My training for Six Foot has been consistent but not specific which was a slight concern but on the flip side it resulted in my expectations not being very high and feeling quite relaxed about the race. The last time I did Six Foot in 2014 I definitely felt more prepared, I had done more hills and a bit more weekly distance but I was inexperienced and it was my first proper trail race. This time I had swapped hills for Wednesday morning coffee run which is much less painful & swapped a Monday run for a swim instead cause I really enjoy the swim. I have the benefit of a very big base from a few years of long distance racing so I knew I had that to fall back on. My time in 2014 was 4hrs 56mins & I expected to be somewhere close to 4hrs 30 – 4hrs 40 this time. I noted down the times that I should be reaching the checkpoints at based off the 4hr 30 pace calculator but again I was going to play this by ear and base it on how I was feeling. There wasn’t much of a taper cause my training never really got to a massive high but I was ok with that, I have in the past got good results when I don’t taper.
Robyn & I left Sydney at 6.20 which turned out to be a bit late cause when we arrived at the Carrington at 8.40 registration was finished – we thought it was open until 9pm (oops).
Robyn & I were up at 4.30am cause we had to pick up our bibs at the KCC at 5.15 which meant having brekkie (muesli & yogurt) at 5am which is much earlier than I usually would before a race. We picked up our bibs and then decided to drive back to the YHA & catch the bus from there so that we didn’t have to collect the car after the race. We caught the bus from the YHA & headed to the start line. There was so many NRGers which was amazing & I was feeling full of energy! I was in Start Group 1 so it was a start time of 7am. Started with 5 Salted Caramel Gu’s & this time I didn’t carry a handheld bottle of water which is way out of my comfort zone. My plan for nutrition was a gel approx every hour and water from the CP’s, I remember feeling hungry on the start line.
Start to Cox’s River (0 – 15.5k)
Before I knew it I was lined up beside the big guns and we were off! I love the downhills and the race starts on a down so I was loving it.
Going down Nellie’s Glen was a bit slower than I’d anticipated but I was ok with that. I had the 5 gels in the pockets on the sides of my shorts but they were weighing them down so I took two of them out and put them in my bra instead. Getting to the bottom of Nellie’s Glen I seen the sign that Ann & I had gotten our picture taken on a training run with Bruce & that was the start of some emotional times and I spent much of the next few hours thinking about Ann but I also could feel her there with me on the trails. There was a lovely trail section on the way down to the river. Dani & Suzi both passed me in quick succession before we got to Megalong Road and we zig-zagged for a while before I we hit some downhills and I passed them. I love the downhills and took advantage of every one cause I know uphills are not my strongest so I need to make up as much time as possible on the downs. I really enjoyed the first 15.5k but was also having to remind myself not to go too hard cause I’d need some strength in the legs for later. I knew that I based off the 4hr30 calculator I should be hitting the river at 1hr 23 but I actually got there in 1hr 18. I waded through the river and headed off towards the climbs…
Cox’s River to Top of Pluviometer (15.5k – 26k)
Coming out of Cox’s I could feel gravel in my shoes but decided not to stop to clean them out. The climb up Mini-Mini was ok, I mostly walked with a few shuffles. Getting to the top of Mini-Mini I had a quick chat to another lady who told me this was her 7th Six Foot and this was the first time she had run the whole thing. I drank a cup of water at the water stop & poured another cup over my head, bliss! I knew Dani wouldn’t be far behind cause she is so strong on the hills so I just kept moving forward and doing my best. I was very surprised that she didn’t pass me until after pluvi. The climb up the Pluviometer wasn’t too bad, it is long and relentless but I’ve become used to just powering up hills and I reminded myself of previous training runs and races (Big Jack & Motatapu) where there was big climbs & I was still able to finish strong. Based on 4h30 I should have been here at 2hr 39 (1hr 16mins from Cox’s), I got there in 2hr 37.
Top of Pluviometer to Deviation (26k – 37.4k)
This was the section I was least looking forward to cause I knew my legs would be heavy and I’d taken a funny turn here in 2014 so I wasn’t sure how I’d feel. It wasn’t long before I could hear the patter of Dani’s steps and she passed me out & was looking comfortable. I just did my best on this section and ran most of it. Before Pluvi I hadn’t looked at my watch much at all but along this section I started looking at it and the km’s were ticking over as quick as I liked! I think I was really looking forward to seeing the NRGer’s so much that I was on the countdown to seeing them. I loved seeing be NRGers and was on a high for a while after that 🙂 Based on 4h30 I should have been here at 3hr 30 (51mins from Pluvi), I got there in 3hr 26 so I was happy that I was still going well.
Deviation to Finish (37.4k – 45k)
I knew I only had about an hours running left to go so that was a great feeling, I wasn’t feeling smashed and knew I would be able to go hard on the final 3k of downhill. I could see that Sam running with Dani just in front & when he stopped he gave me a good cheer 🙂 Just around the corner there was the big hill I had remember from 2014, I plodded up that and when my calves couldn’t take anymore I turned around and started to walk backwards to give them a little break. It was at this point that I realised that Robyn was right there. It wasn’t long before she cruised on passed and joined Dani up ahead and I could see them running up the hills. I decided that I was best to just keep doing my own thing and continue walking the hills and going hard on the downs. We got a great cheer at Cave Rd crossing. There are little signs periodically along the trail that have distance the distance to the finish, I couldn’t believe it when I seen the one that said 5k, I almost couldn’t believe there was only 5k left. I was starting to feel hungry and I mentioned to Dani that I must have lost my gels (I had forgotten that I’d put them in my bra – d’oh!). At the next aid station I decided to have some coke and hope that might stave off the hunger. More water over my head & a big hello to Matt the Medic from C2K that was volunteering at the aid station. The trails along here are awesome and then you hit the very technical downhill trails. I threw myself down the trails and could see Dani & Robyn not far in front, I ended up passing Dani and running behind Robyn & another runner.
I could hear the bells so I knew we were getting close. We both powered down the hills and as we were coming close to the end Robyn asked if I wanted to finish together, I was happy with that & we flew down the concrete path that leads to the finish line. We went down the steps, held hands and raced for the finish line. What an awesome feeling & special moment followed by a massive hug 🙂 My calves didn’t know what was going on and decided this was a great time to cramp up, thankfully it didn’t last long. I was then greeted by Adam Connor who gave me my goodie bag & informed my that given my time I should be able to do a 3hr marathon, ha ha.. it was great to recognise so many volunteers at the finish line (Hailey, Keith & Adam). It was only about an hour after I finished that I realised the gels were in my bra!!
I loved this race, I’m very happy with how I ran it and I’m over the moon with the time – 4hr 22mins – I couldn’t have dreamed that I would do that time.
Drank water at every aid station – 1 cup to drink, 1 cup over my head
First gel at ~14k (in preparation for the climb) then 2 more after that (3 in total)
Gators might be a good idea
Wore my iPod and didn’t use it
Don’t put gels in your bra if you’re going to forget about them!
I started writing this race report oblivious to the fact one of my beautiful crew members, Ann, was not going to be here to read it. Tragically, just over a week after crewing for C2K Ann passed away after being knocked off her bike on a training ride. I decided to finish it so that I can read back and relive some of our memories.
Some info may not be totally accurate cause I have a terrible memory!
I wanted to do this race again purely because I enjoyed the experience so much last year. I wasn’t going back because I wasn’t happy with my time or cause I felt I had something to prove but I did think that I could do a better time. Last year I suffered really badly with blisters, something that always plays a part when I do these longer distance races. I had taken advise and prepared my feet better & had practiced taping them up on all my long runs so I thought I had done all possible to sort this issue or at least not have it affect my race so much. It’s hard to put into words what makes this race so special perhaps it’s the shared goal of everyone that is involved & everyone’s willingness to help others achieve that goal (whether it be other runners giving you advise, crews giving up their whole weekends for their runner with no real reward, crews helping other runners).
On the week of the race I had to fly to Melbourne for work, this led to some not ideal food choices cause I was out of routine but a few days before I read the blog of another ultra-runner on Facebook that said that for the really long races your body would use anything as fuel so that eased my mind a bit.
A week before the race one of my crew, Alan Wheat, pulled his hamstring so wouldn’t be able to join us L. After a quick panic I recruited Joe Ward to come on the adventure, having done the race & crewed it before, I felt lucky that he would be joining us at such short notice leaving his wife with their newborn baby (thanks Emma & baby Nia), he would meet us at Dalgety. James & Ann had crewed for me last year and knew what to expect & worked together like a dream team.
Crew Stop Plan – Every 5k for as long as possible, this worked well for most of the race, but we were flexible depending on how I was going
Food Plan – A GU Salted Caramel gel every hour(ish), then snacks on top of that (Fruit loaf was most popular, potatoes, snakes, soup, trail mix, peanut m&ms, crisps)
Drink Plan – Water & Powerade, when thirsty
Sleep Plan – Be flexible. I didn’t feel too tired this year, I few times I got tired but never enough that I felt I needed to sleep
We made our way to the beach & James showed me a quick video that Dad had sent to send good luck 🙂 – Turns out Ann & James had gathered messages from lots of friends and they showed these to me throughout the race. As I stood on the beach, I looked at my 2 gel packets, one said “do something epic today” – totes approps! I think the other one said ‘pain is temporary’ – whatever gel packet! We got lots of photos taken & after temporarily losing my shit cause I got my feet wet we were lined up and Paul was counting down & off we went 🙂
Start to Crew Rendezvous Point @ Pericoe Rd 24k
Tim & I had planned to run together for as much as possible so we settled into a nice rhythm early on. It’s always so good to finally get running, I find the taper weeks before a race hard mentally cause I just want to get started and get it done. My plan was to do the first part of the race (up to Jindabyne at 184k) at a similar, if not slower, pace than last year. Not long after starting Tim & I started running with Pam Muston and her words of advice really fitted with this plan including telling us to walk all the hills especially early in the race. So that was our plan from then on. Luckily for me Tim was able to spot the hills a bit better and when I didn’t see them he gave me a gentle nudge to walk. Along this section we also ran with Shaun Kaesler who apologised in advance for his swearing, ha ha we quickly let him know I was Irish so I would give him a run for his money and I was later named gutter mouth 🙂 Coming to the rendezvous point we walked up the (tiny) hill and saw our crews for the first time. I grabbed a bottle of water and a gel and continued to run as Ann ran after me spraying me with sunscreen (every second counts – NOT :-)!).
Pericoe Rd 24k – CP1 Rocky Hall ~53k – Total Running Time: 5:47 (Time of Day: 11:17am Friday)
It’s pretty easy running along this section & because we’d agreed to meet our crews every 5k it was nicely broken up & all NRG crews would give us encouragement as they went past. We reached the first marathon mark at about 4:43 which I knew was 23 mins slower than last year – sticking to the plan so all good. I reminisced a lot and Tim was probably sick of me saying “I remember this point last year we did this/that”. At Rocky Hall I took the opportunity to use a proper loo & said a quick hi to Blue Dog.
CP1 Rocky Hall ~53k – CP2 Cathcart 70k – Total Running Time: 8:15(Time of Day: 1:45pm Friday)
A couple of crew members were suspiciously tampering with the mannequins as we went past 🙂 We chatted to Pam again & Susan at points along here before coming to Big Jack (a 6k climb) where you are allowed a crew member to join you.
Again this year, it was Ann that joined me and we caught up on all that was going on in the crews day & how I was feeling. She said we were powering up the hill and smashing our pace from last year- yay! Once we go to the top I put on a quick spray of sunscreen and headed off towards Cathcart. Along this section the wind had started to pick up and it was getting cold, last year it was so hot on this section & my crew had prepared a lovely bowl of ice cold water with a cloth so that I could wash my face and cool myself down, this year I was running into Cathcart and worrying that the crew would have this ready and I wouldn’t use it, instead they had warm water ready – super! Tim & I had agreed that we would have a sit down at Cathcart but the length of the sit down wasn’t fully agreed, Susan was also thinking about stopping but then something happened with her crew and she ended up continuing on (we didn’t see her for the rest of the race). I sat down and the crew looked after me, I changed my shoes, socks & then Ann wiped my legs and arms cause they were really dusty. A quick spray of sunscreen and I started to get antsy that we were sitting too long so I shouted to Tim’s crew to see how long Tim would be & I think Rocco said another 5mins, I thought about it and said that was too long so I think Tim compromised and joined me, we both took the opportunity to go to an actual toilet (it was the last one we’d be seeing for a while) and off we headed.
CP2 Cathcart 70k – CP3 Snowy River Way 106k – Total Running Time: 12:50 (Time of Day: 6:20pm Friday)
Again it was very windy along here & pretty cold so I told the crew that I’d need a jacket, I’d packed my gear much better this year and had all my spare tops labelled in a large Ziploc bag, Ann held the bag out and I pointed out which jacket I wanted to wear, that worked well 🙂 I ran with Tim for nearly all of this section.
We both felt like it took ages to get to the Black Lake. At this stage other crews were starting to spread out & the hype was dissipating & we both went a bit quiet as we realised it was a long way ahead. Once we got to the Monaro Hwy we were greeted by very friendly volunteers including Kieron Blackmore & they cheered us on. Last year I stopped at the 100k mark, this year I decided not to and the crew met me at the Big Dead Tree (102k), I kissed the tree & then sat down for a while & had some soup and potatoes. Joey was there and it was a lovely boast to see him. I left before Tim & and ran on my own for a while before he caught up.
CP3 Snowy River Way 106k – CP4 Dalgety 148k – Total Running Time: 18:20 (Time of Day: 11:50pm Friday)
We met our crews at Snowy River Way and put on our Hi-Viz’s. Not long after turning off the unsealed road and onto the asphalt I somehow tripped and fell to the ground in slow motion. I had cuts on my leg, elbows, hands & I’d ripped my racing shorts (NOOO!). Tim helped me up and moved me to the side of the road, Pam’s daughter was the first to come across us and she came over and put a plaster on my elbow, I told her it was all good that I’d get the rest of them sorted when my crew came along (Ann was a doctor). Thanks Pam’s daughter :-). Not long after my crew came along and quickly cleaned up the blood that had run down my leg (so hardcore!) I was on my way and chasing Tim down a hill. None of the cuts hurts which was awesome (the next day my chest was pretty sore – I think this was the reason). I caught up to Tim we ran with Brett Easton for a bit before he stopped to meet his crew. We also met up with Pam again & she shared lots of pearls of knowledge as well as telling me I wasn’t standing up straight. As we climbed up to the windmills I wondered how Robyn & I had run this part last year.
Our crews had set themselves up at the top of the hill (120k) and we sat down and I had soup, re-did the taping on my feet, changed my socks and t-shirt, put on my thermal top, and then started to get agitated at how long we were spending here. When we were leaving we knew it wouldn’t be long until we were joined by our pacers (you are allowed to have a crew member run with you once the sun sets). I was joined by Ann, Tim was joined by Adrian. Along this section we bumped into Shaun Kaesler again & had a bit of banter. We also came across Pam again. There was a very funny moment when we were running along and I saw Adrian standing on the side of the road which was strange & then noticed Tim down in the ditch on the side of the road with his high vis vest on (but light off) taking a ‘comfort stop’, he’d decided this would be a good idea after overtaking a bunch of us who all then ran past with head torches on which reflected off his vest, LOL. My Garmin says I had a stop at 140k, I can’t remember this & can only assume it was a blister stop. Ann & I ran into Dalgety and I got weighed (57kg – 0.3kg difference from the day before). Last year I went into Dalgety Hall this year Joey waited at the car outside and said there was no need for me to go in so I had some soup at the car and applied some anti-chafe cream and we were ready to go.
CP4 Dalgety 148k – CP5 Jindabyne 184k – Total Running Time: 23:51 (Time of Day: 5:21am Saturday)
Joey was rearing to go & full of chat, I couldn’t get a word in edgeways, he was very positive and encouraging. Joey and I met briefly on a GNW training run and then ended up running about 50k of the race together, we had such a good time that I had no hesitations about heading off into the night with someone I’ve only met twice, runners eh :-)! We ran for most of the night section with our head torches turned off (except when we heard crew cars), I cannot describe how amazing it was to be running under the stars, once the moon disappeared over the Beloka Ranges we could see the milky way and millions more stars appeared. At one stage I was having a pee on the side of the road (this is a regular occurrence when the sun goes down and the temperature drops) and I looked up and the sky was alive with stars, I shouted to Joey that it was the best view I’d seen from a toilet. Later in the night I nearly scared the life out of Joey when he was mid-sentence & I screamed and pointed at the sky, I’d seen a shooting star but maybe I should have thought of another way to break the news! Again, my Garmin says I had a break @ 153k for 13mins– can only assume it was a another blister stop. We had another funny moment when out of nowhere I said “I just saw a Storm trooper”, yip I honestly thought I’d seen a storm trooper on the side of the road, what’s worse Joey turned around to look for it – I’d been running for almost 24hrs I had reasons to be hallucinating I’m a bit worried that he ACTUALLY thought I had, lol. Joey had his phone with him so we turned on lots of tunes and actually danced our way through the night, apart from when got to the hills cause I was still sticking to the plan of walking them. We were still yo-yoing with Tim & his crew, at one stage we tried to scare Adrian & Robyn cause we thought they couldn’t see us cause we had no lights but we failed to realise how loud we were and they had heard us coming! The Beloka climb was harder than I remembered – longer and steeper! Once we got to the top @ 166k I had another long blister stop where Ann stuck needles into my blisters and re-taped my feet & Joey told me to take a Panadol so I did (I’ve never used any painkillers before and they really helped). I definitely did a lot more running in this section than last year so I was happy about that. I used the loo’s at the entrance to Jindabyne car park and danced our way along the bike path where Pam came into view. We ran along behind her and her pacer and said a quick hello before she headed off & I stopped for a rest.
CP5 Jindabyne 184k – CP6 Perisher 219k – Total Running Time: 28:50 (Time of Day: 10:20am Saturday)
James showed me Lexi’s video message and that cheered me up. When I hopped up out of the chair the pain in my feet was unreal and I had major fears for the rest of the race, I could barely walk & I still had more than a marathon to go! Ann calmed me down and after hobbling for a while she got me running again.
Ann brought speaker so we listened to some tunes as we watched a beautiful sunrise over Lake Jindabyne. Along here Ann told me that when she was in Coles getting supplies she noticed they had a UK section & had brought along some Club Orange (a fizzy drink from Ireland), yay! Despite Ann’s amazing company my mind was becoming consumed with blister pain so we stopped at 189k to sort them out again, we met Kieron Blackmore here again and he stopped and took the picture below.
Joey had brought his walking poles so when he offered them I decided to try them again (I tried using them last year at about the same stage in the race last year when I was ‘running’ with Laura and my brain couldn’t coordinate them so I gave up). This time I used them to take the pressure off my feet and tried to focus my mind on the noise of the poles hitting the ground. This seemed to work and I felt I was moving ok. We could see Tim & Rocco again in front of us on the climb and Ann used this to as an incentive to get me moving a bit faster, we passed them out but then I felt another blister and when the medic Matt drove past we stopped to see if he had any suggestions. He put tape between my toes and taped me up again. Ann decided this was an awesome time to have a chat to Matt, I had other ideas and told them we needed to hurry up, oops. When we started moving again I could still feel the pain but I knew I just had to put up with it and there was nothing more that could be done with them. Ann tried her voodoo mind tricks and was trying to convince me to focus my mind on my body from the waist up and ignore my feet, I tried really hard and it helped sometimes.
At one point I needed to pee and used the car as my shield but then had a moment of clarity about what I was doing and shouted to the crew “I’m pissing beside the driver’s door. Sorry to whoever’s driving!!”. James joined me on the downhill section at about 206k and we tackled the long uphill to Smiggin Holes where he showed me my friend Karen’s message & I had some of the Club Orange that Ann had bought. Then Joey joined me to Perisher.
CP6 Perisher 219k – Finish Charlotte Pass 240k – Total Running Time: 33:15 (Time of Day: 2:45pm Saturday)
At Perisher I saw John Doughty, from NRG, and I was really happy that he seen me smiling and I was happy that I was moving much better than I was at this point last year. Joey put the music back on & James had added some music to a playlist which included some Dubliner’s songs that made me totes emotional. I explained to Joey that one of Ann’s methods of distraction last year was to pick out shapes in the rocks along the side of the mountain. Joey was all-in & we started spotting shapes all over the place, so much fun. Joey was also trying to figure out how I was walking so fast up the hills, this is another technique I learned from Ann & it involves using “invisible poles” in reality it just means standing up more than my usual hunched-ness & using your arms more. Not long after we left Perisher I got a shooting pain in the front of my right foot (where the foot meets the leg) and I was having real issues moving it, even walking was hard. I could feel that area of my foot hurting from ages before (I think it might have been from crunching my toes to try and reduce the pain of the blisters and I might have stressed that area). When James & Ann came past we said there was a bit of pain and that we’d meet them at the bottom on the hill, Joey & I meant the hill around the corner but James & Ann thought we meant the bottom of the hill – 3k away! This was made worse by the fact that we could see the car getting further and further away and there was no phone reception (we tried) to call them to tell them to come back).
I hadn’t realised that we’d passed Tim at Perisher so it was a surprise when he came past with Adrian but there was nothing they could do so Joe & I watched as they disappeared into the distance too. We tried a few strategies (walking backwards, walking in a limp-like fashion, squatting while holding onto the railings at the side of the road) but nothing worked and we had to continue trudging until we got to James & Ann where I took a Panadol & Ann rubbed voltaren gel on the offending area. We continued plugging away and before long we were at Charlotte Pass. I got weighed here again, I think I was the same weight again. My hands were fairly swollen (they had been like that for most of the race!) so the medic told me that I was only to sip water from now on and not to gulp it. I headed off towards the trail as the rest of the crew got their mandatory gear checked. I was joined by Eddie, one of the volunteers, that was joining us cause he hadn’t been to the top of Kosci and wanted to join a crew, we’d agreed to this earlier in the race. I chatted to him and then Ann caught up to us. James & Joey were pretty far behind but Ann said not to worry that they’d catch us eventually. I remembered how endless this trek was last year but this year I was moving much better and something had happened & I had been able to switch my brain off from thinking about the blisters, this was an incredible feeling and I’ve not had it before so I was taking advantage of it while it lasted (it lasted til the end!). Eddie was very encouraging and it was nice to watch him taking in the scenery and it made me appreciate it more. Joey & James caught up to us and we were motoring along. It wasn’t as hateful as it was last year. I took the opportunity to go for a pee at Rawson’s Pass and we carried on, we Pam & her crew coming down. I love how all teams are so encouraging of other teams on this out and back, it’s a great reflection of ultra running people. We hit the snowy patch (evidence below):
It was pretty slow going over this part, everyone was being hyper aware given that we were all working on limited sleep. As we got off the snowy patch we could see Tim standing on top of the monument :-). That meant we were close too and after hugging them as they made their way down then it was our moment on the top, I climbed up and lifted the Irish flag, then James told me it was the wrong way round and it was an Ivory Coast flag that way, after fixing that I lifted the flag again :-). A few photos and it was time to get this race finished.
We tackled the snow again & Ann went in front of me & made footprints for me to use to walk down cause it was quite steep and the drop of the side was not worth thinking about (being Canadian she was clearly in her element & knew what she was doing). My team had said that after we went across the snow again I could have another panadol, it was now at least 3 minutes since we had left the snow and there was no sign of this happening so I shouted out “ Give me the drugs” apparently this gave the crew & Eddie a good laugh. Joey loved telling all the tourists just how far we had run and where we had come from. Again, we were moving at a much faster pace and I was running down the mountain which didn’t happen last year, this was making it hard for James who isn’t a runner (and also not used to carrying gear) and Ann who was carrying lots of my mandatory gear as well as loads of water. Joey was very encouraging and was giving me updates of possible finish times based on the pace I was running at, this was great cause while I was happy that I was going to get a PB it planted the seed that I could get a faster time than I was imagining. It meant, however, that James probably wouldn’t finish with us which seemed quite harsh to me 🙁 but I’d spoken to him on the descent and he said to just go. We also dropped Eddie who kept up with us for a while despite wearing a pair of jeans! So once we go to the flatter section I started running faster, it felt so amazing to be able to run properly, I felt so proud of my body to be able to do that after 30+ hrs. I kept asking how far it was to go and Joey was telling me to turn off the scientist mind (the one that focuses on numbers) but I just really wanted to know so that I could prepare for it. Once I heard 1k I was very happy so I pushed on (my last 3k’s were 5:53m/km, 5:42m/km, 5:32m/km – pretty stoked about that), all of a sudden the finish line came into view and I was crossing the finish line. I got massive hugs from Paul & Diane and Tim & his crew. WHAT A RACE! I’ll be back for more…
Ann brought this race to my attention just after UTA in May and after initially deciding not to do it as I thought it would be too soon after GNW 100miler for me to be recovered enough to run it. We had another chat after GNW and I went home and looked into it again. Ann wanted to do this race as a redemption run after DNF’ing at UTA. After a bit of research about the race I decided to ask Ann if she wanted company, she said yes, yay.
From the very start this was Ann’s race, she was going down to Tumbarumba with her friend Elissa, who was doing the 22k and volunteering as a doctor afterwards. We were taking it as an adventure with the only goal being to finish. So the logistics planning started. It involved a 5 and half hour drive to the start which meant leaving Sydney at 3 on Friday afternoon and getting there about 9.30pm (after stopping for a food break at Goulburn). Elissa ended up getting delayed and decided to drive the rest of the way the next morning cause her race didn’t start until later in the morning. Luckily Joe Hedges had given us a pop up tent which was super easy to put up in the dark, he’d also given us a blow up mattress which was not so super easy cause the adaptor I’d brought for the electric blower-upper didn’t work so we had to use the foot-pump which squeaked every time we pressed down on it… I bet the neighbours loved us! Anyway after sorting that out and getting ourselves set up it was 10.30 & time to sleep.
About the race:
The race takes place along the historic walking track taken by explorers, Hume & Hovell on their 1824 expedition to Port Philip Bay. It starts at Henry Angel Campground, there is an out and back to Mannus Lake (20k) before returning to Henry Angel Campground. From here you make your way to The Pines (~69k) via the Junction (44k) & Coffee Pot (59.2k) before turning around and making your way back to the finish at Henry Angel Campground.
Both of us barely slept, maybe because of the cold, maybe cause of the frogs croaking/cows mooing, who knows. We woke up at 4.45am and put our clothes into our sleeping bags to warm them up before putting them on. We ate brekkie in the car – the dashboard told us it was 3 degrees!. It was pretty cool to be right at the start line with no need to travel anywhere. We had to do our gear check so we got our stuff together and brought it over to get it checked, we got that done & sorted our drop bags. I went over to the tent to drop off my hoodie and Ann went to the loo, I had my head in the tent when all of a sudden I heard “6…5…4…” oops, I ran over to the start line and caught up to Ann, we had a giggle at how we’d f*cked that up! Anyway we were off, the adventure had begun.
Start (Henry Angel) to CP1 (Mannus Lake) – Leg Distance 20k – Leg Time 2:57
It had just got bright so we didn’t need torches. We tucked in behind a small group and ran at their pace, Ann told me she didn’t want to pass anyone before CP1, all good with me. We chatted to a few runners along the way, the course was lovely and we were moving well and not much further along we ended up passing a few people. The km’s were ticking away nicely and we were loving the trails (so pretty!). We could hear a weird noise and we couldn’t figure out what it was.. all was revealed as we made our way to the top of a small climb and we came to an awesome “Man from Snowy River” themed waterstop and there was a lady there blowing a horn & cheering very loudly, we were not expecting that at all in the middle of nowhere and it lifted us massively. We took a ‘small detour’ at the end of a long downhill but quickly found our way back to the path (this is no reflection on the course markings which were great), not long after this we came to the fence line that led to the road, this was very sludgy with a mix of muck & cow poo (nice!), we were tiptoe-ing around when a couple of runners that were on their way back from CP1 told us that there loads more of this to come and there was no avoiding it, so we plodded through the poo! Not exactly what you want so early in the race. We hit the road along the lakes, the road was ok and we were setting a consistent pace, we ran past the CP and continued on until the turnaround point (this was just a volunteer standing beside a cone), I did a few turns around the cone, for the craic, and we were on the way back to the CP at 20k. At the CP we refilled our water, nutrition & I had some yummy fruit cake, the volunteers were very helpful and before long we were heading off.
CP1 (Mannus Lake) to CP2 (Henry Angel) – Leg Distance 17.5k (Total 37.5k) – Leg Time 2:31mins (Total 5:28)
Ann called Chris for a chat and I took a few pictures.
I said to Ann that we could possibly come first ladies, she was not impressed with having this sort of expectation and put me back in my place and reminded me that her only motivation was to finish, message received loud and clear! We knew we had to go back through the sludgy poo so we moaned the whole way through that 🙂 There is a good climb after this and we commented that we didn’t remember it being so downhill on the way out. I took lots of pictures to show how beautiful it was along here.
After stopping at “Man from Snowy River” themed waterstop for a picture we continued on.
We chatted to another runner for a while along here and this made the time go by nice & quickly. We got to a bridge where we seen the 50k leaders coming across the bridge. Along the river we met lots of the 50k runners and we cheered and they cheered at us, such a great vibe.
We were back at Henry Angel before we knew it. We took a while here, more fruit cake for me. I could feel a slight irritation on the bottom of my foot so asked for a plaster, they didn’t know what I was talking about (should have said band-aid)! Luckily one of the other runners knew what I was talking about and gave me a couple I packed them away for if I needed them later. I said hello to Stephen Bowers who’s name I’ve seen on lots of result sheets, always good to put a face to a name. Another runner told us we’d saved his race cause he was going the wrong way and seen us just in time to realise that he was going in the wrong direction. We got our photos taken for the local paper and headed off.
CP2 (Henry Angel) to CP3 (Coffee Pot) – Leg Distance 21.5k (Total 59k) – Leg Time 3:39 (Total 9:07)
There are lots of stiles to cross after this CP but some flat running, the course follows the river for about 6.5k. We could see another runner just behind us and he eventually caught us after we took a slight detour into someone’s yard (again this was our fault not the course markings). John Winterburn became number 3 on the team for a long portion of this section. He was doing the 100mile and I think he was glad of the company too. Ann was hitting a bit of a rough patch so said she was happy to just sit behind us and listen to us chat away. We were were all chatting away going up a hill and taking a walking break when Ann asked if we’d seen a course marker, we all agreed we hadn’t seen one in a while, we were near the top of the trail so said we’d continue to the top, there were no markers when we got there so we had to go back down the hill. I ran ahead to see if I could find the course markings, once I found them it was a big d’oh moment, the orange tape was everywhere and we’d missed it! Not long after this John nearly threw himself into the river after tripping over a stump in the middle of the trail. We were relatively happy getting into the Junction campground where we were met by a lovely volunteer, she said that if she was asleep as we came passed on the way back to give her a shake :-). We didn’t fill up our water here (we should have!). After the Junction the course starts to climb and we knew this was going to be a long climb but I don’t think we expected it to be technical, which it was in parts, we were expecting fire trail I think. We carried on regardless and tried to keep progressing forward up the climb. It was getting warm now so as we climbed I poured water on my head to cool me down, I did the same to Ann, it was soooooo good (this is something I’ve learned in recent races, sometimes you’re not actually thirsty but just overheated and pouring water on your head really helps to cool you down. It works even better if you have a visor that keeps it from running down your face). We lost John on the climb but he caught back up to us after a while. We really took advantage of every little stream/waterfall we seen and dipped our visors and feet in the water, bliss! Once we got to the top of the climb it was actually pretty runnable so we ran as much as we could.
I was getting quite concerned that I was getting short on water and I thought that the Coffee Pot was just a number check and there would be no water there and that I’d have to run in the heat without water until the Pines. Ann said she was feeling a bit nauseous too and that her back was hurting a bit. We met the 100k leader coming in the other direction and he told us the Coffee Pot wasn’t far, that was a relief. We were well impressed that he’d been to the Pines and back already! When we got to the Coffee Pot we were so delighted to see water and electrolytes there and we drank our fill before filling up our bottles.
CP3 (Coffee Pot) to CP4 (The Pines) – Leg Distance 10k (Total 69k) – Leg Time 1:45 (Total 10:52)
I asked the guy at the CP how far it was to the Pines and when he said it was only 10k we were elated (dunno why we thought it was further). Ann needed a loo stop so I took the opportunity to have a sit down, my legs were starting to hurt. I went to sit on a fallen down tree when a rabbit jumped out from under it giving me the fright of my life, after I calmed the heart rate down I relaxed and took in the beautiful surroundings.
I seen John come along the trail and gave him a big yell. Ann told him it was only 10k to the Pines – not sure he was celebrating as much as us about this given that he had to continue on past the Pines!
The three of us continued on but we lost John again after a while. At Paddy’s River Dam Ann & I took another detour, another stupid mistake, and by the time we got back on course we met John again. Once we hit the fire trail Ann & I made a bit of a gap but it really seemed like we were wishing the CP on for a LONG time. A while back Ann had asked how far we had to go to the CP (I was wearing the watch and Ann hadn’t her’s turned on at this point) and I’d said 2k, it now seemed like WAY over 2k and we still weren’t there. Ann’s breathing was quite heavy and I was a bit worried about it but she was chugging away and didn’t complain that we weren’t there yet. It was such a relief when we seen some pine trees and knew we must be close, seeing the CP was like an oasis in the desert (funny how 10k hadn’t seemed like much back at the coffee pot and now 2k was like an eternity).
We’d agreed to take a good break at this CP so we secured some seats and the volunteers made me some soup and some noodles for Ann. I took off my shoes and took off the taping that was covered in cow poo & replaced it with the tape they had at the CP, I also changed my socks. Ann changed into a clean long sleeve top. We relaxed for a while and made sure we had everything we needed. Before we took off we gave John a big hug as he headed off on the out and back of the 100mile course.
CP4 (The Pines) to CP5 (Coffee Pot) – Leg Distance 10k (Total 79k) – Leg Time 1:55 (Total 12:47)
Very shortly after we left the CP I knew that putting on the thermal top was a mistake so we stopped and I took it off, Ann took some painkillers cause she had a bit of a headache but apart from that we were like two different people from the two that had gone into the CP. We were focused, happy and on our way to the finish. My feet felt so much better and Ann was feeling better with the change of top. As we ran down the fire trail we met a few runners coming the other way and there was lots of encouragement both ways. We ran as much of this section as we could and were happy when we got back to the Coffee Pot.
CP5 (Coffee Pot) to Finish (Henry Angel) – Leg Distance 21.9k (Total 100.9k) – Leg Time 3:24 (Total 16:12)
We’d heard early in the race that there was a chance that we would see a Brumby, especially near the Pines CP but we still hadn’t seen one (confession – I had to ask what a Brumby was – it’s a wild horse). Then out of nowhere we seen one come out onto the trail, I fumbled to get my phone out to take a photo but then realised I was scared that it would charge at us… it didn’t and I got a photo.
I promise that’s a brumby in the distance! We were fairly happy that we had gotten so far in daylight and we were well on our way down the steep technical descent by the time we had to put our head torches on. (Ann was hating this bit cause there was lots of bark on the ground due to recent storms and you constantly had to watch your step for fear of tripping over. Mike McGrath assures me that it’s not always like this and that this was just because of the storms). My Garmin was about to die so Ann turned her’s on, this is a massive departure for me not to have a watch to look at during a run and it made me mildly uncomfortable not to have anything to refer to for pace/distance. We met Mike along the trail and stopped for a chat, he was talking about asking if he could switch to the 100k instead of the 100mile once he got to the Pines. We were sad to see that the sweepers were just behind Mike on their mountain bikes. The return to the Junction campground was nothing like the run earlier on in the day and it could have been a different trail altogether. The course markings were much easier to see at night so there were less ‘detours’ on the way back. Ann was getting a bit overwhelmed so we took a break, turned off our lights and had a look at the stars for a minute. We set off again and heard a very very weird noise, we’d been warned that a brumby’s neigh was strange but to hear it in the middle of the night when it was just the two of us in the middle of nowhere was chilling (it sounded like a scream). When we got into the Junction campground we were greeted by two lovely volunteers (the lady hadn’t fallen asleep, he he), who couldn’t do enough for us. They were so pleasant that we sat down and had a quick chat with them. I nearly drowned Ann with electrolyte after the nozzle of the container malfunctioned and poured in her direction, this gave us a good laugh for the next few km’s. We reluctantly left the lovely volunteers and headed out on the final 6.5k through the farmland along the river. We seen two wombats, they are huge and make a lot of noise as they run very fast despite their size! Ann was starting to slow a little bit but was still moving, I asked if she cared what time we finished cause if we pushed we might make it in under 16hrs, she wasn’t fussed so we continued at the same pace. Seeing the lights of the finish line in the distance was SO good, I told Ann but she didn’t want to look up until she knew we were really close to the finish. The stiles were definitely harder on the way back and we were glad to cross the last one. We heard the cheers and ran toward the finish line with our hands together and in the air. We did it…..
After finishing we met with Elissa & took at seat at the fire pit to warm up. We wanted to get our cold/wet clothes off so we headed off to have a shower. I was going to omit the following detail from my race report but to be honest it was part of the experience and if I’m gonna tell you to do this race then I think I better divulge. We thought there was going to be a portable shower at the end but there wasn’t, instead someone had brought a shower hose and it was attached to the sink in the toilet block. We left our dignity at the door and we were pretty much showered by the volunteer nurse, with Elissa assisting with holding up a space blanket in lieu of a shower curtain! The water was hot though and I can tell you it was still amazing! After getting dressed and picking our dignity back up on the way out we returned to the fire, eat our fill of food and chatted to the volunteers before heading off to bed about an hour later.
This race is awesome, the things I loved about it:
The course is beautiful & well marked
The volunteers are awesome (you can really feel the community spirit)
The mandatory gear requirements are reasonable (we didn’t have to carry our hi-viz, thermal pants, head torch, backup torch until 40k)
The fruit cake (my new favourite race food!)
Being able to camp at the Start/Finish
Everyone got a bottle of wine & a certificate with their split times
The free bacon & egg sandwich the next morning
I think you’ll agree that at $140 this is great value for money so get your butt down there next year 🙂
I had a pretty good lead up to this race with good results at Motatapu 51k, Wicklow Way 51k, Mount Solitary & UTA 100k and training had gone well. I had a couple of niggles (ITB pain even while resting) and a slight bout of pneumonia a few weeks before but usually a couple of weeks of tapering sorts me out. A weight of expectation is something I’m trying to learn to deal with and get my head around. Having driven up with Rocco the day before and getting there in the early evening there was a bit of time to get the gear unpacked and ready for take-off the next morning.
We arrived at the start and checked in, collected arm tags, did the mandatory gear check, weighed in (57.9kg), dropped off the checkpoint bags and said hello to all the other crazies we know 🙂 ! Not long after the Race Briefing we were lining up and ready to go.
Start to CP1 Forest (Distance 28.6k) – 2015 Time – 3:48 – 2016 Time – 3:30
It was a misty and drizzly start to the day but it was cool so that was good. I started with 500ml of water in my pack & 2 x 600ml water bottles at the front. I ran most of this section with the training crew: Robyn, Tim, Adrian & Kath out in front. It’s always nice to run with my training buddies to settle the nerves at the start of a long race.
We chatted as we made our way to Heaton Gap and up the first Communications Tower climb of the day. Near the top of the climb the guys disappeared out in front so I ran happily along the fire trails on the way to CP1 on my own. Coming into CP1 I was happy to see that Tim & Robyn were just leaving meaning I wasn’t that far behind. On all the climbs (and there is a lot of climbing in this first section) I noticed that my shoes were feeling very loose so once I was in the CP I told Rocco I needed to tighten the laces, I tried to bend down to do that and got an awful cramp in my hips, I tried again, same thing, argh. Rocco sorted the laces out and I had a quick sit down, a swap of my water bottles & gels and I was off. I couldn’t feel the cramp when I was running so I have no idea what that was! Time in CP: 2mins
CP1 to CP2 Congewai School (Distance 23.9k (52.5k Total)) – 2015 Time – 2:51 – 2016 Time – 2:44
I ran most of this leg on my own, apart from a few guys that passed me. I actually really enjoy this section because it’s very runnable and there are no major climbs in it. I did make one mistake though when I reached a junction, I had missed the arrow to tell me to go right and decided to go left (my thinking was that there was a sign to a lookout to the right so that didn’t sound right, why would you go to a lookout?!) – I’m the lonely black line in the map below.
Anyway once I reached the end of the trail there was remnants of a campsite and the trail ended, I took out the directions but couldn’t figure out the last landmark I’d seen so it was a bit useless. I turned back and when I got back to the junction I waited for another runner to come. He showed me the GNW post with the arrow on it, d’oh! I was running well through the forest-y bit that I love (where the bathtub is – yes there is a bathtub in the middle of the forest) and there was a guy with a stick moving slowly, I slowed to see if he was ok or needed anything, he said he was just hoping the road was coming up soon. After the big descent it was time to put on the high-vis and hit the road section into Congewai. As I crossed the stile there was a few people there cheering so I did a little cheer only to realise that they were cheering at the guy behind me, he he. The run along the road was ok, not too hot thankfully. I noticed a pink pack in front and realised it was another lady, it took me a while to pass her but I gave her a quick hello as I went by – she must have passed me when I’d got lost. I was much more prepared for the commotion of the CP this time, got weighed, Rocco had the chair ready so we replaced my water bottles with 1 water & 1 powerade & Rocco put some more water in the bladder. I was feeling good and said hello to a few familiar faces including Tim’s mum. I replaced my gels and took some m&m’s/jelly beans for the journey. Rocco told me that as long as I could keep my head this happy until the 100k mark he would get me the rest of the way, so that was the focus – “Keep my mind happy”. I ran over to the gear check and showed Melissa all my gear. After a bit of faffing trying to check out it was time to go. Time in CP: 6mins
CP2 to CP3 The Basin (Distance 29.1k (81.6k Total)) – 2015 Time – 4:58 – 2016 Time – 3:51
As I ran out of the CP I noticed Joe Ward in front of me, I shouted at him to stop running away from me… and so began the first of almost 50k running together.
We saw Phil Murphy on his way to the CP just as we turned off the road up towards the Communications Tower. I remembered from last year how hard this section was and how I was second guessing every step I took cause I hadn’t trained on it before. Soon enough we met Tim, Robyn & Adrian. Robyn was out in front and we weren’t far behind. Tim was having a dizzy spell so told us to go ahead. And so started the long slog up to the Communications Tower, luckily for me between myself, Adrian/Joe/Grant the time ticked away and we were high fiving at the top in what seemed like no time. The chatting continued along Caban’s road and I was having a great time, the energy was very positive and the stories were flowing. Somewhere along here my shoes started to feel a bit tight when I mentioned this to Joe he said we’d sort it before the big climb. As we made our way up along the fence line we noticed Michael Dalgarno up ahead. Once we go to the bottom of the climb I sat down as Joe & Grant both took a foot each and loosened my laces (eh talk about being spoiled – thank you gents!). We headed up the big, horrible rocky climb and I showed them the spot where I’d left a Chantelle-sized dent in the ground after falling over during training! We were motoring nicely when we came across Michael who was doing it tough, we tried some offer some encouragement as we went by. I cannot believe I missed the Bar Trail turn off last year – it looked so obvious this time around. As we made our way towards the Basin Joe stopped us briefly to show us his favourite spot on the course down by the water. Along here I said to Joe that ideally I would leave the CP with him, he thankfully was good with that idea (massive relief!). I remember the run from the sign to the Basin being ENDLESS last year, well this year Grant & I skipped along after Joe who was obviously very excited to get to the CP and leaving us in his wake. Joe had 5mins or less in mind for this CP, that was ok with me. We arrived to lots of cheers and checked in, I sat in the seat Rocco had put out, briefly chatted to him & Ann, cheered Robyn as she left, swapped water bottles/gels, collected watch charger, took some banana & crackers & all of a sudden it was time to go. Time in CP: 3mins
CP3 to CP4 Yarramalong (Distance 22.1k (103.7k Total)) – 2015 Time – 3:03 – 2016 Time – 2:42
I was so happy to be running this section in the daylight & Joe reckoned we’d make it to the road in daylight too so I was delighted. On the run back to the Basin turnoff we caught up to Robyn and ran with her for a while. As we turned up the climb at the turnoff we came across a runner that had gone the wrong way coming down the steps and pointed him in the right direction. It wasn’t long before we lost Robyn & Grant on one of the climbs. Just after one of the junctions Joe said he had an issue with his quads so we slowed only slightly and even though he was doing it tough he persevered and in no time he was back on form. Once we got to the road we put on the hi-vis’s & head torches. We knew it was going to be a LONG 11k but I was delighted to have company. Along this section I got a really bad stitch in my side that no amount of big breaths in/out was helping L Joe said he’d stick with me and I was so glad. I tried taking a piece of grass and holding it to my side (it has worked in the past!) but it didn’t work this time. So I resorted to a trot, bend, and repeat strategy with a few arms up in the air moments to see if that’d help – it didn’t and I can confirm it’s very difficult to run with your hands in the air! Joe & I were counting down the km’s, only problem I was counting down to 100k joe was counting down to 103k, so when I said we only had approx. 3k to go it meant we actually had 6k to go, sorry Joe! Along here we met a couple of supporters that had bottles of water, we used the water to put over our heads and it was an amazing surprise and pepped us right up. Counting the km’s was getting annoying so we decided to stop doing that and have some quiet time. Once we seen the first signs of houses we knew we were close and did some very uncoordinated high-five/low-fives J. As we ran into the CP it was amazing and unexpected to see the clock with a 12 on it, we had gotten to 103k in 12:58mins.
We checked in and Rocco took my pack from me to do the mandatory gear check, I got weighed & had gained .9 of a kilo so I had to get my blood pressure checked & chat to the medic, all was good and he let me go (putting on weight can be an early sign of hyponatremia – basically I was drinking too much). I sat down for a few mins and it was so great to see James, all the pacers and supporters. I tried in vain to put a blister plaster on my foot before getting pissed off with it and throwing it away. I replaced my water bottles/gels and was ready to go! Rocco & I took off to cheers and then I could feel something hurting my foot so we stopped and fixed that before setting off. Time in CP: 11mins.
CP4 to CP5 Somersby (Distance 28.4k (132.1k Total)) – 2015 Time – 5:19 – 2016 Time – 4:47
After walking up bumble hill we started running once we got into the bush, I told Rocco I was feeling great and the legs were in great shape. He was full of stories about the day and I could barely get a word in edge ways. We passed Joe & his pacer and made our way to the road. Rocco led the way & we almost missed the turn off under the power lines (we had a chuckle at this cause Rocco had just said not long before that that he wouldn’t get me lost). When we got onto the road along the farms Joe & his pacer passed us again. It was somewhere on this section that my left quad started to tighten up (something that’s never happened before). Initially I was ok to run through it but as the section continued it became harder to push through it. At one point on one of the switchbacks Rocco said he seen a frog (I have a major frog phobia!), I let out a massive scream and jumped around the place while hyperventilating, Rocco didn’t know what to make of it, oops. We did a lot of walking on the way to the checkpoint: over the creek, past the chicken sheds & all along the road to the CP. Frustrating but necessary. When we got into the CP there was lots of familiar faces, I went into the hall to see if I could find anyone to massage the quad, there was nobody there to look at it, boo. Somebody got their hands on some voltaren gel from Adrian’s crew and James rubbed it into the quad, we put a knee support over the gel on the quad, had some soup (yum!), replaced water/gels, put on thermal tops (I think!) and we were ready to go. While I was in the CP I noticed the lady I had seen along Congewai road come in & go. Time in CP: 9mins.
CP5 to CP6 Mooney Mooney (Distance 17.8k (149.9k Total)) – 2015 Time – 3:14 – 2016 Time – 2:46
We headed out of the CP and could see Joe & his pacer just in front. The quad was feeling normal again & I was thinking that the voltaren gel was a miracle cure, I was able to run again and we eventually caught up to Joe & his pacer & had a quick chat. About an hour into the section I told Rocco the quad was starting to hurt again & it was at about 60% of the earlier pain. He said we should keep trying to run while it was good so that’s what we did. I’d give regular updates, it’s at 70% now, it’s at 80% now… The technical downhills/rocky trails were a nightmare again but I hobbled along. The run along the river was frustrating cause I knew I should be running a bit better than I was but the quad was now at 90% pain & would really hurt sometimes when I ran on it. We could hear the freeway which meant we were getting close to the CP, once we got out onto the gravel Rocco took control and said we should run so we shuffled along there as much as I could. The new route the CP was a pain in the ass, and the walk up to the CP was just cruel. The volunteers here was brilliant, so upbeat and offering all sorts of yummy foods, I opted for soup again. I got weighed (56.4kg – 2kg) & had some soup and had a quick chat with James & all the supporters/pacers from the other guys’ crews. Time in CP: 7mins.
CP6 to Finish Patonga (Distance 25.4k (175.1k Total)) – 2015 Time – 4:44 – 2016 Time – 4:51
Setting off from CP6 is a toughie, you know you are so close to finishing but there is still a good few climbs ahead and lots of runnable (?!) sections. Last year it was bright when I started out on this section and this year it was still dark and the sun didn’t start to come up until we were up on the moon rocks. Rocco was breaking the run up into sections to make it a bit more achievable and keeping me updated on expected finish times if we keep going at this pace/if we try shuffling. We leapfrogged a bit with Tim/pacer Sam before they took off & Adrian/pacer Dani also passed us along this section. I was doing what I could and slowly getting there. We power walked on the flat fire trails and every now and again Rocco would get me to shuffle, we were getting there – not as quickly as I would have liked but I was doing my best. Seeing the Trig was such a relief, it means you’re nearly there but it also means lots of stone steps and a quick (?!) descent. Rocco said it’s just 5 more minutes and for some reason I clung to those words for dear life and repeated them over and over and over all the way to the finish line. The emotions took hold as we got the beach and I couldn’t contain the tears. The noise of those cowbells as you hit the beach is unreal and kissing the finishers post is a massive feeling of relief/joy/pride/happiness.
Another GNW done, 25hrs 49mins – a PB of 3hrs 1min. Post Race thoughts, why did I do this race for a second time, I must be mad! It is easy to see why it is Australia’s toughest trail ultra but I got it done. I’d be lying to say I wasn’t disappointed that I didn’t place but you do what you can do on the day(s). I finished 4th lady & 11th overall and I can happily say that I am the 9th fastest lady ever over this course 🙂
Thank you to James for always letting me do these crazy things, I’m lucky to have you in my corner & seeing you at the CP’s always perks me up. Thank you to Rocco for supporting as well as pacing me for the full 75k and listening to far too much crying, I couldn’t have done it without you. Thank you to Tim, Robyn, Adrian, Kath, Joe & Adam D, Adam C – I’m lucky to have had you guys to train with. Thank you to Joe Ward for sharing part of the experience with me, I loved every minute of running with you. Thank you to everyone else for the support on FaceBook & to those that I saw out there, whether it be supporters, pacers, other runners – we are lucky to have such a great community around us.
I’d done Motatapu in early March and after a trip back to Ireland in March, which included the Wicklow Way 51k, my training was 3/4 days a week. Mount Solitary four weeks previous with a good PB. I decided I wanted to try and enjoy the race as much as I could and not put much pressure on myself, I did this last year for this race and it worked out well. My aim was for 13- 14hrs and I carried a printout as a guide of how long it should take to get to each checkpoint based on these finish times, my maths is terrible so I usually need something so that I have an idea of how I’m going without having to do calculations in my head.
Up at 5.30, had muesli & yogurt and headed to the start line. I was in Start Group 2 so it was a start time of 6.25am. Started with 8 Salted Caramel Gu’s in my pack, 1L of water and two empty 600ml bottles at the front. My plan for nutrition was a gel an hour and some food from the CP’s.
Start to CP1 Narrow Neck (Distance 11.5k – Expected Time – 1:10–1:16) Actual Time 1:16
Rocco & I started out near the front of the group with Geoff leading the way.
I was slightly worried when I realised my legs were hurting a little on the road section at the start! I really enjoy the out and back and cheered on everyone that went by. Lots of support along the way from the guys that were on the way back & Andrew Lovett! I made a conscious effort to pass people early so as not to get as frustrated as I had on the Landslide as I did last year – worked well. Worked hard on the Golden Staircase and probably felt that I was pushing a bit hard, oops. Filled up both front bottles – I knew I only needed one but planned to use the other to pour over my head to keep my temperature down when it was getting hot.
CP1 to CP2 Dunphy’s Camp (Distance 20.2k (31.6k Total) – Expected Time – 1:59-2:08) Actual Time 2:00
I was a bit disappointed that I had pushed hard to CP1 and I hadn’t really made up much time but got over it fairly quick. Realised it was now 1:20 and I hadn’t had any fuel so had a gel. The run along Narrow Neck seemed longer, last year I chatted to loads of people along there this year everyone was a bit quieter! Rocco caught up and we noticed an NRG t-shirt not far in front and figured out it was Doug ☹. I decided to go down Tarros Ladders. Geoff, Rocco & Doug were all there at the same time too. After the ladders Rocco took off, Geoff & I ran close together for most of the technical down and lots of the fire trail on the way to Dunphy’s. I caught up to Rocco not long before the turnoff to Dunphy’s and we ran to the checkpoint together. Mick McGrath was at the CP and I quickly filled up my two front bottles and took off. Melissa Robertson was sitting at the CP.
CP2 to CP3 Six Foot (Distance 14.4k (46k Total) – Expected Time – 1:50-1:59) Actual Time 1:42
I’d forgotten about how hard the climb to Ironpot was but the views were lovely. I didn’t really see many people along the section before Ironpot. I met Dani as she was turning down for the descent off Ironpot just as I was heading out towards the out & back and Tim not long after. I love hearing the didgeridoo along the top. When I was on the way back I seen Rocco & Geoff. The descent off Ironpot is so steep, as usual I clung onto trees as I went! Once I came off the private land I had a good idea of what was to come because we had done a training run a few weeks previous. I felt ok on the road section, apart from a weird pain on the inside of my right ankle which I had been ignoring for a while! I always enjoy running into CP3. A quick mandatory gear check (head torch & waterproof jacket) and a massive cheer from NRGer’s ☺. I saw Dani when I was on my way to the drop bag tent. Tthe lady couldn’t find my drop bag (argh! – and she was also moving in a leisurely fashion!) so I ran out and filled the bottles I had with water, while I was doing that the lady had found my bag and brought it out, I grabbed some jelly beans from it and off I went. Time in Checkpoint: 1 minute.
CP3 to CP4 Aquatic Centre (Distance 11.3k (57.3k Total) – Expected Time – 1:32-1:39) Actual Time 1:24
While scoffing down my jelly beans I realised that in the commotion I’d forgotten to take the 2 gels I was supposed to take out of my drop bag, after a moment of blind panic I checked my side pockets and realised I still had two left, phew! I always get excited when I leave this checkpoint because I know I will get to see James at the next stop. The flat section before getting to the trail leading to Nellie’s Glen was a lot longer than I remembered. As I passed the 50k marker I did a self-check and noted that I was feeling good (although still ignoring that ankle thing that was going on). It was getting warm and I was using some of my water to pour over my head every now and again. The trail that leads to Nellie’s Glen stairs was fairly slow going and I opted to power walk instead of running. I dropped some F bombs as I climbed the stairs but told myself to harden up when I passed a girl that was struggling a bit more than me. It’s always a relief to get that done. At the top some lady asked if she could take a photo of me so posed away and headed off. I ran into the CP and was so happy to see James and the supporters. A quick swap of bottles (1 water, 1 powerade) and I was off out the door with Alan Burton (and some watermelon & a honey sandwich). Time in Checkpoint: 1minute.
CP4 to CP5 Queen Vic Hospital (Distance 21.1k (78.4k Total) – Expected Time – 3:10-3:24) Actual Time 2:46
Alan & I ran together through Echo Point (got lots of cheers from tourists here ☺) until the Giant Staircase. Once I hit the staircase I decided to push hard and get down them as quick as I could while clinging to the railings. All was good with the world until I hit a rough patch in Leura Forest (I was kindly reminded by a guy I’d overtaken on the stairs that I’d pushed too hard on the descent – thanks pal!). My head started to feel fussy, I did a self-check and noted that I’d eaten and was drinking enough so perhaps it was the heat or the horrific ups and downs on the stairs, I must have blanked this bit of the course out of my mind. I felt like I couldn’t get any momentum and any time I started running the course would get technical and I’d have to walk. I spent most of the time telling myself that I should run then feeling guilty for walking. I was convincing myself that I could finish and allowing myself to think that if I was still feeling woozy at the water stop that I could have a sit down/find a medic. I got to 66k and the water stop wasn’t there, huh?! I continued on and eventually got to the road. Not far along the road I seen Matt Cherri, I was so happy to see someone I knew that I nearly cried. Seeing Matt really ligted my spirits and by the time I got to the new water stop at the Fairmont I was feeling better. Robyn was there and it was great to see her, I filled up my bottles and jumped under a water hose to cool me down and I skipped off feeling happy out. Just after Conservation Hut I passed Michael Dalgarno. Sam was at the carpark before Wentworth Falls and ran along with me for a few hundred metres, I asked where I was placing and he said 8th (someone had told me this before I seen Sam but I wanted to double check) I was delighted with that and made my way to Wentworth Falls, where I dipped my visor in the water as I went by. I ran along behind two guys until the road and felt ok as I made my way into the checkpoint. I ran in to collect my drop bag and asked if the fleece was required Danny said no. I removed my used gel packets from my race pack and put them in the bag. I brought my bag over to the stand where James and all the other awesome supporters were (except for Chris who told me I was sweaty, don’t worry I told him to f^*~ off ha ha). Before I got into the checkpoint I’d decided I would empty my shoes and socks of the dirt I’d collected along the way. James put my gels in my pack, I swapped my empty bottles for full ones (1 water, 1 powerade) and I grabbed my ipod and I was ready to go with a fruit bun in hand.
CP5 to Finish (Distance 21.6k (100k Total) – Expected Time – 3:16-3:31) Actual Time 3:04
I ran along and ate the butter off the fruit bun then chucked it. A quick wee in the bushes and the long descent started. Somewhere along the descent I looked down at my watch and it said 9hrs 36mins, from my little printout I knew it would be about 3hrs 30mins for the last section. That gave me an estimate of just over 13hrs, I remember thinking how awesome it’d be to scrape in under 13hrs. The descent seemed to go on forever but I didn’t really mind the down (it meant less uphill). I started to see some of the 50k’ers and said hi to them all and asked how they were going, this kept my mind occupied. The climbing started from Jamison Creek and I knew I just had to grind away and power walk. I remembered that this time last year I had the head torch on already so I was very happy to do more of the course in daylight. Somewhere along the way Doug went by in a jeep and shouted “Go Chantelle” out the window, this took me by surprise and I shouted “Go Doug”, what a tool I am! Not long after this I hit the 91k aid station, the lovely volunteer grabbed my bottle and filled my water and as I was leaving he told me he thought I was the 4th lady, I said “no way” so he said he’d check on the computer, I told him not to bother and ran off, he shouted after me that I was 4th. WTF, how did that happen! It didn’t change how I ran the rest of the race but it was nice to know ☺ Again I powerwalked the hills (no ipod needed this year) and put on my head torch. It was so surprised to see the sewerage treatment works a lot earlier than I was expecting. Leura Forest is always a difficult section for me, the legs are tired and you’re so close to the end (but yet SO far). The 50k runners were awesome, most gave good wishes as I passed & they all moved aside and let people that were still attempting a run go past. I got a bit confused as to why there were 100k runners running towards me (and had a mini panic that I was going the wrong way), I shouted “why are the 100k runners going that way?”, then I heard “Chantelle, is that you? It’s Alison”, I had a little giggle at the fact that it was someone I knew. She said they were coming through the forest for the first time. There were lots of photos being taken on this section. When I looked up I could see headlights very high up, argh! Eventually I got to the Furber steps and told the volunteer that I was never so happy to see Furber. I motored away up the stairs and ignored the pain in my legs. I started to run once I seen the boardwalk and turned into the finishing chute. The cheers were AMAZING and I loved it. I crossed the line and was so overwhelmed by the time on the clock – 12hrs 18mins. James came over and gave me a hug, I had a little cry (standard for me when I finish a race) and someone threw a big warm blanket over me.
Post-Race Thoughts/Lessons Learned
Trust in my training!
I carried enough water (using the water from my bladder only from the start to CP1 & when it was too difficult to drink out of the bottles meant I didn’t have to refill it – I had a little bit left in my pack at the end).
Having 1 powerade at each CP is a welcome change from water.
My nutrition was all good and it worked out well that I had the gels at 20 past the hr because it seemed to precede a hill which was handy.
It was a good idea to remove the dirt from my shoes and socks at CP5.
I need to put more strapping tape on my back – I got chaffing again.
My Checkpoints were much better this year. Less is more!
In July a group of us went to the RU Nation Film Festival and we watched a film about Rob Mason’s attempt at sub 30 hrs for Coast to Kosci, I remember thinking “I never want to do that race”. Fast forward 2 months and I was contemplating it. 2015 was a massive year for me which included giving triathlon a go & doing an Ironman, then Mount Solitary 45k (5th Lady – 30min PB), North Face 100k (11th Lady – 2hr PB), Centennial Park Ultra 50 (1st Lady), City to Surf 14k (2min PB on the back of a 90k training week & Centennial Park the week before), GNW 100mile (3rd Lady), Melbourne Marathon (7min PB). Robyn & I had pretty much decided we weren’t going to enter and I was happy with that decision as I thought it might be a bit much for my body given how huge the year had been and the thoughts of training for it on my own were not appealing. THEN with an hour to go before entries closed Rocco text to let us know he had entered, a flurry of crazy text between Robyn & I and we were on the laptops entering. Rubber arm engaged! Then reality hit, I was enjoying relaxing after GNW and came to the realisation that I would have to continue the massive training weeks with Melbourne Marathon in there too. I was excited about it being a road race though, I love trails but I also love the road cause its where I started out and I usually perform well on road because it involves consistency and consistency is my middle name!
About the Race:
For my non-running friends. This race offers the unique opportunity to run from the coast to the highest point in Australia. Only 50 runners are accepted and to be accepted is a privilege and means that the Race Directors are confident that you will finish. It is 240km’s and the weather varies hugely throughout the race & sometimes means runners will get the Charlotte’s Pass (222k) and not be able to go to the top of Mount Kosciuszko due to inclement weather. Each runner has a support crew and car that joins them from 24k’s to the end but pacers cannot join until 8.30pm (15hrs after the race starts) after this you can have one pacer at a time. There are only two exceptions to this, one is going up Big Jack Mountain during the day and the other is the section from Charlotte’s Pass to the top of Kosciuszko & back down to the finish (a 9k out and back – 18k altogether) when the whole crew is allowed to join their runner.
Race Day Pre Start:
A very early start, from 4am, for our crew (Myself, Ann, Laura & James). We had most of the gear packed into the car the night before but there was some last minute stuff to do. Luckily the crew looked after all that and all I had to do was dress myself & eat. We made our way to Boydtown beach and watched the sun come up. After a million photos & touching the water with Robyn & Rocco we headed to the start line for a million more photos.
The Race (Start to Pericoe Road 24k – Crew Rendezvous Point)
We stood shoulder to shoulder with some of the best ultra runners there are, no pressure! Then we heard 5,4,3,2,1 and we were off. A slow waddle off the beach, with Rocco sticking to his plan to walk off the beach. It wasn’t long before he caught up to Robyn & I. We settled into a nice rhythm and then we hit the first big incline… time to walk, woohoo. There was a nice trail section and we chatted to a few other runners along the way. Our plan was that we would run together until at least 24k (the crew rendezvous point). There was a water stop and we all grabbed a quick drink of water. On the downhill sections Susan Keith would fly past us and we leapfrogged for a good while. We passed the iconic Red Barn, which i’d seen in so many C2K videos and gave a wave to the camera. The weather was cool & foggy, perfect. At one of the aid stations Paul & Diane (the Race Directors) aptly named us “Rocco’s Harem” because every time they drove by he was surrounded by ladies. At the Rendezvous Point I had to make a pit stop at the scariest looking long drop! Cobwebs everywhere and, after giving my crew a roasting (sorry crew!) for not reading my mind and having toilet roll at the ready, we were off again.
Pericoe Road 24k – CP1 Rocky Hall 50k
I caught up with Robyn & Rocco & we decided that we’d see how the running panned out in terms of running together. At times I probably felt we were going a bit quick for my liking but when I balanced that against running on my own I felt it was the right decision to just keep up. Around this time (~35k) I could feel my runners starting to hurt my baby toes, luckily the crew would be meeting us at 5k intervals along the way so I made the decision to swap my runners, it was a difficult decision cause I was changing into the runners that gave me blisters at GNW and didn’t have the cushioning of the Hoka’s. Once I made the change though I knew it was a good choice, soo much more comfy and roomy. Rocco was also having some shoe issues and changed his insoles at the same time. At the marathon mark Robyn was just in front of me so I yelled out “1 marathon down”, yikes, another 5 to go!. There was nice running along this section. It was starting to get hot though and there was plenty of flies hanging around. We ran into Rocky Hall together.
CP1 (Rocky Hall 50k)— CP2 (Cathcart 70k)
We had a nice sit down & I put some TooToms (blister powder) in my socks. The toes were still hurting but not majorly. Robyn was just ahead as we got to the bottom of Big Jack Mountain where we were able to pick up a crew member to join us for the walk up the mountain. I had a quick pit stop then Ann & I followed Robyn & Tim up the mountain with Rocco & Sally just behind. We had been down to see the course for a recce run a few weeks before which was great cause we knew what was ahead, at least this time we didnt have to run it. It was great to catch up with Ann and find out how the crew were going. It was here she introduced me to the “invisible walking poles”, basically its a technique where you pretend you have poles and it keeps you a bit straighter (i tend to hunch so this was a great tip which I used countless times throughout the race). We powered our way to the top and I was delighted that it was done, although I was a bit worried about having to run. A very quick sunscreen stop & a hello to Jess Siegle and I was off again. This was the first section I ran on my own and I really enjoyed it, it’s a nice long flat run into Cathcart. At Cathcart the crew had an amazing set up, a chair with an umbrella (well done crew). They also had a cloth in a bowl of iced water, absolute bliss, it cooled me down a treat.
CP2 (Cathcart 70k) – CP3 (Snowy River Way 106k)
Not long after leaving the checkpoint my blisters were starting to annoy me again so I stopped and put on a blister plaster. Rocco waited and we ran together. It got very hot and the wind was really picking up, at some times it felt like I was battling against the wind and making no progress. This was starting to affect Rocco and just after the Black Lake (~77k) I ended up pushing ahead. (I wouldn’t see him again until ~234k’s). I ran along for a long time on my own and then at one stage the road doubled back on itself and I seen Robyn, this was a great boost for me cause I thought she would have been long gone. I kept her within distance but wasn’t in any rush to catch her. I chatted to a few other runners that I passed along this section. I decided i’d sit down at the 100k mark cause that was a good milestone so the crew set up there. The next marker was the Big Dead Tree at 102k, I gave the tree a quick kiss and continued up the hill. It was then that Laura told me that Roybn was just behind, she had stopped at 102k. She caught up and we ran together.
CP3 (Snowy River Way 106k) – CP4 (Dalgety 146k/148k)
We met our crews at 106k & we put on your hi viz vests. We spent the next 14k having an absolute ball, chatting and loving the scenery, one of the highlights of the race for me despite the massive hill we were on. HALFWAY 120k – woohoo. Both crews were parked up under the massive wind turbines. Robyn changed into her long pants and I enjoyed an amazing cup of soup, mmmm. There was a great buzz around cause our first pacers were getting ready to join us at 8.30pm. We set off again and it wasn’t long after this that Sabina Hamaty (the eventual ladies winner) joined us, we had a nice chat with her along the way and then our first pacers joined us. Gillian joined Robyn & Laura joined me. We ran together with Robyn & Gillian setting the pace. It was great having the chats. My blisters started to really hurt here and in a timely fashion the medic drove by. He asked how we were going, I was determined to learn from GNW where I ignored my blisters, so I said I had some blisters and he said he’d meet us up the road. We told Robyn & Gillian we’d meet them at Dalgety. I hopped into the back of the medic’s car (he had it all set up with a sleeping bag, thanks Billy) and he checked out the blister on my right foot. He said he could syringe it, tape it then relook at it once we got to Dalgety. So I said go for it. The next 20 mins consisted of me nearly breaking poor Laura’s hand, lots of expletives and a lot of pain, especially when I told him to do the other foot too. We were so cold once we started running again, Billy had given me a hoodie which was awesome, Laura’s 4 layers were having to work hard to keep her warm. At 146k Ann & James were parked and told us it was another 2k to the CP. We made it to Dalgety & I got weighed (58kg down from 60kg the night before). I went into the hall & had a sit down & some soup. I was surprised to see Robyn was still there, given our long blister stop. Next minute I knew the colour drained from her face & she fainted and I got the fright of my life. Luckily she was in good hands. After a little while, I gave her a quick kiss and set off in an emotional state with my new pacer, Ann.
CP4 (Dalgety 146k/148k) – CP5 (Jindabyne 184k)
Not long after we started running Ann & I stopped, turned off our lights and took at good look at the stars, the sky was full of them and they were amazing. We also seen lots of shooting stars as we ran. We were shuffling along and knew the climb up the Beloka ranges was coming up. We seen Tim and he told me it was the 100 mile mark, yay. For some reason I thought I remembered the map saying that it was a 12k climb so I was prepared for that, in reality it was “only” a 5k climb. We passed a runner on the way up the ranges and it looked like the tiredness was hitting him hard. We seen his support crew who said we were at the top, we had a little cheer. It was somewhere along here where I had a major diva moment when my crew gave me soup (which they made at ~3am) and the noodles in it were crunchy! Not a happy runner (sorry again crew 🙁 ) Now it was mostly downhill into Jindabyne. It was also in this section that a tree looked like Yorkshire terrier, we seen a “‘UFO”/car lights coming across a crest in the road and lit up the sky, Ann felt roadkill/animal graze her leg – we found out later it was my soloman soft flask that had fallen out of her pack he he. Robyn also passed us, I was glad to see she was moving well and we had a little hug as she passed by. We got some incredible views as the sun came up. As we got to the roundabout in Jindabyne it was lucky that there was another runners support crew to point us in the right direction cause we would have definitely added some extra km’s. The run along the bike path was torture and seemed to go on forever. I was glad to get to the car where the crew put my in the front seat and told me to sleep for 5 minutes, I didn’t sleep but it was nice to be warm and relax for a few minutes. Ann had the unenviable task of patching up my feet again. I opted for another shoe change into my New Balance road runners, they were pretty much the only thing my feet would fit in.
CP5 (Jindabyne 184k) – CP6 (Perisher Valley 212k)
Laura joined me for this section and we made a very slow start trying to get comfortable in the runners, I knew it was never going to not hurt but it was about finding a happy medium. We had some laughs when I tried to use the poles for the first time, we tried lengthening them, shortening them, in the end my lack of coordination won and we gave up on them. Getting to Thredbo River meant I was back on a part of the course I was familiar with, having also run this on the recce weekend. I knew it was a long climb (13k – avg gradient of 5%) but I was ok with that cause it meant I would be able to walk & walking up hills wasn’t as sore on my feet. Laura attempted to get me to do a shuffle on a flat part, this resulted in me having a mini panic attack and crying… back to walking it is! James & Ann were now meeting us at 3k intervals, at one stage when we got to the car it resembled a car boot sale with all Ann’s clothes drying on the ground in the sun. I was getting frustrated that it was taking so long to get to the car every 3k, but wasn’t in a position to change it, I was also panicking about how the hell I was going to be able to continue on my wrecked feet for another 50k. The week before the race I sent a list of “reasons why I am doing this race” to my crew and Laura reminded me of these during one of the tough patches, it helped a lot to be reminded. Dougie drove past on his way to Charlotte’s Pass, unfortunately I was having a little cry. He offered us a meat pie, we declined and said we’d see him at the top. James & Ann met us just after the Guthega Road Turn off. I asked James if he wanted to join me for the next 3k so he got himself ready and we headed off. It was a long uphill slog but I was so excited that he joined me. Trevor Allen had just passed and was flying up the hill ahead of us. After 3k Ann was ready to go for her next pacing gig, everything was starting to get a bit much and making decisions was increasing difficult. The frustration of going so slow was really upsetting me so Ann completely took the reins and somehow put my into a trance like state and got me running (/shuffling) again from one pole to the next, she split it up into tiny bitesize sections and told me not to think about anything else only getting to the next pole, thank you Ann you were amazing and just what I needed. Oh and picking out shapes in the rocks on the side of the road is also fun to take your mind off your feet when you’re delirious with tiredness (although may attract suspicious looks from the rest of the crew when you tell them you are seeing a rock that looks like the front of a jumbo jet with lips! Lol).
CP6 (Perisher Valley 212k) – Finish (Charlotte’s Pass 240k)
A quick stop at Perisher and we were making slow but steady progress to Charlotte’s Pass. The trance like state resumed all the way to Charlotte’s Pass. Once we got there, I had a sit down but was eager to get this thing done. James had sorted a set of mandatory gear thanks to Gillian (thanks Gillian) so would be able to join us for the climb to the top. We got the gear checked off, I got weighed (59kg) and got an obligatory photo at the summit sign. We set out and still couldn’t work out which mountain was Kosciuszko so we asked Meredith, who was cycling by, she said to be prepared as it was around lots of bends and we would have to do a few loops around the mountain before reaching the top. I am so glad we met her along the way cause for some reason I had discounted this 9k out and back as going to be ok, it was a loooooong slow hike and our poor team resembled the walking dead but we kept slogging away. We got to see lots of friendly teams along the way, including Robyn’s team who were running down the mountain (WTF?!). Every time we turned a corner and seen another long uphill my reaction went a little something like this “no f*cking way, you motherf$%ker!”. Team Walking Dead would chuckle, I think if we didn’t chuckle we would all be crying and I had used up a fair share of the team tears. Andy Hewitt was a friendly face at Rawson’s Hut before the final push. Getting to the top, and seeing the iconic Strezleki Monument, was so exciting and I savoured the moment like Paul had said to do as we went through Charlotte’s Pass. The views were panoramic and superb. We shared the summit with Kevin Byrne and his crew.
Then it was time to turn around and navigate the tricky descent. My feet were hurting a little less, or more than likely adrenaline had kicked in so we were moving at a better pace. We met Susan Keith & her crew on her way up as we were descending, she was on the lookout for some No Doze! Susan is a tough cookie and has a way of pushing towards the end of these races that is admirable and I wasn’t in the least bit surprised when she ran past me further down the mountain, great effort Susan, I was so jealous that you were getting there quicker than me. We seen a bit of snow at the mountain side so I jumped in for a quick photo and another snap with Laura at Seaman’s Hut. We met Rocco & his crew as we made our way down, I was so happy to see him still going and gave them all teary hugs, I am so proud that Rocco kept going, you really are a superstar. Seeing Susan making progress made me speed up a bit, not to catch her, just to get there quicker so I upped the pace to something halfway between a shuffle and a skip. All of the other teams we met were so supportive of each other, you really got the feeling that everyone just wanted everyone else to succeed. As we approached the finish line we could hear the cheering, there is nothing that could describe crossing that finish line and seeing Paul, Diane and the NRGer’s. “Wow” wouldn’t even suffice.
Having looked at the course and runners of similar times to mine in other races I thought a time of ~34hrs was a good goal for me, with 32hrs in the realms of possibility if I had a REALLY good day. I reckon experience of this race (either by crewing or running it before) is a definite asset. I am very happy with my time of 36:36:08. Don’t worry it sounds weird to me too to say that i’ve run for 36hrs! Thank you body, you are amazing.
Frequently asked questions:
What did you eat?
I had GU Salted Caramel gels every hour. Banana’s, snakes, trail mix, soup, lots of water and powerade. Lemon cake was quickly discarded.
Where do you go to the toilet?
On the side of the road! At the start of the race I would find a suitable place to hunker down behind a tree/in the bush, at the end of the race it was right by the side of the road with the crew keeping “sketch”. Leave your dignity at the door, thank you!
Did you run for all that time?
Where possible on the flats and downhills yes. On the uphills, generally no. This is what makes ultra running so awesome!
Did you sleep?
Some people do, I didn’t/couldn’t.
Thanks to my wonderfully awesome crew, I COULD NOT have done it without you. I apologise for my antics and appreciate that you didn’t hold it against me. Your personal achievements on the weekend were admirable.
Thanks to Adam Connor for opening my eyes to these races, you always seem to be one of the first to sign up to these crazy races. Thank you also for being so forthcoming with information & tips it is SO appreciated.
Thanks to ThermaTech for our t-shirts, and Laura for organising them at such short notice.
Thanks to NRG (in particular Robyn & Rocco – and their crews) for all your support and well wishes on FaceBook and in person.
Thanks to the Race Directors, Paul & Diane for allowing me to participate in the race, for your personal touch at the Race Presentation and for my Akubra.
The day started the same as any other race day, up early, half nervous/half excited. Super Supporter Sally was driving myself, Rocco & Doug to the start about 10 mins away. When we got to the start there was lots to do: check in, collect arm tags (no race numbers), mandatory gear check, weigh in (58.4kg), drop off checkpoint bags and meet all the other crazy NRGers (and non NRGers) we’d trained with along the way. Then the Race Brief began and things got serious, eeeeekkkk!
Start to CP1 Forest (Distance 28.6k) – Expected Time – 4hrs – Actual 3:48
We all lined up, hi vis’s on and everyone was in great spirits. There was hugs, kisses and well wishes. Once we were told to go Geoff lead the group out. There was lots of time to chat along the road. Rocco and I had planned to run together as long as we were both happy with how we were going. So that’s how we started out. It’s a long road section before you hit trails with a few hills thrown in, of course. The first few k’s ticked off quickly and we all knew the climb to the communications tower was coming up. Tim, Doug, Rocco, Robyn and I all ended up running some of this section together which was an unexpected surprise and settled the nerves because it made it feel like a training run rather than the big day. Coming into CP1 I could see Chris, who was there to support Ann in the 100k and Sally waiting for Rocco. I didn’t have a CP bag here so I just filled up my water and I was ready to go. Time in CP: 2mins
CP1 to CP2 Congewai School (Distance 23.9k (52.5k Total) – Expected Time – 2:45) Actual 2:51
Rocco was still getting some stuff so I shouted that I was going to go ahead, he said he’d catch up. Error No.1, I should have waited! I headed off down the trail and looked at my mini directions which I thought said the next turn off wasn’t for the next 11k’s so I trotted along thinking how nice this bit of downhill trail was, how lucky I was to be out there. Luckily for me a lady pulled up in a car beside me and asked if I was doing the race when I said I was she told me I’d missed the turn off… Argh… Error No.2 so I started to run back up the hill because I knew Rocco would now be chasing me down. By the time I made it to the turn off he was nowhere to be seen. I met a few people along the trail and had to try and get myself out of panic mode and just hope that either he would realise I was not running that fast and slow down or that he would be at CP2 when I got there. I sorted my head out and just continued on. I’d had a shocker of a training day on this section and was happy to be feeling ok out on the long firetail. Near the end of the technical downhill before turning onto the road I met Doug and he reminded me to put on my Hi Vis going onto the road section. It was very warm along the road towards the school. As I got close I met Rocco & Robyn coming to opposite way after finishing up in the CP and heading up towards the communication tower. Hmmm panic mode re-engaged, I had about a km to get my head around the fact that I would have to navigate myself for the rest of the run (navigation is probably one of my weakest points and something that Rocco and I had laughed at during the Monday night trail runs). I got into the CP and it was a flurry of activity: get weighed, check in, sort out CP bags with the help of Sally and Alison (thanks ladies), get all my gear out for the gear check (lost my buff along the road somewhere so poor Sally ran off at full pace to her car to get me one, Tim was at the CP too and gave me his spare one), check out. I had asked Tim if he wanted to run together for this section but when I looked around he was still getting himself sorted so I decided to set off on my own. Time in CP: 12mins
CP2 to CP3 The Basin (Distance 29.1k (81.6k Total) – Expected Time – 4:30) – Actual 4:58
It was definitely warm and having a full pack was not good, I met Joe then Adam Darwin just before the turn off and I headed up to the communications tower second guessing every step I took because I hadn’t been on this section before. The climb to the communication tower was super tough and seemed endless in the heat. I got to the Cabans Road crossing and stood there for a while trying to make sure I took the right road, as I continued on there was a fork in the road, I was reluctant to pick which road so I took out the map, directions, compass and tried to work it out, no luck so I tried my phone which had signal and showed that I just continued on left then I saw a lady I had chatted to earlier, phew I was on the right track… Not far after this Error No.3 happened (sorry Geoff & Rocco – I was well warned on this one) and I ran straight past the Bar Trail turn off (didn’t even see it). I met two guys coming back up the trail and they said their GPS was gone off course, we made a decision to continue down the trail because we thought that the three of us couldn’t have missed the turn off! We had! And we ended up running down the trail and having to come back up it again. When we reached the turn off I met Doug and Tim again. Tim wasn’t feeling great and they were sticking together. I headed off. I got to the Basin signposts and started the seemingly never ending journey to the CP. I met Rocco, Geoff & Susan on the way to the CP and we chatted briefly. There was lots of people at the CP. Sally & Alison helped get me sorted with my gear and some soup. I decided that because this was a tricky section of the course I’d see if I could follow someone, just as I thought that a guy that had been sitting down with his support crew popped up and was heading back out. I jumped up and followed him. Time in CP: 7mins
CP3 to CP4 Yarramalong (Distance 22.1k (103.7k Total) – Expected Time – 3:15) – Actual 3:03
We chatted and I asked if he was familiar with the course (he had done GNW) and I asked if he minded if I follow him, he didn’t mind. Woohoo. This man knew what he was doing and he was keeping a slow and steady pace on the tricky trail section back out of the basin. Along the way I met Adam, Joe, Dave Madden and Robyn, she’d gone wrong and had spent ages going the wrong way L I followed the same guy and he was going at a perfect pace for me. Along the trail we met Ann who was now in the final k’s of her first 100k, we ran together along the verrrrrrry long road section back to Yarramalong. I was excited to pick up Ruth at the CP and was surprised that I was still feeling ok. Getting into the CP was very exciting because there was so many people around including James, pacers waiting for their runners, people who’d finished the 100k. I got weighed (57kg -1.4kg). Ruth did my mandatory gear check and I got some soup. James filled up my water. I was good to go. Time in CP: 11mins.
CP4 to CP5 Somersby (Distance 28.4k (132.1k Total) – Expected Time – 5hrs) – Actual 5:19
Ruth & I headed out on the road and I realised we were running a bit too fast and up a hill, ha ha that had to stop, there was still a long way to go. We chatted away and the time passed as Ruth diligently followed the directions. We nearly missed a left turn under the power lines but luckily I remembered it from training. At some stage along this section the blister issue raised its ugly head, both my feet felt like they had blisters and I was walking and worrying about being the only one in the race walking. For some reason this climb didn’t seem as brutal on race day as it did in training and the exit out of it was not how I remembered it. We fast walked to the CP where James and Sally were waiting (as well as Robyn’s parents and Geoff’s wife Josie). I was feeling mentally very good but the blisters were an issue so I decided to change my socks and runners. Time in CP: 10mins.
CP5 to CP6 Mooney Mooney (Distance 17.8k (149.9k Total) – Expected Time – 2:45) – Actual 3:14
We headed out of the CP and the padding on the new runners was not helping the blisters. Anyway too late now. As we went along the road I realised I’d forgotten to fill my bladder and my water bottle, so I had 600ml of powerade to get me through the section, Ruth gave me one of her soft flasks, fortunately it was a short section. I was still fast walking because running/shuffling wasn’t possible and the walk was quicker anyway. The technical downhills/rocky trails were a nightmare but I hobbled along. We’d done this part of the course twice in training so I happy that I was familiar with it. As we went down the technical section we could hear voices, it turned out to be Doug and Gillian. Not long after Robyn and Luke passed. This was tough mentally cause although I was happy for them I started to think everyone was going to pass me and there was nothing I could do about it. Ruth sorted me out and constantly told me I was doing great and doing my best and that I just need to worry about myself. She was right I was doing my best. The run along the river seemed endless and that was the first time I felt tired, the kind of tired where your eyes just want to shut, it lasted a while but wore off. I knew I would be meeting Orla at the next CP so I was excited to get there. When I got to the CP, Sally gave us a good cheer (legend) and so did Orla. I got weighed (56.4kg – 2kg) & had some soup and a potato. Robyn, Tim and Doug were at the CP too but took off before me. Time in CP: 11mins.
CP6 to Finish Patonga (Distance 25.4k (175.1k Total) – Expected Time – 5hrs) – Actual 4:45
Orla and I set off, Orla was tres excited and I had to tell her that at the moment running wasn’t really an option. I had a cry (tiredness I’m guessing and the thoughts that I might actually finish this thing). I continued the fast walking strategy. We passed Doug and Gillian on one of the climbs. And not long after we met Geoff and his pacer Don, we ended up leapfrogging them for most of the section. There was endless technical downhill descents and they were playing havoc with my feet. My 28hr goal was looking to be slipping away so I said I’d go for Sub 30. At one stage I landed on my left foot and felt the blister push through to another part, I let out a scream but told Orla I just wanted to keep going. This meant all other downhills I had to land on my right foot. We powered on the flat fire trails. And there was a LOT of fire trail so as we got closer finishing in 28 something became an option again. The descend after the Trig was horrible and even 500m’s felt like an eternity but then we saw the boat ramp and heard the cowbell, emotion was starting to kick in again but Orla told me to wipe away the tears and smile so that’s what I did. We ran on the beach then she took off and told me to go, I ran for the first time in hours and the finish clock had a 28 in it so I was happy, I slapped the post then kissed it then cried.
GNW done, 28hrs 50mins. Post Race thoughts, it was HARD but it was always going to be. So proud of everyone that I trained with, this race is such a journey and another step in making me believe that as long as you’re willing to commit yourself anything is possible.