Guest Post- Tanya Carroll- GNW100 2015

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GNW Race Report

I thought it might be therapeutic to write down my learnings from the GNW miler on the weekend. Perhaps it will stop me from rocking in a corner in a foetal position for the next 12 months. Which surprises me, because yesterday I was REALLY REALLY HAPPY with my first ever choice to DNF a race, at the 132km checkpoint. I secretly congratulated myself for making the best bloody decision I have ever made in my entire life.

What a difference a day makes

Indulge me as I summarise the 25hrs leading up to my decision to pull out.

Nervous, started cautiously, enjoying running with friends, getting hot, bit hotter, really hot, SO DAMN HOT, I HATE THE HEAT! WHY DID I ENTER THIS HOT RACE!! HOW DID PEOPLE EVER DO THIS RACE WHEN IT WAS IN NOVEMBER AND IT WAS EVEN HOTTER!!!! Head spins, nausea, vomiting (on constant rotation), got a bit disorientated and tried to go back down what I thought were the Basin stairs, met Kirrily who turned me round again. Got mobile reception – woo hoo! Rang my pacer Leah to tell her she would have a much better time staying in Sydney and watching TV, rather than drive all this way – oh and I could also stop at the 100km mark like those other more sensible people. Devastated that she didn’t seem to be listening – she said my story would have to be a lot better than that to convince her. So work on my story I did. I worked on it for the next friggin 12 hours.

I will say the lows were interrupted by amazing support at Checkpoints where heavenly creatures put ice packs on your neck, poured you Coke, salted your potatoes, asked you questions to check that you weren’t as delirious as you appeared, and gave hugs – I didn’t want to ever leave.

Somehow I made it to Yarramalong (also the 100k finish line) where with Leah and Russell’s help I carried on. After turning onto the track at Cherry Lane I had really had enough. I tried everything to persuade Leah to go back to the road. But no-one in Yarramalong has phone reception so who would pick us up? What sort of place is this!! Dumb ass town. Who came up with this GNW course anyway? I thought about setting off my personal locator beacon without telling Leah but decided it would be a bit (OK a lot) frivolous. Leah worked her magic and got me over the hump and with the cooler night air I was feeling much better. Our spirits were boosted by seeing Marty, Jen, Ross and Justine and we loped along together.

Got to Somersby not long after the sun had come up. I said in a very calm and sensible voice that I was keen to pull out, but that I would follow advice I had given to others and first lay down to nap and decide if that was the right thing to do. Ha-ha I fooled them – I’m never going to carry on, I just need a final few minutes to work on my story. 30 mins of snoozing and scheming. So up I got, confirmed that I was going to pull out, everyone argued, I ignored them, THE END.

Tanya GNW100 2015

Key learnings from this simultaneously sublime and torturous experience:

  • If you are going to do a race, have an absolute water tight reason for doing it – one that is going to pass the test when you are at your lowest possible point. My reason for doing GNW was to get points towards UTMB. The trouble was I knew once I had passed through Yarramalong that I already had secured 3 points, so I could no longer see the value of getting one extra point for another 9 hours of pain. I should have had a much more robust goal – to finish THIS epic race, not only to qualify for another.
  • A whole lot of little excuses cannot be added together to justify why you should quit.
    If each one isn’t reason enough to stop, then discard it, don’t combine it with all of your other floppy, sucky, limpy, saggy, flaccid, feeble and risible excuses. At the time I quit at 132kms I wasn’t injured and my nausea had subsided significantly. My excuses, and why they were crap are as follows :

 

Snivelling excuse # 1 to 6 Why they are crap What I should have been thinking
I can’t cope with hot temps I don’t get to choose the conditions. Don’t enter the race if I’m not prepared for whatever is thrown at me. Yes it’s hot. If I take my time at checkpoints I still have enough buffer to fast hike the whole way home if needed
I have been sick all week Probably the closest to a valid excuse. Yes I’ve been unwell but another 9 hours won’t kill me
I don’t want to feel like I did yesterday How I felt yesterday is irrelevant to how the rest of my race will pan out Stay in the moment. I feel good* right now – lets keep soldiering on.

*good is a relative term

I won’t get home until about 10pm by the time I finish the race, have a sleep in the car and drive home If I was worried about late nights/ lack of sleep I shouldn’t enter any ultra’s. Think this gets top prize for most wretched excuse Won’t my kids be chuffed when I wake them in the morning and tell them I finished.
I’d rather be with my kids right now. The few extra hours I will be away from them will be nothing compared to the hours of training Í will need to do if I decide to enter this race again to get even See left and above
My legs are sore Of course they are!!!! What do you think they are meant to feel like after 132kms you moron. This is tough but I am tougher
Rotated between :

–        I already have 3 UTMB points by getting to Yarramalong

–        I don’t even need points for the next draw

–        I don’t want to do any ultras ever again so you can stick your stupid points

My goal of gaining points was too easy to dismiss when the going got tough Have a goal that still works no matter how low you feel. With the wonderful and absurd benefit of hindsight, one motivator could have been “Do you want to be the only NRG runner not to finish?” I’m pretty sure this would have had me kissing that finishing post!

 

So with all that said and done I still took a lot of enjoyment and learnings out of the race. And so many amazing people helped make my experience what it was. And before you ask – no I really don’t need to go back to even the score!

 

Photo credit : Pip Candrick

Great North Walk 100 Miles- Guest Blog- GNW100 2015 Chantelle Farrelly

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GNW100 Miler Race Report – September 2015

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Pre Start:

The day started the same as any other race day, up early, half nervous/half excited. Super Supporter Sally was driving myself, Rocco & Doug to the start about 10 mins away. When we got to the start there was lots to do: check in, collect arm tags (no race numbers), mandatory gear check, weigh in (58.4kg), drop off checkpoint bags and meet all the other crazy NRGers (and non NRGers) we’d trained with along the way. Then the Race Brief began and things got serious, eeeeekkkk!

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Start to CP1 Forest (Distance 28.6k) – Expected Time – 4hrs – Actual 3:48

We all lined up, hi vis’s on and everyone was in great spirits. There was hugs, kisses and well wishes. Once we were told to go Geoff lead the group out. There was lots of time to chat along the road. Rocco and I had planned to run together as long as we were both happy with how we were going. So that’s how we started out. It’s a long road section before you hit trails with a few hills thrown in, of course. The first few k’s ticked off quickly and we all knew the climb to the communications tower was coming up. Tim, Doug, Rocco, Robyn and I all ended up running some of this section together which was an unexpected surprise and settled the nerves because it made it feel like a training run rather than the big day. Coming into CP1 I could see Chris, who was there to support Ann in the 100k and Sally waiting for Rocco. I didn’t have a CP bag here so I just filled up my water and I was ready to go. Time in CP: 2mins

CP1 to CP2 Congewai School (Distance 23.9k (52.5k Total) – Expected Time – 2:45) Actual 2:51

Rocco was still getting some stuff so I shouted that I was going to go ahead, he said he’d catch up. Error No.1, I should have waited! I headed off down the trail and looked at my mini directions which I thought said the next turn off wasn’t for the next 11k’s so I trotted along thinking how nice this bit of downhill trail was, how lucky I was to be out there. Luckily for me a lady pulled up in a car beside me and asked if I was doing the race when I said I was she told me I’d missed the turn off… Argh… Error No.2 so I started to run back up the hill because I knew Rocco would now be chasing me down. By the time I made it to the turn off he was nowhere to be seen. I met a few people along the trail and had to try and get myself out of panic mode and just hope that either he would realise I was not running that fast and slow down or that he would be at CP2 when I got there. I sorted my head out and just continued on. I’d had a shocker of a training day on this section and was happy to be feeling ok out on the long firetail. Near the end of the technical downhill before turning onto the road I met Doug and he reminded me to put on my Hi Vis going onto the road section. It was very warm along the road towards the school. As I got close I met Rocco & Robyn coming to opposite way after finishing up in the CP and heading up towards the communication tower. Hmmm panic mode re-engaged, I had about a km to get my head around the fact that I would have to navigate myself for the rest of the run (navigation is probably one of my weakest points and something that Rocco and I had laughed at during the Monday night trail runs). I got into the CP and it was a flurry of activity: get weighed, check in, sort out CP bags with the help of Sally and Alison (thanks ladies), get all my gear out for the gear check (lost my buff along the road somewhere so poor Sally ran off at full pace to her car to get me one, Tim was at the CP too and gave me his spare one), check out. I had asked Tim if he wanted to run together for this section but when I looked around he was still getting himself sorted so I decided to set off on my own. Time in CP: 12mins

CP2 to CP3 The Basin (Distance 29.1k (81.6k Total) – Expected Time – 4:30) – Actual 4:58

It was definitely warm and having a full pack was not good, I met Joe then Adam Darwin just before the turn off and I headed up to the communications tower second guessing every step I took because I hadn’t been on this section before. The climb to the communication tower was super tough and seemed endless in the heat. I got to the Cabans Road crossing and stood there for a while trying to make sure I took the right road, as I continued on there was a fork in the road, I was reluctant to pick which road so I took out the map, directions, compass and tried to work it out, no luck so I tried my phone which had signal and showed that I just continued on left then I saw a lady I had chatted to earlier, phew I was on the right track… Not far after this Error No.3 happened (sorry Geoff & Rocco – I was well warned on this one) and I ran straight past the Bar Trail turn off (didn’t even see it). I met two guys coming back up the trail and they said their GPS was gone off course, we made a decision to continue down the trail because we thought that the three of us couldn’t have missed the turn off! We had! And we ended up running down the trail and having to come back up it again. When we reached the turn off I met Doug and Tim again. Tim wasn’t feeling great and they were sticking together. I headed off. I got to the Basin signposts and started the seemingly never ending journey to the CP. I met Rocco, Geoff & Susan on the way to the CP and we chatted briefly. There was lots of people at the CP. Sally & Alison helped get me sorted with my gear and some soup. I decided that because this was a tricky section of the course I’d see if I could follow someone, just as I thought that a guy that had been sitting down with his support crew popped up and was heading back out. I jumped up and followed him. Time in CP: 7mins

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CP3 to CP4 Yarramalong (Distance 22.1k (103.7k Total) – Expected Time – 3:15) – Actual 3:03

We chatted and I asked if he was familiar with the course (he had done GNW) and I asked if he minded if I follow him, he didn’t mind. Woohoo. This man knew what he was doing and he was keeping a slow and steady pace on the tricky trail section back out of the basin. Along the way I met Adam, Joe, Dave Madden and Robyn, she’d gone wrong and had spent ages going the wrong way L I followed the same guy and he was going at a perfect pace for me. Along the trail we met Ann who was now in the final k’s of her first 100k, we ran together along the verrrrrrry long road section back to Yarramalong. I was excited to pick up Ruth at the CP and was surprised that I was still feeling ok. Getting into the CP was very exciting because there was so many people around including James, pacers waiting for their runners, people who’d finished the 100k. I got weighed (57kg -1.4kg). Ruth did my mandatory gear check and I got some soup. James filled up my water. I was good to go. Time in CP: 11mins.

CP4 to CP5 Somersby (Distance 28.4k (132.1k Total) – Expected Time – 5hrs) – Actual 5:19

Ruth & I headed out on the road and I realised we were running a bit too fast and up a hill, ha ha that had to stop, there was still a long way to go. We chatted away and the time passed as Ruth diligently followed the directions. We nearly missed a left turn under the power lines but luckily I remembered it from training. At some stage along this section the blister issue raised its ugly head, both my feet felt like they had blisters and I was walking and worrying about being the only one in the race walking. For some reason this climb didn’t seem as brutal on race day as it did in training and the exit out of it was not how I remembered it. We fast walked to the CP where James and Sally were waiting (as well as Robyn’s parents and Geoff’s wife Josie). I was feeling mentally very good but the blisters were an issue so I decided to change my socks and runners. Time in CP: 10mins.

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CP5 to CP6 Mooney Mooney (Distance 17.8k (149.9k Total) – Expected Time – 2:45) – Actual 3:14

We headed out of the CP and the padding on the new runners was not helping the blisters. Anyway too late now. As we went along the road I realised I’d forgotten to fill my bladder and my water bottle, so I had 600ml of powerade to get me through the section, Ruth gave me one of her soft flasks, fortunately it was a short section. I was still fast walking because running/shuffling wasn’t possible and the walk was quicker anyway. The technical downhills/rocky trails were a nightmare but I hobbled along. We’d done this part of the course twice in training so I happy that I was familiar with it. As we went down the technical section we could hear voices, it turned out to be Doug and Gillian. Not long after Robyn and Luke passed. This was tough mentally cause although I was happy for them I started to think everyone was going to pass me and there was nothing I could do about it. Ruth sorted me out and constantly told me I was doing great and doing my best and that I just need to worry about myself. She was right I was doing my best. The run along the river seemed endless and that was the first time I felt tired, the kind of tired where your eyes just want to shut, it lasted a while but wore off. I knew I would be meeting Orla at the next CP so I was excited to get there. When I got to the CP, Sally gave us a good cheer (legend) and so did Orla. I got weighed (56.4kg – 2kg) & had some soup and a potato. Robyn, Tim and Doug were at the CP too but took off before me. Time in CP: 11mins.

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CP6 to Finish Patonga (Distance 25.4k (175.1k Total) – Expected Time – 5hrs) – Actual 4:45

Orla and I set off, Orla was tres excited and I had to tell her that at the moment running wasn’t really an option. I had a cry (tiredness I’m guessing and the thoughts that I might actually finish this thing). I continued the fast walking strategy. We passed Doug and Gillian on one of the climbs. And not long after we met Geoff and his pacer Don, we ended up leapfrogging them for most of the section. There was endless technical downhill descents and they were playing havoc with my feet. My 28hr goal was looking to be slipping away so I said I’d go for Sub 30. At one stage I landed on my left foot and felt the blister push through to another part, I let out a scream but told Orla I just wanted to keep going. This meant all other downhills I had to land on my right foot. We powered on the flat fire trails. And there was a LOT of fire trail so as we got closer finishing in 28 something became an option again. The descend after the Trig was horrible and even 500m’s felt like an eternity but then we saw the boat ramp and heard the cowbell, emotion was starting to kick in again but Orla told me to wipe away the tears and smile so that’s what I did. We ran on the beach then she took off and told me to go, I ran for the first time in hours and the finish clock had a 28 in it so I was happy, I slapped the post then kissed it then cried.

GNW done, 28hrs 50mins. Post Race thoughts, it was HARD but it was always going to be. So proud of everyone that I trained with, this race is such a journey and another step in making me believe that as long as you’re willing to commit yourself anything is possible.

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Editors note- Chantelle didn’t mention it, but her effort made her 3rd female- a podium in her first miler!

 

 

Great North Walk 100 Miles 2012 GNW100- Guest Blog- Stephen Bowers

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GNW 100 Mile 2012 (total distance 175.3km, ascent 6130m, descent 6144m). Finishing time 31hrs, 44 mins.

Well here goes, hope this does not make you sick of reading these reports.

When this race first opened, I emailed my entry in within the first 5 minutes I was so keen for my first 100M! The next few months, I slowly came to the realisation that I may have bitten off more than I could chew. I finally concluded that I could not finish the brutal course. My race plan was to take one step at a time and never give up and this was the only way I would find out if I could finish and I did finish!

I ran what I thought was conservatively for the first two stages and did what I love in ultras and talk to the many interesting and diverse people. I talked to Grant Campbell, Lindsay, Gordi (fellow ex Kiwi) and many more. I twisted my ankle down the decline to Congewai Rd and it is funny how ankle sprains can become bearable after a few minutes of running. I did twist that ankle many more times after that, but not as bad.

During stage 3, I ran a lot with Gavin, who helped me through heaps and as he had done the course a few times and prevented me going off track. He finally showed his skill and took off through the jungle section to the Basin and I slowly struggled on with another runner.

The stage to CP4 was pretty uneventful and I came upon Gavin again and passed him (I was very surprised) and then ran to the CP with another Australia based Kiwi bloke who I don’t know his name, but works in Newcastle. On the road to Yarramalong, I had lost all my running ability and was happy to walk in. I was so surprised to get there well under 16 hours.

Todd my pacer and I left CP4 only to go too far up Bumble Hill Rd. This was a sign of things to come as we made quite a few errors on this stage and I got too cold. I came into CP5 completely shattered, I think semi hypothermic as I could not stop shivering. I thought at least I had got further than I had ever run! I put some dry clothes on and still was too cold. My crew reminded me that I could spend another six hours there and still finish the race if I wanted to. I was sceptical, but eventually agreed to lie on a mattress. They then layered four blankets and a duvet on me and I drank some hot soup. I eventually fell asleep. Just after 5am, my body clock woke me up and I think there was some subliminal crew persuasion going on. I put my shoes back on and made a toilet visit and found I could walk fine. I said to my next pacer (Sonia) lets go! I know she was dying to run (my pace wasn’t running though) the stage.
Off we went, at least we didn’t need lights or vest. We caught up with Andy H who was trying to have a sleep on the track, but we woke him up with our chatting. Andy really helped us with navigation and never let us get far ahead. It was a really beautiful run to Mooney Mooney in the early morning.

I had a 20 minute break at CP6 to recharge a bit as I was still not sure if I had recovered properly, once off though I knew I was fine. I soon caught up with Andy H, but Todd (my pacer again on this stage) discovered he omitted to take the compass off Sonia. Rather than risk DQ, he had raced back the 500m to get it. The sun had really come out by then and it got quite warm, especially out of the wind. I had examined the course profile a bit and knew there were three big climbs on this stage and was just determined to take them one at a time. I think we made pretty good progress and I know Andy was keen to catch up to Kirrily and Jane who we thought were not too far up ahead. Todd and I pretty much ran the best pace that I could go, Andy dropped back a few times but never left us.
When we got to the tar road and crossed it, Andy said he could get a pb, but we would have to run all the way in. That was really hard and all through it I thought we had no chance, but we managed it. During that running I had to remind Todd that he was a pacer, not a personal trainer, but he really got us moving. Sprinting down the headland to the beach was really hard and I felt a blister on my left heel burst. Todd pointed out through the trees the girls were on the beach, but not catchable. I was really worried that I would not be able to run the beach finish, but in the end adrenaline had pumped us up so much, we just flew in. It was fantastic to help Andy Hewat reach a pb after so many finishes

The race will really leave me with some memories. My pacers / crew Mark, Todd and Sonia. Know Todd and Mark donated their whole weekend + to my run and I am really grateful. Thank you to all the Vollies, Marshals etc. A special thanks to the medic who taped up my chafing at CP5.

Thanks to Kylie (wife) who had to put up with a lot of “focusing”, well that is what I told her it was.

I am the only person to have to pay rent on a mattress at CP5!

Most of all, thanks to Terrigal Trotters and the race director Dave Byrnes.

Legs now feel really good, I just wish my big toe and the blisters on my heels would stop hurting. I am going for a gentle run tomorrow morning anyway…..

Trail Going

Characteristic 100 Kilometre 100 Mile
Sect
1
Sect
2
Sect
3
Sect
4
Total Sect
5
Sect
6
Sect
7
Total
Trail Going (kilometres)
Sealed
Road
Easy 6.6 3.9 10.5 1.6 2.0 14.1
Moderate 0.2 0.2 2.0 0.8 3.0
Hard 0.0 0.1 0.1
Total 6.8 0.0 0.0 3.9 10.7 3.7 2.8 0.0 17.2
Gravel
Road
Easy 6.4 7.8 8.9 8.1 31.2 5.5 2.0 38.7
Moderate 0.0 1.3 1.3
Hard 0.0 0.0
Total 6.4 7.8 8.9 8.1 31.2 5.5 2.0 1.3 40.0
Fire/
4WD
Trail
Easy 0.4 0.1 4.1 4.5 0.3 1.4 6.2
Moderate 4.3 12.5 3.9 20.6 7.2 0.4 7.2 35.4
Hard 2.4 2.4 2.4
Total 4.6 12.5 6.4 4.1 27.5 7.5 0.4 8.6 44.0
Foot
Track
Easy 1.4 1.4 1.8 2.4 5.5
Moderate 2.0 3.7 2.7 2.2 10.5 2.8 12.6 3.1 29.0
Hard 7.4 11.1 3.8 22.3 7.2 10.0 39.6
Total 10.8 3.7 13.8 6.0 34.3 11.7 12.6 15.5 74.1
Total Distance 28.6 23.9 29.1 22.1 103.7 28.4 17.8 25.4 175.3
Elevation (metres)
Gain 1476 472 1353 492 3793 1134 306 897 6130
Loss
996 837 1238 691 3761 895 551 937 6144

 

Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) 2014 Guest Blog Tanya Carroll

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WARNING – this might be as long and as tedious to read as it was following me online during the run!   However it could be really useful if you suffer from insomnia.

Looking up towards Mont Blanc and the Aiguille du Midi cable car

Looking up towards Mont Blanc and the Aiguille du Midi cable car

Until now my longest ‘race report’ has been a paragraph or so on Facebook, where I would usually claim that “I will never ever ever do <insert race name> again”. Within 2-3 days I would be on the phone trying to book accommodation close to the event for the following year. Such is the addiction of ultra-running.

It was this compulsion to enter more races that led me to the UTMB website towards the end of last year. I was initially surprised to see that I had the 7 qualifying points I needed to enter, thanks to two North Face 100km races and Mount Solitary 45km. Having the points however was only half the battle. There are a lot more runners wanting to do UTMB than there are spaces, so they operate a lottery system. I had heard it is pretty common to miss out multiple times before getting a chance to compete. So I put my name in the hat, thinking that in a couple of years it would be good to do it. Then in January I found out I had fluked it and got in first time. I was pretty terrified as this would be my first 100 mile race, and it is not really known as a beginners course.

Now fast track to Tuesday 26th August 2014. My 13 year old son Joel and I arrived in Chamonix on a train (actually 3 trains) from Paris. It was 10pm and we expected we could get a taxi from the train station, but there were none to be seen. However I had forgotten how small Chamonix town centre is, and it took no more than 5 mins to walk to our accommodation. I knew we were staying near to the finish but I was surprised to see we were only around 50m from the finishing arch. I did splurge a bit on this hotel as back in June it seemed like the only place still available, but as it turns out I needn’t have rushed. There are a lot of places within 5-10 mins walk and my sister was able to find an AirBNB apartment on the main street just a week before the race.

The view from our hotel over the start/finish area

The view from our hotel over the start/finish area

The next morning I joined a group run hosted by Sebastian Chaigneau and Fernanda Maciel . There were around 40 others and we ran for half an hour on some flat trails around Chamonix. I had been quite worried about a hamstring injury that had been niggling me ever since TNF 100 in May. Luckily it felt good, and this short jog helped settle my nerves down a bit. It was great to see Tony Williams who is also coached by Andy DuBois.

My training partner for the day – didn’t push me as hard as David Brown on a Tues night hills session.

My training partner for the day – didn’t push me as hard as David Brown on a Tues night hills session though.

I picked up my race kit and bib later than day. Queues were long and it took about an hour, but it was a good chance to chat to other runners. I saw Andrew Tuckey there and wished him luck, not that he needed it. He ended up having a fantastic race, finishing 6th overall.

I then visited the race expo which is huge, and where I managed to spend around AUD $500 on miscellaneous running gear, despite only really needing to buy an $8 plastic tumbler and $25 waterproof gloves!!  I couldn’t see Hammer or Tailwind products there, but pretty much everything else I could have possibly needed was for sale. I also chatted to Shona Stephenson at the Innov8 stand and she was determined to have a good race this year. Like Andrew she absolutely smashed it, finishing 10th female.

My sister Amy arrived Weds night and the next day the three of us went up the Aiguille du Midi cable car to have a look around. It is one of Chamonix’s main tourist attractions and it is the highest vertical ascent cable car in the world. The view was pretty cool, but I did get a shock when we climbed the stairs to the café on the top terrace. I really felt the effects of the altitude (3,842 metres). I was short of breath and had a headache which lasted until late that night. I had asked a few people whether you needed to do altitude training for UTMB, but they said it wasn’t really necessary. The highest peaks in UTMB are only around 2,500m, but I was nervous nonetheless.

Photo I took from the cable car as we were approaching the top station

Photo from the cable car as we were approaching the top station

The view back down to Chamonix

The view back down to Chamonix. The hills at the top of the picture are where you run in the final stages of UTMB

In the top café I was left to mind our wallets and cameras while Amy and Joel went to get food. As I was waiting Killian Jornet and Emelie Forsberg walked past. Like a true groupie I abandoned all our valuables and chased them down for a photo. They were lovely and asked me about which race I was doing etc. I felt like a bit of a dork asking for a photo but now I have a profile picture that I can keep up forever (sorry kids you won’t get a look in now). I crouched down a bit as they are so cute and little, so I have a hunchback thing going on in the photo.

3 famous trail runners - yeah right!

3 famous trail runners – yeah right!

That night back in the hotel I heard the crowds roar as the winner of the 119km TDS race was approaching through the streets. I bolted down the stairs, and got to see Xavier Thevenard as he crossed the finish line (he also won UTMB in 2013). There are around 7,500 competitors across all five races, so the town is pretty jammed with runners & supporters, and the cheers and commotion was unreal.TDS2

I wanted to get a good nights kip on Thurs night, but I didn’t fall asleep until around midnight, and woke just before 8am. I fussed around all day, packing and unpacking, and depositing my single drop bag across town. I tried to lay down and have a snooze around 2pm, but just couldn’t nod off.


Start to Saint Gervais

0 – 21kms
Fri 5.30pm – 8.53pm

Position out of 2434 starters:
– Le Delevret      1715
– Saint Gervais   1849

The beauty of being so close to the start/finish was that I stayed in my room, went to the toilet a dozen times (you think I’m joking), and then finally went down to the line right on 5pm as the briefing started. They started playing the Conquest of Paradise which is the race theme song, and I really did feel like I could conquer anything (except my nerves). I gave Joel and Amy a hug and kiss goodbye and joined the crowd of runners as we stood waiting for the countdown. I have never got teary in a race before, not even on  finishing, but I found myself feeling very emotional. All the adjectives I could think of to describe the start seem too cliched, but take what you’ve heard and multiple it by ten. Maybe “choice” in a really exaggerated kiwi accent would be the best descriptor.

Joel and I just before it starting pouring down at the start- when did he get so tall

Joel and I just before it starting pouring down at the start- when did he get so tall?

Light drops of rain had been falling, but I hate running in a rain jacket, so I had resisted putting on my waterproof gear. But now five mins before the start it was bucketing down. I didn’t know how cold I would get in the mountains through the middle of the night so I decided I would cover up. Finally the countdown started and we were off. It didn’t take too long to cross the starting mat, and whilst it was fairly congested at the start it was only a few minutes until we were running.

Still from UTMB Video captured by Adam Connor

Still from UTMB Video captured by Michael McGrath

Photo from UTMB FB page, credit Franck Oddoux

Photo from UTMB FB page, credit Franck Oddoux

It seemed like half the males in the field stopped in the first few kilometres for a toilet break. I then rounded a corner to see one female competitor squatting down in front of me, the last remaining sunlight bouncing off her completely exposed bottom. No ducking behind a bush, just right there on the edge of the trail. I wondered if that’s just what you do in European races. The other interesting sight was a guy in a sumo suit. I think it was one of those plastic ones, great for moisture wicking I hear. Fine if you are doing City to Surf or the Bridge Run, but 100 miles in a plastic suit!

I had been told that the only flat part of the UTMB course is the first 8 kms and this is pretty close to the truth. I was running at a steady pace, and was soon in Les Houches where I just grabbed a banana and soup and ate on the move. The crowd support through the towns was very uplifting, especially as the rain was still coming down. I loved high fiving all the kids who lined the streets.

I started the climb up to Le Delevret (the first of nine major ascents throughout the course). I chatted to a runner from the UK who had trekked the whole thing just 10 days before. He thought that this first climb was harder than some of the other longer ones to come, so I prepared myself. It was definitely tough (around 900m ascent in 4.5kms), and I did feel a bit breathless towards the top, but overall I was pleasantly surprised. It was really muddy (for those of you who did Buffalo Stampede think of the first two hills) and my feet were soaked as the rain was pretty heavy at times.

Then came a 6km downhill. I love descents but Andy had wisely told me to look after my quads during the first half of the race, and to run lightly. As a result a lot of people did fly by, but I wasn’t concerned. I came into the Saint Gervais checkpoint pretty close to my expected time, but which was only 37 mins before the cut off. I did think to myself that the cutoffs must be pretty tight as I thought I was running OK. Whilst I knew I was near the back, there were still plenty of people behind me (585 to be precise).

Despite feeling really positive at this point, a couple of key things had already gone wrong. For some reason even though I had trained using Tailwind, it just wasn’t going down that well. It tasted too sweet, and I really didn’t feel like drinking it. At this early stage I wasn’t too worried because I was getting some good calories from real food, particularly from the delicious chicken noodle soup they had at most checkpoints. But I was conscious that it was a long race, and that I would have to be careful if I wanted enough energy to finish this thing. As it turned out, this first bottle of Tailwind was the only one I drank for the whole race.

The best ever Chicken Noodle Soup

The best ever chicken noodle soup

What was more alarming to me was that my iPod had stopped working after only 20 mins of listening to music. “What the <bleep>, <bleep> < bleep>” Oh and another <bleep> for good measure. I had spent months downloading all my favourite songs, sorting and resorting them into numerous playlists. I had a high tempo list when I really wanted to get moving up some of the hard climbs, more relaxed songs if I was cruising along in the middle of the race etc etc. I was also carrying a charger to recharge the iPod on the run, and I had another one in my drop bag – that’s how concerned I was that the battery would run out.

If you’d asked me prior to the run to rank my kit in terms of importance, I would have said my iPod was second only to my headlamp. I guess it must have got water on it during the downpour, despite it being in a ziplock bag. For about a minute I thought about how terrible it was going to be to run for around 40 more hours without music. But there wasn’t much I could do about it, so surprisingly I was able to put it out of my mind pretty quickly.


Saint Gervais to Les Chapieux

21kms – 49kms
Fri 8.53pm to Sat 3.32am

Position out of 2434 starters:
– Les Contamines            1642
– La Balme                       1410 – not sure how this happened or if it’s right?
– Croix du bonhomme      1649
– Les Chapieux                1696

Notre-Dame de la Gorge - Photo from Flickr, credit Nick Ham

Notre-Dame de la Gorge – Photo from Flickr, credit Nick Ham

This section was one of the most memorable of the whole course. It started off very gently and again I felt good and thought that perhaps people had exaggerated how hard this race was (it was a bit early to be thinking this as it turned out). In the early stages there were again lots of people lining the course, ringing bells and calling out our names.

Photos from UTMB FB page, credit Franck Oddoux – as you can see it was a touch wet on Fri night

Photos from UTMB FB page, credit Franck Oddoux – as you can see it was a touch wet on Fri night

rain2Eventually I came to a long steady climb up through a valley, and because it was so dark I couldn’t really see the mountains that surrounded us. What I could make out were hundreds of headtorches in a big zig zag pattern in front of me. They got smaller and smaller the higher up they got. Then if I really squinted I could make out a couple of insy winsy dots up in the sky. I honestly thought that they were so high up that they must be stars, or a plane, maybe a UFO, just please tell me they are not runners. Of course a couple of hours later when I thought I had reached the summit I realised that these were more headlamps still climbing up to the heavens. All up there is just short of 2,000 metres in elevation gain in this section, pretty much all in this one long ascent. For comparison purposes this is three times as much vertical gain as the climb up Mount Solitary, albeit it wasn’t quite as steep.

When I felt like this climb was never going to end (which was often), I turned around and looked back down into the valley. There were hundreds of lights stretched out behind me, and it gave me reassurance that I was probably doing ok if there were people that still looked like they were down in the flattish section of the valley. I didn’t realise it at the time but I now know a lot of those runners would not have made the next cut off. When I looked at the stats post race, already 275 people had dropped from the race by this 49km checkpoint, although it doesn’t separate out who was timed out vs injured etc.

Source unknown

Source unknown

copy Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 11.07.08 pmOverall I only gained 19 places through this section, but was now 1hr 13 mins ahead of the cut off when I arrived at Les Chapieux. I did find it slow getting through the checkpoints, and was here for 21 mins according to the results sheet. In the North Face 100 I am usually great at getting myself in and out of checkpoints quickly (2-5 mins, with about 10mins at CP4), but I was incredibly slow throughout this whole race. I put this down to three things:

  • A lot of the checkpoints are quite large, and the stuff you want can be really spread out – the sweet food is usually at completely different tables from the savoury for example. They were crowded and it often took a bit of time to get to the front of the lines, or to get through to the other side to exit. They definitely don’t look like they appear in the elite runners videos where there is just a handful of people standing around.
  • There didn’t seem to be many toilets (or maybe I was looking in the wrong place) so the queues were long – perhaps you were meant to go on the trail like the lady at the start!
  • There was a really relaxed, party atmosphere. A lot of runners would sit down at the many long trestle tables, and it looked like a huge dinner party (one where some guests nodded off from time to time, their head nearly in their soup). I am sure it would be completely different if I was further up the field, but no-one around me looked rushed or stressed about cut-offs. I never sat down to eat, but I do think I was overly relaxed with a sense that I was part of one giant adventure rather than a race.

    Source unknown

    Source unknown


Les Chapieux to Courmayeur

49kms – 77kms
Sat 3.53am to 10.57am

Position out of 2434 starters:
– Col de la Seigne                1837
– Lac Combal                       1851
– Arete du Mont-Favre         1847
– Col Checrouit                    1840
– Courmayeur                      1839

There were some stunning sections of running through this stage. It did get pretty cold through the night, and I put on my mid layer top, rain jacket and buff. I am usually in a singlet top and skirt even in 4 degree temperatures in the Blue Mountains, so it was chilly. The mandatory gear is similar to the North Face 100 in Sydney, and I certainly wouldn’t be trying to skimp on any items, given how ferocious the weather can turn over there.

Arete du Mont-Favre - Everyone seemed to be getting photos here so I swapped cameras with a fellow runner

Arete du Mont-Favre – Everyone seemed to be getting photos here so I swapped cameras with a fellow runner

Arete2It was gorgeous as the sun came up, and quite surreal to be running in areas where there was nothing but snow capped mountains as far as the eye could see. The Italian section of UTMB was definitely my favourite part, but every stage of the race was quite different. I don’t think you could ever get bored of the views and overall time passed quickly (even 45 hours of it).

Courmayer in Italy is one of the main checkpoints (77km), and it is where you have access to the one and only drop bag you are allowed for the whole race. If you have particular food or drink requirements that are not catered for at the checkpoints, then you need to carry enough on you to last at least 15-20 hours. You can have a support crew, although it seemed to me like the majority of people didn’t. I think there are only 5 checkpoints where you can have assistance, and they are strict about having only one person with you in the designated area, anyone else has to wait outside this section. Having said this, your crew could watch you run past at other viewpoints along the course, they just can’t help you.

The view from the trail overlooking the Italian town of Courmayer

Amy and Joel had caught the supporters bus from Chamonix to Courmayer, passing through the Mont Blanc tunnel to get there. It was great to see them, and they gave me a big hug even though I was really muddy and smelly. Amy said she thought I seemed a bit flat, but I felt OK.

At this checkpoint I dumped the six or so zip-loc bags of Tailwind I had been carrying, given I had only drunk one bottle, keeping one bag with me just in case. I also mixed up a bottle of Perpetuem to see if I would have more joy drinking that. If I thought I was slow at previous checkpoints, I took it to a new level here at 31 mins!. This was partly due to me just chatting, something you don’t really get to do much on the run because there are relatively few English speaking people. I wished I had learned a few more French phrases so I could have intiated conversations a bit more, as I felt rude just launching into English.

I changed over my headlamp batteries and my shoes and socks which were still saturated from the rain. I did notice that they have a few checkpoints where Petzl provide free batteries (possibly just AA and AAA?) but I had the Ayup headlamp which has its own unique ones. One thing I’d add in my drop bag in future is a toothbrush as my teeth felt sticky from Coke and sweet stuff.

I had arrived in Courmayer just over an hour before the cut off, but after my extended stay I left with just a 32 minute buffer. A few runners said that the gap between the cut offs gets more generous towards the end of the race. I had in my head that if I had one hour spare getting into Courmayeur, that I should be able to double that over the next 90kms, and therefore hopefully finish in 44 hours or less. All good bro, no worries.


Courmayeur to Champex-Lac

77kms – 122kms
Sat 11.28am to Sun 12.19am

Position out of 2434 starters:
– Refuge Bertone                1680
– Refuge Bonatti                  1646
– Arnuva                              1650
– Grand Col Ferret               1679
– La Fouly                            1695
– Champex- Lac                   1595

Amy and Joel kept me company for the first stretch out of Courmayeur. They left as I started the steep climb up to Refuge Bertone which has around 800m of ascent over 5kms. I think we would have resembled the Zombies from Michael Jackson’s Thriller video, in a type of death march up the hills. I just didn’t have the energy to fast hike like I had been doing in training. Maybe this was because I wasn’t taking Tailwind or Perpetuem, and I didn’t have a gel for the whole race, but I’m really not sure. On the upside I was enjoying eating real food, felt mentally strong and I had no leg issues, so I wasn’t too bothered by this lack of oomph.

I was slowly ticking off the checkpoints, and kept thinking only about the next milestone. There were quite a few places where there were race officials at the top of a mountain pass etc where they would scan your bib, even if there wasn’t food or drink. These mini checkpoints also helped me break down the race mentally, so I was always reaching my next target within 2-3 hours at the most.

One of the mini checkpoints where they scanned your bib, and I guess you could shelter in emergencies

One of the mini checkpoints where they scan your bib, and they could provide medical assistance if required

I had laminated a card of motivational quotes or reminders that I could look at if I hit a really low point. But I never had a bad patch, and so only needed to think of one thing. If I did pull out, I could not have avoided the finishing chute because of the proximity to our hotel. I would have had to walk next to it, not through it, along with others members of the public. In contrast I thought about how amazing the crowd support was when I saw people finishing the TDS race. I envisaged myself running through the streets and across the line with Catherine Poletti the Race Director standing there as I have seen on so many of the UTMB videos. Pretty simple, but that was enough to perk me up every time.

I had also laminated my rough split times (for a 44 hour finish) and the checkpoint cut offs. But by around the 100km mark I had lost this card which was to become a bit problematic. At each checkpoint there were signs saying how many kms to the next stop, and the positive and negative elevation change. By asking volunteers I could also find out when the next time barrier (cut off) was, although I occasionally got given the wrong time. The biggest problem was that I didn’t know how long an average person would take to run each section, so couldn’t judge if the cut offs were going to be tough to beat, or if they were easy.

I eventually got to Grand Col Ferret, the highest point in the race and started the never-ending descent (never-ending = around 20kms in this instance). This is the cross over point into Switzerland. My Garmin had run out of battery so I was guessing how many kms I had travelled.

After running for a long time and expecting to get to the next checkpoint at any moment, I started to hear the cow bells that the crowds typically ring as runners approach. The bells were getting louder and louder, but after a while we started running away from the sound. Convinced we had somehow missed a turn, a few of us stopped. Some runners came up behind and said we were on the right track but a British guy was quite anxious and asked if I could please ring the organisers as his phone was dead. So I rung the number I had pre-programmed into my phone. When a woman answered I said that we may be off course and then went to explain the issue. The only problem was that because I’d lost my splits card, I didn’t even know the name of the checkpoint I was looking for, yet alone being able to describe where I was (on some trail on some mountain). I asked the other runner to speak to them but he went all shy on me and wouldn’t talk. I apologised to the woman on the phone, and hung up. I decided we weren’t lost (this was correct) and carried on when I couldn’t convince him. As it turned out the cow bells we heard were actually from cows, with bells on – who knew!

Source unknown

Source unknown

As time went on, and day became night again, I was getting more and more tired. I wasn’t unhappy, just struggling to stay awake. By 11pm (around 40 hours since getting out of bed on Fri morn), the sleep monsters were in full pursuit, and I now noticed quite a few people having naps on the side of the trail. Luckily I didn’t have any hallucinations, unlike one runner who was seeing Star Wars Stormtroopers.  Once we came down out of the mountains into a village called Praz de Fort I began to eye up places to rest. I resisted lying down where people could see me, as I didn’t want to be prodded by passing runners to see if I was OK. I was also worried some random weirdo might see me on the way home from a bar, so I started to watch out for safer locations to nap.

I won’t bore you with all the crazy options I identified (trust me there were quite a number), but I did arrive at a short list of two. The first one was a ute parked in a garage. I thought if I laid down in the ute, I would be hidden from view. What finally stopped me was the thought that the car alarm may sound and wake the owners who would have been in the house above. Less than 5 minutes later, and after trying to sleep while walking (quite tricky as it turns out), I found the perfect spot. A kids cubby house in someones front yard. Tiptoeing across their lawn I couldn’t wait to lay down and drift off into fairy land (or ultra runner land as the case may be). Imagine how devastated I was to see they had used it to store kids bikes, so there was nowhere left to lie down inside. THAT’S IT! I had to have a power nap at the next checkpoint no matter what. Plus I didn’t want to fall off the edge of some cliff when we got back into the mountains.

After what felt like 5 hours but was probably 90 minutes, I got to Champex Lac. I immediately asked where you could rest. I was ushered into a tent behind the main food marquee where they had around 25 thin mats laying side by side. There was only one spot left and I made my way there and lay down. As I did, I looked around and saw that I was the only female there. For a split second I wondered if there was a separate womens tent, but was too tired to check that out so lay down anyway. Only 8% of the UTMB field was female so I guess it wasn’t that surprising.

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 11.06.07 pm

Source unknown

Source unknown

There were no volunteers waking people, so I set my phone alarm to give myself 15 mins rest. I didn’t fall asleep because there was a band playing in the main marquee next door, but it was still brilliant. It was like I had pushed a reset button and I got up feeling a hundred times more alert. However the whole process was time consuming. I had to take my shoes on and off (they didn’t want to co-operate), find my phone (which had shifted compartments in my backpack all by itself), set the alarm (challenging when sleep deprived and I thought I hadn’t changed the time zone), and by the time I went to the bathroom and got food I was there 42 long minutes.

Despite my rest, my overall position improved by 244 places between Courmayeur and Champex-Lac. I am sure that this was largely because of people who pulled out or were timed out, rather than any burst of speed on my behalf. I had arrived into the Checkpoint 1hr 11 mins before the cut off, but left with only a 29 min buffer. This was becoming par for the course.


Champex-Lac to Vallorcine

122kms to 149kms
Sun 1.01am to 9.24am

Position out of 2434 starters:
– La Giete       1483
– Trient           1471
– Catogne      1462
– Vallorcine    1452

The energy boost I felt as a result of having a rest was soon to be replaced with a fear that I had completely stuffed things up. As I left Champex Lac at 1am, I knew I had 6 hours to get to Trient before the 7am cut off. The problem was a volunteer had just told me that the average time for this section was around 5hrs 40 mins, plus I needed time in the next checkpoint to get food and go to the bathroom etc. I set about trying to make up some time, and was at least buoyed by knowing I had ticked off 6 major climbs so far and around 7,000 metres of positive ascent.

Given how close it was going to be, you would again think that people around me would be looking concerned and/or moving quickly to make up time, but still they looked so chilled. I even saw a couple of people pull out their emergency blankets and lay down half way up a climb for a sleep. I don’t see how they could have made the next cut off, but I guess they were feeling like I had been earlier.

I passed a few people through these sections who were having stomach problems. One poor runner was on his hands and knees dry retching. I stopped to assist as did others, but he waved us on. I also saw a guy who was completely bent over to the left. Not just a bit, closer to 90 degrees (only slightly exaggerated). I had read about ultra runners getting this leaning problem just recently, but thought it was the writer just having a laugh, but no sir-ee, this was the real deal. Wish I had taken a picture but this may have been a bit mean.

I started to overtake a few more people. I was hiking the uphills but was pretty consistent at running the flats and downhills. As a general comment the downhills were way more technical and slow going than I thought they would be. Even when I was running every bit I could, sometimes the pace was still only around 10 -12 mins per km. Overall I gained 124 spots in the 17kms into Trient and arrived at 5.36am, about an hour under the forecasted time and 1hr 24 mins before the cut off.

So I had dodged a bullet, was feeling great, legs were still strong and I had made up lots of time. So what do I go and do……decide to have another rest because the last one was so good. With hindsight this was ridiculous. There was no reason for me not to keep going. There was only 29kms left and everything was going well. I didn’t feel that tired anymore so it was indulgent to stop. It was like I was trying to use up every available minute that I had. Not exactly smart “racing” strategy, but that’s what I did.

At the Trient checkpoint the sleeping area was inside a hall and they had volunteers who told you where to lay down and then wrote on a clipboard when you wanted to wake up. I said I wanted to be woken at 6.00am (20 mins rest) but they thought I said ten minutes to six, so I was woken at 5.50am. I think I fully fell asleep in that time. When I got up and saw the time I lay back down for another ten mins and am pretty sure I fell asleep again. Finally I put my shoes on and off I headed. I couldn’t be bothered walking the extra 50 metres to the food tent so left without topping up on solid food. I ran down a small hill before I realised I had left my poles next to where I was sleeping so that was a bugger as I had to trudge back to get them. This reminded me of Buffalo Stampede where volunteers twice had to chase after me to give me back my poles!

The second to last climb to Catogne and down to Vallorcine was fairly uneventful but it was getting pretty hot, and I hate the heat. We really did have all types of weather conditions throughout this race, although we were obviously lucky compared to some years where the course has changed or being cut short due to severe storms.

copy 22256987I made up another 19 places from Trient to Vallorcine and came into this Swiss village knowing I had less than 20kms and just one major climb to go. The most memorable thing about this checkpoint was the portaloos which had sawdust in them, and a little trowel rather than flushing water. Funny what you remember (or not).

Amy and Joel were originally going to meet me at Vallorcine but Joel didn’t want to get out of bed at the stupidly early time of 8.30am (you’ve got to love teenagers) and so they didn’t make it. I wasn’t concerned about that as I wanted to keep on moving anyway.


Vallorcine to Chamonix (finish)

149kms to 168kms
Sun 9.37am to 2.43pm

Position out of 2434 starters:
– Tete aux vents               1456
– La Flegere                     1505
– Chamonix (finish)           1427

Near the top of the last big climb. Source unknown.

Looking back at where we had climbed up from

I stopped to look back at where we had climbed up from.

After leaving Vallorcine I ran along a track which ran parallel to a major road for around 5kms. Then it turns into a very sharp climb (I think they saved the steepest to last), around 800 metres in 3kms or so. It consists of a series of fairly short switchbacks and you have a great view back into the valley. I came across quite a large number of people doing it as a leisurely hike. I was particularly impressed by one couple who were carrying a 2 year old in a backpack and a baby in a sling up this huge mountain. We were in full sun and I’d been moving for 40 hours so it was definitely getting tougher. After around 30 -40 switchbacks (I was counting to begin with but then gave up with a huff), I finally reached the rocky summit. We travelled along on a flatter section for a short while before it started to gently decline. However it was so rocky that we had to walk and I couldn’t get any momentum at all.

Source unknown

Source unknown

We then came across some volunteers who had a tent set up on a summit, and they scanned our bibs. It was 12.19pm and for some reason I thought that this was the last checkpoint and that I now had 8kms of downhill to go. I reasoned that I might be able to do this in the next 70 mins, and just scrape in under 44hours.

before Flegere

Tete aux vents mini checkpoint

Coming towards Tete aux vents

So off I trotted for the next few kms which was still really slow going because of the technical nature of the track. After an hour I was then horrified to see another checkpoint. What the hell!!! Ok maybe this is just a midway stop and there is only 4kms or so to go? Just as I was processing this I got a text from my lovely friend Emma Brown telling me I was doing great with only 8kms to go. NOOOOOO!! there really WAS still 8kms to go! For the whole race I had been very confident that I was going to finish it, and now at 1.23pm I had just over 2 hours to get into Chamonix before the cut off. Yes this should be achievable, but it definitely added a bit of pressure that I hadn’t felt (but maybe should have) for the previous 160.7kms. Apparently 4 people were timed out at this final checkpoint and it was shown on the live video feed – how devastating would that be!

So with that, I was off. I tend to run with my arms sticking out and Emma and Dominic (another running buddy) often tease me about elbowing people out of the way. I didn’t obviously do this, but I did think of their jibes as I screamed off down the mountain as fast as I could. I was lucky as my legs (particularly my quads) still felt fantastic and I was able to pass 70+ people coming down the hill. I had covered around 100,000 metres of positive ascent (including treadmill sessions) in my training, and I felt like this paid off. I laughed when I looked at my time for this section after the race, and realised I was only ten mins slower than Shona, and as quick as some of the females in the top 20. Pity I didn’t get that sense of urgency a little earlier in the race.

Once you come off the trails there is a short section on the road before you get down into the town. Amy and Joel met me on one of the final bends with around 1.5kms to go. We were all so excited and they ran alongside me until right near the end. At one point I had a quick walk as Amy and Joel were running quite quickly and I think I got a bit carried away. The last part of the course winds around the centre of the town which seems designed to get you in front of as many people as possible. It reminded me of the crowds you see at the Tour de France, with so many people cheering, waving flags and slapping your hand. People are shouting out your name and it is hard not to feel like a rock star, even being at the back of the pack.

Finally I was on the home stretch and it was fantastic to be running under that arch and to see the race director standing there – 45 hours, 11 minutes and 24 seconds after I had left. I didn’t get emotional like I did at the start, but that is not to say it wasn’t every bit as incredible as I thought it would be. Joel rang my Mum in NZ despite it being 12.30am their time. She said she could see finishers on the Live Feed so we worked out where to stand and waved to her on camera.

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 11.20.03 pmFor anyone who is even remotely considering doing this race I would say go for it. It was pure enjoyment from start to finish. With the benefit of hindsight, I do wish I didn’t muck around so much at the checkpoints, and think I could have also pushed a bit more, particularly in the second half of the course. However who knows if I had done that maybe I would have hit the wall, so I know I have to be happy with what I did achieve. It has definitely made me want another go at it though! (Ssshhhh don’t tell my family).

A couple of interesting stats. As mentioned earlier Shona was the 10th woman home in just over 30 hours. The next 30 females came in under 40 hours, and the remaining 74 finishers were all above 40 hours, with an overall DNF rate of 43%. If I was to finish exactly midway through the field of female runners, I would need to improve my time by 2.5hrs.

I got back to Australia just over a week after the race, to find out that my seven year old daughter had arranged for me to speak to her class about my run. When I arrived in her classroom she stood up and said “Good morning 2J, today my news is my Mum”. She beamed as she said how proud she was of me. She walked around the class carrying my pack to show how heavy it was, and interjected numerous times with all the bits of information she knew about the run. And in those moments I knew that it really had been worth it, and that it is an experience that I will never forget.


Thank you (yes this report will end soon I promise)

I know I haven’t won an Oscar or cured cancer, but I did want to thank a few people. I have been completely blown away by all the support and well wishes I received before, during and after this event. I am so grateful to be part of this running community and to have so many friends and acquaintenances who have helped me in so many ways. I know I haven’t listed everyone here, but I really appreciate what you have done for me.

With regards to coaching I was fortunate to have Andy DuBois develop my program and I was able to train with and tap into the immense knowledge of Joe Ward (aka Joey Joe Joe Junior Shabadoo, my Yoda), Matty Abel (so wish I could be as speedy as you) and Adam Connor. Adam might be embarrassed at having his name listed with these other runners/coaches but he has helped so many people over the years in setting up training runs, providing advice and generally being an all round fantastic bloke.

Thank you Tayebeh who I have never met in person but who was always happy to provide advice having successfully completed UTMB in 2013.

Big hugs and kisses to Emma, Dominic, Roger and Hailey for letting me crash their Oxfam team training runs, and listening to my endless dribble about UTMB. The leadup to this event would have been a lot more boring otherwise. Scott, I love the way you connect to nature and take such pleasure from your running. David Brown, what can I say. Tues night hills sessions would have been very quiet if it wasn’t for you. You have an amazingly positive outlook on life, and it really rubs off on so many people.

Thank you to my lovely sister Amy who flew to France to keep an eye on Joel whilst I ran, and holidayed with us afterwards. They argued like a brother and sister (even ringing my Mum in NZ in the middle of the night – I will be in such trouble for writing that), but Joel was still in one piece at the end! Thank you!

Amy & Joel on our post race holiday

Amy & Joel on our post race holiday

Also thanks to Dave, and my Mum who flew to Australia to look after the urchins I left behind, and to Tash, Lucy and Michele who cared for them during numerous training runs and whilst I was away. I owe you guys lots of reciprocal babysitting time!

Finally to my gorgeous cherubs – thank you for letting me chase my dreams. I love you xxx

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The North Face 50 2014- Guest Race Report- Sarah Connor

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My lead up to the TNF50 was very, very ordinary.

I had taken 3 months off after the Spiny Cray Ultra at the end of September 2013 to try and get rid of achilles tendonopathy.

After 3 months of physio and swimming training, we finally discovered that my post tibialis muscle is very weak and is causing pain in the achilles.

And then my back decided that it was its turn to be sore and painful. So another 3 months of physio – I don’t heal like I used too …..

So I finally start training for the TNF50 in March 2014.

Only 3-4 k per run, plus a strength session each week.

And then I lost my running mojo.
Things were looking grim.

 

Somehow in April I re discovered my running mojo after a great run with friends around Lane Cove.

And that is when my TNF 50 training started. A month out.

2 weeks out, I came down with a really nasty cold virus after a rather large night out on the piss for my birthday …..

I signed up for an adventure race with a girlfriend the week before the TNF50.

Why? Cos it was fun!! 8k of paddling orienteering and a 3k orienteering course.

My back was great and the running was pretty good too.

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So the week before the TNF – physio was happy with my back, achilles was behaving, my number arrived, the nerves started, I found all my gear, bought a new Nathan Vapour Wrap pack.

Sorted out my gear and wondered whether I should go and get a lighter rain jacket as I needed a bit of space, when lo and behold, I was lent a prototype Salomon Sense Flyweight jacket which was vacuumed packed and weighed about a ¼ of my Patagonia Torrentshell . Thanks Ben!

Pre race nerves meant for a crap sleep the night before – but I did manage at least 5 hours worth and that’s pretty good for me.

Got dressed, had breakfast (tea and toast) and set off to the start with Sarah (yes a different Sarah, she only has one personality called Sarah that I know of- Ed) about 30 mins earlier than planned….

Met up with the Summit Sisters and had some photos taken and jiggled up and down to keep warm.

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(photo credit Andy Bowen)

On the start line, I did wonder whether I had bitten off more than I could chew… ah well too late now.

Tom counted us down to the start and we were off. First 6k was good, walked the hills and took it easy on the bitumen.

I managed to get to the bottom of the Giant Staircase without freaking out too much – thanks to the guy in front of me who talked the whole way down about random stuff and kept my mind from the fact we were going down a cliff face.

The first big set of stairs did my quads and glutes in. Luckily I knew this bit quite well and was happy to have all the technical stuff at the start of the race when my legs were fresh.

At Olympian Rock, Gavin and Rebekah Markey were there cheering people on and it was great to see them and get some much needed encouragement.

Bek and Janis were at the 13k water point – I did not stop, but it was great to hear my name being called out!

At some point after the water point, I was the head of a very long conga line. I kept saying to the guy behind, tell me if you want to pass. He was happy for me to be in the lead. He asked what time I was aiming for and said 10 hours or less, he then replied that he was on course for an 8 hour finish at the pace we were currently doing.

Whoops. Just a bit too fast.

Sarah Jane Marshall caught me just past the Conservation Hut and it was lovely to hear her voice!  I tried to stay with her, but she was too fast , motoring along  to finish in under 8 hours .

Along Tableland Road had a chat to Brad who threw people out of helicopters for a living. His nickname was Nudge.

And that was really the last person I ran with until the Furber Stairs.

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(photo credit Bek Cramp)

Checkpoint went smoothly – had a chat to Jill, Bek and Janis  – thanks for letting me hug you both sweaty and all.

Ate some noodles, banana, filled my bladder, filled up with Clif bars and used the facilities. Tried to stretch as both ITB’s were very sore and I knew the 9-10k downhill was going to be tough.

And then the suffering began.

Walked out of the checkpoint and discovered my legs were not very happy about running, so I power walked down Kedumba. I was passed by many many people – that was very discouraging.

Nudge tore past down the hill – he was plugged into some tunes and looked much better than he had before CP1.

I tried to keep positive, took photos of the km markers, looked at the trees, said hi to people as they streamed past.

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Richo and Jess caught me about halfway down Kedumba. . I tried to stay with them, but my quads just did not want to know about running downhill.

Finally made it to the bottom – relief. And then the uphill. And a bit more slow downhill.

Uphill was good – I managed to keep up a consistent pace.  But boy I was in pain on the downhill bits into Leura Creek.

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I did catch a few people (ok 2) but as soon as the downhill bits came, it was soon reversed.  It was at this point I really wished I had someone to talk too just to stop my brain from feeling the pain.

Made it to the 41k first aid point, filled up the bladder just in case and kept walking.

I then noticed my fingers where very swollen – and my feet were not feeling much better. And I started to fantasise about finishing.

Stomped up the hill, through the Leura Forest, tried to smile for the camera.  Failed. Saw a Lyre bird and a King parrot – that was lovely and took my mind off the pain….

Then I saw the 4k to go marker. Oh boy. Did that make a difference. I stomped a bit faster.  Still being passed by other runners but at least I was moving a bit faster.

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An English girl caught me just before the Furber Stairs, and she was really positive and made me feel much better! Thank you to whoever you were!
We caught up to Emma, and she told us that it was her birthday.

So true to form I sung (very badly of course) whilst going up the stairs.  Great distraction.

At the top, a lovely man told us that we only had 150m to go. Of course I did not believe him. And he was right!

Managed to sprint up the finish chute and make a spectacle of myself. Richo gave me a big hug in the finish area which was much appreciated, English girl handed me a water and then the men’s winner and second place getter of the 100k finished – birds eye view or what!

Emma and I shared a hug for beating them across the finish line as we knew it was going to be close.  And then I looked at the time.

And almost died.  Under 9 hours.

My brain was so frazzled I could not do the maths to work out what my time really was as I started in Wave 3.  I just knew it was under 9 hours !

Turns out I was 8:47. Only 6 minutes slower than last year .  No real training and 6 minutes slower. This course suited me much better than last years.

 Gear

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(Photo credit Bek Cramp)

Bamboo knickers
Target bike cotton lycra bike shorts (for warmth not compression)
Salomon running skirt
Lorna Jane bra
Lulu Lemon singlet with built in bra
Salomon Summit Sisters technical t-shirt
Summit Sisters Buff
North Face 100 visor (nicked from Adam).
2XU compression socks
Hoka Stinson Trails
Nathan Vapour Wrap pack
Salomon Sense Flyweight jacket
Patagonia capilene top
Patagonia R1 gloves
Chapstick

Plus all the mandatory gear
Petzl Tikka XP
Patagonia midweight capilene long sleeved thermal top
First aid kit, compass , whistle , maps, instructions, waterproof zip lock bag x 2
And many tissues.

 

Nutrition

Clif Bars x 4
Cheesymite x 1 in quarters
Farex baby food x 2
Tailwind for first 28k and Hydralyte sport for next 22 k.
(Picked up 2 extra Clif bars at CP1, ate some pot noodles and banana).
Came back with 2.5 clif bars.

Unfortunately my body did not want Clif bars especially towards the end, but I forced myself to eat them.

Cheesymite was an experiment – I think I will make my own without cheese as there were a couple of times where my stomach was not happy. But a couple of big burps sorted me out.

Need to mix the electrolyte powders better in the bladder as it was very strong for the first few sips!

Would not wear the North Face visor again as it reflected the sun into my eyes and I had a headache by CP1.  (Its white underneath the visor).

Need to wear  knickers in a colour other than black as when I went to the loo, it was really hard to get things back on when they are all black

I chose not to wear my Garmin and I think it was a good choice. My phone was in easy reach to check the time for nutrition – which I did once. And then I just kept nibbling every 15 mins or so.

The Nathan pack was good, but I need to sit down and work out where things go – I broke the rule about not doing /using anything new on race day.

UPDATE: THANKS!!

How could I forget to thank the volunteers who gave up their time, to watch us crazy people run! And to AROC for such a wonderful event – thanks Tom and Alina! Jo and Gretel from the Summit Sisters for looking after all of us pre and post event , all my friends who supported us through the day and some new ones met along the way ! This event is very special and made more so by the people who organise, crew, support, run, volunteer,  sweep and photograph . THANKS !!

Adam and I the day after …. (photo credit David Brown)

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Coast to Kosci 2013- Guest Blog- Kirrily Dear

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(Adam) Well Kirrily promised a 15 page post and it turned into an 18 page epic. Always over delivering, you should read this for a great insight into the mind of a determined woman who wears her heart on her sleeve. I couldn’t make it look as nicely designed as this, so it’s provided as a PDF- 7.1MB download. Great report-

 

Kirrily Dear C2K_Report_2013

Coast to Kosci 2013- Guest Blog Joe Ward

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(Adam) Those who know Joe are very lucky- they can call a happy, tough and thoughtful bloke a friend. And now a certified legend thanks to conquering GNW100m, GNW250k and C2K. Read on……

 

Joe’s C2K Race Report

December 2013’s C2K adventure started for me in December 2011.

As many C2K finishers have done before me, the first step before you enter the C2K is to get a taste of the race by volunteering to be part of an athletes support crew. Duties of a support crew member can consist of some running (but you don’t have to run to be in a support crew !!), handing out food to the athlete, keeping them hydrated, taking care of navigation, offering words of encouragement and generally keeping them moving forward.

I felt honoured to be asked to crew for an amazing man and now my great friend Kieron Blackmore. Kieron and I had met during the GNW 100 miler in November 2010 and e had instantly connected (translation – I couldn’t run faster enough to get rid of him). We had completed several training runs together and on one of these runs he discussed a 240km race in December called the C2K or Coast to Kosciusko. This was interesting to me because I’d never heard of this race before. All runners discuss their favourite races and you will often hear races like The North Face 100, Six Foot Track, Marathon Des Sables, Comrades and the GNW being spoken about almost as if they are mythical pilgrimages but I’d never heard of the C2K. Maybe the reason I hadn’t heard of it was because this is a race you cannot simply enter. The Race Directors of the C2K (two beautiful and amazing people, Paul and Diane) are very protective of their event and of the events competitors and rightly so, because they recognise the level of difficulty of the course. The race runs 240kms (149.1 miles) from Boydtown Beach in Eden to the top of Mount Kosciusko, the highest point in Australia. Runners are often subject to electrical storms, high winds, heavy rain, extreme heat, deep snow, blizzards altitude, flies, snake bites and potential dehydration or hypothermia issues. Paul and Diane want all of their participants to finish uninjured and safe, so they only select the best prepared athletes for the start line.

Wow ! So which Ultra Runner doesn’t want to be a part of an event as exclusive as that !! I told Kieron to count me in 🙂

The 2011 C2K was a steep learning curve for me to say the least. At the welcome briefing I was star struck to be surrounded by so many accomplished ultra runners. I was in a room full of my ultra running heroes and I left the event having learnt so much about being an endurance athlete just from speaking to them and getting a sense of their character. Sometimes when you speak to someone who is a tough mofo you don’t need to ask them if they are a tough mofo, you just know.

I made some amazing new friends and did my best to be there for Kieron throughout the 2 days he was running. Yes, that’s right, 2 days of running non stop !!

I was in awe of Kieron’s achievement when he finished. He pushed through barriers I had never seen anyone come close to before, it was real Forest Gump stuff. Kieron taught me that when you think you’ve given everything there’s still a little bit more left to give. He also taught me that even when you feel like crap and you’re at your absolute lowest you can still be a charming, cheeky SOB, good onya mate.

I witnessed more suffering, guts, determination and awesomeness at that race than I had ever witnessed in my life. As a support crew member you get a front row ticket to all of the mental toughness, the highs, the lows as well as a few of the not so pleasant aspects of ultra running (what happens out there, stays out there) and at the time I thought, why would people do this to themselves ?? This is INSANE !!

In 2011, I honestly didn’t think it was a sensible event, let alone something I was capable of completing. The athletes pushed their bodies to levels that it was hard for me to understand. This was a race where running through the night non stop without sleep, losing toe nails and vomiting was considered all part of the journey. WHAA ??

I completed a couple of 100 mile events in 2012. My first was the Glasshouse 100 in September 2012 and then the GNW 100 miles in 2012. Both were extremely rewarding but before running either of these events, I was already starting to think about C2K during my training. I ran looong training runs including a couple of all night runs and I fell in love with running through the night till sunrise. Nothing feels more amazing than running with a friend and watching the sun pop up over the horizon. The wildlife comes to life and suddenly you feel awake and your legs are filled with more running. If you’ve never experienced running through the night please please please take my word for it. It is beautiful 🙂

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I changed careers. I was inspired by these happy, motivated people that loved to run and share the joy of running. It was time to follow my heart and become what I have always wanted to be, ever since I ran my first marathon in 2006, a marathon coach. I started my own business coaching running, boxing, kickboxing, kids kickboxing and personal training. I was training everyday, getting fitter and stronger and loving it !!

I can’t remember if Kieron asked me to join him again in December 2012 for his next C2K or if I volunteered before he asked me but before I knew it I was back there with him, running beside him on the course and once again we summitted the top of Mount Kosci and took the obligatory photo from the top of Australia.

This time was a very different experience for me. Of course I had to make sure I did my best job to look after Kieron but the whole time I was crewing for him I was planning and strategizing. Could I enter this race ? Is it possible ? What nutrition strategy would I have ? How would I get to Dalgety and still feel fresh ? What’s the best way to take on these hills ?

Again, I was struck by Kieron’s determination, courage, spirit and character. He is still to this day, the best man I know. But could I do this ? I wanted to be like these incredible ultra runners but there was a lot of experience there. Maybe if I couldn’t be like them then I could at least share the same start line, that would be a good start.

Kieron achieved the impossible again in 2012 and at the awards ceremony after the event on Sunday morning, I listened to inspiring stories of strength and mind over matter. I told my then girlfriend Emma that I wanted to do this race one day and she said “You will !” … I had the bosses permission. I discussed a 2013 attempt at the GNW 250 Fatass (unofficial event) with a few friends after the awards ceremony. This run would be a way to prove to myself and to Paul and Diane, that I was ready.

GNW 250 in July 2013 was tough. 276 ish kms in 69 hours and 28 minutes. It was a hard slog but it was a respectable time and would hopefully give me the chance of being accepted when entries opened. I was right and my entrance was accepted and confirmed in October/November 2013.

THE RACE – Friday 5.30am

“5    4    3    2    1   GO !!”

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I barely had time to hug my Kimberley and Simpson desert running heroes Jane Trumper and Andy Bowen before we were off. I settled in just behind them and tried to relax. This was going to be a looooong day … no wait a looooooong TWO days !!

Superstar runner (and eventual winner/record holder) Jess Baker ran with us for a minute as we hit the first trail section and before I knew it she was gone. What an incredible lady she is ! Smiley and friendly on the outside but a warrior to the core. I was already feeling like running this race was a good idea. Just to be around these people is such an honour.

I kept just behind Jane and Andy and soon we were greeted by Mat Grills aka tattoorunner, an ultra runner from Queensland. We immediately struck up a conversation which lasted around 24kms.

What a legend Mat is ! A fellow vegan ultra runner that used to play in a hardcore band, he has some awesome tattoos all over his body. He looks a bit like a Japanese Yakuza except he’s not Japanese and much friendlier. He has a rule that if it’s above 13 degrees then it’s time to take his tee shirt off. He carries as little weight as possible, even wearing sandals on his feet instead of trainers. It’s amazing, whenever I think I’ve found a really difficult challenge there’s always someone raising the level of difficulty even higher. Go Mat !!

The first 24kms went so quick it was almost like they didn’t happen. A mixture of adrenalin, great conversation and a feeling amongst all the runners that the race really wouldn’t begin till the next day early Saturday morning.

24kms was the runner/crew rendezvous point. From this point onwards I would have my amazing support crew to cater to my every need and whim. Now it’s important to point out here that there are support crews and their are AWESOME SUPPORT CREWS. A support crew will help their runner run but an awesome support crew can make or break a race. If you have the right crew it can really make all the difference.

I had two of the best support crewers with me. Ultra Runner Toni-Anne Lee from Manly Beach Running Club. She has run 3 marathons, including a 50km and crewed for me during my 276km run. I also had my fellow hobbit and Ultra Runner Brad Smithers. Both are super positive, incredibly experienced and wonderful people. We said a quick hi, I told them all was well, we swapped over some electrolytes and gear and agreed to check in another 5kms down the road.

My support crew met me every 5kms or so to give me a banana, couple of dates, fresh electrolytes and anything else I needed. At 42kms, my support crew and I shared a couple of high fives. The running was well underway and the nerves were starting to disappear.

I still had a bit of dicky stomach from being ill on Wednesday night but that was slowly fading and the food I was eating was staying down so everything was going to plan.

At 50kms we hit Rocky Hall and reached the first Mandatory Checkpoint. My support crew sent a text message to let the Race Director know my time of arrival. Brad said I was on track and running at a good pace. I was comfortable and running at a pace that was still near my 36 hour A Target pace.

A few kms later we reached the first big climb at Big Jack mountain. A long 7km climb to the top. Brad walked with me up here asking me how I was going and sharing his yoda-like wisdom. When life is an uphill battle then Brad is the man you want by your side. Unwaveringly positive with a bottomless bag of motivating stories.

Several runners overtook me up Big Jack and offered words of encouragement and smiles and I was starting to settle into my own race and worrying less about my position. When I reached the top of Big Jack I had a quick sit down and massage from gorgeous Sarah-Jane. I’m always happy to see SJ, she is so full of energy and positivity, just what a grumpy ultra runner that doesn’t like climbing hills needs 🙂

At this point I had such a long way to go that the maths was starting to mess my head up. So I’ve run 65kms but I’ve still got 175kms to go !!! … That’s over 100 miles !!!

Brad kept telling me not to think about it and leave the maths calculations to the support crew. I agreed but it’s difficult when there’s such a massive distance ahead, you can’t help but think about it and try to break it down somehow.

So 175kms, that’s 7 x 25km runs. Wait, that’s no good. Okay 175kms is around 4 marathons to go. Wait that sucks !!

After a 5 minute sit down and a watermelon refuel I was back up and running and 5kms down the road I arrived in Cathcart for the second Checkpoint.

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I had some cold lemonade and pressed on. Note to self, cold lemonade during a long run is awesome !!

I was worrying less about time now and just ticking off the landmarks that I recognised from crewing in previous years. One big landmark was the dead tree at 102kms which I knew was coming up soon. I watch a lot of Lord of the Rings and as every good hobbit knows, the dead tree is a good place to be. Who doesn’t want to pretend to be the King of Gondor ??

Just before the dead tree I was greeted by the other three members of my support crew. Beautiful Sally Dean, kickass Jodie Hermit and Superman Robin Yates. Three more warriors to add to the fellowship of Mount Kosci. I was feeling very positive and a little dehydrated. I greeted them and slurred my words quite badly. So much so that I decided it might be time to ditch the beanie that was causing my head to overheat.

Once the orange Can Too beanie (Go Can Too !!) was handed over I managed to remember everyones name (including my own) I headed toward the dead tree (of Gondor).

I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived there ahead of schedule. My amazing support crew celebrated by letting off some party poppers and taking a few photos. I was finally in 3 figures !! Not quite half way but I’d made a real dent in the race and moved past the 100km mark so that felt fantastic.

Onwards to Snowy River Way !! (it really does sound like the Lord of the Rings Middle Earth doesn’t it ! – or maybe that’s just me)

It was around 8pm and starting to get dark so the head torches had to come out. This was a positive thing for me. The cool air of the night is always a welcome relief from the heat of the day and there’s something nice about running in the night when nobody can see you. It’s almost as if you are invisible and the pain can’t find you.

At the intersection Brad sat me down and told me that he was heading 40km down the road to Dalgetty and Team Silver car support crew were taking over for the next 5 or 6 hours. He told me to stop worrying about the time and focus on running. He assured me I was way ahead of schedule so there really was nothing to worry about.

The next section was 40kms to Dalgety and I was hoping to get there for 1.30am ish if everything went according to plan but I knew that I already had 100kms in my legs so anything could happen.

Brad and Toni-Anne went to Dalgety Hall for a sleep and I was left in the very capable hands of Sally Dean, Jodi Hermit and pacer Robin Yates. This was great. I had 3 new friends to chat to and I was looking forward to some night running.

This section is remote farmland with very little light pollution and it had been a beautiful clear sunny day so I knew it would be a good night for star gazing and we were not disappointed. After a few kms running on my own, Robin joined me and the night sky was breathtaking.

A crescent moon with the planet venus hung low in the sky which made the moon look enormous. The milky way seemed to fill with more and more stars when you looked at it and there were shooting stars like bolts of lightning every 15 minutes or so.

I ran well for 10 or 15kms but the sleep monsters (tiredness monsters) were coming for me. I delayed my No Dose (caffeine tablet) for as late as possible and managed to hold out until around 11.30pm. When I took my No Dose caffeine tablet I was able to keep running well for a while and eventually Robin and I arrived at Dalgety Hall checkpoint, a little behind schedule at 3am.

I was weighed and very surprised to find that I was 2.9kms heavier than my start weight but this was probably because I was wearing all my night gear.

I tried to resist the temptation of entering the warmth of Dalgety Hall but it pulled me in like a tractor beam and before I knew it I was inside eating noodles and receiving a massage from ultra running legend and race medic Andy Hewett aka Wippet.

After 15 minutes of refreshments and lots of encouragement from Brado, I was back on my way at 3.15am, crossing Snowy River Bridge.

It was cold. Freezing ! I had seen Kieron suffer here and I was convinced I was going through the same thing. It was encouraging to see my friend Kirrily Dear here looking so strong but I was convinced I wouldn’t feel right again until the sun came up.

My support crew car stopped for me every couple of kms and I felt like my energy was slipping away. I didn’t know if I could make it. My head started doing maths again. I still had almost 100kms to go and most of that was uphill !! … I needed to gain over 2000 metres in altitude and I didn’t know if my body could do it. Brad told me I was still looking good. We walked through the cold of the early morning and eventually around 5am ish the sun came up.

What a beautiful sunrise, incredible. Ok lets run !

I ran the flat and the downhills and eventually made it to the base of a very steep hill. Beloka range, yuck !

8kms up up up ! Even Robin my pacer was tired. Although that could be more to do with the 50kms of running he had done with me already. Congrats on your first ever 50kms Robin !!

At the top of Beloka range we passed a vehicle covered in American flags. It was the American support team. Go America !!!

I met with Brad and he told me that it was around 15kms to Jindabyne. My stops with my support crew were becoming much more frequent by this point so it was a relief that the next major checkpoint in the race was not that far. He said I had to get there before cut off and we agreed to do push a bit harder.

I was eating less and less and couldn’t seem to stomach any food and Brad was increasingly worried about my calorie intake. Half the problem was that my stomach was feeling queezy and I was concerned that if I ate too much it might get worse but I tried to eat as much as I could and bargained with Brad over the number of dates I needed to eat to keep some kind of balance and mitigate the risk of illness.

Onwards to Jindabyne at 182kms !

The sun was well and truly up and it was getting hot. I had to stop a couple of times to jump under some shade. My body was shutting down and I didn’t know what to do. Brad remained positive and was completely convinced that I would finish. I really wasn’t sure.

Eventually I reached Jindabyne where I was greeted by all of my support crew and a couple of familiar faces – Aussie 24hr champ Allison Lilley and Helen, who were both crewing for a Japanese ultra runner.

I was treated like an Emperor at this checkpoint. I was fed hot chips, massaged, put under some shade and generally given the 5 star treatment.

I composed myself, meditated on why I was here and what the point was and decided that this was a massive learning curve that was not supposed to be easy. I had suffered so much but maybe that was what I was here to do. To learn how to suffer and still manage my suffering. I’m sure that sounds crazy but I was surrounded by other athletes that were clearly going through just as much pain but they were still moving forward. I had to learn to just suck it up princess !!

So I did … and Brad and I left after 30 minutes of pampering with a renewed sense of positivity and a feeling that no matter what happens now I WILL FINISH !!

Back out on the road there was a sign that said 38kms to Charlottes Pass. Awesome, I thought. I can do 38kms and then from there it’s only 9kms to the top of Mount Kosci and 9kms back down to the finish. Finally the maths was starting to make sense !!

It was 11.30am, almost midday and the sun was beating down on us. Then the flies came. Flies like to try to get into orifices. Ears, mouth, nose was under full attack. To say this was slightly annoying would be like saying Darth Vader was slightly dark. Arrghh ! … I feel bad for being a vegan that hates flies but who doesn’t hate flies ?? … and why do they love ears so much ?? … Bug Spray, Bug Spray, Bug Spray … they are so persistent … One of my support crew Jodi said they couldn’t be that bad. Jodi, you are accompanying me on this section next year.

We ran a lot of the downhill section to Thredbo River at 189kms and managed to reach it 90 minutes ahead of cut off at 1pm.

Then we started the 10km climb (death march) up to the top. This seemed to last forever but Brad kept me moving and my support crew kept me updated with inspiring messages of encouragement and support from family and friends. Thank the running gods for the internet !!

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I also saw running legend Jan Hermann, who passed us going uphill and gave us some incredible encouragement and reassurance. Keep moving he said, if you keep going at this pace you will definitely finish. It was great to hear this from such an experienced athlete and one of my all time heroes. What a legend.

After lots of leg movement (and bowel movement) we eventually made it to 200kms where I had a 15 minute stop before getting back up to press on.

I had locked in the 200km mark and I was so pleased that there was only 40kms left in the race. I had slowed down significantly but I was going to make it and this was an amazing feeling.

Then, a car pulled up.

The support crew said, “There’s bad weather at the top of Mount Kosci so you won’t be able to summit so you’ve only got 22kms to go !”

My heart sank. I felt like everything I had battled for had been snatched from me at the last second. I looked at Brad and didn’t say a word. The car drove on, not realising the gravity of the message they had delivered.

I wanted the full course and chopping the last section off made me feel like I had not completed the full race. Brad reassured me that Paul and Diane would not make a decision like this lightly and the weather at the summit of Mount Kosci must be particularly bad for them to make that decision. He said we should stick to the plan and still keep going for the same time we had decided we would get to Charlottes Pass before the climb.

I was heart broken and angry and a mix of emotions. I felt like quitting there and then. If I finished then it would not be the finish I wanted and if I didn’t finish then would I ever be invited back for another go ?  … probably not. I asked him to give me a few moments and then we talked it through. I was disappointed but this was all part of the sport. When we are set challenges we have to face them. You never know what’s going to happen during a race, the best you can do is be ready for anything. I wasn’t ready for this.

I needed to be a good sportsman. I needed to finish.

Running was out of the question by this point. Whether it was the hills, the heat, lack of calories or the bad news (possibly a combination of all of them), my quads were destroyed and I didn’t have any running in my legs.

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I walked with Brado and was quickly joined by my mate Kieron. We let the support crew know we were finishing at Charlottes Pass at 222kms and they all tried to hide their disappointment.

Brad, Kieron and I marched together towards the snowy mountains. When we finally reached the snow my support crew had snowball fights whilst I pressed on. I just wanted this to be done.

I thought about what I would say when I met the Race Directors Paul and Diane at the finish line. Would I be angry that they stopped my going to the summit ??

Then I realised Paul and Diane had made the decision to protect not just me but all my running friends too and it’s far more important to be safe than to run an extra 18kms.

First world problems ! There are much bigger things in the world to worry about than running 18km at a particular time on a particular day.

After a few hours I finished at Charlottes Pass and thanked Paul and Diane for putting my friends welfare first. We drove home and went straight to bed, satisfied that we had given the race everything we had. Team “Just Done It” had done just that. We had gone out and overcome every battle that was put in front of us and conquered 222kms as a team.

I was proud of my team, proud of myself and proud to be a part of an event that puts people first in a world where people often take second or third place to money and numbers.

We drove home slowly and carefully, weaving between Kangaroos and wombats.

When we woke the next day we had breakfast with the other runners and went to the awards ceremony. When my name was called out and I received my akubra hat and pin, I had to pinch myself. I had finally completed a race I thought was impossible and learnt so much in the process.

At 2pm that afternoon, Brad, Toni-Anne, Jodi and I returned to Charlottes Pass to climb Mount Kosci.

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We climbed to the top and chatted the whole way. It was one of the most perfect climbs up Mount Kosci I have ever experienced. Perfect weather and incredible views from the top.

We met fellow runners, Marina Rob and Cassie on the mountain and discussed the race from the top of Australia.

I had to pinch myself again to check it was all real.

Thanks to my support crew who looked after me so amazingly well. I owe each of you a back massage at the timing of your choice !

To my fellow C2K runners. Thanks for being so crazy. You make me feel sane 🙂 To Paul and Diane, thanks for putting people before numbers and for creating this crazy beast of a race.

Joe 🙂

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Guest Blog- Fitzroy Falls Fire Trails Marathon 2013 FFFTM

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(Adam) I’ve done this race twice, and missed out this year as I couldn’t fit it in the schedule, but you might like to hear from Doug Richardson who placed 17th male this year! It’s a great race, stick it on your planner for next year……..

 

(Doug) It’s hard to believe that this time last year the FFFTM was my first trail race.  Two marathons (Hobart and 6ft track) since and a failed TNF50 attempt, here I was to face my demons of cramping with the inner quad muscles on race day for these long events (as some of you may know have haunted me in recent times).

 

The race last year at least gave me positive thoughts as I managed to complete that without the dreaded muscles spasms, maybe it was the cold weather or just being ‘super’ hydrated that time drinking plenty of electrolytes and water during the near two hour drive down to the Southern Highlands.

 

So I decided to repeat that strategy and keep the fluid intake up again this year and added artillery such as 3 ‘Shotz’ tablets (sodium and magnesium electrolytes that mix with water), many salt tablets and the standard gels (Second Surges) to take throughout the race.  The Rural Fire Service are the beneficiaries of this event and they again put a great effort in with their presence and water stations throughout the race, so I elected to take my palm held water bottle as the sole race hydration carriage thus avoiding the extra weight and restriction of a water pack.

 

Weather on arrival was clear and certainly crisp but that would not last long as temps of around 25 were expected. Runners were relieved it was not held the next day (Sunday) or a couple of days earlier when temps were in the high 30’s. A quick hello and good luck to Chris Johnson from NRG and I made my way to the starting line, allowing the elite runners like Brendan Davies, Ian Gallagher and Beth Cardelli plenty of space for a clear take off in the rather narrow starting shoot.

 

At the line I remembered I had forgotten something in the car …another potential remedy for cramps, “pickle juice”. Yes I actually drank this stuff at the Coastal Classic last month at the onset of cramps at 24km and it provided relief although for a short time, as they returned later in that event.  The starting horn went off at 8am so it was too late to worry about that delightful tasting remedy now.

 

The first couple of kilometres are a little ‘narly’, although on fire trail, you need to watch your footing.  Up until the first 8kms, the gradient is up and down but nothing to difficult and actually includes some coverage on a gravel and then sealed road for about 2km where you will find your fastest km pace for the race. Km’s 5-7 were in the 4:19 and 4:34 pace and I felt very comfortable including the climb up to the 8km mark where the real fire trail began and the downhill section to come.  This next section got technical with some sharp descents and the choice is there to either go leaping down many rocks (John Lewis style) or take the more cautioned option with smaller careful paces, the latter I chose, as I still lack the technical sharp skills of downhill rock running.

 

At the 10km mark, the downhill ceases for a short while, where you cross a small creek with some minor rock jumping and head back up in elevation before another drop down.  It was at this time I needed  a ‘nature’ stop so I knew I was at least well hydrated !  The first water station was about a further km on so I stopped again and that was where I took my second electrolyte tab (first was in the water bottle at the start).

 

Next 6km were uphill but with the recent hill training that I have been doing, this climb was actually reasonable and I was able to maintain a good steady pace, overtaking many on the hills that had overtaken me with my recent two stops.

 

At the 20km mark, the first out and back sections begin.  About 2.2km downhill to a turn around point and then back up hill to the water station that aids the marks of 20km and 24.5km. It was at the 20km point I saw Brendan Davies coming out of the uphill climb in first position looking in control and very comfortable and gave him some encouragement (not that he needed it) as he powered on with Ian Gallagher in close pursuit, so you can gauge how far the leaders are ahead of you – 4.5km already in my case !  Beth Cardelli was clearly leading the women’s race.

 

I saw Chris Johnson at the 24km mark and gave him a high five and he seemed to be travelling well as he headed down for the out and back section.  After that first out and back you make a right turn into another fire trail for about 3.5km and reach a small hill at the 28km mark where another aid station existed this time with electrolyte drink, fruit, lollies and coke.  Not sure actually why I stopped here at this aid point looking back at my race review (maybe it was the lollies – no jubes Rocco), but you then start a smaller out and back of 1km downhill (60m drop) to a turn around point and then the 1km back uphill to the same aid station.  Some magic views of Kangaroo Valley and the cliff faces can be seen during this section on a bright sunny day like it was as opposed to the mist from last year.

 

The return aid station was where I was to have my last electrolyte, another salt tablet, gel and some fruit and get set for the next section which I knew for memory was the ‘wall’ with 9km of gradual fire trail climbing in sunny semi-open conditions where the temperatures began to rise.  This section is not particularly scenic and I was beginning to think that I should be cramping about now.  So to help combat any chance of that happening, I began using the leg muscles by running in different stride lengths, lifting the knees up and higher kicks and even opening the stance of the feet so that you look like you are semi-waddling like a duck !  Anything really to avoid the repeat usage of the same muscles through the race and to just provide a different approach.

 

Definitely the toughest section of the course, but I was beginning to pass a few more people.  I don’t think I was getting any faster (in fact I wasn’t as my splits were in the low 5min/km range), it was more the runners ahead were hitting the wall.  Respiratory I felt great, although it was getting warmer, the heat was bearable and I poured water on my head from the hand held bottle where I could ration (although the number of water stations ahead allowed me to do this).  So feeling good, but my mind was clearly focusing on avoiding cramps so I needed to think of something to distract me and I just started to say to myself it’s just a training run – treat it like an NRG Six Foot Track long away run – no race pressure, just go with it.

 

Two more water stations passed and I reached a quick downhill section before another smaller 40m climb at the 39km mark.  Feeling okay still, I really wanted to give this hill climb a go so I tried some more powerful strides and then I could just slightly feel the beginning of the dreaded cramps again in the inner quads.  But I played it carefully and decided to walk this hill, stretching the legs considerable whilst I walked up talking to myself that just reach the top and then take off again.  This seemed to help as I felt the initial tightness go away as I was ‘stretch walking’ up that hill.  So I got to the top knowing that some of the runners behind may have caught up a little ground but I now felt comfortable to go a bit harder.

 

2,400m to go (6 laps of a running track I thought to myself) and I will succeed beating my demons.  Another sharp downhill section and then one final rise up to the finish to go, so I used quicker smaller steps to make sure I killed off any last minute concerns up that last climb.

 

I crossed the line in 3:39:15 net time and was relieved and elated at the same time if that is possible, (a) because the demons were beaten FINALLY and (b) I had some time goals with splits written on my arm with an ambitious sub 3:40 finish in this event (in fact it the desired goal was 3:39).

 

I then had a quick chat with Brendan and Ian and congratulated them on 1st and 2nd respectively.  Those guys are superb runners. Brendan asked how I went and I was just chuffed to say I took 11mins off last year’s time.  A look at the final results sheet whilst devouring the free and amazing ‘hamburger with the lot’ put on by the RFS and I was amazed that I snuck into the Top 20 positions.  The drive home was a pleasant one as a result and aided by some post race Endurox R4 chocolate recovery powder with milk (cash for comments there Matt Cherri – ching$ching$), the legs felt good.

 

Thanks again to the local RFS with their help supporting this race.  It really is a nice event and I will be back again hopefully next year for #3.

 

Chris Johnson finished with 5:05 but I didn’t get a chance to speak with him afterwards, well done Chris ! Said g’day to Michael McGrath who completed yet another marathon here and snuck into the Top 40.   Other names I noted were Jason Wheeler (aka Gater Bullant) in a superb 3:22, Justine Medin 4:24 and Jess Siegle in 4:31. Apologies If I have missed any other names.

 

Brendan won the men’s event in 2:58 and Beth in 3:24.

 

Course profile (elevation chart) included.

FFFTM Course profile

Kirrily Dear Guest Blog- Big Red Run 2013

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(Adam Connor) I’m very pleased that Kirrily Dear has agreed to share her experience at the Big Red Run this year. As the first ever guest blogger she has some interesting things to say, it’s a pity it has taken me so long to post this. She’s done some great writing and I might ask to host some more of it- including her incredible multi day epic out on the GNW. I have to add that I wasn’t really interested in this run until I heard about how much fun it was afterwards! Take it away Kirrily………

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A few people have been asking me to write a bit about my experiences so I’ll keep in nice and short and break it into a series of indisputable facts.

FACT 1: I HAD A BLINDER (FOR ME!)

3rd female, 7th overall, 33hrs to run 250km and plenty of time spent sight-seeing along the way. Don’t ask me where I managed to pull that from on my first multi-stage race but I felt comfortable and strong for 90% of the way. That last stretch on the 84km long day was a killer as always.

I had absolutely no interest in racing the BRR. I was there to enjoy the experience and take in the scenery. As soon as I got moving on the first day though I knew my body was feeling strong and my brain was in the right space. Each day I just kept getting stronger. I was pain free and didn’t have any sense of fatigue until toward the end of the 3rd marathon on the 3rd day.

Over the last 18 months I have dramatically changed the way I train and it’s really starting to work for me. The change has been fuelled by increasing understanding of what my own body responds to and also watching the large number of elite ultra runners that are now completely sidelined because they have overloaded their bodies with the wrong type of training. I may never be world champion at this sport but I plan to be taking out the 80+ year old age category in a few more years.

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So what’s changed? I no longer believe in ‘running through pain’. If there’s pain I get it fixed, early. I no longer believe that you have to be doing ‘the big km’s’. If I regularly go above 80km a week I end up with injuries and training becomes inconsistent. So I am keeping the km’s low and focusing on intensity instead and giving all I can to every training session. I am more exhausted after a session at Crossfit 2036 or Sean Williams Sweat than I was after any of the marathons at BRR and I back up 4 mornings in a row week in, week out supplemented with long runs on the weekend. It provides incredible conditioning and with good condition you can do just about anything.

Finally a wonderful run of this magnitude is only possible with incredible support through the vollies and medical team. They were everywhere and always unerringly positive and helpful. One of the greatest sights in the world was one of those little red checkpoint tents appearing on the horizon, shimmering in the heat haze like a mirage.  I had a minor incident on the long run that could have easily brought the whole game unstuck in such an extreme environment but with their outstanding support I was home safe and well. Thank you!

FACT 2: THE LANDSCAPE IS MONUMENTAL

The Simpson Desert landscape is vast and more diverse than I expected. It is staggeringly beautiful. I don’t have the words to describe the impact it has had on me. I’m a nature nut and have been on a lot of adventures in all corners of the world and the Simpson Desert ranks up there as one of the greatest. It’s a silent, vast beauty. It commands attention through its stillness.

The sand dunes in the ‘channel country’ part of the Simpson all run north-south with wide areas of flat ground in between. They are like waves in an enormous sandy ocean. At any point we were either running parallel to the dunes or crossing them. Running over the dunes was an absolute delight. The climb was one of anticipation, wondering what would be on the other side. Each crest brought with it vast, sweeping views and revealed the next terrain feast laid out on the desert platter for kilometres in front of me. As a dedication to 5 year olds everywhere, it was then essential to hurtle down the dunes as fast as my legs would take me.

Surprisingly around 80% or more of the course was completely flat so the challenge of BRR isn’t so much in climbing dunes but dealing with the technical nature of what is underfoot. Gibber plains, hard clay pan, sand moguls and mud meant constant variation in gait and pace. Tuft grass hid endless burrows ready to snap an ankle should concentration wane. Scratchy “grrr” bush (need to find out the real name one day) lacerated bare legs creating a stinging brew when mixed with sweat and sunscreen. We had rain, cold, wind and intense heat. The desert giving us just a taste of its true potential.

Navigation of the course also demanded attention. Much of the course was cross country with no trails. We ran from one pink ribbon to the next. It was easy to get off course. Every day people returned to camp with stories of unplanned detours and gut wrenching moments of realisation when they discovered they were off track, tired and alone.

The highlights for me? Every day was an incredible adventure although I have noticed there are a few scenes that keep replaying in my head a bit over a week later.

Day 2 – I had just worked my way through a field of sand moguls with burrows, bushes and all manner of challenges. A head wind was blasting whatever slow progress I was making. I was glad to see the pink ribbons cross up and over the sand dune knowing the terrain would likely change. Cresting the dune and the world opened up to a enormous hard clay pan. The red checkpoint tent was a kilometre or two away on the other side and there were people around. I ran like crazy down the side of the dune, the momentum propelling me across the clay pan. At last running at full tilt, it was pure bliss.

Day 3 – Running along the top of big red after the rain. It’s one of the iconic photos that has come out of the week. The sand was an intense red colour and the air fresh. The rain had firmed the sand so it was easier to get some pace.

Day 4 – Sunrise. It was a clear morning and the intensity of the colour is like nothing I have seen before.

Day 5 – Early morning I was running along the top of a dune. The wind was gusting and lizards scurrying. Overhead two wedge tail eagles circled watching my progress. I had a strange feeling that if I didn’t keep moving I would be on a lunch menu.

Day 5 – Crossing the vast moonscape of the gibber plains. I love running on gibber. The rocks are all highly polished from water rushing over them in the wet season and underneath is sand so as you run along the ground looks like it should be hard but it is spongy. I also enjoyed being out in the intense heat on day 5 on the gibber. Strange I know but it felt like a real desert experience. Heat waves distorted the horizon. Dry air sapping any moisture from your mouth.

BRR desert pic

Photo by Damon Roberts – Stellar desert runner

I miss the desert.

FACT 3: IT’S ALL ABOUT THE PEOPLE

I remember when I first met someone who had run 100km and it hit me how casually they talked about such an achievement.  It was much like other folk talk about going for a walk around the block; it happens, it’s nice to be able to do it, but for the regular doer it’s no biggie on life’s list of achievements.

 

Turns out I’ve become one of those people. A hundred kilometres on foot in a day barely even warrants a post except perhaps to mention you’re home, fed and relatively blister free. Every ultramarathoner knows how much of a privilege it is to do what we do.  It’s not something we take for granted but more that it’s just well…normal.

 

That’s where BRR was completely different to any other ultramarathon experience.  Many people on that start line were about to face their first marathon and then keep going for another 208kms.  It was an honour to bear witness to their journey.  Each morning it was awe-inspiring to see them overcome the fatigue and mental barriers to get to the start line.  Into the afternoon and sometimes the night we waited and watched the horizon for them to be making their way back to camp.  Each day while their bodies grew tired, their minds grew stronger.  Slowly they chipped away at the challenge and began to believe.  The last person across the line was out on the course 22 hours longer than me.  Close to an entire extra day.  I find the thought staggering.  The persistence and resilience it would take to keep going, the inner strength.

 

The transition to being an ultramarathoner is a life changing experience.  It redefines the boundaries of your world in the most profound ways.  To be in camp everyday with the true champions and support their journey is a memory I will hold dear forever.

 

 

Thanks so much to the BRR organisers, vollies, medics and the massage angels for making the journey possible.

Photo Provided by Big Red Run

Photo Provided by Big Red Run

Big Red Run

Clayton Crabtree- Sydney Trailwalker 2013

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(Adam Connor) This is actually the second guest post here, I’m still working on the first! We often say the true heroes of our events are the ones who spend those extra hours on the course. It’s very apparent here that Clayton and his team show an unusual amount of grit and determination. An amazing story…….

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Disclaimer: You know how it all ends, it takes a while to tell the story of a 45hr trek, so feel free to jump to the end (at times we all wished we could have), or trudge to the end and re-live the adventure with me…

Well, just what is it like to go on a non-stop 45hr trek through the Australian bush with a bunch of strangers and no sleep (for 50+hrs)? Especially when it was only planned to be 32hrs, with no specific Oxfam
training (i.e. long walks) at all, no special planning or preparation for 45hrs on the go, I was entering off the back of fitness from TNF100, some speedy training for the City to Surf, and two successful cracks at Oxfam 2 years earlier. Nothing can really prepare you for 45+hrs straight, except just
jumping in and doing it.

So, let’s start with the late last minute ring in request via Wilson from the NRG committee. Not yet met this famous NRG runner, but will be hunting him down on my next club run.

Cowan Station

Earlier on in the year I had considered doing Oxfam again, I began sniffing around the singles board, kept an eye on what teams were looking
for who, and who was looking for teams, what pace teams were aiming for that had lost team members. I was thinking 24hrs being a suitable goal.

But I was also battling sore ankles (& eventually black toe nails) that came and went mysteriously. I wasn’t prepared to commit to an Oxfam team
until I had worked out what was wrong and resolved it. Turns out my new shoes I wore on the TNF were half a size smaller than expected. Ankle and
other injuries now resolved I went for the bait on the NRG Facebook page and jumped into a team at the last minute (with my old shoes).

Sunrise Balmoral

Met my new team mates (actually two teams) at a restaurant in Crowsnest on
the Wednesday evening, less than 36 hours before the start. So no time to train with them, it was straight into taper, rest and carbo loading. They were the Adventure Angels Teams 1 & 2. Hailing from the personal fitness company “Fitness Angles” (clients, friends & other ring-ins), run by Laura.

I was looking forward to a quick trek with some fellow fitness fanatics and was happy to
offer my 2 x experience with various nebulous and random tips.

The day came, we had a civilised start at 10am. I caught the bus to Chatswood, train to Hornsby (was intending Berowra), another train to
Hawkesbury (that did not stop at Berowra), I arrived nice and early to enjoy some bacon and egg rolls, a good coffee, bit of a stretch, and a short wait for my 2 teams.

Off we went, start pace was relaxed, no fear of sweating too early on the first climb for me. Heading up the hill was the first of numerous amazing sights – another teams walker carry a back-pack hanging from neck height to less than a few inches off the ground & wider than he was; guess they did not meet their support crew first, they must have had the entire teams
support gear in the suitcase with shoulder harness (or he was a Ghurka).

Suspecting the latter there was no good natured ribbing as we trudged past, and then they trudged past us, and so it was until Bobbin Head with
these guys (we’ll meet up with them again later in the story).

A relaxed easy pace saw us arrive at CP1 around 2:30pm. Burgers all round; Elisha nailed two of them, just in-time as they then ran out of burger
buns. Hence an insentive to climb that first hill slightly quicker if you want more burgers. We left CP1 after half an hour; a quick turn-around from my previous two CP1
trips; time to make up time.

I made a de-ja-vue prediction earlier in the week: helicopters in the air halfway to Berowra waters. I’d been on that section of track 3 x and we’d heard noisey choppers all 3 x; so a fourth? Yes, another noisey chopper, just one, but bang on schedule & location.

CP1 to CP2 continued slow and easy, it’s the toughest stage of all. Ben and his sore knees were holding up well, playing it slow and careful on the downhills, a raging bull on the up-hills. We were treated to a
beautiful sun-set heading down into Berowra waters, it was going to be head-torch time by the time we got to the Berowra Waters road & ferry crossing. Much earlier on the trail than the last 2 x. But I figured that
the night would last just as long whether you walked it, ran it, or no matter how early it started. I was covered with head torches. I’ve done it twice and we were going with head torches this time much earlier, so the
suspicion of two full nights on the trail was beginning to dawn on me.

Sunrise Balmoral 2

Arrived at CP2 at 8pm to a near empty carpark. Less frantic than I recalled, more relaxed, much warmer, no change of clothes required for me
(wasn’t sweating at all), and they still had sausages this time (thanks for leaving some Adam but I was well fed by my support crew)! The Oxfam
volunteer lamented to us she had cooked over 2000~ sausage sammies that
day, and there was still plenty left over, but she was finished!

CP2 closed at 10pm, we left at 9:30pm, the first hint of the trail sweep monster closing in on us was becoming apparent.

CP2 to CP3 was dark and late. Tide was in and we had to take our shoes off to cross one section, brrrr. Woke the feet up anyway! Laura was playing tunes from her iPhone via a beat-box attached to her back-pack as we skirted around the swampy bits. Theme song for the trek (for me) was “Wake
Me Up” by Avicii. It’s still stuck in my head, I downloaded it from iTunes, sad I know!

We soon encountered our friends with the TMNT back-pack; only this time they had 2 torches between 4 of them, one torch was attached to a walking
stick (sharp pointy end almost getting me several times), the other was grabbed from the counter of a BP petrol station (or 2$ shop). But hey, they were ahead of us and (for some reason) not really wanting us to pass. The ultraristic side of me wanted to part with one of my spare torches and give them a boost, normally I would; but we’d be in for the long hall for
two nights ourselves and I hadn’t tested my Nao over one night let alone 2 so decided to keep my spare for my spare to myself or my team mates. In
the end they kept close by and sauntered into CP3 not far behind us. It was also a full-moon and plenty of ambient light.

Approaching Bobbin Head, we got to the bottom of the hill into Apple Tree bay. Was cold down at water level, I stopped on a flat top table and snacked on some chippies. My first mistake of the trip. Seems starch and
simple carbo-hydrates get snapped up and amplified by the melitonin the body uses to generate sleepiness. within 15 minutes I had gone from wide
awake to the “fog of dispair”, I was walking asleep. Kept awake by nailing the downhill into Bobbin Head, sat on some cold concrete steps to wait for
my team mates – who I could see at the top of the hill. I blinked and there they were, right beside me. Feigning the lack of suprise (as I tried
to work out how they got to me so quickly), we trudged into CP3 for a mighty fine dish of chicken soup and bread. It was 3:30am, only 6hrs to get here.

A good strong mocha from a sachet (sorry Paul, sacrilige I know, but it worked, blame Da) cleared my head for the new section of track for me, the
Gibberong trail. The team was holding up well, Ben hobbling along on sore knees still, Elisha making steady progress, our endurance cyclist hanging
with the peleton; and the rest of the crew, tired but still cheerful.

We headed off from CP3 at 5am (closing time was 7am), about 4-5 hours behind schedule now; but two hours ahead of my first Oxfam. Sun-rise somewhere along Gibberong; a climb up into Nth Turramarra; along to the
Sphinx where we were met by some fancy dressed Oxfam helpers with yummy dark chocolate, and then on down into Warrimoo creek. Tom, Meg and I took the quick / fast option up Warrimoo hill climb and then practiced our “bush hollahs” to communicate to our team taking the more leisurely pace. Dust and lack of air in the lungs made for a tortuous attempt at bush communication; more like a stuffed bush turkey than anything useful.

The constant “are we there yet”, or “we are halfway, aren’t we!” to CP4 were getting less easy to fend off with double-speak – “yes, only 4km to
go – and 3 hills”. Tom and Meg had gone ahead to stretch their legs again, I – with short legs and (normally) tight hamstrings can’t walk all that quick (which is why I run nowdays) – so gave them a head start and then
jogged to catch up, and onto CP4 where we waited for the rest of the crew to arrive “imminently”.

Somehow Oxfam Control decided to call me and ask where our team was on the
trail; “At CP4 waiting for the rest to arrive and we’ll check in”. He didn’t know there were two teams walking together; they had only noticed 3
of 4 people arrive at the CP but not check-in straight away, leaving, in their mind, one person alone on the trail. I was quick to add we were two
teams. Seemed to work, but either way these guys are great and onto it with looking out for the teams. Team note: stick together, we had only split on this end section to have a stretch and free the mind.

Time for a team talk. The trail sweep monster had been spotted earlier, St Ives was closing at 2pm, it was 1pm. We might be in danger of both teams DNF’ing. Elisha & Tom bundled themselves off to the first aid tent for a check and pit-stop repair job. I had to do my part to convince everyone to
delay any thoughts of dropping out with the promise that the next stage was 80% downhill… It worked.

We past the sweepers (they heading into CP4, us to CP5). The team with the two torches and the TMNT back-pack (shed earlier) cruised by, but were not
likely to beat the closing time, but hats off to their effort! We made CP5 just in-time to enjoy the warmth of the late setting sun. Trent and Ryan &
Annemarie arrived to cheer me on. Trent and Ryan did their reliable “don’t let daddy sit, sleep or eat” routine. Meg had decided to pull the pin, but
then I saw her putting her warm trail walking vest back on, so decided I did not need to try and convince her to stay with it. You tricked me & escaped!

CP5 to CP6 was a classic “death march”. Nite-time, familiar trails to me that just dragged on and on. A quick yell to Ben – “you have a ration of
12 strides before stopping again” – worked, we were off with big long walking sections between rests or stoppages. Arriving at the flat firetrail along Middle Harour creek before CP6 the dreaded “fog of
dispair” hit me again, this time it was un-shakeable, in-penetrable, caused probably by the chippies at CP5, no-doz had no effect. The only cure – which randomly entered my head (never encountered this ever, so had no set strategy) – was to run, fast, cold air-flow over my face, all the
way to CP6 with Tom. Was either that or fall to the side of the track (which might have been into the water) and sleep. The team was not too far
behind.

Again we were treated like kings at a banquet by our totally amazing support crew of Kate and co. We consistently gave them plenty of time to
setup, cook, layout the cutlery, wine glasses, pluck & bbq the chickens. Thank you guys for your patience!

“Fog of dispair” cure was still desparetly needed. If it returned my ability to finish the event was going to be in serious question. Physically I was solid. No blisters, no joint, ligament, muscle pains, nada. This time it was 2 x no-doz, a full cup of full strength sachet mocha, pieces of dark chocolate, held back on the amount of food eaten,
avoided simple carbs, dropped a layer to feel colder. But was thinking “was that enough”? Then I remembered one of my nebulous tips to the others
earlier in the week: when you cross a creek you might need to dip your head in to wake up. I looked around and saw a cold tap over in the distance. It was mid-night, 6deg, water was freezing, but never felt so
good! Wide awake, just like an eskimo after rolling in a glacial fed river. But I wasn’t convinced, so I drank lots of cold GU re-hydration
water. There ain’t going to be any sleeping with constant stops to water the trees every 12 strides, so I hung at the back on our trek to CP7. The
end was in sight, downhill from here.

Arrived CP7 around 2am after enjoying the Natural Bridge track and gloriously last single track uphill, we had a good 1hr rest and small feed, and we were off at 3am heading to the finish.

The walk along the tarseal streets was hard on the feet. A stop at Chinamans beach facilities was very timely, and then the stroll along Balmoral beach as the sun rose was simply amazing. The smoke filled haze provided amazing colours for lots of photos.

On my first Oxfam I ran to the top of Middle Harbour steps; this time I wanted to catch the actual sun-rise. Tom was with me, video in hand to capture the craziness, I turned by GPS / Strava app on for the first time,
and off we went for a quick & fast run up the 194 steps.

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Snapped the stopped button on the GPS just as the sun-rose and my iPhone went flat
before I could take the photo! Never mind, Tom and Chris had cameras to catch the majic moment. The team quickly joined us and the support crew
(who were not there really) for the team photo against the warm glow of sun-rise. Truely a magic moment.

All that was required was a short stroll basking in the warmth and glory of a well earned finish to the finish. Even with the clock counter ticking
toward 45hrs, the team held form and sauntered over the finish line in 45hrs and 5 mins.

Bloody awesome team and support crew, and well done to all!

& Yes, I’ll be back again.

The Journey Log