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. 

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