― Rita Mae Brown
I've had a little while to go over the post mortem of this run. It was as hard a day I've ever had in my running career and it really was such a humbling experience to go through the journey I did that day. It was without doubt the hardest physical experience I've ever had in a race; it brought me to my knees and it reminded me that sometimes nature and our human limitations really do run the show.
In Europe they have really gnarly, technical climbs that go forever and demand nothing more than a power walk. In Australia we have the heat and humidity and it delivered this year. Both are difficult and challenging conditions to run in but I wouldn't have had it any other way. As trail runners we have to factor in all the variables of race day and execute accordingly in order to put out our optimal performance. I have to put my hand up here and plead guilty of not doing this adequately. Doing most of my running up here in the mountains, and having only run the GNW on the two of the coolest conditions in the race's history...well I am guilty of taking the weather for granted.
|Early on and feeling good!|
On reflection, I guess there were a couple of factors that really lulled me into a false sense of security. One was the cool and overcast morning we had at the start of the race. It felt very comfortable running with Pierre all the way to the first checkpoint as was our pre race plan. I never thought once that we were overdoing it. I was on top of my nutrition and hydration and things were going well. The second leg was mostly the same; and I only realised that it was starting to heat up when we were descending down to Congewai when the cloud broke up and the temperature just suddenly went up and up.
On the way to the CP at Congewai I was pretty much running my own race. Pierre had gone off and I was confident he would be able to find his way around the course as he was picking up his GPS watch at the CP. The climb up to the Comm Tower was tough but I did it comfortably enough. I think it was the next stretch of trail, that passes Flat Rock Lookout and down to Watigan Creek where I probably pushed way too hard. My second mistake - I wasn't taking enough water on and wasn't adjusting my pace to the worsening conditions.
|At CP2 at Congewai. It was getting hot!|
I reached the Basin and definitely needed to sit and take an extended recovery. Ewan, my crew and pacer, attended to me with ice, water, food and moral support and convinced me to just take it easy for as long as I wanted. I was there for 40 minutes altogether and was pretty shocked that no one came in at all during that time. I had a pretty handy lead.
|Starting to feel the pinch here!|
To stop the negative thoughts I basically came up with the only plan I could think of....I would get to the checkpoint, quickly change my gear and put on my headlamp, restock my supplies and get going again with Ewan ASAP...even if I had to walk the next leg in order to feel better again for the rest of the race then so be it. Unfortunately things didn't turn out this way. Evidently when I was weighed in I had managed to lose over 6kg from the start of the race, and the medical staff, quite rightly, were not going to let me go on. This meant I had to have another big break where I had to prove to them that I could eat and drink and feel well enough to get going.
Somehow I bluffed my way through this half an hour, eating and drinking some and got the green light to go. I was, amazingly, still leading the race but it wouldn't be for long. As I started the technical trail after the little road bit on Bumble Hill, it was very clear I wasn't going to go any further in this race. I was stumbling around, wobbly and losing my stomach again. It was game over. It was disappointing but the right call to make.
|At the 100k CP. This was to be my final|
GNW proved to be Australia's toughest Ultra Trail race. With only 20% of the miler field and 40% of the 100k field finishing, the proof is in the pudding!
I have to say a big thanks to Ewan Horsburgh who looked after me all day, especially when I was at my lowest. I owe you one big time mate and good luck at C2K for the threepeat! Also a massive congratulations to Pierre who ran out of his skin in unfamiliar conditions to that he is used to back in France and took out the 100k race! I feel privileged to have run some of the race with him and he proved me very wrong, his navigational skills were excellent all day!