What makes someone run 100k through the bush up & over 4500m of climbing, thousands of stairs and want to go back for more? I say wrong question, the correct question should be “what makes someone get up on a Saturday morning, stand in a paddock, wave a cow bell & scream their lungs out for 12+ hours”, answer this and you’ll know the answer to the first question.
I wanted the glory, I’m driven by achievement, I want to better myself, have a goal to succeed but be humble when things don’t work out, as you get older you’d reckon that you’d learn, but you cannot teach an old dog new tricks. “Be patient” were the wise words from coach G, “I will try” was my coy response. I wanted that aged podium. I wanted a sub 12 hour, but importantly I believed I could do it.
Cardinal rule #1, nothing new on race day, so what do I do but go out with new underwear, shorts, bladder and socks. The new 2ltr bladder clasp tore my back to shreds, I had the mother of blisters on my heel but fortunately my new T8 underwear were a success.
I love the start line of UTA, such an incredible buzz, you’re with a crazy bunch of likeminded friends who have made the same sacrifices over the past months throughout those endless training hours.
3-2-1 and you’re off.
Be patient, be patient, be patient, fuck it, let’s do this. This year the conditions were perfect, cool, bright and dry, the first three checkpoints I hit to plan
- CP1 (1:10:30)
- Glenraphael (2:00:17)
- CP2 Dunphy’s Camp (2:59:14).
Ironpot, 5 mins ahead of race schedule (3:25:09), but then the wheels fell off, I slowed, I tried to eat but just couldn’t get anything down, I was struggling to fuel, annoyed with myself as I thought I’d solved my fuelling problems that had crippled me last year which ultimately led to a 2018 finish in 16:17:14
I managed to limp into CP3 Six Foot (4:49:45) having lost just 5 mins on race schedule, but I’d lost 10 mins on this leg with Nellies to come.
It’s here though, in this sunny paddock you begin to learn how you can answer my opening question as you’re greeted, I would say overwhelmed by the noise that welcomes and beckons you in to CP3, it’s truly wonderful and soul lifting to have so many smiling faces, some familiar others complete strangers who are willing you on, it’s incredible, thank you one and all.
With the assistance of an entourage of helpers they had me out and back on the track in no time.
Nellies absolutely broke me last year, she tried again this year, but this is where the training kicked in , all those Balmoral hills and stair repeats really paid off and upwards I pushed reaching Aquatic Centre (6:30:42), and now another example of how people just step up and help, thank you so much Fiona and Ian Phillipps, you guys rock and really helped to get me back out quickly, thank you, thank you, thank you.
I was now 20 mins behind race schedule. Would I be able to claw this back? Quite simply no, this is where the ugly truth of running an ultra hits home, if you’re going to go out hard, or go in undertrained it’s going to bite you, and bite hard. Running in to Fairmont I was initially buoyed by the amazing Mario Buch’s fan squad then rounding the corner and onto the lawns of Fairmont I saw Jen and almost broke in to tears, one from seeing her there (such a lift), but secondly to realise that she’d had to pull the pin on her own race (the sensible choice). Not much can be done for you at Fairmont, I dumped a load of stuff and headed out with a kiss. I was now 38 mins behind schedule (8:38:27).
Running, shuffling, cramping through to QVH (10:04:11), 1 hour behind schedule was hard, it was demoralising, it was soul searching I was annoyed with myself; I should be running strong now, but this most certainly was not the case.
My stomach was eating itself from the inside out, hell I’d even stopped farting, everyone seemed to have a camera “yeah that’s right, I’m hurting, yes I should’ve been patient, stop pointing that bloody thing at me”.
At least I was hitting QVH in the daylight and still had the opportunity to do a sub 14. Sick, nauseous, over it, and very very hungry. The gang rallied around me, shoved food into me, warm tea, soup, mandarins, buns, sweets, anything basically that I was willing to try and keep down. Sorry Jenny for being cranky but thank you for being there. Sarah, Gary, Ana (and anyone else who may have been there, but my brain didn’t take you on board) I hope I didn’t offend you too much.
Dig deep and get on with it, only another 21.6k to run on cramping legs, but hey, it was still light, Kipchoge makes a habit of smiling, no matter how much it’s hurting, smiling makes it better, it really does, try it.
Down, down you go, all the way down to Jamison Creek at which point I finally turned on the head torch, I was feeling good, I was smiling, my stomach had stopped eating itself, up and over to Leura Falls Creek, quick climb and down to the helipad (no sleeping here unlike last year) and the final climb up to the Sewage Works. 1 hour 27 mins behind race schedule I moved on into Leura Forest, one of my least favourable sections of the run, and just to add to it I was beginning to feel sick again, dizzy, wiped out.
Sewage (12:27:21), 1:27 behind race schedule but I’d given myself 25 mins to climb Furber, this meant I had 55 mins to get through the forest to Furber. This was tough, I had nothing in me, I tried gels, no good I just gagged and brought them up, I nibbled on bananas that the QVH team had given me, I sipped on water and flat coke, I kept going, just kept on going, there was no other way out of the forest now.
Kedumba River! I’m here, just another 200m and I’m at the stairs (13:31:52) 28 minutes and 8 secs to climb 951 stairs, how hard can that be? Bloody hard, but with 99.1kms behind me this wasn’t going to stop me now and what a greeting I had as I ran down that shute, the crowd, the noise, the elation the sheer and utter relief of not collapsing, the crowd were going mad as they thought I had 10 secs to make the 14 hour cut-off but I still had 7 mins up my sleeve, I had done it. Jen was there to greet me but all I could do was collapse to my knees; I was spent, sorry Jenny for not giving you that hug at the finish but it meant the World to me to see you there.
Finish 13:52:43 and a bloody silver buckle.
What did I learn?
You really must be patient or be prepared to pay the price.
Spending an hour with the medics after the race isn’t advised.
Nothing new on race day.
Humankind really is truly wonderful.