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.
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 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. 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.