Stadium Run Newcastle – Half Marathon

What an amazing weekend with a great bunch of people!

Last Sunday was the inaugural Stadium Run in Newcastle, our RunLab founder Vlad (who just ran the Berlin marathon in 2:18, what an inspiration!!) had rallied a crew to organise this amazing event and he did an exceptional job. Aside from a little hiccup with road closures that delayed the start, I throughly enjoyed the event and thank everyone involved for the wonderful experience.

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As a RunLab(ber) we were given the ‘elite’ treatment at this event, which meant we had our very own personalised bibs, an ‘elite’ room to use before and after the race, and the best part…… I was lucky enough to toe the line with Victoria Mitchell, a running hero of mine and a beautiful sole! My bets were on her for 1st woman over the line, she runs like a gazelle and is amazing to watch. Go Vic!

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I have never been on the start line of a race before and the atmosphere was electric. Usually I self seed myself somewhere near the back and find a pacer to stick with during the run, but today I wasn’t sure what pace I should run. I can hear you thinking “what was my race plan?” and to be honest I didn’t have one. My running mate Robbo was trying to get me to stick with him but i didn’t think I’d be able to keep up and didn’t want to go out too hard then crash later on. Another good friend Amanda and I decided that we would run together and just see how we felt, perhaps trying to stick with the 1:50 pacer for as long as we could.

The gun eventually went off and we watched the elites go flying ahead with beautiful motion. Amanda and I chatted and realised we were going way too fast, but we couldn’t slow down (crap!). The hype of the start was exciting and we got carried away with it. But I felt good, so we chatted and kept trying to slow ourselves down to a pace that was manageable.

Unfortunately I lost Amanda at one of the drink stations and couldn’t see her when I looked back. I like to run through the drink stations, I’ve (almost) perfected the art so that I can keep moving while drinking, as i find it hard to get running again once stopped. As i ran along without her and without being able to locate a pacer, I changed my game plan. I decided to keep pushing at this pace and run to feel, this meant I would try to not look at my watch (to check pace) and just run to how I was feeling. It has worked for me in the past in time trials so I was hoping it would work now too. Fingers crossed!!

Okay, so I cracked and looked at the pace on my watch a few times and I was surprised to find that i was sitting between 5’00 and 5’10 pace, could I keep this up? There was only one way to find out.

So i kept pushing myself and picking people off in the distance to catch them. I was looking forward to getting close to the turnaround point as it meant some beautiful beach views and a chance to see the front runners in action as they ran back towards us (and the finish).

There were a few little hills as we approached the beach and along the waterfront, but nothing compared to the mountains I’ve run (walked) in the past, so I pushed myself to maintain pace all the way up the hills and over them just as coach Damon has trained us to do, he would have been proud! I saw the front runners battling it out along the beachfront and they looked ‘in the zone’ but comfortable and flying! I cheered them on and many others behind them as I approached the turn around point.

I was lucky enough to see Julianna, Amanda, Crystal, Robbo and a few other Runlabbers near the turn around point, we were not that far apart after all and I decided to try and catch Robbo, I told him “I was coming to get him” (ha ha).

Reaching halfway is always a massive boost for me, and I attacked the last few hills as I left the beachfront and cheered on as many other runners as possible. I did a check of how I was feeling and I felt good, well, as good as one can feel halfway through a 21km race at a pace they’ve never run before!

This course was all on road so i had been worried about my knee leading into the race, and also the lack of training, but my knee had not given me any niggles and I was feeling pretty good. I was getting a bit tired at one point and a lady in a pink shirt came past me, I looked at my watch and I had slowed to 5’20. I wasn’t going to let this slip away. I made a decision to pick up my feet and get the pace back to 5’10 and I did, I caught the pink shirt lady and we chatted. I told myself to stick with her and i’d get to that finish line. So i put my head down and worked on my form making sure i was running efficiently and kept her in my sights.

There was another turnaround section and i got to see Robbo again, he was just ahead of me. I cheered him on and told him that I was getting closer, I told him he looked good and should finish strong. Helping others always helps me forget about myself and makes the run go quicker, plus i’m sure it helps them to hear positive encouragement so I do it as much as I can, even if I don’t know the person.

We rounded another bend and another water station, I didn’t need any water between here and the finish so kept pushing on. I passed pink shirt girl but she caught up to me (again) and we chatted with what breath we had. After a little while she got ahead of me (yes, again) and I just tried to get into a comfy pace not thinking about her and trying to relax into my strides. I felt tired and hot, but like I could push myself and hopefully keep up the pace till the finish. Here is an action shot, I think we had about 4km to go from this point.

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I kept pink shirt girl in my sights, she was only 20-30 metres ahead of me and there was less than 3km to go now. We ran back along the road we had earlier and saw the start of the 5km race. We actually had to cross in front of the runners to get to our course which was a bit of a challenge, but we found a break and made it through. I was starting to feel the heat of the day and i’m sure my face had gone bright red, maybe I should have stopped for more water? I’d taken a gel at 10km and had stopped 3 times for water/electrolytes so hopefully that had been enough.

Then I looked up and who did I see in front of me? It was Nat Lennon, she was doing the 10km and had only just got back into running, she looked good. I sped up to catch her and gave her a wave and some well wishes as I went past. It was so nice to see another friendly face along the course!

Gosh it was hot.

But there wasn’t far to go now and I could hear the stadium noise building the closer i got. Pink shirt girl was still not far in front of me and with about 1km to go I decided to pick up the pace and finish strong. I went past her and thankfully didn’t see her again (yay!).

As I entered the stadium the buzz was incredible, it pushed me to keep up the speed as I did a lap of the field. I rounded the last corner and heard people cheering my name as I approached the finish line. I saw the clock at 1:48 (and something seconds) and thought “My god, i’m going to break the 1:50!!” so I sped up and managd to finish in 1:48:51 – a half marathon PB for me!

I was wrecked, I was dizzy but I was so, so happy. I was given my finishers medal, then found some water, food and some RunLab friends. Below pic with Justine and Robbo.

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We chatted as I tried to get my breath back and I kept moving my legs which were ever so tight now. The dizziness got worse, so I made my way back to the ‘elite’ room to recover, chatting to a few other friends on the way back. I got to the room and lay on the ground with my feet in the air up against the wall, and eventually the dizziness subsided.

What an amazing run, an amazing event, with amazing people. I knew I had given it my all, I could not have given anything more and I was so proud for not giving up. And the best part was that it had been pain-free!!

Happy Running 😀

Southern Highlands Challenge 19km

On Sunday 30th August I competed in the 19km Southern Highlands Challenge in the beautiful Wingello State Forest, and I have to thank Runners Kitchen for providing me with the entry as I won a competition they advertised on facebook. I literally won the entry a week before the event so there was not a lot of preparation. I’m also very lucky that I have 2 wonderful friends who live 10 mins drive from the start line, as apparently there will little or no accommodation available in the area at this late stage. So thank you Urusula and Carlos for letting me crash again this year!

This race was a favourite of mine lat year, so many good friends and a great start/finish area with stands and food stalls to suite very runners needs. Hats off the April for organising such a great event, if you haven’t run it then you’re missing out and need to get in marked in your calendar for 2016.

A couple of days before the race I decided to drop back to the 19km (instead of the 22km) as I felt I hadn’t really done enough training and in hindsight I think I should have stuck with the 22km as apparently it had less hills (and perhaps would have been a little easier, oh well). So I toed the start line with some fellow Striders and chatted to ‘Mr Ultra’ Craig Thom. We stuck together for the first part of the run but eventually I think I let him go ahead, or was it the other way around (?), I think I let him go ahead. My knee was giving me a little pain but I focused on improving my technique and it get better.

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This was a tough course, lots of hills early on and I felt really good at the start, I felt strong. But eventually the gas wore off a little and this meant my technique faltered and brought on more knee pain.

I had to slow down, I event walked. Not happy with myself. Watched lots of people go past who were all so lovely and asked if I was okay, “was i limping?”. Crap. Kept telling myself to stand up tall and just keep moving, get to that finish line. It was ugly, my legs felt like lead weights and I probably should have been resting after the C2S the week prior.

We runners are so stubborn, we hate to miss out on a run. So I plodded on, found a way to run that didn’t hurt (as much) and kept moving.

About 2km from the finish line I was overjoyed to see some of my Striders friends who were doing the longer course versions, as we shared the course at this point. I got to see my buddy Maria who I ran with at TNF100 and that brought the smile back to my face. She was looking strong and enjoying the run, it really raised my spirits.

I bid Maria farewell with less than 1km to go and picked up the pace to finish strong. Maria had given me the kick up the butt I needed, even if she didn’t know it. And I crossed that line with a smile on my face after having conquered the inner demons pulling me down.

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After a sausage, bacon & egg sandwich (included in the entry) and a coke (my treat after long runs) I met up with all my mates and we cheered others over the finish line as they came in with smiling faces.

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Every run teaches me something new not only about myself, but about others. I learnt that I can ignore my brain (ha ha) and talk myself into (or out of) anything. Then there are the people I meet on the trails, they are such genuine, caring people and it’s good to know that there is kindness in the world which can seem so cruel at times.

I went home with a smile on my face and a medal around my neck. And I had made the conscious decision that the negativity which had been creeping into my brain during recent runs needed to stop. From now on only positive, encouraging thoughts and actions were allowed. Wish me luck!

Happy running 🙂

City 2 Surf 2015

I know i’t very late, but here it is…

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This years was my 9th City 2 Surf and I woke up very nervous on the morning of the race. If you’ve been reading my posts I’ve been having a few niggles with my right knee and running on the road seems to aggravate it sometimes, so I knew there was a chance today’s run could be painful.

Last year I had to line up for over 30mins to deposit my drop bag and almost missed the cut-off time for those so I decided to arrive (very) early this year to avoid the hassle and stress of that happening again. So I dropped off my bag and waited around stretching and trying to keep warm until my friends arrived. Ganesh was there and I had a chat to him about his running, such a lovely bloke and he has achieved so much with his running.

I had organised to meet Emma & Maria before the race as we were all in the same red start group, so once they arrived we made our way over to the start area after another quick pit stop to make sure I wouldn’t have to stop for the toilet on course.

My goal with this race every year is to beat my time from the previous year and in 2014 my time was 74:04. It wasn’t going to be easy to beat that time as I had not done a lot of speedwork and most of my training had been long, slow distance, but I always give it my all.

We ran a little warm up in the small area that we had and ran into some other Striders friends who were also in the same group. We chatted nervously at the start line and my thoughts turn to my grandmother… I had been raising funds for dementia research with CHeBA for the past few years and today we had a large CHeBA contingency which was wonderful to see. Today when I was struggling I would think of her to help push me along, I do this in so many of my runs and it always brings a calmness over me.

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When the gun went off we all passed on our best wishes and I tried to stay calm and comfortable with my running. I wasn’t sure if I would see the girls again along the course but I secretly hoped I would!

I felt pretty good that morning but felt that my goal time of under 74mins would not be doable, so I just tried to maintain a pace a little faster than what I was comfortable with and see how long I could hold it for. And I had decided weeks before that today I was going to make Heartbreak Hill my bitch!!

City2Surf is such a massive run, there’s so many people to dodge around and trip hazards on the road, but it also has a wonderful atmosphere and this year we were promised more music along the course which I was very much looking forward to.

I remember thinking how focused I felt in the first couple of kms, trying to remain relaxed in my body but pushing myself at the same time. A wonderful friend Brendan called out to me at one point as I was coming down one of the hills and we chatted for a short time about how he was running with his sister. I”m not sure how much I said to him at the time and I hope that I wasn’t rude, but I just had no breath to talk as I was really pushing myself to make up time on the downhills. Sorry Brendan!

Then I started to think about that Heartbreak Hill, it wasn’t far off and I was going to run it and push myself the whole way up and over the hill (like we had practised at Runlab so many times). So I dug in and kept my arms driving which kept the legs spinning over. I found a rhythm with my breath and tried to hold it the hold way up that bugger. I managed to pass a lot of people on this hill and when I got to the top I felt fantastic!I tried to keep up the pace on the next few sections and prepared myself for the several small hills that were coming up.

I remember looking at my watch at the halfway point and doing some calculations in my head, I wasn’t going as fast as I needed to get my goal time but there were quite a few downhills to come (a strength of mine) which I could possibly make up some time.

When I started to hurt I turned my actions top encourage other runners who had began to walk, most of them started running again and thanked me for the push. I like to do this and take the focus off myself when i’m running, plus I know how much it helps to encourage someone as I’ve been in their boat before and it sucks when you feel alone and beaten. They always smile and have a crack, just what I like to see!

And we finally approached the last hill, I ramped it up a notch as I knew that I had slowed for some reason, probably just getting tired. I was going to smash these few last downhills and I kept doing the calculations in my head to see if I would make the goal… it was going to be close.

Secretly my goal had been to get under 70mins…. and I started to think it may be possible!

The last 3km of that race are the hardest I have ever pushed myself before. I knew I really had to finish strong if I was to get close to either of my goals and I just ran my little heart out, passing many people as I headed towards the last bend on the road and down the small section to the finish line.

I was sprinting, I was hurting but I felt like I was flying….. I made it in 70:35!

To be completely honest, as I crossed that line and looked at my time the first thought that came into my head was negative as I had not cracked the 70min mark. I kept thinking how or what could I have done different during the race to get that 35 seconds back, what had I missed?! I kept playing over scenarios in my head, I shouldn’t have stopped for those 2 drinks stops, I should have positioned myself better at the start to avoid the crowds and having to dodge people, I should have….

Some much needed friendly faces appeared at the finish line, it was Georgie & Michael and a few others from SHR (Sydney Harbour Runners). I hadn’t seen them for a while so it really made me smile and we chatted and laughed about the race. I also chatted to a group of Runlabbers near the finish and then made my way over with Georgie to collect our drop bags.

We grabbed our bags and put on some warm clothes, it was a beautiful sunny day but I always get a little chill after a race, it’s the body taking time to recover from the exertions you’ve just put it through. I ran into Peta from work and some other SHRunners and it was great to see so many familiar faces, especially amongst an entry field of 65,000 people!

I planned to call past the Sydney Striders tent and the RunLab tent however after searching for 20-30mins and not being able to find them I gave up and headed to meet my CHeBA team mates for a bbq at one of the beaches south of Bondi. The walk to meet them gave me some time to reflect and take in the beautiful surroundings. The weather was picture perfect and I felt so lucky to be able to be a part of this sport we call running.

My mood started to lift and then it dawned on me, I had just run a PB by almost 4 minutes. Now that was something to be happy about!!

Heidi and a few others from CHeBA were there to greet us with big smiles! Most of them were very impressed with my time and I thought about how much of an idiot I had been for being so hard on myself. We are our own worst enemies sometimes!

I got some food and drink into me and was so happy when Megan arrived excited and happy with her run, she had smashed her goal and also done an amazing job in raising funds for CHeBA. Megan is a friend and PT client of mine and I had introduced her to CHeBA, I was very proud.

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We chatted for a long while as other CHeBA champions arrived and we heard there race stories. Unfortunately we also learnt that Prof Sachdev, one of CHeBA’s founders, had taken a fall during the run, he’d hurt his shoulder and been rushed to hospital. He was such a lovely man and we all felt sad when we heard the news.

Aside from the Professor’s bad luck it has been a pretty awesome day. I had learnt a lot and would be back in 2016 for my 10th time at this race, and I wold be ready to crack that 70mins!!

Happy running 😀

Careflight Woodford to Glenbrook 2015

It’s been a long while since my last running blog and there’s a very good reason, I took a break. After 18 months of training for the 2014 TNF100, getting injured, recovering, running Oxfam 100, then more training for the 2015 TNF100, I figured I should really give my body a well earned break. So I have spent the past 4-5 weeks enjoying no set training schedule and catching up with friends and family. There have been only 2 occasions that I have run during that time and both were for less than 7km each (and only as I had to take a run group for work, a great crew to run with). However I have done some cycling and some swimming to keep up a little cardio, but again they were not of a high intensity so i’m not sure they count.

After such a long break I was a little nervous going into Sundays race, a 24km trail run in the beautiful blue mountains, but I knew the course (which was all downhill after the 12km mark) as I had run it last year for the first time and managed a half marathon PB back then.

So Sunday morning I met Maria (my most awesome running buddy) at her place for 6:45am, then we picked up Fran and were on our way to the mountains to park at the finish line where we met Liz & Nigel who were transporting us to the start line (thank you so much guys!). Thankfully it wasn’t as cold as last year, but this also meant that I was dressed inappropriately as I probably should not have worn my long thermal tights. Oh well – too late now.

I ditched the gloves and the arm warmers and we got ready at the start line. Maria and I had decided to take it easy today as we both had done little to no training, but I knew she would probably kick my butt. Here’s a shot of a few of us goofing around at the start (below).

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We saw some others Sydney Striders and had a photo with the group before the gun went off and we were running up the first hill under sunny blue skies. We chatted and wished each other well for the run and Maria and I stuck together as the gun went off.

There were lots of ups and downs but nothing like some of the mountains I have run in the past, so I tried to run most of them or at least power walk up the ones that I walked. I felt great. I was slamming it down the hills and the body was feeling fantastic. I was so happy to be back out running on the trails and felt lucky to be there. I pushed myself a little more at the start than I probably should, but I knew the second half of the course would be a lot easier as it was a gradual decline to the finish after the 13km mark.

I realised early on that my Garmin was still set to Bike mode which was a bit annoying, but after both Maria and I trying to change it and failing I gave up. I left it on bike mode and relaxed back into my run feeling great. Somehow I managed to lose Maria when I was going downhill but she caught up to me again further along and I was happy to see her face. My right knee had started to hurt a few kms back. I had feared that it might flare up again after little to no running or strength work over the past couple of weeks, and I don’t think it had fully recovered since TNF.

From here the pain got progressively worse and I slowed my pace and added some walking (with lunging strides) to release some of the pain, but it didn’t get much better. I decided not to push myself and cause further injury and cruised home in the slowest possible speed to try and avoid making it worse.

I got passed by just about everybody, which wasn’t much fun. But I was still happy and kept smiling and chatting to the other runners as they came past. Some of them even stopped to see if I was okay. Trail runners are the nicest people 🙂

The last 4km seemed to go on forever and I was relieved to see the finish area when I eventually reached the Euroka clearing. There was a nice long downhill & an older lady in a hot pink top that I could not let beat me, so I blasted down that hill (with a lot of knee pain) and sprinted up the final hill to the finish line. I was so glad it was over so I could sit down and rest the knee.

I found our crew and we all chatted about our run and picked a lunch venue for celebrations (yes, there’s always something to celebrate). We ended up the Ori Cafe which is at the Oriental Hotel in Springwood and the meals were fantastic, I highly recommend that place if you’re ever up in the area.

My run didn’t go that great, but sometimes they don’t. It’s reminded me how important strength work is and that you really should not attempt a run of that distance with no training. Looks like some more rest and strength work is needed then i’ll be back into it again soon.

Stay tuned & happy running 😀

Redemption at The North Face 100

Like most of my race reports this is a long one, so grab a cuppa and get comfortable while I take you on a ride through the 2015 North Face 100.

On the Friday before race day I picked up my running buddy Maria and we made our way up to Katoomba in my little Toyota Yaris. I wish I had taken a photo of the boot of my car as it was chockers with gear for the run. We looked like we were going away for a week!!

When we got to Katoomba we did a grocery shop and the amount of food that we bought could probably have fed a small army. It’s quite hard to know what sort of food you’re going to feel like eating when you’re out on the trail for such a long period of time, so you always end up taking more than you actually need. And we only ‘just’ fit the shopping bags it into the boot with our gear, ha ha

We then checked into the 3 Explorers Hotel which was old but very comfortable and cosy, as it had a working heater and electric blankets. Maria and I carted our gear up to the room on the first floor (and spoke of how much we would hate these stairs on Sunday, ha ha) and got our gear ready for race day. My sister (Shelley) who had generously put her hand up to be our support crew (for a second time) would arrive on race morning to drive us to the start line.

My training in the lead up to this race had fallen (very) short of the kms I would like to have run, but a few small niggles had held me back along with starting my own business and not having the time to fit in as much training as I would have liked. I had spoken to my coach Damon about these issues in the weeks leading up to the race and to be brutally honest we thought that perhaps I should drop back to the 50km event, which I almost did. But my stubborn Taurean nature kicked in and I decided to lower my expectations for the race, so instead of aiming for a time my goal of 18 hrs that Maria and I had previously spoke of, instead I would be just aiming to finish the race. This decision meant that perhaps Maria and I would not end up running the course together because I did not want to hold her back from her goal, especially when she had been running up a storm and smashing her running goals lately!

So Maria packed her drop bags in case we did not end up running together and then we caught up with our good friend Emma who was staying at the same hotel. I helped Emma with her drop bags too, as she was missing her ultra buddy Dominic (our team mates from Oxfam last year), and we all jumped in my car and headed to Registration near Scenic World. Both Emma and Maria had never run this race before and were very nervous, okay I was very nervous too but I was just trying not to thin k about it!!

We had a fun time at rego and saw lots of our running mates, it seemed everywhere you turned there was someone that one of us knew. I saw friends who were doing the 50km for the first time, a friend Todd from High School, some friends from old workplaces and other running friends I had met on the trails over the past couple of years. The excitement and buzz in the room was electric!

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For some reason it didn’t feel quite real to me yet, that I was actually going to attempt this run again and I think I had been in denial about it all for the past week. Last year I got injured on Nellie’s Glen (halfway) and I pushed on for a long while, but eventually made the tough decision to pull out at 78kms or risk further injury, I was devastated. I had trained so hard for the run and felt more ready than ever to finish, but (like life) sometimes your run does not go to plan.

This year I was going to be rocking up to the start line with a race plan that i’d prepared the day before (last year I worked on it for weeks!!) and with no expectations, just the goal of crossing that finish line. My race plan is a document that I give to my support crew which has goal times and items needed for each checkpoint, and is usually 4-5 pages long but that’s because it also includes directions and maps to each of the checkpoints.

Now where was I? After a lovely welcome from the local Aborigines from the area, and some funny antics and information provided by the race director and the safety crew, we left rego quite late and headed back to our hotel for some much needed sleep. Setting and checking the alarm had been set a few times before our heads hit the pillow.

Our synchronised iPhone alarms went off at 5.00am, so we got up and prepared ourselves for race day. I had some breakfast (banana, muffin and a coffee) then dressed for the start. Shelley (support crew and sister) arrived at the hotel on time as planned and drove myself, Maria and Emma to the start line. Emma was starting in the wave before us so we let her out of the car close to the start line and then parked the car.

We made our way nervously to the start line and wished many friends well along the way. As we walked up I managed to see Andrew (a friend from my gym) and several of my Sydney Striders mates as they set off in the earlier wave. It was starting to feel real and I could not stay in denial mode for much longer.

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Maria and I chatted to Leah and Liz and slowly made our way to the start area where all too soon the gun went off and we were running!!

The North Face 100 2015

The North Face 100 2015

Start 6.40am at Scenic World (10.5km to CP1) 

The first section of the course is road and includes a few hills, it’s also an out and back which I like in this race because you get to see your mates running back towards you and wish them well for one last time before hitting the trails. It’s also nice to run back past the start/finish area and be cheered on by all of the many supporters, including my wonderful sister, as we would not see them again until we hit CP3 at 46kms.

After the road section you head down Furber step and then head right towards the Landslide and the Golden Stairs, before heading up to Narrowneck. Just after Furber steps somebody had managed to fall and was being taken care of by some other runners, and as I approached them I also slipped and managed to land on my (well padded) butt, cut my hands up a little, and ripped a hole in my tights! But thankfully I was not hurt and I’d chosen to wear black undies that day!! 😉

This section was lots of fun and we chatted to many runners through the different terrain. It felt cooler than last year and there was some cloud cover, and I hoped it would not rain. A man playing music and wearing a fluorescent vest (already) went past us up the hill, so we chatted to him and many others who were all in high spirits at this point.

CP1 at Narrowneck (20.5 to CP2) ETA 8.25am 

Maria and I arrived at CP1 10 minutes ahead of schedule (8.15am) and it was nice to know we had a bit of a buffer up our sleeves, even if only a small one. We both had a quick toilet stop, I grabbed a band aid for my finger as it had been bleeding since my little stack earlier on, and then we got back out onto the trail.

This section had some magnificent views as we run at one of the highest points on the course, however I did not stop to take any photos this year as I wanted to keep my momentum going.

Maria and I enjoyed running together and were keeping the same pace, much to my surprise as I thought she would be much speedier than me on race day (but that came later, ha ha).

The North Face 100 2015

The North Face 100 2015

The North Face 100 2015

The North Face 100 2015

We took in the views and eventually got to Tarros Ladders to find a short queue and we waited for our turn. If you have read my blogs before you will know that I do not like heights, so I was a little nervous about climbing down these ladders strapped to the side of the cliff. Okay, I was VERY nervous about it!

It came my turn to climb down the ladders (after I let MAria go first) and I tried to calm my breathing and my nerves. And I was doing really well until I got to about halfway and had to walk the narrow ‘plank’ to the next ladder, which meant that I looked down and freaked out. I lost control of my breathing and water started coming out of my eyes, but I just kept saying to myself “One step at a time, keep moving and you’ll get there”. Eventually I got to the bottom, after some much needed encouragement from Maria who was counting the steps for me to let me know how far until it would be over. And when i got to the bottom Maria gave me a big hug and we carried on our way down the mountain.

CP2 at Dunphys Camp (15km to CP3) ETA 12.00pm

We got into Dunphys Camp at 11.10am which was 50 mins before our scheduled arrival time of midday. Woohoo!! We got some food, filled up our water and queued for the toilet. We spent a little too much time here queued for the toilet, but I did not want to have to go in the bush later down the trail.

After a quick chat with our friend Paul we left Dunphys Camp and headed for the next landmark, the Ironpot Mountain. Most of this section of the course is on Private Property so not very many people get to train on this section of the course.

There is a very steep hill section up to the top of the Ironpot Mountain and Maria is much better on the hills than me due to her smaller frame. My goal for this early stage in the race had been to just stick with her for as long as I could and so far it had been going to plan, but I feared she would move ahead of me soon.

Partway along the ridge Maria got ahead of me and I got stuck behind some runners. On top of the ridge there is an out and back section again, so you get to see many other runners coming back towards you and wish them well. I really like this and just about every runner gives you a smile and wishes you well. The camaraderie out on the trails is amazing.

On top of the ridge there was a gentleman playing a didgeridoo, the same gentleman who had welcomed up at the registration the night before. I didn’t stop to listen like last year, but I thanked him (both times I went past) and continued up to the turn around point hoping I would catch up to Maria again soon.

After the turn around point I eventually caught up to Maria and we headed down the slippery section off the Mountain and into the beautiful fields that greeted us at the bottom. Then it was onto some fire trail and up a large windy driveway which met the start of the Megalong Road. It’s a tough, continuous slog up that hill and every bend reveals another incline. So you just keep moving and pushing and praying it will end soon.

We got to the top and Maria started to run, I needed a minute to breath (or so my head was telling me) so I walked for a little while at the top before gathering myself and catching up to her again promising myself not to lose her yet.

Just before the checkpoint there was a professional photographer and we got some great shots (below).

The North Face 100 2015

The North Face 100 2015

The North Face 100 2015

The North Face 100 2015

CP3 at The Six Foot Track (11km to CP4) ETA 2.40pm

We arrived at CP3 at 1:48pm which was again 50 mins before our scheduled time and we could not locate my sister who was set to meet us there. I gave her a quick call and she was shocked to hear we had already arrived! She was just leaving the car and she sprinted up to meet us with food and clothing while we filled the water up in our packs.

My awesome trail running buddy Sarah-Jane was the first person I saw coming into the checkpoint and I have to thank her for the photo below. It was great to see a familiar face and seeing all the support crews waiting and cheering us into the checkpoint was such a lift!

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I changed into some warmer clothes and we chatted nervously to my sister who was so happy that we were progressing as well as we were. She told us we looked fresh and gave us a big hug before we headed out onto the trail again.

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We left the checkpoint after a 14 minute stop (longer than planned) but felt much better to be in warmer clothes. Maria and I both knew the next section of the course very well as it traveled along the Six Foot track, a trail we had raced and run many times. So we knew the joys of the HUGE stairs that awaited us at the foot of Nellie’s Glen.

Maria was looking strong and I was starting to fade a little. We ran together for a while and we collected and chatted to a lovely lady called Ellen who was from the Mountains (Glenbrook I think). Eventually we got ahead of Ellen and then I also had to let Maria go ahead of me. My head was telling me to walk (stupid brain). I was angry with myself for walking these flatish sections, but felt I needed the break to prepare myself for the 900+ muddy, uneven stairs that were coming up.

I ended up power walking with a gentleman who was doing his 6th TNF100 and another lady who was running it for the first time. We got to Nellie’s Glen together and I let them go ahead of me as I thought I would be quite slow on this section. Unfortunately I was right and soon I could not see them ahead of me, plus I got overtaken by some speedy runners who were doing some very heavy breathing as they went past. My friend Rob from Nike caught up to me at one stage too and we chatted for a while. He had taken a fall and was not doing too well, he wasn’t very optimistic about making it to the finish line, but I tried to change his mind and keep him positive.

To my surprise I caught up to a lady, but she was not in a good way and was vomiting on the side of the trail every 10-20 steps. I didn’t want to get to close for fear that it might make me feel sick too, but I kept an eye on her and talked to her to help her get up the stairs one at a time. Taking the focus off myself for this brief section seemed to make the time pass more quickly and before we knew it we were at the top of the stairs and celebrating!

It was about here that I realised how light the sky was. That might sound a bit silly, but at this point last year it had already gotten dark and I had needed my head torch to see the trail and stairs coming up the Glen. But today it felt like there was a lot more daylight left which really lifted my spirits as it reminded me I was well ahead of schedule.

At the top of the stairs there was a short section of trail followed by some road into the next checkpoint. As I ran along the street there were people out the front of their houses who cheered me on and wished me well, and I actually overtook some runners before I got to the checkpoint.

CP4 at Katoomba Aquatic Centre (21km to CP5) ETA 4.40pm

I arrived at CP4 at 3.55pm which was 45 minutes ahead of schedule, so I was still traveling quite consistently and on target to an 18 hour finish. Was that really possible!! I started cry…

My sisters smiley face was waiting to greet me as I came into the checkpoint and she helped me change and feed. I put on some dry clothes (thermal shirt) and picked up my AyUp headlamp (thanks Nigel). I also had some help from Sarah-Jane who came over to assist and got me moving and out the door again quickly to make the most of the daylight that was left.

I saw Maria just before she was leaving the checkpoint and I would have loved to leave with her but I still needed to eat! So off she went with my blessing and I stuffed some food down my gob. I think it was rice pudding and nutella sandwiches. I only stayed in this checkpoint for 12 minutes, much quicker than last year when I spent more than 20 mins here, and felt elated to be out the door with the sunlight still beaming through the trees.

How good was this!! I was so happy!! But this next section was one of the toughest parts of the course, full of stairs and I had bad memories of it last year when I had hobbled most of it in pain. But this year I was determined to run a lot of this section, even the stairs, and I really was feeling fantastic so I pushed it a little harder than I had all day.

The North Face 100 2015

The North Face 100 2015

And eventually (to my surprise) I managed to catch up to Maria who I think had stopped for a toilet break. I was so happy to see her again! You can tell by the smile on our faces below.

The North Face 100 2015

The North Face 100 2015

The North Face 100 2015

The North Face 100 2015

This section included some really pretty areas. We ran past Echo Point where you could hear runners being cheered over the finish line in the distance. The beautiful Leura Cascades where I had stopped many times for photos during training runs. There was also Lillians Bridge and Wentworth Falls but it had grown dark before we got to these and so the starry sky was now our only view.

There was a water point at 66km and we were delighted to see our friend Brad here to greet us with a smile. He had been following our progress after he had completed the 50km race earlier in the day (what a LEGEND!). I quickly made a toilet stop here, then grabbed some lollies and we got back out onto the trail again, into the darkness.

It was somewhere in this next section that I lost Maria again. She was still looking so strong and I was still struggling a little, so again I pushed her to go on ahead and kept moving my legs as fast as they would carry me.

The North Face 100 2015

The North Face 100 2015

The North Face 100 2015

The North Face 100 2015

This year there seemed to be much, much less stairs than last year. I don’t know why, but the mind does play tricks on you when you’re fatigued (and injured like last year). I kept moving at a consistent pace and hoped I would catch Maria at some point.

I was still feeling very positive about how I was travelling and even though the legs muscles were feeling tight I did another check of my body and was feeling much better than I had expected to feel at this point. I had changed into different shoes at the last checkpoint and so was enjoying the luxury of the extra foam in my Hoka One One.

When I eventually reached the end of the trail and hit the road section which I knew took me down into checkpoint 5, I started to cry. Last year I had started to cry at the same spot but for a totally different reason. This year I was still running, and I promised myself to run all the way down the hill and into the next checkpoint. And I did.

CP5 at Queen Victoria Hospital (22km to Finish) ETA 8.20pm

I sobbed my way into CP5 at 8.06pm which meant I was still on track to finish in under 18 hours, it felt like my dream was still within reach. Some of my beautiful Sydney Strider friends were waiting at this checkpoint for their runners and they cheered me in very loudly. Leonor and Margaret had a hilarious sign that said “F**k the wall” and I agreed!

Shelley and Brad greeted me with big smiles and were excited at how well I was doing. They told me that Maria had only just left the checkpoint before I arrived and I was thrilled to hear she was doing so well, she would definitely crack the 18 hour target. How exciting!

We got me into some more dry clothes and I put my CHeBA (UNSW Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing) singlet over the top of my thermal. I had been raising funds through this event to help Dementia research, as my grandmother has Alzheimer’s, and the singlet reminded me of her and would push me through the hard parts of the next section of the course.

I then scoffed down some noodles that I had been craving too and got myself moving again before I got too cold (and comfortable)!

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Finish at Scenic World ETA 12.15am

I spent 16 minutes at CP5 which wasn’t too bad considering all that I got done and in the back of my mind I was trying to calculate whether or not I had a chance of making the finish within our original 18hr goal time. I headed out into the darkness up the hill towards the start of Kedumba. Kedumba is a 10km downhill section that would tear up your quads and knees if you let it. I had promised myself that I would run down all of this section and despite having some knee pain I stuck to that plan all the way, passing many runners as I did so. It felt pretty good to be moving past people and keep the legs ticking over, and it also meant that I kept warm.

Mos of the downhill here looks the same, wide fire trail with trees either side. There are a few small concrete sections but not very much.

I reached the clearing at the bottom of the mountain at 11.05pm and there was a water stop at the 91km mark. This meant that I had about 1.5 hrs to get to the finish line. It was do-able, but there was a lot of up hill to come so I would need to keep moving, no walking.

Here a girl called Ellen caught up to me, we had met earlier on the trail, and we chatted some more as I sat in behind her and just tried to keep up. We were moving at a pretty decent pace (or so I thought) and this section of the trail was  very muddy and tricky in some parts. I managed to stick with Ellen all the way to the bottom of Furber steps where I proclaimed to her that I had 20 mins to get to the finish line within 18 hrs. She moved aside and I shot up past her to push myself and use up every last bit of energy I had. My breathing got really heavy and so did the legs, but I wasn’t going to slow down now, I was too close and had come too afr to give up now. A gentleman moved aside to let me past and nicknamed me “Darth Vader’ due to the sounds that were coming out of my mouth (not the first time hey Damon, ha ha). They seemed to be a bit longer than I remembered.

When I reached the top near the boardwalk I was completely out of breath and thought I still had about 1km to go. As I looked at my watch I saw there was roughly 5-6 minutes till 18 hours and my head dropped as I feared that I wasn’t going to make it.

But to my surprise as i rounded the next corner the finish line was only 50 metres away and I sprinted over the line with the biggest smile on my face! I had done it. I had come back and finished the 100km course in 17 hours 55 minutes!!

The North Face 100 2015

The North Face 100 2015

Getting to bthat finish line is one of the hardest things I have ever done. It had taken me 18= months of training and preparation, but I had finally beaten the TNF100 course. I did not let it beat me a second time! It just goes to show that you should never give up on your dreams, no matter how big they are or how far away they might feel at time, just keep striving and learning and planning and you’ll get there. Never give up! Here’s a pic of me holding my Bronze Buckle which is given to everyone who completes the course in under 20 hours.

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And for all the statistics lovers, here are some more numbers for you:

Distance: 100km

Elevation Gain: 4,308m

Rank: 546th overall (out of 840), 95th Female (out of 187), 45th in my age group (out of 75)

The above results do not take into account the large amount of people who withdrew from the race on the day (DNF). There were actually 1,126 Entrants who toed the start line on Saturday morning but only 840 people who actually finished the race. That means 25% of people who ran did not make it to the finish line, a true testament of how tough this race really is.

So if you include all of the runners who started the race then my ranks looks more like this:

Overall: 546th out of 1126

Female: 95th out of 249

Age Group: 45th out of 102

tnf100 with shell

Now I must say a big thank you to my beautiful sister (pictured with me above on race day) who was not only there for me at this race, but has always been my support crew and motivator at every big race in my life. It has meant the world to me and I will be forever grateful.

Thanks Shelley!

And a big thanks also goes to the generous people who have have supported my running and helped me raise over $5,000 to help UNSW Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA). They are:

Kristian, Ganesh, Leah, Don, Sharon, The Tracey Family, Keira, Brendan, Lisa, Rebecca, Anonymous, Carol, Duncan, Anonymous, Matt, Kelly, The Roland Family, Joyce, Angela, Claire, Toni, The Hall Family, Sam, Anonymous & Anonymous

If you would like to donate to Dementia research through CHeBA you had better do it quickly here: https://cheba2.everydayhero.com/au/haileyrunstnf100

 

Happy Running 😀

The Shire Amazing Race

On Friday 20th March I hit the gym (Shire PTC) for a X-fit class. I have never done a X-fit class so my arms took a bit of a hammering, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s good to push yourself and try new things every now and again.

After the session the owner of the gym came around and asked if anyone was interested in taking part in the Shire Amazing Race the next day, as a team had pulled out so there were 12 spots to fill. I thought it sounded like a lot of fun, I’d actually looked it up online a few weeks ago but couldn’t afford the entry. And after some discussions with my new friend Leonie (we met that night in class) and the gym owner we were signed up!

Leonie and I met up to register before the race and chatted nervously about what we thought might come up on the days travels. We tried to guess obstacles and had a bit of a game plan thought out, god knows if it would help.

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We saw some other entrants from Shire PTC and chatted to them before the race,and I also ran into Sonia (from Runlab) who was teamed up with Jo, a girl I used to play volleyball with. Such a small world!

The organisers did their introductions and for the warm up (Challenge 1) we all stood up and did Zumba, my friend Erita would have loved it!!

Then the countdown was on and the organisers hurried around to hand out the Hint papers with all our clues. We were entered in the ‘social’ category so we only had to complete 16 of the 20 Challenges to finish, plus we had paid $20 (donation to Enough is Enough charity) to get a ‘Pass’ for 1 challenge, so that meant we only needed to tick of 15 things from our list, and that we did.

We had a out photo taken with the captain of the Cronulla Ferry. we played OzTag on the Tonkin Oval. We took consecutive selfies of us with a race official, with a lifesaver ring & with a monument monument. We visited the local coffee shop to get a ‘cup’ which had to be used to bury one of you in the sand (we skipped this one as it was sprinkling with rain and we both didn’t want to get sandy, ha ha)

As we ran to the next challenge we saw it meant getting into the cold water, to swim and paddle a few laps before carrying the board around Cronulla for a lap. we skipped this on too!!

The next stop was the Rydges Hotel pool which was full of small plastic balls with team names on them. You had to locate your team name. I jumped into the pool and it was only waist height, I thought it would be the quickest way to find our ball but it turns out we were looking for the wrong ball (we didn’t find that out until after the finish!!). The race official saw how long we had been looking for the ball and showed us some leniency, thank you whoever you are because otherwise we would have been there all day!

We ran out of the hotel and down the stairs towards the beach where a Red Bull tent was setup and we were given a riddle which would help us crack the safe which was locked on the table. After phoning a friend and watching some other people we eventually got the safe open and we were off to our next challenge.

Most of the time we ran in between Pitstops (challenges) and the next stop was for a 3 minute spin session at Fitness First, which they filmed and asked us silly questions while we were out of breath and struggling. It was very funny.

And my favourite was next. We got to go inside an Orb ball and run/roll down the hill and back up again while battling the side winds and wet conditions. I wish we could have done a few laps in this thing as it was awesome. Also sponsored by Runlab, woohoo!

pUp next were the Bouncy Spring shoes (see picture below) we had to wear for a lap around a small course. I think I laughed the whole way around, they were good fun too.

SAR 2

 

We ran along the beach towards the south of Cronulla again and I bumped into my friend Amanda along the way, she was out doing her long weekend run – Go Amanda!

The next Pitstop was for a Water bucket puzzle challenge which we had some help from also, the other teams were so helpful. Thank you!

Next up was the obstacle course with Omar and the crew from Shire PTC. We had to take our shoes and socks off, jump into a potato sack and jump around a course while holding hands and not dropping the sack. You then had to slide along amat covered in water and soap suds, down a hill under a low netting which was heaps of fun. I laughed and got suds in my mouth! Then one of you was blindfolded and the other person had to guide you y voice around some cones and to the finish. We did this relatively fast and it was a lot of fun. Thanks Omar and crew 🙂

We got our dry clothes back on and headed south again for the next Pitstop. This challenge included counting a large staircase and then taking off 58 from the amount of stairs. If you got the answer right you proceeded to the next challenge.

Up next was a paddle in a large Outrigger, and it turned out that Leonie knew some of the ladies on duty and had paddled with them years ago. Small world. I had never done anything like this so really enjoyed the team row and trip out and around the bay even though it was cold and rainy.

Next we made our way back up to the Memorial Park and we had to climb (hang) our way along a rope, then perform some martial arts, and then finally get together with a huge group to solve a card puzzle that was 8 x 8 tiles. When we all worked together it was very quickly solved, go team!

Our last stop was at the Library for a short questionnaire (and chocolate) then we made our way running back to the Start area. Along the way I got some cheers from a running friend Jarrod, so funny that he should spot me out of all the entrants in our yellow shirts. Thanks for the cheers Jarrod!

We got to the line in 14th place (out of 79) which i think is fantastic!! Leonie was a lot of fun and I was so glad we had decided to give it a try. Maybe next year we can be in the ‘competitive’ group 😉

The event was so well run and the volunteers were fantastic. I was very impressed with the organisation of the event and am so glad to hear they raised a huge amount for their charity – Enough is Enough. What a fantastic event!

SAR 3

Thanks again Leonie! 😀

Race Report: Shotover Moonlight Mountain Marathon

It’s here! Last night I finally got around to finishing my race report from the Shotover Moonlight Mountain Marathon in New Zealand which is almost a month ago now!! This race was like nothing I have ever attempted before, so grab a cuppa and get comfortable because it’s a long one.

They day before the race I collected my race pack from the Rydges hotel which was also the hotel where i was staying. I got there at the start of the rego time and the room was already buzzing with people getting their gear checks done. A lovely kiwi lady checked all my gear and gave me my race kit which included a race t-shirt, race bib, timing strap for my ankle, and some sponsor brochures. I chatted to a few other runners and then headed back up to my room to re-pack my things into my race pack ready for the next morning. Having picked up my gear i started to get nervous and some doubts crept into my mind. It always happen to me before a race and luckily I was able to shut out the negative thoughts quickly as i went over my race plan and goals.

My race plan was to finish, well actually my initial race plan had been to ‘try not to die’, but I revised it and thought that a finish would be super. The course had over 2,300m of elevation which meant it was the hilliest marathon I have ever attempted. There were 3 main peaks to conquer and I’d been staring at the elevation chart for months, as it was on display at my desk at work. Seeing the chart on a regular basis helps me to get to know the course a little better, especially when you don’t have the option to do any training on the course. Looking at it scared me a lot, but I do love a challenge! A friend of mine had taken just over 7 hours to complete the course in 2014 and I thought that seemed like a reasonable time to aim for (boy was i wrong, ha ha).

I spent the day resting my legs which included reading a book by the lake for a few hours, going for a dip in the hotel pool & chilling out watching tv in my room. James (from Sydney Striders) and I caught up in the afternoon and had dinner at a quaint little restaurant called Cow in town that was highly recommended. It took us a while to find it as it’s hidden up an alley way. We both had garlic bread and spaghetti bolognese, good carbohydrate loading food. James had not completed his gear check yet so after dinner he went to get his gear while I went to the hotel and stalled the organisers till James could arrive. He got his gear checked and we went for a cheeky beverage at the bar as it was too early to crash. I had a peach cider (which would later prove to be a bad choice!). We chatted about the upcoming race and past trips James had done around the world with rogaining and running, he has done so much and achieved many great feats in his life so far. I was very impressed (and jealous, more to add to the wish list). We finish our drinks and organised to meet at the bus departure point the next morning.

As i headed up to my room I felt a sense of calm and confidence that would stay with me and keep me strong the next day. I hadn’t slept very well for the past week which always happens when i’m away from home. I had visited Auckland for 3 days, plus had a side trip to Christchurch for the Foo Fighters concert (which was awesome!!) and had arrived in Queenstown with 2 days of planned rest before the race. And thankfully I got a good sleep that night (which is rare before a race) so i woke feeling ready to go.

When I got up I had some breakfast (honey on bread and a banana), took a shower and got dressed ready to race. I was wearing my Brooks Adrenaline Trail shoes, BSC compression tights (long) and my Running Wild t-shirt, as it’s the most comfortable running shirt I own (you don’t want something that rubs or is uncomfortable when you know you’re going to be out there a long time). I also had my Salomon S-Lab 12 Hydration Back pack and my fuel for the day would be water (only carried 1L as plenty of aid stations on the course), SIS gels (Orange & Tropical flavor) & Shotz mixed with water in my front 2 flasks (for electrolytes). I have been using this combination with good results for the past year or so, and I wasn’t going to change anything now. I also packed a bag for the finish with some dry clothes and thongs to change into, plus a large feather down jacket in case it got cold.

Once I was ready I headed down to the Queenstown Rafting store where the bus was collecting us at 6.15am, and within a few minutes James turned up and we nervously chatted about our race plans. We managed to score a seat on the first bus out of town which meant that we would also be first in line for the toilets at the start point, score!!

The bus trip to the start line was an experience in itself. Once we got off the main road it was all single fire trail to the start area in Skippers Canyon. The driver was probably going a little too fast for my liking but I guessed that he drove this route a lot so was confident and knew where he was going. I felt a bit of motion sickness halfway through the journey, so there was some very deep breathing took place, especially when you looked out the window and there was a massive (gigantic) drop right next to the bus and i tried not to picture us plummeting to our deaths – eeeeek!

We got to the start area (below picture) and I visited the ladies (the first of 3 trips before the start) before the other runners arrived. The 30km and marathon runners all started at the same point so it was nice to have a big crew assembled here together. I was lucky enough to be given a GPS tracker for the race (thanks Adrian!!), but didn’t have time (or reception) to let anyone back home know about it. So after my final pit stop, James and I lined up to cross the bridge which took us to the start line. It was a very high bridge that used to be used for Bungy, and the more I looked at it the more scared I got. I hate heights and nobody had mentioned this bridge to me. It wasn’t in the race briefing document. Shit!

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The next thing I know i’m on the bridge (pictured below), i’m hyperventilating and crying and being steered over to the other side by a lovely lady who I had grabbed, while James made encouraging comments pushing me along. The bridge swayed and bounced and I thought I was going to die. The only thing that kept me moving was the fact that I HAD to cross the bridge to get to the start line, if I didn’t cross the bridge then my whole trip would be for nothing.

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I made it over the bridge and i thanked and apologised profusely to the people around me, as I’d never experienced or felt anything like that before. I think it was a panic attack. It was like my mind was out of control and fighting my body that didn’t want to cooperate. I honestly don’t know how I made it to the other side of that bridge, but thankfully I did. And I did not die. I later learnt this bridge was 71 meters above the river below and 95 meters in length, and used to be the highest bungee bridge jump in the world (until Pipeline Bungy’s 103 meter which is just down the road). Below is the view of bridge from the start line, bloody high up if you ask me!!

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We all made our way down the hill to the (beach) start and the views were already amazing (below). This was going to be one GREAT race!

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Race Director Adrian Bailey gave us the obligatory pre-race information and wished us all well before sending us on our merry way.The energy at the start line was fantastic!

First up was a short soft sand hill followed by the first of many hills to come. The only flat(ish) section of this course was the last few (gradual uphill) kms into the finish at Moke Lake, I was looking forward to that section but it was a long, long way off.

Once we got up the first little hill there was a brief flat(ter) section then another climb, check out the runner-ants in the picture below.

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I actually ran over an carcass of some animal during the first couple of kms, I think it was a deer but I didn’t look that closely, all I saw was a lot of fur and horns. Gross!

We crossed a few creeks early on and i chatted to a guy from the Terrigal Trotters, actually I was talking so much that i probably wasn’t paying enough attention to the trail and fell off the side of the mountain at about 6km! I clung to the long grass that grew onto the side of the mountain so I didn’t fall too far, but it was a close call. It reminded me to focus and get into race mode. I must have twisted/jarred my finger when i fell too as it throbbed for the rest of the race (and still feels sore even today).

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The scenery is hard to describe with words, breathtaking comes to mind. And although my coach will kill me for stopping to take photos, I only ever took one photo of the same view and never stopped for longer than 4-5 seconds (well almost, but i’ll talk about that later).

I think it was at about this point we lost the 30km runners as they went a different direction, and then I came up to 2 huge rocks with officials standing on them to help people up. When I got to the rocks he said they were here to help us if we couldn’t climb up the rocks, but my stubborness and will to not be beaten overtook and I scrambled up the rocks unassisted. There!!

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The mountains were nothing like what we have back home. Here the hills were exposed and vulnerable, not covered in trees and shrubs and protected. It was brown and there was long (slippery) grass and goat tracks to content with, and boy did they test your patience. The thin goat tracks were what i like to call ankle grinders. Imagine a thin gutter that’s the width of your foot (barely) and then try to run along inside that gutter for hours, one foot immediately in front of the other. It’s hard work, and i kept kicking the inside of my other ankle which hurt like hell after doing it a thousand times. I had to pick up my feet, something Damon (my coach) was always saying to me. I should probably listen to him more often.

My plan had been to run a lot more of the course than I ended up doing, but this was purely because the trail (if you could call it that) was not runnable. One guy behind me was swearing and cursing at the ground as he tried to run along and kept tripping, and i could feel his pain. We were all going through the same motions. I did gain a little more confidence on the goat tracks later in the race, but having never run on anything like this meant I was not prepared.

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It was at this point that my stomach felt like I needed a number 2 badly. It has been building up and i’d been trying to ignore it, but damn that ‘peach cider’ from the night before, i knew I should have avoided it. I finally came to an area covered in trees and made my way into the scrub for a pitstop. Thankfully it was just a fart (ha ha), so i pulled up my pants and ran back up onto the trail before anybody could spot me.

We ran along bluffs and ridgelines and I chatted to other runners along the way, many of which were doing this race as their first marathon – talk about picking a tough course for your first marathon!! And you thought I was crazy 😉

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After this hill we had a tricky downhill section to conquer and I nailed it. I passed about 10-15 runners as I got my confidence on the goat tracks and flew down the hill. I felt really good here but halted at the bottom when I saw an awful skinny bridge crossing, but pushed myself to cross it quickly without thinking too much!

Just like the views, the climbs were endless. I ran along through rainforests and on top of giants (what I like to call the mountains) and I met 2 runners from RunLab in Newcastle (below). I think there names were Clint and Karen. Karen (?) was training for the Anzac Ultra in May and I stuck with them for quite a long time during the run. It was nice to have their company and hear Clint getting yelled at (ha ha). We stopped for a few quick photos (below) before heading down the side of a sandy scree hill.

How much fun was the scree…?!?! I laughed like a 10 years old as I was slipping and sliding down that scree slope. With every step I moved about 4 metres down the hill. It felt like my feet were skis and I laughed loudly all the way down. If only all of the downhill sections were that easy.

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My gaiters survived the scree slope (thanks Carolyn from Trail Gaiters) which was an amazig accomplishment! After the scree slope we made a few more river crossings, including a river that we had to wade through for a section, before climbing a ladder up to the next section (A ladder!! Just as nature intended it, ha ha).

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We saw waterfalls and gorges and I started to feel very tight and my legs were feeling pretty shattered when I got to the halfway point at the Ben Lomond Station, it had taken me dead on 4hrs just to get there, insane!! I remember wondering how the heck my legs were going to cope for another 21kms of punishment but only time would tell.

I kept telling myself to toughen up and “Just F**king Run?”!! And when you looked up around you, there really was nothing to be complaining about…..

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Just after the halfway point there was a checkpoint at the bottom of a very large mountain, my legs were not feeling very good (they were smashed from the huge descent) when i got to the bottom of this hill but I was delighted to see Anna Frost, an ultra running god (see below pic). She was assisting at the aid station and I chatted to her about her win at this race last year and tips for the rest of the course. She explained the next few climbs and the terrain and encouraged us all there to get moving again. Seeing her was a great motivator to get my butt back into race mode and moving up the next hill. And I overtook a few people as i power walked up the next climb, including a guy from Sweden who has raced all over the world.

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The biggest climb of the race was coming up so I backed off a little and prepared myself for that, a 6km steep climb to the highest point of the race. I think it was about this point that i started to hear the helicopters again too, so I waved at a couple of them.

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When I got to the top of that hill i felt dizzy and out of breath, so i decided to sit down and get some food and water into me. I stayed there for about 5 mins and chatted to the girls manning the water station here. They told me how they had been flown into the location, and that the helicopter didn’t actually land, they just had to jump out with the gear and duck for cover. Incredible!!

I can’t remember much of the last part of the run and i’m not sure if that’s because it was so much like the first part, or because I was struggling and have put it out of my memory.  The backs of my legs were feeling very tight and on  couple of occasions i stopped to stretch which seemed to help a little.

There was a group of about 5-6 runners who had been ahead of me and i had been chasing for a few hours. Just when I thought I was getting close they’d somehow get ahead of me again. So when they stopped at the last aid station for food and refills I flew past them and carried on up the hill trying to put some distance between me and them. It worked, as I never saw them again!

There was lots of uphill and more downhill, and I lost count of the river crossings. When i finally got to the last flat(ish) runnable section I was so relieved that I could finally run at a consistent pace. There were a few (thousand) river crossings that slowed me down, but the rest was wide fire trail, slightly uphill all the way to the finish line. I remember stopping to drink from all of the creeks because the water in my pack was hot and the rivers we went through were icey cold, the water was so refreshing as I cupped it in my hands and drank away.

I remember looking behind me at one point and seeing a another lady closing in on me and I was determined not to let her pass me. i kicked it up a notch (god knows where the energy came from) and kept checking behind me to see if she was gaining or not. Eventually i lost her and caught up to some other male runners who were struggling. I passed another 4 or 5 runners on my way to the finish line and was so excited when I saw the shed next to the finish that I started crying.

Luckily nobody could tell I was crying as it was now sprinkling with rain. I saw a few walkers coming back towards me and they cheered me on. I was going to make it, how amazing! I ran my little heart out up that last hill, with many spectators and runners cheering me home.

I crossed the line and Adrian gave me a hug to congratulate me on the race. I had tears in my eyes and the biggest grin on my face, wow – I had really done it! What an amazing race!

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After getting my finishers medal and free beer I headed for the heated spa (yes, how cool is that) and went for a quick dip in my undies and bra. It was so nice and warm and i thought I was never going to get out of there as the temperature had really dropped so it was getting quite cool now.

Eventually i dragged myself out of the tub after some banter with other runners doing the same. I put on my warm, dry clothes and got myself some food and a coke (it’s my reward to myself after a race, I love it but it’s so bad for you). They were about to stop selling food and James wasn’t even back yet so i saved some of my sushi in case.

I rested my weary body in the big shed and watched the presentations to the winners. James walked in about halfway through and I gave him some food and drink (he was very thankful). We chatted about our races and the course and scored a lift back to Queenstown with a lovely couple from the Central Coast.

When I got back to the hotel I had a quick shower (which revealed a large chaffing spot from my ripped tights, ouch!!) and sat on the bed to ring my hubby and my mum. I cried as I told them my news and they were very happy and excited to hear from me. What an incredible day! I was completely shattered and feeling exhausted but i felt on top of the world!

Somehow I dragged myself into the main part of town for some dinner/drinks with other runners. When I got there James had met some other runners Diane and Jill (plus her adorable family) and we ended up joining them at the same Italian restaurant I’d eaten at 2 night’s before (it was a great restaurant so I didn’t mind).

Diana, Jill, James and I got on like a house on fire! They were such great company and we shared many laughs and stories about this run and others we had done. We were so lucky to have met them and I know we will be in touch for many years to come.

I had the most rewarding experience for my first overseas marathon. And I highly recommend this race to anyone who has contemplated registering, it’s bloody tough but totally worth all the hard work. I’ll never forget the amazing views, the scary heights and the wonderful people I’ve met along the way.

Happy running 😀