I ran into Check Point 5 in a time of 10 hours 49 minutes, relieved, freezing and dehydrated .The sun had well and truly disappeared, and the temperature had drop to just above freezing. I swear I could see some tiny snow flakes floating just ahead of me. Or was it my vision playing tricks on me? I could barely operate my back pack to get my thermals out. I was having troubles with my head torch also. An official who I had met a week ago came to my aid and helped me out. I had no support crew to help me. “We don’t want to to stop for too long, we have to keep you moving” He said. I was of risk of hyperthermia. I quickly put on my thermal top and gloves, I was ready to go, when I almost forgot to fill up with water. I found it so hard to get all my mandatory gear back into my bag that I had no idea how I was going to fit water in my back pack too.
The official said “What have you got in here?” , I replied “All my bloody mandatory gear!”, we had to carry a crepe bandage, compass, whistle, emergency blanket, thermal top, thermal bottom, wet weather jacket, beanie, gloves, fire lighter, matches, maps with their water proof map case, a fleece, 2 chocolate bars, 2 litres of water, a safety vest a pair water proof plants, plus any gels or power bars I may want to consume. So no wonder my bag was jam packed. I think it weighed over 5 kilos. It was heavy, and it was stuffed full. It was costing me time as I could barely fit all the gear in.
Someone yelled, “There’s ‘Just a Mum’”, to his wife, implying that next year she should do the race too. I met this nice English runner about 70km ago, he still remembered me, and it was nice to see him again. It also meant that I was probably slowing down if people were catching me. This gave me the motivation to want to get out of the final check point and to finish the race.
We filled up with water, but it was too full to fit in my bag, it was full of air, we tried to stuff the bladder into my bag, we tipped water out, finally I said “I’ll have a drink to release some of the pressure”, I was dehydrated, so I better start drinking to help my recovery. This was costing me minutes, I knew there would be another female on my tail. I quickly drank the excess water from my bladder and we were able to fit it into my camel bak, barely closing to zip. I put my own back pack on, and he helped me put on my safety vest for night road running.
The official said “Go for it!” and I was off. There was only 11km to go. Thats just a short run for me, I can do it.
My head torch was shit! I could hardly see where I was going, every time I breathed out my breath created a white cloud to obscure my vision. I ran off trying to navigate, following the glowing pink and white ribbons. I knew there was about 3km of road before it hit a single man track again. I was hoping my head torch would improve.
I found the track, following another runners light, trying to keep them in sight. But I was slowing, I almost tripped a few times. This head torch was not preforming like it had for Oxfam, I was slowing, and it was dangerous. I passed Wentworth falls and Breakfast Point. I was still going okay, I had no idea what the time was, or how fast I was going. I just had try and be safe first, then quick second. There was no point in falling over and injuring myself now.
The English runner came running up behind me, his head torch made a silhouette of my body, creating darkness in front of me. My light was nothing compared to his. I asked him to go in front. We ran on for a few hundred meters, then he stopped, “Get out your other torch, and use it also, it will help you .” he said. I quickly got my back up torch out of my bag. It was brighter than my main torch. I used this one as a hand torch, running with it in my hand using it to find the path as I ran along this cruel way to end an event.
I was low on glucose, dehydrated and I was now just trying to hold on until the end. There was little lights dotted around the trails in the bush. I felt like we were blind mice stuck in a maze, and we were trying to find our way out. I needed to eat, so I let the English guy go on.
I saw the 5km to go marker, I was amazed that there was less than a short 30 minute run to go. This was when I saw a runner come up behind me. “Hi, go past” I said to the runner, “Thank you” She said, from her accent I could tell she was a Kiwi. I said “Good Luck, well Done”. And off she went. She looked great. She replied “Are we on the right track?” Man if she looked good and was having troubles I did not feel so bad. Jean Beaumont was on the Solomon Team, and even she was having troubles navigating this spaghetti of tracks, I was not doing so bad then.
I ran on, past Edinburgh Castle and the track dropped down again, another set of stairs, this section was dangerous. There was safety tape marking cliff drop offs. I thought this again was hilarious, as it was just so hairy, any false move and you drop to a nasty injury or worse.
I descended to stairs to Lillian’s Glen, and I found the English Guy again, I said “It’s only 3km to go” He replied “Yeah, but they are tough 3km, they don’t make it easy”. I passed him and another runner on the stairs and ran across the bridge and walked up another set of stairs. I was due to eat again. I could not believe that I caught these 2 guys again. They must be hurting, My legs still felt good, I just felt weak. I had another gel, and kept going. I was only a lap, around Sydney park to go. I made it to the top of the stairs, knowing that it was only 2.5km to go. That is just a run to Glebe from my house. I can do it. I had lost track of time. I was just putting one foot in front of the other and just trying to run where it was safe.
I saw the 2km mark. I started to run, up small stairs, then some flats, tree roots, stones, sticks, logs were everywhere, I took a running step, and “Bang” I was on my front.I tripped over a tree root, got my arm caught in a vine and I was flat on my front. “Shona, you idiot”, I picked myself up, untangled myself from the vine, swore a few to myself and kept going. I must be only 1500m away. That was only 3 laps around Sydney Park Oval. I can do it, it is almost over.
I ran on, trying to get a rhythm back, I looked up and I saw the lights from the Fairmont Resort. I started to cry. I did it I was home.
I ran past the golf course, up the front lawn, I looked back and there was a light behind me. I put my head down and ran with all my strength to pick up some speed and to maintain my position. I was on the back lawn of the Resort looking for the finish line, I asked a spectator “Where’s the finish?” He gestured to the finish line which was positioned behind some bushes, and up one final set of stairs. “Not up more stairs!” I exclaimed.
I ran up the final set of stairs and along the final straight. I was so exhausted, sick, happy ,excited all at once that I forgot to pose for the cameras at the finish. Obviously I was delirious, I always pose for the cameras at the finish. I had no one I knew waiting for me at the finish, Mikey said he would not meet me as the kids would need to go to bed. This saddened me, that that is life. I was ahead of schedule and Mikey was not expecting me until later. The kids would be ratty, and he would be tired, so he and my kids were not at the finish line of my first Solo 100km. But that is life when you are a mum.I ran straight inside. I just wanted to hop in a cab and get to my family who were staying at a cottage in Leura.
Whilst I was inside, I lined up to collect my certificate and to check my time. I started to cough, and cough, and cough and cough, I drew a fair amount of attention I was so loud and sick sounding. Everything that I had breathed in , including my mucus from my nose needed to come out. I was sick and it showed. I coughed so much I needed to sit down. I then realised I was really delirious. I said “I don’t feel really with it” The bright lights, people, dehydration, the warmth activity of the finish was playing tricks on me. I was back in the real world. And it felt weird. I was low on glucose. “Have a Lollie” An Official said. With in a few minutes I was feeling better. Still coughing, but better. “I need a chocolate milk”. I was exhausted. I needed replenishment.
I waited for my certificate. “What is your last name?” An official said, “Stephenson, Shona Stephenson”. I realised that there was another Shona, Shona Scott. I beat her by about 50 minutes. I felt like saying, The Shona who has finished! Must be something about that name. I saw the winning female. She said her time “11 hours 38 minutes” I said “ Did you win?” she replied “Yes”. I congratulated her, she was over the moon with her performance, and pretty impressed with my first Solo effort. She was a really nice person, I wished her good luck. I told her that I had to get going as I had kids waiting for me. She was amazed that I could get any training in, I told her I was only able to train for this event on 2 occasions, 2 times 54km loops.
I was given my certificate, it read, 12 Hours 50 Minutes 42 seconds. I was over the so proud. 40 minutes in front of my goal for the day, 20 minutes behind my ultimate goal. I was even more blown away by the “Silver The North Face Belt Buckle” I was handed. I forgot that if you go under 14 hours you were award this prestigious prize.
I grabbed a milk, and walked out to the foyer of the resort and ordered a taxi. I wanted to get back to my family. I heard a voice, “There’s Shona” I turned around, I did not recognise the people at first, my eyes and my brain still had not adjusted to reality. My brain was fried. It was Brent the trainer from Sydney Park. They saw me at the 54km mark and they were looking out for me all day. Their friend was still out there running. They were blown away with my effort. I really did not recognise this guy who I see every week that is how altered my vision was. It is crazy that lack of sleep, dehydration, low glucose stores and a whole heap of caffeine can do to your mind. We chatted for a while, until my cab came.
I arrived at the cottage freezing, only in a thermals, running gear and some gloves on. I knocked frantically on the door. Mikey opened, and gave me the biggest hug. He just put the kids to bed when he realised that I had already finished. They could have been at the finish line I was so fast. Maybe next time.
I jumped in the shower, I had 4 bad chaffing marks on my back that hurt when they were wet, I washed my hair, got dressed and sat down to eat a well deserved pizza. I waited an hour, hydrated, ate some marmite on toast then lied down on the lounge had a long awaited glass of champagne. Job done, I can’t wait to do it all again next year. But do it better!