Thursday night was the usual with lot's of nerves and little worries about injuries but waking up on Friday at 6am after a reasonable amount of sleep I was ready to run. I grabbed some coffee , ate some cake and then headed out of the hotel to the start area at 7am. Lauren(Woody) , Kim and Angie were my support team and pacers for the journey ahead.....
|Ready to go|
We started off with a big climb(1300m). I was jogging really well up a lot of this until we went off the trail and headed directly and steeply up the piste and through long grass , rocks , roots etc..I did say before the race I would go slow here but I was feeling great and climbing really is one of my stronger points so I just headed on up how I felt and before I knew it I had made it to the top of the climb in 9th place in 1hr 18mins! Nothing to get excited about as from here I made myself slow down. I knew I would be quite near the front of the pack on the climb and lose places later so it really was no big shock for me to find myself in this position. By this point I was at mile 5 with 6 miles to go until the Long Lake Aid station. The next 6 miles was amazing single track with lots and lots of little ups and downs. I really eased back on my pace here and wasn't bothered being passed by people who were stronger flat runners than me. I arrived into Long Lake at 10.30am. I grabbed a drink of Coke and headed off to Olympian Hall.
|Heading to Long Lake|
Now this section went very very well for me. I wasn't really feeling myself on the flat and rolling terrain during the early hours and even the start of this section is a mile of flat single track and I just couldn't find my usual rhythm here. I decided not to push as I knew we had a big descent to come so I hung on until it began. I love to descend fast and technical trails and I was in for a treat here. Once the incredibly fun descent began I really took off and flew past people. I was not holding back one bit here and before I knew it I was at the Fish Creek Falls Trail head at mile 16.5 with only 4 miles on road to Olympian Hall.
|Enjoying Mtn Dew at Olympian Hall|
I had already trained on this loop in the summer so I knew what to expect but it by no means made it easy. It is a 4 mile climb up , then a rolling descent for 5 miles to Cow Creek Aid station then 2 miles of dirt road , another 7 mile climb and finally a 4 mile descent back to Olympian. The first climb went nice and slow and steady but on the next bit I was terrible. My legs didn't feel too great and again I found it hard to get them going on the rolling terrain. I lost a lot of places between here and Cow Creek but was still super happy with my time. The 5 mile single track descent really was one of the race highlights and I did stop here twice(for seconds) to just look around. I arrived into Cow Creek at 2.05pm. Again I was really happy with my time for that section considering the first climb is really tough. I was even more stoked to see my team here as I thought they were going to skip this checkpoint so it really cheered me up seeing them there even if my face didn't tell the same story. It did mean a lot guys! It had taken me 2 hours to get here which was what I expected but I had dropped to 14th place. Next up was the 2 miles of dirt road and this went fine. I met another runner at the start of this and we ran along it together chatting away and this stretch passed in no time. After that was the climb back up and over to Olympian. I wasn't looking forward to this section however it went rather well. I was just speed hiking all of it and nobody was passing me so I was happy with my pace. I arrived at the high point faster than I expected too and then it was a nice cruisy run back down to Olympian Hall and I was feeling really strong on the descent with no knee pain whatsoever.
|Heading into Cow Creek|
|Out I go|
I felt great coming into Olympian at 4.46pm and was greeted by my awesome and ever enthusiastic team. I just threw down empty gel wrappers and handed over my empty bottles and they refilled them and handed me new gels. I went into the aid station and grabbed some bacon(yes bacon at an aid station!) watermelon and some crisps. From here I could pick up my first pacer and Angie was there ready to go. We left the aid station just walking as I was still finishing my bacon and then downed a can of red bull which was not too wise.
|Coming back into Olympian alongside Woody|
|Angie and I heading off|
Dry Lake Mile – 64.5 to Dry Lake 74.5
I felt a bit better getting into Dry Lake and my team were here to urge me on. Kim took over here from Angie to pace on the next 10 mile out and back section. Kim and myself had already ran this section earlier in the summer and knew I could run the 5 miles downhill single track and then speed hike it back up and to my surprise it went exactly as planned. We jogged down the track chatting and eating and to both of our surprise we rounded a bend and seen the turnaround point. We were both pretty surprised by this but neither of us complained. We stopped here for about 10 mins as Kim stuffed ice into my compression socks to numb the pain of my shin and it worked a treat. Then it was time for the McDonalds! I know some non runners out there will think this is a stupid idea but trust me it ain't. On this kind of distance a bag of lettuce ain't going to do anything for you. You need calories and lots of them. Everyone has their own favourite whether it's pizza , crisps , bagels etc... but for me a McDonalds burger(which Kim had bought earlier in the night for me) tastes bloody good at mile 70 in a race and it's packed with a ton of calories to keep me going.
|I'm Lovin' it|
Dry Lake – Mile 74.5 to Summit Lake – Mile 81.1
Getting back to Dry Lake I changed into some warmer clothes for the long slow hike ahead. From here I picked up Lauren who was going to see me to the end of the race. It's no surprise that Woody and I like to run together so I was super excited to get to her and then see what we could do with my pace to the end of the race. Off we went up the long dirt road. I and my team expected me to go back up this road in around 3hrs.
|Woody and I set off|
Summit Lake – Mile 81.1 to Long Lake – Mile 89.7
We were both excited about this section as it was amazing single track all the way to Long Lake and we were hoping to blast this out if we could. We/I couldn't. Pretty much as soon as I started this section my mind went to shit. My legs were fine , a little heavy but not sore and no cramping. I had done a great job eating and keeping my salt levels good all day. My shin was in agony here and being so tired I kept leaving my foot trailing and my toe would clip rocks and roots and stretch my shin and it was pretty damn sore. It was really really cold and we were out all on our own with not another runner in sight. Woody kept freaking here thinking we would come across a bear but I wasn't giving a damn. If we had seen one I would probably have tried to hug it. Woody really was great here. She kept feeding me gels and chews as I pathetically just turned to her and opened my mouth and she would ram some in. Another McDonalds burger didn't work so well this time as Woody stuck it in my mouth and I just let it hang there and then fall out. I was getting worse and worse. I was worried we were not running but she assured me we were going at a really strong pace. I kept asking her why nobody was passing us and she kept saying “nobody is passing us because your moving fast and everyone else is destroyed too” This was for sure my lowest point of the race. My eyes were so heavy and even shutting at times. I am sure I freaked Woody out a little more as I said “all the grass on the ground keeps coming into my eyes!” No joke , every time I blinked the ground was jumping out into my face and the grass I swear was getting into my eyes. Woody knows me well enough and could tell I was on a major downer but I wouldn't stop moving. She just kept me moving and eating and just kept telling me we need to get to Long Lake and some food and by that time the sun would be up and I would feel better. The girl did however freak me out a little when somewhere along the trail she all of a sudden shouted "STOP!" I thought she was going nuts. She thought there was an almighty hole in the middle of the trail but it turned out to be a huge puddle as I continued walking and said "it's a f**king puddle Woody". Once we were a mile from Long Lake the sun was coming up and almost instantly my mind changed and I really started to perk up. I only had a half marathon to go and I was done!
Long Lake – Mile 89.7 to Finish – Mile 102.5
I was so so happy to get here. It was 6.44am. Apparently here I was down to 23rd place but not a soul passed us between Summit Lake and here and at Summit Lake I was in 16th so I am guessing there was a problem somewhere with the timings. Anyway I sat down next to the camp fire here and started to change from my warm clothes back into some cooler stuff. Woody handed me coffee , crisps and noodle soup. The transformation here from zombie to eager runner was incredible. I was a totally different person once I got that coffee and changed into new clothes and shoes. I don't normally have a strategy for an Ultra but before this race we had planned that if I got to here and felt good then we would give it a hell of a go. That is preciously the reason I held back on a lot of the dirt roads earlier on. I wasn't having the best time at those stages so I knew to slow it down and not push and burn out and to try and keep some gas for a fun finish. I knew if I got here and had anything left then Woody was the person to get it out of me. So off we went for the finish. We started jogging. The shin was sore like really bloody sore but I knew it would get me 13 miles to the end albeit with a lot of moaning.
|Not holding back|
|Following Woody to finish|
|Couldn't have been happier|
|With the amazing race director|
|We smashed it pal!|
Kim , Angie and Woody. Total legends. That time would never have happened if I never had you guys there with me. GAS GAS GAS!!!
|Kim , Angie , Woody , Me. The day before the race.|