Last Friday I took the day off work as I was booked into a training camp in the Blue Mountains with Find Your Feet, a camp specifically designed to assist with training & preparation for The Northface100 in May. We didn’t have to be there till after lunch so I decided to visit my grandmother in the morning as it was on the way.
I will be running The Northface100 for my grandmother and raising funds for Dementia research, as she has Alzheimer’s disease. I had not told her yet so I thought it fitting to spend the morning with her and give her some information about the race, the course and that I would be running it for her. She was very excited and a little overwhelmed, and I know her smile and positivity will be with me during the race.
So I gave Nan a hug and I got into my car feeling very nervous about the camp and not really sure what to expect. I was also freaking out a little about the 100km journey that awaits me in a couple of months. Can I really do this? Is this a really stupid thing to be putting my body through?
I’m not sure why I started being so negative, probably the fact that 100km is a FRIKIN long way, but I hoped that the camp might give me some tools to prepare myself through training and learning about proper nutrition and hydration. So I was on my way, there was no turning back now.
I pulled into the Waldorf Laura Gardens Hotel and checked-in at the reception desk. I went to my room and started unpacking and I met Louise from Melbourne who would be my roomie for the weekend and a fellow TNF100 runner. Then the phone rang and we were asked if we didn’t mind changing rooms to share with another lady too, so we packed up our stuff again and moved to our new room. There we met Matilda who was from Canberra and even though she wasn’t competing in TNF she was a client of Hanny’s and had come along for the experience.
We got organised (me stealing the double bed, thanks ladies) and then heading to our conference room for the first session which included a little Introduction on what the camp would entail, followed by an insightful talk from our camp leader Hanny Allston about her life and career up to this point.
Hanny is an amazing women and she has come so far in her life thus far. A lot of what she said I could relate to very easily, and her openness and honestly helped me to relax into the camp. It’s amazing the journey that life can take you on and I had an inkling that this weekend would be one I would never forget.
So we finished up and headed to our rooms to gear up for the first run. We had to pack mandatory items and I was going to need my new headlamp and backup thermal gear (just as a precaution). The 50km runners would be doing a 9km route from the Resort along Hordern Road and the 100km runners would be doing a 20km night run from the Queen Victoria Hospital, through Kedumba Pass and up the Furber Steps. All of our training runs would be the course sections that we would be running on race day, and I was really looking forward to seeing the different areas so I could prepare for them now and mentally during the race.
We all hopped on the bus driven by Simon (Hanny’s Dad) our chauffeur for the weekend, and we headed to the start of our trail run. The section we were running tonight is the last section of our 100km journey. It’s probably going to be the hardest part of our course as there is a huge drop at the 80km mark, followed by some very tough ups and downs, then the Furber Steps.
I was the only female runner doing the 20km run and I chose to go in the slow group which would be lead by Julie Quinn, a three time winner of TNF100 (how awesome!). Turns out all of the men thought they were speedy so that left Julie and I to run the course together. I knew this would be a great opportunity for me to learn from Julie and find out as much as I could from her during the run. She must have got sick of me asking so many questions, but she never showed it. I watched her technique and foot placement as we went down the hills, and she filled me in on lots of information about the area and what to expect.
The first downhill section was on fire trail and it was pretty speedy compared to everything else that would follow, but I didn’t want to go too hard as I knew it was going to be a hilly end. We made a sharp right turn at the bottom of the track and started the trek of challenging ups and downs, twists and turns….. some of the course looks so similar in so many parts, and during the race I will be coming through this section at night which will be even tougher as I’m guessing we won’t be able to see the top and know when we’re getting closer.
Julie was so positive and even though we walked up most of the hills, she said that we were holding a nice steady pace and that’s what I should aim for on the day. I was felling it, it was quite tough, but I knew there was a flatter section coming up soon. Soon just took a lot longer than I was expecting.
Finally we reached the section where it turned into a single track, fern covered rainforest and the light was starting to fade. We stopped at a picnic table and got out our headlamps (I wore a Petzl R+) and fluro vests, good practise as I would have to wear both on race day too. Julie let me take the lead from this point so that I could get some practise in with my headlamp (I wore a buff underneath to keep it steady & prevent rubbing) and I must say this was my favourite part of all the runs we did that weekend. Don’t get me wrong, I was blown away at so many views and sections of our runs this weekend, but this was my favourite. There was just Julie and I and the flowing track and it felt like were in the middle of nowhere. The green shrubs, the cool night air, the small rain drops that called as we ran….. it was magical.
Then our silence was broken by some walkers above, they seemed to come from nowhere, but apparently there was another track above us that came down and would meet us up ahead. We said ‘hi’ to the walkers and kept going.
I stopped in my tracks, a huge spider had started spinning it’s web right in front of me and there was no way I was running through that. Julie found a stick and we cleared the path so we could get through. I had run through a few webs previously but thankfully there were no spiders. And on we went.
As we approached the Furber steps some of the fast group came up behind us, they’d taken a wrong turn and ended up behind us somehow. So we all started to make our way up the steps that would be the last ascent for the night (and also what would be the last ascent during the race). And boy was it tough! Steps of different sizes and terrain, some rock steps, some wood, some steel, and some so steep that you had to use the handrail to pull yourself up (well I had to use them, but maybe not everyone). At one point we looked back and we could see the three sisters lit up behind us, more magic.
When we got to the top of the stairs we met up with all of the other runners and we all chatted about how hard it was, but also how much we enjoyed the course. We all agreed it would be the toughest section during the race, but also quite a spectacular one.
And I forgot to mention the leeches!! Most of the guys had them on their ankles and thankfully all I found was a bit of blood on the back of my ankle so it had dropped off. They are gross! I think I’ll make sure my legs are covered for the night section!!
We piled back onto the bus and headed to the hotel for some much earned dinner and rest. I knew I was going to sleep well that night!
I wish I had taken some pictures that night, but they may not have turned out very well due to the lighting. However the memories and feelings from that run will stay with me for a long time, it felt so amazing like I was connected to the earth in some way. Just awesome!
Stay tuned for more information about Day 2 of the training camp.
Happy Running! 😀
If you are interested in reading a bit more about my grandmother and/or donating towards Dementia research, here’s the link to my fundraiser page: https://CHeBA2.everydayhero.com/au/running-hailey