The night Elliot Cooper and Matthew Griggs set out to run Canberra's Centenary Trail it dropped below six degrees.
While most of us were sleeping through those chilly early hours of the first weekend in May, Mr Cooper and Mr Griggs prepared for a 6am start to attempt the 145-kilometre track unsupported.
Pitched by Access Canberra as a "seven-day walk or a three-day bike ride", the Cent follows fire trails, walking tracks and paved paths in both urban areas and bushland, taking in Cooleman Ridge, One Tree Hill, Ainslie, Majura and Black Mountains.
Having completed it in March with family running alongside him in parts and providing food along the way, Mr Cooper roped Mr Griggs in this month to take on the trail with what would fit in their backpacks.
To qualify as an unsupported run, the pair was only permitted to fill their water bottles at stations stretched out along the route. Crew delivered pizza and wife Mutsumi Yamazaka joining for the final leg would be fond memories from a past run.
With an 18 hour and 36 minute time to beat, the pair set off north on the Hackett Houses Trail with little more than head torches, a basic first-aid kit, phones and a bag full of food.
For Mr Cooper this meant homemade energy bars, vegemite wraps, trail mix and lollies.
For Mr Griggs it was sports gels, brownies and cheeseburgers.
"These nutrition strategies would bear very different results," Mr Cooper wrote on his blog Elliotrunsalot.
It had turned to light when the pair summited Mt Majura, weaving a line through Goorooyarroo and Mulligan's as the day warmed to a balmy eight degrees.
With the hills of Gungahlin covered in heavy clouds, the pair was pummeled by 65-kilometre hour winds and horizontal rain.
Muscles aching from the cold and nearing exhaustion, Mr Cooper said he felt sick at the thought of eating and watched on as Mr Griggs happily plowed through his Maccas.
It wasn't just their nutrition strategies that differed either, the two took turns to lead as the trail changed from paved to bush track and back.
"Matt thrives on the grind of asphalt and would push ahead on the bike path from Hall to Lake Ginninderra, or Tuggeranong Centre to MacArthur," Mr Cooper said.
"I would suddenly feel better and take the lead over Gossan Hill or at Isaacs Ridge. But it was Matt that was setting the pace, and I'm glad he was there to drag me through, no matter how my quads burned or my unfed stomach complained."
At around midnight the runners were at the summit of Mt. Ainslie with just the descent remaining.
Mr Griggs took the lead as the pair completed the loop at their start point, stopping their watches at 18 hours and 23 minutes.
Shaving 13 minutes of his March run, Mr Cooper said their run put them well ahead of the previous fastest known time.
While ACT Parks don't record who runs the trail in what time, Julie Quinn and David Baldwin were reportedly first to complete the run in 2017. Since then just three people, including the pair, have been listed on run record website, Fastest Known Time.
Having completed it towards the end of 2019, Brendan Codrington said he would be "forever changed" from the experience which saw his name added to that list.
Mr Cooper's Centenary Trail achievement came about after bushfire and coronavirus twice postponed the Kathmandu Neverest Challenge event he had been training for, running up to 140-kilometres up Canberra hills each week.
The Australian National University student Jackson Bursill created Neverest after the earthquake in Nepal disrupted his plans to trek to Mount Everest base camp in 2015.
Since then, the Australian Himalayan Foundation fundraiser has seen teams and individuals around the country climb 8848 metres - the height of the summit of Mt Everest.
In 2019, Mr Cooper was one of 241 Canberra participants to take on 24 ascents of Mt Ainslie in a day. Of the 28 solo entrants just seven finished.
"Yeah, it's pretty tough," Mr Cooper admits.
Next up, his sights are set on creating his own "Canberra Round" event which will take in all the hills and around 180 kilometres of the territory, this time with a support crew.
Having discovered a love of ultra running in the mountains of Japan with Mutsumi just six years ago, the future looks long, arduous and undulating for this Pharmacy Guild professional from Canberra.
"It's about testing yourself and seeing what you can do," Mr Cooper said.
FIVE TIPS FOR SURVIVING AN ULTRA EVENT
Advice from Australian Institute of Sport physiologist Philo Saunders:
- Have a good level of fitness and ideally you have done many extended distance runs/walks/rides in preparation for event. Multiple hours required. The better the preparation and fitness level the easier the event will be.
- Have a good nutrition plan that has been practiced with appropriate carbohydrate and fluid intake to get through an endurance event. Bring foods/drinks that are easy to digest and a mix of sweet and savoury foods. Drinks with electrolytes are important to replace essential salts lost through sweat.
- Have comfortable clothing, footwear and a backpack that have been used several times. Want to avoid blister and chafing where possible.
- Set an achievable goal for the event to keep you motivated. This can be time based, distance covered, position in a race etc. Have an event plan which includes pacing, feeding and rest periods.
- Have a good basic first aid kit and important items like a waterproof jacket, hat, sunscreen and space blanket.