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 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 😀

Recruiting a Mentor

I have decided that I need to get some assistance with my training plan and nutritional advice for the upcoming ultras in 2014. So a few weeks ago I had a call with Hanny Alston from Find Your Feet and I’ve now recruited her as my mentor.

Hanny was the recommended contact on the Northface100 page, for anything training and preparation. She’s a very well known ultra marathon runner and started her career in orienteering. There is lots more I could write about her but it would take days, she’s awesome – trust me!

My first meeting with Hanny was over the phone and would be a little about her getting to know me and a lot about what training plans I need to make and stick to going forward. Hanny said the three key points to consider were:

  1. Sustainable training / Smart training
  2. Getting to know the course
  3. Nutrition / Hydration

As I have already signed up to attend the 3 day training camp Hanny is running in a couple if weeks which covers the second two key points mentioned above, we were going to focus our call on the first point – Sustainable training / Smarter Training.

Firstly I would need to add some Hill Training into my schedule, to prepare me for the ‘mountains’ that would be in my races. These could be hill repetitions, hilly loop courses, reps on various hills, hill time trials etc. The sessions would start smaller and build up to 2 hours in length over the time of my training period.

The plan going forward would be to train hard for 2 weeks and every third week I would back off the gas just a little to let my body recover, then ramp it up again and so on.  The idea is to give my body enough time to recover and focuses more on quality rather than quantity.

Hanny emailed me an awesome spreadsheet which I can use to plan, monitor and track my training schedule. I had been using one previously in my marathon planning that I created myself, but this was much more comprehensive and a lot better than anything I could have put together.

We talked for about 45-50 minutes and I walked away with a huge amount of information and knowledge. Now I have to sit down, digest it all, and start working on my plan. Wish me luck!

It really was a pleasure to chat with Hanny and I look forward to meeting her at the TNF training camp in a couple of weeks.

Happy Running

2014: The Year of the Ultra

To say i’m nervous would be an understatement. I’m very, very nervous and with good reason. In the past week I have signed up for not only 1, but 2 ultra marathons for 2014.

Gulp!

As I take a deep breath I try to calm myself with thoughts of training hard and staying positive. But i’m excited, nervous and scared all at the same time (not necessarily in that order, ha ha).

A couple of Saturday’s ago I was lucky enough to register for the 6 Ft Track Marathon, a 45km trail stretching across the Blue Mountains from The Explorer’s Marked Tree, near Katoomba to Jenolan Caves. I have been told that this race sells out within minutes of registrations being opened so I made sure that I was sitting by the computer 9am and it paid off.

I’ve heard and read that it’s a tough course to say the least, and the elevation chart makes you want to cry just looking at it because the last 5km is all uphill…!!! But I do love hills and have some friends who can testify, Megan? Laura?! Seriously, i’m going to have my work cut out for me. I love a challenge!

Then last week I decided to register for the Northface100. The Northface100 is Australia’s premier 100km trail running event, held in the Blue Moutains National Park in New South Wales. That’s right, 100km. Surprised? Yes I was too!! What was i thinking!! I’m not sure I was thinking at all, but I figure that by May I will have the 6 Ft Track Marathon under my belt and can continue training for this adventure. What have i got to lose?! 

Now comes the planning and preparation, so feel free to share any info about ultras or trail running with me as I’m going to need all the help I can get, and…… wish me luck!

Happy Running 😀