How lucky am I. I realised a dream to represent my country, a dream countless have but few experience. I was conscious of how privileged I was to be on this team, The Australian 100km World Championships team. Every member had worked hard to qualify and had well and truly earnt their selection and it was a joy to meet and spend this special time with my team mates and our support crew.
It was a relief to finally to be able to race on the day. The race started at 6pm and the weather seemed mild given we were in the desert. Brendan summoned the team together and we formed a tight huddle, after a few wise words, some encouragement and a tribute to Jackie Fairweather an amazing Australian athlete who had represented Australia at these very championships who had sadly passed away just a few weeks earlier we were summoned by the organisers to make our way to the race start for the pre-race briefing and finally 2 years in the making for me the race was underway.
Nikki and I had a loose plan to run together and ran more or less side by side for the first 35km – 40km. The course was a 5km loop with some out and back sections which afforded us a good view of those in front and behind us. We saw Brendan on one of the out and back sections and he warned us to ‘keep your fluids up, it’s humid out here’. We kept an eye on our pace and I felt it was a little too fast but I figured this was the World Championships and since we were able to chat and it didn’t feel too hard we stuck together.
We chatted as we went around and around noting the intricacies of the course. We discussed when Brendan might lap us for the 1st time and were astounded when the first group cruised past. Their pace was certainly not sustainable in the conditions and from the carnage latter it was clear that many had gone out too fast.
Every lap I collected something from my crew table. I kept it simple taking a small bottle of icy cold water provided by the race organisers, each athlete was assigned 20 (1 for each lap) and a gel, I brought a mixed box of Gu with me from home. Around halfway through the race I had some iced coffee which was a treat and took some Gatorade on the course but primarily stuck to my gel and water routine. Downing the gel as I ran along, drinking enough water to wash it down and then pouring the rest over my head neck and back or shoulders to keep me cool. I alternated flavours but the order was random as I had simply put my box of Gu on the table and took whatever was handed to me. It was kind of like a surprise each time to see what flavour I would be given. I alternated between Vanilla, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Salted Caramel and Roctane Island Nectar and I didn’t tire of them even though I took 18 gels over the course of the evening, I missed one on my 1st lap a mistake my crew didn’t make again and decided it wasn’t necessary on the final lap with just under a kilometre to go. Occasionally I took water from the aid tables elsewhere on the course always looking for a frosty bottle which meant it was cold. There weren’t many like that to be found after midnight.
I reached 50km (10 laps) feeling okay. Running on the cobbled road and hard tiles was starting to take its toll. I looked forward to the out and back section of about 1.5km on the road which felt easy.
I remained positive throughout drawing on the support from afar, my family and friends halfway around the world willing me on. I thought of all those messages I had received in the days before. There were camera’s on the course which I believed provided a live feed throughout the night. I tried to smile and look happy each time. I wondered who had got up in the middle of the night to follow my progress and if the tracking was actually working. Runners who lapped us were always encouraging. There was a period of time around midnight I think where the number of people on the course seemed to drop significantly. This was before anyone had finished and I wondered if a lot of people had pulled out.
It was easy to keep track of how far you had run as athletes passed over the timing mat on the finish line your name, the number of laps completed and time popped up on a large screen. There were always volunteers and spectators milling about calling out encouragement which usually lifted me. For a while there was a woman wearing a cowbell running backward and forwards along a section of the course supporting her teams runners.
As is fairly usual for an ultra the final kilometres are extremely tough. It becomes a mental battle but I was determined to finish it off. From about 80km onwards I walked a little but found it was always painful to start running again so I was better off running albeit a little slower. During the earlier laps I had run through the crew table grabbing what I needed and eating and drinking without stopping, later in the evening I used it as a short walk break but always ran off again once I had collected what I wanted usually spurred on with some encouragement from the crew.
When I ran through the 89th kilometre it crossed my mind that if I was running Comrades I would have been finishing by now. On my 19th lap I saw my team mate Marita on her 20th and final lap. I had expected to be lapped by her in the later stages of the race but I didn’t see her until that point. I knew she must have been on her last lap and had about 3km to go. I had about 7km and then I spotted Nikki again after missing her for awhile. Spotting my team mates lifted me and I picked up the pace determined NOT to be lapped by Marita. I managed to run those final 7km putting in a faster last lap.
I was hopeful of running a personal best at this event and we all had high hopes going into this event. It was evident that we had all worked hard leading up to this event. On reflection I am no way disappointed with my time. A review of my splits will show that I maintained a relatively consistent pace. There were 250 athletes registered to start this event and 57 did not finish.
You can review my official final results here http://www.stuweb.co.uk/race/VW/215.html
Special thank you to my team mate Kerrie Otto De Grancy who was instrumental in organising the Australian uniform which was seriously in need of an update. I am sure there were many athletes envious of our cool uniforms. I have now carefully washed and packed mine away for next time.
Watch this space.