacing sweat with hypotonic fluids.  Weight gain of greater than 3% should cue a Runner to stop drinking, slow down and allow the body to readjust its fluid status through urination of excess fluids, after which electrolyte fluids or high sodium containing foods such as bouillon cubes can be consumed.  Risks of hyponatremia can be minimized by acclimatizing to the heat, training the endocrine system, salting foods a few days prior to the Run, matching fluid and electrolyte intake to sweat losses and monitoring weight.  The best way to achieve proper electrolyte and fluid balance is to hydrate with fluids containing proper amounts of electrolytes and to replace with sodium-containing foods or supplements, if required, and as determined during your training.  Potassium, while present in many electrolyte-replacement solutions, may also be replaced with fruit, such as bananas or oranges.  Beer or other alcoholic beverages should not be taken at any time during the Race.  Electrolyte-containing fluids should be continued after the Race until the gastrointestinal tract is fully functional, which may take several hours. Once the gut is working and adequate hydration has occurred, the normal balance of thirst, hunger, digestion and kidney filtration will maintain the proper balance of fluids and electrolytes.

Effects of Cold/Hypothermia  Temperatures may be as low as 4⁰C during the night portion of the Run.  Hypothermia is a potentially serious risk, especially at night since one's energy reserves will have been depleted from 20 or more hours of running.  Hypothermia can strike very quickly, particularly when pace slows from exhaustion or injury.  The initial warning signs of hypothermia often include lethargy, disorientation and confusion.  The Runner will feel very cold with uncontrolled shivering and may become confused, unaware of the surroundings, and may possibly be an immediate danger to himself.  Staying well-nourished, adequately hydrated and appropriately clothed will help avoid hypothermia.  It is important that Runners have access to warm clothing through their Support Crews, Drop Bags, or both.

Use of Drugs  The use of performance enhancing drugs, as defined in the Prohibited List (click here) published by the World Anti-Doping Agency (click here), is prohibited.  No drugs of any kind should be taken before, during or immediately after the GNW100s.  Many drugs can increase the risk of heat stroke.  A partial list of problem drugs includes amphetamines, tranquilizers, and diuretics.

Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)  These include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin), naproxen sodium (Aleve), and ketoprofen (Orudis KT).  Studies have cautioned that the use of NSAIDs during ultra distance exercise is associated with an increased risk of exertional hyponatremia. Researchers believe that this effect is likely due to altered renal (kidney) function. The issues related to altered kidney function in athletes are not hard to imagine. Poor fluid transport and restriction can lead to dehydration, hyponatremia and at the extreme, kidney failure.

Injuries from Falling  Falling is an ever-present danger in the GNW100s.  Much of the trail is narrow, uneven and rutted, with slippery rocks and roots, and precipitous ascents and descents.  There are also sections where the trail passes along the edge of cliffs and bluffs.  Great care needs to be taken throughout the GNW100s to avoid injury from falling.

Muscle Necrosis  It has been found that some degree of muscle cell death in the legs occurs from participation in ultramarathons.  The recovery can take several months.  This seems to be a bigger problem in Runners who become dehydrated or have overexerted themselves.

Overuse Injuries  Innumerable overuse injuries can occur, especially in the knee and the ankle.  Sprains and fractures can easily occur on these rough trails and blisters are always a risk.

Common Fatigue  One of the dangers you will encounter is fatigue.  Fatigue, combined with the effects of dehydration, hypothermia, hyperthermia, hyponatremia, hypoglycaemia and other debilitating conditions can produce disorientation and irrationality.

Management of snake and spider bites  Information on the treatment of snake and spider bites is available 24 hours a day from the NSW Poisons Information Centre on 131 126.  Venomous snake and spider bites are uncommon but may be life-threatening and difficult to treat.  If the snake envenomation is severe, the victim will become progressively more unwell without appropriate treatment.  Funnelweb spider envenomation is often more dramatic, sometimes leading to a critical state in less than an hour.  First aid recommendations for envenomation are to firmly apply a compression bandage around the bite site then around the whole limb and immobilise the limb with a splint. This delays systemic venom absorption. If you don't have enough material to cover the whole limb, a broad tourniquet applied firmly to the limb without disturbing the distal pulses is better than nothing—as long as the person is totally immobilised.

  

 

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