On Thursday, 21st of August I found myself on a bird to Sydney along with three other Oxfam Trailwalker Belle Birds to once again run 100km on trails. I stepped into the team at the last minute. We had all run Brisbane Trailwalker although I ran it with the Team 456 boys and while I love running with my boys I must admit I was a little jealous of the all girls team in Brisbane. Now I had the opportunity to be one of the girls and to keep the guys honest.
At 4:00am on race morning everyone was starting to stir. I had a quick shower to wake up and next thing I know we have the van loaded and our journey has begun. It was drizzling on arrival at the start precinct in Parsley Bay, it soon eased but everything was wet and since Sydney had a lot of rain in the week leading up to Trailwalker the course was going to be wet.
Finally the hooter goes and we are off. It is not long before the field is slowed to a walk up a decent ascent. I pause at the top and take in the views and to look and yell out to everyone else to make sure they look. We continue on and exchange friendly banter with the teams around us. It’s a nice change for me as in my previous two Trailwalkers we pushed the pace early and there were no teams around us.
Then our progress is slowed as we hit single track and the rock hopping, climbing and scrambling starts. Mandy suggests a game, a kind of what we call Trailwalker Marco Polo. The leading runner calls out ‘Marco’ and the number of the trail marker as they pass it, the other team members then must look for the next marker and call out ‘Polo’ one point goes to the lead runner if you miss it. We play the game for most of the 1st section and the guys in the teams around us join in by calling out “fish out of water” as we skirt Jerusalem Bay.
We then reach Checkpoint 1, check in and out and not long after decide we are a little sick of playing Marco Polo. We push on but the stepping up, over, down, around etc. is tough but we tell ourselves it won’t last. But it does and we seemed to be almost always clambering down rocks, over rocks, squeezing between rocks, there are steps carved out of some rocks, arrows etched in some rocks showing the way along the walking track. Later in the race there is even a rope so you can pull yourself up the side of the rock.
After Checkpoint 2 after climbing a fairly decent hill on a fairly open track for a change we cross the highway on a footbridge and continue along a nice section of for a change runnable single trail. It was nice but it was on this day disguised as a creek after heavy rain the week before. I am leading out front happy to be able to stretch out the legs a little and I come across a lovely old man walking. He pauses when he sees me approaching and I stop for everyone to catch up and we exchange words. He asks where we are going, I say we will finish in Mosman that we have run about 40km and we have 60km to go. He asks me if I am for real. I say ‘yes’ like doesn’t everyone do that on a Friday around here. His final response is funny he asks me incredulously ‘who are you people?’
A number of other incidents are worth noting, Kerry appeared to think the technical trail wasn’t hard enough as I ducked under an overhanging tree she decided to head butt it. I heard a loud ‘thunk’ behind me and Kerrie did well not to curse. This was after she almost got washed away in a fast flowing creek, luckily she had a firm grip of the rope and the mobile phone in her pack survived the dunking.
Each trail section seemed longer than we remember from our study of the maps but the scenery is amazing. One minute we were gazing down at the river from a peak then minutes later we were running along its bank. I was fascinated by the many houses perched on bank of the river. We ran through the Ku-Ring-Gai National Park, apparently some support crews were initially locked out. Luckily our crew managed to get in. Not long after leaving the St Ive’s checkpoint I have my incident of the day. I began to feel a little unwell a quick toilet stop helped a little and we ran on however although I was lagging behind the group. Mandy is ahead chatting amicably to another team when my stomach decides it’s had enough of this caper. I empty the contents of my stomach on the side of the trail quite violently impressing Kerrie who was beside me at the time. With a young adult male son in the house Kerrie has witnessed some power spews and apparently mine is a pretty good one. A male team passes by also quite impressed and asks if we will be okay. We assure them we will be. I immediately feel a little better and slowly take in a gel bit by bit and we run on. We make it somehow to the next checkpoint and I do not look well according to the crew. We re gather put in an order for soup at the next checkpoint and continue on as the light starts to fade.
Somehow we make it through the next few hours unscathed. We are almost sent the wrong way in the suburban streets when some officials sheltering in a bus shelter, assigned assist teams cross the road try to direct us up a side street. We spot a marker pointing up the main road and while they phone for confirmation we check our maps and continue on in the right direction as we thought. A marshall a little further on is impressed to find an all girl team running so strongly and tells us we rock. Yep plenty of rocks on this trip. This is the final stretch and we know we will finish it’s just a matter of how fast. We descend the steps and cross the Spit Bridge, its easy running but we take it easy. We negotiate the beach section and then there are the Mosman stairs which we must climb to finish but we know this is the end. We spot the finish chute and side by side run the final metres jubilantly. I am so pleased to be finished and so desperate to be horizontal I lay down on the wet soggy ground and quietly sob in relief. I recover for a great finish photo with the girls. What a day.
Our steadfast crew on the day Susannah and Gemma did a great job tending to our every need and request and seemed to easily entertain each other all day, and it was a long day. 16 hour 32 minutes. We were the fastest female team, 9th overall and the last team to finish the same day.
Of course this event is all about challenging yourself, inspiring others and changing lives. We certainly got all this on the trail and are proud to have teamed up to challenge poverty and make the world a better place.