THE GREAT NORTH WALK 100s
2007 RUNNER COMMENTS AND STORIES
"Thanks for another great event and see you next year. We're going to be really prepared next time and we're getting excited already!"
"...my thanks for such a well organised and enjoyable event. Apart from transport to the start I was able to complete the event without a support person due to the dropping off of my bags to the checkpoints, and the wonderful encouragement of other support crews. I managed to not get lost, aided by following other runners and by the good written directions, and finished in a PB 1hr 45mins shorter than my best Trailwalker time."
"...congratulations on an excellent event! It was very well organized and must have been an enormous amount of work. I was a support crew for the 100 mile event and overall everything went very smoothly for me."
"Race is superbly set out and organized. Just the sort of event the Australian calendar has always needed I reckon....and I was stoked to conquer it this year after giving up last year."
"I would like to thank you and the Terrigal Trotters for the fantastic effort in organising such a fun event. I loved everything about it (apart from wet socks!) from the training through to the finish. It was great to be able to train on the track with the notes and maps. The volunteers were amazing and I am sure that a number of people had little or no sleep."
"Great event, loved it. Volunteers were all very helpful and enthusiastic. Course info, maps, notes etc were all first class."
"Just a quick note to thank you and your team for staging a truly amazing event. Your vision has given us an event that will go on and become what every Trail Ultra runner will aspire to compete in. It continues to grow and it won't be long before you are knocking back entries after you have reached your quota of 100. This race is something I will never forget and I can't thank you enough."
"Thanks for everything. Guess you must still be out there....much respect to you, all your helper and the runners who finish the race. Great event and I will have to come back one year as this is now unfinished business for me."
The Great North Walk is hiking trail from Sydney to Newcastle. The Great North Walk 100km and 100mile races are now in their 3rd year and with only one third of 100mile entrants finishing in the previous two years and a 36hr cut off the title of “Australia’s toughest trail races” is definitely justified. They start at Teralba south of Newcastle and follow foot tracks and fire/4wd trails through national parks and state forests south to Yarramolong (for the 100km) and Patonga at the mouth of the Hawkesbury River (for the 100mile) with some short sections on roads. It is a race with 6,200 vertical metres of climbing and the same of descent and just 6 aid stations.
With navigation reportedly a major issue for many runners in previous years I set about a series of reconnaissance runs and bush walks after returning from overseas in late September and managed to cover the entire course on out and back trips so I knew it fairly well and was confident about directions for almost the entire race and only referred to the maps 3 times. This made an enormous difference but being at work until 11pm the night before the race certainly didn’t aid preparations.
I left Sydney with a friend at about 3:15am to arrive at race start at 5am and registered, put drop bags in the boxes to go to aid stations and then stood around chatting primarily about the weather which had been wet most of the week and looked like being wet through the day although the forecast was for the showers to clear later. Despite this being 75km longer than any other race I had done I felt confident about my ability to run that far. My major concern was sleep as I really hadn’t had enough the night before although I did sleep well Thursday night which was reassuring. I had done a reconnaissance walk after 3 night shifts and 4hrs sleep a day a couple of weeks prior and needed to take a powernap on a rock beside the trail just to get through.
The start at 6am was a bit of a shambles as many runners preferred to stay under the shelter out of the rain until the last minute but the starter said go despite some not being ready and we set off. Teralba is a small town in the lower hunter coal mining area and after crossing over the railway foot bridge we climbed the hill out of town on the bitumen road. I was running with Dean Cook who ran the 100km in Holland with me until he decided his rain jacket was too hot and stopped to put it in his pack. I was then on my own out the front trying to run my own race and not to think about those behind for there were a few big names who could potentially run all over me. I didn’t want to go too fast but not to maximize the advantage of the smooth running surface would also be silly. Off the bitumen just after 6km there was a wet and at times slippery 4wd track which was rocky in places but easily runable. Then came a long gradual up hill on a gravel road which got steeper, slipperier and poorer in condition as it went until it flattened out at the top of the ridge and then the course veered left onto a former 4wd track which was impassible due to overgrowth and fallen trees but the foot track that remained was reasonable. There was then a steep rocky descent to Heaton Gap which I took relatively cautiously but had no trouble with slipping. After crossing Freeman’s Drive there was a very steep climb to a communications tower at the top of the hill. I walked most of this and ate the first of many bananas for the day. After the tower there was a reasonable gravel road which was mostly downhill but soft in places due to the rain before another foot track though a rainforest area and along a creek bed. This was hard to follow on my reconnaissance walk but with it fresh in my memory I managed to avoid wasting time looking for the next bit of trail. Some parts were not runable as they involved climbing through, over, under or around fallen trees which had invariably brought other trees down with them. Out of the rainforest then into a eucalypt forest with a combination of foot tracks and 4wd tacks then onto a good gravel road down to checkpoint and aid station 1.
On my arrival there was much clapping etc but I must say 28km into a 175km race there’s not much to clap about. It was about 3hrs 15mins into the race. I drank 600ml of Gatorade and restocked the food in my bumbag. I was running with a 3 litre camelbak with water and safety gear and a bumbag around my waist for easy access to food and maps. Out of CP1 the mildly undulating gravel road continued and a felt bloated, I had drunk too much but this passed in about 30 mins and the course moved to a less traveled and rougher gravel road (but still good running) until a campsite and then a moderately steep descent on a foot track and 4wd track to Congewai Valley and open farmland. It rained briefly on this descent for the only time during the race except the start which only lasted a few minutes. The gravel road here was good but the flies bad. CP2 (52km and just under 6hrs) was a short detour off the official trail and here again I restocked food and water and drank Gatorade although less than last time. I also added lights and reflective vest to the pack (official requirement although I didn’t need them until after CP4).
The climb out of Congewai was taxing and at the top I was feeling very flat I tried eating lollies and a banana but my brain just wanted to go to sleep. David Waugh passed me here on an undulating forest road. He stopped and walked for a little bit but then kept going as he was feeling good and knew that this was likely to change later on. A little further on I had some chocolate (my emergency food) and sat down on a tree stump for about 20 mins. After getting going again I was able to run the flats and downhills albeit slowly and walked the ups until the steep descent to Watagan Creek. There was no avoiding wet feet here so I and Damon Goerke who had caught up just took the shortest route across then climbed the short hill crossed the gravel road and climbed the rocky and slippery fire trail to the top of the ridge where the trail once again became a gravel forest road. Here Damon passed and went on ahead. I got running again on a descent into another rainforest area and creek crossing before walking the ascent and then running the fire trail and then descent into another rainforest area. CP3 (82km and between 9 to 10hrs, I forget exactly what time) was a 2.5km each way rainforest foot track from the main trail and as I approached Damon was leaving. I had been quite despondent in this past section and was considering a finish at 100km rather than going on but he hadn’t made great gains on me despite my slow progress. David was still in the checkpoint and left soon after I arrived. I sat down and drank coke. I despise this drink but it was the quickest source of caffeine which I clearly needed and restocked my supplies. The aid station crew also did a wonderful job removing 80-100 leeches from my shoes and socks. Fortunately I wear double socks on these races (thin closely woven liner sock and normal sock over the top to reduce blisters) and only one had actually managed to get any blood from me. I had been eating lollies intermittently but mainly bananas and honey sandwiches but I was struggling to swallow the sandwiches as they were too dry.
On the out and back section back to the main trail I passed 5-6 runners on there way into CP3. The climb out of the rainforest wasn’t too bad and I then ran most of the undulating forest road to the next descent on a foot track to cedar brush creek. The going was good here and the crossing easily done without getting my wet feet any wetter. The gravel then bitumen road into Yarramolong was easy enough to run but mentally tough as it was quite boring and there is little need to be alert as there are no rocks, logs or tree roots in the way. On the way into CP4 (103km and about 12:45hrs) again a short detour from the main trail, David led Damon out by a couple of mins when I approached. More refilling, more coke and I put my light and reflective vest on in readiness for the approaching darkness. After a brief climb on bitumen there was another fire trail which appeared flat but was obviously slowly climbing and then a short section on a moderately steep foot track. I was starting to feel good again and at the top of the foot track I caught and passed Damon who looked to be quite fatigued. I turned my light on at this point. Another civilized section parallel to a gravel road and then onto a well graded gravel road before another foot track took me through a dry scrubby forest and then descended into another rainforest section. The trail was easy to follow but I walked for safety’s sake. There were lots of glowing insects (debate at finish line was fire flies Vs glow worms, not sure personally) which initially fooled me as being David’s light in the distance. The climb out of the rainforest gully was also moderately steep and joined a 4wd track which undulated but mostly descended to another foot track that descended steeply to a creek crossing. I caught David near the top of this descent and we ran together for almost all of the remainder of the race. After the crossing again with wet feet we ran a fire trail dodging the frequent large pools of mud and water which then joined a gravel and then bitumen road briefly before another climb over a ridge then descent into rainforest gully and another climb at the top of which we joined the road to take us to CP5. I struggled up these hills but David wasn’t going much better and we had agreed to stick together for a bit. Out on the road there was a slow gradual climb initially and David went ahead but when I stared running again on the flat I caught up a little ground arriving at CP5 (132km and 16:45hrs) 1:30 min behind. Coffee and shortbread biscuits were then order of the time for me here. And after restocking we left the checkpoint together at 17hrs.
This section was downhill predominantly and mostly foot tracks which were very rough and rocky in places but often quite good. David was feeling ordinary through the first part of this but we stuck together and he came good later and we made extraordinary progress covering the 18km to CP6 in just under 2 hrs with the only mishap a fall from David on a wet and slippery section. Apparently I also missed standing on a snake by a centimetre according to David who was behind me at the time but I didn’t see it. CP6 (150km and just under 19hrs) more coke and restocking and we were away quite quickly. This section was largely foot tracks. It initially followed the tidal section of Piles Creek which was relatively flat then climbed steeply to a rocky sandstone area which undulated and had some large open rock flats. I had previously done this section on a hot day and was glad it was now 2am and maybe 15 degrees although navigation is a little harder in the dark. Another 4wd track then another descent into a rainforest gully and climb back out followed by another brief gravel section then foot track then gravel again and a climb past Mt Wondabyne followed by more 4wd tracks then another rocky section with large open sandstone rocks. These would be hard to navigate except for white arrows painted on the surface. Another decent onto a 4wd track which undulated for several kms and was followed by more 4wd tracks before meeting Patonga road. It was foggy here and hard to see as our head lamps reflected a lot of light back off the fog. A foot track parallel to Patonga road took us to another gravel road which took up to a paved footpath then another gravel road before the final descent on a steep foot track down to Patonga Beach and a couple of hundred metres later at Patonga Wharf David and I finished side by side.
I can’t remember where we agreed to work together and finish together. I can’t even remember whose suggestion it was. Those hours are a bit vague but it was certainly not disputed by either party. There were a number of times when either party could have gone it alone up the front and if we had raced to the line who knows who would have won. It was great to have had David there for so many kms especially though the night and great to share the finish.
The race organizers also deserve hearty praise for putting on such a logistical nightmare in such an organized way and with smiles and friendliness despite little or no sleep. With runners up to 12hrs and many kms apart in difficult terrain often far away from main roads there efforts were certainly praiseworthy.
The journey for me started a few months ago. Last year, I had pulled out at CP2, with severe dehydration, brought about by a head-cold and running out of water some 6km before the CP. Horrie asked me to be his pacer this year, and I readily agreed, as he had volunteered his services for me last year.
Bunny and I trained hard every week on the trail. We had a good 100km Trailwalker end August (my 7th), and also a good Sydney Marathon early in September (actually, Allison a lot better than me, but I digress). Horrie, Bunny and I ran the Yarramalong to Patonga section in a training run, so I knew what to expect.
I was at Yarramalong at 9pm, and saw Blue Dog, Carol, Hermie, Terry, Ewan, Rachel, Tamsin, Milov, Tim and Whippet etc come in. It was wonderful to see fellow Sydney Strider Robin Cameron finish her 100km, and making it look so easy. Blue Dog was ably assisted by the beautiful Bernie G, and I marvelled how fresh he looked, and how quickly he moved on, eating his food on the way. Saw Dean come in, and being put on a drip, and then even the mighty Paul Every being wrapped in a space blanket. Nice to chat to Susannah and Terrigal Trotter Sharon (Gazelle). Then to see IDW pull up stumps, realising how tough this event is. Bunny came and went with a huge smile, sans her support crew, because no one had expected her to be that quick.
I was very toey, ready to go. And the leeches, yeeeeuuwww, I was picking them off my shoes, just hanging around the CP!
Horrie came in at around 1am, with Eagle. Ready, set go! Eagle just wanted me to get him through the night. I promptly within 1km had managed to get lost on the track, and was thinking how they must be wondering what on earth have they gotten themselves into, having me as a guide. But after that mishap I think I did ok.
We caught up with Tim, RunBare, Milov, Whippet and US Phil not long after, and we would stick together right through the night. What a wonderful experience it was seeing daybreak, and then hearing the forest erupt in the chatter of the birds, I would not have wished to have been anywhere else in the world at that time. Life is so good.
Coming into Somersby, I was choking back the tears when Horrie's son Tim enthusiastically waved his hands and his face lit up with joy in seeing us. It was a very emotional moment, and Horrie's wife Belinda was there with a huge smile. What a wonderful and caring family.
We left Somersby, but I was getting concerned about the cut-off time, and I kept on reminding Horrie that this was the stage, which was mainly downhill, where we could build a buffer for the last section. So, it was a matter of keep on going, and where we could, just to keep on shuffling. We made good time, and at Mooney Mooney we were pleasantly surprised to see Tim, Eagle and the others leaving when we just arrived.
I told Horrie that we would walk to the suspension bridge, because I knew we had to do some serious climbing after that. But I kept on glancing at my Garmin, and I was fretting about the cut-off. I was always just ahead of Horrie, urging him on, trying to use me as a target, and trying to set the pace that would get us to Patonga, but I noticed that we were doing 3.5km-4km/hour so I decided it was time for a bad cop - good cop routine, and I recall at one stage yelling to Horrie "How badly do you want this!!" Then I would be saying "Imagine me being Professor or Langswm, and you are chasing me in a 10km race", just keep on going!!". He smiled, but I think he thought I was quite mad
Geez, this was hard for me, I really didn't know what to do, a complete new experience. I said to Horrie, "let's shuffle to the next tree, or roll down the hill". It was getting hot too, and I would make sure he would dunk his hat in the creeks. I kept on asking people we would come across on the track "how far to go", and they would re-assure me not far, but I was still so worried about the time, knowing that even with a km to go there was a steep downhill, and we didn't have much spare time if Horrie were to cramp or anything like that.
What a relief it was to hit the beach at Patonga with about 15 minutes to spare, and I gave Horrie a big hug, it was he who had done the whole 175km on his own, and I was so privileged and proud to have been part of his odyssey. I was holding back the tears, no dammit, I cried. What a ride.
And how good is the Bunny
Will I be back next year? You betcha, this would have to be the best event in the world, I am still on a high, and I don't think I want to ever come down off the cloud
Thanks Horrie once again mate for allowing me to be part of the journey, you always give unselfishly so much to so many other people, I loved every step of the way, and am so happy for you.
After watching a lot of runners fall by the wayside last year whilst crewing for Bandanna to dehydration, I thought this race was beyond me. Add to this my less than fantastic navigational skills and the idea of being at least 6 hours between checkpoints, I must admit this race freaked me out.
As it turned out, I had plenty to keep me occupied. After all, I had the Western States Endurance Run to prepare for. This race also freaked me out after hearing that the temperature can climb into the 40s when you are going through the canyons, which are the toughest part of the race. I realised then I just had to get into the best shape of my life and toughen up my mental attitude if I wanted to reach my potential. So I attacked my training with great gusto and in the meantime knocked out PBs for 5km, 10km and the Half Marathon. I also threw in quite a few marathons and long trail runs to help build more endurance. It all paid off when I managed to finish Western States and earn a prized bronze buckle. The day after finishing Western States, several of the Aussie Assault team sat around the pool drinking beer and started discussing what new challenges we were going to set ourselves. It's funny how a few cold ales helps you forget the 30 hour thrashing you gave yourself only a day before. A few were mentioning the Triple Crown of Australian Ultra Running, which for the unititiated is Glasshouse 100 Miles, GNW 100 miles (108 actually) and the 245km Coast to Kosciosko to finish you off. There was also mention of the Sri Chinmoy 24 hour race in Adelaide. So there was plenty to think about. After weighing up the pros and cons of all races, and also having my manhood challenged a couple of times by my good natured GBH teammates, I took a deep breath and thought I would have a crack at GNW. I told myself that if I was just able to complete Western States, then I should be able to finish GNW with the right properly executed race plan. I then contacted Allison and Bandanna to find out if they were having another crack this year. Allison said she was really hoping to finish the 100 miles this year after dropping out at the 100km finish last year. Bandanna said he would not be attempting it this year after dropping out at 52km last year with severe dehydration. I asked him if he would be interested in pacing me from the 100km mark. To my delight he accepted immediately. The plan was to get out and cover as much of the course as possible in a few training runs. Unfortunately, I only managed to get out for 1 training run. We would run from Yarramalong to Patonga, which is from the 100km mark to the finish. Due to having to take Tim with us that day and the need for Belinda to fit in some training, I would only end up running from Somersby to the finish before race weekend.
I would now have to formulate a race plan based on splits from last year's race. I estimated to get to Patonga within the 36 hour cutoff, I would have to get to Yarramalong in 19 hours. I drew up a race plan based on this and sent to Allison. She agreed with it except she interpreted it as finishing 10 minutes after the cut. We both had a good laugh about it but with a little tinkering, we now had a race plan. Now all we had to do was execute it.
Race morning was now with us and after gingerly making our way to the street to start the race, somebody shouted go and we were now on our way. Half the field weren't prepared for this, as there was no warning before this. I settled in with Eagle and we slowly started to shuffle off. When we hit our first bit of trail, I edged away from Eagle and set myself the task of catching up to Allison. I did this and we hit the Ampol service station bang on 2 hours. We then set off on the first big climb to the communications tower. Everything was going well and we soon reached Heaton's Lookout. This was a chance to refill some water which I took. Allison said she would keep going as it would be slow going through the rainforest section and expected me to catch up with her. As I was the last to fill up water, I headed into unchartered territory on my own. I had heard this section was tough but unprepared for how tough I would find it. It was very dense and the trail was quite difficult to pick up. Luckily somebody had dabbed some paint on the trees you needed to follow or I would not have had a clue where to go. As it was, I was really struggling to find my way through and it was quite slippery underfoot. Just when I was struggling to stay on course, I was lucky somebody else would come past. First Whippet, then Terry, Tamsin and Tim running together. As they were all handling the conditions better than me, they were soon out of sight again. It was now me again on my own just wanting this section to be over. It was not long until I lost the trail and could not see any trees with the familiar dabs of paint. It was now also clear that I had run into a dead end. So I now started to backtrack and call out to find another runner. Soon enogh somebody shouted back. I kept moving towards the direction of the voice and soon Lou came into view. I had probably lost only around 5 minutes wandering around in circles. I would now make sure I stuck with Lou until I was out of the rainforest. Funnily enough, he lost the trail soon after but we managed to get back on track very quickly. We were now back onto fire trail and I was glad that was behind me. I was now able to move freely again and soon edged away from Lou and come into Checkpoint 1 in 4:48, 2 minutes under target. It was great to see Belinda and Tim. The checkpoint was a hive of activity and even though I put tropical strength aeroguard on my shoes, still managed to pick up 2 leaches, which Kevin (Elvis) promptly removed. I had my supplies for the next section and was soon ready to go. Just as I was about to leave, Eagle rolled into the checkpoint. I waited for him to restock supplies and we soon left together. We would end up running together for the next 100km.
From Checkpoint 1 to 2, it was undulating firetrail along a ridgeline. Eagle and I just relaxed and settled into a nice rhythm and we were rolling along nicely. There was beautiful scenery along here so we stopped and took a few photos. Eagle also took the time to ring his wife Helen. We started to move away from Lou, who joined us for a large part of this section. Then when we hit the road that leads into the school at Checkpoint 2, we settle into a nice rhythm, and it is obvious that we are both more comfortable on the road sections. We catch and pass Tim just before reaching Checkpoint 2. We run this section in 3:12 and after having a 7 minute break to restock our supplies, leave Checkpoint 25 minutes ahead of the plan.
We now steel ourselves for the toughest part of the course. We walk parts that I think are quite runnable but Eagle reminds me that there are 2 tough climbs ahead so we need to conserve our energy. We are soon at the first big climb up to a communication tower. It is as tough as I expected but I am happy with how I handle it and happy that we saved some energy for this climb. When we get to the top, we reward ourselves with a feed. While we are doing this, Paul Every and Dean Cook go past us. Now we are rested and fuelled, we take advantage of some very runnable trail and trundle along nicely. We soon find ourselves at the unmanned water stop. We top up our water and fuel up for the second nasty climb. Just as we are leaving, Tim and Whippet arrive looking good. This climb is tougher than the first as this section of trail is looser footing but we make good steady progress and eventually get to the top. We again reward ourselves with a feed. We soon find ourselves running again but as we enter another rainforest, there are trees down and we lose the trail for a minute. We then scan around and can see the trail down below and realise we have to climb this huge fallen tree and this is a bit tricky but we manage and have soon got sound footing again. Soon Whippet goes flying past us on a downhill and not long longer Tim goes past. The light is now fading so we stop and put our lights on. As it got darker we got slower and Thrax had recovered from his earlier tiredness and goes past us on the single trail into the Basin. We again run this section ahead of plan and are happy to have the biggest climbs behind us. We will end up spending close to half an hour here and we use this time well. I change tri tops and socks and lube up my feet as I have to deal with a couple of hot spots. I also have some nice pasta and vegetable soup that Belinda has made for dinner. We are happy to head out of the Basin still with some time in the bank.
I see this next section as consolidation. We begin the climb out of the Basin and we are soon caught by 2 100km runners and allow them to pass as we are again conservative on the climb. We eventually reach some runnable trail and start trundling along. I am soon shocked to find myself down for the count. I have landed well and haven't damaged anything but I prefer to walk for a while and Eagle agrees. We are soon on solid road again so we again put our road running skills to good use and catch and pass 4 100km runners and Thrax who we have been playing cat and mouse with for hours. Eagle decides to walk this time as fatigue sets in. He becomes disoriented and is unfamiliar with this section and thinks we may have missed a turn. Thrax again catches us and passes and assures us we are still on course. Eagle still isn't so sure but when we see flashing lights ahead, I try to assure him we are nearing Yarramalong as I remember these same flashing lights while waiting for Allison to finish the 100km last year. Eagle thinks it might be an RBT unit. I assure him we are under the limit. We soon reach the checkpoint at the school bang on the stike of 1am, which is bang on the target of 19 hours. This checkpoint is a hive of activity and the 4 100km runners come in while we are there. Paul Every is sound asleep and his running partner from earlier is laid out beside me connected to an IV drip. Milov tries to talk to me but hardly has a voice but decides to trek on despite earlier resolving to drop at this point. I start to feel the cold so I decide to change into my long tights and thermal top as I figure it is better to be a bit warmer than too cold through the early hours of the morning which is usually the witching hour where you sometimes struggle to stay awake. Because of this unscheduled change, we leave 13 minutes behind schedule.
Bandanna is champing at the bit to begin his pacing duties and leads us out. Eagle asks why he is going so fast and I remind him that he has been waiting for us for a while and is itching to get going. When he stops soon after and waits for us, I remind him that we have covered over 100km and have slowed somewhat. He then slows down but stays a bit ahead and drags us through. We are covering good ground and are soon climbing up Bumble Hill. We soon reach the electrified fence which we are relieved to hear is not turned on. I am happy with how I am feeling and am not feeling my energy levels dropping like they did at Western States. The chocolate coated coffee beans and cans of V have been doing their job. In the middle of nowhere we see some lights ahead. We first think it is a car but soon realise it is a group of runners as we draw closer. It is Whippet and Tim and his pacer Run Bare. Tim is doing it tough so they stay with him to look after him. It is good to see the camaraderie of Ultra Runners coming to the fore. I feel strong because I have Eagle and Bandanna with me and soon realise it could be very different if I am on my own. We soon catch up to Milov and US Phil and have a laugh that we have 2 people running together and neither of them are familiar with the course. I make a joke that it is like the blind leading the blind. Milov doesn't appreciate my humour and soon runs off ahead as he is starting to feel better after his earlier malaise. We soon catch up to him as he is frustrated trying to follow the trail as it heads through another leach infested rainforest. I tell him to be patient as he will make up plenty of time once daybreak hits. Bandanna and I move ahead with him while Eagle sticks with US Phil. Meanwhile Tim has recovered and his group are soon back with us. After another steep uphill climb we are all back together again. Daybreak is now with us and I am noticing Bandanna having numerous battles with leaches. I don't think for a minute that I might have a few but I soon notice something under my right sock, just above the ankle. I can't be bothered looking yet as I will deal with it at the next checkpoint. We finally hit the road and eventually make it to the next Checkpoint at Somersby School. I have some instant porridge for breakfast and take my change of clothes behind a building so I can change back into day clothes in privacy. It is here that I notice I have picked up between 10 and 20 leaches. I eventually get rid of them all and change into my day gear. Just as I am almost ready Belinda tells me Eagle is anxious to get going as he is worried about missing the cut. I ask her to pass onto Eagle that he can go if he wants to, which he does. I slip my hydration pack back on and head out just behind Tim, Whippet, Run Bare and US Phil now over half an hour behind schedule.
Bandanna and I are able to catch them just before we turn off the road and back on the trail. But when we hit the trail the pull away. There are pools of water on the trail and this slows me down. Bandanna is geeing me up to run where it is possible and pulls me through this section well. We are making good progress through here and I feel we are pulling some of that time back. We can soon hear traffic which indicates we are getting closer to Mooney Mooney bridge. We are soon passing under the bridge and not much later we find ourselves at the checkpoint just as Eagle et al are leaving. They look surprised to see us. I get my water topped up while I have an avocado, cheese and olive wrap washed down by a sustagen. I start to feel the hot spots on my feet again. I have decided to lube my feet agin and change my shoes and socks. But after changing shoes, I notice that my swollen feet are being strangled by my shoes. I decide to put my wet shoes back on as they are a lot more comfortable. We finally leave the checkpoint only 18 minutes behind schedule and tell everybody I will see them in Patonga.
Bandanna is anxious to keep the momentum going that we developed in the last section after Belinda has given him some last minute instructions to ensure he gets me to Patonga before 6pm. I am happy that we have over 6 and a half hours to finish this last section. Even though there are some nasty climbs and descents ahead, I feel comfortable of finishing before the cutoff. I switch off for the next half hour and walk quite slowly to conserve energy for the togh climbs ahead. Bandanna is getting frustrated with me and feels we should be taking advantage of some good running conditions. The more he tries to get me to go faster the slower I get. I am happy playing these mind games as they keep me focussed on what's ahead. When we reach the first nasty climb, I am glad I have conserved energy as I am finding them very tough. The climbs and descents continue fo a while longer. We finally reach the waterfall which marks another bugger of a climb to the last unmanned water drop. We fill up our water and this is a signal we are edging ever so closely to the finish. We keep plodding along even though I am trying to walk my fastest. When we finally reach a point where there is 2km to go and there is 45 minutes left, Bandanna starts to relax and realises we are going to make it. He starts to imagine how good it is going to feel when we hit the sand at Patonga. It is now my turn to get anxious and I start letting my mind wander and think what would happen if we were somehow off course. There is no way I would have enough energy to recover. I am relieved when we reach the end of the road and now reach the paved footpath which descends down to Patonga. We then get a very pleasant surprise when Belinda and Tim are at the bottom of the trackhead as they want to run into the finish with us. We are also joined by one of the volunteers who shows us the way to the finish. Belinda and Tim are struggling to keep up with us as we have a surge of adrenaline on seeing the finishing post. Bandanna and I join hands and raise them as we come to the finish. I am glad to share this moment with him as he has ensured I kept moving forward and finished inside the cutoff. My finish time is 35:38 and I am happy to put another tough 100 miler behind me and maintain my no DNF record.
I am a road marathon runner and a very inexperienced and clumsy trail runner. However the first year this event was held I was attracted to the challenge and the original thought of even attempting it would not have entered my head if it were not for the suggestion of Blue Dog.
I have had a good marathon year and most were run with the view of training for this event. I had no injuries during the year then had a major calf issue 4 weeks before the event. It was rested and then it was injured again 10 days before the event. In that month I ran 3 times but managed a lot of walking.
I therefore started being very aware the calf could go at anytime and if it did that would be the end. It would not be possible to even walk and significant distance at the speed needed to make the race cut offs. So I started off very slowly and quickly watched most of the field quickly disappear although I was with Horrie but Allison disappeared into the distance. They can discuss that. Horrie left me after an hour or so in an attempt to catch Allison. I ran the rest of the first section alone and was surprised to see Horrie still at the Checkpoint. I was out in 2 minutes and he left with me and we stayed together through CP 2, CP3 and CP 4.
We left CP 4 at 1.23am and almost 1 hour 15 minutes behind last year. I finished last year with 1 hour 15 minutes to spare so I knew I needed to go no slower than last year to make the cut off. Last year I took almost 16hours 30 minutes and if I took that long this year I would be doing a ‘Bill Thompson’ and I was not comfortable with cutting it that fine. Bill might be but I don't have his experience. I needed to run each section faster than last year to make the cut off with some time to spare. I was now relying on the fact that the slower start this year would result in a faster run to the finish. By this time I was confident the calf should hold so my focus changed from protecting the calf to keeping the pace up. I really had no choice my slow start had now put me in a tight time frame. It was no use protecting the calf if I finished after the cut off.
Horrie and I left CP 4 with Bandanna his pacer. About an hour in to run you go down Cherry Lane that is a wide dirt road for about 1.6k. Soon after entering it we could see headlamps in the distance. It turned out to be Tim (problems with his feet), USA Phil wit asthma problems, Whippet was fine, RunBare (Tim’s pacer) I think was wondering what she was doing with her runner not well and Milov wanting to get moving but not sure he could trust his navigation. A quick conference and Whippett would stay with Tim and the rest of us would press on.
We moved ahead of them for a short while and those drugs Tim took kicked in and he was okay. We all essentially stayed together until CP5. I ran that section 15 minutes faster than last year so what needed to be done was achieved at least for that section. At the checkpoint I was anxious to leave and so was Milov. At this CP the group split. Milov left very quickly I was out soon after him as I was very anxious about time and the rest were left getting rteady to leave the CP. I didn’t feel comfortable leaving Horrie having been with him for almost 24 hours. We didn’t have a discussion me leaving with out him but he was with his pacer and I just left. We have spoken since and each of understand what each of us needed to do at that time.
In about an hour Tim, Whippett and USA Phil caught up with me as I was sitting on the track fixing a small blister. We made it to CP5 almost 30 minutes faster that I was last year and so the distance between my actual pace and that invisible cut off line was getting bigger and about this time I thought I would make it. We all stayed together through the next section and after just under 3 hours of hard running and climbing we reached the last of the big climbs totally exhausted. However with 15k of mostly down hill trails with over 4 hours to the cut off their seemed to be a group sigh as we knew the cut off would at long last not be an issue.
Just on the climb down to the beach we caught up to Tamsin and Sussannah and we all ran over the line together. A wonderful feeling to finish and even better the second time.
I had run from the 100k CP much faster than last year but I am not sure I enjoyed the extra stress of having to factor the cut off into the running for almost 16 hours.
To Horrie : thank you for the company. I was so pleased you made it home in time. To Tim, Whippett and USA Phil : I enjoyed your company. To all others : runners, crew and Terrigal Trotters congratulations. A special thank you to Belinda and Tim who looked after me wonderfully well and did far more than was necessary but all the help was greatly appreciated.
This is an event as much about the course as the individual who compete in it. I can’t wait for next year and being at the start but I guess I will just run a few marathons while I am waiting.
Fantastic course and it is a race that just grows on you more and more once you have finished for some strange reason. I am not going to describe the terrain, it is hills, gullys, forest, winding trails but what stands out for me are the people.
I have so many people to thank. I can't thank Horrie's support crew Belinda and their son Tim enough. Every checkpoint I came into she was absolutely brilliant. Always ready with a big smile and keen to assist with anything. When I asked how the drive was getting into the Basin, "fine" she answered and then "what can I get you"? Just brilliant and mindful of what Horrie and I had requested re break times and what we needed. She was also flexible when I changed what and where I needed things such as my reflective jacket. I was aware that by getting ahead it reduced the opportunities for sleeping for both Belinda and Tim and yet even with only a few hours sleep Belinda continued to be on the ball and positive. I am sure she was wearing wings for the whole event.
The thing about this race is how hard it is and how everyone else goes through a journey of some sort. You can't separate their journey from your own. Right down to worrying about Horrie when I drifted ahead early on, to Whippet man flying past me on a downhill section like a complete madman and then stopping to showcase a particularly huge leech speciman on his shoe. As lovely as his leech might be I wasn't hanging around to look at it ! Ewwwhhh. Following Hermie through the early forest secton and then watching as he pulled away easily. Finding Marie behind me when previously she was ahead and discovering she has taken a wrong turn early on. One of the many people that managed to add some extra sightseeing into their ultra. Gabriel the spanish guy with his two walking poles that I was jealous of but still he managed to slip over more than me even with his additional help. Even though his bum was covered in a light layer of mud his grin was contagious.
Coming into checkpoint 2, running after Hermie and Milov along Congewai road and sighting Peter Lines ahead and hoping to gain on him as we ran together last year. Leaving Congewai accidentally as I saw Peter leave but it turned out later he was just getting something from the car so I was then ahead of him. Hearing at 2 that Horrie was running with Eagle and very happy to know he was in safe hands. Eagle knows how to pace and knows this course. Running with Paul Monks a little bit who wasn't as sure about the trail and also showcased a brilliant downhill running style. Leaving him at the unmanned checkpoint with him saying see you. Thinking but we are going the same pace why would you be saying bye and yet he was right I didn't see him again. Coming into that special leech territory they call the basin alone and on dusk and seeing some of the other runners heading out. Ewan looking strong and happy and Robin Cameron running very well. Having some very odd leech panic moments where I tried to get them off my shoes and succeeded only in having them now writhing around on my fingers and literally screeching get off, get off, and starting to hyperventilate with panic and a few more choice words as well and then as another runner comes around the corner, hoping they didn't hear any of that little panic attack and smiling brightly and as normally as I could muster with a Hi.
Coming into the basin and seeing all the people in the checkpoint looking so solid and steady. The unleeching treatment was an absolute treat by the terrigal trotters. Worrying about having to do the night section alone and then Peter Lines comes into the checkpoint and nearly dancing with joy that I wouldn't have to do the night section alone. Thank you so much Peter for running with me. Leaving together and soon coming across tall Geoff making his way slowly out of the Basin, overtaking Geoff who shortly afterwards decided to stick with us which turned out to be very lucky as our headlights were as weak as could be. Peter had given his spare torch to Marie who had gone off course and missed the basin turn off and wasn't sure if she would make it back before dark. Geoff I can't thank you enough for staying ahead on that tricky section down to Yarramalong Valley and allowing us to coast from the light from your head light. I know how tired you were feeling and you pushed hard to set a good pace and we pushed to stick with you and your light.
Coming into the 100km where I gave up last year. I was worried about stopping here. Finding I had missed my pacers because I was ahead of schedule. A very good and bad thing but luckily I was with Peter. Leaving 4 was easier than I thought. This next section between 4-5 and between 10pm-3am was shocking. Your body should be asleep. Going on and on and getting more and more tired and then discovering due to a miscommunication at checkpoint 4, I hadn't taken enough food from the checkpoint. Well the truth is I hadn't taken any food. When I checked my bag I had 1 Gu ! A huge oversight in this night section when I really needed it.
Again thank god for Peter who gave me a small picnic bar and half of his power bar. Still getting more and more tired as it was now well past midnight and the witching hour. The body winding down and no longer able to walk straight but instead weaving, my body trying to find a place to sleep with the brain struggling to tell it to go on. Coming into Somersby and instantly finding some energy when I saw my pacers and Belinda and the terrigal trotters team. Seeing Ian and been confused what was he doing there ? He then told me he had dropped out. Yes and also asking about the "3" people ahead of us. Turned out the last people to go through was blue dog well over an hour and a half ago. I was seeing mirages out there in the bush but Peter had also seen these lights.
Leaving 5 with my pacer Danielle and leaving Peter behind which felt wrong but thinking he would catch up as he had done a fast time on this section last year.
Peter didn't catch up and coming into 6, swapping pacers and heading into the last section. It should be a breeze. 6-7 turning into a new nightmare as my energy levels dipped and I felt faint a few times and unsure how to push through it. Ahh and don't forget angry. I felt a bit angry. Angry at my pacer Dale who wanted to do her job and keep me moving, angry at the hills and the rocks and even at the sun. I just wanted to sit down and have a rest. This wasn't fun anymore. Dale talking trying to keep my spirts up and I couldn't concentrate and follow the spiel of words. Too many, too fast. All I could say was where is that road and on and on we went. Finally seeing the steps that went down towards the beach and a surge of energy coming from I don't know where and finally we were heading down and onto the beach to finish my first 100 miler.
Thanks to Dale and Danielle my pacers who were absolutely great and put up with my moods and my lack of energy. Dale soon learnt that a hill was anything even vaguely like a hill and that when I was doing a cliff young shuffle I truly believed I was sprinting and could not go any faster.
After I finished waiting for my other comrades to come in and unable to relax until they came in, first Terry looking fresh, then Peter looking satisfied to have made it this year, then Rodney, next Milov looking dreadful but very happy to be at the end. Still loads of runners out there and fretting a bit. Where are all these people with the clock ticking away. Then in the distance on the sand a big group come down on to the beach. We are trying to see who it is and it is 5 finishers, Eagle, Tamsyn, Whippet man, Tim and Phil. Hooray they are in and coming in together was sensational. My spirits soar and then remember where is our Horrie ? Only Horrie, Bill and Louey remaining out on course.
Then Horrie comes in and fighting off the tears to see him arrive after such a tough journey. Tim and Belinda also so glad to see him and Bandanna's father and son also there to see him complete his pacing duties with Horrie having made it under the cut off.
Not far behind him comes veteran Bill relaxed with his 2 minute pb and unfortunately no Louey, although he made it the furthest yet.
I can't believe the stellar performances by Tugger and Tim and I love that they tied in this event. Well done to all the girls especially Carol the blonde who blew us all away and I was told always looked strong. Also to Blue Dog who was a source of a lot of energy in this event and great advice and although still injured pulled out a great time. Eagle who made it look easy. I love the picture of Eagle and Blue Dog sitting at the start they look like they are quietly meditating before the big event as us other mortals mill around and fret. Well done to Milov who had a cold and had said he was withdrawing at checkpoint 3 and went on to finish the whole thing, I could never have done this course unwell. Well done as well to our foreigners, Marie, US Phil and Gabriel and of course our other foreigners the Queenslanders who tacked the GNW course. Thanks to everyone I saw out there and at the checkpoints for making this as always a memorable event. Thanks also to Ron for hanging around and thanks for the lightweight reflective jacket. It was a great one. Thanks to Clare for coming to checkpoint 2, it gave me a lift to see you there.
I think I love the spirit of the ultra's and that is what keeps you going when it all starts to hurt.
This was more of a training run than a race for me. I haven't been doing too much since July so I just wanted to get a measure of fitness and have a day in the bush with some like-minded souls. Uncharacteristically, I took the ‘soft’ option of the 100km instead of the 100 mile.
I managed to miss a turn in the first 10km, which put me and Dean Cook, at the back of the field. We lost about 50 minutes but found a dog. It looked like a fox terrier-rugby ball cross, and followed us from his farm home for about 7km, to the road crossing at Heaton Gap, where we left him with race volunteers. He was in danger of having the longest walk of his life.
After the monster climb out of Heaton Gap, we descended into a majestic section of rainforest shortly before the clouds dumped their load. Still trailing the other runners, we were the only competitors to keep dry, courtesy of the rainforest canopy. By about 5 hours we reached the first aid station at 29km and had caught Bill Thompson and a few competitors.
The section through to Check Point 2 at about 50km in Congewoi Valley was easier going. More fire trail and fewer hills. Dean and I moved fairly well but saw few other runners. At CP2 we picked up our torches as there was no guarantee we would make the next station before dusk.
We fortunately made CP3 (81km) as the light faded, having passed about 12 runners including Horrie and Eagle, Tim and Whippet, USA Phil and Thrax. At the Basin, I took a seat next to Milov, Potty and Tamsin and followed the ritual: eat, drink, and repack the camelback. While support crews filled our water bladders, Kevin from Terrigal Trotters did leech patrol, moving from runner to runner, cutting the blood suckers in half with a pair of scissors. He was a very busy man. Our little dog was fortunate he didn’t make it this far. He would not have had the necessary blood-to-leech ratio to survive.
The final section should have been straightforward. Unfortunately Dean and I again missed a turn losing contact with Tamsin and Milov . Finding a fire trail marked “Owl Ridge Road” and doubting our course, I consulted the maps. We were off course, but luckily still on map. Backtracking, we regained the course, again losing about ¾ hour. Just like our earlier inattention we had missed a conspicuous sign saying something vaguely relevant like “GREAT NORTH WALK >> ”. Big letters too. The sign appeared to be the secret meeting place of a clandestine society for skinny bald men. Whippet, Tim and USA Phil were loitering suspiciously. In the darkness, Dean and I were able to infiltrate their group and we stayed together until we reached the road leading through Yarramalong Valley. In the faint glow from the farmhouses Dean and my imposter status in the follicularly challenged coterie was evident so we pushed on towards the 100km finish. At around 12km and relatively flat, it is probably the easiest section of the course. We cruised along at about 8km/hour, a not unreasonable pace. Dean was admittedly looking uncomfortable, but we were homing in on a finish before midnight. However, with 2km to cover Dean relinquished running in favour of a decrepit hobble. He didn’t look good. My conscience wouldn’t let me run on. We had shared the course together, got lost together and stolen someone’s dog together. I walked with Dean, gently imploring and encouraging him, trying not to push too hard. He was fragile. He looked only one leech from collapse. The final 2km stretched out to close to 40 minutes. Upon finishing, Dean opted for a few litres of IV fluids rather than his original intention of another 72kmof brutal trails. I just plunged into sleep.
How good are the GNW 100s? Possibly the best ultramarathons in Australia. The eye-poppingly scenic courses take in vast vistas of Lake Macquarie, the Hunter, Congewoi, Yarramalong and Ourimbah Valleys, and the sweeping grandeur of the Hawkesbury. The rainforest gullies, eucalypt woodlands, farmland and scrubby escarpments are all astounding. The hills of this section of the Great North Walk dwarf those on trail to the south of Brooklyn. It was once described as “Trailwalker on steroids” by ultramarathon hard man Jan Herrmann. The infrequency of the aid stations demands a level of self-sufficiency not encountered in other events, and all the usual demands on an athlete in such an event are magnified to an extreme degree. Occasionally you will gaze at a point far on the horizon, realising you must spend hours descending and climbing to that point, before you can even contemplate the next aid station still further beyond. By comparison with other 100 mile and 100km events around the globe, they would be considered extraordinary.
If you haven’t been there, be tempted. This race touches your soul.
Panic on race morning when the alarm clock failed but got to the start at 5 OK. Great to see so many there with lots of familiar faces. Soon after the start I settled into my preferred position of last. Walked most of this section with Nick and we even passed a few on the rougher section. I really enjoy that bit of the course. Ten minutes and 2 sausages later we took off for 2. After an hour or so I suggested we did a bit more walking than talking and Nick took off with his enormous strides. I was then joined by Peter from NZ . He was having big trouble with knees and was happy to walk. After a coffee and probably a few flies I loaded up the pack with stove for 3. Travelled solo to Watagan Ck where I caught Nick and Sonia. I was nicely ahead of my schedule so spent 15mins brewing up soup and noodles with a few chillies to get me going. I caught up with Sonia on the 1st hill then she would run past on the flat. Repeated this most of the way to the Basin. She was worried about travelling at night and I tried unsuccessfully as it turned out, to convince her that it was probably easier than navigating in daylight. The thought of a Guinness and hot food saw me arrive 10 mins ahead of schedule. After a 30min break I joined forces with Nick again and we proceeded to 4 without incident. My ipod shuffle proved invaluable for the boring 2 hour misty road section. It was a little disconcerting to hear that at least 8 runners had already left Somersby. Grant headed out while we were resting suggesting we would catch him on Bumble Hill. I said that was doubtful but sadly for him Nick and I soon hauled him in and I think he pulled out soon after. Dropping down into Ourimba Creek we found Louis coming up the track towards us, temporarily geographically embarrassed. At the bottom I completely lost the plot and the other two went ahead. My usual good climbing skills had evaporated and I lost quite a bit of time on the climb while the eastern yellow robins were signalling the dawn. Managed to get rolling again on the downhill but the next two climbs needed some remedy. I realised I had had no electrolyte for about six hours so stopped at the creek at Stringbark Point, got the stove going for a brew of tea and mixed a nice strong endura. Although this took a good ten minutes, it was time well spent. Soon caught up with the others and managed to pull ahead 15 minutes on the long climb to Somersby where Jane was waiting with breakfast. Louie went through while I was having a bacon omelette but Nick was looking a bit the worse for wear. Left right on schedule with Nick still horizontal on the bench. I caught up with Louie on the bitumen and noticed that Nick had got going again. I was feeling pretty good so said goodbye to Louie and did a good time for me down to 6. Louie was the last runner I saw on the course so did the last 8 hours or so solo. Some drunken fishermen offered me lunch under the freeway, roast lamb and cold beer. Very tempting. Got a good reception at 6 and left feeling pretty confident. Stopped at Myron Brook for a while. Surprising how long it takes to remove socks and shoes, wash and replace same. The last section always seems a bit longer than the published figures but I reached Patonga Road just after 5pm so knew the finish was in the bag. Touched the post five minutes ahead of my schedule, the Guiness tasted good, I had no blisters(good old KT26's), picked up a first in the “death warmed up” category so what more could one want.
I had always wanted to go to Australia. It probably goes back to when I was a kid watching Australian Rules Football & The Paul Hogan Show on TV. It seemed so exotic and far-off the beaten track. Once that pesky job situation worked out as favorably as I had planned, I finally had the time to go. And, wouldn't you just know it, they had a 100+ mile race going on when I wanted to go. I simply had to sign up.
The Great North Walk 100 would be my 9th 100 Mile race this year to go with two 150 mile races. Yes, I've been busy. Actually, GNW is a 175k race or about 108 miles through the rainforest with approximately 20,000 feet of climb and descent across rather difficult terrain. This race had heavy emphasis on all my weaknesses and so was quite a challenge. The checkpoints are about 25-30k apart and could take as long as 4-6 hours to reach. So, you have to carry 70 ounces of water from every checkpoint. Also, you're required to carry at all times a rain jacket, a compass and a whistle. Oh yeah, the course isn't really marked either, so you have to carry maps and directions with you. Now, I've been known to get lost on a well-marked trail, so I was way out of my depth here. The race had only had 14 finishers in the first two years (about 30% finishing rate).
At least I had the invaluable help from theose with experience. Dave Byrnes the RD helped me with what to expect from the race and put me in touch with the runners in the race. Ray and Wayne would prove to be my host and social coordinator, respectively, prior to the race. They told me all about the course and suggested race strategies. Ray even let me stay in his home in Sydney (and continue to use it as a home base) and hosted a dinner to intorduce me to several other runners. Then, Wayne did the same with a rather glorious intro at the pre-race dinner.
During these activities, I tried to explain again and again that I was not a premier ultra-stud coming over from the US with an eye towards winning the race. No matter...the Aussies still went out of their way to treat me like one! Offers of places to stay, gratuitous compliments. seeking advice and giving suggestions of traveling around Australia were aplenty. The one thing that came across quite clear was just how envious they are of the ultra-scene in the US. The number of 100 mile races, the numbers of running stores and products were all mentioned frequently. These are all true and made me realize just how lucky we are int eh US to have all those things. But, the Aussies are certainly our equals in hospitality and ultra-companionship.
In just its third year, the Great North Walk had managed to achieve the largest field for an Austrlian ultra with 33 runners in the 100 mile race and 26 in the 100k race. Ultras are growing here as well as in the US. Over the course of my 35 hours, I did manage to see two goannas (large lizards) but one was only the size of a cat and the other was only the size of a small dog. I think the rain had put most of them away; as well as the kangaroos. I did manage to see about a zillion leeches (many of them were eventually cut off by a man wearing a three piece suit and an Elvis tie - I swear I was not hallucinating that!). I also realized just how accurate those environmental cd's of the sounds of the rainforest are. Unfortunately, I also realized that the pulmonologist and her thousand of dollars of medical tests were accurate as well - I do indeed have asthma now as a result of the lung infection I got at Leadville and carried around for a couple of races. That's too bad.
There is no way I could have finished this race without the help of the locals who knew the course. The directions were very good, but there were places where if you make a slight mistake you could get lost for hours "in da bush". That was the biggest difference between Australian and American ultras. Other differences include having to go over or through 6-10 fences including one with barbed wire and one with an ankle-high electric wire.
The Aussies also wanted to know what courses in the US it could compare to. I would put this course in the Top 3 hardest courses and the race would also go in the Top 3 hardest races I've done. It's been compared to Massanutten and I can see that. Massanutten is the race I keep calling "that crazy race in Virginia" and "I wouldn't wish that course on a child molester". This race's difficult terrain, distances between checkpoints, required materials to carry and wet, humid, hot weather make it a very tough race that is not to be taken lightly. I'm grateful to have hooked up with all the Australians I have so far to make my stay and my race so much fun.
The only downside to these blokes is that they are feeding my insanity and are trying to get me to change my flight back so that I can run the Coast to Kosci race. It's basically the Australian Badwater with the lowest to highest point in Australia, likely extreme heat, road course, need crew and 150 mile distance. It's just a matter of time before I run myself to death with friends like these!
The GNW seed was sown at Glasshouse last year – I think it was Paul E and Blue Dog who tried to tempt me – but I was never going to run 100 miles ever again! W all change our minds sometimes – it just took me over a year to do it.
The weekend logistics involved a complicated plan including Susannah, my superstar pacer and crew, IDW, Paul E and a hire car that wasn’t to go on dirt roads – somehow it all worked well, just don’t ask me how.
I was full of fear and trepidation at the start – I really didn’t want to get lost which seemed to be par for the course, or spend the day and night soaked through and freezing which was also looking highly likely. In the end I couldn’t believe my luck –neither happened!
The course was all I hoped it would be and more – fantastic varied scenery, great single track and hills – have to say I was a bit over the last two by the end! I ran with Terry for most of the first 120km – thanks for the great company and for your insider knowledge of potential missed turns. A few others came and went – Alec, another Pom was one, but I’m not sure who else – and I thought I was compos mentis for the first day! We came upon Rachel near Mt Warrawolong – seems she had decided that a prolonged detour up the mountain was in order (not enough hills on the course?). We stayed together into the Basin, where the art of de-leeching by decapitation was already a well practised art. Restaurant service was awesome here too. We made ourselves comfortable and had a short rest before heading out into the dark in reflective attire – have to say Rachel’s tent guy ropes won for creative dressing! Not long out of the Basin we met up with Paul, Milov and some others. Rachel went on ahead and Milov, Terry and I made our way to Yarramalong Valley together. The road was a bit of a trudge but Milov’s jokes that I have (fortunately) forgotten kept us going until the flashing lights of the SES told us we had made it to a happening place on a Saturday night?
Here Susannah abandoned her crewing duties and metamorphosed into an equally awesome pacer. IDW had ground to a halt and decided to turn into crew with Paul –modification to plan – but plan still working well! Susannah, Terry and I set off up Bumble Hill, playing a bit of cat and mouse with Rachel and Hermie. Somewhere before Stringybark Point I was consumed by the worst sleeps I have ever had in a one night event. Much of the way to Somersby is lost in a haze dotted with calls from Susannah bringing me back to the track as I was determined to check out off-track routes! A bed of damp leaf litter was a really appealing prospect. Even Terry’s tumble into a puddle didn’t do it for me – but it certainly kicked him back to life – he was soon striding fast up a hill with Hermie leaving us girls to plod forward one slow step at a time…
Feet were agony by the time I got to Somersby. I was very sorry to leave Rachel there and spent too long fiddling with feet and food and other stuff – I am not sure what. Thanks to Paul and others there for foot patching jobs. Problem was it seemed to be bruising that hurt so much rather than blisters – I don’t know what to do about that – the rocks were agony for the rest of the trail. I guess I need to stop being a whoos or lose 10kg so they don’t get such a pounding – option A more likely I reckon… Blue Dog – how did you move so fast with feet like that?
It was good to see the sun and the scenery was great on the next section – I think I was a bit grumpy though (sorry Susannah) and wouldn’t eat. Fence at the dam was a good stretching post – any excuse to escape the extra hard rocks underfoot, if only for a few mins. Thanks to those hardy souls who camped at Mooney Mooney creek crossing and showed us all the way across – that fire smelt great! Finally the last CP loomed. I’d dreamed for bacon – and I got my dream – mmm thanks!
Climbing up from Piles Creek, soon after seeing the lying sign that said Patonga 18km I spat the biggest dummy. The map I was holding said finish was at 171.3km but Susannah pointed out that the directions she was holding said 175km. I was NOT going to make it and I had had ENOUGH! I got a stern talking to and plodded on in grumpy silence until we got to Scopas Peak – ok I normally love open rocky ground like that but right then I wanted the beach – Now! Myron Brook was somewhat rejuvenating but at the water stop I was back in a panic that I wouldn’t make the cut-off. It was a more determined sort of panic though and we made slightly less slow progress over that last section. Susannah’s dreams of ice cream began as the layers of sandstone turned into hazelnut torte sandwiched with ice cream – anything that keeps you going…? The first view of the sea and waft of sea breeze made it all seem worthwhile – the end was in sight – even if it kept disappearing! The only just forward plod continued and at Warrah Trig we were joined by Whippet, Tim, Eagle, USA Phil and RunBare – it was a relief to see others still out there and great to reach that final post with you all!
What a run – I loved it - for the course and for the company - and can’t wait for 2008. Meanwhile I’ll wear that great race T shirt with pride – I am so pleased to have made it! Thanks to Dave and all the other volunteers who made it all possible and IDW and Paul for realizing the logistics. Hugest thanks go of course to Susannah – without her I don’t believe I would have got to the finish. Congrats to the Blonde and the Bunny – great performances from the girls, to Tugger and Tim2 for blitzing the course and everyone else for their great performances.
There is one more thing - there must have been quite a bit of bleeding in the upper part of my gut over the weekend. This isnt something I've experienced before - I'm guessing with constant impact it's not all that uncommon, but I just thought I'd ask...
Sorry its so long – but once I started there was just so much to say…
I've had a pretty good lead up to this years event.Just a few good runs and a terrific day for me at Glasshouse.Just goes to show that long miles are not needed to push yourself over these long distances.
What worked for me was a more positive mental attitude to this year.I've spent a year agonising over the last two years and failure was not something I wanted to cope with.Sitting in Newcastle for two days watching it rain did put a dampener on my mood.Pun intended.I'm not sure I could have coped with rain over the whole race.Fortunately that was not to be and the weather proved to be excellent.
Unlike previous races my mental attitude was good and never once did I consider withdrawing.As usual at CP1 I was tired and by CP2 I was exhausted.This is usual at these distances for me and I wonder always how we can continue run at reasonable pace feeling this fatigued.
Milov and I were again joined at the hip up to CP3 and until he decided to withdraw I probably would have stayed with him as long as I could keep up.Did anyone notice the road to Yarramalong seemed to be always uphill despite the loss of elevation as per race directions?
At CP4 I decided to wait for Rachel because I wanted some company and I was also worried about getting lost.So we promptly missed the very first turn.At the top of Bumble Hill we would have struggled to find the track except Terry had caught us and knew the way.
I just kept pushing along and Terry and I gradually left Rachel Tamsin and Suzannah behind.After Somersby Terry pushed us along for a 2hr30min leg which was pretty quick then I saw him away from Mooney as I was completely spent.
The last leg for me consisted of pushing uphill with a stick and using the stick to lower myself on the descents.My feet and knees ached badly but my quads had given up and were really unable to push me up or lower me down.Never ran a step in this section so there is room for improvement.But I lie as I did run stagger along the beach at Patonga to the finish.What a great moment .Received an SMS from Anne my C2K crew on this section.A nice encouraging boost.Thanks Anne.
Alison said it all about this race .It is about the people you meet.The ones you see all the time and the ones in passing.The rivalry and camerarderie which go hand in hand in these ultras.
I want to thank my fried Tamara for all her help in Newcastle and getting me to the start and home from Teralba.Suzannah for her unselfish crewing for me at the first 4 checkpoints while she waited for Tamsin.Milov for again pushing me through the difficult early bits.Rachel for her company.Terry for his speed.Bluedog and Spud at the finish for the hearty congratulation.
But this race is also about the organisers.Dave Byrnes take a bow.So too the rest of those involved.There are probably more organisers and helpers than runners.And they provide a welcome oasis at each CP.I reckon there must be an enormous amount of preparation for this event.When I was finishing I was thinking well I've done this.This is as much as I can do.No more.But to not come again to support the organisation seems ungrateful.Just as I keep attending every Glasshouse event as much as thanks to Ian Javes as a race for me.
Congratulations to those who finished and commiserations to those who didn't.I know how it feels and I didn't like it.Next year.
So now it's on to C2k.
By the way Robert Boyce.What happened to you on the way to Yarramalong?