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

Oxfam Trailwalker Sydney 2013

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I’d lightened the training load since The North Face 100, took lots of days off for no reason and generally didn’t take this race seriously. Big mistake. In my defence I suspect a few others had done the same……….

There was a great amount of sledging between me, Martyn Dawson, Adam Darwin, Paul Blamire, Joe Hedges, Michael McGrath and others a couple of months ago. Then it all went suspiciously quiet. None of us were putting in the hard yards, and we all started to worry that we hadn’t done enough. Some of us hadn’t! However we all made it to the finish, and here’s what happened.

Anyone running the course needs to put together a very strong team- it’s all about arriving at the finish with all 4 team members. This year the top spots were wide open, with Quality Meats not entering (they won 3 years running) and Shona doing UTMB instead of fronting a female team. The night before we discovered that Mountain Sports were fielding a mixed team comprising Beth Cardelli, Ewan Horsburgh and a couple of others, they would be tough to beat. I’d decided that we should field a mixed gender team in an attempt to place a bit higher in that category. We’ll see how that worked out later shall we?

Oxfam Trailwalker Sydney 2013

I got in initially because one of Robyn Bruins friends posted for team members on Facebook. He then picked up a random from the singles board (Christopher Beavon), and I was in charge of finding female talent. Note to wife- I mean running talent Sarah! On the basis that you should always choose someone better than you we drafted Gillian Russell and Kate McElligott as our reserve. With the difficulty of this event you tend to go through a few people so reserves are important- and so it proved. Both of our ladies were out injured well before the event. Apparently Kate has filled in her time spilling blood on the streets of Mosman, but Gillian decided she wanted to crew for us. So I drafted Jane Trumper, Queen of the Desert into our team. She spent a lot of time telling me she wasn’t interested, but I wore her down. There simply wasn’t anyone more perfect for the role.

On race morning I found out that I was the least experienced team member- Jane was about to start her 12th, Aaron his 5th, Chris 4th and me just 2. But I knew that if any of us had issues we were likely to be able to carry on simply because of experience. the gun went off and we all had a little 300m run to the first hill. And it’s a beauty. The kind of hill that truly takes your breath away. I knew the first 2 sections were the most brutal and difficult so I resolved to just hang on until they were over. We had a plan of finishing in 19 hours (which I thought would be easy!). Arrival at CP1 at 9:27am was 10 minutes in front of our timetable so very happy. On our way to CP2 I started fantasising about Coca Cola and our fearless team leader went ahead and got us each a can. This pointed out a major flaw in our plans- I had Pepsi in my drop bag, but we weren’t due to see our crew (Peter Trumper, Jane’s husband) until CP4 St Ives sometime around dusk. To make matters worse, there were sausage sizzles, coffee trucks etc at each checkpoint but NO ONE selling soft drinks. The event itself provided some lollies, tea, instant coffee and water, but no fruit, sports drink or other food (to be fair we were given 2 tubes of Gu Brew at the start, but I had obviously mis read the instructions and thought that sports drink would be provided. I left the Gu Brew in my drop bag, D’oh!). At CP2 we saw Steve Bruggeman (in work clothes!) and Lise Lafferty taking pics. By CP3 we were 30 minutes ahead of schedule and looking like we would A) get to St Ives in daylight and B) finish an hour ahead of schedule. Unfortunately I had been suffering all day and everything was taking a toll. I was getting slower and I’m sure at some points the only thing keeping me going was the caffeine. Up to this point we had been dicing back and forwards with Martyn, Adam, Joe, Paul and Michael. Guys I’m not sure a tap on the bum or a loud fart as you go past is appropriate, but neither made me go faster. Thanks anyway, I think.

We arrived at St Ives to see our crew at 5:40pm, just 10 minutes after official sundown. We hadn’t need our torches, but got them out for the death march to Davidson Park, CP6.   At Davidson there’s still a few climbs but you know you’re going to finish- it’s only 20km to the end. By this stage I was grumpy but off my head on coffee and Pepsi, Jane was baiting me by asking us to go faster, we had some instant noodles and headed off into the night. I felt like I wasn’t far from my limits and we weren’t going very fast, but every time someone talked to me I was surprised when my voice sounded happy and intelligible.

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At Ararat we could smell the finish- had a quick stop and slipped out to slay the dragon. We were dicing with 2 teams now- Mike McGrath was pushing his lot along but at Ararat one of them was covered in a space blanket and looking green. We figured that would be the last we saw of that team as a complete set of four- we were wrong! The other team was one with Alison Lilley- you might notice that I have a lot of female runners as heroes, well she is another one! She’d been making noises that we were going to catch her but I think natural justice prevailed when she got her team home a bit over 30 minutes in front of us.

Martyns Team

Martyns Team

Down at the Spit my guts started to go liquid, and not in a ‘you’ll be fine’ kind of way, more of a ‘if you don’t find a toilet in the next few minutes this suburb is going to be a different colour’ kind of way. So up Parriwi Rd I walked with my butt cheecks clenched and ran down to Chinamans Beach where there was a structure I first mistook for a house. But no, it was a new toilet block, open at 1am, and with clean, gleaming fittings and GASP- actual toilet paper! It was like getting entry into Valhalla and finding a comfortable, ceramic throne. The team were waiting for me at the exit to the park, but there was too many lights- Michaels team had just gone through. Bugger.

Jane wanted to chase them, and I was feeling a bit better, but not good enough to chase. Not far on, they took a wrong turn and we got back in front. Why? Well it seems that Mosman Council won’t let Oxfam put up any directional signs. That’s just plain stupid for the last 3km of a 100km race. A race that involves 2000 people and raises $3million for charity. Mosman Council- get a better grip on reality you idiots.

Things pretty much unfolded as I expected from there- Michaels team stuck behind us until the stairs then blasted past to take glory 800m from the finish. We managed a little run for the last 300m but they weren’t to be denied and used a last burst to have us cross about 20 seconds after them. So we all had a bit of back slapping, taking photos and a quiet little cry inside.

BUT- there’s no electronic timing on Trailwalker. Your check ins determine your time, and Michaels team had forgotten to check in so when Jane checked us in she put us in front of his team that had finished before us!

Analysis- I finished Trailwalker 2010 in a walking team in 29hr 36 minutes. This time was 19hr 26 minutes, so a full 10hr 10 minute pb for me! We were 24th ‘team’ across the line, but when you look at the results, a different picture emerges- many of those 23 other teams were missing 1, 2 or even 3 members. (Please note all results mentioned from here in are 4 team members only). Only counting ‘full’ teams we were 11th! What an outstanding result. Less outstanding was the fact that me trying to ‘game’ the results had backfired. We were 6th mixed gender team, but if we’d been all boys we would have been 4th in that category. We were 4th in the ‘Family & Friends’ industry category, but if we’d chosen to start as part of the ‘Advertising, Media, Marketing & Sales’ industry we would have smoked all of those long lunchers and come first (they were all over 30 hour finishers). Kicking Aaron and Chris out of the team and filling it with fast old farts would have bagged us second in the over 40 category.

Results

But if I’ve given you the impression that I’m competitive or ruthless I’m sorry. I would not have changed a single thing about the way we worked together that day. I have the hugest respect for my fellow team members, and thanks for dragging me home!

There were some epically tough people out there- Paul Blamire who struggled home with a bad hip, others with sore feet, knees etc. Any one of those other teams could have creamed us to the finish- all it would have taken was a bit worse luck for us and a bit better luck for them.

What would I change? I would do more training. Not taking this event seriously enough was a big mistake. I would read the documentation more carefully so I wouldn’t expect things to be provided that weren’t. The stuff not provided this year was in stark contrast to 2010- now they provide almost nothing that we get in most races.  I would have crew a bit earlier. I would lobby the organisers to have a bit of fruit and some sports drink. I would tell Mosman Council to pull their heads out of their collective arses and support the event better.

To my team- sorry, I probably could have run 5 minutes faster to get those bastards from the NRMA, next time. Next time? No, I don’t think I can. I think. I think I can, I think I can, I……

Joe Ward 276km Great North Walk- Pacing

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Joe doing his best impression of the GNW Logo

Joe doing his best impression of the GNW Logo

I woke up at 12:30am to the sound of David Brown’s alarm. Three seconds later I hear him say ‘Hello? Where are we?’

My first thought was why is he talking to his phone? My second thought was ‘oh no, we’ve just committed the ultimate sin. We weren’t at the changeover point for our duties as pacers.’
Sure enough, it was Ronald Stevens calling us to let us know that Joey, who has started in Newcastle at 4am on Friday, the day before. He was making an attempt on the record for a complete traverse of the Great North Walk, a 276km trail from Newcastle to Sydney opened in our bicentennial year 1988. One of the records was 54 hours, set by Meredith Quinlan and Jess Baker. Kirrily Dear and Alison Lilley had previously set the record at 81 hours by simply completing it! There had also been a group including Andrew Vize in about 66 hours. Get the picture? All Joey had to do was to FINISH, and he would take the  record for the first SOLO traverse of the complete GNW. And be only the 11th recorded non stop run of the course.

Ron, always unflappable made some arrangements for the current pacer to continue and for us to be inserted part way through the section we were meant to be pacing. We were meant to start at Yarramalong and go to Patonga, a couple of sections of the Terrigal Trotters GNW100s course that I knew fairly well from pacing Jane Trumper last year. This meant that we had to rely on the current pacer to get Joey through the infamous ‘dead horse creek’ section where someone got so lost last year she was timed out of the race. I felt like I’d really let him down because I was the one who had the course loaded on 2 different GPS devices, including maps, course descriptions etc. I take the job of pacer very seriously and was gutted to let Joe down.

We got to the intersection of Ourimbah Creek Rd and Forty Acre Farm at 2:30am. Then waited, and waited. Sitting in the ute in the dark with the apparent temp below zero was a surreal experience. We took bets about when they would turn up, and I sat there and worried about them getting lost. At 5am I said ‘I’m going to get them’ and we saddled up our gear and headed up the trail. Luckily about 600m up we discovered 2 happy chirpy lads coming towards us.

Only 7km to go until the Somersby checkpoint, but Joey was moving strongly at ~150km and 25 hours. At Somersby we were met by Emma (Joe’s fiancé) and the irrepressible Sarah Jane Marshal in a hilarious disco outfit. A quick fuel up, then we were off into the early morning sunshine towards Mooney Mooney. It was lovely being alone on the trails, having a chat and making sure Joe was eating and drinking to a schedule.

 

Mooney Mooney welcome committee, Saturday afternoon. Helping Joe stay grounded in reality

Mooney Mooney welcome committee, Saturday afternoon. Helping Joe stay grounded in reality

At Mooney Mooney we arrived to a thunderous reception with Alison Thomas in a onesie and some very confused cyclists going past. One cyclist who did stop was Andrew Vize! He’s come down to see how Joe was going- I’m constantly humbled by the willingness of heroes of the sport to help other. Well, it kind of went the other way this time- we filled Andrews bidon with water, gave him some snakes and he wished us well! After a massage and fill up we were off again- this time with Tanya Carrol as an addition to the pacing team. It was great adding Tanya- I think Joe was thankful that my jokes became a bit cleaner.

Bananaman getting more value from his sponsors

Bananaman getting more value from his sponsors

Next stop was Patonga, where Ben Pearce and girlfriend Jen were waiting to take Joe across the bay to Brooklyn, where Ben Blackshaw and Alison Lilley would continue for his last 76km. This was a difficult section, and one that Joe was dreading, but I know that worse was to come! We arrived at 6pm Saturday night to another great reception including my wife Sarah and son Alex. Joe spent a few moments staring at the post which marks the end of the GNW100s Miler (on this occasion it marked the 200km mark of his journey).

Joe contemplates the achievement and tries to ignore what is still to come

Joe contemplates the achievement and tries to ignore what is still to come

I insisted on a beer at the Patonga pub and retired to our lodgings to sleep. I hadn’t slept since Friday morning and was really feeling it. I could only imagine what Joe was going through.

So what next? I slept for nearly 12 hours, helped clean the house, drove back to Sydney, showered, changed, had a big boozy lunch and…… well I couldn’t just leave it there.

Lane Cove National Park welcome committee, Sunday night

Lane Cove National Park welcome committee, Sunday night

I went home, got into my running gear and went out to Lane Cove National Park to do the last section. Joe by this time had been travelling for over 60 hours with no real rest. He arrived with Ben Blackshaw and Alison Lilley after 8pm and just before 9pm we were on the trail again. There was a huge welcome committee from his Manly Beach Running Club! Ben was continuing however Alison was nursing a knee injury and had to go home. During the day on Sunday some of the terrain was so tough they were averaging only 2-3km per hour. The call had gone out for more pacers as some had needed to pull out because of work the next morning, others were injured, it was all looking a bit dodgy. I was happy to step up, also Sebastian Warmerdam and Gillian Russell joined up too. Matt McCarron, who had spent most of the day Saturday helping and then ran the M7 Marathon on Sunday came back out and ran the last section several times just to make sure we wouldn’t get lost. What an incredible team.

We spent the last few hours joking and having light hearted conversation. But we had a problem. The last section of the course ends at Woolwich Pier, and then you have to go across the water to Circular Quay, and from there it is only 300 metres to the ends- an obelisk in Macquarie Place. The plan was to take a ferry from Woolwich to Circular Quay, but its was too late on Sunday night for a ferry. The backup plan was to get a water taxi – guess what? Too late! In desperation the wonderful Sally Dean ( grand organiser extraordinaire) rang the Water Police. The first time her reception was predictably brusque, but as time went on golden tongued Sally managed to convince them that it was not only a good idea, but needed to be done.

Ben had been waiting at Patonga since midday Saturday, and pacing since the 6pm trip across to Brooklyn. It was no surprise that he was a bit quiet, but I had to press on being lively and encouraging, telling bad jokes and generally getting in peoples faces to try to keep Joe going. I’d apologise for being annoying, but I do feel it’s kind of my job as pacer to be inexhaustible and positive. Ben you did an incredible job, you can decide if I’m truly a d!ckhead next time we meet!

I gave Joe a mini Mars bar and some Coke, ten minutes later he breaks out into a run. That’s right- he ran his 270th km, breaking Gillian in the process. This brings to well, uncountable numbers of pacers who lay figuratively broken in his wake. Three km later we see the high wear off and he’s asking ‘where’s the @##$%^ boat? I can’t see the wharf!’ A second application of Mars bar and Coke did not work, remember refined sugars are baaaad kids.

The water police were awesome, picking us up right on time and taking half a dozen of us across the harbour, well fast! Check out the Garmin…….

At Circular Quay we were met by Ngaire Anna and a whole bunch of people, Joe was able to speak to his fiancé via Facetime back to Boston. She had hopped on a plane after supporting him to Somersby. Did I mention they got married a week after this little adventure? Yes, Joe just had to finish by Wednesday, get on a plane and get hitched in the US. Tex Whitney Productions whom I’d been having the big boozy lunch with were there to film the finish.

Bizarre- a little over 24 hours earlier Emma was helping Joe, here he is at the end talking to her in Boston!

Bizarre- a little over 24 hours earlier Emma was helping Joe, here he is at the end talking to her in Boston!

Joe removed the course marking tape he’d been carrying with him for 276km and laid it on the fence around the obelisk. We cheered, hugged and shed a little tear for his incredible achievement. It had taken 69.5 hours, and even though I’d only seen a small part of it I’d witnessed an amazing feat of human endurance, with a great bunch of people who all donated their time and effort for a great cause. I’m very humbled to be a small part of a community like this.

I can’t believe that it’s actually possible to run/ walk from 4am Friday morning until 1:30am on the Monday, but I saw it happen!

You- I’m talking to you. Think about crewing or pacing someone on a ridiculously long run. I’ve done it several times now and it’s very rewarding. Now, who needs crew for Coast to Kosci?