Thursday, December 27, 2012

Sydney Trail Series Race Report





The Final Instalment for 2012

I finish the 30/50 challenge with another win. This time with my running mate and No Roads Expeditions Team Mate Beth Cardelli. I’m still sick but I’m recovering. I am still getting over my bacteria lung infection. I rest and rebuild my strength. 
A week later I have been asked by my good friend from Mountain Sports Sean Greenhill to be one of the Sydney Trail Series Race Ambassador. I’m knackered, but I believe it is so important to help out the trail running community. I jump at the chance.
I’m exhausted. Like most runners, being Christmas Silly Season I’d been out on Friday night at a fundraiser to help raise money for a friends sick son Angus Higgambotham. The Help Angus Go Home trivia night was a huge success and we raised over $50,000.
I pull myself back together and I prepare myself for the tough technical 10.2km single man track race. All the big guns had turned up, Andy Lee, Brendan Davies, Gill Fowler. I was going to have to race this one hard to beat Gilli (Gill Fowler won and smashed the record for the Great North Walk 100 Miler only 2 weeks earlier).

Sydney Trail Series (STS)
The count down went off and I was kicking it up at the front. I rolled along the single man track for 2km and up the first set of many bush stairs. They stung. I let the boys who are behind me pass. I hit the top of the climb, I duck under the pipe line and I smile as I know the worst is behind me.
I scoot along the sandstone ridge top and bust out onto the wide fire trail. I am passed by another bloke but I stick with a guy and use him as my pacer. I power to the top of the climb and jump ahead of him at the first of many steep descent. I jump, bound, leap and love the free falling experience and within minutes I have landed on the banks of the Manly Dam.
I wave to Gordon one of the photographers for the day and I shoot back up the single man track, back up to the top of the ridge. I dare to look back. No females are following. I relax. I power along, and jump onto the bridge over the dam. I extend my legs and let my stride run free. 
At the end of the bridge I spot my friend Jane and I ask her if there are any females behind me. “No Shona”. She excitedly replies.
I rest, relax and chill. I do what I have to do and I make it to the top of the final climb. I allow my friend Chris to pass and I roll down the final descent to the finish line in 52 minutes 16 seconds. First place was secured. I manage to win an awesome amount of prizes including $250 from Mountain Sports, $100 worth of Gift Vouchers from Footpoint Store in Mosman, Beer and Hammer Sports Nutrition.

2012 has been an amazing year. If anyone said I would achieve so much in a year I would think they were crazy. It did not all fall into my lap. I trained and worked hard for every race PB, podium or win.
I fought through shin splits at the start of the year, hence the reason for me to compete in triathlons. I had a bad hamstring injury in May. I was diagnosed with asthma in June. I suffered ligament damage in my ankle in July. To finish the year off I contracted a bacteria lung infection in November. I pushed through every obstacle and learnt from my experiences along the way.

A Year In Review
January Footpoint Trail Series Race 1 1st Female
Feb Cole Classic 2km Ocean Swim (The day after running Mt Sol not smart I sunk!).
Feb Huski Long Course Tri 98th
March Coastrek 50km Team Event 1st Place Overall New Record
April Bateman’s Bay Ultimate Tri 20th place
May Footpoint Trail Series Race 2 1st place Overall
May The North Face 100km 3rd Female
June Glow Worm Tunnel Marathon 3rd Female
July Footpoint Trail Series Race 3 2nd Female, Female Series Winner.
July Trail Running Australia Launched while I had the flu ;-)
July Mt Sol DNS Ankle Injury
August City2Surf 57:10 PB
August Oxfam Trailwalker Sydney 1st Place Overall No Roads Expeditions New Record, Andrew Lee, Jonathan Worswick, Paul Robertson.
September Coastal Classic 1st Female New Record.
September Surf Coast Century 1st Female
October Great Ocean Walk 100 1st Female New Record
November Retired Sick Bacteria Lung Infection 110km Great North Walk 100 Mile Unofficial 2nd Female 3rd Overall 100km 
November 30/50 Challenge Female Team Winner No Roads Expeditions with Beth Cardelli, New Record
December Sydney Trail Series Race 1 1st Female
December Ultra Training Australia Launched.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Glow Worm Tunnel Marathon. It sounds so harmless.

I entered the Glow Worm Tunnel Marathon thinking that it should be a pretty harmless trail Marathon. Come on, it can't that be tough. All the competitors are even made to walk through the tunnel so we don't disturb the fragile Glow Worms. A 30 minute time penalty will be added to your time if you are caught running through the tunnel. Surely it can't be that bad. I watched the teaser clip on You Tube and I was hooked. How hard could it be? I've done 6 Foot Track, The North Face 100, Great North Walk, trained for Mt Solitary. I knew the first section was pretty run-able, but I was clueless after that. I had never trained in Newnes before. I'd walked through the tunnel about 13 years ago. That was the limit of my knowledge of the area. My lack of respect for the course will bite me in the end.
To start with I had a few gear malfunctions. I forgot to bring my bigger UltrAspire Surge pack. My plan was to use the light weight UltrAspire Spry pack for the first 21.1km then switch to the UltrAspire Surge for the 2nd 21.1kms. I wanted the option of being able to fill up the bladder with water. But I washed all my gear and it was drying on the back of the bathroom door and in my haste of leaving the house the day before I forgot my Surge Pack. I only bought one of my compression socks. I thought I had a pair but it was rolled up with another sock making it appear like I had a pair of my compression socks. I did not check my gear properly again not showing enough respect for The Glow Worm Tunnel Marathon that I was about to tackle. http://www.mountainsports.com.au/ms_cms/gwtm/ . Luckily to my amazement I was able to fit my waterproof jacket, thermal top, emergency blanket, gels, hydralytes and water bottle in my UltrAspire Spry pack. http://www.barefootinc.com.au/. This pack is tiny and it only weighs 178 grams. I did not have a bladder though. So I was going to be in danger of dehydration. But I could fill up with water along to way in my water bottle. So I thought I'd have enough hydration for the event.
Newnes is a special little place nestled amongst towering sandstone cliffs in the Wollomi National Park in the Wolgan Valley. It was an old coal mining town which left an amazing Glow Worm Tunnel, in the remains of an old railway line as well as many heritage listed sites around the little town.  You can stay in cabins on the farm or camp.
I walked past old antique coal carriages as I dropped off my mandatory gear and lined up at the start line. I found Beth, Brendan and Mick at the start line. We wished each other good luck and after the photos were taken we we counted down from 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and we were all off and running.
I had know idea what I was in for. I usually try and find a profile of the course before I run the event so I know where the climbs are, from that I will gauge how much to leave in the tank. I, like most people who entered the race, was running blind. I was up for the challenge and I was just going to run to how I felt. So for the first 7km I went out fast and just ran to my breath. The track was flat but it climbed steadily gaining an elevation of 400m for 7kms passing over numerous streams which I had to slide down on my butt to cross. I tripped many times as I did my best to keep my pace as well as my feet as the leading female.
Close to the top I was caught by Angela Bateup. She is an Australian Long Distance Running Icon who has come 3rd and 5th in the World Mountain Running Championships so she is a legend. Angela was backing up from the team event of The North Face 100, in which she broke the record for. She has represented Australia in many disciplines from the time she was 16. I was first passed by her whilst running my first 6 Foot Track in 2010 and I was about to be passed by her again. We chatted whilst we dodged and weaved our way along the track that became more ruggered until we made it to the Glow Worm Tunnel.
At the tunnel we pulled out our head torches and slowed down to a walk. We chatted about our kids and what events we like to train for. I let her lead for her head torch was far brighter than mine. I was only carrying a tiny 35 gram head torch knowing that I had to walk through the tunnel so the light was not important. I let Angela lead the way and I tried my best to spot the Glow Worms, but we were gas bagging so loudly we probably scared them away.
The second we were out of the tunnel Angela was off and running up the rest of the climb. I chilled out a bit and I knew I would catch her on the descent and before long the terrain turned to my favour at the 11km mark and I was soon passing Angela and a couple of guys. I passed the drinks stop and through away my water bottle in the bin and headed back onto the track down the ridge to the valley where at the 20km mark where the guys and Angela caught up with me again. We all checked our Garmin and marvelled at the difference. The Garmin's were out by about 1500m.
I let Angela and the guys pass and I soon hopped across the stepping stones of the Wolgan River and then ran a grabbed my pack with my mandatory gear in it. I emptied my rubbish and threw my head torch into the transition area, (which I am sure is now lost, I am not good at check points) and headed straight back out onto the dirt road to the biggest climb of the day.
It was tough, steep and narrow. Less than a fifty centimetres separated you from a 400m fall below. If I was not racing I would have stopped and taken a photo. The view was just amazing. The steep sandstone cliffs were framed by mist. I was running through the clouds and I loved it. The climb soon became steeper and totally un -run-able. I looked up and I just saw a wall of dirt, rocks, trees and mud ahead of me. "Just keep going, Beth is coming after you".  I said to myself and I pushed my hands into my quads to try to scale the steepest climb I've ever seen.
At the 25km mark the climb soon flattened and I thought I would be able to run the next section but I was greeted with the most virgin trail I have seen on a track. It was over grown and rocky. I could tell that the guys ahead of me used the trees for breaks as they descended off the huge gorge. I had nothing to hold onto as I made my way down the old creek bed. The guys had broken their way through the bush. Who's idea was it to send us through here? Is this a track? Far out man. What were they thinking?  I just had to trust that the ground was clear of rocks and I was not going to break my ankle as I ran through this section. Trees, ferns and undergrowth covered the track. I caught foot on a rock and I twinge my right recovering hamstring. Bugger. It started to hurt and tighten up.
I pushed on hoping the track would become more run-able. I was soon greeted by Mick running up the final climb of the day. "Hi, well done". I encouraged.
"Hey Shona". He replied.
He was 4km ahead of me on the turn around section of the track. A few hundred meters I spotted Brendan and Tony (Fats), I soon started to worry when I saw Brendan walking. Shit, if he is walking up this climb it must be tough.  "She's good" I heard Brendan say.
In my head I started to get a bit weirded out. In my low glucose state I totally mis-read his comment thinking that he meant that Angela was good not me. Clearly it was meant for me but I must have been hurting so I twisted it around to a negative. It is funny how your brain works. Its good to remember this.
I was soon out of the single man track and I spotted the final check point of the day. I quickly filled up with water and I asked, "Where's Angela? I have not seen her running back".
"There was a female in front of you but we don't know her name" They replied.
I popped 2 hydralytes into my 500ml water bottle. I was all out of my trusty Sustain mix and headed straight back out up the climb again. When I turned around I spotted Beth. "Hey Beth well done. Have you seen Angela? I have not seen her I think she is lost?" I asked a bit concerned about her.
"No I have not seen her" Beth replied. "Hey Shona watch out for snakes".
"Snakes, where?" I asked as I sped off.
Bugger, Beth has caught me. I have a huge climb ahead of me. Shit. I'm a sitting duck here. I started the climb, my knee started to hurt. I think it is a cross between my hamstring and my abductor started to play up on my right leg. I'd just run 100km 2 weeks ago so I was bound to have issues. By the 34km mark Beth caught me and soon passed me. This in a way made me smile. She got away from me at the 34km mark at TNF100 too. She is an awesome athlete. So efficient with her energy that she expends.
"Hi Shona, how are you going" She kindly asked as she passed me.
"You know me, well done". Was all I could manage. I was hurting and I hate climbing. (I later checked my heart rate over this section of the course and it was the lowest for the entire race. I am really taking the "Piss" on the climbs and I just need to harden up. It is all in my head....but was I really hurting ...was I really tired...who knows? But my heart rate dropped through this climb.)
I would like to add here that I was passed by many runners who were descending the biggest climb of the day in the opposite direction. They were all so nice to me and ever so generous to move off their descending line to make way for me as I climbed. I heard many up lifting comments by all the contenders. The entire vibe of the race was just amazing. So selfless. It was a humbling experience all the contenders really did their best to get out of my way as I climbed.
I was soon passed in the opposite direction by Beth's Husband. "Hi Shona you are going well." He encouraged.
"Beth passed me at 34km again". I replied matter a factly.
"She's just ahead" Again he encouraged.  Those two together are such a nice couple. I have a soft spot for them both they are a great team. I knew she was just ahead, I was imagining her just ahead. I was hurting. My hamstrings screamed at me. I pushed my hands into my quads and just willed myself to get to the top. I found a rhythm and I started to feel better. The terrain was so ruggered it was barely runnable and I tried hard to keep my balance. Run, run, run I urged myself there is only 7kms to go.
I made it to the top and I tried to stay positive. Come on there is only 6kms to go. I did my best to run down the narrow ridge line to the valley below. This is what you love. The terrain was so technical it was through to just let go and use your agility especially when you are tried. I slid on my arse down a few section and tried to get my groove back. Come on it's down hill go, go, go. Come on you can go on crutches for two weeks after this event to recover if needed I said to myself. I have a set of crutches at my house and I use them for recovery some times. I past a marshal and asked him for some water. He refused to give me some as he only had enough for himself. Oh well, I thought and ran on.
I made it to the bottom in one piece and I soon spotted the 40km marker. I downed a gel with a few drops of remaining water in my water bottle and tried my hardest to kick it on. I soon started to either have an asthma problem or I was cramping in my chest muscles. I'd been without water for for a few kilometres and I definitely underestimated how long it would take me on the course. I was staring to show signs of dehydration.
I tried to have some ventolin whilst I was running which probably really did not work that well. My chest was feeling really tight. I was having trouble breathing. I was getting so distressed I was thinking about stopping and walking. But I dared not. I pushed on and tried to talk my way through it. Just breath, breath deeply and calm down you will be okay. I started to cry. The last 9km were so brutal. I was at my limit. My lungs just could not get enough oxygen into them. Come on it's only 2kms to go you can stop and recover at the finish. My chest was killing me. I tried to expand my chest as far as it would go, I adjusted my bra and heart rate monitor trying to give my ribs more room to move but it did not make a difference. I ran on willing to end to come. Come on it's just up ahead, you've run like this before. It's not that bad. Come on push through this.
I spotted the camp ground and I relaxed a bit. I knew the end was just ahead. I soon spotted Keisha my daughter and her friend. "Come on girls, run with me" I suggested.
With that they were off and running next to me. They were loving it. They were flying, I felt like they were running in front of me and running faster than me. This fun experience was soon destroyed with my negative thoughts. If these 7 year olds can keep up with me I must be going slow even though they were running flat out. ( I really need to practice the finishing "Run" with my daughters so we finish on the line together. I keep getting it so wrong. It's tough when you are exhausted and hurting to think straight to get the final run with your kids correct). So I dug deeper and kicked it on some more. I felt like I was going really badly. My legs felt heavy. I could see the finish line. I then turned the wrong way to then realised my mistake, then quickly had to change direction weaving back out form the cars and I was passed by two half marathon guys speeding across the finish line. I was gutted. I had no idea they were in the half marathon and not the marathon and I thought I'd lost 7th place and I was demoted to 9th position. I crossed the line and I was greeted my me good friend Beth Cardelli.
"Well done Shona, are you okay you did so well. " She asked really truly concerned of my well being. I must have looked really, really bad. I was hurting.
"Yeah I'm okay." I assured her and we hugged. I knew I was hurting and I was not feeling the best, but I really did feel okay no worse from any other event or so I thought. I really believed I was okay. But second we hugged and she took some of the weight of my body my legs gave way and I collapsed to the ground. Keisha my daughter was right beside me. The First Aid officer was soon helping me with my cramping legs and I was given fluid which and helped my with the cramps that I was experiencing in my legs. The ventolin kicked in I was placed by the fire and I was soon feeling much better. I think I was dehydrated maybe a bit of asthma...
I soon perked up and I was able to have a shower, thanks Steph & Phil....I was still having some problems.....I was pretty funny.
I loved the race. I can't wait to do it again. The Glow Worm Tunnel is a fantastic event, so well run. My kids were entertained all day. The prizes were so generous thank you Wolgan Valley Resort for the pamper pack. http://www.wolganvalley.com/wolgan-valley/en/ The catering for the event just was perfect. The course was tough but I love a challenge. I heard a rumour that the course will be run in the opposite direction next year so we will run the tough section first and the Glow Worm Tunnel Section second. I want to train in Newnes over the next school holidays. I might even do a Chick only trail running camp in the area. Anyone girls interested? I really want to go back to the Wolgan Valley again. It is just the perfect training ground.
Okay the places for the girls are as follows 1st Angela Bateup 4:26 1st female and 4th overall. Beth Cardelli 4:36 2nd Female and 5th overall and Shona Stephenson 4:47 3rd female and 7th overall. The females really held their own and were really completive. For the blokes Mick Donges was in 1st 3:39. It was nice to see Mick bounce back after TNF100, followed by Tony Fattorini 3:45 and then my mate Brendan Davies 3:58. Mick, Brendan, Beth (Current record holder of TNF100) and myself have all backed up from TNF100 only two weeks earlier. Angela completed 46km out of the TNF100 in a team and broke the record for the event. It was a star studded field and I was happy to be part of it. Both Angela and Mick are now heading to Europe to compete in various international events. I wish them both the best of luck.
My Kit for the Day.
Inov8 Roclite 285 Shoes, Injinji Socks Mid-weight, Inov8 Printed 2XU Elite Compression Shorts, Inov8 Printed 2XU Tri-Bra, Inov8 Printed 2XU Running Singlet, The North Face 100 visor, Silva Head Torch, Thermal Top , Hard Gear Water Proof Jacket, Emergency Blanket, UltrAspire Spry Pack (Although the UltrAspire Surge would have been more suitable for the 2nd half and use the Spry for the first half.) Garmin 910 watch with heart rate monitor and Tag Heuer watch to keep me connected with real time.
My Nutrition was Gu Roctanes, Sustain Hydration Mix and Hydralyte Tablets.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Check Point 5 Queen Victoria to The Finish the Fairmont Resort

I ran into Check Point 5 Queen Victoria Hospital after 89km with mixed feelings. I'd lost 3th place. I had a sore knee and and I felt slightly ashamed that I could not keep the 3rd place. There was a descent crowd at the Check Point. Heaps of people were calling my name and cheering for me. I just wanted to make everyone proud by getting onto the podium. I wanted to come third or better so much.
As I entered the bag drop area I was so surprised to spot Bernadette at the food station area. I dare not look again or slow down thinking that she might see me.  She should be about a kilometre up the road. What was she still doing here? I quickly found my bag. I ripped out my Hydralyte hydration bottles of my back pack and popped in my trusty old Sustain mix in one side of my back pack and chilled water into the other. I grabbed my gels and I was off and out of there in about a minute. I took my first sip of my Sustain mix and it just just gold. In my head it took the sick feeling in my gut away. It was just bliss.
I was running to the cheer of the crowd and I was back in 3rd place just like that. About thirty seconds later I was passed by Bernadette again. She was going to make me work for 3rd position. She instantly gained about twenty meters on me. Your brian is a funny thing. Your mood can change from absolute distress and disappointment in yourself and your ability to a focused super human running machine in a matter of minutes. My thoughts in my head started to tick over. I'm on this road climbing only a slight hill. My legs had a new lease of life because they found the climb so easy compared to Kedumba. My knee stopped hurting. I could run and run fast.  I past by a bunch of guys in a Hotted up V8 Holden Commodore with the number plate GNW100 drove past with the entire contents of the car yelling "Go Shona". It was just the best sight and just the encouragement I needed. Being a mum of two I love to be yelled at from a car. I spotted the 90km sign. I thought to myself. I'm better than 4th. I've just won the GNW100 I hold the record for that course. I have 10km to go. I like running 10km. I ignored that I'd already run 90km and just thought about the next 10km. I have two 10km Foot Point Trail series course records. I said to myself. I want to be on the podium. My friends and family would be so proud of me if I was on the podium. Mikey and the kids Keisha and Milla want me to be on the podium. The next 10km is a technical single man track. I love running on a single man track. I'm one of the best single man track runners going around. I'm going to run down Bernadette now.
With this new lease of life I ran down Bernadette, then ran straight past her. I past another 3 guys then Bradley Vartsch who was so nice to me coming up Kedumba ran up beside me. He looked back and checked to see where Bernadette was and said. "You've got a lead and it looks like the gap is growing." He assured me. I don't know why he wanted to help me but he did.
"Thank's Mate". Was all I think I said. I just wanted to get to the single man track and hide from Bernadette. We pushed on together. He ran slightly in front of me setting the pace. I yell directions from behind helping him find his way to the single man track. We passed another guy. We were making great time. I dared not look back to see where Bernadette was. I was being hunted and I was running scared.
We hit the single man track and his pace slowed slightly. "Do you want to pass" He asked.
"Nah....wait yes". With that I was off like a maniac flying through the technical single man track and willing the descents to come thick and fast because I knew I would gain time on Bernadette the tougher the track became. I gave the track my absolute all. Telling myself that it was only 10km and I was amazing 10km runner. I past over Wentworth Falls I ran under the over hanging cliffs past the picnic grounds up and down the countless sets of stairs and I remembered what happened to me last year at the 95km mark when I was passed by a Kiwi Jean Beaumont and that I was not going to let anyone pass me this year.
I've learnt so much in a year. Last year I did not put new batteries in my head torch so my light was so crap. This year I had lithium batteries in my Led Lensor and it lit up the track so brightly. I could run at a fantastic pace using my full agility skills to manoeuvre through the sand stone maze of a track.
I climbed a set of stairs and I check to see if anyone was behind me. I spotted a head torch about 100m behind me. It was pitch black. Total darkness. I could not tell if the person behind me was a male or a female. Run, Run, Run. I pushed into my quads with my hands. I made them move fast and swiftly over the sets of uneven bush stairs. I started to breath deeper. Come one. Only 5km to go. They are hurting too. Go, Go, Go. I started to gasp for air. Getting the most out of my lungs. I could hear the tremendous effort I was exhorting. My lungs told me I was at my limit. I was gasping for air. I know that sound it is the sound of me running fast.
Run, Run, Run. I spotted the 3km to go marker then descend down 200m to Lillian's Bridge. I bounded down the stairs taking 2-3 steps at a time knowing that I still had to try and increase the gap on who ever was chasing me. I ran across the bridge and pleaded with my quads to push up this final set of steps which would continue to climb for the next 2km. I check back and I increased the gap on who ever was following me. Push, Push, Push. I push on my quads and pleaded with myself to start to run. Run, Run, Run. The boggy man is chasing you. Go. He will catch you go. I ran when I could and then had to power walk up the steps that were too steep to run and I just kept urging myself on. Go, Go, Go. I looked back and I spotted the runner only 200m behind me. Come on. You want 3rd position. Go. It's Bernadette. She is going to get you. Come on only 1500m to go that's less than 10 more minutes of pain go.
I looked up and spotted the lights of the  Fairmont Resort, I ran past the green grass of the of the golf course. I could hear the music playing from the finish line and I could hear people cheering. Come on only a few more hundred meters. I ran out on the the grassy lawn of the Fairmont Resort ground and spotted the finish line. I checked behind me and there was a runner only 200m back. Run. Run. Run. I sighted Keisha and Milla at the bottom of the steps 20m from the finish line.
"Run. Keisha. Run Milla. There is someone chasing me. Run. Run. Run!" I yelled. I was worried they would get upset if I did not slow down to run with them. I got closer and I yelled again. "Run guys run. Run to the finish line, someone is chasing me, someone wants my third spot run!"
"Go Mummy." They both said and they took my cue and started to run.
They started to run but it was not fast enough I flew past them both. I pushed the last strength out of my quads up the final 10 steps and ran over the finish line with the kids running close behind. If I did not have someone on my tail I would have slowed down and ran across with them. But it was dark and I could not tell who was running behind me when you are a mum I swear you never get the perfect finish. Always torn between place and time goals and the perfect photo finish with your kids.
I was elated that I had made it onto the podium. I could not believe that I managed a personal best of 50 minutes and finished in 12 hours and 29 seconds. Mikey my husband and Sally my Barefoot Inc sponsor were at the finish line. I was so happy that I had made both my husband and my sponsors so proud of me. I felt like I have held up my end of the bargain with all the support I have received. I could not be happier. It was just the best feeling. I stood in the finishing area and allowed myself to enjoy the moment. I posed for a few photos and chatted to friends and family and just abosrbed the awesome achivement that I had accomplished. It was just the best. I stood in the lime light and I loved it. I had to make the most of it. Last year I quickly ran inside struggling for breath, sick as a dog, my lungs filled with mucous and my husband and kids were at a house somewhere else in Leura. This year I had my husband and kids here with me to share our family achievement.  It was just the most perfect finish. It just took 12 hours of some of my best racing to get it.
Who was just behind me. I think it was Paul Robertson. A guy who passed me on Kedumba but I managed to run down in the last 10km.
So how did I compare to the legends of the sport. Beth Cardelli broke the women's record by 20 minutes and managed a personal best from 2010 of 57 minutes with a time of 11 hours 18 minutes. (Beth was injured in 2011 she ran Western Staes 100 Mile and finshed 11th). Former course record holder Julie Quinn came 2nd with a fantastic time of 11 hours 51 minutes only 9 minutes ahead of me. Bernadette came 4th with a solid time of 12 hours 13 minutes. I have only allowed Beth Cardelli, Julie Quinn and the World Champion Nerea Martinez times beat my time. I have the 5th fastest time for the course.
So who is Bernadette? I had an idea of who she was from reading the pre-race reports but I later googled her. She is an ultra marathon running legend who hold the course record for many track ultra events. She has run 200.886km in 24 hours. 70.406km in 6 hours. 100 Mile in 18:17:25. She is also a physiologist. I'm probably happy I did not know who she was before hand..........
My breathing and sickness? I went into the doctor with my post race symptons 6 days later still wheezing and having trouble walking up the slightlest of hills without feeling breathless and I was then diagnosed with exercised induced asthma. I have been trying to get the bottom of my condition for 3 years now. I finally think I will be able to manage it.

Check Point 4 Katoomba to Check Point 5 Queen Victoria

I ran in the the Katoomba Aquatic Centre feeling tired but oh so happy to be up and out of Nellies Glen. I had a huge down hill section waiting for me and I was on the home stretch with only 35kms to go. I quickly found my drop bag. I removed my water proof pants and fleece from my Solomon Advanced Skin Lab 5 Set back pack and dropped off my UltrAspire pack.
"How far ahead is Beth?" I asked the Marshals.
"10-15 Minutes". The marshal replied.
Cool with this I was off and running out of the Check point area. My pack felt tight. Immediately I hated it. I stopped and dropped it to the ground and checked to see that I had my gels. I was starting to lose my concentration a bit. I forgot that I packed everything into the pack so I would be totally organised. I just forgot how organised I was.
I put my pack back on and it again felt so tight. It was making it difficult to breathe. I undid the bottom strap and wished that I had my UltrAspire pack back on. It just felt so much lighter, softer and it fitted my body so much better. This particular Solomon pack just felt totally over engineered.
I caught up with another Kiwi guy. We chatted for a while. He, like the other Kiwi's hated the stairs. "There are a few to come." I said thinking of the Giant Staircase just up ahead.
We followed the road around Katoomba past the three sister and heaps of tourist. It felt to surreal running this 100km race and passing the tourist just going for a little walk. I felt so special running past these amazing Australian land marks and having crowds of people to cheer me on. I tossed away one of my water bottles in a bin hoping that it would give my chest more room to expand in the tight Solomon Vest like back pack.
I soon descended the Giant Stair case. I always hold the railings and try and take 2 steps at a time where possible. There were heaps of tourist on the track who kindly moved over for me acknowledging that I was in a race. I love this section of the track. I just have so much fun hooning down the stairs trying to catch myself from falling whilst trying to have a few glimpses of the view. I spotted the 70km mark. Only 30km to go I thought to myself. Your on target for a great time.
I hit the bottom of the  stairs and I started to feel sick again. I have been fighting the urge to vomit for most of the day. My gut felt like it was full of mucous. I slowed to walk for a few steps. I ate some food then continued on. I was soon passed my another Pairs runner. I tried to re-focus and enjoy the ride along the single man track down to the valley floor.
I past through the Leura Forrest over a small bridge then onto the small goat track to follow the trail deeper into the valley. I then caught up with the Kiwi guy again filling up his water bottle in the creek. I did not stop to tell him that I probably would not drink out of that creek......(I hope he was okay the next day. If he was out of water here he is in trouble because there is not any water for 20km......That is why I did not tell him not to drink the water in the creek. He probably needed the fluid even though it was most likey contaminated. I will only drink out of Nellie's Glen).
I leaped over a fallen tree and I was filtered out onto a grassy meadow of the Jamison Valley. I past a marshal and stopped to have a pee. When I turned around I spotted Julie Quinn only a few hundred meters behind. I ran on. Knowing that she is an amazing climber, and I was almost defenceless on Sublime Ridge and I was going to be a sitting duck on Kedumba.
She soon caught up with me.
"Hi Shona I've been trying to catch you all day. They kept telling me that you were just up ahead. That was from the 54km mark it's almost the 75km mark." She said pretty impressed with my run so far.
"Hey Julie, I knew you were going to catch me. Well done. Beth's just up ahead. About 15 minutes". I tried to encourage her.
"I'm not running this to chase down Beth I'm just trying to finish. The next girl is just behind me. About 150m back. She looks like she is starting to hurt though". She warned me.
"Thanks Julie." I replied and we ran on together for a while. But at the first incline she started to build a gap on me. I did not panic. I just nutted out my rhythm and soon the biggest descent of 100km began and I soon caught up with Julie and then past her. I lead her for the next 5km before the biggest climb of the day started to Jamison's Creek at the 80km mark.
"Man you can run down hills". She said as she past me for the last time that day.
I smiled to myself. Knowing that I was mixing it with the best. I pulled of to the side of the track and had a nature-stop my guts were not feeling the best. I wanted to be as light as possible before I tackled Kedumba. By the time I had finished a guy ran past. I was starting to hurt and it showed. I had run 80km and I was tired. My right knee was starting to play up where my hip flexor inserted into my knee joint. My hamstrings were screaming at me. My gut felt rotten. I had just lost 2nd place and the 4th place lady Bernadette was hunting me down. I jumped up just infront of a guy running down the track near Jaimson Creek. We ran along beside each other for a few minutes hurting. The 9km climb had just begun.
"What's your goal time?" He asked
"Twelve hours." Was all I could manage.
"Just keep going and you will get there". The way he said it was just so unforgetable. It was almost straight out of one of those war movie scenes when they tell the blood soaked dying solider with his guts hanging out that he is going to be just fine when everyone knows he is stuffed as they inject morphine into his veins. He was hurting just as much as me. We both only half believed what he said about making it under the 12 hours. I looked like crap. I was slowed to a walk because my knee was starting to give me grief with every running step.
Another guy can up behind me with a beard and a red shirt. "There is a lady wearing an orange top just behind you. She is running all the hills." He warned. Knowing that I was in the places and I was just about to be knocked off the podium.
"There she is" I said looking back.
I put my head down and tried to run. I counted out my steps 12345678910, 22345678920, 32345678910, 4234567890, 523456789210, 62345678910. I then lost concentration and had to walk. I was hurting. I ate my gel and had a rest. I looked back and Bernadette was just nudging closer. I tried gain to run. 12345678910. I again could only make it up to 50 before I had to walk. By the time we had made it to the 84km mark Bernadette was next to me.
"Hi Bernadette, where are you from?" I asked trying my hardest to sound friendly. I was losing 3rd position and it hurt.
"WA" Was all she replied back. With that put her head down and ran past me up the massive 9km climb.
Bugger. I tried to run. I could only make it to 20 before I had to walk. Again my knee and my head just got in the way. So I tried to walk and run 20 steps at a time.
I started to cry. I felt like crap. The climb was huge. I felt like I had failed. I'd lost two spots on this one climb and I was not happy with myself about it. I held both women off for 40km and I lost in the last 15km. I cried. Tears rolled down my face. I won't be on the podium I thought. I felt so low. I was tired, sore and now in 4th place. Who was this Bernadette lady? I also noticed she had one of the elusive UltrAspire Omega back packs on. Bugger. I wanted one of those packs I thought as the much desired back pack disapeared off in the distance 400m ahead of me.
I past the turn off to Mt Solitary and I spotted another check point and Bernadette was just leaving it not looking so fresh. This spurred me on.
"Do you have your Thermal Top and Compass?" The marshall asked.
"Wow, I feel out of it....whhhooo. Here they are" as I found my Thermal Top and Compass. " Thermal Top and Compass, far out man I'm pretty out of it. Whhohoo". I said swaying in front of the desk.
"You still look pretty fresh." The Marshal said.
"Fresh, you've got to be kidding. This is me looking really out of it." I replied.
"Do you need any water?" They enquired.
"Nah, where were you guys last year. I ran out for 10km last year through this section." I informed them.
With this I was off and chasing down Bernadette. I again tried to run. I could only manage 50 running steps. I decided that I was just going to power walk the rest of the climb. My knee was hurting and I needed to rest. I settled into a strong rhythm.
At the top of the climb I begged myself to run. Run, run, run. Urged and I slowly got myself moving. I knew I had only 3 km to go before the next check point and I had to make to most of the fading light. I put on my head torch and made sure it was working. I fastened to my head and arranged it so it was nice and comfortable. I use Led Lensor with lithium batteries. It's nice and powerful and so light. I ran along and I tried to remind myself how far I had come in a year. At this section last year I was without water. Totally delirious and hardly able to run. This year I still had legs.
I hooned along the gravel road and tried to stay positive. My knee no longer hurt and I was starting to recover. Bernadette and Julie could only catch you on fire trails. They can't catch you on single man tracks. You are a single man track specialist. I reminded myself. There is 8km out of 11km of single man track ahead. You will chase down one of them there. Come on dig deep you just never know what is going to happen. I told myself. You have your trusty Sustain mix up ahead. I decided I now hated the Hydralyte mix. Too much glucose for my body weight and glucose needs. It is probably better for a 75-80 kilo guy not a 52 kilo girl. I really believe I use more fat now when I am running and less sugar so my nutritional needs have changed. I kicked it on past the top gates of Kedumba Track and coasted into the cheers from the crowds of Check Point 5 at Queen Victoria Hospital 89km 10 hours 29 minutes. I still had a chance of finishing in less than 12 hours. Come on Shona I said to myself.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Check Point 3 Old Ford Farm to Check Point 4 Katoomba Aquatic Centre.

I ran into Check Point 3 feeling sick but happy with my time of 5 hours 54. As fast as I could I filled up with water and hydration fluid and grabbed my gels. Within 3 minutes I was off and running again.
I spotted my mate Noel again. We were both really happy to be exiting the Check Point under 6 hours. We ran on together out onto the 6 foot track and I enjoyed the company. The 6 Foot Track is special to most trail runners in NSW. It is our stomping ground and we know it well it always hurts and it always delivers some great stories so it is a special trail in my running heart.
Soon we were fed out onto a wide fire trail that slowly climbed for 6km to the base of the stairs of Nellies Glen. On this fire trail I was passed by a female runner. She was as fresh as could be and was running in the Pairs Division and had only just started 6km ago. Immediately I recognised her from last year. In 2011 this same runner had speed past me with hiking poles while I was taking a piss in the bushes. Ten meters after she hooned past me she let out the biggest scream, a huge Red Belly Black snake slithered less than a foot ahead of her.
"Going well Shona. Don't worry I'm in the Pairs" She said as she raced past.
"Hey did you not pass me last year at the exact same spot then almost step on a Red Belly Black Snake?" I asked.
We then both burst out laughing. We both could not believe that we were passing each other on the exact same place on the track and that we both remembered exactly what had happened the year before. It was a nutty day of chances. Thank goodness this year there was not a Red Belly to step on. I was feeling better now and I no longer wanted to be bitten by a snake. How your moods can change in olny 20km.
Noel dropped back a bit and I tried to catch the guy in front. The fire trail soon steepened and Noel passed me again. I followed Noel up the gorge and I soon passed him.
"I'm cramping". He grimaced and started to walk backwards."Walking backwards can sometimes help, but it is not making a difference"
"Take a salt tablet, you'll be okay" I reassured.
He was hurting and his obvious pain slowed him down. I reached the steps of Nellies and I could not have been happier. I have a love hate relationship with this section of the course. The steps are murder for your quads but they also indicate that you are close to the top. You just have to climb up 800m of them. It is the only place I would drink out of the creek it is just so beautiful and the stream is so clean. I pushed my hands into my quads and did my best to take one step per step up the massive climb. I spotted another male runner close to the top. I remembered what my friend said to me about Julie and I knew she would just keep coming. I pushed on and looked back a few times but I could not see anyone hunting me down and tried my hardest to stay focused on my goals.
Close to the top I caught the Kiwi Barefoot Inc Runner Brendon Keenan. I ran along behind him along the single man track and we soon caught up with my mate Shane.
"Hey Shane how are you going?" I asked.
"I'm cramping" He replied in pain.
"You cramped at this same spot last year. You never eat or drink enough. take a salt tablet". I replied. With that I was off and running with Brendon. We chatted and for a while and I did my best to stay with him on the climbs and before long I was able to pass him on the descent into the Katoomba Aquatic Centre.
I spotted Mikey and my two daughters Keisha and Milla standing in front of the brick Aquatic Centre holding fluro orange and yellow signs. Milla's sign read. "Go Mummy. 'Don't look back leave it all on the Track'" A quote from Racing Stripes a kids movie. Keisha's read "Go Mummy. Keep Going. Don't Quit".
A marshal came up to me and informed me that I would not have to carry my fleece or water proof pants in my back pack. Last year we had to carry the extra safty gear due to close to freezing conditions. The year the weather was so nice and warm. This must be my lucky day. Excellent, I thought. My back pack was probably a bit too small to carry the extra gear from check point 4 to the finish line. I did not have to worry about my back pack any more. Sweeeeeet!
I smiled and waved and ran into the 4th Check Point of the Day. Katoomba Aquatic Centre 65km 7 hours 24 minutes. I was feeling better. I could feel the end getting closer and I just love the next 15km.

CP2 Dunphy's Camp to CP3 6 Foot Track

I ran into the Check Point 2 at Dunphy's Camp feeling good. I was on schedule for a great run. I just needed to get over Iron Pot Ridge and recover before I will start to feel more confident about my position in the race. Iron Pot Ridge is a bit of an unknown element of the race. It is a scared indigenous site and it is protected by the local indigenous land owners. You can't train on that section of the track. So you can't prepare your body for the ruggered onslaught that it gives your body. The most similar terrain that I can think of is the ascent up to Mt Solitary. I guess in a way making it "Out of Bounds" to us local runners makes it a more fair race for the interstate and international runners.
At the Check Point 2  I was asked to show my Thermal Bottoms and my maps. Bugger. I packed my thermal bottoms at the bottom of my pack so I had to empty my entire bag to get to them show the marshals then quickly repack my bag again. I ran over to the water station and again replenished my 600ml water bottle with Hydralyte Sports and then I was off.
I was feeling a bit sick. The hydration mix was not agreeing with me. I had to keep going. Julie and everyone else will be on my tail shortly. I kicked on up the wide fire trail and I spotted a bunch of chips and rice crackers on the dirt track. I giggled knowing that they were Beth's. Only Beth would be out here eating the most simple every day food items and still be running like super woman. She is amazing. She can run on almost nothing. It was a sign that she was up ahead.
The track started to climb through the most amazing bushland you could ever see. A lone stallion cantered by the track playing as a few of us runners jogged past. I was happy to say there were no cows in the area.
Before long I was at last at Iron Pot Ridge. I was all alone. Just me and the ridge. Last year this was the exact spot where Julie Quinn past me and romped to the finish line beating the World Champion Nerea Martinez with a record breaking time. This year Julie was no where in sight.
I put my head down and climbed. I was smarter this year. I was careful not to fill up with too much water before climbing up this scared indigenous ridge. Soon the track all but disappears into a trail of foot prints of the runners that have been before. I put my hands on my quads and tried my hardest to climb as fast as I could. I was stronger this year. I was able to train in the mountains more often and it was paying off. I got to the top with still no one chasing me down and I again urged myself to "Run".
I ran along the ridge hurting but so happy I was achieving my goal of beating Julie to the top. I still had a chance of getting a place. I pushed on along the trail that was a line of dotted rocks surrounded by long sliver green fluffy grasses. It was beautiful. I can see why the Indigenous land owners want to keep it in pristine condition. Iron Pot Ridge is a special place.
A kilometre or so later I spotted Beth and some other runners along the turn around section of the track.
"Well done guys". I said as I dodged and wived along the track trying my best to stay out of their way allowing them a clean run through the track. The track etiquette is to pull over for the people ahead of you.
"Doing well Shona". Beth said before she past me.
I could tell that she was about 2km ahead of me at this stage. Cool. I just wanted to see her at some point on Iron Pot. It meant that I was not doing so badly. Along the most exposed section of the track the Ingenious Land Owners sat on the rocky out crop and played the didgeridoo and tapping sticks and sang to us runners as we bounded past. It was a tricky section. The rocks can be ankle killers, and if you dare to take in the amazing view of Narrow Neck in the distance you will fall over. I felt slightly a bit rude not paying full respect to the land owners. I did thank them when I jumped from rock to rock past where they sat.
I ran to the end spotting more friends and wishing them well and a run safe. I made it to the end of Iron Pot Ridge and thanked the marshall and started to run back along the same track. I again thanked the Land Owners as I past and I soon spotted Bernadette and Julie. Who is Bernadette I thought? I knew Julie would catch me here. But who was this other female who was matching it one of the best? I was not happy. Bugger . I'm going to have to work harder to get on the podium. Have I done enough? Am I good enough to beat either Julie or Bernadette?
"Well done Bernadette, well done Julie."I then spotted my mate Matt. "Well done Mate" I said as I ran past.
Within a few hundred meters I was happy to be descending. I was all alone again and I was not going to be held up by anyone. I slid down the steepest section of the course following pink ribbons to indicate where the track was to go. This section of the course was so un-touched that there is barely a track to follow. The dirt was a lovely deep brown, and the most gorgeous long silvery green grass grew in long fluffy toughs and trees were scattered along the side of the track. I enjoyed the ride down the side of the ridge knowing that I had to make the most of my agility and go for it without getting injured. I  grabbed trees as I tried to control my descent if not sliding or running but falling down into Green Gully. Last year I strained a quad through this section of the track. This year I felt good. I managed to make my way to the bottom of the gully in one piece and un injured.
At the 45km when the track began to climb again through the gum trees I started to hurt. The track was so pristine that steps were freshly cut into the soft dirt by the land owners so the trail would not be eroded and we would have a more stable footing to follow. I felt like I was in an untouched virgin forrest. Clean, pristine and remote. I climbed up the dirt cut steps and I looked up and I spotted Lisa Tamati.  She was standing beside a cameraman near a dirt bike.
This was so surreal. One minute I was totally alone in the middle of the most pristine bushland the next I had a camera in my face. It was just bloody funny. They caught me off guard.
"Shona, how are you going". She asked.
"It's hurts. I'm hurting". I said as I pushed on up the dirt steps past her. Run. I urged myself. Run. With that was off and running through the bush. The trail soon widened and I started to hurt some more. I was thinking of Julie and Bernadette chasing me, hunting me down. I thought of Beth way out in front. I started to think about giving up. I felt sick in my stomach and I had a little vommy. I will always vomit after coming down a big climb if I am not feeling the best. The vomit did not really bother me. The fact that I was feeling tired and out of energy bothered me more. I had tried hard to get over Iron Pot Ridge before Julie and I was now feeling really low. I was hurting, feeling sick and tired. I wanted to give up. And who was the Bernadette person anyway?
At the 46km I looked in the long grass and wished that a snake would bite me on me ankle. I little snake bite did not seem as bad as pulling out for just feeling sick or tired. But a snake bite that could be acceptable reason for having to pull out of a race. I had my compression bandage in my pack. I've done first aid courses I know how to strap a snake bite. I was not that far from a road. I could just hop over to the road that I can see just a few hundred meters away and wave down a car and get to the local hospital. I'd get some anti-venom and I'd be up and running again in no time.
I looked around and I tried to remember how far I have come in a year. I checked my watch and saw that my splits were still okay. Not a winning split but they were still good enough to get you a respectable time. I started to count again. 12345678910, all the way up to 100. I ate some food and just wished I had my old trusty Sustain mix at the next check point. I knew I did not.
I ran out onto the road and I started the next big climb of the day a 200m climb up to Euroka Ridge along a fire trail. Again I started to count. 12345678910 all my way up to 100. I checked to see who was coming behind me and I could not see any one coming up the ridge after me. One of my great running mates warned me that Julie won't slow down she will just keep coming after you. I remembered this when I was hurting on the steep fire trail. I just had to keep going keep running and keep moving forward.
At the top of the climb I spotted three guys. I had caught up with my mate Noel.
"Back from the dead" He said to me.
"I hate climbing." I replied. It was funny. I caught him at the top of the climb. I'm really not that bad of a climber after all. I just think I am not that good. I made it to the top and I got my legs on and started running. I had to make the most of this descent and try and crawl back some time I had lost near Iron Pot. I hooned down the wide fire trail which soon turned to a road then turned right and headed through the golden grass of the Private Property of Old Ford Farm and up a final climb and into the Check Point 3, 6 Foot Track 54km 5 hours 54 minutes. I had made it over half way in under 6 hours I was stoked. I was still on track for a great time.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Narrow Neck CP1 to Dunphy's Camp CP2

I quickly filled re-filled up my hydration mix at Narrow Neck Check Point. Hydration and fuelling is so important in a 100km event. If you get it wrong you stop running and you are walking. In this event I had changed my nutritional strategy. I was going got use Hydralyte Sports and Gu Roctanes. I was to have a Gu Roctane every 30 minutes with water then drink my electrolyte mix every 15 minutes. I had tested it out in my last training session and it seemed to work.
I ran on wanting to get to Dunphy's Camp in less than 2 hours from here. I knew Beth and Julie were chasing me I had to push on and work hard through this exposed fire trail section of the course. The ridge was full of spectators, film crews, photographers. I felt like a move star being followed by the film crew in  a 4WD up the ridge. It did not bother me. It is great that our sport is getting the exposure it deserves.
Never have I seen such a pristine day on Narrow Neck Ridge. I could see mountain ranges in the distance that I have never been able to see before. The air was so clear and clean. The sun was shining. Perfect conditions for a mountain ultra. Perfect conditions for filming an event.
I pushed on as the guys who I passed on the Golden Stairs one by one passed me on Narrow Neck. A few kilometres later a friend of mine Noel passed. "Hi Shona, Beth is not far behind". He warned me.
"I know". I replied. I knew she would catch me on Narrow Neck. We know how each other inside out. We were able to train together on 2 occasions and we had a fair idea of each others race plans. She is an amazing athlete. Her name I etched in my brain since my first 6 Foot Track 3 years ago when I first saw her fly past me up a fire trail near the Pluviometer. She is an amazing climber. So light on her feet. So strong in her mind.
I pushed on trying my best to get the most out of my injured hamstring. One of my clients leaked to a his mate (not naming names but you know who you are...hehehe )who trains with Beth that my hamstring was buggered. The information was then all over Facebook. You can't hide anywhere any more. I injured it while I was sprinting in the Foot Point Trail Series 10km only 2 weeks ago. I had to go and see my Physio for the first time in a year to get it worked on. Before the event this injury played on my conscience. I really did not know how it was going to hold up. Less than two weeks ago I could not run. I had to really nurse the injury to get to the start line of the event. I always remember Paul Roos the old Sydney Swans coach saying something like you can always tell a true athlete by the way they can work through any injury. He was talking about Tadhg Kennelly and his come back from a serious knee and shoulder injuries juste before they won the Premiership in 2006. In a way I had to prove all the non believers that I could run though anything. I'd run my first 100km Oxfam TW with 2 broken feet. (After the event I took myself to the hospital and got crutches and I was unable to run for 3 months). I could run with a hamstring strain.
My goal was to average under 6 minute pace for this section to stay ahead of Julie and Beth for as long as possible. At the 23km mark a few minutes later Beth came up next to me. She looked so strong. She had a real push through her legs that I have not seen in her before.
"Hey Beth. Well done". I said to my mate.
"Hey Shona, how are you going? You are doing so well". She encouraged.
"Just chilling". I replied. I was hurting a bit. You will always hurt when you lose first position. I dug in a bit and started to pick up my tempo again. I stayed with her for a further 2km until the 25km mark before I lost her. It took me until Tarros Ladders to catch her again. I descended the ladder as fast as I safely could. Unlike in training the ladder was an aluminium ladder with a rope cage around it preventing the runners from falling so I was as fast as ever. The trail then changed from an open fire trail back to single man track. With in a few hundred meters I was back on Beth's tail flying so fast she heard me coming and jumped out of my way. In doing her best to to not hold me up she almost injured herself as she fell into the grass next to the track.
"Beth I could have waited to pass, I was eating a gel". I yelled as gravity had it's way with me on the descent.
"Take me out why don't you Shona!" Beth yelled joking as I disappeared up the track.
I felt bad, I did not mean for her to fall. I would have waited. She is just so nice. She went out of her way to help me and I appreciate that.
On the next climb she was hot on my tail.
"Tell me when and I'll move for you" I said to her as she followed me up Mount Debert.
"Now" She said and I made some space and let her and my mate Shane pass.
At the top of the climb I spotted them again and within 50 meters I was again on their tail. This time they were ready for me and I was way more careful. I purposely cut a corner on a switch back so I did not get in their way and I was off and flying again. I was able to hold my lead as the first female until the 34km mark before Beth's strength of high cadence tempo running saw her take the lead near Breakfast Creek.
I was hurting on the climbs. I check my hydration, drank some water. Chilled out again. Took 20 walking steps walking and rested a little. I re-focused and checked my splits. I was still on time for a sub- 4 hour 38km at CP2. I just had to get up and over the next few climbs.
I hate open fire trail running. It just does my head in. It is a weakness and I have to work on it. I knew I had a tough climb coming up after the check point and I prepared my head for it.
"Run" I urged myself. I started counting out a tempo to run to 12345678910,2 2345678910, 32345678910, 42345678910, 52345678910, 62345678910, 72345678910, 82345678910, 92345678910, 102345678910. (If you are a Pt client of mine you will know this high knee drill well) .Usually by the time you get to 10 you are at the top of the climb or the climb gradient has eased.
My guts were starting to get a bit sore. I decided that I hated the Hydralyte mix and I just wanted my old trust Sustain mix but there will be none to have until CP5. It felt like there was too much glucose in it. Either that or I was sick and the mucus in my gut was sending it a bit off. I made it to the top of Lyre Bird Ridge and just tried to hold on. A few guys caught up with me and I did my best to stay with them as I ran up the final climb and slid down the steep fire trail into Dunphy's Camp. I had completed 38km in 3 hours and 56 minutes. A PB for the 38km by 10 minutes. I just hoped it will be enough to stay ahead of Julie and anyone else who was chasing me down.

Monday, May 21, 2012

TNF100 2012 Fairmont Resort to CP1 Narrow Neck

I was awake all night with a sinus infection. I almost went through an entire box of tissues trying to clear my airways before the start of biggest race in the Australian Ultra Running Calendar The North Face 100km (TNF100). I felt sick in my stomach. It was either nerves or I had swallowed some mucus through the night and it was sitting in my gut. It was probably a bit of both. I was not the only one who had this head cold and was still racing that day so I was not going to let it hold me back. I took my antihistamines and had my nasal spray and I was ge'd to go.
I skipped the race briefing and chose to warm up outside instead. It was so mild in the Blue Mountains this year. I took off my Inov8 bluff, started the race in just my singlet, compression shorts, bra and socks, cap and Inov8 Roclite 285 shoes plus my UltrAspire Pack, tri belt, gloves and the and all the mandatory gear and started to warm up along the road up the first hill. I always like to run up a few hills before a race. It helps pump the blood to my legs where it is soon to me needed. 
The top 10 women and the top 15 males were offered a GPS tracker to wear in our packs this year. Just before the start of the race each of our names were called and we were introduced and given our GPS units. It was the first time my name has ever been called before an event. I felt like I had finally started to make an impact in the sport. The best of Australian Ultra Endurance Athletes and some special guest from NZ, the UK and South Africa had travelled to the race that day. Finally for the first time this year due to the 6 Foot Track and Mt Solitary Ultra races being canceled, we can see how we all match up against each other.
At 6:55am the count down started 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and we were off. I ran out at the front just behind the fastest International and Australian guys. I had my own race plan. A plan that worked to my strengths. I was to go out fast, but stay under my an-aerobic threshold. So the first 2km I ran at 4 minute pace and I felt great. We soon hit single man track and the pace slowed a bit before we were flung back out onto the road through the streets of Leura. 
I like leading the females. I like to know who is in front of me. I run to how I feel and at that point I felt good, so I went for it. The crowd along the streets of Leura was fantastic. I was cheered by everyone as I ran through the streets. People knew my name and it felt nice. I checked back a few times and I could not spot a female who wanted to chase me down. So I relaxed into a rhythm.
We soon hit the single man track again and along the Prince Henry Cliff Walk and then started the steep descent into the Leura Forrest past the Leura Cascades. Here the pace slowed. The line of runners started to bottle neck I was starting to get held up by the guys ahead of me. I am an awesome descender. I relish anything that goes down. I have to make the most of my strengths. Last year I was held up by by the world champion Nerea Martinez. This year I was getting held up again and I was not going to let it happen. My two main threats for the top position are Beth Cardelli and Julie Quinn. I know I am faster on the descents than the both of them. They are faster than me on the climbs. So this was a descent, and a single man track so I have to run at my pace or else they will catch be before I can make a dent in the field. If you ask for advise of how to run this race most runners will tell you to take it easy in the first 20km then start to build your pace it's a long race. This would work for someone who is a great climber with amazing straight line speed. I am fairly new to the sport. I live by the sea not in the mountains so the climbs are still not my strong point. Julie lives in Canberra near the national park and Beth lives near Kuringai National Park. I live in the Inner West of Sydney near Newtown. If I want to train in the mountains I have to drive for 1-2 hours. I have to rely on my natural agility to get me through. Anywhere on the trail that is single man track I must excel. 
"Guys take the steps two at a time." I suggested. "Take two at a time". No one answered and no one let me pass. "Have none of you guys been down Nellie's Glen? Take two steps at a time it's heaps faster." I again suggested. "Come on pick up the pace otherwise I'll have Julie chasing me down." I again pleaded.
"We don't have steps in New Zealand". Kristian my freshly introduced Barefoot Inc team mate said. Probably not the best way to meet your team mate demanding that he go faster or move out of the way.
With this one of my mates Shane recognised my voice and moved over and said. "First Female coming through move over for Shona". With this I had a clear run and I took the steps 2 -5 at a time depending on railing and if there was a landing at the bottom of the step of stairs or not.  I was an elite gymnast as  kid and I love to jump and leap and spring and use my agility to fly along the trails. I hardly feel like I am using any energy at all. I have to work to my strengths.
At last I could run at my pace and I was off down the steep descent and into the Leura Forrest. I ran on alone and I felt good. Just enjoying the ride of the Federal Pass. It took the guys 3km to catch me again near the 3 Sisters where the track climbed again and I stayed with them until the Landslide. I ran along behind them them and rested. Again the pace slowed a bit. But it was a long race and I needed to conserve my energy for the Golden Stairs that was just up ahead.
We ran on as a group and I kept checking my watch to make sure I was on track with my splits.  We ran over and under trees, longs, through mud along a the track to the Golden Stair Case. 
At the stairs the pace slowed down again and I sat behind the guys. But the pace felt too slow and I needed to get past them. "I've got to get past" I said. "Can I pass?". I'm not use to having to ask so much on a climb and I did not want to pass then get in their way. For the first time ever the 300m ascent of the Golden Stairs did not sting my quads like they had in the past and I asked to pass the guys again. Stairs is what I do. I'm a personal trainer and I make my clients climb stairs all day every day. The guys can pass me on the fire trail. I won't be holding them up there.
I came up the Golden Stairs without swearing or hurting too much and I was for the first time able to run up the first steep climb on Narrow Neck Road. Every training session I have ever done I have had to walk this section. My calves usually scream at me. But today I could run it. I felt good. I was focused. I then spotted a film crew with an Ultra Running Hero of mine Lisa Tamati. She was asking me how I was feeling. Too funny. I've just run 17.5km out of 100km I should be feeling great. "I feel good" I said.
I ran into CP1 Narrow Neck the 18km mark in the first female position. I was 4 minutes faster than my time from last year. I was happy. 1 hours 58 minutes. I was running on schedule for a PB.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

TNF100km Bags are packed, I'm carbing up, getting my hair cut, I'm feeling good.

I'm all Carbed up and ready to go for the biggest race of the Trail Running Calendar, TNF (The North Face) 100km Ultra Endurance Trail Event in the Blue Mountains in 1 and 1/2 days time. I've got my gear all sorted, my nutrition is rationed out my hydration mix is organised with my water bottles. I've checked and re-checked my mandatory gear twice and my body is feeling about as good as it gets.
I have an easy day of personal training tomorrow of only 3 sessions and I only have 2 more sessions to get through tonight so I will be as fresh as I can get.
My Gear for the 100km will consist of the following;
Inov8 Roc Lite 285 Trail Shoes, Injinji performance socks, Line Breaker Compression Calf Guards, 2XU Elite Compression Shorts, Inov8 Branded 2XU Singlet, Inov8 Branded 2XU Tri Bra, TNF100 Visor, Inov8 Bluff, "Jazz Hands" Fluro Ronhill Gloves, Spi Belt, Lucky Chip (I have never lost with it), High Visibility Vest, Thermal Top, Ugly stripy blue thermal bottoms, Hard Wear Water Proof Jacket, The North Face Fleece, Water Proof Pants, Led Lensor Head Torch, Led Lensor hand torch, whistle, emergency blanket, compression bandage, Gu Roctanes, Hydralyte Sports Hydration Mix, plastic zip lock bag, maps, compass, UltrAspire Back Pack, Hydrapak Bladder , water bottles...I think that is it. I would have  forgotten something.
I have to carry it all except for the Fleece and the Water Proof Pants for 100km. At the 67km mark I will probably have to carry the fleece and the water proof pants.
I will be trying to take over 50 minutes of my time from 2011 of 12 hours and 50 minutes. I think I can run faster. You will be able to track me via GPS at the below link.
http://www.trackmelive.com.au/alltrackersmap.aspx?id=10038
I have been mentally preparing myself for this for 6 months. I just have to stay focused and remember my plan and run to my advantage.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

TNF Last Tough Sessions Testing Inov8 Roclite 285


I have the perfect end of training for The North Face 100km. On Saturday I helped out the organisers from Wild Endurance  http://www.wildendurance.org.au/ 50km and 100km team event to raise money for the Wilderness Society. I was the Forerunner for the second leg CP2-CP3 21km from Katoomba to Queen Victoria Hospital (QV). I put out markers through the Furber Stairs, check the makers through the Leura Forrest and Sublime Ridge and to put out count down markers for the last 5km heading into the Queen Victoria Hospital up Kedumba to the Kings Tableland road.
I had a fantastic day. I felt great. The sun was shining and the early frost was melting and I had the dream drive from Sydney to the mountains, it only took me 1 hour and 15 minutes. Helping out Wild Endurance also meant that I got a last hit out in the Blue Mountains before I hit the taper. There is just something about running in the Blue Mountains with a back pack on then coming back to the sea level to run without a pack, everything just seems so much easier.
On the run from Katoomba to QV I past many The North Face (TNF) runners doing the same as me, everyone was out just getting in their last session before the taper began. I tested out my new Inov8 Roclite 285 and they are amazing. They are everything that I could wish for in a trail shoe. Super light. Mine being a size UK 5.5 only weigh 217 grams. The teeth like grip on the sole of the shoe locks into any surface and they have enough padding under the balls of my feet so I not feel a single rock as I descended down Sublime Ridge into the Jamison Valley. They have all the protection I need but they still feel extremely racy. On the flat it just felt so natural to kick on and run fast. Just perfect.
I also tested out the Go Pro Hero 2 on the run and I had a ball descending dow the Furber Stairs recording it on my chest brace. Stay tuned for the footage from that descent. I was happy to say that the strap did not chafe me once. I also tested my new Garmin 910. At first I was in swim mode, and it did not read my heart rate. Hey that's why you test it all out.
I tried out a new hydration formula Hydralyte Sports and generally worked my legs on the climb out of  the Jamison Valley. When I arrived at the QV I spotted Marcus Warner running the next section for Wild Endurance. He was only meant to run 35km. But he ended up having to run 61km because someone  removed some of the markers that I put out or checked through the Leura Forrest. It was not the best lead up for his race the next day the 10km Footpoint Trail Series Race 2 or an ideal preparation for TNF. He is a strong and experienced runner. I am sure he will pull up just fine.
I also spotted the two most amazing women at QV on a training run for TNF. Meredith Quinlan and Jess Baker out training together again. Both women broke the record for the Great North Walk (GNW) 100 Mile and they now how the record for the GNW 250km. Those two women are an unstoppable force. They both looked fresh and as fit as ever.  Their presence together is so powerful, they work so well as a team. It is clear to me that all the kilometres they have put in their legs have not taken the spring from their legs. The are both bound to have a great run at TNF 100km.
After some of my usual chit chat with anyone who will listen, I jumped on my road bike and headed back 15km to Katoomba Oval where I had parked my car.
On Sunday I ran a 10km Footpoint Trail Series Race 2. http://www.footpointshoeclinic.com.au/footpoint-trail-series It is the same as the down hill version but in reverse. I was not looking forward to running an up hill event after putting so many tough kilometres in my legs the day before. The race started at Sirus Cove and followed the trail around Bradley's Head, Chowder Bay, over the Balmoral Ridge, down the stairs around the Balmoral Oval, along the Espanade then up the steep climb of Manderlay Street and finished at Alan Boarder Oval.
I lead out from the start and I was past by 2 guys who later got lost in the bush around the 4km mark. They later re-found the track but ended up running an extra 4kms.  I almost went the wrong way on a few ocassions but I asked the guy my friend Keith Hong, who was running behind me where to go. I ended up winning my first ever event out right with a time of 43:12 only 14 seconds slower than my down hill time. Everyone got "Chicked" that day it was awesome. I had 4 of my personal training and bootcamp clients run the 5km event. They all surprised themselves too. It was a really fun event. I will be back in July to try and make it 3 wins in a row.
I've pulled up okay from my mad 10km sprinting though the bush and I can't wait to race TNF 100km in only 10 days time. I have realised that I can climb and I can climb fast. I can run faster than I think I can when I am pushed. Bring on TNF100km.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

TNF100 Fairmont, Golden Stairs, Narrow Neck, 6 Foot Track, Nellies Glen


I had the best time for a long time running in the mountains all by myself on Saturday. The Running Wild NSW Mt Solitary Ultra 45km was cancelled due to the deluge of rain that the Sydney area received a few days before. I’d already organised my mum to look after my kids for the weekend so nothing was going to prevent me from missing an opportunity to train in the Blue Mountains.I decided to head out and train on The North Face 100 (TNF) route the Fairmont, Leura Forest, Narrow Neck, Danphy’s Camp, 6 Foot Track, Nellie Glen route, then decide how I was going and what time it was and try and find a way back to my car at the Fairmont Resort. 
I started late at 11am because I had to take 2 “Make Up” personal training sessions on Saturday morning due to the wet conditions we have suffered in Sydney. So even before I started my run I had already spent 2 hours on my legs. It was just going to be one of those days for a fantastic day to run. The weather was just perfect, still really warm, no need for gloves or a beanie. I was just running in my Inov8 singlet, compression socks and shorts, visor running belt and as much of my mandatory gear I could find in my UltrAspire Surge back pack. Just perfect. I have put on weight since 6 Foot Track Training, I am a kilo heavier, but I am two kilos lighter than last year. I think I put on extra weight in my quads and glutes to carry the extra mandatory gear that is required to run in the event and keep all the runners safe.
I left the Fairmont Resort a few minutes after 11am, I had the pleasure of spotting the great runner Andrew Lee out training as I drove into the resort. Everyone was going to be out training this weekend, with only a month until the big TNF it is so important to get extra mountain training in.As soon as I headed up the hill, a local wanted to chat to me. I stopped my watch, stopped running and walked next to him while we chatted about the up coming events Wild Endurance and TNF. I think it is important to chat to as many people as possible when I am out training. Trail running is an emerging sport, and I am running though these locals back yard. I have to be respectful everyone I meet, maybe my good manners will pay off someday. If you know me personally I can talk your ear off for hours.
He turned right and I started to run and continued straight, then turned right onto Willoughby Rd and hit the bush track. I ran along the trail and I was soon spat out onto the streets of Leura for the next few kilometres before I was again on the trail at Abbey Rd near Gordon Falls. I check my maps, followed the signs and before long I was stopped again by some very confused European Tourists. They were lost and I was the only one in the vicinity carrying a map. I gave them some simple directions which they were not to pleased with. I told them to follow the Cliff Walk to Katoomba, or the Leura Falls route to the Federal pass. I don’t know what they wanted me to do. But they still had 5km to go until they were at Katoomba.
”These trails are like spaghetti, it is easy to get lost” I cautioned. I guess in Australia everything does seem further away than in Europe. I explained to them that they would be okay and told them that I was planning on doing about 60km so 5km was not really that much. 
“Do you have food and water?” I questioned.
“Yes plenty”.This shut the bloke up at least. “I’m a runner, I love to run,” He then added “I’m not a navigator” He admitted.
“I know, that’s why you are lost”. With that I was off and running.I ran on before I again could not help myself I had to help out another European tourist taking photos of the Leura Cascades with a 1/2 decent camera. I lined them up and took a shot for them. They were of both a large frame so I was having a few problems fitting both them and the cascades in the shot. I showed them the shot on the view finder and I asked them if it was okay. They were satisfied with my shot and with this I was off again.
I descended the stairs to the bottom of the valley passing an annoyed Aussie mother with her young kids flying through the trails chasing after them. I stepped in a puddle and splashed mud on her.
“Thank’s a lot” She said. 
“It’s just dirt it’ll wash off” I yelled behind me. I don’t know what she expected from a bush walk in the Blue Mountains after the biggest rainfall Sydney has seen for 15 years. She was going to get dirty no matter what. I really felt like saying "Toughen up princess". But I guess that would not have gone down too well. I sped on up a set of stairs and  just enjoyed the freedom of running on my own at my own pace. I love descending especially on single man tracks, so when I passed through the Leura Forrest down the endless sets of stairs and onto the technical Federal Pass I hit my rhythm and enjoyed the ride. My shoes were fantastic. The more I wear my Inov8 shoes the more I love them. I have been wearing the same pair of Inov8 Roclites since December for all my long trail runs and they have looked after me. Initially I did not like them so much.  They are different from regular shoes. I found them a bit too flexible at first. My feet did need to become stronger. I have built up my strength in my lower calves and my feet I just love the extra kick I have developed in my running action. My husband has commented that I look effortless when I am running. I make it look easy. I am faster than before and I can now run faster without so much effort.
My favourite Road shoes at the moment are the Inov8 f-lite 195. They are just pure freedom in a running shoe. Since I wear these shoes on the road then I swop to the Roclites on the trail I know my feet are stronger. This especially comes in handy when I am threading my way through the muddy, rocky , uneven single man track of the Federal pass. My agility has to be lightening fast to keep my speed through this section of the tack. The stability must all come from my feet and work it’s way up.
Soon I am stopped again my a group of three young Northern European guys. They are freaking out. One of them had a leech on him. The three of them were all huddled on a rock less than a meter squared. “Excuse me what should we do? A leech is on our friend? Is it dangerous?”.  They did not have a lighter, they did not have salt or aeroguard, so I asked them. 
“Has it attached? “. I asked as I checked my own feet and jumped up onto a rock out of the leaf litter and ferns.
“Yes” One replied.
“Just leave it on, it will drop off when it has had its fill. If you pull it off it will just bleed and you won’t be able to stop it, if you leave it on it will clot the wound when it’s finished, it won’t hurt you.” I advised. Still checking my own legs. They did not seem too pleased with this thought.
”You guys are moving too slow, run and then they won’t get on you”. With this said I was off and running. I was later than normal, starting at 11am and all the tourist were out in the tracks. I feel bad when I come running up behind them. I am a silent runner, landing on my toes, light on my feet, not making a sound. I usually scare the crap out of tourist. Sometimes I warn them calling out ahead. But I find this this can scared them just as much as just running fast up behind them. The ladies are especially frightened when I call out to warn them. I do apologise when I scoot past. I came across the Scenic Railway, and advise a pair of Chinese tourist to take the tourist broad walk, but they were determined to check the Landslide out. This impressed me. I soon came across another pair of Chinese guys who were almost at the Landslide. They asked me how far I had come and where I was going. They were really interested in what I was doing and what I was wanting to achieve, as well as what I was carrying in my back pack, and what I was wearing. I showed them the maps, and started flipping the pages, following the route I was about to do. They were pretty impressed. My goal for the day was just to complete as close to 60km as time would allow. I had already completed about 7km. I needed to be at a friends birthday party later that day too. I was on borrowed time. Everyone wanted to chat to me, and I love to talk, I love telling people about my passion and I wanted to set an example to these people of what was achievable if you trained for it. But I was losing time, I was going to be coming out of Nellies Glen in the dark if I was not careful with all my chit chat to tourist. I left the guys with this in mind and started to run again.When you are training for an event like TNF you just do the training because you have to, I just get the job done. I was on my own and this was how I liked it. I needed to sort my head out and work on my fuelling, hydration and pace. Work on my self belief. This I needed to concentrate. I started to work out which songs I would sing to myself to have the correct tempo for the flats and the climbs.
I pushed on and soon twisted my ankle whilst passing the Landslide. The trail turns from a single man track to a rocky, clay ankle killer. I tape my ankles to prevent a sprain. I am double jointed. I can click out my jaw, hip, wrist and now one ankle can click out. My knee caps use to slip around to the outside of my knee. But that had stopped the last time it popped out was after having my second child 5 years ago. I have built up a balanced muscle strength around my knees, I try not to pop my hip out , again I have built up strength in my glutes to prevent this from happening also. But my ankle is a bit of a lost cause at the moment. I did feel it pop out but it pops back in just as easily. It does hurt, but not enough to prevent me from running fast.
I carried on down the even ground. I hopped on through the landslide and soon I scared the crap out of another  pair of Northern European guys as I dodged through the heath scrub just past the Landslide. I did not have enough time to warn them before I frightened them. The look on his face was of primal fear, then relief. I again apologised and headed on. I enjoyed more rolling up hills of single man track on the Federal Pass and then I stared to worry, as I crossed over three large trees that had fallen over due to the soft ground. I petrified of the possibility of leeches attaching to me as I passed over these fallen trees. I scooted over the first tree soon to be followed by another then another, then another. The final tree was almost un-passable. But I found a hole through some branches. I barged my way through but I was caught on the vines that was tangled in the tree. I tried to make the least amount of contact with the tree thinking that the longer I stayed still the higher the chance of a leech attaching to me. I scraped my knee and elbow in the branches trying to free myself but within thirty seconds I was running again and I soon came across the Golden Stair case.
TNF100km 2011 was my first ever solo 100km. I had the pleasure of running with the world best. In 2011 I managed to hold off the World Champion Nera Martinez up until this point. I just had to pass her through the Leura Forrest but she passed me on the Golden Stair Case. I was pretty proud of myself, even just running along side these professional athletes was a privilege and I cherished every minute of it. Again those stairs stung my quads but I did my best to run when I could. I came across some “Wild Endurance” Team runners. I would like thank all the organisers of these amazing events. When I am out training for TNF, I am constantly passing “Wild Endurance” runners. They are usually running the opposite way to TNF so I pass them regularly. This makes training so much safer. Especially for someone like me who has a family and can’t just train without negotiation from my parents and husband. I usually find it hard to find runners who can train when I can. I also run differently to the other top runners. They are usually amazing climbers but I am the opposite, I relish the descents. I gain valuable time running down hills lightening fast. I usually end up “Yo Yoing” runners when I am racing them, they beat me on the ups, I pass them on the downs.
I got to the top of the stairs and it took me about 2 hours with getting a bit lost adding about 500m of walking on running in my aerobic system. I made it to the gate to Narrow Neck in 2 hours 13 minutes. I felt good. I was going light on my fuelling holding off my glucose making my aerobic system work harder. I kicked on along Narrow Neck hurting a bit from my ankle twist at the Landslide. I told my pain to “Fuck off” and I started to analyse the pain and adjusted my running action to eliminate to sharp stabbing sensation I was feeling on the medial side of my right ankle. I suffer from an ankle impingement, but I ran the GNW with it. It felt the same as it did out on Narrow Neck. So I knew eventually I would block out the pain and it would just go away. Soon my body would work out that I was not going to stop so the pain receptors will just shut off. Pain is felt in the brain not the muscle. When you realise this you will be able to work through any injury. (Apart form a broken bone or a completed muscle tear, you will know when to stop).
I ran along Narrow Neck remembering the last time I was out here. It was the day the “6 Foot Track” was cancelled. I ran with my local heroes Brendan Davis, Beth Cardelli, Alex William’s, Mick Douges and many more. Only the week before I’d run 50km in a team event Coastrek and won with a new record of 6 Hours 14 minutes in gale forced southerly winds. My allergies were preventing me from breathing properly. I was in so much distress I really did think I was asthmatic. My husband and a few of my close friends were really worried about me. I then went for an exercised induced asthma test and I was cleared of asthma. I just had really bad hay fever. I then went out again with Beth for a training run after having a flu shot and I was sick, fevered with ache and pains, sweats, the works of Flu symptoms plus allergies and I failed miserably I could only complete 36km. I did just complete a Long Course Tri of 2km swim, 120km bike and a 20km run the week before in 6 hours 50 minutes, so I was not fresh.
But today I had it all under control. I am taking antihistamines everyday as a preventive and I am finally able to breath properly through my trachea. My trachea in the past would become swollen when I exercised, meaning that I was struggling to get more oxygen into my lungs.  My nose would also become blocked and I would not be able to breath and run up a hill.
But I was in control for the first time in a long time, and I felt great. My legs felt like they were full of strength, and I was ready for all the climbs the Blue Mountains was going to put in my way. Last year I could not do any flat speed interval training, as it would flare up my stress fractured feet. I could not do any training on the road at all. This made it really hard when I live right in the middle of Sydney. There is concrete everywhere. But this year I could run anywhere without thought.
I ran along Narrow Neck, again the views were amazing along the wide fire trail. I was able to run up all the climbs and I soon came to the Pluviometer 25km. Some of the climbs do sting your quads and calves, but today I felt awesome. I came across two Aussie Chinese husband and wife hikers. They were so impressed when they saw me coming up the fire trail they stopped me and wanted to chat. I guess it is not often that you come across a young female running on her own in the mountains.“I want to get into extreme marathon running” The guy said to me. They were dressed head to tow in bone hiking chinos and shirts with hiking boots on. I mentioned that I was a personal trainer and that I love teaching people how to run. I told him I had a blog and he could read about trail running and the races I have completed. He was interested in what I was wearing, and the pack I was carrying. I excitedly told him about the up-coming runs that he should try. He'd heard of "Coolrunnings" I mentioned that my first trail run was "The Great Nosh". I could have chatted all day to this lovely couple but I had to keep moving if I was to get out of here in sunlight. I had a funny feeling I was going to come out of Nellies Glen with a head torch on. I ran on to the end of Narrow Neck and thought about taking a photo but the light was not good enough. I headed to the right down the single man track, descended the narrow ladder and I soon came across a pair of climbers assailing down Tarros Ladder. I felt really under pre-pared, they had full climbing gear on, helmets, harnesses, ropes. I was willing to trust the climbing spikes that I had descended a few times previous. I felt safe though. If I did slip and fall I had two people here to rescue me. Before long I was off and running again along the gorgeous single man track. I purposely packed the large compression bandage, knowing that I was running on my own. The chance of a snake bite through this area felt plausible. I just wanted to get through this section before it got too late. There are a few climbs through this section, but they are over soon enough. I was able to run over most of them. When I did slow to a walk on one of the rockier sections of the climb of Mount Derbert 30km, I just said to myself "Don't Give Up", and I was running again.
I hit the open fire trail at Medlow Gap and I immediately felt safer. The fire trail took the fear of a snake bite away, and I coasted down the hill to Breakfast Creek and I started the climb. The last time I was out training I had a "moment" here. And I was slowed to a walk for a few minutes. But today I was stronger and I was able to run the entire way over Sliprail Creek 35km up the two climbs to Bellbird Ridge, where I ate again, finished the last of my fluid. I had only consumed 2.6L of fluid in 37 kms, and I felt good.
I rolled down the incredibly steep rocky fire-trail and jogged into Danphy's Camp 38km. I drank some water and re-filled my UltrAspire Hydra-pack Bladder and my 600ml water bottle then headed on down to Green Gully. In TNF you continue on through to Iron Pot Ridge. But this is out of bounds for training. I hooned down Megalong Valley Rd and came to the Cottage at Green Gully. I was stopped by the owners of the property. They were curious about where I had been, where I was going and what I was training for. When people find out I am a personal trainer the questions just come flying. I felt obliged to answer them all I was running through their land but the sun was fading and I had to get going if I was ever going to make it back to Sydney in time for a party.
I ran along the fire trail and followed the road straight up a massive climb of 300m. I ate and chugged into my rhythm straight up the climb. I felt good and just concentrated on my legs and keeping them strong. This climb always hurts but it is over in 3km. I just punched through all the way to the top of Euroka Ridge. When I was at the top and waved to the farmers and some other local of the area. I then stopped and took advantage of the warm a setting sun light. I posed for a self photo and then kicked on down the descent into the Megalong Valley. Any "6 Foot Track" Runner will know this section well. I turned right onto the 6 Foot Track and followed Nellies Glen Road for 8km back towards Katoomba. The sun was setting and I was surprised when I saw  a pair of hikers heading out from Nellies Glen near one of the locked gates."How far to the Cox's River?" One asked.
"It's 15km from the start, we are about 7km in so you have 7-8km to go, do you have head torches?" I asked.
"Nahhh, we will be right we will just camp when it gets dark". He replied.
The land in between basically Nellies Glen and the Cox's River of the Megalong Valley is private land. Technically he will need permission to camp there. I was not want to be in his shoes later on that night. I pushed on myself knowing that it was soon going to be dark. I heard my phone go off. I stopped and sent a text to my friend and my husband telling them where I was and that I was about to come up Nellies Glen. I switched my head torch on and ran up the fire trail. Again this is a steep climb that hurts like hell, before it just hurts some more when the trail narrows down to single man track. I had not had the opportunity to train under ahead torch since August Oxfam. GNW I did not need one. So this was perfect training for me.
Coming up out of Nellies Glen in the dark all by yourself plays havoc with your brain. I was convinced that there was someone lurking in the bushes. A crazy hermit, living close to the fresh water source of Nellies Glen, hiding amongst the small creek caves. Adrenaline is an amazing thing, I was flying, hardly noticing the burning in my quads. Breathing heavily as I climbed up the wet narrow creek bed. I was so frightened, I kept checking behind me to see if I was being followed. Any noise I heard in the bush was being investigated. The sound of the creek washing into the vegetation freaked the pants off me before I realised it was just the sound of the water washing through leaves, not a monster about to grab me. I soon pulled my head back together. I realised that I was a sitting duck to any attacker that may be living in this gully. There was no way out if I did come across someone. But reason came back into my thoughts. If there was a crazy hermit living down here he probably did not have a job. If he did not have a job, and he did not have an address to get dole payments, then he probably could not afford batteries for in his torch, and he had run out of batteries, sohe was in the dark with no light and I would blind him with my head torch if he came to attack me. Nice thinking? Always look on the bright side....
The steps of Nellies Glen never looked so good. I was close to the top and I was going to get out. I pushed up the massive set of bush stairs, only allowing one step for every stair and I was soon out on the fire trail at the start of the "6 Foot Track". I ran out onto the Western HWY, put on my high vis vest and headed back to Katoomba. I felt great, I had a kick on in my run and I was doing really well. I followed the footpath along the road. I checked my Garmin and it said I had completed 57km. I'd already completed 7km that morning and I needed to get back to Sydney to see my friend and Husband back at a party. I was worried that I would not be able to get a taxi at Katoomba. I was worried that I was going to take too long running to get back to my car. I hooned along the path and I then spotted my way out.
I saw a young girl with "P" plates on a car start her car. I asked her. "Can I have a lift to Leura or where ever you are going so I can get back to Sydney?" I asked. I told her what I have been doing for the past 7.5 hours, 6.5 hours of running. I chatted to people through out the day for an hour.
Her dad soon got into the car and he dropped her off at her work and then he did the nicest thing, he dropped me back at my car at the Fairmont Resort. After finding my car, with it's door ajar and unlocked I must to have left it opened, I was so happy my car started first time and nothing was stolen. I then drove home back to Sydney, jumped in the shower and I was at the party my 8:30pm. I do have good luck. Or is it just good karma.