Ultra Trail Australia 2018 UTA50 – Sarah Connor


2018 was the year that I wanted to make it to the start line fit and un-injured. 

I managed that bit quite well. 

During the race however, was a different matter.

Training began for the race with Andy DuBois of Mile 27 Coaching and Kathy Widjaja of Aequilibrium about 5 months ago.  Andy looked after the running side and Kathy is my strength (and coordination!) trainer. 

These 2 people, plus visiting my wonderful chiropractor Dr Adrienne Leahy at Spine and Health Crows Nest, were my A team.  My mantra whilst training was 7 hours, 50k. I wanted to get a finish time starting with a 7. 

I did most of the hills and stairs on my own. The long runs I did with my running wife Julie and the Summit Sisters to keep me company. Cass and I did Friday morning training and put the world in order most Friday mornings over coffee after the run. 

All was well and I managed to race a few shorter distances as part of my training – Knapsack 3 hours, Mt Portal 17k and Jabulani 22k. 

They day before the race dawned bright and sunny, so packed up the car and drove to Katoomba.  

Adam was up there already doing media work for UTA as well as volunteering for check in on the Friday night. 

We checked into the hotel and I started to get ready for the race. It was then that I discovered I had forgotten to pack any running socks. In fact any socks except the ones I was wearing and a pair of thick socks for after the race. 

Sped back to the expo and thanks to Find Your Feet, found a pair that was close to what I liked. 

Saturday morning started at 4.14am when my body decided that it had had enough sleep … 

Adam left around 530am and I decided to go up to the start about 645am. I’m not very good at the start of big races. Too many people, and too much emotion. I managed quite well this year to ignore the anxiety and got to my start time of 731am, cold but ok.   It was lovely to see the Summit Sisters Cheer Squad and many others at the start line – thanks to everyone for your kind words and help, as Adam was not around due to media commitments. 

Kerry Suter counted us down to the 731am start time – and we were off. This year, the RD Tom had alternating wave of the 100k racers and 50k racers and it definitely helped keep the congestion down to a minimum. In fact, I really only noticed at the 18k mark coming down to Lillian’s Bridge and back up the Nature Trail. 

The first 6k is on the road and you swing back past the finish line and there are lots of supporters there – this bit is cool.  There were heaps of people I knew and the ladies that I was running with said “ We need to change our names to Sarah, you know so many people! “  I was a bit embarrassed but very proud of all the friendships I have made over the years of ultra running.

Towards Echo Point, I was running with Anne- Marie from Newcastle and she had not done the course, so I gave her all the important tips, like where the proper toilets are with toilet paper… it’s the small things in an ultra that make life easier.  

Andy’s instructions were to go easy through the first half, don’t smash your legs down Kedumba and power up the hills through the Jamieson valley. 

I followed this to a T.

Ran through the 17k Fairmont water point grabbed chips and checked my water and all was well. Anne-Marie stopped to tape her feet so I said good-bye and took off at my own pace. 

 Through to Conservation Hut was easy going and I was starting to feel as though I was easily going to do under 8 hours. Crossed over Wentworth Falls, up the little goat track onto the fire trail. I wanted to take a selfie at the 25k mark as proof of life. Well that did not happen. About 50m before the 25k mark, found the smallest rock on a groomed fire trail and fell flat on my face. 


All these wonderful runners stopped and made sure I was OK. I’m sorry I did not get any of their names, but thank you to everyone single one that helped me out.  There was blood dripping from my noise, I had 2 very sore knees but my head was OK and my glasses intact. I did the first aid DRABC on myself and found nothing more than pain.  I picked my self up, found my Buff to clean up my face and I was off walking within 1 – 2 mins of stacking.  Within 500 m I was running, albeit a little gingerly. 

 I ran in with Joanne and another lady to the QVH checkpoint, where I made sure that I had enough water. ate some more chips and grabbed a muesli bar, and then visited the medic, Jake. He had a feel and a good look at my nose and said it might be broken. I was so focused on finishing the race I did not even ask if it would unwise to keep running and he did not tell me to stop. He cleaned up the road rash on my knee with iodine – I was hanging onto the chair saying – this is not as bad as childbirth and the other female runners were laughing! 

I rinsed the Buff and there was a fair bit of blood in it.  I cleaned myself up a bit whilst leaving the checkpoint and then chucked it in my new Salomon pack where it stained the pack. Good thing blood comes out in cold water…. 

I called Adam on the way down Kedumba to tell him what happened – he could tell that I was OK and reminded me of shock that would hit a bit later. Then the media team wanted photos of my face – so I obliged them by taking a selfie at the 30k mark. There was no blood and they were most disappointed. So I took one of my knee instead and that was much better received. 

I RAN DOWN KEDUMBA! This is the first time in 4 UTA’s that I have been able to do this. It was never going to be fast running as per Andy’s instructions, but it was running.  

Then just as I crossed the Jamieson creek (which is 8.5k from the QVH checkpoint), shock and anxiety hit.  Oooh it was a bit nasty, but I tried to use it to my advantage and power up those hills.  Passed and chatted to an old orienteering friend, who helped me more than he will ever know (Thanks Chris!).  

Powered up those damn hills and ran down all the downhills and kept passing other runners. Normally I’m the one getting passed, so this was a new sensation.  Saw Horrie who was not having a great day, but could not stop to talk as I had a goal and I just wanted to achieve it – sorry Horrie I know it was hard for you out there. 

Got to the helicopter pad water point and almost burst into tears when Gemma (I think) was filling up my bladder asked how I was.  Managed to hold it together, grabbed more chips and ran off to conquer more hills. At this stage the anxiety was threatening to turn into nausea but I held it off. 

At the sewerage works, which is the end of the fire trail and 6 k to the finish point, I had 90 mins to get under the 8-hour mark. I hooked up with some runners who had similar ideas and ran the whole way through the Leura Forest and along the Federal pass track, I wanted to get to the Furber stairs with 30 mins to spare.  Somehow I found myself at the head of the conga line and the runners behind were really good about keeping me going. 

Got to the bottom of the Furber stairs 7 hours 35 mins. I had 25 mins to climb 951 stairs, I just kept going. Majell Blackhausen was coming down the Furber watching for the leading runners for the 100k. He was really positive about the conga line and cheered us all on. I concentrated on what he said and kept pushing up those stairs.  

Passed a guy who was not feeling well and offered him a lolly.  I did try to say that if you are gunna chuck, at least it would taste ok coming back up. Not my finest moment. 

The conga line was starting to drop off, so I yelled at them all to keep going! Not sure why.  Guess I thought I was determined for them all to finish with me! 

With about 400m to go, Mike Delgarno with Sophie Brown and another lady were cheering us all on. I got a big hug from him and all I could talk about was I had 9 mins to get to the finish.  Mike pissed himself laughing and said you have 400m to go – you will make it!! 

And then the next step, my left calf muscle cramped. I may have said out loud “fuck this I’m not going to walk the finish”. There was only 1 guy behind me at this stage and he kept me going to the point where the stairs meet the track to Scenic World. You can hear the crowd quite clearly and all the cow bells going off – its quite special .

Dave Meyer was perched on the fence and said – “Sarah – 3 stairs to go!” 

That was it. I was off, I came around the corner where the crowd can see you and there was this roar from all my friends – it was amazing.  I started to get teary, and just ran as hard as I could without the cramping, crossed the line, gracefully sat down and checked the time – I had done it – 7:56:45. 

Roger Hanney has some awesome video footage of this part. Hailey and Roger got me off the ground and Hailey walked me to Adam for a big hug over the fence where I burst into tears. Kathy found me and gave me a big hug too. Just what I needed! I was a bit speechless.  Gear check all done and then off to the lovely medics. Lucas Trihey found me going in the wrong direction and very kindly got me to the right place. The doctor checked me out and gave me instructions on what to do. Got my knee cleaned up – now that hurt more than the nose examination. Gillian got me soup and Adam made sure that I was warm.  I took this selfie as I had not seen my face since the stack and I could see why the doctor was looking at me funny…. 

And that was that. Sort of. 

Adam took me back to the hotel and fussed around me. I am a fairly independent soul, and wanted to get cleaned up and head back to the finish – Adam was not happy about that. He had another volunteering stint to do, but was concerned about me. Had another cry, a shower, and another cry and then Adam dropped me back at the finish so I could see friends, eat chips and compare war stories.  After about 2 hours, I lost the will to talk and Hailey very kindly dropped me back at the hotel. 

Got about 4 hours sleep and lot of tossing and turning – and then headed back up to the finish for my volunteering stint at UTA kids 1k. 

The UTA kids race is totally the best thing ever. They all get numbers even the littlest ones in prams. It’s such a joy to see their faces when they get a race number.  And then handing out the medals at the finish was so cool. Their faces when you put a medal around their neck, its just amazing. They all have such different reactions.  

And then after all that excitement, my brain finally gave up the ghost and I was done.  Headed home where the bruising is setting in nicely and my knees are very sore. Great NOSH in 2 weeks – that might be a struggle! 

Now the most important part – the thank you’s

Andy DuBois of Mile 27 Coaching – best training ever for a race. I even started to enjoy those Furber stairs in the race because of you!

Kathy Widjaja of Aequilibrium – all those damn squats and Turkish get ups and dead bugs plus numerous other exercises, did their job. 

Dr Adrienne Leahy of Spine and Health Crows Nest – kept my back where it should be and minimised the pain of my damn spondy L5. 

Adam and Alex  – my family who put up with exhaustion, grumpiness and all the things that come with being an ultra runner.

My running family  – Julie, my running wife, the Summit Sisters, Mel T. Leah and various others who I trained with – thank you one and all for putting up with me. Everyone who cheered , took photos, ran with me, supported me via emails, Messenger, Facebook and good old fashioned chatting on the phone – you are all the best. 

AROC – Tom and Alina – its been said before – you guys put on an awesome race – thanks for making this 50K very special. I’ll be back for volunteering duties next year as there are other races calling that are too close to UTA for me to do for a couple of years. I may do the 22k so then I can say I have done all the races!!

Gear used

Salomon ADV Skin set 3, 12L in go fast red. 

New Balance t-shirt 

Buff headband 

Buff hat 

UTA 2016 50k Buff which doubled as a hanky when the face plant occurred and it has fully recovered from its unintended use !

Patagonia arm warmers

Patagonia 9 trails shorts 

Lululemon bra 

Zensah calf guards

Hoka One One Stinston ATR 3’s 

Suunto Ambit 3 

Save our Soles socks – brand new – these were awesome. 

Food carried with me 

Promite sandwiches – eaten

Carmens museli bar – eaten 

Em’s Power bar – eaten 

GU electrolyte – put in water at 28k mark

Planes and frosty fruit lollies – ate some 

Pizza shapes – ate some 

Peanuts – did not eat these 

GU stroopwaffle – did not eat this 

Dried banana – did not eat this 

Other food/drink eaten at checkpoints



Water – filled up at 28k and 41k 

Narrabeen All Nighter 2018 Marathon

First up- thanks to Greg Finlay! You total legend, at the end of the run he came up to me with a cold beer and some Lindt Balls- possibly best race finish ever!

I had entered the 12 hour event knowing that I wasn’t fit enough, but hoping that fear would make me train. Apparently not, and I had to email the organisers the week before to downgrade to the 9:30pm marathon.

It’s 8 laps of an out and back course, roughly 5.2km each lap.

So, how did it go?

Well, I’m about 8kg heavier than I should be, and haven’t run more than 21km in the last 5 months, so I guess the word would be slow and painful. OK two words, but they both fit.

On lap 1, I could feel my calves were like rocks, so I just let everyone go and tried to get comfortable. I was dead last at the first turn around. Yes, last. In the next 2.5km back to the start line I managed to pick up one place, but I did get to speak to that lady a few times over the next few hours………

Lap 2 I started to feel better, and had some good easy running until about 15km into the race. It wasn’t fast, but I knew the last half would bite, so I was trying to go easy. By lap 4 I was sweating and wondering how I would get through another 4 laps. On lap 5 I had slowed significantly- the first 4 laps were done in 2.5 hours, meaning if I could keep the speed up I would have a 5 hour finish. I knew that wouldn’t be possible, so I figured I would try for sub 5:30.

Then things got really tough. Towards the end of 6 laps I re ran the numbers and got a shock- if I didn’t hustle I was going to go over 6 hours! There was a big part of me that didn’t care, and I came up with all sorts of excuses as to why I should slow down and just get it done. But really- riding it out would be boring- why not go out in a blaze of glory and drag some dignity out of this disaster?

Well, there was no glory to be had, but the numbers looked like this- I was doing apx 10min/km, and the round trip was 5.2km so each lap was going to take ~55 minutes. At the end of lap 6 I had an elapsed time of 4 hours 16 minutes- doing 2 more laps of 55 minutes each would put me over 6 hours! Shit.

This type of running is exactly what the Dr ordered- feeling shitty, trying to run and really concentrating on getting the job done. It teaches you how to suffer. It makes you realise that slowing down when you feel bad isn’t necessary- you CAN keep going if you MAKE your legs cooperate.

My knee wasn’t happy- actually both knees were complaining about the weight on them! My muscles were on fire but I knew if I could just beat that 55 minute estimate I’d be ok. I rattled off a few blazing fast 9 minute kms. I knew at the start of the race my first lap had been 37 minutes, so it was possible.

I came in at the end of lap 7 with 5:02 on the clock, a 46 minute lap, so I knew that as long as I didn’t fall over or cramp up I’d be ok. A bunch of people were standing in front of the food table and thought I had finished so they were cheering me on- so I had to rudely push them out of the way- don’t get between me and food!

The last lap was uneventful except for the voice in my head telling me to stop! Greg Finlay and Brett Sammut glided past me but I didn’t have much to say, then a bloke who I had been dicing with for hours came past and the tiny angry voice in my head told me to beat him. I had no idea if he was even on the same lap as me, and normally I’m totally non competitive, but it was a good thing to focus on. It made me run, and even if I didn’t beat the guy I finished in front of him- on that lap! (Yeah he was probably doing the 12 hour race, but hey, small victories)

I immediately sat down and was so shattered I could barely talk, but beer and chocolate made it better.

Congratulations to all involved- I’m hoping I’ll make a comeback to form one day, and I reckon that would be a good venue……… but I said that last time too.


Official time 5:48:42 position 19 out of 32 starters and 28 finishers
Full results here

Great Southern Endurance Race 100 Miles GSER- Cathy Duffy

GSER – 3 sunrises

Why run one hundred miles and stay awake for 49 hours?

You face the start line with the busyness of life on your shoulders and as you start life’s pressures evaporate and slowly kilometre-by-kilometre you are stripped bare. You focus on life’s basic elements until you reach a point, almost primal, where you are so physically exposed that what is truly important resonates so deeply creating an emotional vulnerability that’s so pure it’s exquisite. A hundred mile race will open your heart and allow you to feel so intensely and intimately; so that when you cross the finish line the clarity of what is important to you and the emotion you feel is like nothing you’ve experienced and it is intoxicating.

The lead-up

As soon as I heard about GSER (Great Southern Endurance Run) I thought it would be perfect as my first miler. To be honest hearing it was a marked course through the beautiful Victorian Alps lured me in, however on further scrutiny it was clear that Sean and Mel (Mountain Sports) were living up to their reputations and it was not to be taken lightly. Seeking advice from Coach Andy (Mile 27) about my choice of Miler, the answer was simple; all milers are hard so pick one that speaks to you. Damn it, GSER spoke to me.

Twelve months of commitment got me closer to my first miler. My training changed over time as I found myself in the Blue Mountains each weekend chasing “vert” with my best friends Perry’s Lookdown and Mt Solitary. I loved this time in the mountains, as I would get figuratively lost each weekend. I was however acutely aware of the time away from my children (who are now adults and are actually totally ok with not having me around) and my beloved hubby, highlighting the commitment was not just from me but my family. Despite having complete support from my hubby, my motivation to finish became so strong to almost justify my absences.

I have always loved taper and don’t feel like the caged animal some describe, as I much prefer to sleep in on weekends. This taper however hit me like a tonne of bricks. It’s easy to say with some bravado “I’m going to do my first miler”, “yeah I’m doing GSER”, but this is from a distance and suddenly it was here and I had nowhere to hide. I had no reason not to do the race and no excuse for a DNF as I had completed my training and was injury free. The nerves I felt those final weeks were so distracting. I suddenly had a million questions but couldn’t remember what they were to ask. I had a complete inability to think about anything else and finally jumped into planning the logistics of the race, which made me even more nervous. Reading course descriptions which included ‘take care if poor visibility, steep drop off the north side’ and ‘steep conglomerate traverses – take care’ met with my despair and my hubby’s raised eyebrows.

Another taper problem I experienced was the fear of bugs. Why is it that everyone around you becomes sick just before a race? I sat at work with everyone coughing around me, I became obsessed as I could feel the clean air around me rapidly shrinking as the bugs invaded my personal space and threatened to invade me with each breathe. I even gave the people around me a talking to for coming to work sick, in hindsight I must have sounded like such a b$%ch!

In the twelve months leading up to the race I sought Miler advice from many people. As race day rapidly approached I reflected on these pearls of wisdom and can honestly say they were stored tightly in my mental roll-a-dex and used at some point. The most powerful advice came from an unexpected source. My friend is 14 and has had a chronic illness her whole life, however this does not define her. She is vibrant, crazy and sensitive, and has a maturity and wisdom beyond her tender years, which makes her intriguing. After telling her about the race I messaged, ‘any words of wisdom for when the going gets tough?’ she responded ‘just remember to breathe’. OMG it hit me ‘just breathe’. It is so simple, go back to basics, don’t overthink things and just breathe. I loved it.

So after all the training, key races done (6 Foot Track, Buffalo Slam, UTA100, Hounslow Double) and with a wish for time to reverse and the inevitable to stay in the future, hubby and I packed up the Dufvan and together with those two special words we headed to Mt Buller for our adventure.

The race

After a restless sleep I was awake from 0300hrs. I lay in bed almost delaying the inevitable as I was acutely aware it would be a long time before I would feel warm and secure again. Time however marched on and I hopped out of bed and readied myself. The weather was colder than expected, mirroring the Blue Mountains winter conditions, and I made a last minute decision to wear long tights (with short tights underneath) for the start of the race. Leaving the warmth of our accommodation I was pleased it wasn’t raining as predicted the previous evening.


As I made my way to the start line the excruciating nerves I had experienced disappeared; I knew my big question would be answered in less than 53 hours. I had concerns for making the initial cut-offs, a fear felt by others. I pushed these thoughts to the back of my mind, however they occasionally crept to the fore where I did my best not to acknowledge them determined to just do my best. I met friends, we wished each other well and soon enough we were off.

Start to Gardner’s Hut (11.6km /11.6km)

We started up towards Mt Buller summit. It was foggy, the ground was wet and I am sure there was snow. The wind was blowing hard and I was thankful for my gloves and long tights as I waited to warm up. I love it when you reach a summit and it feels so rugged and wild and Mt Buller certainly did not disappoint. My heart joyfully skipped a beat as I summited and then headed towards the first descent where soon after I saw my first sunrise.

There is a reason we have 3 hours to do 11.6km! Reality BOOM right there on the first descent! We were in for a loooooong race and I reminded myself to stay in the moment, and as I whispered ‘just breathe’ I took five deep breaths. I could feel myself relax by the third breath and I felt centred by the fifth. This five-breath routine featured prominently throughout the entire race, sometimes needing to do it several times within one minute! As we continued down the first descent we had a little conga line going as it was slow at times navigating the terrain. I was fixated on not getting lost and each time I would see a marker I said “marker” out loud as I figured if I got into the habit now I would be reminded later when fatigue gripped to look for markers (which worked).

The mood was light and I focused only on getting to the first checkpoint. At one point I briefly found myself alone as I tried to keep a consistent pace. I asked myself if I was going too fast and slowed a little however fears of missing the cut-off kept surfacing as I continued along. I reached the checkpoint with half an hour to spare. I quickly filled my water and continued on.

Gardner’s Hut to Upper Howqua (33.9km/45.5km)

What was ahead of us was a steep climb up Eight Mile spur to The Bluff Summit. To be honest I am much more comfortable climbing than doing the steep descents, so I felt ok with the climb. I focussed on staying comfortable. Just breathe. The weather was warming up and I started to feel hot and decided to take my long tights off at the summit. This thought quickly vanished as within ten minutes the sky erupted in what can only be described as a water-sport festival complete with hail, wind and thunder; was there lightning? I suddenly became chilled. I layered up and kept moving.

The storm passed and I reached the checkpoint where I replenished my supplies and tended to my feet. The preventative tape had not held in the storm so I quickly applied new tape and put dry socks on. Still aware of the cut-offs I didn’t want to waste any time and headed towards Mount Speculation.

Photo credit- Shane Boshammer

Upper Howqua to Speculation (17.3km/62.8km)

I remember feeling comfortable; staying in the moment, continuing to ‘just breathe’ determined not to be scared off by thoughts of Mt Buggery and Horrible Gap. Right when I was trying to work out how the hell I was going to climb up a steep rock surface I received a message from race headquarters informing us a storm was imminent and to seek shelter when the wonderful combination of thunder and lightning is experienced. Hmmm just breathe. With a lot of effort I got up that rock surface, and right as I was reaching the summit lightning and thunder harmonised. I threw my poles to the side and lay down away from the electrical storm magnets. You get cold very quickly. I layered up and noticed those around me moving again so I jumped up and continued along the ridgeline. I thought I was cold then!

The storm had continued on its merry way when I reached the next checkpoint and I was in great spirits, predominantly due to the relief of making the cut-off. There were people everywhere, some bouncing around and some not so good. I quickly replenished my stores and left alone. Leaving this checkpoint I had a choice to continue towards a 100-mile finish or take the alternative route of 50 miles. This was not even a question I needed to answer.

Mt Speculation to East Buffalo Road (31.2km/94km)

I was now heading into the slowest and most technical section of the course and to increase the level of difficulty it was to be the night section. I headed down a wide and very rocky dry riverbed. I felt good. I pondered being alone as I had chosen not to have a pacer, and hoped to meet up with someone to complete this section with. Still glowing with the relief of making the cut-off I enjoyed the runnable slope almost skipping parts in a child-like fashion.  Conscious of nutrition and hydration I took a sip of water and stopped dead in my tracks. Just breathe.

I had forgotten to fill up my bladder with water.

F#$k. How could I be so stupid? Was my race over because of this mistake? I just stood there.

Just breathe. Just breathe. Just breathe. Just breathe.

I tried to ring Coach Andy but the reception wasn’t very good and I couldn’t get through. I paused. Coach Andy always said that something would happen to challenge me; it was how I responded to the situation that mattered. Just breathe. I struggled with the idea of going back. I felt I was risking the cut-offs. I did a stocktake of my water. I had 600ml in a flask, few sips in my bladder and a 600ml bottle of perpetuem. Was it enough for 10 plus hours? I had hydrated well up until that point and I was heading into the cooler night section. I knew there was a water tank in 15km (the advice was not to drink the water, however I was carrying purification tablets). At the time I didn’t understand just how long it would take to get to the water tank.

After standing still for what felt a very long time I made the decision to continue on.

I was still cursing myself as I wondered if this would cost me the finish. Just breathe. Soon after the sun disappeared and as night descended I bumped into Scott and Mark. Scott is the best pacer. Please contact Scott for any pacing duties. With desperation in my voice I told the boys about my stupid mistake. Without hesitation Mark offered me 600ml of water mixed with electrolytes. What a bloody gentleman. I held the bottle like it was my child’s beating heart as I gently tucked it away. Despite his reassurances that between them they had enough, I refused to use that water until the bitter end hoping not to need it and return it to my saviour. I hope like hell sharing his water with me didn’t affect his race, however I am extremely humbled and grateful for what probably saved my race. Having the extra water meant I stopped fixating on not having enough but now stressed about missing the water tank. It was dark, was it right beside the trail? Would we miss it?

Initially writing this race report I couldn’t quite remember where the log section was but then I remembered a couple of Mark’s near misses climbing over them – it pays to be a female! The log section is as the name sounds, hundreds upon hundreds of fallen trees littering the path we were meant to travel. I’m unsure why the course markers didn’t clear them for us! It was so slow going as it became more of an obstacle course than a trail run. Sometimes it was easier to just drop to the ground and crawl underneath. It almost seemed comical that this was the GSER course and discussions were had that the course was ‘beyond words’ and had to be experienced to be believed.

I worked hard to keep up with Mark and Scott (the best pacer). The boys were hilarious. Without knowledge of the course (perhaps Mark’s failure to advise him) Scott the road marathoner had agreed to pace his friend. Scott exclaimed he hadn’t even run a step yet! Credit to the best pacer though as you wouldn’t have known he wasn’t a trail runner as he continued on so strongly.

Navigating the terrain was so difficult. It must have been around Mt Despair (aptly named) where if I hadn’t been trying to keep up with the boys I would have frozen many times. The rocks we were climbing over were wet and sloping with an almost slate like appearance providing small spots of traction to climb over. This was the part that the course notes referred to as ‘steep conglomerate traverses – take care’. It almost seemed impossible and with one mistake you would slip. Turning my head to the right my head torch would shine into the darkness and you felt the acuteness of the drop below. The only thing that stopped me from freaking out was keeping up with the boys, as I didn’t want to be alone in the dark. I kept apologising to them as I felt I was intruding in their pacer/runner relationship but they were both such gentlemen and assured me all was ok. Thank you Mark and best-pacer Scott, Karen is eternally grateful.

Thoughts of the word ‘Viking’ muster fear and trepidation and yep The Viking on the GSER course lived up to expectations! I reached the steep 6 metre chimney climb which thankfully the organisers had placed a ladder to assist us (shocked face emoji). There was a bit of a traffic jam as runners navigated their way up the chimney. It was here I bumped into my mate Dan. What a champion he is! I felt instant relief when I saw Dan and it seemed to be reciprocated as he asked if he could tag along with us. “Yes, without a doubt yes!!!”

The chimney as the name suggests had two large boulders either side of you. Partway up was a huge rock wedged in the chimney with a fallen tree branch across the middle. Down the middle of the chimney was the ladder (picture those flimsy ladders that hang from helicopters in movies) and to the left of it was a thick rope. The initial part of the climb felt very awkward as the ladder swayed and to complicate things I was holding onto my poles at the same time. I looked up and could see Dan had made it and was waiting for me. As I continued the ladder clung firmly against the boulder in the middle, which meant you could not put your feet in the rungs. I hung nervously considering my options. I couldn’t use the ladder, the rope was to the left, and I was holding poles and had to squeeze around the fallen tree branch and over the boulder in the middle. I was scared of falling and breaking not only myself but also the person below. Dan was giving me advice as I was clearly in struggle street. I ended up taking my weight via the rope with my flimsy runner’s arms, with poles flailing about; I then had to manoeuvre my body to one side of the tree branch whilst threading the poles the other side. Dan told me to throw my poles ahead of me, which I did and I’m not sure how, and with one almighty heave I got to the top and avoided falling onto the people and rocks below. Just breathe.

At the top I continued my quest to the water tank and my obsession with missing it in the dark. I filled Dan in on my water fiasco and he kindly offered me some of his water. Scott and Mark were ahead and Dan and I continued just behind them. I eventually needed Mark’s donated water and soon I ran out of fluids.

There like a mirage, after what seemed like an eternity but in reality was probably about 6 hours we reached the water-tank!!! It was like an oasis until Dan peered into the top and reported the water was brown and infested with insect larvae. Scott and Mark continued on as I took my pack off and struggled getting it under the tap situated low to the ground. As the brown sediment laden water filled my bladder I wondered about the next challenge I would face. I popped two purification tablets in, reminded myself I was carrying Gastro Stop and waited at least 40 minutes before drinking the sweet nectar that would save me. I ignored the taste as we joked the insect larvae provided some much needed protein.

We arrived into the checkpoint relishing the atmosphere and support. I needed to sit down and tend to my feet. They had been speaking volumes as blisters were presenting themselves and becoming quite painful with each step and I was painfully aware we were only halfway! A wonderful volunteer found a large white bucket for me to sit on and offered assistance. He was happy to fill up my bladder and remembering the water situation I yelled after him to empty the contents before re-filling. He was really very helpful and assisted where able. It was with much trepidation that I took my shoes and socks off and my fears were realised as the camp collectively responded to the largest blister next to my big toe. “Do you want the medic to look at that?”…. ummmm yes! It was cleaned, popped and redressed. Prior to the race I had thought of lots of different management strategies for things that could go wrong. This included blister management; I did not consider this in the context of persistently wet feet. The tape I had previously trialled just did not cope and feeble attempts to re-tape seemed futile. I put on dry socks and changed my shoes and hoped for the best as Dan and I continued on our way, each step reminding me of my feet’s journey towards annihilation. It was 0445hrs Saturday morning.

East Buffalo to Selwyn Creek Road (14.2km/108.2km)

Sharing my feet angst with Dan, we spoke about it, we acknowledged it, and as my dear friend Natalie has told me, once you hurt you can’t hurt anymore. This became true thankfully as either the pain dulled in the latter parts of the race or my mind just accepted and dismissed it or most likely everything else was just hurting more!

Shortly after leaving this checkpoint we saw our second sunrise in the race. I am not sure exactly where we were but it was breathtaking. The mixture of colours streaming from the sky against the mountain ranges we had travelled took our breath away. Dan and I both later wished we had taken a photo, however the experience of capturing the majestic beauty nature was offering us could not have been shown in a photo. It was a very special moment.

I had now travelled the furthest, over the longest time, ever!

We reached the checkpoint and once again my feet had to be tended to. I had longed for uphills as with each downhill step the pain was excruciating and I knew something more definitive needed to be done. I peeled back my socks. The tape was loosely covering all the blister points and underneath you could see the bubbles of fluid. A lovely medic spent time on my feet opting to leave the existing tape on she placed gauze over the blisters and secured it with brown tape. Although this loosened over time I left this on for the rest of the race. Thank you to that wonderful lady!

Selwyn Creek Road to Mt Saint Bernard (16.8km/125km)

We left the checkpoint in good spirits and headed towards Barry Mountains. This leg shall be known as ‘am I hypothermic?’

The third major weather event occurred during this leg. I’m not entirely sure where exactly but it involves summiting and ridgelines. We were never entirely sure if we were on The Twins as we just kept on reaching peaks. There seemed to be more people around as we trudged through the weather as the rain, wind and drop in temperature had me wondering about the signs and symptoms of hypothermia. There is a fine line I imagine, and I was tiptoeing on the precipice. I remember stopping briefly (like seconds) and instantly felt cold to the core. So I continued on whilst trying to decide whether to indeed keep moving or stop and layer up. For me stopping would involve removing rain jacket, taking off pack, pulling out clothes and putting it all back on. If I weren’t feeling ok I would have made the decision to do this, but at the time I felt stopping would make me hypothermic whereas continuing to move I was ok.

No words were spoken as we faced the elements; spurred on by the knowledge I would see my hubby for the first time at the next checkpoint. I had it all planned out; I would dive into the Dufvan, strip everything off and climb under the bed covers to warm up. I pictured those survival movies and thought my hubby would have to climb in with me with my hands nestled in his armpits. I have never been so cold.

By the time I arrived at the checkpoint, the storm has passed. I still dived into the Dufvan for a full change, however did not require any armpits to warm me up. My only issue at this stage was I didn’t have any more long tights. I had never raced in long tights before so didn’t have a collection to use. I placed short tights on (I have a million of those) and felt instantly better to be in dry clothes. This really was a great checkpoint. I saw beautiful friends and received some nourishing hugs. My hubby excelled at crewing. I had provided him with a small list of potential food items, which he must have thrown out as it was like shopping at the supermarket with an array of food options available.

Mt St Bernard to Harrietville (21.9km/146.9km)

Heading out of the checkpoint, still a little cold we headed up the road towards Mt Hotham. It got hot. I had to strip off some of the layers I had just put on. We trudged up the road and Dan got his hike on. The man can hike and I found myself running to catch up! I finally managed to sidle up next to him and as we were admiring the track off to the right heading towards Mount Feathertop we missed the turn to the left. Thankfully we hadn’t gone too far when a cyclist desperately rode back up the hill to tell us our error.

Back on track we continued on our merry way. We were in good spirits and for the first time I was actually running ok down Bon Accord Spur. We were hoping to reach Washington creek before nightfall, however our head torches were required just short of this. We got to the river and jumped onto the bridge; thankful for a water crossing where we could keep our feet dry, NOT! The bridge just stopped partway over the river so we turned back and after some confusion we worked out that our feet were destined to stay wet as we walked through the creek.

As we were getting close to the Harrietville checkpoint a local hopped out of her car. She ran up to us with so much excitement and asked if we were Cathy and Dan (she had been looking at the online trackers). Talk about leaving us with swelled egos. Thank you to the wonderful lady who put a real spring in our step! Soon after this I got to catch up with a running friend I didn’t recognise at first despite him having rescued me after finding me breakdancing in an ants nest during my only DNF.

Arriving at the last checkpoint with still no sleep we had decided to move through as quickly as possible and if we needed sleep in the last leg we would stop for 15 minutes on the trails edge.

The checkpoint was exciting. Up until this point I had never considered finishing. Thoughts of a finish crept in, which I quickly dismissed as a lot could still happen. My hubby tells me I was chatting away like I had been drinking! Mel from Mountain Sports was there. She’s amazing and offered so much support and encouragement. Wayne once again had a huge display of food for Dan and I and I must say vegemite sandwiches have never tasted so good! I chowed down heaps of food mindful of limiting my time at the checkpoint. My feet were tolerable (sort of) so I left them.

I jumped up and right before leaving the checkpoint I heard I was the second female. WTF! I had honestly wondered whether I could finish this beast and thought if I did, it would be crawling across the finish line onto an ambulance stretcher with seconds to spare; so hearing I was second confused me. Someone mentioned that third was coming in and I felt compelled to hurry up.

Harrietville to Finish (34.1km/181km)

Leaving the checkpoint my mind was buzzing with thoughts of second place, but not in a good way. I felt a pressure. Dan and I discussed this, as for just a moment things felt like they were unravelling as we were pushing harder than our bodies were allowing. Dan urged me to go ahead as he didn’t want to jeopardise my possible podium. I felt sick in the stomach after all the food. We took a moment and decided if we both put our best effort in we would be happy with the outcome regardless of any placing. Once this was decided we found the pace that was right for us and the pressure was off. I did however peer back occasionally to see if anyone was coming and just quietly the stars in the distance can sometimes look like head torches!

I asked Dan about strategies we could use to get through the final kilometres that would seem endless. This had been really good to think about as in the kilometres to come we would remind each other to ‘just breathe’ or ‘one step’ or ‘clear mind’ as we trudged on in a foggy blur of sleep deprivation with our minds willing our bodies to the finish line. Dan asked me about what my finish line image had been. I told him on all my runs where I had imagined the race I pictured collapsing across the finish line into my hubby’s arms. He said he always crossed the finish line with his beloved children running beside him and as they were not there he pictured face timing with them as he crossed the line. We decided in that moment the clichéd crossing the finish line holding hands was not for us. We would honour each other beforehand and cross as individuals to honour the images we had hoped for in the 181kms leading to that moment.

At any other time this section would be so easy to run. Wide, rough, fire trail for endless kilometres. Each 5km marker seemed to be getting further apart and I found myself frequently checking my Avenza map to make sure we were on track. I noticed as I was walking looking at the map I would stagger off into the bush. Unless I was clearly focused on the trail ahead of me I couldn’t walk straight. I was clearly fatigued, however didn’t feel like I needed to sleep. Dan was behind me, closely following my steps. I could hear his breathing change and wondered if he were sleeping. I continually did my 5 breaths to keep me centred as it felt that was the only thing I could remember to do.

With each downhill the pain in my feet was excruciating and I noticed I was grunting with almost every step. We were climbing well and grateful for each uphill as our feet hurt less. We were quiet with the occasional sound of wildlife reminding us of our location. Out of the blue I said to Dan ‘your girls would be so proud’ and OMG he was off… he later told me at that time he was picturing his daughters, who are clearly an inspiration as it took ages to catch him!

Going into this race I had always thought the defining moment would be when I got to the point of wanting to DNF, what would I chose? I had mentioned this to Dan at some stage and he questioned this thought process. Why would that define this experience? He was right, as I never wanted to DNF during the entire race. Here I was well over 40hrs into the race and right now was the defining moment. My body was spent, I had asked for this moment, I had trained for this moment and I could not complain or begrudge the moment I had dreamt and wondered about for so long. I stayed in the moment and relished the experience. This was my defining moment. It had been imperfectly perfect! I had made mistakes like not filling up my water bladder and poor blister management but I had dealt with them and moved on, I had stayed in the moment and I was happy.

170km surely the course markers got it wrong and this was 175kms.

We got quieter but kept moving. Just breathe. I waited for the hallucinations I had heard so much about but they didn’t come. Clear mind.


Like zombies we continued. One step. Just breathe. Our third and final sunrise almost passed without the recognition it deserved, as our brains just could not comprehend it.

We reached the road and it almost took me by surprise. I finally allowed myself to think about the finish. The threat of emotion began to rise and suddenly Dan and I could sense the end and we ran, we ran like finishing was our everything. We were stripped bare. We couldn’t talk, we couldn’t think, we couldn’t process but we could feel. I felt my family. I felt their never-ending love. I felt my life was theirs and if ever needed they could have it. My heart was exploding as my eyes filled with tears and my grunts of pain became intermingled with intermittent sobs and pure emotion that I could not keep at bay. We got closer and closer to the finish and my desperation to fall into my hubby’s arms became almost painful. My heart embraced my children and wanted so desperately to see them, feel them, touch them and savour their whole being. I was stripped bare and all that mattered was my family.

Emotions streaming from me the kilometres ticked by and I savoured each of them. Nearing the end Dan and I paused briefly as we knew our moment was not on the finish line but then and we hugged. No words were needed.

That final kilometre was magical as the physical pain dulled and finally I acknowledged to myself that I had done it. I saw the finish and after countless kilometres I parted with my miler buddy as I saw my hubby – that beautiful, brave, supportive and loving man and I dived into his arms sobbing. Finally after 49hrs and 15 minutes I felt the security I had longed for. I felt the love. I felt happy and I didn’t want to let go. I hung onto him until someone reminded me I was still to cross the finish line. I let go and across the finish line I saw Sean Greenhill, a Race Director who had been so invested in my journey. I hugged him tightly, still sobbing, happy to share this unique moment with the man that created it.

I turned and saw Dan as he ran across the line holding his phone with his wife and children with him and couldn’t help but think how lucky those girls are to be so loved. We did it Dan!!!

The course

Whilst this has largely been a personal reflection, homage must be made to the GSER course. Many comments were made during the 49 hours in utter disbelief at how the course could be that hard. The consensus was that it was beyond words and had to be experienced to be believed. Perhaps a comment on the first descent by a runner alluded to what was ahead. She told me before the race she had come to train on the course and on this very first descent she didn’t get too far as it was difficult to work out where the trail went. What followed was indeed that!

I remember hundreds and hundreds of fallen trees we had to climb over or under. I remember sliding on descents in the dark, where you had to jump down slippery surfaces and in the moment of letting go you hoped you wouldn’t fall too far. I remember the race markers just going through the thick bush and it seemed illogical that the course would go that way, and then you remember it’s a Sean and Mel event and it makes perfect sense. I remember spectacular vistas as you reached a summit and the world was laid out before you in endless mountains. I remember these breathtaking views with a happy heart.

I remember creek crossing after creek crossing. I remember lush forests and during one night section a massive tree came crashing down that got the heart racing. I remember the most incredible plant I have ever seen. The huge tree ferns you see with the trunk and the fern leaves spilling out on top like an umbrella, I saw several similar looking plants however the tip of the fern leaves were still joined at the base making the whole tree one massive ball. I know this wasn’t a hallucination as Dan saw it too!

I remember the birds and their cheeky noises, as the sun would rise. I remember the silver leaves that looked like race markers during the night. The beauty of the course was ever changing and kept the mind and imagination fluid and entertained.

GSER offers more than your mind can comprehend.

Badwater 135 Miles 2017

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


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  really 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.

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.

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!

Ultra Trail Australia 100km UTA100 2017

So my race prep was easy, training went well and everything was perfect for race day…..

Pigs arse!
It actually went more like this-
Had a cold 3 weeks ago- still trained but didn’t really make progress
Started strength training 2 weeks ago, made great progress but missed a box jump a week ago and my ribs hurt like a bastard.
Because of the ribs I hadn’t really tapered as much as just stopped running.
Focussing on Badwater meant that I had done ZERO stair training and had run mostly on road, except when I ignored Coach’s plan and snuck out.
An ultrasound on Monday before the race seemed to show I was missing a kidney. WTF?
And on the morning of the race I locked the house keys in the house, meaning we may not have anywhere to sleep after ~20 hours of running.

All good then.


The morning of the race came, and the weather was expected to be ‘challenging’. in fact it pissed down when we left the rented house in the dark and my mood was nearly as black. Then a funny thing happened when we got to Scenic World- the weather lifted. Pity my mood didn’t!

The gun went off and we settled in for the first few km of road. I should have been happy and fast here, but everyone in start group 3 seemed to be running up the hills and determined to kill themselves before we hit the bush. I ran with Jen and Martyn and had a great chat, it was a bit like old times! Good to see them both coming back from injury. Not much to report until we hit the landslide- there was a huge conga line. I reckon to go sub 14 hours you really need to be in group 2 or 1 to have a good chance at hitting your goals on section 1.

I had no particular goal except not to hurt myself, so I was happy to let people go- as soon as we hit single track gain people were pushing past quite aggressively. I’ve complained about this before, but we really need some documentation about trail etiquette- it’s very simple people- if you want to go past yell ‘passing left’ ‘passing right’ or ‘passing when safe’ and the person in front can decide which side to let you go. Although this might be difficult- there were a lot of international runners and they seem to have a different system- they simply wait for the person in front to indicate a side to pass, nothing is said.

Going up Golden Stairs was a bit of revelation- it’s the FIRST TIME IN 7 YEARS that I haven’t needed to stop at least once (and usually multiple times) to let people past. I cannot emphasise how important this is- it’s massive for me. I don’t know how much each thing has contributed but a combination of weight, my new asthma drug and strength training has definitely brought this result. I was still puffed, and still hitting quite a high heart rate, but often in this race I will lose 30-60 places just going up these stairs……

The fart jokes started early this year, one guy wondering who as ‘cropdusting’ going up the concrete climb just after Golden Stairs. I wouldn’t say the name, but his initials are Martyn Dawson….. later there was much regretsy about biological functions, but I digress.

Anyway I got to CP1 in about 1:42 I think, meaning I was looking at a 19 hour finish time- ouch! Can’t worry too much about that so early on, so I filled up my bottles and headed out on to Narrowneck. Again, I should have been fairly fast along here but I just felt really out of sorts- not sick, just a bit of general malaise. This isn’t uncommon for me in races, I can ignore it and risk going to those dark places again, or I can try to ride it out. It was going to be a loooong day. Thankfully I had hooked up with Damon Roberts and Neil Webb- 2 of my Badwater crew, and it was fantastic to run with them. Also a tiny bit stressful- I am aware that it’s possible to tell too many poo jokes- what if I turned them off coming to the USA?

Thanks to Hailey for this pic

There was another long-ish queue for Tarro’s Ladder, but I was happy to have a break and not worry about time. I heard someone call out ‘Leah!’ around there and wondered if it was my friend having a great run bitch was going to beat me again.

Going up Mount Debert I thought about Michael Milton- he was doing the 50km race- with one leg! The last minute course changes meant that he was going to be coming this way without preparing for it. It’s rough country, hard enough with 2 legs that (mostly) work. Doing it with crutches was going to suck and blow. Massive props to you Michael, what a bloody legend.

We hit CP2 with no major issues and I got out of there hoping that the rumours were true- no Ironpot Ridge this year! We headed out in the same direction and as we got closer and closer I was afraid the rumours weren’t true- but then we hit the spot where you would normally start climbing and there was tape across the course. I was quite relieved even though I could have compared my ascent with previous years to see if my performance really had improved as much as it seemed up the stairs. But of course this now meant that we were several km short, and suddenly we didn’t really know where we were vs expectations.

Coach Andy DuBois had sent out an email communication the night before asking us not to worry or even use pace charts etc. But I really can’t help it, I love information. I decided that we were about 4km short and that this was about 1 hour. Made it easy. Wrong? Probably, but I wasn’t really racing either…….

The ascent up Megalong Valley Rd wasn’t pleasant, but again I didn’t lose as many spots as I might have in other years. My mind still wasn’t happy and when we got to the flat I felt I should have been able to push harder, but I didn’t really want to answer that question- would I feel better, or feel worse? If I felt better, that might commit me to racing the rest of the course, and I was specifically NOT supposed to do that. If I felt worse, well, there’s no benefit in that is there!?

I ran with Damon again and occasionally Neil would appear out of the bushes pulling his pants up. Not sure what was so interesting in there but he was pretty keen on the experience. Or so it seemed. We arrived at CP3, did a gear check and all went our seperate ways. I put some music on and shimmied up towards Six Foot Track in a good mood- I was finally feeling mentally better, but still no explanation of why.

Several km up Six foot Track I felt a disturbance in the Force. I could hear one runner behind me but the ones up front were too far away, so I ripped off a baby killing fart of planet busting proportions. I hadn’t looked around to see who was behind, because well- what are the chances of it being someone I knew?

And yes it was Kath Carty on her way to an amazing result in the 50km race. Kath, I apologise for the attempted murder.

Going up Nellie’s Glen I was able to impress/ disgust a few runners with my knowledge. ‘How many more of these f@cking stairs are there?’ Someone exclaimed in frustration. ‘Only 350 more!’ I was able to reply confidently. Lucky there were no sharp knives around.

Getting to CP4 is always great, and even better with 4km less in your legs and (perhaps) an hour earlier in the day. I’d forgotten to bring my charge cable for my Fenix 3, and I knew it would run out of battery within the next few hours- luckily Damon had one and was prepared to lend it to me while we ran together until he needed it. So I was happy to take a few minutes extra and rest until his wife had gone through his CP checklist. I got to go to a real toilet, and it’s the last time you can do stuff while it’s light, and it’s warm and inside- bliss!

Somewhere in section 4 I ran a bit with Dr Alex, a lovely bloke I’d first met last year during GNW. He’s a GP from Tamworth (er, possibly?) and we had such a good time chatting at GNW that we happily went off piste quite substantially. Anyway I promised I wouldn’t ask him any more medical questions but I did mention the kidney issue and his first response was ‘no NSAIDS for you!’ (These are frowned upon in races anyway so I won’t have any trouble avoiding them…….

Thanks to Akiko Akashi for this pic

Heading out of CP4 we didn’t have to cross the swamp this year, and course changes meant it wasn’t straight down the Giant Staircase. I don’t really know how much vert was taken out of this section, but it’s still pretty soul destroying to head down the valley so many times- Gordon Falls, Wentworth Falls, etc. It’s also kind of difficult to get any running rhythm going. We’d left CP4 at almost exactly 3pm and knew that if we could get to CP5 and out by 7pm we wouldn’t have to carry our fleeces. It doesn’t really matter, but it was a goal to focus on. Pace chart said a 14 hour runner could do it in 3.5 hours and a 19 hour runner in 4.5 hours, so we had a chance…..

Oh, no we didn’t! Remember the bit we missed at Ironpot Ridge? The Race Directors decided to make us run past CP5, down to the Water Board Gate and back again, making that section 3km longer. We ran past CP5 at 7:03pm so it didn’t really matter anyway, but some people found this bit utter torture. I felt it was pretty fair- there were plenty of other places the could have made us go that were much more horrible.

I’d developed a rough plan to run the rest of the way with Damon (and hadn’t told him) but I was ready to leave the CP pretty quickly and in order to not annoy him I went over to the other tent- there are tents on either side of the CP, one for runners and their support crew and another for unsupported runners.

We were in good spirits heading out of CP5 and back down on Rocket Point track I got to see Sarah! After a quick hug and a kiss we shuffled off and Damon said ‘you could have been more concerned about her’ (paraphrasing, can’t remember exactly) and I said ‘Pfft, she’s tougher than me’ then a lady in front replied ‘I was just about to suggest that….’ and thus started the Legend of the Kellys. It turns out that both ladies in front are from Newcastle and called Kelly. We passed a fun few hours running through the bush and talking, they were exactly the pace I needed to go- just gently running the flats and making good time up the stairs. Of course my mind was getting a bit loose by then and I was terrified of saying something truly offensive, but I think I managed to pretend to be relatively normal for long enough. One of the surprising things was my ability to go up stairs- I managed to keep my place without getting puffed out and at one stage even led a group up from Wentworth Falls without much difficulty. Somewhere around there we lost Damon- I called out to him and didn’t get a reply. I was a bit gutted but it would be dumb to wait for him and I knew that if I started to falter he would catch up without problems.

At the Fairmont I started explaining to the Kellys that the race used to finish there, and I could just see myself walking into the bar with the tall glass windows and having a cocktail while watching runners come in. But it was all fantasy- we still had a few hours to go! The Kellys stopped to top up and I went on. Getting back on the road was good for me- I got more upright, swung my arms and improved my cadence and passed heaps of people- a few were looking pretty despondent!

Throughout the whole day my mind hadn’t been cooperating but my body had been ok. Later my mind came to the party and things started to click, but at about the 91km mark my mind fucked off again and my body started to feel the effects of the day. I truly felt like if I’d stopped at 80-90km I would have been able to run again the next day. It was like all of the damage was in the last bit! I suppose it always is….

Vacuum packing gear worked well

I started to hope that the course was a few km short, but things just don’t work that way. With 4km to go I gave up and started walking, counting the people getting past me. I’d had a good day, slowly passing plenty of people but now 4-5 people got past. At 2km to go I heard a familiar voice and turned around to see Rob Mattingly- it was terrific to see him, and almost gave me back some fighting spirit. Almost!

Finally getting to Furber (Fubar!) Stairs I started to count my way up, but my new found energy for getting up vertical had gone. I lost another 6-8 places in the 20 minute climb. I count the stairs down- there’s 935 stairs if you only count the ‘up’ ones. Near the top I heard another familiar voice and I abandoned counting at step number 865 because it was Damon! He’d caught me and we decided to finish together. I found out later that the Kellys had gone past me on the stairs too, but fair play to them, they looked strong the whole time. Rob had beaten me by nearly 10 minutes in the last 2km- nice one Rob!

I’ve never been able to walk so well at the finish of this race- I wouldn’t say I was unaffected but a combination of strength training and the low/ easy effort meant my body was in better shape than most times I’d finished.

I looked at the UTA app and found that Sarah had passed the Fairmont at exactly the same time I finished, meaning she was only 13km away. So I relaxed, had a couple of shandies and talked rubbish to anyone who would listen. Roger Hanney came past holding his phone out, so Annabel and I decided to do a race report filled with expletives- he went a bit quiet (unusual I know) and said ‘this is being live streamed!’ so I guess I owe apologies to anyone watching that too….

Unfortunately the last 13km took Sarah about 4 hours, so by 4:10am things were getting a bit loose. Someone had come across the line and their runner profile said ‘one day I want to run a marathon naked’. Apparently the person who did their entry thought it would be a bit of fun, and that started a downhill slide of bum jokes and requests for the RD’s to draw dicks in the wet windows of the organising shed.

Luckily Roger was distracted by Sarah reaching the Furber Stairs, and when she reached the top there was a huge reaction as you can see here-

A very emotional and well deserved finish. Congratulations honey!

This is a pic of all of the solid food I ate during the race-

No beer?

Not a lot is it? However it was enough- I never felt hungry, and my energy levels were fine until the last 4km. There is one thing missing- I had an SIS liquid protein gel like thing at CP3. I’d been sent 2 of these as sample, tried one, liked it and tried to order more. SIS said they weren’t bringing them in anymore as by the time they arrive their use-by date was too close. I remembered that when I was squeezing the tube into my mouth and it was all lumpy. Oh well, I figured that I wouldn’t get sick during the race so it would be ok……

Race Analysis
Not much to report here except- try to get into Wave 2 if you want a sub 14 hour time. Slowdowns at the Landslide and Tarro’s Ladders weren’t a problem for me, but would seriously impact your pace early on if that’s your goal. This year I didn’t spit the dummy like last year at the Fairmont, which is lucky because I didn’t have Jane to yell at me (is that lucky?)
I felt like I had someone standing on the left side of my chest all day from the bruised ribs, so that may have had a small impact on pace, but overall I’m very happy to have completed a difficult race without specific training in a halfway decent time. if you can read the pic below, you can see that I improved my place from 849 at the 3km mark to 439 at CP1 (update- it seems that the CP1 timing was not working for either Wave 1, Wave 2 or both- that would explain the weird numbers). Then most of those people got past me again before Little Cedar Gap where I was placed 787. This reflects a couple of things- I suspect that the holdup at Tarro’s meant that a lot of people went around when I was happy to have a break, and I also think that many people who were held up tried to make up a lot of places on Narrowneck. I was pretty slow and not feeling good there so they did, but you can also see that some went out too fast there- as I made back 200 of the 400 places I’d lost by the end……(ok maybe I didn’t based on the above)

You may have noticed above I mentioned the possibility I have only one kidney- how did that come about? My Doctor insists on a blood test every year. I hate blood tests so I put it off as long as I can….anyway I’ve had 3 tests in a row with elevated liver enzymes. In medical terms that’s chronic. I am absolutely convinced that it’s due to my endurance running, but Dr isn’t happy and wants answers, so he sends me off for an ultrasound. They would be looking for signs of liver damage, fatty liver disease, lumps etc.

While they didn’t find any problems with my liver, the ultrasound tech could not find my left kidney. So the Dr called me up and asked me to have another test- a CT scan with dye. I’m not keen on needles but they injected me with some Iodine based dye and took pictures of my guts on the Monday after the race. Anyway, apparently I was born with only one kidney. This is somewhat of a surprise to find out when I’m nearly 50 years old……

I had another shock a few weeks back too- an online test said I am highly autistic. I haven’t fully absorbed what that might mean, but in a lot of ways I don’t care. I could use it as an excuse for being brusque or a bit in your face. But I never want to do that- I’d prefer if you just thought I was a bit of a dickhead, that’s fine. On one hand this could give me more freedom to express myself, but I’ve already grabbed that- I am happy to be judged in the same way as everyone else- and also happy if you point out that I’ve crossed a line.

So if I’ve ever beaten you in a race, you’ve been overtaken by a previously fat, old autistic man with tiny lungs, asthma and one kidney- how does that feel?

Actually it’s hilarious, I’ll try not to mention it again but to finish on a positive note- how good could we all be if we ignored our limitations?


I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Andy DuBois from Mile27 for Coaching
And Dominic Cadden from WTFitness for Strength Training
Thank you!

UTA100 2017 Guest Report- Sarah Connor

#UTA2017 Race Report.

(Disclaimer – I have still only had 3 hours sleep so pardon the swearing).

It was very fucking hard. The end..

Yeah right – thought you would get away with a short report! Ha! Never.


The race had course changes due to the weather this year. I was very Zen about it (very un-like me) as you cant control the weather or decisions that the RD’s and the authorities need to make to keep people safe.


It was cold and wet when we started, but eventually it became beautiful and sunny and clear. The night was perfect running weather.

I stuck to my race plan that Andy had sent me – slow in the first half and concentrate on passing others in the second half.

Start to CP 1 – just went with the flow –

The landslide had a conga line, but it was a chance to eat and rest.

CP1 – CP2

Tarros Ladders – there was a 10-15 minute wait just to get down to the ladders. I get vertigo, so opted to go around on the diversion track, which turned out to be the same time. Plus I had warmed up again.

The 50k men’s pointy end of the race tore past us just after Tarros ladders. Holy shit they can move.

The didgeridoo players were just before CP 2 – this was one of the only reasons I wanted to do this race, to hear them play in the race. Chills down my spine hearing them. So cool! Had a headache that was getting worse, but could not get any pain relief until CP 3 so had to suck it up.

CP2 – CP3

Had a really low spot because of said headache, running along Megalong Valley Road. Was hanging for the CP for panadol and my running poles.

CP 3 was a good quick transition.

CP3 – CP4

Left the checkpoint with Jen and Ingrid, which was lovely. (No cows in the field this time). Ingrid and I hiked up to Nellies Glen together. It was hard work, but everyone else was suffering too! Heard some interesting burps…. So decided to rate them – as you do when you need to keep occupied. Some random lady in a blue onesie was handing out choc chip cookies just before CP 4 – oh they were awesome. Going to have those again in a race!


CP4 – CP5

Ingrid’s support crew of Bek, Janis and Sharon helping me out with massages and checking that I had what I needed made transition easier. Thank you ladies!


Now this is when I knew it would be tough. The course changes affected from CP4 – finish. I was heading towards the longest distance I had ever run, and was not sure how my body would cope. Left the CP very positive and moving in the right direction. Sunset was happening just as I came around Echo Point, so the views were spectacular.

Came into Gordon Falls Reserve and got the best group hug ever from Bek, Janis and Sharon- seriously that was awesome!

Hailey and Roger, said that they would meet me on course – and there they were at Gordon Falls Reserve with liquid black gold – a can of coke. My ITB was beginning to act up, Roger gave me some tips on how to deal with it and off I went into the darkness.

Ran into Tim somewhere out the back of the golf course and he walked up with me back to his car and we had a great chat.

There were runners coming from both directions and I felt obliged to let the faster ones who were returning from the out and back loop, go past first. I think this slowed me up quite a bit having to always get off the track.

Coming out of Wentworth Falls, I had been looking out for Adam (actually looking for his trail gaiters as I was looking at the ground most of the time) and I found him! It was lovely to see him and get a hug.

Then it was the slog down the road to CP5.  It was at this point (apx 72-73k), that I knew I would be reduced to walking the rest of the way, due to my left ITB, so I made sure I was really power hiking and not just walking.


I could hear the CP before I got to it and was really looking forward to sitting down! Except when I got there, there was a 3k out and back before you could enter the CP. There were many swear words at this point. That was mentally tough. So I sucked it up and got it done.

The Summit Sister cheer squad were there and it was lovely to hear them! Saw a snake crossing the road. Yes a snake, it was 8C.

Sally met me at the CP and looked after me very well and made sure I was compos mentis. I was very surprised to find that I was 2 hours ahead of schedule. Threw on my warm clothes, my toes were aching, but there was nothing I could do, so gave them a quick massage and walked off into the night.

I spent most of this leg by myself, which suited me just fine.

Then my headlight died with about 8k to go.  I had forgotten to check my back up light batteries, but it was working so I dropped it to low lumens to conserve the batteries and kept moving. I had forgotten to pack spare batteries into my pack at CP 5. I turned my phone to flight mode, to conserve its battery so that I could use the torch I my phone if needed.

The stairs were horrid. I could only go down diagonally with the right foot first and am now sporting a large blister on my left foot.

I have never been so glad to see Leura Forest. It was then 4.8k of just slogging it out. Furber stairs were hard. There were a few tears shed here.

You can hear the finish line before you can see it. It’s torture. Roger was working the microphone at this point, and when my name was announced, he started up a cheer, which I could hear but legs just would not work. Eventually after the last 5 stairs, my brain engaged that it was the finish and people were waiting for me, so I started a jog and eventually crossed the line in 21hours and 6 mins.  It was just after 4am (I had no idea of real time as my watch died at 76k) and I was not looking at my phone. It was so lovely to have people I knew around me.

More tears were shed, Roger has video that is not repeatable here, which basically said I’m never doing it again. Nothing could top that experience.

I felt in the early stages of the race that I could go under 20 hours. Apparently I was on track for that most of the day, but was de-railed once the legs died. I think with a longer training base, it would have been achievable for me, even with the extra stairs.


Now for the bit that is most important. I would like to thank (and in no particular order) the people below for helping me to achieve my goal.


Andy DuBois of Mile 27 – 10 weeks ago, after Tarawera Ultra, I contacted Andy for coaching and he got me to this race. I can’t thank you enough. The training you set me, made a hell of difference.


Garry Luke of Muscle Therapy Australia – best masseuse ever!

Muscle Therapy Australia

Kathy Widjaja of Aequilibrium – all those body movement classes – my glutes thank you!

Dr Adrienne Leahy of Spine and Health Crows Nest – my spine thanks you!

Spine and Health Crows Nest

Paula Shingler of Running Right – last minute physio and scones and jam and cream really helped.


Julie – my running partner and therapist.

Cass – Friday mornings have improved out of sight thanks to world peace and coffee.

Summit Sisters community – you all rock!

Bek, Janis, Sharon and Sally – you are the best support crewers ever.

Hailey – for the texts and the liquid black gold AKA Coke.

Roger – the shiatsu massage really unlocked my back – it was the best. Can I have another one please?

AROC Sport – without you guys, this legendary race would never exist. Thanks for the superb organisation, in what would have been one of the hardest situations to work in this year. Your volunteers and staff are the best.

My friends and family who all support from near and far via Facebook .

And finally, my husband Adam and son, Alex. Thanks for putting up with me, early mornings, early nights and a sometimes tired and crabby wife and mother.


What I wore

Summit Sisters t-shirt

Moving comfort bra

Fabletics ¾ pants with handy pockets down the sides of the legs.

Zensah calf guards

Feetures socks

Hoka Stinson 3 ATR’s

Patagonia cap

Buff’s of varying different styles

Patagonia R1 fleece jacket

Salmon Bonatti waterproof jacket

Nathan Vapour wrap pack

(Sheesh I’m not very loyal to one brand am I?)


What I ate from my pack

Carmen’s muesli bars – mostly the more nutty ones

Chicken in a biscuit

BBQ shapes

Clif bar


Farex pre-made baby food


From CP 2 I had Nuun or Hydralyte in my water.

Panadol osteo at CP3 and after CP 5 – said headache was gone with about 13k to go …

From the checkpoints – Banana, watermelon, soup, bread, cheese and ham scrolls, a lolly, a chocolate chip biscuit, a bit of brownie, pot noodles, a chocolate bar from a random runner at a CP, coke, black coffee with 1 at the Fairmont , chips.


Recovery (so far its 24 hours in)

2 magnesium tablets before the race

Soup and chocolate milk at the finish

Blister popped at First Aid so I did not have to deal with it

Shower as soon as possible

Sleep for an hour – gentle rolling with the stick

Trying to move normally rather than the ultra lurch

Car drive home – stayed awake and kept my legs in different positions

Warm Epsom salt bath and then icing the knee

More good food and some chocolate

9 hours sleep – means I’m awake at 3am but hey that’s when all the best race reports are written.


Thames Path 100 Miles- Guest Post- Taras Mencinsky

Thames Path 100 – Race Report by Taras Mencinsky

I’m not much for writing Race Reports, mainly as my races are not worth writing home about. But as this one was part of an international campaign of running and fell walking, I thought I’d bundle it up as a mini running odyssey.

First up was the London Marathon, a race I had unsuccessful entered about a million times. On running the race, I understood (a) why it is so special, and (b) why it’s so hard to get a bog standard entry. The answer to both is the same. It’s that the London Marathon is a charity marathon, where the majority of places is for participants who will probably never do another marathon in their lives, but do this one because they raise money for others. And every supporter lining the route is there to cheer for someone who has raised money for months, is carrying a tumble dryer on their back or dressed as a Mr Men character (I mean full timber frame and canvas skin). So, with all that incredible social spirit, the scene was set for a cruise around London, enjoying the sights and sounds and simply revelling in the moment. It was a great event to compete in, and I will keep trying in the ballot in future, simply because any chance to run this race is worth taking.

In the time between London and Thames Path, I travelled up to the Lakes District to check out some fells. I’m fascinated by the fells and fell running. The history of fell running is something I think any long distance runner can relate to. It’s all about the solitary runner. The terrain, environment, weather and conditions constantly change, making every run unique. And the concentration of fells and valleys in such a small geographical area makes it different to running in the vastness of the Australian bush. There are 214 Wainwrights (fells), 15 lakes and a dozen valleys, all contained in a small, craggy part of northwest England, measuring only 50km wide and 60km top to bottom. It is simply magical. I walked from Keswick in the Northern Fells, and climbed Skiddaw (931m), Lonscale Fell, Little Man and Carl Side. The views from Skiddaw were amazing. You could see the complete Helvellyn ranges in one direction, and Solway Firth and Scotland in the other.

Finally, the day arrived and I made my way to the start of the Thames Path 100. This is a flat 100 mile run from Richmond, London to Oxford along the Thames River footpath. Total elevation was only 400m (amazing how flat it was!), but this presented more than its fair share of challenges. Because it’s flat, it’s hard to find a natural time or occasion to walk and recover energy. You feel compelled to keep going and keep your rhythm. This worked well for the first 30 miles and then ok for the next 30, but once serious nightfall fell (about 10pm – 12 hours after the race started), the night demons descended. From there on it was a slow grind. The checkpoints were evenly spread (about 6-7.5 miles between) so thankfully it wasn’t too bad, but that may be because two weeks after the race, I have conveniently forgotten the worst of it. Thankfully, I had lots of company, if only in my head. To all those who gave me silent, and not so silent encouragement I thank you from the sole of my shoes to tip of my head.

So, for the next 7 hours I walked and micro-slept, and shuffled when the micro sleeps went over 2 -3 seconds. While the terrain wasn’t challenging, the proximity to the river at times was close, so last thing I wanted to do was slip in for a midnight dip in the Thames.

Thankfully, dawn finally arrived, but unlike Australia, where you’re greeted by the dawn chorus of raucous cockatoos, kookaburras, galahs, bellbirds, whip birds and crashes in the bush, dawn in the UK is more subtle and while I didn’t feel as if all my energy returned, certainly enough did to know that the end was achievable, if not in sight. I continued to shuffle slowly through checkpoints and struggled to eat or drink, which is my perennial problem. It seems that when you go as slow as I was, you can keep moving with little external energy consumption and use internal resources. Sorry darling, but that’s why I have no cheek fat. I didn’t stop at the 89 mile checkpoint, thinking it was time to get this over with and ground through to the last checkpoint on course at 95 miles. I sat down, exhausted, and thankfully, as was the case throughout the race, the volunteers were runners and knew what I was going through. They coaxed me gently into having a strong coffee and some watermelon, and once I started moving again I could feel the energy return. I vowed to finish strongly, as you always have to look good at the finish! So I picked up the pace and started to breathe better, and very soon I was hitting 8 minute km’s, then 7 minute km’s and finally I was motoring at 6:30 minute km’s with 5 km’s to go. I maintain this pace and passed several runners who were feeling the hurt but resolutely moving, and by the time I turned left and entered the finish chute I was floating on air. After 25 hours and 23 minutes, I had finally conquered a 100 Mile race. While I missed my Centurion target (finishing under 24 hours), I was ecstatic to have finished and finished strongly.

In summary, the race was a great opportunity to exorcise some demons and give me the belief that maybe, just maybe, I can call myself an ultra-marathoner and be in the same room with so many people I admire. At least stand in a corner of the room quietly and discretely!

If you ever get the chance to run the Thames Path 100 or any other Centurion race in the UK, I would highly recommend it. Great organisation, great volunteers and wonderful courses that are as different from the Oz bush as you can imagine.

Cradle Mountain Run 2017- Guest Post Leah K

Cradle Mountain Run, Tasmania 2017


I’ve always wanted to do this run for a few years now, I mean c’mon – Australia’s Oldest Ultra Marathon, who wouldn’t wanna do it! Especially since it’s a one day traverse over the infamous Overland Track (who has time to hike it anyway?!)

After being sad that CMR was cancelled in 2016 due to the devastating bush fires that were raging in the North Western parts of Tasmania, I was even more motivated to secure a spot for the 2017 race. Fingers ready on a Sunday night in October, I scored a spot!

Fast forward to February 4th 2017, I was lining up at the crack of dawn (6am) in a small asphalt area outside our Waldheim Cabins in the freezing cold. While Sydney was getting blasted with a 39 degree heat wave, it was about 10 degrees in the Cradle Mountain National Park – PERFECT!

Two roll calls from the Race Directors and a quiet count down, 60 of us runners ventured out over the iconic chicken wired duckboard and off into the untouched Tasmanian wilderness.

And what a wilderness!!! It is a beautiful, prehistoric and really, really untouched wilderness! Photos and descriptions really can’t portray how amazing it is to wind your way past ancient mountains, bluffs, and flora that seems to go on forever.

The only real climb in this course is Marions Lookout. Once you’re up there, the VIEW!

Anyway, long story short, it is a visually spectacular run!

Something incredibly deceiving about this run is that it has a lot of beautiful images depicting

runners cruising along the duckboards. I think these photos I took sum it up perfectly (but it did get much worse than the pic on the right!!!):

This run is a battle. A long, 78km battle along tree roots, rocks, tree roots, rocks, more tree roots, wait is that duckboard?! NOPE! Just more rocks, and an awful lot of time being spent in ankle deep mud. OK, I lie, there’s about 12km of duckboard, but the rest of the 66km route is tree roots, rocks and mud. It’s slow going and by the end of it, the soles of my feet felt like they went through a meat mincer.

Once you’re out of the open plains and into the forests (there’s a lot of that!) you can’t get rhythm either. As soon as you get some sort of pace going, you’re forced to stop and delicately pick your way across super narrow but very broken down duckboard / tree roots / rocks / mud. It’s all ankle breaking stuff!

That said, I’d do it again in a heartbeat!

Here’s the break down of my run:

Start to Pelion Hut: Cruising along duckboard, trying not to freeze, until about 20km in and took a massive stack, majorly bruising my left knee and spraining the front of my left ankle. Nice work Leah. Frog Flats is horrendously technical as was Pine Forest Moor. Slowly slowly!

Pelion Hut – Kia Ora Hut – Du Cane Hut: Able to get some pace along here and enjoy the views. The historical huts are very cool to look at and seem to pop up out of nowhere.

Du Cane Hut – Narcissus: Back to technical trail dancing with my new friend Deb Nicholl for about an hour before she scooted off into the distance. It seems never ending and exhausting. Narcissus popped out of nowhere with the time keepers yelling “Welcome To Narcissus!!!” They had a small amount of fruit and coke (blessed coke!!) This was the only thing that resembled half and aid station and I was so thankful for it! Did I mention this was a fully self supported run? Surprise; it is!

Narcissus – Watersmeet: Good lord the rocks and roots!!!!!!! Turns out, running around the edge of Lake St Clair and into Cynthia Bay is verrrrrrrrrry long and soul destroying. It’s around 16 – 17km to Watersmeet (where all the rivers join up into one giant rapid) and took me around 3 hours to do this final section. The trail kept disappearing too, making it hard to find the clear trail path again. I really had to concentrate once the trail disintegrated and ensure I scanned the entire area to find the trail start back up again usually around 20 – 50 metres ahead.

Watersmeet – Cynthia Bay: Approaching Watersmeet was salvation! I knew I was about 2km away from the finish line. Time to get a wiggle on! Too bad that this still took me around 30 min to quietly shuffle my way to the end…… But the finish line popped up out of nowhere! I saw two timekeepers, Deb, another finisher who offered me a soft drink and no one else around. Nice! While it seemed like an uninspiring finish, it was really cool to have a quiet finish line – it kept it inline with the casual vibe of the run.
The great news was, I finished in a time that allowed me to bus it to the Derwent Bridge Hotel, shower and still have 5 minutes to spare to order dinner and a pint before the kitchen closed – winner!

The Next Day: Breakfast time was a time to huddle in and receive our participation awards and our Huon Pine Coaster (very cool). I may have to run it another 5 times to get a set of 6 coasters.

During the presentations, I think the winner of CMR (Damian Smith) summed this race up really nicely when he accepted his award: “The dickheads seemed to have not discovered this race yet, and I hope it stays that way”. Yup, me too.


Overall, pretty happy with my splits:


For anyone wanting to do it, a few things to note:

•This thing sells out quicker than 6FT Track, so have your fingers ready at rego time to be one of the 60 lucky runners to score an entry.

•I highly recommend adding in the accommodation and bus tickets during registration, this was an excellent way to meet other scallywags heading to Cradle Mountain for this run.

•Immediately call Derwent Bridge Hotel (or other nearby accommodation) to secure your bed for the finish line. Otherwise you’ll be stuck paying $300-$400 / night when these all sell out.

•For the race itself, I highly recommend only taking two 500ml flasks to fill up at the creeks and rivers during the run. There’s so much water available on course that you don’t need to be worried about carrying too much. I used ‘Aquaprove’ to sanitise the water. It works in 5 min and I had no stomach trouble. (Thanks Dom Gallagher!!!)

•It’s actually 78km, not 82km as stated on the website. It’s also 2400 metres of elevation gain.

•The cut off points: Pelion Hut is at approximately 32km, and Narcissus is at 61.3km.

Tarawera 102km 2017

I’m still disappointed by the way I let myself slack off during Coast to Kosci in December, so I was hoping that I’d be able to concentrate on pushing hard while tired. let’s see how that went…..

Months ago Sarah said ‘should we do Tarawera? Entries open next week…’

Before I’d had a chance to reply (I’m not a fast thinker) we had flights, accomodation and 2 race entries. I’d been fascinated with the race for a couple of years and this would be my first international race!

The flight over the ditch was uneventful, pity I couldn’t say the same about work. I had a few items lingering on my list that just wouldn’t die, resulting in a fair bit of lost sleep in the few previous days. At Auckland airport we had a nice surprise, Sarah had ordered a small car from Avis and we’d been given a Commodore SV6 with all sorts of bells and whistles. It was pretty bloody quick too, I nicknamed it Vlad, destroyer of continents. Except it was a horrible grey colour. So she then became Brad, destroyer of continence.

Kath and Camille- Winners!

Our first night we stayed in Auckland and had dinner with my sister and her family, they took us to Epolitos Pizza and it was awesome- I managed to annihilate nearly and entire 18 inch pizza and we killed Sarah’s diet that night too (sorry Hailey!). Sarah had booked us into a reasonably priced hotel, it was the hotel Surrey, decorated like an Elizabethan guest house. Got to be honest, despite all of the quirky and interesting bric-a-brac around the place it really didn’t work as a theme. But despite me being horribly bitchy the room was a lot larger than expected, had great facilities and friendly staff. Pity there was only 2 hours free internet…..

I used my 2 free hours to watch a live FaceBook video of Chris Kostman, the race director of the Badwater 135 race, as he was reading out the names of the 100 lucky people who would get to run the race this year. He started by talking about all the talented runners who he’d had to leave off the list and my heart sank. I mean, if he’d left off the talented runners then I had no chance right? Well it turns out that he read my name out, about 90th into the list!. I’m running Badwater baby, yes I am!

We saddled up Brad for a 3 hour drive down to Rotarua the next morning. Nothing much to tell about the drive except that a lot of New Zealand roads seem to merge from 2 lanes into 1 with very little warning and there may have been one or two brown trouser moments before I got fully used to it…..we weren’t really in danger, I was just remembering the Avis rep say ‘ ……and there’s a three thousand dollar excess…..’

Off to the Holiday Inn Rotarua which was race headquarters for the weekend and we had a quick look at the expo, found Jill and made our way to the AirBnB that we had for the weekend. Then back to race HQ to collect race kit and weigh in. Unfortunately I had suggested 4pm for an NRG meetup and team photo and didn’t finish getting weighed in until 4:20 (or perhaps much later?) Anyway, in combination with some work things I completely had the shits and really just wanted to get ready for the race and finish my work. So we headed back to the house and I became a computer hermit while the others made a huge meal of spaghetti bolognese. Leftovers went into the fridge to be reheated after the race.

By the time I’d finished getting ready it was nearly 10pm and I was exhausted, so of course my body decided that staring at the ceiling for a while would be appropriate punishment. I don’t normally have issues sleeping, but when I do it can be properly irritating.

Rising at 4am local time is actually 2am Sydney time and of course it felt like I hadn’t slept much at all. I’m not good with less than 10 hours a night (you read that right!) so after several nights of this I was a bit gaga.

(Look away now if squeamish)

Continuing on with the poo theme, it wasn’t at all surprising that I had no luck ‘dropping the kids off at the pool’ at 2am Sydney time. It’s always a good idea to spend a couple of minutes before a race in quiet contemplation in the smallest room of the house, but this time my body said ‘it’s fucking 2am, fuck off’

(Welcome back squeamish people)

Walking by myself to the race start in the dark I came across an older kiwi gentleman wearing thongs (er, sorry jandals) so I started chatting with him. Turns out he s a former 24 hour track runner who is going to see the start. Choice bro.

Of course it’s a very big race so I hardly saw anyone I knew at the start, but after the gun went off I settled in and found a few mates. Of course having found out about Badwater only 18 hours ago, I was compelled to tell everyone in the entire race about it. This led to a few interesting realisations- firstly, only about 30-40% of people had any idea what I was talking about (they smiled and nodded their heads), but also that the people who did know about the race must have thought I was joking. Yeah, I might have to lose a couple of kg before the race!

And then we were off- I started my Garmin on gun time so I’d have a few seconds up my sleeve if needed, and checked as I crossed the start- 50 seconds had elapsed. I put my head torch away as it was perfectly easy to run with the light from other people. I was loving the gentle uphills and spongy trail, but I knew that wouldn’t last!

I’d printed a pace and elevation chart off the website and filled in the checkpoint times from a couple of runners- one for 14 hours and one for 16 hours. Pity I didn’t have time to check them because they both turned out to be horrible choices, and we’ll see why a bit later.

Most of the first 60km of this course is single track- it varies from very easy, sandy tracks through scrub to gnarly hand over fist climbing. The run has ‘only’ 2500m of climbing but the main difficulty with the run is the many km of little climbs and descents over tree roots. So you can put this down to excuses but I have fairly massive feet, my eyesight isn’t perfect and I’m reasonably tall- these things make it very difficult for me to put my feet down easily and glide over the roots. Or perhaps I just didn’t do enough training on tight, technical terrain. Anyway, it gets VERY tiring having to concentrate, and I really had the shits after about 40km of this. I know it sounds like I had the shits the whole weekend but that isn’t true- I still hadn’t done my morning poo!

I’d actually managed to stick to the 14 hour plan up until the 50km mark- my chosen runner had done the first 60km in 8:55 and had blasted the last 40km in 5 hours. What’s wrong with those numbers? Well, it means that he took it really easy for 60km then worked his arse off for 40km. I was 25 minutes behind his time by the 62km mark and things were not looking good, especially when I looked at my 16 hour guys times. I realised I was only 15 minutes in front of his times, so suddenly I was battling for a 16 hour finish? What I hadn’t realised was that my chosen 16 hour runner had done decently well for much of the race then crashed horribly somewhere around where I was- I should have studied those times better!

I had bonked pretty hard at Coast to Kosci and I was looking for a bit of redemption here- so I was pretty happy to ease into the first 60km and then make it hurt for a while. So when I left the 60km check point I was primed for some running but it looked like there was more single track!

Luckily around the next corner we were greeted with some wide fire trails covered in soft pine needles that looked like they went forever. I was in heaven. But I was also pretty sore and a bit grumpy from the previous 60km, so I got out my headphones, put on some music and did The Robot. This is when I focus on my running form, trying to keep everything nicely upright, using my glutes and doing a very easy, low energy run. It worked, and I started passing heaps of people. Side note- some dickhead told me not to call them fire tails, as they are actually forestry roads. Sorry buddy but whilst you may be technically correct, I don’t care, and I’m too old to change.

It was time to start calculating finish times. As I’ve explained above, this was an exercise in extreme frustration. For a while I had no idea whether I was possibly able to push for sub 14 hours or if I was going to have to fight for sub 17!

Analysing the results above you can see around the 40km mark where I kind of lost interest- I was also worried about going too fast and not having enough energy to finish strong. For me, nailing those next 2 sections would be key to getting a better time. Er, and also losing 5kg would undoubtedly help!

This left me at the 62km mark in 9.5 hours- a sub 14 wasn’t going to happen without a 4.5 hour next 40km. Rested and on the road in good conditions that eminently possible, but even on lovely groomed trail it wasn’t likely after 62km!

Several times over the next few hours I nearly gave up, and several times I decided to keep pushing based on my wish to have a good result at this race. You can see how I was steadily making up places but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Finally deciding that sub 9 minute km’s would get me under 15 hours, I was pretty happy and from there it was all about making sure each slow km was balanced with a faster one. I had to make sure that every 10-20 minutes I pulled out a lolly to keep my energy up, and I started playing mental games to keep moving at the required pace. And then disaster.

I’d stolen a chart off the race website that included stats on checkpoint distances and expected times for leaders and BOP, and I was using this on the run to figure out my pace. Running towards the last checkpoint I noticed a small problem- the checkpoint at 100km showed that the distance to the end was now 0km. Which is a mistake- it’s a 102km race! FAAAAAARK! I still had another 2.4km to go! So I bolted, trusting that I had enough strength to not collapse…..

And so I did- I felt a bit of a bastard passing people towards the finish line but my calculations paid off and the clock was showing 54, 55, 56 seconds as I was rushing though the finish chute, for a final time of 14:44:57. That first 14 is super important to me, a huge result considering my fitness and lack of experience on the course.

I’m really proud of the fact that I kept up the pressure, passed a lot of people in the last few sections and even did one or two sub 6min/km! The secret in this case turned out to be Jack Links soft beef jerky. It was kind of hard to chew and swallow, but I had one strip at 40km and another at 60km. This had the effect of making my legs feel much less trashed- I’d normally like to have an amino acid like Taurine but had forgotten to arrange it.

From 487 starters in the 102km category, there were 455 finishers and thus 32 DNF. And for the curious-  I finally dropped a load off in a nice warm bathroom next to the finish line.

Results thanks to Leigh Reynolds-

Matt Carroll 5:18:52 – 3rd (4th overall)*
Joe Gallaher 7:02:16 – 25th (in his first run longer than 32km!)
Victoria Watson. 8:24:13
Teresa Liu. 10:11:55
Sarah Connor 10:34:43

*Chicked! Ruth Croft had an amazing performance, 1st woman by nearly an hour and 2nd outright, just 6mins behind Majell Backhausen

Allison Davies 15:38:09

Katharine Carty 10:27:57 – 9th (29th overall, in a stacked international field!)
Hugh Mander. 13:31:21
Blas Mex. 14:12:33
Adam Connor. 14:44:57
Leigh Reynolds. 17:12:06
Kenneth Low. 17:12:06
Nadia Ackarie. 18:29:06
Zoe Howard. 19:32:01


Coast to Kosci 2016 C2K

img_3827C2K weekend is basically a hippie love fest for self flagellators and their mates.

There, I’ve said it. Now that I’ve said it, I’ll also state that I never want to be anywhere else on that weekend in December.

This story started in September last year when I found out I had missed out on a spot in the race. It was a harsh but fair decision and I decided to redouble my efforts to get into the race. Luckily five of my other friends from NRG had earned a spot but unluckily only three of them made to the start line- but all three did exceptionally well and the bug was working it’s way round in the minds of other NRG’ers!

This year when the invitations came around another five NRG’ers were picked and luckily I was one of them. The bad part was there was suddenly scramble for crew members. But my secret weapon was Piera Kohout who had been asking me for race dates since before the race date was even announced. I also managed to get on board Tanya Carroll who is very calm, a great organiser and a great runner. The final member of the team was Tex Whitney who is a mate from a long time back, and I knew he would fit in with no problems. All three of them are very well organised, experts in their field, calm under pressure and exactly what I needed in team.

As none of my crew had crewed before for this race, I tried to make sets of instruction so that everything would be easy for them. In fact I probably make things more complicated than they need to be, and didn’t spend enough time training them on the use of all the bits and pieces. Apparently I sent them into meltdown when I asked for an espresso- I’d provided a machine that works in the car but the instructions aren’t all that clear……


The trip down was uneventful and quite fun through Berry and had some fresh doughnuts. Dinner with Jane Trumper and Hailey Maxwell and their respective crews was fun, although sitting in a pub and drinking soda water was an experience I could probably improve upon.

Thursday we started packing the car and organising things and suddenly it was time to mark the course for Cossie To Coast, the 7km fun run for the teams. Went down for a nap and asked to be woken up at 4:30pm for a 4:45pm race start, but didn’t realise until we got there that about 60-70 runners had assembled. True to form there were some appalling costumes, but since you can’t have fashion without victims I will state for the record that Lucy Bartholemew looks better in that dress, sorry George…..

After some stern words about running over Billy Pearce’s C2K race markings I sent them off in a colourful and chaotic cloud of dust.


Sorry no names for this one!

But you came here for a different race, didn’t you? OK after the crew race we went to the Eden Fishermans Club where the pre race event was held upstairs for the first time- I think this worked really well because we didn’t wait too long to get fed and the food didn’t appear to run out before being replenished! Well done to the organisers, I’m not sure why a move from downstairs to upstairs made a difference but it did appear to work.

Home to our cabin for an early night but of course I couldn’t sleep. And then I dreamed about not sleeping- to the point that at 4:15am when my alarm went off I was actually dreaming about being on a bus and late to the race. At least I knew I had been asleep because I vividly remember the dream, but I didn’t feel rested. We headed down to Boydtown Beach, Got our prerace photos and at 5:30 AM after a quiet countdown by race director Paul Every we were off.


My planning 2014 have been very simple. I knew that if I ran the first 100 km in under 14 hours, that I could walk the rest of the race without being too close to the cut-offs. This time I had a very sternly worded email from my coach (that included a few swear words so I knew he was serious) that said ‘don’t allow yourself to think that you can simply walk from the 100km mark’ Great advice. The new plan was to do the first 100km in about 14 hours and push on a bit harder during the night where is there are some very boring bits. But I had kind of forgotten about the death march up from Thredbo River…..


And that’s the way we did it. A very easy first 100 km came up in 13 hours and 50 minutes- just about perfect. I was very pleased about the way we pushed on during the night time sections where I would typically have walked. And we made it to Dalgety (148km) in good time in good condition. Whilst I wasn’t overall any faster in this first 100 miles (to the bottom of Beloka Range), my body had held up much better than in 2014. I did getting very tired towards the end of the night I’m told my crew that I wanted 30 minutes rest in the car before it got light. They weren’t happy about this but I jumped in the car, had a short rest, and got up again feeling great in only 15 minutes. I had agreed to have some noodles going up Beloka range which was a mistake in the first place however what made it even worse was the water the noodles were made with was merely warm and not hot. Poor Tanya had to deal with me saying ‘this is possibly the worst most disgusting thing I had ever in my life’. But we got a laugh out of it and perhaps some poor hungry piece of wildlife has a better opinion of half crunchy noodles than I do. At the top of Beloka there is only about 17km into Jindabyne but it does seem to take forever, we went from brisk early-morning sunlight to full on daytime while still approaching Jindabyne.

Jane always says the race starts at Jindabyne. We got refreshed, had a couple of coffees and set off for Thredbo River. I had refused the offer of deodorant from my crew- which was a bad mistake I was to later learn. Probably a bad mistake for them to accept my refusal! Through the river I had a little mental collapse, I was just unprepared for the next 10 hours of climbing, however I decided to break it up into smaller chunks and that did make it mentally manageable. 5 km to the park entrance, 20 km to perisher, 9 km (ish) from there to Charlotte pass.


The grinders start grinding, all the way to the grim peak…..

Not much to say about this except it became grim and grimmer during the day- and we really needed our fly nets. Tex stayed with me for a good part of this and we manage to communicate communicate via grunts for hours on end. We had a few bright moments when Rebecca, Gavin, Jess, and the Tailwind bus came past and decided to try to cheer it up. It didn’t really work but there were a few moments of hilarity in amongst the terrible grind. Of course Rogers team getting past meant that Roger got past as well, luckily by that point his brain was only going about five times the speed of mine because I didn’t have the strength to murder him for his terrible jokes.

It was fantastic to finally get to Perisher, Because from there it is only around 10 km to Charlotte pass. Unfortunately around here I lost any ability I had to run and it must have been pretty horrible watching me grind out those last few kilometres. I think I still have a lot to learn about keeping up the pressure later on in these long races. Poor Piera and Tanya had the job of keeping me company in these sections and it must have been horrible. Piera was entertaining and trying to get me moving faster, Tanya was quietly encouraging. I’m not sure either method worked because I was being a stubborn old man but thank goodness they were there to stave off the mental buzzards that were circling above.
At Charlotte pass my crew sat me down for 5 minutes, got me changed had mandatory gear ready and went about things like Formula One pitstop. It was fantastic to watch. Joe Hedges spotted me sitting down and blew through like a man on a mission. He been in all sorts of trouble overnight and was now looking like coming good. I knew he would, but there also went my chance of not being the last NRG person….


What rhymes with ‘truck’?

We left Charlotte pass at exactly 7 PM. We slipped down from an approximately 39 hour finish to around a 40 hour finish. And then it all went Pete Tong. Only a couple of hundred metres from Charlotte pass I found that I couldn’t lift my left leg any more. We had to send somebody back to get my poles because I hadn’t thought I would need them. When I got them all I could do was rest on the polls and use my hips to swing my left leg forward. I was going as fast as I could but kept on looking down my watch and seeing 24 to 26 minutes per kilometre. I can see my crew in front having quiet conversations with each other urgently discussing what to do. I have to admit I’m not very flexible and some of these situations every time they came up to me and said ‘you’ll have to go faster if you want to finish’ I’d reply ‘you just want me to go faster so you can be off the mountain quicker’

Sometimes I’m not one of the worlds fastest brains hey…..

At one point I was only travelling at 1.2km/h and it was starting to look like becoming a very long night. I never thought I wouldn’t make it, but later calculations showed just how close we were.

Piera had decided I needed drugs, but in the rush to make sure we had all of the mandatory gear, nobody had thought to pack any. So they were desperately asking other runners coming off the mountain if they had any. Wayne ‘Blue Dog’ Gregory once again became my saviour when he admitted he had Panadol Osteo. I think Piera may have ripped them out of his hands while demanding I take 2 immediately. Now I don’t typically take headache tablets or anti inflams etc. so I didn’t really expect these to do much. I stand (walk) corrected- Tex says that within 7 minutes I was walking better and within 20 minutes had almost regained full motion. It’s a miracle!

So we pushed on to the summit and met a few more runners on the way. It was like Pitt St trying to get across the ice and line up to take our summit shots.


on the way down I actually handed my poles to Tanya and could almost run! We had summited at exactly 11pm, meaning it had taken us 4 hours to ascend. If it had taken 4 hours to get back to Charlotte Pass we would have finished at 1am, only 30 minutes before the cutoff. While I NEVER thought I would not finish, doing those sums on the way down was very sobering. The injury had come out of the blue, but it was real- it took a few days before I was able to fully engage my hip flexor again.
Garth Mcinerny suggested that I may have caused it by engaging my glutes up the big hill and some weakness pushed my toes out to the side causing the flexor issue (I think). This does make sense because in some video you can see my left toes flick out- I’ll have to watch that in future.

Doesn’t look comfortable hey? Check left foot flicking out…..

On the way up I was having some minor hallucinations- the ice underfoot was moving (interesting rather than dangerous) but on the way down those carefully constructed walls in my psyche were crumbling down at an increasing rate. I had issued a number of crew commandments in my guide, one of them being ‘don’t lie to me about time or distance- if it’s 5km of 50km, just give it to me straight’.
But we had one person join us for the final ascent who hadn’t read the notes! I was very grateful that John had come along but I’d been trying to hold in my lingering madness and despair. Unfortunately after about 50 ‘nearly there’ ‘not much longer’ and ‘not far now’ some of them escaped and I whimpered ‘I NEED to be asleep. I can no longer be conscious’ and in the last 4km the trees started to turn into faces etc. The bonus being some quite interesting art installations that apparently were put there specifically for me. Anyway, the worst was when we got to the finish line- I turned my headlamp off so Tex could get nicer finish shot, and of course the lack of light suddenly meant that my mind could make up whatever the fuck it liked, and so it did.
There was a bit of Keystone Cops with ‘Adam, the finish line is over here’ then me heading off in the opposite direction, I thought we had it all worked out when I did finally spot the finish line, but of course I then had to try to climb over the invisible barriers. Someone on the finish line very helpfully showed me that they weren’t there and I shuffled across the finish line at 1:08am Sunday, 2 days after starting. Four hours up the mountain, 2:08 down. A quick hug from Paul and Diane (yes those hugs make it all worthwhile!) and we made the long drive down the mountain to a well deserved sleep.

I need to point this out- Was never in danger from the hallucinations, the bad ones were merely a product of me turning off my light and I had a team of people around me to prevent problems. I’m relating the story because it is funny, not dangerous.

The next morning was filled with people telling me how terrible I looked and how worried they were that I wasn’t going to make it- just as well I didn’t have them as crew!

Anything I can say about my team will be inadequate but I will try anyway- they dealt with every situation with grace and equanimity. I basically promised them a sub 40 hour finish and when it all went to poo, they went above and beyond in trying to keep me moving. I suspect Piera probably suffered from my bloody mindedness the most. She obviously took my health very seriously and I knew that if I did as she said I would be ok. But she also tried to make me go faster when my lizard brain was saying no, and no matter what logical explanations I had for slacking off she’s probably seen it so many times in her job- I should have tried a little harder!

I finished in about the right place- if I had pushed a little more, not had a hip flexor issue or any number of other excuses I could have finished with Damon, Jane, Roger, Matt, Joe or others. As it happened, I needed to suck up my pride, admit that sub 40 was just a dream, and get it done. I’m proud to have done that but I’d be absolutely nowhere without that crew- you were wonderfull and I thank you!

Here is my splits, I’ll try to update when I track down my 2014 times-

40 Adam Connor M NSW Finished 06:37:00 09:20:00 14:53:00 21:45:00 29:00:00 35:08:00 43:38:28

Could I do it better? Yes absolutely. Getting a bit of mongrel back in those later stages, not making so many rookie mistakes and I think I could take a few HOURS off that time of 43:38. I just need to get permission from my wife…….

Photo Credits- Thank you so much to Tex Whitney, Billy Bridle and Rebekah Markey for the pics!