I ran into the check point after 81.7km feeling great, I was at the final check point, and I had completed the toughest climbs of the day. The crowd cheered me on, recognising me by now, cheering me on. “Go Shona”. I ran into the check point desk, “One, One, One, One or however many ones you needed”, I said in a rush. “Shona Stephenson”.
I found Mikey, he had everything ready. He only filled up the small water bottles though thinking that would be enough to get me the 23km home, so I was going to be light, and carry only 1.7L of water.
I quickly drank my 3 hydrolytes, had another drink of water, swopped my food bag and emptied my rubbish. I picked up my maps and I was out of there, feeling like a million bucks.
I was properly hydrated, properly feed, and I was living my dream in 2nd position over all and 1st Female. What more could I ask for? I fought back from feeling sick, de-hydrated, and now I just felt great. This was just amazing. I could not believe I was actually doing it. I ran over the the Marshals to be checked out. I was covered in mud, Mikey set up in a muddy area, and when I was checking my gear I noticed I had a leech crawling up my leg on my compression sock. “Leech, I need some Salt”, I screamed. A marshall came running to my aid. I then Spotted another one on my Shoe. “Get the little bastards.” I exclaimed. Another Marshal came to help spraying my legs with Aeroguard, and cutting the leech in 1/2. I wanted my shoes to be covered in salt and Aeroguard tropical strength. The Marshals must have set up their stand in a leech breeding ground. When I was given the all clear, I started running again just as Mal came running into the Check Point.
I decided to walk and run up to the top of the small hill then when I reached the single man track again I started to run. I was savouring the moment, enjoying the run, having a ball, but I always had the thought of Mal being on my tail. I bounded along the rainforest trail, moving side to side depending on the obstacles that lay ahead. I try not to stop myself when I am running, I just use the energy that I have put through my legs to avoid a rock and re-claim that energy to jump over a tree root. I pick my path along the trail, looking up to spot the pink dots and down to miss any tree root, stones, stairs, vines and logs, but always trying to spot the trail, and move with the rhythm of the track. I hit the turn off to the GNW again and started the final climb of the day.
Bring it on I thought, I wanted it over and done with as soon as possible, I had lost some times climbing from Cp2 to Cp3, and I really wanted to pick up the speed so I could still beat my goal time of 12 hours 50 minutes. I pushed, counted, ran my way up the final climb. 10 Steps running 10 Steps walking, 20 steps running, 10 steps walking, 30 steps running, 10 steps walking, 50 steps running, 10 steps walking, 60 steps running, then I was able to run, still counting but only to keep my rhythm. I was climbing from 250m back up to 404m. I drank regularly, ate regularly, and I was soon up and over the climb, at last away from the leeches and back on a fire trail. I followed the fire trail past some tracks, having to stop to check my maps, fearing I had gone in the wrong direction before spotting foot prints in the soil again. The trail went steadily up but it seemed like nothing, and I just set a pace I could manage. I passed another junction, and I again had to stop and check my maps. I had come so far and I just did not want to get lost at this late stage. I spotted some foot prints and I was again assured by this that I was on the correct track. I moved on wishing the descent would just come.
At the 92km mark I turned onto a narrow single man track again and I started the descent. I knew that the last section of the course was predominately down hill, so I knew I was getting close to the end. The trail dropped from an elevation of 318m down to 57m in 5km, so I was running down a mountain side at lightening speed, listening to the snakes, lizard and spotting goannas in the shrubs close to the track. It was like running down a goat track, that ribboned over the ridge of the mountain. I had to decipher what was a trail and what was just erosion, spotting stairs and the small path, my vision was amazing, it just felt like I knew where to run, where to turn next, as the trail appeared ahead of me. I picked up the pace on this fun section of the trail. I had a ball. This is what I love about trail running. My mind, body are being pushed they become one. Agility, co-ordination, vision, were razor sharp. I was making decisions by the mili second. I felt like I was gliding down this mountain. It was just the perfect run.
Suddenly I had to stop and pee, but just as I was about to relieve myself I noticed a Leech on the toe of my shoe. This stopped my urge to pee, and I tried with my other foot to scrape the leech off my shoe. The little sucker, would not budge. I then dragged the toe of my shoe through the soft soil about 10 times in the hope the leech would be dis-lodged. This worked. Right you can not stop until you are safe and out on a road with a 5m radius around you I thought. I ran on, fearing another leech attack, down the mountain and through a paddock and out onto the road. As soon as I hit that beautiful, flat dusty road I have a massive pee, ahhhhhhhh. I left a big wet patch in the middle of the road. Mal, will probably have a giggle at that, I thought.
I hit the dirt road, spotted the sign and it said 10.5km to Yarramalong. I was expecting a beautiful down hill descent, but I was greeted with small rolling hills. Bugger, I was going to have to use some of my energy to get to the finish line. I had another gel, and picked up the pace. My watch said 5:45pm. I needed to get there in about an hour to make my goal time of 12 Hours 50 Minutes. I thought about my technique, and I knew I was tired, I did not have any lift left in my legs, but I still had some speed, so speed was what I could use. I concentrated on being fast, turning my feet over as lightly and as quickly as I could, whilst using my hips, buttocks and hamstrings to propel me forward. I looked around and I said to myself, enjoy it, it’s beautiful, taking my mind off the pain and exhaustion I was feeling. On the side of the road were pink and purple flowers, the farms looked like they were just taken from a children's story book. The road shifted gradient, and I started to run down a slight hill. This was an easy section on a road so I had no excuses, I had to take advantage of what I have been given. This was the best finish to a 103.7km race I could think of. I had to make the most of this easy finish.
I then began to worry, smoke was in the air, it was coming into bush fire season and the locals were burning off their properties. This was crap, I was finding it hard to get enough clean air in my lungs. I’m going to pay for this next week I thought. I drank some more water hoping that this would help clean my mouth from the smoke that I was inhaling, I had completed over 95km, breathing as hard as I could and I was now going to make my lungs so sick by breathing this in. I had another gel to boost my energy levels and sadly finished the last of my water source.
I hit the bitumen, and a Farmer in a Toyota Land cruiser drove up next to me,”There is a bloke about 500 yards behind you”. He said. “I don’t care, I’m a female”. I replied. I was going as fast as I could and I could not go any faster. I looked back and I could not see him. But I really did care, I wanted 2nd position, and I deserved 2nd place. I picked up my leg speed, and kicked it on.
I passed the 100km mark in about 12 hours 30 minutes. I wanted the race over. I was over this and I wanted a drink of water. I was starting to feel sick again, and I needed to be re-hydrated. I was getting tired, so tired. I checked my maps, looking for landmarks to give me some indication of where I was as my GPS ran out back at the 75km mark. I looked back and I still could not see anyone behind me. I wanted to know what colour shirt he had on. If it was a 100 Miler I would not have care so much , but if it was a green singlet, I new it was Mal, who had been closely following me since the 35km mark.
I was exhausted, and I slowed to a walk. Checked the map, trying to gage my distance. I spotted a bridge that recognised with cross reference from the map, some power lines, then the next turn off. I willed my feet back into a run. Come on there is only a few 2km to go, less than running from your house to Glebe. I cursed the race organisers for placing the finish at 103.7km instead of 100km.
A car drove past and waved, called out “Go Shona, only 1km to go”, I felt sick. I was going as fast as my legs would stretch. I just wanted it to be over with. I dug in, counted my steps and kept my feet ticking over. I passed over the last bridge, asked some locals “Where is the school?”.They replied with a confused look on their face, “Up there on your right about a kilometre away.” Better not be a kilometre away, I hope it was only 900m away. I ran past a cafe. “Go Shona”, the patrons cheered. “Only 600m away”. I wanted it over with. I spotted Darren with another runner. “Go Shona, only 500m to go”. The school came into view, I crossed the road and ran up the final hill to the finishing line, a marshal apologised for making me run up a hill, but I was not too bothered. I was finished.
I ran across the finishing line, hoarse from the smoke I had breathed in and dry from de-hydration. I thought I would collapsed and cry the minute I crossed the line but, I just went into business like mode and got the next job done. I checked myself in and told the marshals I was finished. Mikey gave me a pat on the back, and everyone let out a cheer ( The cheer was small, not too many people were at the finish line, I was so far ahead of the rest of the runners). I won the women’s race and I came 2nd overall in the 100km Open Race. I could not have been happier. I did it, and I was so relieved I had made it through the entire 103.7km without getting lost or hurt, I did not fall over once, I fell down some parts of the trail, sliding on my bum, but I did not fall over. I avoided leeches, fixed a broken toe nail, and broke the record for a female by 2 hours and 22 minutes. I now have the 5th all time fastest time for the 100km. One thing Ultra Endurance Trail Running does not prove that their can be an even playing field between both both men and women. I got my hydration almost right, my electrolytes right and my energy right, these three key things are what got me such a great time.
I had my number checked. I then had to go an weigh myself to make sure I had not put on weight. I stepped on the scales and I weighed 53.8Kilos. I was the same as when I left Check Point 2. I was safe from being effected from water toxicity. I still felt sick though. It was funny, no one handed me a drink, thanks Mikey!
Within 2 minutes Mal crossed the line. I managed to stay ahead of him from the 35km mark right until the finish 103.7km, and that just sweetened my victory. Only 1 male could beat me out there that day, and I was beaten by a true champion Brendan Davies. He ran the 103.7km in a time of 11 Hours 36 Minutes. He broke the record by 45 Minutes. I managed to beat the next female by 2 hours 20 minutes.
I grabbed a chocolate milk, ate some corn chips, drank some water, and chatted to Mal and a few spectators. But I needed to get home so I could really start my recovery look. I still felt sick. I jumped in the car and drove back amazed at Mikey’s navigational skills, as we really were in the middle of no where, somewhere north of Wisemans Ferry. Mikey was such a trooper out there that day, and I was so lucky he did not get lost on these remote country roads.
On the way home I was finally sick. I hurled up the chocolate milk, the corn chips and a gel or 2 with some lactic acid, in that exact order. I must have looked so bad on the side of the road in my bra top and running gear, chaffing all over my back that looked like I had been whipped that another driver stopped and asked if I needed any help. “I’ve just run 100km, I’m okay, just feeling a bit sick”. He looked at me and processed what I had just said and noticed I had my running gear on and promptly left. Mikey and I laughed. I was such a sight. After chucking I felt so much better. I opened 3 more hydrolytes icy pols, and jumped back in the car again feeling refreshed.