Salming Trail 5

Salming Trail 5

I previously wore, reviewed and loved the Salming Trail 2. It’s safe to say they never let me down but shoes wear out and their integrity is compromised with use so it’s inevitable they will need to be replaced. In comes the Salming Trail 5. There are lots of modifications on it’s predecessors but it felt comfortable when I put it on and I was keen to try it out.

I’ve now really worn the Salming Trail 5 in, taking them for a ride at the South East Queensland Trail Running Series at Enoggera where it rained and conditions were wet and muddy. To the Sunshine Coast Hinterland where it was wet muddy and raining and a long run at Mt Cootha in dry humid conditions.

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My shoes now well worn in and nicely dirty and dusty but not showing any signs or wear.

At the SEQ Trail Series at Enoggera I was sure footed and comfortable charging up the hills, splashing through the puddles and bombing down the descents often overtaking others as I sure footedly bounded the short steep technical down sections.

On the Sunshine Coast I ran from Mapleton past the falls through rainforest, picked my way through the slippery mud and then made my way via the Leafy Lane Track to the Ubajee Workers Camp and negotiated the switchbacks down to the Gheerulla Falls which were flowing fast. I ran in the rain on muddy, rocky and leafy trails, waded my way through several creeks and I always felt I had good grip but wet feet.

I can spend several hours over the weekend on the trails so a shoe that is comfortable hour after hour is a must. When I first ran and raced long trail events one thing that troubled me later in races was sore feet, really feeling the rocks on the souls of my feet.   These shoes gave me comfort and responsiveness to the ground as a traveled across it for the duration of my run and on this occasion we were out and about at Mt Coot-Tha, the Brisbane Forest Park and the Enoggera Reservoir for 4 hours or so. The Recoil Midsole a super lightweight cushioning compound gave me good rebound energy or essentially a spring in my step.

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The toe box is also roomier, easily accommodating my broad forefoot and also allowing for expansion and swelling after many hours on the feet.

And finally the Vibram megagrip on the soul which had me confidently picking my way across wet, muddy and loose gravel and stay on my feet and upright.  In the image above I launched off a rock sticking up out of the creek ensuring my feet and shoes didn’t get wet on this occasion.

I am sure to enjoy many more hours on the trails over summer in this bright comfortable pair of shoes. I plan to run most of the upcoming SEQ Trail Series Events and a number of Run Queensland events, Beerwah @ Daybreak and the Aus’Trail’ia Day Trail Marathon or Beerwah @ Night.

https://www.salming.com/au/running/

Steve and Lisa Walton and the team at Slaming Australia supported the Brisbane Track Ultra an event at which I was co Race Director.  I also wear the Salming Distance 5 for my road running recently taking them for a tough but enjoyable road run at the World 50km Championships Trial event in China.

 

 

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You Can’t Always Get What You Want

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes well you just might find
You get what you need (Keith Richards/Mick Jagger)

What I wanted was to run over 200km and to get kind of close to the 220km World A Standard mark. At the previous 24 Hour World Championships in April 2015 I ran an amazing 230.244km and finished 6th. This time around things were different. Later that year I discovered a lump in breast. Early in 2016 I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. All of 2016 was consumed with treatment and recovery but my intention was always to get to the IAU 24 Hour World Championships again.

When you are diagnosed with Breast Cancer you are put in the care of a team. My team of health professionals was extensive and I sought from each and every one of them treatment that had me returning to running and indeed training as soon as possible. I worked with a Sports Dietitian, Sports Psychologist, Podiatrist, Physiotherapist, my GP, Surgeon and Oncologist. It was great to hear from my Oncologist that for me as an athlete my running was just as effective as chemotherapy.

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Jodie enjoying a run Heathrow Moors en route to Ireland.

I arrived in the UK the Saturday evening prior to the race and stopped overnight briefly at a hotel near the London Heathrow airport. Sunday morning I enjoyed a run and found some trails adjacent to the airport easily accessible from my accommodation. That run felt good and I seemed to have handled the long day travelling well. I set off for Dublin and enjoyed some casual runs along the River Liffey, walked and rested. Dublin was the perfect venue for a few lazy days.

I caught the train from Dublin to Belfast in typical English weather (it was raining). I was met at the airport by a volunteer on behalf of the Local Organising Committee (LOC) and before I knew it I was crammed into a vehicle with a bunch of Canadians, I was in good company and was soon settled in my accommodation at the Event Head Quarters the Queens Elms which is student accommodation for the nearby university. I was excited to be amongst athletes preparing for the World Championships and to reconnect with those I had met at the previous championships and other international events that I have attended in the last 2 years.  I feel extremely fortunate that my running has presented me with these amazing opportunities and experiences and brought all sorts of awesome people into my life. My life is certainly richer and fuller for it.

The usual pre event activities included a walk to the local supermarket for extra food, water and any other race essentials, a few easy runs around the surrounding area and the Opening Ceremony is always a highlight. The Event Organiser did well to attempt to say hello in all the languages represented including an Aussie ‘G’day’.

So did Breast Cancer detract 50km from my potential performance. Probably not entirely but it certainly has impacted my performance. There were other factors and external stressors which I certainly didn’t need. This time I traveled without family. While I am happy to travel solo and have traveled to 3 out of the 4 previous Championships on my own on this occasion when I realised everyone else had someone close to them around I felt really isolated. While I have made some really strong connections with my team mates and consider them practically family I still felt something was missing.  Race morning I was not the usual happy relaxed person.  Some issues I had tried to sort out a month or so prior were unresolved.  However, once we made our way to the start line I focused on my run and enjoyed the challenge, camaraderie and soaked up the atmosphere.

So as I have alluded to in an earlier blog Breast Cancer has been a major speed bump in my race through life. As an athlete I have lost a little of the speed I once had.  A few additional injury niggles have troubled but not stopped me.  I sought regular treatment from Paul and the team at Body Leadership Physio. With their support I was able to be competitive and to keep on top of the niggles.  I certainly tested the limits of my body over the last 6 months.

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Team Australia at the Opening Ceremony. Ewan Horsburgh, Kevin Muller, Jodie Oborne, John Pearson, Nicole Barker, Nikki Wynd, Matthew Eckford, Sharon Scholz and Mick Thwaites. 

I worked really hard for what I wanted, that World A Standard, a result I have achieved on 2 occasions.  I know now that I didn’t have enough time to rebuild from the ravages of my Breast Cancer treatment.  I had no way of knowing or information to gauge how an athlete competing at my level as an ultra runner might recover from the treatment I received. I worked hard to get to these Championships in the best possible shape, while the result wasn’t what I wanted I am extremely grateful for the honour and proud of my achievement.  We compete as individuals and a team at these Championships and it is the team effect and the support of fellow Australians and friends from around the World that keeps us going or helps us to push through the discomfort to achieve what we do.

I feel I just need time.  At these Championships it had been just over 12 months since I completed my Breast Cancer treatment.  Since then I have struggled with adjusting to life as a survivor consequently diagnosed with an adjustment disorder, a mild form of depression.  I have always remained positive that I could return to running and to once again be competitive on the World Stage.  I do still have the best running ahead of me.  Stay tuned.

What’s my next adventure?  I have been offered an opportunity to return to China to race.  You bet I will be seriously considering that opportunity.  I continue to live life to the fullest, one run at a time.

Salming Trail Shoe Review

I was lucky enough to win a pair of Salming Shoes through Running Heroes and since I was on the lookout for a new trail shoe I opted for the Salming Trail. If you are a member of the RMA Member Benefit program you can get 20% off. Check out the awesome range here.

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Out of the box I loved the styling, bright and colourful. I know they are going to get dirty and mine certainly did but when your sweating it out on tough terrain you might not feel and smell all that great but at least you look good and let’s face it there’s nothing cooler than a great trail selfie.

I live in Brisbane and I spend a bit of time running the trails in the Toohey Forest, composed of a variety of surfaces and after a rain event those trail can get slippery and muddy. I also spend quite a bit of time at Mt Coot-tha and with the Salming Trail shoes on my feet I feel confident bombing down the Jacksonia Trail, tackling the Pinnacles route

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Sweeping the course at the Blackall 100

and churning through the kilometres somewhere in the Brisbane Forest Park.

I’ve tested these out on leafy trails, rocky trails, muddy trains and everything in between. These shoes are designed with natural running in mind and with a low heel to toe drop of 5mm. I find I run more naturally and respond better to what’s underfoot. After several hundred kilometres on the trails these shoes aren’t showing much wear proving they are well suited to rugged conditions and should serve you well right throughout the trail running season or even the year.

I wore these all day when I was sweeping the trail at the Blackall 100 in 2016 and not one blister. Althought that might have been the Steigen Socks which I have found to be awesome with colours that match these shoes perfectly.  The Salming Trail Shoes were perfect for fast descents on leafy trails, picking my way through the rocky creek beds and then opening up the legs on the short road sections and open fire trails.

If trails aren’t you thing I have recently bought the Salming Distance D5 which is a road shoe built to go the distance. I have it if Diva Pink for all those running diva’s. Look out for my review on this option soon.

Acceptance & Determination

Acceptance & Determination

I accepted that I had Breast Cancer quite quickly.  You have to because treatment is a priority and before you know it in most cases you are scheduled for surgery literally within days of diagnosis.  Accepting I had Breast Cancer was the easy part, accepting that after 2 surgeries and 6 weeks of radiation treatment that my running performance would be affected was harder. 

I trained through the whole process as best as I could.  It was a learning experience for my coach as well.  There are no ultra runners competing at my level dealing with this scenario.  I was determined not to let it affect my life too much but there really was no information around to gauge my recovery as an athlete.  For most Breast Cancer survivors increasing exercise and adopting a healthy diet is recommended.  If anything I needed to reduce my training load to allow for recovery and a dietitian confirmed that my diet is really good.  I was always open with my Cancer Care team about my desire to run, train and even compete.  There was no clinical reason why I should not continue to run so I did listening to my body and resting when I needed to. 

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I was more than happy to be a part of the BCNA awareness campaign.  If it could happen to me it could certainly happen to you too.  #notjust1in8

I feel really fortunate that as a result of my exceptional result at the last 24 hour World Championships in Turin where I finished 6th with 230.244km my selection for the next was guaranteed.  I still needed to prove fitness, that I could at least put in a solid performance.  My performance at the Asian Championships did not reflect this but it was a good indicator of what I had to do to get back to peak form by July 2017.  My mental game was off.  I realise now that my expectations were too high for what I had been through.  I needed to adjust my mindset and work within my capabilities.  That is really hard to do when you have achieved some pretty significant performances. 

So I started 2017 with a schedule of events on which I would build.  It started with a trail marathon.  An event where I held the course record and was the title holder an event I had run just days after my Breast Cancer diagnosis one year earlier.  I ran that event content to finish it but managed to grab a place on the podium, happily giving up my title and course record.  I enjoyed the night out running and mixing it with other like minded people. 

The next event was a 6 hour at Caboolture.  It was at this venue that I achieved a qualifier for my first Australian team and broke an Australian Record but again I would have to adjust my expectations and was happy to run almost 60km in extremely hot and humid conditions, finishing 2nd and not quite catching up to my husband Tim who had decided he would give this form of ultra running a go.  He concludes that it’s not for him.  Just as well as I know I am going to need a reliable crew over the years to come.

Most recently the next step was a 12 hour event on an athletics track in Canberra.  Again I had expectations of what I should be able to achieve at this event and again I fell a little short but I am happy that I could pull off a respectable performance and if anything be consistent in my build up and it’s always great to claim a place on the podium.   One step at a time. I thoroughly enjoyed my short trip to Canberra.  It really lifted my mood, the ultra running community is amazing.  So many people from such different backgrounds all with the insane desire to run a bloody long way.  It was also great to have almost all the Australian 24 hour team in attendance especially the women.  We all look forward to teaming up in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

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Australian 24 Hour Team: Nikki Eadie, Nicole Barker, Sharon Scholz, Jodie Oborne (Captain)

This year has been frustrating to say the least.  I know what I am capable of and the speed that I used to to achieve in my training sessions but the speed and pace are just not there.  As a consequence I have suffered some depression and have been diagnosed by my GP as having and adjustment disorder which entitles me to a Mental Health Care Plan.  Some days the intensity of my training leaves me extremely fatigued and I find it hard to function or get on with everyday life.  Before my diagnosis I would be tired on the days I did long hard sessions but I could get through a full day of work or activity.  These days I am pretty much a zombie on the couch.   But I am determined to do the best I can and I have time to continue to build towards that.  Ultra running has always required patience and my patience has really been tested.  I have sort professional help and have a entire team of health professionals behind me.  I am extremely grateful to Paul, Angela and the team at Body Leadership Physiotherapy who have continued to treat me and ensure that I make the start line in the best possible shape.

Selfishly Living in the Present

Selfishly Living in the Present

Running is an inherently selfish pastime. As an ultra runner participating in 100km and 24 hour events preparation requires quite a bit of time on the feet running.  While I structure my training so that the impact on my family and work commitments is minimal the need to get out for a run that is up to 5 hours in duration is going to cut into the weekend.

My family are used to this.  When it came to considering treatment options for my Breast Cancer the impact on my running influenced my decisions.  My husband agreed with me perhaps for different reasons that Breast Conservation Surgery was preferable to a Mastectomy. A mastectomy decreased the need for chemotherapy.  I agreed to Radiotherapy as this appeared to be less invasive.  Radiotherapy uses x-rays to destroy any cancer cells that may be left behind after breast cancer surgery and reduces the risk of breast cancer coming back in the breast.  My risk as a result of these two treatments is pretty low.  I could reduce it further if I had Chemotherapy.  This is where I selfishly made the decision to accept some risk.

My proposed Chemotherapy treatment option would take 3 months and then I would also undergo Radiotherapy a further 6 1/2 weeks of treatment.  I am extremely careful about what I eat and have an avid interest in nutrition.  My preference is to use real food as medicine rather than rely on supplements in tablet form.  So I was reluctant to have drugs injected into my body to treat something that might not even be there.  Especially since chemotherapy works by killing not just cancer cells but any rapidly dividing cells. While these normal cells will repair themselves it takes time.   I was at the time of my diagnosis in peak physical health, injury free and had the 100km in 2016 and 24 hour World Championships in 2017 firmly in sight.  I decided selfishly that I wanted treatment options that would significantly reduce the risk but allow me to remain competitive in the short-term.  I did not want to be in a situation where in the future I wondered ‘what if’ I had been able to compete at those World Championships.  If the Breast Cancer returns in the near future I will deal with it then.

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My husband and friends were supportive of my decision to avoid chemotherapy.  Not everyone with early stage breast cancer will have chemotherapy, the decision is based on each persons risk of breast cancer coming back, the stage and grade of breast cancer, whether there are hormone receptors on the breast cancer cells, general health and personal preference.   Others in my situation might choose to eliminate as much risk as they can I selfishly chose to accept some risk.

My breast cancer cells have strong hormone receptors.  Hormone therapy should not to be confused with HRT.  Hormone therapy stops the growth of cancer cells that may be left in the body after other breast cancer treatments but cannot be detected.   So I accepted this form of treatment which is far less evasive than chemotherapy.  Then came a stumbling block. A check of the Australian Sport Anti-Doping Authority check your substances link revealed that the hormone therapy I was prescribed is a prohibited substance.  While I have never been tested and it is highly unlikely that I will the very fact that I represent my country and compete at International events means it’s possible that I will.  I successfully applied for a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) and can now compete knowing my treatment is completely legal.

During the process I tried to find examples or anyone who had a similar experience to me.  My contact at the Anti Sports Drug Medical Advisory Committee advised that I was unique.  A TUE had been issued for my particular treatment before but not for someone competing in athletics. I have tried to find ultra runners in my position with a similar condition in an effort to understand what I can expect.  I have asked the members of my medical team and again nothing.  It seems I am a trailblazer.

Yet, I still feel a little selfish. Every time a high-profile person dies as a result of cancer I can’t help thinking that this may be my fate well before I would like it to be.  That be while I still had a lot of running left to do.  My children are almost young adults, my work there practically done.  BUT, my risk is low and my choices have been well-informed.

So I am off to Kaohsiung, Taiwan on the 19-20th November for the Asian 24 Hour Championships and will have the privilege of representing Australia for the 4th time.  I will miss my daughter’s birthday for the third year in a row because I am somewhere else in the world running.  I have the honour of being nominated Women’s Captain and I am excited because I have been able to do some of the harder sessions I did before I was diagnosed.  For the most part I forget that I have cancer but it is never long before I am reminded of that fact.  I live for now and will run my best and enjoy every opportunity as I always have.

 

Ultra or Bust?

Ultra or Bust?

Life as an Ultra Runner and Breast Cancer Survivor

I literally had to consider this year whether or not I would have a mastectomy.  It was an option I seriously considered one of a few explained to me by my surgeon.  As an ultra distance athlete in the best form ever I certainly wanted to keep running at the International/elite level.  At 44 as a female ultra distance athlete I certainly have a few good years in me but I don’t have time on my side.  I wanted or perhaps needed to be back competing as soon as possible.  Ultimately I elected to have Breast Preservation Surgery for now I still have two boobs.

In April I completed a virtual run around Australia. I was the 1st female and 2nd person ever on Run Down Under to do so. Travis the founder of Run Down Under joined me for a run over those final kilometres that completed that lap of Australia.   On that run he asked me a question that gave me pause to think. He asked me what or how I motivated myself to run. On reflection I realise that running for me has become a habit. I have a training schedule, it includes 6 runs a week, my schedule doesn’t vary much and I rarely miss a session.

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When I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in January 2016 I knew I would still be able to run I just wasn’t sure exactly what it would mean for my running and the opportunity to  represent Australia as an ultra runner in the future.

My training was scheduled to make the most of the period leading up until I had surgery to remove the cancer and some lymph nodes. I trained through the fatigue knowing I would be forced to rest after surgery.  I kept active and returned to running as soon as it was comfortable.   I saw no reason to stop and I had the blessing of my surgeon and Oncologist.

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Fastest Female Team (UP Coaching)

But running after surgery to remove the cancer and while undergoing treatment is different. I had a very good base fitness and I saw no reason why I shouldn’t race.  After surgery but before I underwent Radiation treatment I ran the 6 Foot Track Marathon a 45 km trail event in the Blue Mountains in March (15th female, fastest female team -UP Coaching), then a 55km trail race at Easter (2nd female) and then I joined three other amazing women athletes, Samantha Gash, Jo Brischetto and Marita Eisler for Oxfam Trailwalker Melbourne in April (Team She Science), we were the fastest female team and 2nd overall. Recovery from two lots of surgery seemed to be fairly quick and didn’t stop me running. Radiation Therapy was another matter.

During the 6 weeks I underwent Radiation therapy the fatigue gradually accumulated. Despite this I maintained my training until it got to the stage where the fatigue was overwhelming and the body really started to breakdown. I could still run but it felt different. I went out for a long run one Saturday prepared to run for 3 hours or so and after 1 hour things weren’t right.   My pace had slowed and I felt overwhelming fatigue. I got to a point where I felt ‘stuck’. I am used to fatigue it is something you become accustomed to as an ultra runner where it is not uncommon to run all-day and then through the night. But this was different. I had a long run scheduled the next day; I elected to sleep in and go to Yoga instead. I had a niggle and I couldn’t do the speed work that is a regular part of my training. However I had been invited to a 24 hour event in China and it was an experience I didn’t want to miss out on.  My reasons for running that 24 hour event were two-fold.

My medical team was very supportive of my desire to participate in the 24-hour event in China, clinically there was no  reason why I shouldn’t participate. In fact it was the trip to China that helped me focus on getting through the Radiation Treatment. Every working day for 6 ½ weeks I fronted up at hospital for treatment it was a tedious process and to top it off the Oncology Unit was undergoing renovations. So an all expenses paid trip to China was something to look forward to.  I also wanted to prove to the Australian Selection Committee that I still had the capacity to compete Internationally.

 

One week after finishing my treatment I was on a plane to China to run for 24 hours. I was certainly not in my best form but I was confident that I could run out the 24 hours and prove that I still had the ability to be competitive for selection at upcoming World Championships. The conditions were extreme the temperature did not drop much below 30 degrees C and the humidity was 80% plus.  But I did it.  I suffered, I wasn’t happy with the conditions but I persevered and finished 3rd.  Under different circumstances I would have challenged for 1st place.  I was happy to have fought for 3rd and to run out the 24 hours.

When I got back to Australia it was time to start Hormone Therapy to reduce the risk of reoccurence and Secondary Breast Cancer.  This treatment brings another set of challenges that are only just starting to emerge.

I submitted my application to represent Australia at the 100km World Championships which will be held in Spain on the 27th November.  I was excited to be selected for the 3rd time for the 100km and grateful of the faith the committee had placed in my ability to work through my Breast Cancer diagnosis.  Then a spanner in the works.  Another opportunity to represent Australia emerged the Asian/Oceania 24 hour Championships were announced.  The 24 hour event will be held in Taiwan on the 19-20th November one week before the 100km World Championships.  I qualified to participate in both but it is impossible to do both.  I deliberated at length over my choice but finally made my decision.

Stay tuned for more crazy stuff where I share my experience with Breast Cancer and ultra running in the lead up to the Asian 24 Hour Championships.  Go Team Australia.

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Here we Gobi Again

Here we Gobi Again

In November 2015 I was invited to run the Inaugural Gobi Ultramarathon a 50km loop in the Gobi Desert.  I spent 4 days in China on that trip and missed out on a lot of the pre race activity due to travel delays.  When the opportunity to run 100km and an extra loop presented itself I didn’t hesitate despite the challenges I’ve taken on this year.

My world fell apart in January when I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer.  I didn’t know what it would mean for my running.  At the end of 2015 I felt I was running at my best and I was looking forward to building on it in 2016.  My plans were unfairly thwarted with this news.  I soon learnt that it was not a death sentence and perhaps not as bad as I imagined.  I cannot find anyone who has dealt with Breast Cancer, it’s ongoing treatment and care who has continuing to compete at the elite level Internationally in ultra running.  My Oncologist advised me that clinically there was not reason why I should not continue to train and compete as I have.  So with the blessing of my Surgeon and Oncologist I chart unknown territory and challenge the status quo as to what is humanly possible and only wish to continue to entertain and inspire you as I live my life running around the world.

So on the 22nd September I found myself boarding an international flight and headed back to China to run a couple of 50km laps in the Desert.  A day later I arrived in Jiuquan on the edge of the Gobi Desert and was soon united with runners from around the world and we set off for a tour of the Great Wall of China, collected my race pack and rested up in preparation for the race.

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The goodies that came in everyone’s race pack.

On reflection I note I really was in no condition to ‘race’ a 100km event, let alone one that involves a hard slog in the sand. I ran the inaugural event a 50km last year so I had a fair idea of what to expect. On race day I found that first 50km hard and the thought of having to run that loop again really challenged me mentally. I saw fellow Aussie Gary Mullins at about 40km sitting down at the checkpoint with his shoe off, he had a foot injury.  He said he wasn’t going to be able to do the 100km and he had to withdraw and the thought of joining him crossed my mind. Fellow Aussie Ella Jamieson had been running near me for a while but had pulled away.  I got to halfway where I had a drop bag and was welcomed by Tao who had coordinated all the international athletes travel, seeing her lifted my spirits.  She asked about Gary whether he wanted the sweep car, I told her I wasn’t sure and I sat down briefly to restock my pack and now felt encouraged so I set off for another lap with some determination.

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Aussies & adopted Aussie Meghan at the race start.  L-R: Meghan Arbogast, Ella Jamieson, Lucja & Dion Leonard, Gary Mullins, Jodie Oborne, Bernadette Benson.

On the second lap the fatigue really hit as the it started to warm up. I didn’t seem to be sweating much though and it was a dry heat. I had plenty of gels and electrolytes and water was available every 5km or so. I took a No Doz caffeine tablet, but this didn’t seem to help. I dropped to a walk from about 55km the sandiest section with a gentle climb. And I struggled for quite a while walking mostly and seriously thinking about withdrawing. I tackled 5km at a time. The body felt fine some general soreness but nothing major. I just felt tired. I thought about withdrawing at 75km this is where I had a drop bag. I came across some youths and a motorbike one of them asked to have a photo with me, I was in no mood for a photo and one of the guys said something and gestured at the motorbike I think offering me a ride. It was pretty bizarre to come across them in the middle of the desert, I just indicated that I wanted to keep going and climbed up and over the next sand dune. At 60km I worked out that if I ran the last 40km in 5 hours I would finish in 12 hours and before it got dark. But I couldn’t muster the strength to run and plodded on only sometimes running.  The course was marked with barrels covered with the race sponsors logo and red flags.  I would pick out a red flag in the distance and would tell myself to just run to the flag.  At 75km I picked up my drop bag changed my shirt and collected my headlamp and checked my gel stock. I was a little shaky but otherwise feeling good so I decided that I had come all this way I was going to finish it. I told myself not to be stupid I had come a long way to run this race.  I was going to finish the time or place did not matter. For what seemed like ages it had felt like it was just me and a million footprints in the desert. I studied the varied patterned souls of the shoes of runners ahead of me.  There were no runners around me and the only people I saw were at aid stations.

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The course, you simply ran between the barrels.  The surface was deceptive it looks like it’s hard but you would often sink into sand.

Then I noticed that the wind was picking up and there was the odd spot of rain. I could see a large dust cloud in the desert to my left and I worried that now that I would be pulled from the course because of the storm. Part of me liked that thought and the other was determined to finish.  The women’s winner Valeria finished the race in the midst of the dust storm and runners at the start/finish precinct were made to return to the hotel for their safety.  It turned out to be for me a bit of a blessing.  It was a little dusty but I had a strong tail wind and I was back running. As I approached the lake I came across four locals, two of them ran with me for a while speaking to me in Chinese.  I tried to convey that I only knew English but they kept talking and running with me right to the next aid station. The timing mat here had been turned off as things were getting blown away but I was still well within the time limit, I asked if I could finish, to please record my number, they didn’t seem to want to stop me so I ran off.  Finally I was back to running more than I walked. It tried to rain and I was almost blown off the side of a sand dune but it was otherwise great to have a tailwind at this point.

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Spending time with multiple world champion Edit Berces was a highlight of the trip for Gary and I she was very generous with her time.
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Aussies with Tao the officially amazing organiser (cat herder) of athletes.  We adopted Meghan as Aussie for a few days.  L-R Gary Mullins, Tao, Jodie Oborne, Meghan Arbogast, Ella Jamieson

At 89km I came across Edit Berces at an aid station she had been out and about on the course all day encouraging runners. I met her in China back in June and it was so great to spend some time with her again at this event. She asked me if I wanted a t-shirt or anything as it was starting to get dark and cool down. I was still running well the body not too sore no obvious niggles or soreness and nutrition and hydration under control. I told her I could finish and ran off. At 8km to go the race director came along he was worried about me it was dark now he said the weather was bad and I should quit, that the volunteers had finished for the day.  I was very aware that I was still within the cutoffs and the wind by then had died down. It was turning out to be a nice evening. The course was well marked and easy to follow in the dark with my headlamp and I was still running more than walking and I told him I could finish. He said take some water, the aid station was deserted but the supplies were still there, he said he would send a car to follow me and I ran off. The cars found me with about 6km to go. How they find the tracks in the desert I don’t know but it would have been pretty easy to spot me by my headlamp in the open. The car followed me for a couple of kilometers then the 2km to go checkpoint was in sight, the lights visible from a few kilometers away. I was really happy to be able to turn right having completed 2 big laps in the desert. The finish line was not yet visible, I ran over a short rise and I could finally see the lights of the finish precinct but it still looked like it was a long way away. It was about 1.5km. I finished in 13 hours 11 minutes. I have no idea where I placed.  I was greeted by Chuping who had helped us a lot as athlete coordinator the year before and she took great care of me.

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Breakfast of/with champions. L-R Meghan Arbogast, Edit Berces, Gary Mullins, Ella Jamieson, Jodie Oborne, Giorgio Calcaterra.
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Recovery walk around Jiuquan with the gang.  Zach Bitter (USA), Meghan Arbogast (USA), Christoph Lux (GER), Giorgio Calcaterra (ITA), in the background Sylvain Bazin (FRA), Gary Mullins (AUS).

There were 25 women who started but I think there were quite a few that withdrew. An amazing dynamic Argentinian women Valeria Sesto was the winner in 10 hours 14 minutes. She had never run 100km before, she had run 50 miles and was tiny I imagine she floated across the sand. I have made another amazing connection. Bernadette Benson was 2nd she is in great form. The amazing Ella Jamieson (winner 6 foot track) was 5th it was her 1st 100km.

Running has become very much my life as I now also coach a number of athletes.  I am extremely grateful for the opportunities and experiences I continue to enjoy as a result of my hobby which really is a lot of hard work.  The world really is an amazing place and there is a lot of wonderful experiences to be found while on the run and before and after.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.