Post race recovery & Injury update

marathon-recovery

I organised to have a week off work after my TNF100 race and I’m so glad that i did. I got a chance to sleep and sit around resting my legs, especially my injured leg.

Monday morning after the race I went to the physio to get my leg checked out. He asked how far I had run, and when I replied with “78km” he said “7 to 8 kms?” and I said “No, 78km” . He looked at me strangely for a minute and said that he didn’t believe me. Honestly. He looked at me like I was a crazy lady and I guess we ultra runners are a little crazy.

He confirmed that I can done tendon damage in two spots, near the top of my ITB (near the hip) and also the part that joins to the glute medius (the butt). He said it was similar to tendinitis and was probably triggered when I fell and got worse as I continued, sounded about right. He did some trigger point massage which was painful and got me to do some isometric exercises, and then he iced the whole area.

I told him I had a race in 2 weeks time and another in 5 weeks time and he just looked at me and shook his head. He told me that it was going to be a few weeks of recovery and that I should rest as much as possible, definitely no running and no long walks either. I was to do my exercises 3 times a day and ice it after each session.

When I went back to see him on Wednesday it felt much the same, maybe even a little sorer but in a different way. He did similar to what he had done on Monday and he asked me to come back on Friday for another session.

By Friday it was feeling slightly better and i could now walk with no pain at all. So he decided to do some ‘dry needling’ on the affected area and I have never felt anything like it. It hurt like hell. It felt like he was jabbing a needle into the muscle and swirling it around underneath my skin. It was horrible!!

He then applied a heat pack to the area and told me that I coped really well with the pain, and not to do any exercises for the rest of the day. After the heat pack, he then iced the area and sent me on my way. I could hardly walk again, it felt weird, not painful, just kind of numb and tingly.

I saw him again yesterday morning and I’m booked in again on Thursday afternoon, where he is going to do some more of the dry needling – great!!I am also hopijg that he tells me I can start running again as there is a race I am registerd for this weekend, the NOSH Footrace. But I know I must not push it too soon, i’m just very impatient!!

Aside from the injury I’m feeling quite good. I have eaten well and had lots of fluid and I feel like I could actually go for a run (if it wasn’t for my injury).

I will update you all again soon.

Happy Running 🙂

The North Face 100

I must have typed this starting paragraph about 5 times now but I just don’t know where to start. It’s been a very emotional experience for me but I have learnt so much in the process and I thick I have come out of this with a much stronger, more determined mindset.

WARNING: You might want to grab a cuppa, it’s a long one!

On the Friday before race day the 100km runners had to visit the KCC auditorium to register and pick up our race packs from 4pm and when i arrived 10 minutes early there was already a large queue that had formed and I remembered thinking that ultra runners really are a prompt bunch!! So I took my spot in the queue and chatted to the other runners around me to kill some time and hear there stories.

When the doors opened to the hall we all rushed in and the first item to collect was our firestick and waterproof matches which formed part of our mandatory gear. Then we moved on to pick up our bibs and course maps. There was a small expo of goods at the venue and I ended up buying a metal medal hanger which was shaped like the profile of the course, and I also bought some Clif bars which I would use during the race.

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My race plan in terms of Nutrition and Hydration was to eat Clif bars for the first couple of legs, then move onto gels, and finish with Tailwind. I had been told that it got harder and harder to eat during the race so that’s why I had decided on this plan. I was also carrying water in my backpack (up to 2L) and I had 2 x 500ml soft flasks on the front of my pack which had water and Shotz (for salt). I had other treats and some of my favourite foods at the checkpoints too.

So after cruising through the expo I thought I’d go and sit out the front of the steps and wait around to keep an eye out for some of my running buddies. I ran into Russell Evans and a met some of his friends, then I saw the beautiful Sarah-Jane Marshall who had been my original inspiration to get into ultras, I saw Nigel Huband and his lovely wife Liz and I also ran into Rob Hollander from the Nike Sydney store who was like me and doing the 100km for the first time. We chatted about race plans and food and the course and there was so much excitement in the air, it was a real buzz just being there.

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I eventually went back into the auditorium and took a seat to listen to the elite athletes Q&A session. This was a real treat. The MC was great and he asked some great questions which helped us learn more about the runners and their experiences. I reckon i could have sat their all night and listened to them.

Later on we had a more formal and traditional aboriginal welcome from the original land owners and this was a real treat. For the first time ever, the Queen of the tribe came up onto the stage and gave us the ‘Welcome’ to their lands, and her speech brought tears to my eyes. I wish I could tell you exactly what she said as I know I won’t do it the justice, but she was happy that we were here to enjoy the bush and view the land that she grew up in. I’m pretty sure there weren’t too many dry eyes in the place.

We then had our race briefing and I was lucky enough to catch up with Sam Isbell and Sherin Leung. Sam was a speedstar and would probably finish in the daylight, and Sherin was also a first-timer like me (also much quicker than me). I was feeling so nervous that night and having so many smiling, familiar faces made it so much better.

I met up with Ruth Flint (a buddy from work) and the 2 Rich’s (her support crew) who were crashing at the house I booked for the Friday night which was in Leura. We jumped on a bus to Katoomba and then flagged down a cab to take us to the house in Herbert St. Ruth had run the TNF100 in 2013 however she need up pulling out at about 80km due to illness. She has a lovely positive, bubbly personality and it was so nice having her around.

We got back to the house and Shelley (my sister and support crew) showed up not long after. I was running around like a frantic, crazy lady, cooking my dinner and organising my drop bags for the checkpoints (CP’s) and I was very, very nervous. I kept changing my mind about what shoes, what clothes and what food….. I needed to sit for a minute and clear my head. So I sat eating my pasta and pulled myself into line. Stick with tried and tested and what’s comfortable, that was the smart thing to do. Breath.

I wasn’t even this nervous on my wedding day!!

Eventually I got myself sorted and put myself to bed, but there wasn’t much sleep happening. When my husband had dropped me at the house in Leura earlier that afternoon (unfortunately he had to work so would unfortunately miss the race), we had walked in to find a gigantic spider on the wall above the bed where I would be sleeping. Great!! So when I went to bed that was playing on my mind, and I half expected another spider to land on me at any moment. I did eventually get to sleep but I reckon I got 4 hours all up, which is probably normal the night before a big race anyway.

I sat watching and waiting for the alarm to go off on Saturday morning, and I woke up feeling tired, but smiling and so glad that race day was finally here!

We got dressed, had a light breakfast and made all the last minute arrangements. We then packed into the cars and headed for Scenic World, the new location of the Start and Finish for this years race. It was still dark as we got to the Start area at about 5.30am and sunrise was scheduled for 6.30am which coincided with the start of Wave 1 – the elites!

I ran into just about everybody that I knew was running the race and a few other who were running the 50km and had come early to cheer and give us a big send off. This was the day that all my handwork and training had come to, I felt on top of the world.

Sherin and i made our way to the start line and the gun went off!!

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The North Face 100 2014

The first section of the course was an out and back road section for about 4kms, and we got to come back near the start line so there were lots of people still around to cheer us on which was awesome. I cheered on many of my friends as I saw them coming back towards me after the turn around point and there were lots of locals there cheering us on too.

Most of the runners were so quiet at this point so I decided to lighten the mood and make a few of them laugh. It was pretty easy as some of the outfits around me were incredible, like the guy wearing a kilt (you can just see him in the picture above, behind me about to cross the timing mat, he had dreadlocks too) and another guy wearing sandals (who I saw later wearing a pair of proper running shoes, so he didn’t last the distance in the sandals).

Before we got to our first descent down Furber steps I heard a friendly voice behind me and it turned out to be Margaret Krepmpff who had just completed the Marathon de Sables (MdS) a few weeks earlier. Margaret is such a inspirational lady, it was great to ‘run’ into her and I could not believe that she was there. What a woman!!

I also saw Shelley who was filming me running down the road towards her and I gave her a wave as I ran past saying “See you at CP3!”. I was here, I was running TNF100 – what a dream to even make it to the start line of this race!

We headed down the Furber steps quite slowly as it was pretty busy and finally got a run happening at the bottom along the trail and boardwalks near the bottom of the scenic railway.

The North Face 100 2014

We ran along for a little while through some beautiful trail and then we hit a queue just before the landslide, a technical little piece of track that is very rocky. Instead of getting annoyed to be standing still I chatted to the lady in front of me, her name was Grace and she was from Singapore. She had made the trip out here with a few friends and she has done 4 x 100km events before this race, much more experienced than me.

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Once we passed through the landslide section I politely asked to go past her as she was moving a little slower than I wanted to be, she moved aside and we wished each other well. I don’t know if she finished the run or not as her bib had a different name on it (that I could not pronounce) but I hope that she did.

I got into CP1 (10.5km) busting for the toilet and ran straight to them when I got there. I text my sister to let her know how I was travelling, a little faster than I had planned, but I wasn’t feeling like I was going too fast so I wasn’t worried. I grabbed a banana and hit the road as I already had enough food & water on me to last me till CP2. I had a quick chat to Geoff Tomlins who I had met & spoken to online about the race. He was from Melbourne and easy to spot as he was 7 foot tall. We wished each other well and I got back into my running groove. As I was running I saw another mate Paul was behind me at this section and we had a chat before I let him go past me. I was getting a stitch and I think it was from eating too fast, or too much too soon. A lot of what i had read said to “eat early and eat often” so that’s what I’d done. But I think maybe I had overdone it. So I slowed to a walk to give my body time to process the food. Hopefully it would work.

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It was here on Narrowneck that I met Tammy from Port Macquarie. She took a few happy snaps for me (and I her) so we could soak up the day and have some visual memories. We felt like we were on top of the world, it was so high up there and you could see forever.

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We ran and chatted and it was great to have her company. She works with people who have had severe injuries and/or disabilities from accidents, and helps rehabilitate them. She said that  this is what keeps her running, she thinks of what they have had to endure and if they can achieve their goals then she’s got it easy.

We got to another queue which meant that we were nearing Taros Ladders. I was a bit nervous about this section and that’s probably a huge under-statement. We chatted to everyone in line and Tammy said she would go down after me so that I could take my time and not feel pressured to go faster by anyone else. Another thoughtful, awesome lady.

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I spoke to the safety guide at the top of the stairs (once we got there) and he gave me some reassuring words to help me on my way. The photo below shows the top where you enter to start going down the ladders.

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The shot below shows the second section that you have to climb down and that’s Tammy in the blue/purple top at the bottom. I was very quiet on the way down and there was lots of controlled breathing to keep me steady. Tammy gave me lots of reassuring words and we eventually made it to the bottom in good condition.

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We were back running again. There was some really beautiful scenery around us the whole morning and I snapped as much of it as I could.

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The picture below does not do this hill any justice, it was bloody steep!!

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I had to let Tammy go ahead of me as I seemed to be slowing her down a bit and then I was lucky enough to bump into Ruth and we power walked along for a hill section together and sang songs to motivate us up the hills.

We got into CP2 (31kms) and I was busting for the toilet again so that was our first stop. I re-assessed how I was feeling and I was feeling great. I’d almost used up my 2L bladder and both of my flasks were empty so i set about filling them up first. I wished Ruth all the best with her journey and sent her on her way (as she was ready before me and I still hadn’t filled my bottles). I texted my sister to let her know how I was travelling and I was again moving faster than planned but feeling in good shape.

Leaving this checkpoint I grabbed some mandarines and lollies and thanked the friendly volunteers who were working hard there that day. It was great to know that the next Checkpoint I would see my crew, and I think this spurred me on to keep a consistent steady pace throughout the next section.

I eventually got to the Iron Pot Ridge and the views up there were amazing. There was also a man playing the digeridoo and a man banging sticks in time. You could hear them a while before you saw them but it was great to know they were coming up, another landmark to tick off the list of places we’d been.

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There was also an out and back section here so you could see who was ahead of you (I saw Ruth and wished her well again) and also who was behind you. I didn’t know many of the people behind me but I wished them all well anyway and everyone smiled to spur each other along. We also ran through some private properties and one of them had lots of horses, I think the below is their (very long) driveway.

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These two horses seemed to be cuddling when I got to them, they were standing right in front of the gate that we had to go through – aren’t they beautiful. (I took the photo from behind the gate)

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I don’t remember too much more about this next section, but it brought back memories of the Find your Feet Camp (run by Hanny Allstom) that I had run earlier that year, as we had run this section together and enjoyed it then. I’d learnt about technique here so I made a mental note to keep reminding myself about technique, especially as there were lots of stairs coming up not just at Nellie’s Glen but all of CP4 to CP5 – it was going to be tough!!

I ran along the Megalong Road and could feel my stomach churning a little as I was in need of a toilet stop (and it wasn’t for number ones, I know – gross). I think that’s why I ran most of the last 4-5km into CP3, because I was busting for the toilet!

The North Face 100 2014

When I ran into CP3 (46km) I saw my sister getting some pictures and she took my pack from me while I queued up for the toilet. What a relief.

And there they were, my trusty crew all setup waiting for me with my food and backpack re-filled and ready to go. By the looks of all my gear you’d think I was running for a week!

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Here’s me below stuffing myself with food, some yummy french fries!! I also had a shirt change here into a new top and changed into my Hokas as the soles of my feet were getting a little sore from the Nike’s. In the photo below you can see Todd (left) sorting out my backpack, and Megan (centre) who helped me change and was checking how I was feeling etc.

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My sister Shelley is the one behind the lens. My sister had been with me when I ran my first marathon less than a year ago, she met me at every spectator spot that day and has been a huge support to me in my running adventures. My big sis and I haven’t always seen eye to eye but she’s now one of my closest friends and I am so glad I got to share this with her too.

Megan is my sister-in-law and one of the most positive and friendly women I know. I met my husband through her and she was the one who encouraged me to start running with a run club a couple of years ago when we both entered the Nike She Runs in 2012 and needed to get fit. And we did!

Todd was one of the Run Leaders at the Nike Run Club where we both started running. He has seen me come from not being able to run 5km in 2012, to where I am today – attempting 100km! He’s been a huge running inspiration for me and we both ran the M7 marathon as our first marathon (he ran it in 2012, myself in 2013). He was also the instigator for getting me into Six Foot Track!!

Now back to the race!

After I changed, ate, chatted and hugged them all I made my way out of CP3 towards what would be quite a tough section. And I needed to wee again!! So i found a hidden section off the road and sat quietly waiting for some runners to go past me. I didn’t want to make any noises because then they would turn around. My legs ached when i tried to stand back up, but eventually I got going again and made sure that I had some food before I got to Nellie’s Glen, a large stair climb that was very tough.

While going up Nellie’s the tree cover is quite thick and before I got to the top I had to stop and get out my headlamp, vest, buff, arm warmers and gloves. This only took a minute or so but it meant I could see the track more clearly in the failing light and also kept me warmer as the temperature was starting to drop.

It was quite surreal knowing that you’d seen the sun rise and now I was watching it fall. And then fall is what happened… I slipped on a tricky bit of step/rock and my right leg went out from under me. It didn’t hurt too much at the time, but later it would be the beginning of the end. I didn’t think much of it, just got back up and kept moving and kept thinking about seeing my crew again at CP4 which was at the Katoomba Aquatic Centre where I knew I could change into some warm clothes and get my proper headlamp for the darkness which was spreading all around me.

Here’s a shot of me just before CP4, and I only know this because I’m still wearing my pink arm warmers. I’m not sure where it is (sorry).

The North Face 100 2014

Just before CP4 there was a road section and I was surprised to see a few locals out cheering me on. I was alone for 90% of this section so it was lovely to hear some encouragement and see they were out braving the cold night air too.

Running into CP4 was wonderful, it was heated (that’s why i’m smiling below, ha ha). My right side/hip/butt was hurting a little so my crew gave me a rub down and I went to change into some warmer gear. I also made sure to have a toilet stop, and I remember thinking how nice it felt to sit down (which I mentioned to the other runner using the toilet cubicle next to me, we both had a good laugh about that).

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I scoffed down some food and chatted to the crew while they filled my pack and got me ready for the next section. I felt a little stiff in the legs so I stretched. The pain in my side was a bit annoying but I felt like I had lots of energy left to finish the course. This was good, things were going to plan!

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I probably had my longest stop here, but it wasn’t that long (I don’t think, maybe 20 mins). And I set off out the door grabbing some last minute lollies for the road. When I got outside I chatted to another lady who had set off at the same time and we both didn’t want to run the next section alone in the dark, so we made a pact to stick together and get to CP5.

I learnt that her name was Kylie and she was actually a triathlete, this was her first ever trail race and she looked super fit. We both had AyUp torches (mine thanks to Anne Powell who let me borrow them for the race, I owe you big time Anne – thanks!!) so the trail was lit up like daylight and this was great for 2 ladies who seemed to be a little scared of the dark. I had done a bit of night training, but nothing prepared me for this.

Most of this next section is a blur to me and I have no idea of what order things happened or where we were, as the darkness makes it hard to keep track. There are a few things I remember from this section and the main one is that it was filled with stairs. If you weren’t going up stairs, then you were going down stairs (and if you weren’t doing either of those then you must have gotten lost!).

I think the reason I can’t remember much of this section is because of the pain in my leg/hip/butt that slowly got worse and worse during this section of the course. So here are some of the professional night shots, I don’t know where, but at least I kept trying to smile!

The North Face 100 2014

The North Face 100 2014

That’s Kylie below in the front. I’m so thankful that I had her company through this section, she was such an angel to me and she kept me moving when my leg and head cried for me to stop. I’m not sure what we talked about much, I think as the pain got worse my brain kind of switched off to ignore it which meant that it ignored other things happening around me too. Sorry Kylie!!

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This section ended up taking me twice the planned time, which meant my support crew had been standing around for hours in the cold. I remember thinking about them and how I had to just keep moving, I just had to get to CP5 to see them and everything would be better when I got there.

Kylie and I finally hit the road section before CP5 and she asked me if it was ok for her to run, “Of course” I said, I think I’d been holding her back. I wished her the very best of luck (at least I think I did) and i shuffled/hobbled my way along the road as fast as my legs would take me. I could hear 2 guys talking behind me and they were getting closer, I tried to stop crying but couldn’t. I hurt, I was in a bad way and they said they could see me limping. They offered some pain killers but I was worried that with my weak stomach it wasn’t the best thing to do (and who knows what they would have given me!!). They made jokes and cheered me up a little. But I had a sinking feeling that this might be it for me.

It’s very hard to put into words the thousands of emotions, feelings and scenarios that were playing around in my head. For example, should I just take some pain killers and soldier on till the end risking further injury, or should I just stop being a baby and keep moving, or should I take this seriously and look after my body by pulling out and trying again next year. I kept going through ‘what if’s’ and couldn’t really come up with an answer. This was the darkest time of my run and led to one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make.

I hobbled into CP5 (78km) in tears and saw my support crew cheering me on. I also looked up and saw 3 of my childhood friends who I hadn’t seen in over 10 years, they had come along to surprise and support me. I was overjoyed and saddened all at the same time. I’ll be honest, I felt like a huge disappointment for getting into CP5 so much later than planned, as it was now 1.30am.

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We moved into the First Aid tent and I was still intent on finishing the race at that point. I asked for a chair so i could sit for a minute but they offered me a bed and I couldn’t say no. I laid down and my support crew rushed around me making sure I was warm and eating and hydrated. The nurse and doctor came over to see me and they were ever so helpful. I kept telling them that I was getting up in a minute, but when I tried to get up the pain in my right leg was unbearable.

I laid back down and I cried, I was a failure. I was going to have to pull out the race.

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I got hugs from my crew and from my friends and I’m not really sure what I said to them as I had thousands of emotions running through my head. They were all so wonderful, they kept reminding me that I had run the furthest distance I had ever run and how proud they were to see me get that far. I tried to smile and be happy to have come that far and I was so lucky to have had them all to support me at that moment, but all I could feel was disappointment in myself. The hardest part was that I felt like I had the fitness to go on, I’d got the hydration and nutrition elements right but my leg had failed me.

Eventually I pulled myself together and stopped crying. I wished my friends well as they had to head home, they’d been there since 8.30pm!! It really was so great to see their smiling faces (below: Melissa, Kylie & Jessica) and I’ll never forget that ladies, you are so wonderful for coming along.

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The nurse came over and got me to sign a form to confirm that I had to pull out and she joked saying that she didn’t want to see me next year (not in the First Aid tent anyway!!).

My amazing crew gathered everything and got me to the car in one piece. We headed back to the house in Leura and I wrapped myself in a blanket they’d given me to keep warm. I hobbled into the house and jumped into the shower to warm up and then change into some warm clothes. The plan had been to stay and sleep for a few hours but everyone was wide awake so we sat and chatted for a little while and then we all packed up the cars and headed for home. Luckily I had Megan driving me home and I nodded off a couple of times during the trip. I just wanted to be back in my own bed and in my husbands arms, and thankfully he was home waiting for me.

So that’s the brutally honest version of my horrible ending to the the race, but one week on and I’m feeling much better and positive about the whole experience. I’ve learnt so much from what I went through and I have learnt a lot about myself and what I am capable of. I’ve already decided that I will be back at TNF100 in 2015 as I have unfinished business to take care of, and I know now what to expect and what areas I can work on and improve. You haven’t seen the last of me yet!

One of the greatest things about this race, is that fact that I managed to raise over $10,000 for the UNSW Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing, that’s a huge mountain in itself. And I could not have done that without the loving, caring and kind support of all my friends and family (actual family & running family) near and far. Check out the EverydayHero page here for more information: https://cheba2.everydayhero.com/au/running-hailey

I owe a HUGE amount to my support crew for spending the day looking after me and mostly waiting for me. I could not have done the race without their support and I will be forever thankful and happy that i got to share this experience with them. I could not have chosen 3 better people to do the job. So thank you so much Shelley, Megan & Todd – you are the best!

The last thing I want to mention is my family and friends. I received hundreds (no joke) of calls, messages, emails, comments and posts of encouragement before, during and after the race. And when I was at my lowest point you all brought me back to life in some small way. You made me realise that I have done something most people will never attempt, never even dream of doing. You have reminded me that this is not the end, it’s only the beginning. I feel so lucky to have you all and I hope you all reach for the stars and follow your dreams, because I know it’s now possible for me to achieve anything I put my mind to. And if it’s possible for me, then it’s possible for you too!

Happy Running 😀

Tapering is Tough

Tapering: is the gradual reduction of training intensity and duration as you edge forever closer to race day. It is a necessary aspect of endurance training and it starts in the last few weeks before the big day.

So I decided 2 days ago that the only way I was going to slow myself down this weekend was by volunteering at the Sydney Trail Series as they have a local race organised for this Saturday. This way I don’t feel like i’m missing out entirely and i’ll still get to see all my running mates out on the course as i have been given the role of a marshal.

Basically the marshal just stands along the course at a particular point and sends runners in the right direction so they don’t get lost. You are also encouraged to cheer the runners along… like I need to be told to do that!! Good luck shutting me up, ha ha

So i’m really looking forward to tomorrow and I hope the weather holds out as it’s been raining on and off for the past 2 days.

Sunday i’m going to join my mates Nigel, Leah & Ruseel (from Sydney Striders) for a short version of their STaR course, we’re planning to do just under 13kms.

I hope you all have a lovely weekend planned and…. 1 more week till the biggest run of my life!! So scared, excited and happy all at once!!

Happy Running 😀

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It’s a good thing I love hills!

I feel like I say this every week, but I can honestly say that last Saturday’s Mt Solitary 45km Ultra Marathon was the toughest course I have ever attempted. But it was also the most fun!!

Here are some stats to give you an idea of the course (as per my Garmin):

Distance – 46.3 km

Time – 8 hrs 36 mins 33 secs

Elevation Gain – 2,308 m

Elevation Loss – 2,292 m

Fastest km – 3’43” (running down Kedumba walls)

Slowest km – 28’44” (climbing up Mt Solitary)

I got up at 3.30am on Saturday morning to have some breakfast (toast, banana & peppermint tea) before jumping in the car and driving to the Blue Mountains. It’s about a 2 hour drive from my place which includes a toilet stop at the servo near the end of the journey to avoid the queues at the start line.

When I arrived it was still dark but thankfully not as cold as I had been expecting. There were a few other runners who were earlier than me and we got our mandatory gear ready for checking by the organisers. We were required to carry a course map, waterproof jacket, food for 3-5hrs, compression bandage, mobile phone, whistle, compass, space blanket and 2L of fluid. Plus they had added thermal gloves and a beanie/buff.

I chatted with Craig from the Striders at the start line and ran into lots of running friends as we prepared for the race. I even ran into Simon & Mike from my run club in the city, I had no idea they were doing this race but it was awesome to see them out there! Sam from PwC was also there getting another long run in before TNF100 and feeling much better than when I last saw him at Six Foot Track. And the lovely Sherin who was having difficulty with her hydration pack which was leaking and I worried that she would not have enough water, but tried to stay positive and reassure her that it would be fine.

We positioned ourselves at the start, a field of 168 runners with only 28 females. I know this means that I am guaranteed a Top 30 finish, but it would be great to see many more women out there competing.

The gun went off and we all made our way up the first section towards the top of Kedumba walls for the first descent. My goal for the day was to make it to the Checkpoint at 25km before the cut-off time which was 5hrs 15mins, which meant doing roughly 5km per hour (or faster). There were some really funny guys running just ahead of me and we all laughed at their jokes and it put me in a really good mood from the start. They were hilarious!

We ran down Kedumba and I love the downhill sections so I used it to get past a couple of people, knowing full well that they would catch me on the next flat or uphill, but you have to work your strengths. I used the downhill technique that Hanny and Graham had taught us at the training camp, and I was warming up and feeling good.

The first big hill we had to climb on this course was Mount Solitary and you knew it when you hit it. This was the slowest section of the course but it was also lots of fun. I had been chatting with a few of the runners around me and a Strider friend got some great shots of us making the climb so the next 4 photos are courtesy of Craig Thom.

The first shot below is probably the least steep section, it only got rockier and steeper after this point and you had to get your hands dirty too.

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Here’s me holding up the speedsters (below). I let a few go past me on several sections as I need to make sure i left some fuel in the tank for the rest of the course.

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And that’s me having a drink break (below).

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And another break (below) for some air I think, but still smiling and thumbs up!

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Once we got to the top it was rolling ups and downs and the views were magnificent. It was quite jaw dropping to think that we had started in the valley below and climbed our way to the top of the mountain….. the fog was so low beneath us too and i felt like I was up in the heavens.

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And then even more fun began! You would be running a long and all of a sudden there would be a cliff in front of you and the only way to go was down the rocks on the cliff edge. Here’s one of the first climb down sections that was a good taster for what was still to come.

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A new running friend (who I would later find out is called Blake) stopped to take in a shot of the view, and me being the tourist trail runner did exactly the same thing. So we decided to swap cameras and get a shot for each other. The view from Mt Solitary was amazing to say the least!!

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The steepest section of rock climbing took me a little by surprise. I had been running through some thicker bush for a while and then all of a sudden there was an edge with some pink tape.

For the non-trail runners out there we always follows the tape along a course (today’s was pink) and it helps you to stay on track and not get lost. They are usually place every couple of kilometers and are most useful.

So I could see this pink tape flapping in the breeze ahead of me and I approached it slowly and with caution….

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To say I have a slight fear of heights would be an understatement, so I crept closer and closer to the edge….

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and realised this was going to be a very tough section for me. Look at that drop! I had to get photos because something a pictures tells a thousand words. And this one below should tell you that I was packing it!!

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But slowly I made it down the rocky section and back onto some much loved dirt. It was a most beautiful course, rolling hills everywhere you looked.

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We ran along some more dirt sections and rocky sections and then we hit the rainforest. The changes in scenery around me were so impressive that day. It was breathtaking.

Apologies for the awful selfie, but at least i’m still smiling 🙂

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I took a break from photos through the middle sections which included the Furber Steps, as i concentrated on making it to the checkpoint within the cutoff time. I ran a few sctions with a lady called Tina, she was a lot faster than me on the flats so we played leap frog through a couple of sections here.

She was a bit lost as we approached the Scenic Railway and thankfully i knew this section so I guided her towards the Furber Steps. When I was about halfway up Furber Steps I looked back and saw Sarah-Jane, and if you’ve read the blog about my first marathon then you’ll probably remember this name. SJ  kept me company during my first marathon and we ran most of the second half of the race together. She’s an amazing ultra runner (who sparked the idea of doing an ultra long ago) and has a heart of gold. I was so happy to see her and we chatted all the way to the top of the stairs. She encouraged me all the way to the top and I was so glad to have bumped into her on the course.

I made it to the checkpoint in 4 hrs 45 mins, so that gave me half an hours grace. I was so happy to have made it within the cut off time, as they had strictly told me that I would be pulled from the race if I did not meet the cut off. I wanted to get in and out as quick as possible too, as I still needed to make it to the finish line within 9 hours, and there was another 20km of tough course to come.

We also ran into Sherin who unfortunately had to pull herself out of the race due to problems with her foot. But it was a mart idea for her as she didn’t want to jeopardise her TNF chances. So I wished her well and re-filled my water bladder and 2 electrolyte flasks, grabbed a banana and some lollies and headed with SJ and a few others back down the Furber stairs, I wanted to try and stay with them for as long as possible.

They pulled ahead of me a little while after we had reached the flat section below and i settled in for some quiet alone running time with yours truly. It was a great time for me to clear my head and assess how I was feeling. I had not had enough water and so I started making an effort to try and drink more than I had been all morning.

The time alone was very relaxing and it geared me up ready for the final hills that were to come. I knew there was another rocky section ahead of me and then the infamous Kedumba walls as the final climb.

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There were more and more rocks developing along the trail and it was getting steeper.

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I looked up to my left at one point and the cliffs were amazing (below).

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The next 2 photos are the official race photographers shots (GeoSnapShot.com) and they give you an idea of how steep some of the sections were. I’ve even got my hand on my knee to help me up at this point.

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The photographer just sort of appeared out of nowhere, so i’m glad I was smiling.

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Then we left the rocks behind again and headed through another rainforest section. The colours and landscapes were all so different and it was almost surreal to be running in this place. Here’s Tina giving me a smile for the camera (below).

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Then we headed for Kedumba walls and I was on track to make it within the cut off time. I ran a large section with Blake and we chatted about life and about running. He and his wife were expecting a baby soon so she’d had to stop running only recently, which was driving her nuts. One day I will probably have to do the same, but not for a little while yet… Margie, don’t get excited. You can sit back down! (ha ha)

Kedumba was tough, very tough. After all the grueling kilometers it was a slow journey to the end and i spent most of it by myself when I pushed Blake to go on ahead and not let me hold him back.

I climbed and climbed and it felt like it was never going to end. But I managed to catch up to a guy called Darren who had run with SJ and i earlier. We chatted a little and eventually I let him go ahead too as he was speeding up and i didn’t have it in me.

However he did encourage me to keep running and moving to get to the line quicker and with that I started running again as soon as I hit the peak of the hill. I ran the last couple of kilometers and crossed the line in 8 hours 36 minutes and 22 seconds, 3rd last over all.

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You could not wipe the smile off my face and as i crossed the finish line SJ was waiting for me with my medal and to give me a big hug!! I’d had my doubts the week before the run and I was so happy to have completed another exciting chapter in my journey to TNF100.

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I came away from the race feeling a lot more confident about the big challenge that lies ahead in May, as i had handled this race and the course very well in my eyes. Especially when you consider that there were 11 people who unfortunately DNF (did not finish).

Garmin

Now it’s time to taper and prepare for the biggest race of my life – bring on The NorthFace100 – 3 weeks to go!!

Happy Trail Running 😀