We pulled up at the drop off area at the Oxfam Trailwalker Sydney last Friday and were greeted with rain and a very grey looking sky. Thankfully we were all in high spirits and the mood at the registration tent was excitement plus!!
Our team bibs were given out and the nerves were starting to show more and more. This was it, we were here at the start line and there was no turning back now. We donned our temporary ponchos and made a quick trip to the toilet before taking our place on the starting line. Everyone was chatty and positive and I could feel it was going to be a great day (and night!). Roger had even organised some team shirts for us and they looked (and felt) fantastic. Thanks Roger!
We talked over some last minute race plans and tried to make sure we were in front of any walkers who might slow us down on the single track later on the trail. And the countdown began, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1….. we were off!
We waved to Pip our lovely chauffeur to the start line and support crew extraordinaire and made our way along the road to the first (bloody steep) fire trail hill. Emma and Dominic were just ahead of Roger and myself and we chatted all the way as we walked up the hill, everyone was friendly and wishing each other well.
Our first section was 15.6km from Parsley Bay to Muogamarra RFS which we estimated to take 2 hrs 35mins, it was very technical and very hilly and on this day very, very wet! We ended up completing the section in 2hrs 23 mins (9:23am) and spent less than 10 minutes in the checkpoint getting some food and having a toilet stop.
The second section from Muogamarra RFS to Berowra was 11.9 km which we estimated to take 2hrs 25mins and this was the roughest, most difficult section we would encounter. It ended up taking us 2hrs 15 mins (11:48am) but we took the whole 10 mins at this checkpoint as it was the firs time we saw our crew. I changed my shirt which was very wet from sweat and rain, and Pip refilled my bladder and flasks. I also had a nutella sandwich, so gooood!
The third section was 15km from Berowra to Bobbin Head which we estimated would take 2hrs 50min, and rated the same difficulty as the first section. The rain had been on and off in a light flutter all morning but it was starting to clear by this point. However my feet were completely soaked and the trails were so slippery and muddy it was much tougher under foot than our usual training runs.
We got to Bobbin Head in 2hrs 53mins (2:45pm) which was pretty much right on plan. It was great to see the crew again and they made everything so easy and were so reliable. We got out of there in 10 minutes again, thank to Kerry our fabulous timekeeper, and headed for St Ives Showground. It was going to get dark before the end of this section so we had not only changed our shirts but also picked up our head torches.
The distance to St Ives Showground was 15.6kms and we estimated it would take 3hrs 10mins. Some very hilly sections through here and very, very wet under foot. I had not changed my shoes socks yet but planned to at the next checkpoint. The day was going really well and my legs were feeling great, the team were really coming together and we were having lots of fun…… until poor Roger got the dizzies and started feeling sick.
Dom & Em had been running ahead of myself and Roger, when I thought Roger had slowed behind me to go to the toilet. However I slowed down (even walked a bit) and he wasn’t catching up. I got a bit worried and when I caught up to Em and Dom we decided to turn back and look for him. Another runner told us he was lying down and didn’t feel well, ooh no! We rushed over to see him and he looked pale as a ghost. We eventually got some water & food into him and when he felt he could walk we folioed at his pace.
He started to get better and even ran some more of this section, however when we got to just before the sphinx track he started vomiting. Funnily enough he felt better after he had been sick, however it was to be short lived and he ended up dry reaching a few times and you could see that no matter what he tried he wasn’t able to keep anything down. Poor roger was fading, and it wasn’t looking good.
We got into St Ives in 4hrs 20mins (7:05pm) and decided to take a longer stop to help let Roger recover, re-asses and for us to all have some warm pumpkin soup (thanks so much Helen, it was delicious!), get changed and prepare for the night sections that clay ahead. I had some soup, some noodles and changed into some long pants. For the last couple of ams before this checkpoint I had felt like there was a rock in my shoe under foot, however it turned out that my feet were so prune-like (after all the water) that they had shrivelled up and there was a crease in my underfoot that didn’t look pretty. I aired my feet for as long as I could and decided to tape the underneath section to try and avoid blisters and the pain I had been feeling. I also put on some new socks and changed into my Hoka trail shoes, previously I had been wearing my Brooks Adrenaline ASR trail shoes for the extra support.
It was about this point that Roger declared he would have to retire, he didn’t think he could go on and he did not want to slow us down. What a tough call, but one that only he could make. We wishes Roger well and hoped that he would be feeling better soon, and we finally got moving again and got out of the checkpoint. I think we were there for about 15-20mins, which meant that we were very much behind our original schedule.
As we ran out of St Ives towards Macfarlane Reserve, which was 12.5km, we said we would work together and try and make up some time (if possible) and re-asses our goal at the next checkpoint. Our plan had allowed 2hrs 5mins for this section and we ended up completing it in 1hr 50mins (8:53pm) so we were stoked to be making up some time and felt confident we could keep up the pace.
We didn’t spent too much time at Macfarlane Reserve as we were still trying to make up some time, so before you knew it we were out the gates again. We kept checking in on each other, how we were feeling and alerting each other of tricky sections that came up. Which meant that mostly Em & Dom were alerting me as I’m the slower runner and sat at the back for the rest of the run. Ok, so it wasn’t just because I was slow…. there was another reason you would not have wanted to run behind me at some points…. (wink, wink, ha ha) and we made some great jokes about that too.
The trail was so slippery, and some of the cliff sections had all but washed away so it made manoeuvring very slow and you had to be so careful. Throughout the day we had crossed many creeks that were overflowing, large trees and branches also blocked the way and we detoured in certain spots. I remember going through one creek that was above our ankles and it felt like rapids, like we might get washed away! Crazy!
Towards the end of this section my stomach had started to feel queazy and even Dom and Em said they had felt it too, so we had some ginger pieces thrown at us and i’m so glad we had that. It really made me feel so much better!
Earlier in the day we had decided that when we got to 80km we would have a mini-celebration, as this meant it was the furthest we had all run. It was such a great milestone to reach here and we cheered and high fives and carried on being clowns.
We headed for Davidson Park and our estimated time was 2hrs, however we managed to make it in 1hr 50mins (11:14pm) which meant we had again made up some time and our goal to hit 20 hours did not seem that far out of reach. I ran into a friend at this checkpoint and got a little sidetracked as I was changing my socks again, however after scoffing down some noodles (while being yelled at to hurry up, ha ha) we only spent 8 minutes at this checkpoint and were soon on our way to Ararat reserve, the last checkpoint which was only 7.5kms away.
The next section was short and our estimated time was 1hr 40mins, so we kept the pace up and ran all the flats and down hills. I think it was about this point that my body went into auto-drive. I had been going through all this technical trail, with stop/start running and the legs were feeling more and more tired, but they just kept going and we kept up a very consistent, steady pace though it started raining again at this point and the ground was very soft and sloshy. I’m not sure if it was this section (I think it might have been earlier), but we came across a “puddle” that we could not go around and it ended up being past my knees. It went for a good 10 metres too so we got drenched through our shoes again.
I cannot stress how slippery, muddy, wet and rugged the conditions were which also added to the difficulty in staying on your feet. It really was quite dangerous out there and we had heard from other groups about twisted knees and ankles so we had to be super careful, especially now that we were all exhausted and the only light we had was from our torches.
We had been playing leap frog with many teams through out the day and at this point we actually knew we were in about the top 20, how cool was that!! And section seven ended up taking us 1hr 38mins (1:00am) and when we got into Ararat Reserve it was pouring with rain. I ran into Margaret from Striders here at the check-in tent and she was heading towards Seafoth oval to direct runners from there, it was so lovely to see a familiar face. Em ran for the toilet for a quick stop as we had decided to keep warm, keep moving and not stop at this checkpoint, as we had only 11.2kms to go till the finish.
The transition was quick and we were back on our feet and onto the trail in lightening speed, we had 2 hours to complete the last section and hit our goal of 20 hours – very doable, we just had to keep running as there were some tough hills in the last section (especially on tired legs). We were all in high sir its and feeling pretty good considering, our goal was so close we could almost feel it.
When we got to the road sections Dom kept checking to see if other teams were catching up behind us, but we had not seen another team for a long while now. Things were looking great!
We managed to run all of the flat and downhill sections and I felt like running was all I knew. It was like my body just subconsciously knew it had to run and I didn’t even have to think about it anymore. We ran through the streets and over the Spit Bridge and headed through a park and hit the sand section. It was here that I heard another team behind me, catching up! Dom and Em got worried we would lose a place but all I wanted to do was finish strong.
The 2 guys caught up to me and they actually wanted to chat and run with me, which was fantastic. We actually walked the beach section together as Dom and Em ran ahead. The guys were great company, they’d lost 1 team mate to vomiting and 1 mate to a twisted ankle, so they asked if they could check-in at the finish with our team (Sure! As long as we got to go through first! ha ha). They actually mentioned that they had been trying to catch us for hours and were very impressed with how well we were doing, I was chuffed.
The last set of stairs were in sight and we swung around to the last hill up towards the finish area. I decided to hit the gas and lose the boys on the hill, taking aim at Em and Dom walking in front of me. They saw me speed up and started running too, we got to the top of the hill and we held hands as we sprinted across the finish line in 19hrs 43mins – we had done it, we had reached our goal. We had overcome all the obstacles and life could not get any better!!
We all hugged and laughed and I cried, it was such an emotional time for me and i’m even crying now as I read this. After having to DNF at 80km in Northface100 due to injury, I had been questioning and doubting myself for months. I wanted this 100km so badly and I had been training so hard for this race. It really was a dream come true!
And Roger even made it to the finish line which was fantastic, he had eaten, slept and was feeling much better which was great!!
We have managed to raise just over $4,700 and to make things even better we came ended up coming 15th out of all the teams entered, 3rd in the Mixed Teams category. Amazing!! Truly amazing!!
And now I must say thank you to everyone who has supported me/us and helped us achieve this massive goal, as we honestly could not have done it without there support.
To my wonderful team: Roger, Emma, Dominic – I have had so much fun training with you and working with you towards this goal. I could not have picked a better team and i’m so lucky to have shared this journey with you. 2015..? (ha ha)
To our wonderful support crew: Pip – you were an angel, you had everything ready and packed as planned and you did not falter. Your smiley, encouraging face was such a pleasure to be greeted with and I promise to return the favour one day if you’ll have me! And everyone else: Helen, Norm, Sam, Kerry, Nick, Fraser (I hope I haven’t missed anyone, if I have I’m sorry!!) – you guys all played a wonderful role in keeping us on track and ready to go. It was so good hearing your encouragement and seeing everything ready for us when we got to each checkpoint, it could not have been any better! And thanks for the lift home Norm!!
To my family/friends: You have always encouraged and supported me through the good times and the bad. Even when you thought I was completely crazy for taking on such a huge challenge you have never stopped believing in me. M&M – thanks for letting me crash at your place before/after the run, it made life so much easier and you spoiled me so much as always. Sydney Harbour Runners – You guys are all tops and the reason I started and continue to love running to this day. Seeing how much you have all achieved makes me want to never stop reaching for the stars! Sydney Striders – You guys have taught me so much about the trails and helped me finish other races that I never thought possible. Such good running company and I look forward to running with you all again soon. Trailblazers – We have had a short, but very sweet time together so far and I look forward to running with you more and more in the future.
And last but by no means least, thank you to everyone who sponsored us to raise funds for Oxfam. You kindness and generosity has helped to raise over $2m towards putting an end to poverty and you should be proud. Last minute donations can be done here: https://trailwalker.oxfam.org.au/team/home/17564
Happy Running 😀