The North Face 100, I can run trails too.

Leura Cascades from the Bridal Veil lookout the Monday after

I arrived in Sydney on Thursday and after touring some of the major landmarks Bondi Beach, The Opera House, Harbour Bridge , Circular Quay and Darling Harbour with the family I retired to our hotel to rest while the family headed out for some shopping. Friday morning we headed inland and I was glad to be leaving the hub bub of the city behind us. I was excited. I have known about and followed this event over the last few years with interest but not had the opportunity to participate. Now living on the East Coast in Brisbane it was more accessible and I was able to bring the family along for the experience. I also looked forward to catching up with my Western Australian friends and the opportunity to see just how competitive I was on trails. I have had success in road and track events achieving some great results but I have always loved running trails and I wondered if I could match with the best.

On arriving in Katoomba I found that an outstanding field of women were in attendance. I was not fazed. I had come for the experience not for gold and it was only 5 weeks since I participated in my 1st 24 hour event achieving an outstanding 212.433km and picking up a couple of Australian W40 records in Coburg along the way. I had been warned that it can take time to recover and for the heaviness to leave the legs after such events.

As I toed the start line at 6:30am I was hopeful of achieving a top 15 at least to finish in the top 15% of the field but planned to run the race my way and not to worry too much about my placing. I found myself in the middle of the pack under the starting arch and moved a few people back. In the last few weeks leading up to race day my left hamstring had pulled up tight, I visited my physio for some needling and it felt better but it had restricted my training a little and I needed to start conservatively on race day.

The countdown begun and the day started. I was a little choked with emotion at the start but I soon settled into an easy pace on the road and the field spread out nicely over this out and back section. Then down the Furber steps we went. I was cautious but moved quickly. A scream echoed off the cliffs from below. My heart sank, obviously someone had fallen and they sounded hurt. It wasn’t long before I came across a very distraught Jo Johansen. Understandably very upset, seemingly in pain and having people stream past her on the steps wouldn’t have helped. I offered sympathy as I passed but I doubt she took comfort from it.

The North Face 100 2014
Image courtesy of Aurora Images

This was my first TNF100 and I did not have the opportunity to train on the course so I had no idea what to expect. I knew there were lots of stairs and I was not worried about that. I just planned to run within myself and finish comfortably as you can over 100km. Before I knew it I came across people on the boardwalk near the old coal mine shafts at the bottom of the scenic railway. This is where I would see my family crewing for me for the 1st time that day. Then came the first climb up stairs, the Golden Staircase and up I went, and on we went.

Later I would ask people around me where this was. Someone said Narrowneck and knowing this was part of the original course I thought of one of my Western Australian running mates John (Tracker) Collins and imagined myself running in his footsteps. It was about here I thought my back was a little wet. My pack appeared to be leaking. I mentioned this to someone running with me. He said we were approaching the ladders and we would probably have to wait and I would get a chance to check it. I decided there was no real point as there was nothing I could do until a checkpoint. As it turned out I didn’t need to wait at the ladders and we had a pretty quick descent.

Checkpoint 1, I decided not to check my pack I filled my 250ml bottle grabbed a gel (Endura Cool Mint) drank two cups of water and ran on. I did the same at Checkpoint 2. Quick body check, everything feels fine, my left Achilles and Hamstring are not worrying me and I just have the usual soreness that creeps in that can be largely ignored. I continued on at an easy pace, I had been advised to not push the pace too much early on and the race would only really start after halfway. I had been passed by one or two females but I had no idea where I was in the field. I then started to look forward to reaching Checkpoint 3, and the 45km mark where I would see the family. I wondered if they had enjoyed their Skyrail ride. I was out of water and a little thirsty.

My son Cale helping me with my pack at Checkpoint 3, Megalong Valley

Checkpoint 3. Gear check, thermal pants and high vis vest. At first I thought they meant waterproof pants and I had a bit of a panic as I certainly wasn’t carrying them, then I realised my mistake and as I already had my pack off ready to swap bladders I was able to quickly show them my gear and ran to meet the family. I told Tim about the leaking bladder and I asked where I was in the field, he didn’t really know, apparently I was 3rd in the Masters category (W40-49). I was hopeful of finishing in the top three of my category so this was heartening.

Still plenty of time to go, pack replenished back on and I ran off, superb crewing by my gang. On seeing the 50km marker I let out a woohoo! I’m halfway and I feel great. I am really enjoying my running. The trail became familiar, it was the Six Foot Track and before I knew it I was ascending the stairs through Nellie’s Glen. It was here I started to move up the women’s field and I gained a few places. These stairs are not as I remember them but I do okay moving steadily up and onwards. It’s not long before we are running along the road back in civilization and checkpoint 4.

Quite a  few people are around and are encouraging and tell me I am 10th female. I don’t believe them but I am stoked nevertheless. I run into the hall and my husband and daughter are just past the timing mat. Quick change over of bladder and restock of gels, I slurp down some Gatorade and 500ml of Iced Coffee, yum and I am on my way again. I loved the next section I was courteous but call out to warn people as I approach Echo Point and the 3 Sisters lookout where there are lots of tourists milling about. I gained another place coming out of the checkpoint and I know the Giant Staircase is coming. I let one guy who is excellent at descending stairs pass he is pretty pleased with himself to find this is something he excels at. I continue on, up, down and onwards past waterfalls and more stairs and some rocky sections.

My good buddy Claire Broadway somewhere on the course between CP4 & 5.

I look forward to seeing my friend Claire visiting for the weekend unexpectedly coinciding with the NF100 and suddenly theirs a whoop and there she is. I expected to see her a little further down the track but she was out walking and by chance was on the course. A sweaty hug, a quick selfie, I give her friend Matt a big kiss, we exchange a few words I say I think I am in 9th or 10th place, Claire says there aren’t that many chicks ahead of me and I am off again. Now I just look forward to seeing my crew again at Checkpoint 5, 78km. I overtake some guys on some steps, they are suitably impressed as I leave them in my wake. Somehow I can still climb stairs at a fairly good pace. Someone on the course tells me there is a fire trail ahead so its the last of the stairs for awhile. Then we encounter some road and half the road is closed off so I know we must be getting close and its downhill so I run.

NF100CP5-Back Tim helping me get sorted at Checkpoint 5, 78km and then I am on my way again.

Finally I hear cheering, turn the corner and I cruise in, find my husband and daughter who have been waiting patiently expecting me sooner.  Again it’s a swift changeover, I change my top, my pack is restocked I put on a dry buff and pull my headlamp out ready for when it gets dark, I gulp down another iced coffee, some water and I am off again. I am running again with only 22km to go and I think I am in 9th place but no one can confirm this. I encounter Kedumba. I had heard it mentioned but not really knowing the course I don’t know what I am in for. It’s downhill and quite steep. It’s downhill so I run it. I let gravity take it’s course but I’m not super fast. The big toe on my right foot hurts I wish I had trimmed the nail, too late now so I just try to lessen the impact a little. There is a creek crossing and it is getting dark but since this is a road I don’t turn my light I don’t really need it. I take the bricks placed there as stepping stones to cross it and then it’s a slight uphill so I walk, then there’s more down so I must run. Another creek crossing and I notice the stepping stone bricks too late and I tiptoe through the water, the feet aren’t too wet. Finally the 90km marker and with 10km to go I turn on my headlamp. I wonder if I will catch any of the women ahead of me and wonder if anyone is chasing me and keep moving as fast as I can.

Kira, Tim, Cale and Jodie Oborne. Me and my awesome crew the Monday following the race. I showed them some of the course and yes I tackled some steps again.

I encounter a marshall and some 100km runners coming in the opposite direction and I am confused, I wonder if I have to do another out and back section and if these runners are in fact in front of me. It is awhile before I realise that I am on a section of the course I have already run in the opposite direction. It is dark now so I don’t recognize it.

The final kilometres are marked and I count them down one at a time but it seems to take ages to travel just 1km and since the path is rocky and uneven I take it easy, running when I can. I am getting hungry and have one gel left and wonder if I should take it or if adrenaline alone will get me through the last few kilometres. I opt not to take it. There is a marshall at the bottom of the Furber steps she is upbeat and tells me there is ‘only 1km to go, up the Furber steps you go’. I tell her I just want to finish in under 13 hours I think I have 20 minutes or so. I climb the stairs as fast as I can they go on and on, finally I hear the finish line crowd, the final few steps and then I see Cale with the camera and Tim and Kira are there as well and I run to the finish choked again with emotion. I hug Tim and the kids and I am heaving with emotion again.

The North Face 100 2014
Image courtesy of Aurora Images

It was a great day out running, I think I paced it well and glanced around from time to time taking in the spectacular scenery, there were a lot of wow moments. At no time did I wonder why I was doing it there was just too much to look at and concentrate on to let any negative thoughts creep in. There is no doubt that the 24 hour event and the 212km I ran 5 weeks earlier helped with my endurance for this event. I am now reaping the benefit of all those hill repeats I did in training. But, the best part is catching up with old friends, meeting new ones and generally being part of an amazing crowd of ultra runners.

The North Face 100 2014
Race Director and the Top 10 women, I just make the top 10. Image courtesy of Aurora Images.

Tim asked me if the week after if I thought I could have run it harder or faster.  I don’t think I could have having no prior experience of the course. I was thrilled to finish 10th amongst a quality international field of women and to prove I have diversity as an ultra runner being competitive on the road, track and trails.

Gear: Ultra Aspire Omega Pack

Shoes: Adidas Riot 5

Nutrition: Gu, Shotz and Endura Gels, Gatorade, Dare Iced Coffee Double Espresso

Recipe: Crystallised Ginger Millet Biscuits

Crystallised ginger millet biscuits

p.135 Supergrains: eat your way to good health by Chrissy Freer

Preparation Time: 25 minutes

Cooking Time: 15 minutes

Makes about 24

110g unsalted butter

½ cup light brown sugar (firmly packed)

1/3 cup golden syrup

1 cup (135g) millet flour

¾ cup plain flour

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

75g crystallised ginger finely chopped

55g crystallised ginger extra to garnish

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Line 2 large baking trays with non-stick baking paper.
  2. Use an electric mixer to beath the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a large bowl until pale and creamy. Sift the millet flour, plain flour, ground ginger and cinnamon together, add to the butter mixture with the crystallised ginger and still until well combined.
  3. Roll tablespoons of the mixture into balls and place on the lined trays, leaving 4cm between each to allow for spreading. Flatten the balls slightly with clean fingers, then garnish each with a little extra crystallised ginger.  Bake for 12-15 minutes, turning the trays halfway through cooking, or until the biscuits are golden.
  4. Cool the biscuits on the trays for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.


TIP Keep in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Can’t find millet flour?  I buy hulled millet and make my own flour by processing it in the Thermomix, a good quality food processor should do the job too.

Note from author: These biscuits remind me of old-fashioned gingernut biscuits, but they are so much better! They are crisp on the outside, but still a little chewy in the centre. The millet flour gives a buttery flavor and adds to their golden colour.

The North Face 100 – NOT a race report

This is not another race report.  You will find them everywhere and this article is a start. 

I recently enjoyed a day in Sydney and a few days in Katoomba and its surrounds in the Blue Mountains about 90 minutes drive from Sydney with my family. Coincidentally there was an epic 100km trail race on the same weekend that I just had to do.  The race course took me on trails and to areas in the bush you would not usually go, for that I am grateful. I was particularly touched by the Welcome to Country given at the pre race briefing on behalf of the traditional owners of the land by David King and Auntie May King.  (please forgive me if I have got the names wrong)

A highlight of my trip was on the Saturday 17th May as I was approaching Ironpot Ridge the sound clapping sticks echoed through the bush, just as they would have before white man had ever set foot on this great land.  There was a Didgerdoo too. Much of the course passes through bush that remains untouched and as you gaze around at the sandstone cliffs you see it as the original custodians would have.  I looked at the magnificent trees as Auntie May had instructed the night before and silently said hello from her.

I often wonder why we don’t celebrate Australian Aboriginal culture more.  I am fascinated and have great respect for it.  I love their affinity for the land and water and their intricate family relationships or kinship system and social structure.  For instance you don’t have to have blood to be a brother and there are lots of Auntie’s and Uncles. I am blessed to have a large extended family my Grandparents on both sides were great breeders so I have the benefit of having lots of loving Aunties and Uncles who look out for me.

I am appalled by the living and health standard many now live in as a result of white man’s influence and the lack of progress achieved by subsequent governments. If this event The North Face 100 can bring peoples attention to the beauty of this land and it’s traditional custodians we’re all winners. My feeling from those that attended the pre race briefing was that runners but specifically trail runners do have this appreciation.

That weekend I enjoyed another rare experience.  We travelled to Jenolan Caves about an hours drive from Katoomba, I had been here before for another event and I was keen to share it with my family this time.  The family were not disappointed to find that we did actually drive through the cave as I had promised.  Then after strolling around admiring the various landmarks we wondered down to the blue lake and were amazed to find Platypuses swimming about.  Diving down and resurfacing floating for short periods on the surface or swimming a short distance before swimming off again.  Amazing.

I am fortunate to have explored many corners of this great land we call Australia, it’s diversity is astounding.  I have left my footprints in the fine red Pindan dirt of the Kimberley and walked the squeaky white sand beaches of the South Coast and run along the cliffs on the South Coast inhaling the pure fresh air off the Southern Ocean and traversed the treeless plain called the Nullabor, and walked among the tree tops of the Giant Tingle Trees, experienced it’s Rainforest and much more.  But there’s more.  I can’t wait for my next experience but I will probably be back at The North Face 100 again, because I can, theres nothing I have found so far quite like it, even with all those steps.

Jodie Oborne, 12 hours, 49 minutes, 10th female, Queenslander, born and bred Western Australian.


The Long Road to Overnight Success – My 1st 12 Hour Event.

This Western Australian will proudly be representing Australia.

The legs now feel normal and I can walk around and get up and down after sitting for a while with ease.  I have spent a lot of time reflecting on my latest achievement.  I have experienced a whole range of emotions but it was this week that I really missed my Western Australian mates and Comrades.  I sense that my presence continues to loom large and I miss the sea of familiar faces when I toe the start line at running events.  Rest assured that my roots are firmly planted in Western Australia and it is with a heavy heart that I see Qld next to my name. 

I am sincerely grateful for the support all of my running buddies near and far.  I know you will continue to follow me on my journey and I urge you to dare to dream because you just never know what you can achieve.

I dared to dream.  I cannot go without mentioning the wonderful Techno Kate who tracked me at Comrades in 2012 and then told me that this result indicated that running 100km under 9 hours and representing Australia was a possibility.  I am also grateful for other Western Australian’s Dave Kennedy and Bernadette Benson whose personal contributions to ultra-running have been significant.  Of course it would remiss of me not to mention Mick Francis who has encouraged me to attempt this feat.  

BUT, I cannot thank all my Western Australian mates enough you know who you are.  Please continue to follow me, encourage me and run with me, you are all a part of this dream. Don’t forget why you run, or that it is supposed to be fun.  Greg and Brent thanks for demonstrating skipping on a long run I used it to some effect to achieve an Australian record.

The Long Road to Overnight Success

I entered the 12 hour event at Caboolture on the 20th July 2013 somewhat reluctantly.   I had a dream.  I dream to represent Australia at the World 100km Road Championship’s.  I had lodged my application but my one attempt at the distance fell well outside the qualifying standard. I was hopeful that an outstanding performance at Comrades would be enough.  It was recognized by selectors that my Comrades was an outstanding result but my one attempt at the full 100km was not enough to gain selection.  It was concluded that the most convenient event in which to prove my fitness for qualification was to run 100km as part of the 12 hour event at Caboolture on 20 July.  It was mentioned that I would run the 100km and then probably stop.  

So with an outstanding performance at Comrades behind me and an 11 second marathon PB at the Gold Coast Airport Marathon on the 7th July 2013 I wondered if I could again come up with the goods.  The weeks before I tapered suitably.  I felt rested but as I had friends from WA staying I enjoyed several drinks and had a few late nights and I perhaps didn’t have enough rest.  In fact I was pretty tired and cranky the Friday evening before my big race.  I did however sleep fairly well that night and when the alarm went off at 4am I got up feeling fairly relaxed.  When it comes to the days and hours before I race I happily resign myself to the fact that I have trained, I am prepared and there is nothing more I can do and I just have to get out there and run.  This time I wasn’t jumping out of my skin like I was before Comrades and even before the Gold Coast Marathon.  There was a tiny tiny bit of self-doubt but my last concern as I left the house on Saturday morning was whether there was a nail file in the car as I had a sharp corner on one of my fingernails.

I arrived in Caboolture around 6am.  The 48 hour competitors welcomed me and seemed remarkably high spirited given their event had started 22 hours earlier. I set up my table and sat down in my chair and watched runners going around and around in the dark.  There had been showers and the track was a little muddy but it was now fine and there were no showers imminent.  Finally I was able to collect my timing chip, lace it on and get started.   

At the start of this event I had three goals:

  1. Run 100km in 8 hour and 45 minutes; or 
  2. Run 100km under 9 hours; and
  3. Break the Australian Age Category Record for 12 hours for W40-44.

Goal one was ambitious but I believe you need to set an ambitious goal, one that you would achieve if everything falls into place on the day.  I was sure I could at least run 100km under 9 hours and if I felt okay after running 100km I then had 3 hours or so to walk the extra 12.3km which would give me the 12 Hour record for W40-44. 

My plan was to average 5:15min/km.  The Caboolture event is remarkably well timed.  You run a 500m loop and your split flashes up on the screen as you cross the timing mat immediately giving you the number of laps and distance completed and the time to complete that lap.  I ran the race pretty much to plan with race splits pretty close to target.  I followed a fairly loose nutrition plan although I was conscious of attempting to eat whole food early and regularly.  I nibbled on glace ginger which I think helped combat nausea.  My nutrition included two bananas, several GU (some with caffeine and some without), a peanut butter Gu was a real treat although I almost gagged at one point and a couple of Mega Nuts bars although I could only manage ½ of my second one. All washed down with water, Gatorade and the odd cup of Endura. 

The weather was kind although it was a little humid mid-morning.  A late morning shower was welcome and the slight breeze provided some relief.    I hit some tough patches around the 40-60km mark and reassessed my 8 hour 45 minute goal sure that I was certain to slow down over the coming hours.  It never crossed my mind that I would not achieve my 2nd goal.    With 25km to go I felt certain I would achieve the sub 9 hour goal it was just a case of by how much.  I downed a Wild Bean Shotz with a whopping 80mg caffeine around the 80km mark and my pace picked up.  I counted down the laps and I managed to pick up the pace just a little and really looked forward to the time when I could stop and walk. I averaged 5:19min/km over the last 20km of my 100km.  I am very grateful for the assistance of my family and other friends at the track that day who continually encouraged me and made sure I was feeling okay.  

Finally I crossed the timing map clocking up 200 laps in 8:53:11.11.  I stopped running and started walking. Mission accomplished and I heard the words I wanted to hear ‘you can consider yourself selected’ and then ‘no pressure but if you’re feeling okay your age record is 112.225 For 12 hours and you will be able to walk that, it’s up to you’.  Then someone said you might not have done 100km you had better run another lap just in case so I started running again.  Once I was on the back straight I realised that I didn’t need to run, I had proven my ability to run 100km, 500m here or there is not going to matter so I starting walking again and walked a few laps, talking to other competitors happy in the knowledge that I had achieved what I had come there to do, anything from that point on was just icing on the cake.  That icing turned out to be the most decadent you can imagine.

Feeling fairly comfortable walking I decided to adopt a run walk strategy of running the slight decline and walking the up.  It’s not a steep ascent or descent but after 200 laps it seems to increase.  While others around me were painfully shuffling, walking and running I kept churning out laps talking with my son Cale who was now running and walking the laps with me.  It was Cale’s job to remind me to run when we got to the little railway tracks (the start of the down) that crossed our path. We discussed how much further I should go as we knew I had to run about 113km to get the age record and decided that a more even number would be better and settled on 115km.  I decided to enjoy those last few hours and walked, talked, skipped, and basically kept on moving (sorry no dancing this time unless you count one or two kind of disco moves). Tim, Kira and Cale left to get some dinner and told me to just keep going.  When they returned I was conscious that they too had all had a long day and that Tim had driven up and down the Gateway Motorway 3 times that day, a 90 minute round trip. However with 116km under my belt my husband Tim said you may as well go to 120km so I kept moving, running and walking and was extremely apologetic to those I sprinted past doing it tough.  Okay, so technically I probably wasn’t sprinting but it probably felt like it to my fellow participants.  

As I ran around and around I had Tim, Kira and Cale looking up the age and course records on the iPad it had not occurred to us to check the current Australian open record.  I wondered if I should stop when I got to 120km but with time up my sleeve and feeling comfortable I just kept on going.  Then with a minute to go it was time to collect my piece of wood with my name on it to put down when the 12 hours was up and I had just clocked up 123km.  As I crossed the mat I asked out loud ‘should I keep going’ there was an emphatic ‘yes’.  So I finished with a total of 123.188km. I was pretty pleased to break the existing age record.  I made my way back to my aid table and family and chatted with others.  It was mentioned that my distance travelled was one of the best all time for 12 hours.  I was surprised.  I collected my stuff and walked a little uncomfortably down to the showers to freshen up.  I was a little late for presentations but the biggest surprise was yet to come.  I had beaten the previous Australian Record for 12 hours.  I was incredulous.  It was close, the previous best was 123.070km.  Thank goodness it was not one of those if only moments. It was a distance I ran with relative ease, I simply enjoyed those final few hours of my first 12 hour event and it will now be one I will cherish. Not just because I broke a record and made an Australian team but because I witnessed many others achieving some very significant personal goals. It really was a weekend of records and the future of ultra-running in Australia is looking good.