Here we go again… around and around!
I have a bit of history with this event and I don’t really fancy describing 250 laps of a 400m track in all its gory detail, so if you want to read about the last 3 episodes of this loopy series in 2016, 2017 and 2018, knock yourself out!
I was one of 3 runners (I think!) to have participated in every Track 100 so far – the others being Kym (who was back again to do the 50km this year) and John (who like me had had a go at both the 50 and the 100).
This year I had come back for more 100km fun, after ‘downgrading’ to the 50km last year due to lack of preparation and it being ridiculously hot. This year I was committed to the 100 regardless of weather, because it was to be the start of my journey towards the Adelaide 24 Hour event in July. (Did I really just say ‘journey’? I feel like I’m on some kind of reality show!)
I sort of trained. It’s a hard event to train for. I don’t have a coach. Mostly because I don’t think any coach would approve of this:
“I’m going to focus 100% on (insert event here). Oh, look, there’s a race that is so not anything like the one I’m training for. Oops, my finger slipped, looks like I’m doing it!”
So with my limited experience and lack of desire to do long runs, my training for this event consisted of 2 x 3 hour runs around the Uni Loop.
For some reason these kind of events seem to suit me. Certainly the lack of elevation helps. I suck at hills.
I was sort of forced to have a quiet week in the lead-up. On the way home from my 3 hour run last Saturday, my radiator cracked (fortunately I was in my driveway when the steam started coming out from under the bonnet) and consequently I was carless for 6 days. This stopped me from going out with my running group – so instead i did 2 very cruisy 10km runs near home. Also, the Thursday before the event was the HOTTEST DAY EVER RECORDED IN ADELAIDE, and indeed the hottest day ever recorded in any Australian capital city (46.6 degrees Celsius, or just a touch under 116 degrees Fahrenheit), so I had zero desire to run!
On the three previous occasions I have taken part in this event, I have had pretty much the same pre-race nutrition. Why change a successful formula? Breakfast was smashed chickpea and avocado on toast, lunch my go-to carb fest sweet potato mac and cheese and dinner was a smoothie. The theory being, what I normally eat before a race is breakfast. This race started at 7pm, so instead of having breakfast for breakfast, I had it for dinner. Confusing huh? Makes sense though!
Karen and Daryl picked me up – the last time Karen and I both did the 100km, I had also got a lift – driving home after running 100km through the night is probably not a good idea!
I had what I thought was probably way too much stuff but it’s always good to over-cater than under-cater! I had 6 bottles of Gatorade and one bottle of water (which I would refill as needed), a bottle of cold brew coffee just in case (it had worked well for me in the Adelaide 12 hour event in July) and an energy drink for around the halfway mark. For after, I had a can of Coke and a cider. Food-wise I had 4 sandwiches (2 peanut butter and 2 chocolate spread – always good to have a bit of variety in case the dreaded flavour fatigue hits!), a packet of sweet potato crisps, and a few different Clif bars.
Aside from food and drink, I had brought 2 iPods (music being an absolute necessity during this event) – a Shuffle which I had bought for swimming and which was loaded with upbeat music and had unknown battery life, and my trusty Classic which would fill the gap if the Shuffle ran out of juice. I also had a few spare tops, arm warmers and a long sleeved top in case it got cold, and spare shoes and socks. The shoes I wore in the race were actually a retired pair – my old favourite Brooks Ravenna 6s (my 10th and very last pair – they’re no longer available) which were the same model I’d run every other Track Championships in. While I love my new Salomon road shoes, I had no idea how they would handle the joys of 100km on a somewhat unforgiving track surface! I’d put the Salomons in my bag as backup.
One of my… quirks? superstitions? is never to look at the start list for an event i’m in. In particular, one I think I should be able to do well in. Seeing elite runners on the start list is a sure way to get intimidated and psych myself out. All I can do is run my own race, what difference does it make who else is in there? It’s not as if I can somehow run faster if I come up against an elite! Having said that, I do thrive on a little competition – my previous Track 100s had had a fairly limited field, and with all due respect to the other runners, it was apparent pretty early on that I wasn’t going to be caught by any of the other women (hopefully that doesn’t come across as arrogant, it isn’t intended to be that way!) In both 2016 and 2017 I found myself ‘racing’ against some of the blokes, to give me something to chase!
Consequently when I arrived at the track I saw some familiar faces/names that I was glad I didn’t know about before. Elite track ultra runners such as Kerrie (who had beaten me at the 12 hour last year), Cheryl, Annabel and Sarah – if I was looking for competition, I had found it!
As I said before, all I could do was run my own race. Follow the plan, and the rest will take care of itself.
So what was the plan, exactly?
Last time I’d done the 100km I had started with a 30 minute run/5 minute walk strategy which eventually became 25 minute run/5 minute walk for various reasons, not least of which was that it would be easier for my sleep-deprived brain to keep track of! Both times I’d run the Adelaide 12 hour, I’d gone in with a 25/5 plan and last year I’d managed to keep that strategy going right to the end.
This time I had decided to go with what I knew worked for me, so instead of starting with 30/5 I went for 25/5. And let’s just see how long we can keep that going! In the 5 minute walk breaks I’d have something to eat (a bit of sandwich, half a Clif bar, a handful of chips – whatever I felt like!) and a drink (although I’d always have drinks on hand so would also be drinking during the running sections!)
As had happened last year, the 50km and 100km runners were separated by a couple of lanes. It made it a bit hard to chat with the 50km runners, but pretty early on I could see who was going to win the men’s race (a young guy called Tim who ended up finishing well under 4 hours!) and I predicted that the women’s race would be between Sam and Vicky, who were running together most of the time I saw them, and seemed to be having a great time! (Turns out both my predictions were correct!)
The 100km early on was a closely fought battle between 2 previous winners, David from 2017 and Darren from 2018. I managed to get through 6 laps (2.4km) before they lapped me for the first of many times! And every time I saw them, for what seemed like a very long time, David was about a metre ahead of Darren! I wondered if they were going to be that close for the whole 100km! It would make for a great race! I’m not sure I’d want to be in that position – no chance of slacking off, having a quick toilet stop or a walk break for fear of losing momentum and position! And then I saw Darren without David, and then they were back together again, and I had no idea who was in front of whom! That’s the funny thing about these loop ultras, unless you’re watching the live tracking screen at the start/finish line (which I wasn’t), it’s sometimes hard to tell where you sit in the field! (Except, I knew both David and Darren were WELL ahead of me!)
And I knew for sure that Sonja was ahead of me and I probably wasn’t going to catch her unless she crashed and burned. I hadn’t even seen her at the start! Kerrie, too, I was pretty sure was ahead of me and looking strong.
As well as not looking at the start list prior to the race, I make a point of not looking at the screen. Again – I can only run my own race, so to know where I am placed wouldn’t really change anything. I also don’t count laps (at least not until right near the end!) – and I know better than to rely on the distance my Garmin shows me. It ALWAYS says I’ve gone further than I actually have. The GPS doesn’t like loops!
Probably the two highlights of my time out on the track (other than the 3-hourly direction changes which were way more exciting than they should be!) were the sunset and the fireworks! At the time I was running reasonably well so I wasn’t all that tempted to grab my phone and take a photo. Plus, I knew Dani was there volunteering and she never lets a good sunset photo op pass her by!
Around 9/9:30pm the fireworks started and they lasted for several laps – luckily the track is dead flat with no tripping hazards (other than the edging around the inside of the track if you run too close) as I wasn’t really paying attention to where my feet were for a little while! I made a mental note to thank Race Director Ben for organising the fireworks – it was a lovely touch! (OK, so it was also Australia Day and the fireworks MAY have had something to do with that, rather than being specifically for our benefit. Still, it was pretty special and unique to be running a race with fireworks in the background!)
Now in the past, in this event I’d used music sparingly, but for some reason on this particular occasion I needed it more! Consequently I put my iPod on at the 2 hour mark, and it lasted pretty much until the end of my race, other than pausing it a few times while I was running or walking with someone else. The earbuds I was using were the sport style ones, and even with the iPod up full blast I could still hear the ‘outside world’ which was good. I did sometimes have to block out the sound of other runners finishing, because it did my head in, knowing I still had such a long way to go!
So perhaps I was a bit more antisocial than usual in this race, but I did still make an effort to encourage people as I passed them or they passed me, and I was able to hear and appreciate the encouragement I got in return (not just from the other runners, but also from the spectators and volunteers).
The playlist I had on was really great, as I mentioned earlier it was all upbeat music designed to take the monotony out of lap swimming, but which worked equally well to take the monotony out of lap running! I think from memory we kicked off with “Headlong” by Queen – great start! Just a few of the other songs over the course of the night that I found particularly appropriate and/or motivating were: “All Night Long” by Lionel Richie (for obvious reasons!), “Break My Stride” by Unique II, “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead” by Bon Jovi, “It Never Ends” by Bring Me The Horizon, and “When The Going Gets Tough” by Billy Ocean.
Other songs I just like and always give me a lift include “Number Of The Beast” by Iron Maiden, “Talk Dirty To Me” by Poison, “Detroit Rock City” by Kiss and for some reason “Shipping Steel” by Cold Chisel.
And pretty much ANYTHING by Spiderbait, Blink-182 and Def Leppard.
A couple of weird ones too that both happened to be country, a genre I don’t listen to much – “Boys From The Bush” by Lee Kernaghan and “Queen of Hearts” by Juice Newton – they happened to be just the right tempo to get me into a good rhythm!
OK I guess I should get back to talking about the running now.
It started OK – I was sitting just under 40km at the 4 hour mark (Garmin told me I was just over, so I guessed I was probably on 39ish) and sticking to my 25/5 with a bite to eat every walk break.
Then from 4-6 hours (11pm to 1am) somehow I fell in a bit of a hole (and was very grateful for the music at this time!). I’m not sure why, but it’s not uncommon for these things to happen during an ultra, and there’s not always an explanation. Around the 40km mark I did have thoughts of not wanting to do this anymore – I still had SUCH a long way to go, and the 50km runners were already starting to finish! But luckily I knew that this would be a passing thing so I never seriously considered pulling out. I’ve never DNFed and I knew I’d kick myself if I DNFed here! Even if I walked the rest of it I would still make cutoff time. I certainly did not want to walk the rest of it – I wanted to get it done as quickly as possible!
Around the 4 hour mark I probably went an hour or so without eating anything – I wasn’t really in the mood for any of the food I had – this is probably a good advertisement for having support crew. Someone who can make decisions for you when you don’t know what you want! I’d never really had support crew before (other than when I’d been part of a ‘team’ at the Adelaide 12 hour, but even then I was pretty much self-sufficient) and at my next race in Canberra I will certainly need to fend for myself, but I am absolutely certain that I will be needing crew for the 24 hour in July!
I was still drinking Gatorade so I was at least getting the electrolytes and some fuel in! And presumably the carbs I’d had for lunch had made it into my bloodstream!
Kate, who has kindly offered to crew for me in the 24 hour, was there spectating for a while and had previously offered to get me stuff if I needed it. I decided maybe a Coke would do the trick, so I called out to her and asked her to fill my unicorn bottle with Coke which I could then grab from her on the next lap. Thanks Kate! Unfortunately on this occasion the Coke didn’t do it for me, but it was worth a shot!
At one stage I made the decision that in 2020 I wasn’t going to run anything longer than a half marathon. And that I definitely was NOT going to do this event again.
Somewhere around the 6 hour turnaround, I had my energy drink – I’d decided early on that I would have it at around that time, which would be well past halfway (well, so I hoped!) And somehow around this time, the clouds lifted and I started enjoying myself again (well, as much as you can under the circumstances!) – I can’t give the caffeine the credit, as I’d literally only just finished my drink, so no way could it have kicked in!
Around this time I passed Uli, who was doing this event for the first time, having done the Adelaide 12 hour with me last year and also entered to do his first 24 hour in July. He always looks so chirpy! Well let me let you in on a little secret folks – around the same time I was in a hole, he was also questioning his life choices! He found the track surface particularly unforgiving, and at one point thought he might have to walk the rest of the way! Luckily for him, a little later I saw him running again!
Things were going pretty OK until Darren finished, in under 8 hours. I found it quite demoralising to hear him being cheered over the finish line when I’d only done about 70km! I waited for the inevitable sound of David also finishing – I was surprised that he was about half an hour behind – they both looked so good all night and I could have sworn they were only a few laps apart (at most!)
Not to worry – I still had the music to keep me motivated!
I didn’t know where I was sitting in the placings, other than the fact that I DEFINITELY wasn’t first. I hadn’t seen Kerrie in a while – I could only assume she’d pulled out, otherwise I would have seen her lapping me, having a rest on the sidelines, or passing me on the turnaround (you pretty much get to see EVERYONE then!). Cheryl and Jac both looked strong and focused every time I saw them. David B, who’d finished just behind me in 2017 and who was supposed to be running a marathon on Sunday after finishing his 100km (as you do!) was relentless and I was pretty sure he was ahead of me too.
Not wanting to single anyone out, but I just want to mention a few of the other 100km runners. Firstly, Angus, who had decided to make this his first EVER ultra. Yep. 100km around a track. Sounds like fun! Probably not the race I would have picked for my first ultra but good on him! The other one was Dawn who was the sole entrant in the newly added marathon distance, who had decided to upgrade as the rules state that there has to be a minimum number of competitors in a marathon to make it ‘official’. The logical decision (I would have thought) would have been to upgrade from the marathon to the 50km. But no, she decided to do the 100 instead – not her first ultra but her first run of over 50k!
After Sonja finished, closely followed by Stuart, as I ran past the aid station, Kim (you may remember her brandishing the water pistol at last year’s track champs!) informed me that I was next to finish. Bear in mind that I was still 10+km away from finishing, so it wasn’t exactly imminent! I was a bit surprised by this – at the very least, I was SURE David B was ahead of me! I asked her to double check that, and next time around she told me I was 15 laps ahead of David! My curiosity getting the better of me despite me not really wanting to start thinking about potential podium finishes this early, I asked her how far ahead of the next female I was. Next lap I was informed “17 laps”. I did some basic maths in my head (because that was the only kind of maths I was capable of!). At this point I was about 90km in, which meant I had about 25 laps to go. Now when you’re leading someone by 17 laps and have 25 laps to go, it’s pretty hard for them to catch you.
And this is one of the reasons why I prefer not to know where I am, although on this occasion it worked out OK. Clearly I wasn’t going to be first (given that Sonja had already finished) and the chance of Cheryl (in 3rd place) catching me was slim to none. I wasn’t going to get anywhere close to a PB (my PB being 10 hrs 38 on my first attempt at this event, and I had taken 10 hours to get to 90km) and indeed there was no chance of my getting under 11 hours. So theoretically what did I have to gain by continuing to run? I could probably walk most of it, and jog the occasional lap if Cheryl started lapping me.
But no, I was thinking of getting my shoes off, sitting down, drinking Coke and eating pizza. As. Soon. As. Possible.
So I kept running. Up until 10 hours I stuck with 25/5 but it was getting increasingly difficult. I kept looking at my watch counting down to the walk breaks and 25 minutes seemed to last FOREVER! At the 10 hour mark I made the decision (given that I had probably less than 90 minutes to go) to change to 12/3. And after 2 rounds of that, I went to 10/5. At no point did I walk for more than 5 minutes. I think that is a key point, because the longer you walk, the harder it is to get running again. Even though by this point my run was barely faster than my walk!
My iPod Shuffle actually lasted over 8 hours before the low battery warning started! I found it to be a godsend – firstly every track that comes on is a surprise (and I can skip tracks if I want to), and secondly it’s so light you forget you’re actually carrying it, unlike my old friend the Classic! Having said that, I did use the Classic after the Shuffle – I just put on Def Leppard’s ‘Adrenalize’ which is around 45 minutes long and by the time that finished I would be so close to the end I wouldn’t need music!
For a change, there wasn’t a whole lot of singing going on! I did try once (from memory I think it was ‘The Pretender’ by Foo Fighters) but singing and breathing at the same time wasn’t happening! So I just stuck with lip-synching – must have looked pretty funny to people who saw me!
I think I started counting down the laps from about 20 laps to go. At one point I was sure that my lap count was going BACKWARDS but I was probably looking at the wrong person’s name!
I got a lot of encouragement from everyone as I approached the end – I tried to keep a lid on it a bit on the track as I know what it feels like to see others finish when you’re still a long way off the end!
When I reached 11 hours I knew I wasn’t going to walk anymore – the finish line was well and truly in sight! (To be fair, it was LITERALLY in sight right from the word go!) Gary, who had come down the previous night to see us start, had come back before his Sunday long run. It’s kind of surreal when you think of people having a life outside of this race! You know, going out to dinner, home to bed, back to the track in the morning and we’re STILL running! (It was equally weird last year to be in bed trying to sleep and thinking about the 100km runners still going!)
I remembered last year being told I had a certain number of laps to go, and then being told something different, so I took nothing for granted, until I was told I was on my last lap. Even then, I kept a little bit in the tank on the off chance that they had miscalculated and I still had another lap to go! (I was never quite sure if the number of laps on the screen was the number of laps I’d completed, or the number lap I was just starting!)
With 2 laps to go I grabbed my pink hat out of my bag and put it on. I’d finished with it on last year so I had decided to make it a tradition! For a hat that I picked up on the side of the road during a morning run a few years ago, it has certainly been around!
Before celebrating my finish, I had to double check one more time that I was definitely finished! Then it was party time!
Here is my finish line video!
Even as I write this, I’m pretty sure “I think I’m done” is not true. For some reason, despite hours of hating it, I really like this event!
First things first – shoes off, sit down, drink Coke! A few blisters, mostly on the big toes (I knew my shoes were rubbing there and I was sure I’d end up with blisters but no way was I going to stop until it was done!) but nothing that needed the First Aid attention of the wonderful Susan!
Eventually I got around to having a couple of slices of pizza, after first double checking with Ben that it was definitely vegan. Thanks to Ben for looking after us pesky vegans, even though there were not as many of us out there as there have been in previous years!
I really enjoyed the next hour or so, cheering on the other runners and enjoying not being on my feet for a while! I cheered on David, Cheryl, Angus (with his huge entourage!), Jac, Uli and Julia as they crossed the finish line one by one. At the time Uli was pretty sure he wouldn’t be back to do this event again but we all know never to believe what ultra runners say at the finish line!
After that I went to get changed and then went to try and have a 1 hour power nap on the high jump mat!
During this time I heard Colin’s name announced as he was on his last lap. I gave him a cheer as he passed me! (I missed out on cheering Stephan and Dawn, who finished pretty close together!)
Until I was rudely interrupted by Gary jumping onto the mat – he had come to see us again, midway through his Sunday run, with Billy and Mitch. Later on Lu and Victoria popped in as well. I tried to convince Lu (a fast marathoner) to give the 50k a crack next year – he didn’t exactly say no!
Still out on the track when I got back up again were Annabel (who had earlier said she was having “a shocker” but was still pushing on), Karen, Ian and Sarah. Looking at the time left it looked like Annabel and Karen would make it comfortably under the 15 hour cutoff, Ian was looking a bit unlikely, and Sarah was just going for the 15 hours, with no chance of getting the 100km. (In fairness, this was like a sprint distance for her – her forte is definitely the multi-day kind of track ultra!)
Annabel ended up finishing slightly ahead of Karen. It was particularly good to see Karen finish, she had missed out on her two previous attempts at the Track 100 – the 12 hour cutoff back then was a bit tight (and indeed a lot of this year’s finishers would have missed out under those conditions) but with a more generous 15 hours this year, she made it comfortably! (Well she probably wouldn’t describe it as comfortable – come to think of it I don’t think any one of us would have!)
It was a similar story to Stephan last year. After missing cutoff in 2017 (and I think he made it to 96km so he was oh so close) he went one better in 2018 (although I was home in bed by then but super happy to wake up to the news that both he and Colin had JUST made it!) This year both of them made it with over an hour to spare!
And then there were two. It was pretty apparent that Ian wasn’t going to make cutoff. In the end he got to just under 98km when the air horn blew to signify the end of the race.
And this was the BEST moment of the whole event.
Ian, a well known marathon runner and all round good bloke, had never done a 100km before. With just over 2km to go, even though he was officially going to be listed as a ‘DNF’, he was going to finish his 100km.
Nobody left. Although the timing gear was being packed away, everyone stuck around to cheer Ian on. It was pretty special to see! David B was recording the time manually as he completed each lap.
And then the stadium erupted as Ian finished his 100km! (Sure, there were just a handful of people there, but everyone cheered and showed their appreciation for this wonderful moment.
And with that, the Track 100 was over for another year!
To Ben for putting on this event for the 4th year. Despite the fact that my feet aren’t talking to me at the moment, for some reason I keep coming back! What can I say, you sure know how to put on an event/party! Special thanks too for giving us PERFECT running weather (a welcome relief from the vile previous few nights) AND to top it all off giving us a public holiday on the Monday to recover! (And man, did I need it!)
To all the volunteers. Particularly to those who were on portaloo duty. But also to Every. Single. Person. who made this event happen.
To Karen and Daryl for getting me there and back, sharing your table and treating me to the now traditional spa and plunge pool at Next Gen after the race!
To everyone that came down to support, even if they were there to support someone in particular they’d always give me a cheer as I went past! Special shout out to Angus’s crew, particularly as I approached the end!
Last but not least, to all the other competitors for the camaraderie and encouragement along the way. You are why I love doing this!
Such a fun way to spend a Saturday night! Truly!
Will I be back in 2020? Time will tell! (You can probably interpret that as “Almost definitely”!)