Badwater 135 Miles 2017

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Contains many words, some of them a bit sweary. Grabbing success from the bits left over from my mistakes…….

Firstly, I have a lot of people to thank- while I may be the one wearing out shoes, there’s no way this would have been possible without these people-

  • Mum & Dad- they had no idea why I wanted to do this, but supported me anyway
  • Wife & Son- Sarah understands, doesn’t particularly like it, and supports me anyway. Is this a pattern?
  • Mile 27 & Andy DuBois- He’s managed to get a grumpy old bugger across the line of some epic runs. I don’t know how he does it, but I’m impressed
  • WTFitness & Dominic Cadden- Dom has forgotten more than I’ll ever know about strength training. He’s quietly spoken and has a will of steel- great guy to have on your side
  • Jen Carman-Chart & Enliven Fitness– Massage- who felt my calves and said ‘er, how long have we got?’
  • Chris Kostman- I would not have been financially able to do the other races in your stable, and thanks for recognising that normal runners should get a chance….
  • Lauren Dustin & Sarah C Smith who both helped with US arrangements
  • My crew Damon Roberts, Neill Webb and Jon Luff who all gave up their time and sacrificed a lot to help me realise a dream. Thank you a million times over, then a million more

Super Crew- often a bit blurry

Although I was the only Aussie living in Australia who ran this year (Grant Maughan seems to lead an adventurers life- never sure where he is although it’s usually somewhere on the edge of sanity), I am far from the only Aussie who has done this race. Have a look at these names- I want to acknowledge the amazing people who stepped into the unknown and tackled this race in years gone by, what a list!

Ian Adamson
Jonathan Blake
Adam Connor
David Eadie
Dave Graham
Susannah Harvey-Jamieson
Jan Herrmann
Glenn Lockwood
Kelvin Marshall
Brendan Mason
Grant Maughan
Pam Muston
Ross Parker
Jason Rita
Jim Schroeder
Sandy Suckling
Mick Thwaites
Catherine Todd
Sam Weir
Nikki Wynd

I’m proud to say that I’ve met many of the people on this list and even prouder to be on it. So that makes me the 19th Australian to finish (there is a DNF on that list- pity we are 1 off a perfect finishing record!)
Will you be number 20?
BTW- there is no order to the list- that’s how it came out of the database.

Shaggin’ Wagon. Soon renamed to ‘Fartmobile’

Now on to the race-

Badwater Basin to Furnace Creek- 17 miles

It’s raining. How the fuck can it be raining? It’s like 40 degrees and we’re in the middle of the freaking desert. It CAN’T rain. I’ve been gleefully telling people for months that I chose one of the only races on earth where I didn’t have to take wet weather gear…..

Luckily it’s only a few spots, but unluckily isn’t actually wet enough to take any of the sting out of the heat. It’s 8:30pm at night and hot as balls, maybe 40 degrees . There’s about 30 people in my wave (the middle wave) and most of them have taken off like they’ve got somewhere they’d rather be. I’m trying to keep my heart rate down, knowing that the start of the race is likely to make it spike, but no speed decrease is making my heart go under 152bpm. I’ll just have to ignore it and let it fix itself.

I’m running Badwater baby! It’s one of those races you think is just dumb when you first hear about it. Many people never get beyond that, but I was lucky enough to crew last year, so I’ve made the transition to ‘maybe I could do this….’ and then subsequently finished with ‘hell yes, let’s do this!’

Simply getting in to the race is a big thing, and I was super lucky to make it on my first attempt. I trained my arse off to make the race easier to cope with, and to be truthful I was pretty relaxed about the race as the start time got closer and closer. Perhaps relaxed is an understatement- I made so many rookie mistakes it’s a wonder I got far off the start line. I’d hate to put down my success to luck, but I’ll take anything when the chips are down. The only unknown factor is the heat, and I’d done as much as I could to mitigate that (er, apart from actually acclimatising. The science calls for 4 weeks of heat acclimatisation in a sauna, I got 2.5 weeks. Another stamp of ‘can do better’. But back to the start….

Neil, Furnace Creek, the day of the race….

After 16km the rain had stopped and been replaced with a vicious wind that changed direction at will. We were being pushed around like a fan forced rotisserie with the added benefit of a bit of sandblasting. First and second challenge for the crew- we both had different ideas about how to prepare the ice filled Buffs, and had not sorted this out before the race- they had to change on the run. Then I asked for my sunglasses with clear lenses to combat the sand. And at 16km a magical thing happened- I finally started feeling like a runner again. I’d had a long taper and been unable to fit even short runs in before the race, it was nice to get some flow back into my legs. I started passing people, having a little chat as I went past- Joel Livesy the type 1 diabetic, Keith Straw the guy who runs in a pink tutu, the German couple who decided they wanted to be known as Swiss. Constantly wondering if I should be slowing down, but knowing that it would be pointless. I wasn’t spending much energy running, to slow down would cost me more.

The first turn is at Furnace Creek, approximately 17 miles where I had a short chat to Bulgaria (Krasimir Nicolaev Gueorgiev) – lovely bloke who I later tried to friend on FaceBook, but FB told me he already has 5000 friends!

Furnace Creek to Stovepipe Wells 25 miles Total 42 miles

The next big goal is Stovepipe Wells at 42 miles, so we settled in to kill some distance. I kept on reeling in people in front, so much so that I was worried I was eating into the people in the wave before me.

This turned out to be true as I said a few words to a guy I was passing and it turned out to be MARSHALL ULRICH. Holy shit I got to meet him in the middle of the desert with no one around and shook his hand! I could have peed myself I was so excited, but then I’d have to report the colour of my pee, so perhaps not in front of such a legend.
I was massively upset to hear that he had retired at Panamint Springs but he had stated that he just wanted to be anonymous during this race, so I guess he had a lot on his mind. I can’t even imagine the pressure you’d have on yourself after starting this race for the 20th time. I also caught Catra Corbett during the early twilight- you should follow her, she has an interesting life. Before the race I’d decided if I had any competitive spirit I’d try to beat Catra because we appeared to be around the same pace. I don’t know who I’m kidding- I don’t have any competitive spirit, but hey after a while it’s all mind games right?And around dawn I spent a bit of time with Amy Stratton Costa and Bulgaria, but they were pushing a bit hard for me so I let them go.

Yeah though we walk through the Valley of Death, we will fear no mans gas

I found this race odd for one reason- no one talks to each other! I was trying to pump Keith for some tips but he was very conscious of the rule that we are meant to run single file. I kept having to fight my natural inclination to slow down beside him or speed up to chat. I’m sure this is a National Parks rule but it does stifle the conversation somewhat. I wonder if others were unwilling to chat because of this but I didn’t find the race as ‘friendly’ as expected. Or perhaps I’m just expecting too much of my fellow runners- or maybe I’m an incorrigible chatterbox. Oh, yes I am!
*edit- I didn’t mean this to sound like people were rude- they definitely weren’t! I had added some Facebook people who were doing and crewing the race but didn’t get to chat to any of them, it is just one of those weird observations.

As mentioned I made loads of mistakes in this race and in some ways it’s a miracle that I made the end, but none of the mistakes were earth shattering, and mostly not worth correcting- but I’m going to write this report as though you want to do the race, and not make the mistakes that I did. Here’s a few-

I hate carrying a bottle, it makes me feel uneven and slows me down, but my thirst was ferocious- for the first 6 hours or so I was drinking a 600ml bottle of Staminade (with ice) every 2 miles- that’s 3.2km. Then I was drinking that 600ml bottle AND a 250ml bottle of iced water over the same distance. Because of the ice content I wasn’t really drinking 850ml of fluid every 30 minutes but it wouldn’t have been far off. Because I hate running with a bottle I was coming up to the car and drinking the whole thing essentially in one go. But I had to stop to do this, which meant that other runners would get past. I tried to walk with the bottle and drink quickly, but under the rules my ‘bottle supplier’ isn’t meant to be pacing me until the 42 mile mark. This meant that my crew were very nervous about following me or walking with me to take the empty bottles, even though I feel the rules do cover this action. This meant that I was generally stationary while fuelling up and I think overall this could have made a difference of at least 30 minutes. This is NOT a criticism of my crew- if anything it’s something I should have sorted out. I am still super happy with the way things worked out, but if you were doing the race, you might do it differently.

I also failed to get my race nutrition right. I often tell people that I eat cheap muesli bars and party mix lollies during ultra marathons, but I also supplement with Accelerade and Perpetuem. Unfortunately I didn’t have either for my trip as I was concentrating on other things, which was very dumb. I was lucky I had the Staminade in the cupboard and that started my race off nicely. But it only makes 9 litres so I polished it off pretty quickly. My appetite for real food was quite poor during this race so I should have planned to have most of my calories from liquid. After the Staminade was gone we moved on to Orange/ Vanilla flavoured Perpetuem- it’s as odd tasting as it sounds. I’d supplement that with a BCAA mix that also tasted odd, and seemed to give me the most ferocious wet farts you’ve ever encountered. This was ok for about 15 hours, and kind of funny, but after that they turned noxious and seemed to follow me like a black cloud coming up the mountain- deadly to wildlife and small children. And perhaps crew. If there had been any vegetation you could have seen it turn black after I passed….

I hadn’t been past this point yet. You can tell because the vegetation isn’t black

Tiredness and sleep- I failed here too. It’s relatively easy to go from Aus to USA and deal with the ~18 hour time difference. But I hadn’t told my crew about how I NEED around 10 hours of sleep per night. I seemed to be dealing pretty well with 7-8 hours and the attendant hangovers from being in Vegas. But one day I got back to my room at 3:46am and had the vague thought that I’d really better sleep a bit more, but by then it was getting a bit close to the race. It’s really obvious from the photos and video taken outside Furnace Creek how tired I was. I can’t overstate how dumb this was and how much it affected me during the race. In Coast to Kosci I’ve never needed more than 1x 15 minute nap each race. This race I had at least 3-4 naps longer than that, and I’d estimate maybe 2-3 hours in total asleep. Was I subconsciously trying to sabotage myself? Well it worked, I could have easily gone under 40 hours if I hadn’t needed that sleep.

On the other hand (and you’ll hear this a lot) my primary goal was to get to the end- ‘whatever it takes’ so having a sleep was ok as long as it got me going again. I slept way too much during this race. Another factor was that I’d only discovered about 6 weeks before the race that I only have one kidney. I refused to get any direct advice from a specialist about the race in case they told me not to do it, but it seems reasonable in a race where the temperature goes from 32-52 degrees, there will be a fair strain on your kidney. It also meant I could not touch any NSAIDS- no Ibuprofen, nothing. This meant that I had to ALWAYS err on the side of caution and keep my promise to Sarah to come home healthy. Every little thing that came up in the race simply made me go slower. Frustrating, but to finish first, first you have to finish. Er, I’ll never finish first!

Just before sunrise I noticed that I seemed to have a rash coming up on my legs. The only explanation was the radiant heat from the tarmac. I had not put on suncream because it was night, but I guess night had other ideas. I stopped to put on my calf guards and we sprayed the gap between them and my shorts with SPF50 and hoped it wouldn’t get worse. It did.

OK so we got to Stovepipe Wells and this is the first point in the race where you can have pacers. We had briefly discussed the pacing strategy and I’d told the guys I wasn’t worried and to work it out themselves. There was a significant queue for the petrol pumps here so they sent me on my way with a bottle and waited to fill up. Another mistake- If I’d been more awake I would have asked them to have someone come with me, and leave when the car caught up. Again, not a big deal but it cost me a bit of running time while I was still capable. The boys had apparently decided to start pacing around the 100km mark until the end, giving the 2 runners on the crew around 50km of pacing each. That’s a nice do-able amount and I think they made the right call.

Stovepipe Wells to Panamint Springs 30.7 miles Total 72.7 miles

The next section out of Stovepipe is a big climb out of Death Valley into Panamint Valley. Somewhere around there I’ll make 62 miles and my first 100km. The plan for the race was pretty simple- don’t go under 14 hours for the first 100km, don’t go over 40 hours for the entire 217km. It’s morning now, but not too hot because we are climbing, the tough bit is going to be descending into the Panamint Valley with the full sun.

yes that says 53 degrees. I’ll post the one that says 59c if I find it- just for laughs, I know it isn’t right…..

And so it turns out- running a mild downhill should be an easy, low energy stroll but the sun is vicious and unrelenting. We’ve got a device that shows the temperature Gaffa taped to the wing mirror and it shows up to 59 degrees celsius- it stops working at 60. That’s obviously not correct- the highest temperature ever recorded on earth was about 56 degrees in the valley we just left, but it means I can’t do anything but walk the downhill when I should be able to run. I lost a lot of places here to people who seemed to be able to glide down the hill, just like I couldn’t. Oh, and I needed to occasionally duck into the van when I overheat. I really feel like I’m risking heatstroke here, so I get extra careful. Then suddenly near the valley floor I need to poo, so the guys make a mad scramble for the Biffy Bags.

You’re required to carry 2 Biffy Bags per crew member, but they had a special offer on lots of 10. I’d never seen anyone use one before, and you guessed it- had not read the instructions. So I’m sure it was highly comical watching me drop my daks in the middle of the desert and try to hold up this ridiculous bag, then squat and poo, all the while wondering if I’d be able to get out of the squat because my legs hurt. Anyway, moving on- let me just say the Biffy Bags are a really good design- they include toilet paper, antibac hand wash, stuff to treat the waste and a heavy bag to contain it all. Neill gave me an extra dose of hand wash and I deposited the nuclear waste bag in the van with a deep ‘thunk’ sound. Lucky boys, they get to drive the next few hours with that in the van.

The long, long road to Panamint Springs

Unfortunately dropping about 5 kg did not help my running and I was holding on to the hope that once things flattened out in the valley I might be able to run again. Well that was a highly optimistic and not very smart thought. I have lots of those. It was brutally hot in the valley, and while I could see Panamint through the heat haze, it just didn’t seem to get any closer.

Sometime along here I saw my first 100km come up, and at almost exactly 15 hours I still felt I was on track despite all of the dumb things I’d done.

Panamint from the other direction- just after Father Crowley

Panamint Springs is a deeply odd place. It’s like someone can’t stop themselves from buying discounted building materials on eBay, and the place is basically a collection of unfinished sheds. This year however there was the addition of a massive marquee that didn’t seem to fit any purpose. However Badwater is a big deal for the 5 or 6 people who live in this deeply inhospitable place and they make a big effort to help out- thank you!

I was feeling tired again and the crew seemed to be having the usual problems of a huge queue of cars trying to get supplies so they agreed to let me have a sleep. they took me to the medical room and I was assigned the upper bunk- unfortunately I didn’t have the presence of mind to take off my sun gear and the next thing I knew I was trying to rip my shirt and arm sleeves off as I was lying next to the stifling hot ceiling trying to breathe. Sleep didn’t last long so I got up and sat with Marie Boyd, an Australian living in the areas who helps out each year fixing blisters etc. It’s great to hear an Australian accent!

I got a bit bored watching Marie slice and dice some poor blokes feet and kept looking at my watch wondering what was happening with my crew. What I didn’t know is that Panamint had run out of ice and their petrol bowsers were broken. This has sent them into a bit of a tailspin, wondering whether they should go back to Stovepipe to get more ice or push on. They were trying to keep this ‘disastrous’ information away from me but again I had made the mistake of not running through this before the race. If they had told me about the problem I would have said to push on- we can survive without ice but we cannot survive without water. They came to the same conclusion, bought as much cold water as they could, and we pushed on. Again, this cost us a lot of time because I had not prepared us for the problem. But again, my primary goal was to finish, and being careful about your supplies is a good thing- ultimately it helped me get there, so I’m cool with spending the time to do it. I’d be more organised if I ever got to have another go at this race. No Sarah, I didn’t just say that.

Sadly, we couldn’t get this lost puppy into the van

Panamint Springs to Lone Pine 50miles Total 122.7 miles

By now it was afternoon again and we were heading into the second night. I’d pretty much given up hope of a good time, although I had made good progress up to this point I just couldn’t push my body on any more than it was doing. In keeping with the prime directive I needed to do it easy and let shit happen around me. No pushing, no breaking down, no getting soft. That meant I was pretty much confined to walking. This section is an incredibly harsh lesson in mental anguish. You can sometimes see Mt Whitney and it doesn’t get any closer. You can sometimes see the lights of Lone Pine and it doesn’t get any closer. There’s very little to look forward to- even the biggest feature of this section- the town of Keeler- is like a bug bite on the arse of the universe. I made my 100 miles in 28 hours. That’s ok considering the incredible amount of time we had wasted, and I knew that the difference between surviving and getting a good time depended on me keeping my shit together and simply putting one foot in front of the other. I didn’t have any excuses for sobbing and rolling into a foetal position, I’d studied Mick Thwaites on video absolutely cranking his walking and demolishing his competition into a podium position. I had mentally prepared myself for this section and it still got the better of me. It just never ends.

BodyGlide- oh sweet relief

I suppose the thing that killed me a bit here was my Garmin. I’m really good at setting little targets and making them happen when I can do little bits of mental arithmetic based on what my Garmin says. I’d used this Fenix 3 previously for several long runs and it works well simply attaching a USB battery pack to the charging cable and charging the device a couple of times during the run. This time was different- even when the battery pack was connected, the Garmin charge would only go up by 1% every 30 minutes or so. I actually had the battery pack connected (and was holding it) for about 9 hours as it went from 9% to about 53%. Even swapping the battery pack did nothing. Eventually a crew member took it off me and I resigned myself to doing the rest of the race without data- a horrifying thought for me! I worked out later what must have been happening. I had been squirting water down my sleeves to keep my arms cool, and it looks as though a bit of water had seeped into the charging cable- evidenced by the rust accumulated at the connector.

This led to my next mistake- I’d been getting tired again and told the crew I would have a nap at Keeler. Then I managed to make the town of Keeler magically appear -as far as I can tell now, we were still about 20km away from the actual town! When I woke from my nap I was properly energised, but that all disappeared in the grey sunrise when the real town of Keeler appeared. Bugger.

We had also been warned about flash flooding in this area- in fact some runners who had chosen to stay in Lone Pine were worried about getting to the start line because of this issue- I think the road was washed out or at least impassable, but the local authorities got it open in plenty of time. The other unusual problem was that the unexpected water had created a heaven for little flying insects, which started to bite us before Keeler and well on the road towards Lone Pine. Annoying, but again I’d have to say Australia is worse for that kind of crap.

Ernie, our team mascot. And some bloke with a ridiculous hat

And of course it got hotter and hotter as the sun rose- and the roads go dead straight into the far distance. Again I should have been able to get up an easy shuffle, but my attempts during the night had been almost comical- I’d get about 100-150m before my heart rate went up too much and I’d have to walk again. This must have been incredibly frustrating for the crew (well it was for me!) but nothing else could be done. I was super fit and should have been able to do more, but it just wouldn’t work. With a little less at stake I may have been able to push through, but perhaps I would have blown up too? I’ll never know- this was my one shot at this race and I can only be happy about the way it went, second guessing myself now isn’t going to help.

Lone Pine couldn’t really be seen until you got to the end of a massive straight (one where we’d seen an actual real rattlesnake, but I was much more interested in why the bloody town was hiding from me). Finally crossing the bridge and turning into the main street I decided I needed to have another look at my burnt legs. The pus filled blisters were getting quite large now and I felt bad for anyone who may be in the firing line if one of them decided to blow, it could be like the head twisting scene from The Exorcist with gore everywhere. We stopped and the crew fixed me up with some safety pins holding Buffs over the exposed skin. It was nice not to be a pus filled time bomb, and people could safely walk beside me again. The boys found The Grill cafe and asked me if I wanted any breakfast, but I rudely shouted

‘NO, I WANT MY FUCKING BUCKLE’

Apologies for that, but I’m sure they’ll have the last laugh, because I think they got that on video….. Anyway, we passed the Dow Villa Motel checkpoint (not sure what happened in Lone Pine but I remember getting antsy because it was taking too long- if I’d known what was ahead I wouldn’t have been so keen to leave!) and then we headed up Whitney Portal Rd for a bit more torture…..

Lone Pine to Mt Whitney Portal 13 miles Total 135 miles

Going up the Portal Rd there’s several distinct environments. you start out in the baking sun, then move into various other areas of baking sun, with differences in vegetation and incline just to keep you on your toes. Did I mention the baking sun? I made the first 2-3 miles ok, but the sun got so hot I had to retreat to the car again. And promptly fell asleep. Five minutes later Damon said ‘you’ve had 5 minutes, do you need more?’
My reply was pretty rude, but boiled down to ‘yes I need more than 5 bloody minutes’ but I dutifully got out of the car and started shuffling again, and Catra Corbett turned up. I thought she’d be well ahead by now, but I was glad of the company even if she was trying to mow me down. It was like a snail race, everything happening in slow motion, until she brought out her secret weapon- her pacer had a speaker playing Skrillex. I had no answer to that and she drifted off the front, and I drifted back into the car. At that point I was happy to let her have the win, all of my competitiveness having buggered off hours ago.

Anyway, the next time I got out of the car, something had changed. I knew I was just being dumb continually getting into the car to cool down, I needed to find some way of making progress and keeping cool without stopping all the time. The answer turned out to be logical- getting my back sprayed with water. It kept me cool enough to stop me getting in the car constantly and allowed me to make painfully slow progress up the mighty big hill.

Yes- we came from down there!

And it was painful- I’d lost my Garmin to the battery Gods hours ago, and because my mind had fucked off as well, there was very little glue holding me to reality. I knew I was just making shit up as far as my progress went, but I couldn’t help it. I kept asking ‘how much further?’ which is exactly as annoying as you’d expect from a toddler. Except I was the toddler and my crew had been putting up with my tantrums and dirty nappies for over 40 hours. Still- there are times when the training kicks in. OK where Neil’s training kicked in- he remembered me asking to be always told the truth- ‘don’t simply make shit up if you think it’s what I want to hear’, so he jumped in the car, drove to the top and back down and told me to the nearest 50m how far I had to go. My mind went ‘I’m not even mad, that’s amazing’, and I trudged along even though the answer was not one that made me happy. Skip (a local friend) turned up in his monster truck, and I felt bad that I couldn’t put on a burst of speed and finish this thing.

Eventually we came to the trees and things started to look familiar- big picnic areas and parking spots. I still couldn’t see the shop, and I knew the finish was near the shop- then Marie Boyd came down the hill in a car and cheerfully told me ‘it’s not more than a kilometre from here’, and ‘there’s only a few nasty switchbacks to the end’

Well fuck, there goes my last piece of hope. It was totally the right thing to say, but it’s like finding a rat in your bar of chocolate. He’s alive, hungry, and wants you to die so he can eat your chocolate. I hate poles, but I soooo wanted some poles to help me up this last bastard set of curves (they are banned in this race). I’ve since spoken to people from home who cheerfully told me that they estimated my pace and realised they could attend a meeting or two before I finished. It’s true, empires rose and fell, glaciers spat out dinosaurs and solar systems experienced heat death while I swung my legs one way and then the other, occasionally leaning on my legs and groaning about my own lack of progress.

And there it was- I heard something say ‘runner coming’ (without a trace of irony) and a whole bunch of hikers got in my way, but I could see a finish line. I had a little think- ‘how do you feel?’ are you going to cry? And the answer came back- no, I just feel satisfied. This is the culmination of a long held dream, it’s been as epic as promised, I feel good, satisfied. Not emotional, not wanting to scream, just fulfilled, content.

And then I saw Alex running towards me, and I knew Sarah would be there too and I burst into tears. Every bit of numbness was washed away and the tears flowed freely. Until Sarah yelled ‘hurry up and finish the bloody race!’, so I wiped them down a bit and trudged to the finish with my amazing crew- running was out of the question.

One of the people in this photo was unexpected, and it isn’t me!

We all got in the finish photos and the buckle photos which is totally appropriate- to get to share the event with those 3 guys in particular was very special. I hope Damon gets in next year, and I hope the universe rewards all of them for the selfless job they have done for me. Crewing is a great experience if you have great crew members (and makes being the runner easier), and these guys got along like a oil refinery fire.

Sarah noticed the Buffs tied over my knees and asked to have a look, but I wouldn’t show her in case she went into nurse mode. I’m glad she didn’t push the issue, but I had to concede some ground when Neil looked me in the eye and said ‘we need to get medical attention for that’. So back at the Dow Villa I popped into the medical room as they were packing up and put on a blister show. Luckily they agreed with my wild guesses and told me I’d be fine. Because well, I’d kind of forgotten to get extra medical cover for the race.

Lone Pine beer and meat coma- so good

So how was it? I worked my arse off to get into, and get fit for ‘the worlds toughest footrace’- and in that context it wasn’t too bad. If I had unlocked a bit of pace in the middle section (which should have been possible) I wouldn’t have been ascending the final climb in the hottest part of the day- that should have had a knock on effect on my time. Badwater is a (slightly) shorter race with less vertical than Coast to Kosci, but the heat makes a big difference. Despite making huge mistakes and lots of them, I still managed to finish and by the last checkpoint I was 8 hours in front of the cut. Sadly 20 runners didn’t make it this year- there were 95 starters out of a possible field of 100, and 75 finishers. Speculation is that the unseemly amount of moisture in the air may have claimed a few scalps- it’s usually about 2% humidity and the rain made it over 28% humidity. This is discussed further here, seems the humidity did affect some runners quite badly. Truthfully I didn’t even notice as it’s been pretty wet in Sydney, but the amount of mucous I produced during that trip shouldn’t really be discussed- but I will. I have a new asthma medication which reduces the amount of snot, but it seemed to go into reverse as soon as we hit dry weather- I truly felt my head would collapse when some of those boogers came out.
If I was to do the race again I would spend less time on figuring out how to get cellphone reception in the desert and more time going through the race. Me not being organised ┬áreally did cost a lot of time, and I was lucky to get away with it. Would I do it again? Yes, I do feel I have unfinished business, so apart from the eye watering cost I’d love to have another crack.
However- this was a one shot deal- I got to cross of a bucket list item that very few people will get to do, so I am super happy with what I’ve done. Like the tattoo says ‘no ragrets’.

I didn’t have as tough a time as I could, and I think this was partially driven by my mental attitude. I had no intention of ever giving up. There was no possible scenario in which I could see myself stopping, and I think that helped a lot. We were there to suffer, we had a time limit and there was nothing more to worry about. Apart from me mis-reading one of the cutoffs, there was never a point at which we felt we wouldn’t make it.

And there’s how you finish a race at a blistering 1.75mph

Interesting- this year we had rain, driving winds, flash floods, bugs and humidity to contend with. It did seem to affect the field. For instance the winning time was a couple of hours slower than last years course record, and Dave’s time last year which gained him 14th place, this year would have been well into the top 10 in 7th position! We also appeared to have 50% more DNF’s than last year- 20 vs 13. I can’t blame these things, but I was slower than expected because of being a dumbarse rather than being able to blame external influences. I ‘beat’ Catra by a whole 47 seconds but because she was in the wave in front of me she actually finished about an hour and a half before me. Sorry Catra.

Recovery
I’m kind of ashamed to admit that apart from the ugly blisters, I was walking OK the next day, and NOT walking like a gay cowboy* within about 48 hours. I guess this means I could have gone harder, but I did get good value out of my entry fee…..
(*nothing wrong with being a gay cowboy, I’m just providing the mental images)

So here’s the motivational part of the post, the bit where I ask you to ask yourself if you could do something like this. I already know the answer- of course you could!
I deal with the cons of having small lungs, no running talent and one kidney by simply having a crack. I’ve gone further than I ever thought possible because my friends have redefined possible.

Sometimes you don’t know if you’re going to get there, but I’m glad I tried. And I’m super glad of the people who rallied around me to help. It’s not an individual achievement, it belongs to the team who made it possible. Thank you.

Gear
Kathmandu shorts with liner
Nathan Hi Vis vest with lights
Injinji socks (inner layer)
Wright socks (outer layer)
Hoka One One Clifton 3 shoes
Outdoor Research Legionnaires cap
Serfas sunglasses
BodyGlide. Lots of BodyGlide
*in case you’re interested, I didn’t change shoes or socks during the race

Photo credits- Jon Luff, Neil Webb, Damon Roberts and Sarah Connor- thanks!

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