Ok, grab yourself a cuppa because this could take a while. But I will promise it will be the final installment of my crazy goal to run what is known as Australia’s toughest ultra marathon. The dream actually began back in 2015, but for the interest of time we’ll cut right to the action.
It’s the night before the race. The fog is heavy and the rain has settled into Katoomba. The race organisers have just announced that for the safety of runners, the course has been changed. It looks like it’s going to be a wet cold day Bugger. This was not the race I had dreamt about in the months leading up. I knew I had to draw on some yogi wisdom. I had to let go of what I couldn’t change and focus on what I could; my attitude. I’ve done the training and I just needed to back myself. It was game time J
The race start time was 6:41am. The weather conditions hadn’t shifted and runners shuffled to the start line under heavy fog and drizzle. I was brimming with nervous energy. I had been tapering for the race for 3-weeks and I was eager to get running.
The race begins with a 4km out-back on road before we disappear into the mountains. At the 2km mark I run back past the start/finish line and I hear Emma Spencer sing out ‘Go Breeza!’, I see mum waving and smiling at me, and Dad is proudly snapping photos of me on his iphone. It’s all of a sudden I feel tears welling up in my eyes. My chest gets tight and I start to think about how lucky I am to be so well supported in these crazy adventures I take on. But, before I know it a little bird in my head whispers ‘Geez kid, get it together, you’ve got 98km to go!’. The tears disappear and I refocus.
The journey between the start and CP1 was slow. With standstill queues at both landslide and the Golden stairs I was forced to take it easy. A blessing in disguise really, with slippery steps and rocks it would have been devastating to re-injure an already fragile ankle with a careless slip. I arrived to CP1 a little behind my anticipated time but I wasn’t too worried. I remembered Coach Steph’s advice to see the first 30km as a warm-up, so between CP1 and CP2 I did exactly that, just got into a slow and steady rhythm of 5:30 pace. I soaked up the scenery and enjoyed watching the clouds slowly lift from the valley floor to create a beautiful day. The rain had cleared it was going to be a magical.
I arrived at CP2 feeling good. I quickly refilled flasks and got back on the road. It was time to pick up the pace. I started passing other runners and my confidence grew. I was sticking to the race plan and enjoying every moment. But it’s about the 40km mark that my hips start to ache and a few sneaky cramps set in. I up the intake of the salts and decide to focus on my breathing as a way of distracting myself from the grind in my hips; it works and I arrive into CP3 right on schedule.
CP3 to CP4 is short in distance but brutal in the way of stairs. The climb from the valley floor to the top of the mountain, known as Nellies, is a nightmare for most runners; but truth be told, I love her. 10mins before we meet I throw down a gel and I tell myself ‘Don’t look up, just take one step at a time and keep moving’. Before I know it I’m at the top and arriving at CP4, well ahead of schedule.
Seeing family and friends at CP4 was like taking 3 Hammer gels at once. The energy and love I received was just amazing. After a quick shirt change, flask refill and a slice of watermelon, I’m out the door again. The run from CP4 to the Fairmont was a dream. I picked up the pace again, continued to pass runners and was smiling the whole way. The single trail was really enjoyable.
From the Fairmont to CP5 I met a friend, Emma Brown. My music playlist was now on repeat for the fourth time and as much as I was loving listening to Sia sing to me that I could be ‘The Greatest’, it was nice to have someone to chat to and swap stories. She was also kind enough to share her boiled potatoes with me, a welcome snack after a day of sugar gel madness.
CP5 – CP6 was where it got tough. I left QHV in the dark. It was cold and the fog had started to creep back into the mountains. I had 20km to go and I needed to dig deep. Whilst I was well ahead of my schedule, the hips were grumpy and I just wanted it done. Whilst still mentally strong and energy high, the last part of the race was tricky. The single technical trail (slippery with water) slowed my pace made it difficult to get into a rhythm, and the head torch lights from other runners coming the opposite direction was playing funny buggers with my vision. But I just put my head down and kept pushing, and by the time I knew it I was at the bottom of Furber Stairs ready for my final climb.
It took me 17-mins to charge to the top, right till the very end I was still pushing past other runners. I could hear the music and cheers from the crowd and I got that last surge of energy to push across the finish line. Mum was there smiling and dad was still wrangling with his iphone to get the perfect finish photo. It had been a big day for them too. My best mate Nikki bear hugged me with tears in her eyes. She too had been out all day with her newborn bub Toby to see me tick a big goal off my bucket list.
The tears that I had in the first 3km of the race strangely didn’t resurface. Instead I think I was in shock that I had actually done it. I was proud of my time and surprised that I just kept charging on through the day with a smile. The changes to the course didn’t bother me, neither did the early rain, and my dodgy ankle had survived 100km. I seemed to be in my happy place, out in nature, challenging myself and enjoying the adventure.
The most frequently asked question during my journey has been. ‘Why would you want to do something so crazy?’ And I can honestly say that it was the opportunity to challenge myself and to reaffirm that anything is possible. We as humans have this limitless potential to be amazing. Anything is possible if you have the heart and are prepared to put the hard work in. The adventure has made me hungry for more, to live life to the full and to be a better human.
So they say it takes a village to raise a child, well it also takes a village to raise an athlete. I’ve got oodles of love, hugs and thanks for the following peeps…
Coach Steph: I could not have done this without you. Thanks for getting me race ready and for all your encouragement and advice.
Dad, mum & Jess: These guys have so much patience for all my crazy adventures. Dad, thanks for being the best support crew, and sorry for changing my plans every bloody CP!
The Up Coaching Family: To Brendan Davies and all the other Up-athletes. One of the best parts of the journey is the friendships I’ve built with all of you. Special mentions go to Gavin Tunstall, Cat and Paul Burgess, Peita Coote and Chris Garey.
Nikki & Adam Keighran: For all the chats, advice, gear loan and friendship. Love you guys longtime.
My race day cheer squad: You know who you are. Thanks for all the words of encouragement, cheers and bum taps as I ran past in a sweaty mess.
Ultra Trail Australia: To the race organisers and volunteers for making the race so enjoyable. I’ll be back.
Andy Pedashenko (Elixr Health Club’s Head PT): For helping me to strengthen my lazy glutes and fix some of my movement patterns.
Tim Wright (The Wright Physio): For fixing my damaged ankle and for getting me back running in record time.
Elixr Health Clubs and all my instructor buddies: For the countless yoga and Pilates classes and encouragement.
2XU and Lululemon: For the cool threads and helping with fashions on the field.
Pace Athletic: Best running shop in town. Thanks for replacing my broken Hokas for free so close to race day!
…And to all my other friends, work colleagues and Facebook fans who have put up with me banging on about this 100km race for the last 5-months! So much love for you all.
100km – Total race distance
14:36 – Race finish time
39th female overall
19th female AG
3588m of elevation
2.5L of Perpetuem race fuel
2.5L of Hammer Fizz Endurolytes
3 gels, 12 Cliff blocks, 6 slices of watermelon & 1 boiled potato (?)
1110km of run training
6 days a week training
115km – biggest week of running
547 Strava cups
Countless yoga, Pilates, S&C, massage and foam rolling sessions.
3 pairs of running shoes
…and more than $900 worth of new equipment (yikes!)
1 sprained ankle and 2 torn ligaments
2-hours of tears thinking the race was over
8 Physio sessions
112 Home rehab strength and mobility sessions
12 Rolls of strapping tape
Half a dozen blisters
1-month of achillies tendonitis
Countless smiles, laughs and hugs with friends.
Hours of running playlists, home cooking, eating and sleeping.
Lifelong lessons, friends and memories.