Race report – Heysen 105 (35k) 2018

2018 was my 4th consecutive year participating in the Heysen 105.

My first Heysen 105 was in 2015. A lot of things went wrong (lost car key, fell over, got epically lost, in that order) but I absolutely loved it and went back for more in 2016. I still don’t see how I can improve on how I went in ’16, so I haven’t been back to do the 105 again since!

I decided to give one of the shorter distances a crack last year – running the 35km. Again I managed to add a bit of distance to the course.

…or as I prefer to put it, ‘going the extra mile’!

This year my aim was to improve on my 2017 35km time and get under 4 hours. All I needed to do was not get lost and it should be a no-brainer!

I’m mostly telling you this for my own benefit if I run this again and re-read this report in preparation, my pre-race dinner was some excellent food from Pure Vegetarian at Adelaide Central Market. And a cider of course!

My day started early, with 3 alarms set for 3:05, 3:10 and 3:15. I had most of my gear prepped but allowed myself plenty of time to get ready before my departure time of 4:00am. I went for the exact same kit as last year’s 35km (because I couldn’t really blame the kit for getting me lost) except I used lululemon socks and my trail shoes were brand new (still Salomon Speedcross 4, just a new pair as the old ones were a bit worn!)

Spot the difference!

I made it to Myponga, the 35km finish line, by just after 5am, in plenty of time for the bus. I tried to have a little snooze on the bus but it wasn’t happening! Sam, who had run the 105km last year but had downgraded to the 35km this time, and I were having a chat about our plans for next year. The Adelaide 24 hour came up, and Sam said she was planning to do it, saying “sounds like fun!” A couple of guys in front of us turned around as if to say “WTF??” and I burst out laughing, saying “What’s wrong with us???”

We stopped in Victor Harbor for a toilet stop, given that there are no toilets at the start line.

Loo with a View!

Pretty soon we were at the start line at Newland Hill, plenty of time before the 7am start (in fact, we’d not long missed the 6am 105km start group – but we would see some of those runners along the way). I’d done my gear check the week before so all I had to do was collect my race number and I was pretty much ready to go!

At the start I caught up with Rebecca, who I had last chatted with at the pre-race dinner the previous week, who was doing the 35k too. When she saw me she told me she’d “had an accident” – what she meant was, she had ‘accidentally’ (a.k.a “my finger slipped”) switched from the 35k to the 57k, which would be her first ultra – and hadn’t even told her husband! Kate had talked her into it apparently – that didn’t surprise me, she ALMOST talked me into the Hubert 100 miler while we were walking laps together during the 24 hour race! (Rebecca had originally entered the 35km thinking that we were running the LAST 35km of the 105, not the first! The elevation profile of the last 35km is VERY different!)

Jacket courtesy of Uli – it was a little bit cold at the start line although it promised to be a beautiful day! Sam came prepared with a towel – smart! Photo by Glen.
Making sure my shoelaces are done up tight! Note the UTA100 tag still on my backpack! Thanks to Glen for this pic.

I said to Sam, with about 20 minutes to go before the start, that I only had 2 things I needed to do – “sunscreen and wee”. Sam laughed and said “I thought you said WEED!”

With fellow “Vegan Beast Mode Team” member Dave, who was running the 105km.
Getting ready for the start!
Aaaand the obligatory selfie!

One thing I really liked about this year was that the 35km runners started with the 57km and 105km runners at 7am, instead of at 6:30 like last year. Firstly, it theoretically meant an extra half hour sleep (although it didn’t, because the bus was still at the same time, plus I had a longer drive to get to the start line this year). Secondly and more importantly, it meant that there would be more people around throughout the run. Last year, with only a small field in the 35km and a separate start wave, it got a bit lonely out there at times!

Last year my plan was to run the first 17-18km to Checkpoint 1 at Inman Valley. After the navigational mishap I did end up walking a bit, but other than that I did manage to run the whole way, so there was no reason why I couldn’t do it this time.

We started just after 7am, I was about mid-pack. One thing that surprised me was how fast some of the 105km runners started! One of them was Kent, who had done a few very speedy 50k ultras but this was his first 100km. He ran behind me for a short while, saying I was stopping him from going too fast too early! He ended up passing me before long and I never caught up with him again!

Also in the 105km were Steve, who was the brainchild behind the SA Five 50 Ultra series which has been generating quite a lot of interest! The series is 5 ultramarathons of around 50km in SA, some in Adelaide and some regional, and next year for the first time there will be medals for anyone who completes all 5, and prizes for those with the fastest combined times. As a current Board member of SARRC, the organisation which puts on the Yurrebilla 56k ultra, I am the Yurrebilla ‘rep’ for the series. One of the other races, the Federation Trail ultra in Murray Bridge, is organised by Morgan, who was also running the 105k (his first hundy!). The three of us had a bit of an impromptu ‘meeting’ in the early stages of the race before those two took off, another couple of very speedy 105k runners!

There was a fair bit of road in the beginning and as always I had a buff around my neck to pull up over my nose and mouth when cars went past on the dirt roads.

Early on I managed to catch up with Jenny (57km) and Dave (105km) who I had done a few trail runs with in the leadup to Heysen. Although they were running further than me, they left me to eat their dust very early!

After what seemed like an eternity, we reached my favourite type of trail, nice wide soft fire track through the forest. I was running with Ryan at this stage, also doing the 35km, and he agreed that this was the best kind of trail!

I was determined to avoid getting lost, particularly at the spot where I’d missed the turn last year. With many more people out on the trail than last year, that was less likely to happen, but also it’s a bit dangerous to follow people, assuming they know where they’re going! I certainly wouldn’t encourage anyone to follow me, unless they’re keen for an adventure!

Official pic by Colin (Geosnapshot) – just before CP1 at Inman Valley.

Anyway I was so busy trying not to get lost, before I knew it, I was approaching Inman Valley Road and the re-route to the hall which was the site of Checkpoint 1. It seemed kind of pointless running up the road to the checkpoint only to do a quick U-bolt and go straight back where I’d come from, but it was part of the course – the only thing I had to do was get my number checked off the list and I was outta there! (I had plenty of food and drink so there was no reason to stop) I later found out that Adam, who had infamously got lost with me last year, was at that checkpoint volunteering!

I forgot to mention I was running blind – once I’d started my watch at the start line, I had covered it up with my arm warmer and wasn’t intending to look at it again until I stopped it at the end! So I didn’t know how close I was to the checkpoint until I was practically there! And somehow I’d managed to miss the spot where I’d got lost last year – I’d made the turn without even realising it!

That was the easy bit done. The second half would be WAY harder.

The 35km elevation profile. A few little hills in the front half, but some big ones in the back half!

I managed to run the first few kilometres after CP1, and found myself actually hoping for an unrunnable hill so I could start getting some food in! (I hadn’t had anything to eat up to that point as I’d been running the whole way). Eventually I hit the uphill road bit I’d remembered from previous Heysens, and it was time to smash a Clif bar!

I was carrying: 1 litre of Gatorade plus enough powder to make another litre, 4 different Clif bars, a peanut butter sandwich and a different nut spread sandwich, and 2 small packets of sweet potato crisps. As always I had WAY more food than I was expecting to eat. Most of that would be eaten while I was sitting at the finish line later!

Selfie while walking backwards up a hill! Excuse the thumb!

I caught up with Daniel during this section and we ran bits and pieces together. He was doing the 105k (I think his second) and was smashing it at that stage! We chatted about the merits of sleeping in the back of the car (he’d slept in the back of his car the previous night, and his car was even smaller than mine! I was planning to sleep in the back of the car at the 105k finish line) among other things.

One bit I had completely forgotten about, and I have NO IDEA how, given that I’d done it 4 times  before, was the climb out of Myponga Conservation Park. It was NASTY! Beautiful, but nasty! I did grab a sturdy stick at one stage to help me up some of the climbs! Strava says that bits of it are a 30% gradient. Not sure exactly what that means but it is STEEP!

Somewhere along here I caught up with Merle who was one of the 6am starters in the 105km. She asked me how I was going and I said “F***ed!” I said it laughing though. I knew I could not have too much further left to go!

Daniel had told me that the last 6km was on road, so I knew roughly how much further was left, but I still didn’t look at my watch.

Somewhere during the climby bit, a fence jumped out at me. I went splat, but I had my cycling gloves on so I just grazed one knee and my hands were protected. I bounced, kept going, and forgot all about it until other people saw the blood and asked me about it!

The road bit wasn’t much fun but at least I knew it was ‘about a parkrun to go’ when I reached it!

Not long to go now – note the claret on the right knee! Official photo by Colin (Geosnapshot)
Can you tell I’m happy to be nearly done? Official photo by Colin (Geosnapshot)

Along the road I overtook a few people, mostly 105km runners. I tried not to let my excitement show – they still had a LOOOOONG way to go!

I caught up with a 105k runner called Sam. During the conversation he informed me that I had 2.5km to go – this was the first time I actually knew where I was in relation to the finish line! I picked up the pace a little after this – the end was in sight!

YAAAAASSSSS!!! Official pic by Colin (Geosnapshot)

Somewhere around here I distinctly smelled watermelon. It was so weird! I don’t even particularly like watermelon. I knew it would be at the finish line but I wasn’t craving it, watermelon doesn’t have a very strong smell, and even if it did, we were WAY too far away from the finish line for me to be actually smelling it! (I even asked the guy behind me if he could smell it, pretty sure he thought I was a bit strange!) Needless to say, there was no watermelon in sight!

Approaching CP2 and the finish line – photo by Briana.
Head down, getting it done – photo by Briana.
Finish line feels! Thanks to Estha for this photo!

I got to the finish line and stopped my watch – my time was around 3:55:30 (give or take a few seconds) – I’d cracked 4 hours! And someone told me I was in second place, I actually had no idea what place I was in, with the 3 different distances all starting together. I knew there were plenty of women ahead of me but I had no idea who was in the 35k! As it turned out, only one of them! She was already long gone by the time I finished, she wasn’t a local so I didn’t know her and I didn’t even get to meet her! (I later checked my previous Heysen results and was gobsmacked to find out that I’d actually run from the start to CP2 a few minutes FASTER when I’d run my first Heysen 105!

Only a few minutes after me, Tracey finished – she had also broken 4 hours and got 3rd place. We’d run together the week before and I knew she’d be around my pace as she was also hoping to go sub 4.

Trophy presentation with Tracey – thanks to Estha for this photo!

Then it was time to sit down, take off my shoes and socks, and raid my race vest for food!

It was a nice day to sit and just watch the runners come in! I was glad to be finished as it was starting to get a bit warm. I chatted all things triathlon with Shane for a while, he was waiting for his wife Emily who was also doing the 35km (dare I say it maybe a bit reluctantly) and was giving him regular updates via text of how much she was enjoying herself out there! (ie not very much!) At some point in the conversation I’m pretty sure he said he’d do the 105k again!

Thanks to Glen for this photo – taken as he passed through CP2 during the 105k. Talking Tri with Shane!
Twinning! Thanks to Kate for this photo – Kate was also doing the 105k.

After hanging out at CP2 for a while I then made my way to CP3 via the Sip N Save at Mount Compass where I got myself a six pack of cider. I hadn’t been to CP3 before except while running the 105, so it was nice to see it from a different angle!

I got there just in time to see Jenny finish, she got second place in the 57km! She later told me she had fallen (quite early on) and hurt her shoulder and a rib, and a few days later it was confirmed she had actually fractured a rib!

Because I hadn’t taken a finish line pic at the actual finish line, after I took a pic for Jenny at the CP3 finish line I decided to get one too. Bling in one hand, cider in the other!
With CP3 volunteer Simon. Thanks to Sam for this photo – Sam had run the 35k and then dashed off to CP3 to volunteer! A lot of people were volunteering/buddy running after running the 35km – I’d opted not to do this as I was pretty sure I’d be useless after my run! I was right!

I hung out at CP3 for a while – I saw Sirelle finish 3rd in the 57km and then dash off to buddy run Tina in the 105km – now that is impressive! I was tired just thinking about that!

Jenny had been waiting a while for the 3rd place finisher, so they could do a trophy presentation and Jenny could get going, so Jenny’s husband went for one last drive up the road to see if anyone was coming. If there was no-one there she was going to have to leave. As it turned out there were TWO 57km runners pretty much together. He leaned out the window and said to them, “One of you is going to finish 3rd!”

I was hoping to see Rebecca finish her first ultra but I also wanted to get to the finish line in time to see the winner, so I ended up having to leave before seeing her!

I got to the finish line where they had the couches and fires set up like last year. Michelle and Mark had done a lot of the work and it looked really great! A perfect way to kick back after running 105km (or in my case, 35km!)

I won’t write too much about the rest of the night, mostly because I slept through most of it, and I didn’t take very many photos.

Heysen 105 winner, Simon from Alice Springs!
2nd place and first local, Randell!

One ‘funny’ moment was when Joel, who had been an impromptu buddy runner for Steve for one section, had given me some car keys to look after for Sean, who was Steve’s official buddy runner. I thought that was quite funny as Joel obviously hadn’t heard the story of me losing my key in 2015! I told Joel in great detail where I was going to put the keys, so he could tell Sean, in case I happened to be asleep when he got back! I was actually awake when Steve and Sean finished, and I gave Sean his keys straight away, and then a little bit later on Sean came up to me and asked me if I knew where his car was – unfortunately I didn’t! So there you go, in 2015 I only lost my key, but at least I knew where my car was!

I went to sleep in my car around 10pm and woke up about 2:30, just in time to fall asleep in my chair! In between naps I got to see Dione finish her first 105k. I missed seeing Kim finish her second Heysen, and I also missed seeing Kym and Kate finish (Kym has done every single Heysen) but had a bit of a chat to all of them around the campfire!

I had brought my guitar along like I had done last year, but this time I couldn’t be bothered getting it out – it just took up space in my car, and made my sleeping quarters just a little bit tight!

In the back of the car – so comfy – not!
Whereas I had NO trouble sleeping sitting up in my chair, in broad daylight, with Mark, Michelle and Ben cleaning up around me! Thanks to Michelle for this pic – PS that beer bottle is NOT mine!

I had intended to help with the packing away, as I had last year, but I had somehow managed to sleep right through it! Sorry guys!

So that’s Heysen done for another year. I can safely say I won’t be back next year – I have just been accepted into the Chicago Marathon and I have also paid a deposit for New York. And in 2020 I think it will be my time to volunteer as I will be doing the full Murray Man which will be a week or two later and I will be wanting to save my legs for that!

Well done to everyone who participated, whether they finished or not – special congrats to all the people who completed their first Heysen, first ultra or first 100km!

And of course thanks to Race Director Ben and all of the fantastic volunteers – special thanks to the volunteers at CP2 where I spent a big chunk of the day – I don’t know all their names but Kirstie, Estha, Paul and Derek were a few of them – thanks to all of you! And to the first aid guy who cleaned up my knee!

I’ll finish with this. If you’re interested in a challenge but don’t think you’re up to an ultramarathon distance (or just don’t particularly WANT to run an ultra), definitely consider the 35km. But don’t expect it to be easy – it is definitely the hardest section of the 105km! You can walk it or run it – there’s plenty of time to finish. Heysen really does have something for everyone!

You won’t regret it!

Heysen 105 2016 Part 2 – The race report…

Still looking fresh at this point!

Well! What a day!
I gave myself an hour to get ready which was ideal – I was ready in about 45 minutes so that gave me a bit of breathing space. Even if it did mean getting up at 3:30am!

Riesje picked me up (along with my 5 drop bags) at 4:30 and we drove to Louise and Jimmy’s place – Jimmy would drive us to the start. On the way I had my usual breakfast shake – it would have been way too early to have it at home!

There was a big crowd already when we arrived just before 6:15 – turned out the 6am start had been delayed and they set off not long after we arrived.

At the start line surrounded by Team Mekong. Mekong supplied my top and I found it fantastic to run in – thanks guys!

I realised that my hydration bladder was leaking – there was about 1 litre in it when I left home, and by now it was down to about 750mL. I decided that, given the cooler conditions, and the fact that I don’t tend to drink water during runs anyway, I would empty the bladder and carry it empty, just in case. (It was part of the mandatory gear anyway – capacity to carry 2 litres of water – so I had to carry it regardless.) Not only did it mean I wasn’t going to get unnecessarily saturated, it made my pack lighter and more comfortable to carry!
I collected my race bib and bought a new blue Yumigo buff (which matched my calf sleeves and shoes perfectly!) before depositing my drop bags in the appropriate places.

Happy days at the start line!

It was COLD! I was dressed to run, but while standing around waiting I think my lips matched my buff! Michelle’s husband Mark kindly lent me his big warm jacket! I soon gave it back and then Tina, on registration, took pity on me and lent me hers for a while!
I hesitate to write this but I think it’s an important part of the story. Before the race I decided that I couldn’t wait for Checkpoint 1 (around 18km, approx 2 hours) for a toilet stop. A few of the girls were venturing into the bushes and I thought bugger it, I want to be comfortable at the start! So off I went, first time successfully pulling off the ‘bush wee’ and was so glad I’d done it! It also gave me confidence that if I needed to, I could go anywhere and not have to rely on going at checkpoints!

That ‘TMI’ moment aside, it was soon time to make our way to the start line. Having been advised on Thursday that our waterproof jackets were NOT required (I didn’t 100% trust the weather so I’d packed a light spray jacket in my pack just in case), as if on cue, it started raining as Ben did the race briefing!

Because of the late start of the 6am wave, the other waves in turn started 15 minutes late. But given the rain, and after the crowd demanded it, Ben agreed to let us start at 7:10 instead of 7:15! This was greeted by rapturous cheering! This was the last of 3 waves, with all the 57k runners as well as roughly half the 105k runners setting off together.
At the start I saw Bronwyn who finished 3rd ahead of me last year, Kazu who finished 2nd at Yurrebilla last year, and Hoa, who is in awesome form. I had had thoughts of maybe going one better than last year and getting a podium finish, but after seeing those three I quickly put it out of my mind!

Photo courtesy of Shane – not quite sure what I’m thinking here! @shane.porto.triathlon (Instagram)

And we were away! The rain wasn’t so bad once we got moving. Very early on there was an absolutely stunning full rainbow against a grey sky. I was so tempted to take a photo but I didn’t want to waste a nice downhill runnable section. I thought about the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. In my case, it was a chocolate donut! The presence of the rainbow was very appropriate also, given that the Pride march was taking place on the same day!

That incredible rainbow! Photo courtesy of @chris_kaneko on Instagram

Early on I ran with Marc and an interstate runner by the name of George who I’d heard plenty about but had never met. Marc told me his reason for running was to try to better his UTA100 time from this year, because the last time he ran Heysen he was just aiming to finish. This time he was taking it seriously! I didn’t quite get a ‘why’ answer out of George but I think it was along the lines of ‘Because it’s there’. 
I also went back and forth with Uli and Justin – Justin would effortlessly power past me going up the hills, and sometimes I would pass him going downhill.

Very early I was passed by Hoa who told me she was volunteering at the finish line. I was gobsmacked until she told me she was ‘only’ doing the 57k! Ah, maybe there was a chance for me after all!

The first section is a relatively easy one, and I reached CP1 pretty much on target (I’d given Gary my CP splits from last year as a guide, and I’d also attached a laminated copy to my backpack). It was a quick stop – sunscreen on, a quick Coke and a handful of pretzels, and I was on my way – my watch showed 1 hour 50 which was 7 minutes slower than last year. 

Last year’s split times, I used this as a guide.

After CP1 came probably the hardest section elevation-wise. There was a lot of uphill in this section. It gave me the opportunity to take a few photos and really appreciate the scenery!

That’s Kelly up there in the distance!
They say ‘Never look back, you’re not going that way’. Sometimes it’s good to look back and see how far you’ve come. Wow, I’m deep!
Can’t see the woods for the trees! Lovely spot for a run!

It was around this point that I was reunited with George, and also met up with Kelly who had done the 6 hour with me earlier in the year. I quickly realised by looking at Kelly’s bib number that she was in the 57km event and therefore not competing with me! 

George had a lot to say and I really enjoyed chatting with him. He does an ultra about once a fortnight. He’s done quite a few events here in SA which is why I initially thought he was a local! We would end up running together for most of the first half of the race. He, like me, was having his buddy runner, Beck, meet him at CP3. He said that this was all he was focusing on – just get to CP3, that’s the end of one race, and then the race begins again! George hadn’t met Beck before. I hadn’t exactly met her but I’d heard her speak at a Trail Running SA social night about her experiences doing ultras around the world including iconic events like Western States 100 and Ultra-Trail Mont Blanc. I told George he’d be in excellent hands!

After the road climb there was a challenging trail climbing section including a lot of stairs before I reached CP2. This was also the finish of the 35k event. Tina had finished 2nd and Annie 3rd, apparently there was a race to the finish between Annie and Flic for 3rd place! I also saw Kate and James, who had both started at 6 and reported things were going well! I refilled my Gatorade, raided my drop bag for snacks, had a Coke and replaced my sunscreen – the next section was 22k and would take a good few hours. The time as I left CP2 was around 4:15 – about 20 minutes slower than last year (although I didn’t know that at the time!)

Fuelling up at CP2 and catching up with the 35k finishers.
Obligatory checkpoint watch shot!

I was with George early in the next section and I announced to him that this was the 10k I’d marked so if there were any problems he knew who to blame! I must say Tina and I did a brilliant job – one or two of our red and white ribbons had come down overnight, and we possibly could have more clearly marked the direction where the tractor and the bed was, but other than that it was a flawless 10k. I told George, who is a devotee of the ‘runfie’ and also the ‘cowfie’, as we were doing one of the climbs in Yulti Conservation Park, to look back and see the view. He did, was suitably impressed, and then asked me to take a photo of him with the view in the background. I crouched down to get a good pic and immediately regretted my decision! Fortunately I managed to get up without too much trouble!

Our section was quite overgrown in places – I could have done with a scythe to get through, I did feel a bit Indiana Jones-ish at times!

A funny moment came just after the 40k mark. We had to go over or under a fence that appeared to be just a rope. I opted to go over – and in the process discovered that it was an electric fence! I’d never been zapped by an electric fence before! George didn’t want to take my word for it, he had to touch it himself! And then decided that this was a perfect opportunity to get some free ‘electrotherapy’ for his injuries! I warned the people behind that it was an electric fence and we kept moving.

By the time we hit 45k and the end of Tina’s and my section, Kelly was back with us again. “Only City-Bay to go” I told her. The next 12k had been very ably marked by 2 course marking newbies Kate and James. 

With George around 45k – great fun running with this guy!
With Kelly around 45k – she only had 12k (or ‘City-Bay’) to go at this point!

My top was starting to chafe under my arms a bit by now, but George came to the rescue with his trusty 3B cream! (I returned the favour by giving him one of my chocolate sandwiches when he was looking for something to eat!)
The sandy sections through here were made much easier by the recent wild weather – wet sand is much easier to negotiate than dry! There was a lot of mud and water throughout the 105km and once my feet were wet and muddy I didn’t really care about trying to avoid it! There was also a lot of debris on the course which may have contributed to me being a bit slower than last year – I was extra cautious to avoid falling like I had last year (and the day before!) in this section.

Somewhere along here we were met by 2 runners coming the other way. I immediately thought, we’ve taken a wrong turn! But not to worry, it was just Maurice and Hayley who were demarking and sweeping! Phew!

I had taken my caffeine supplement at CP2 and at around the 49k mark it kicked in and I took off from George and Kelly. Partly I think I just needed a short burst of ‘alone time’ knowing that I was going to be meeting Gary at the next checkpoint and would be with him for the rest of the race. Also I was conscious that I was behind time so wanted to try to make up a bit of time. 

I’m not sure why but somehow I’d got the idea in my head that I was about to reach 55km. When I saw the next 5km marker and it said 50km, not 55km, I was a bit deflated but kept pushing on. 

At this point I became aware that not only did I have a few rocks in my shoes, but I could feel some rubbing on both my pinky toes – I hadn’t done a very good job with my taping! I was thinking about stopping at CP3 to get the first aider to look at my feet and re-tape if needed, but I didn’t have any clean socks on me and did not fancy putting my wet, muddy socks back on! I had thoughts about telling Gary the goalposts had shifted and we were no longer looking at a PB, just a finish!

Eventually after a long road section I reached CP3 where Gary was waiting for me. 

Heading into CP3 – thanks to Sharlene for this photo!

I took my shoes off to get rid of the rocks, but left the socks on. Here, as well as refuelling with Gatorade and snacks, I went for a quick wardrobe change, a fresh singlet and arm warmers. 
And off we went! This was the section where everything had gone horribly wrong last year! It was great to have Gary with me here as he had run this section 2 years ago as a buddy and remembered it well. 

Heysen involves climbing over a lot of stiles to go through cow paddocks. One such stile, early on in this section, happened to be over another electric fence! I found this out the hard way, giving myself an electric shock – it was quite a powerful zap compared to the last one! Best not be doing that again!

We navigated ‘that’ field with no problems – there is a new marker in the middle of the field which is really hard to miss. Especially with the Yumigo arrow attached to it, helpfully captioned ‘This way Jane!’

I was pretty sure I knew who was responsible for this. My suspicions would later be confirmed!

After crossing that field without incident, I was again thankful for Gary’s navigational skills. After last year’s incident, I had finally found my way out of the field by following Brenton. Consequently I hadn’t really paid attention to what came next, so I did not recognise the next few kilometres. Thankfully Gary did!
Soon I was back on familiar ground, a nice, comfortable runnable section through ferns. I knew we were back on track – we had to have gained about half an hour right there.

Gary had updated me on what was happening in the race. In the men’s, Howard was leading and looking strong. He wasn’t sure exactly where I was in the women’s race – Bronwyn was a runaway leader followed by Kazu. There were 2 other women who he didn’t know, and then me. He wasn’t sure if one of the two other women was an early starter (this would not only mean they were an hour behind me, but also that they would be ineligible for a podium finish). He said the last woman was 25 minutes ahead of me.

Gary and me just before another climb (aka walk break/time to eat!)

CP3 – CP4 was a longer section than last year – about 18-19k. The checkpoint had been moved about 4km further along the route, and off the road. It meant it was a bit of a hard slog to get to CP4, but it meant that after CP4 we would be only 8km from CP5 and 26km from the finish!
We had been warned that there was a river crossing in this section. I’m talking, calf deep water. No getting around it! When we reached it Gary was looking for a way around but I knew there wasn’t one so through we went! It was actually quite refreshing! We held hands going through because the current was quite strong and we didn’t want to get swept down the Finniss River! (I initially went a little deeper than required before Gary found a safer path!)

I later found out that other people had taken off their shoes and socks to go through – but then again, I only had my wet, muddy socks to put back on so I think it was for the best not to take them off!

Approaching CP4 we were greeted by Paul running the other way. He was on his way to meet Simon, who he was buddy runner for. Simon had been at CP3 getting his feet attended to when Gary and I had left, but had presumably recovered well as he was on his way. Paul told us we were only about 3k from CP4.

Gary insisted that we run into each checkpoint. It was a good psychological boost – if any of my ‘rivals’ saw me, they would know I was still going strong! And so we finally reached CP4 and duly ran in! We were told here that the previous female, Rebecca, had only gone through 8 minutes ago. We were catching up! (Earlier in the section we had passed another female runner – Gary sussed out that she was a 6am starter so again not a likely threat to me.)

Quickly I did what I had to do. I grabbed my hi-viz vest and head torch which would be needed later, topped up my bottles and snacks (I was going to have HEAPS of food left – I had predictably over-catered!), sprayed myself with insect repellent and got my energy drink. Still drinking it, we headed off. I had an inkling that I knew who this Rebecca was, and if I guessed correctly, she was a 6am starter! But I didn’t say this to Gary.

The 8km section went quite quickly and before we reached CP5 we caught up with, and eventually passed, Rebecca. It was the Rebecca I thought it was – a 6am starter! She was stoked with how she was going – she said I’d passed her at CP3 last year so she was happy to have nearly got to CP5 before being overtaken! I knew she’d marked CP3-4 so I asked her if she’d put the message to me on the sign which she first denied but then admitted she had!

So what this meant was, it looked like I was in 3rd place! With no idea how far behind me 4th was, we had to keep going for it! (I knew 2nd was out of reach so 3rd was all I had to shoot for!)

Before we knew it, after another river crossing, we were at CP5 where we donned our hi-viz vests, got our head torches out and had a quick snack before starting the final stage. I didn’t need to top up any of my drinks or food as I hadn’t consumed much in the short last section. The volunteers at CP5 confirmed that I was indeed in 3rd place! 

Gary told me that he had had a conversation with 2015 Heysen winner Andrew, buddying for David, at CP3 while waiting for me. Andrew had asked him why he was buddying and not running the event himself. Gary’s reply? “To get Jane a podium finish”. 

All fuelled up and about to leave the last checkpoint! On the home stretch now!

We left CP5 in broad daylight, 11 hours in. Bec and another guy Ryan who we’d met in the last section, were just coming in as we left. Last year I left CP5 with 11:35 on the clock so we were 35 minutes ahead. After being 30 minutes behind at CP3, I’d really made up some ground thanks to Gary’s constant encouragement, pushing me to run when I may otherwise have walked, and of course the added bonus of not getting lost! Given that last year we did the last section in exactly 2.5 hours, sub 14 looked to be a no-brainer so we were now aiming for 13.5. I would have been happy with sub 14 (especially considering I didn’t think it was possible after my slower first half) and a podium finish, well that was just a bonus!

The last section was beautiful – much of it through forest, with not another human in sight! The roos were starting to become active – I didn’t see as many as last year, because we were in daylight for much of this section. In fact we nearly missed a turn-off because we were looking directly into the sun!

Gary was constantly calculating how fast we needed to be going. He had set 8 minute kilometres as the goal from here to the finish. Many kilometres were faster. It didn’t really matter what I said, Gary was determined to get me in under 13.5 hours!

Gary running into the sunset!

Complicating matters was the fact that this part of the course was the muddiest and wettest of all. It meant we had to be more cautious in sections where we otherwise might have been able to fang it (as much as ‘fanging’ is possible after 90km!). We were glad to be doing most of this section in daylight. One of the hardest bits was right near the end when it had just got dark and we struggled to find a path through the mud!
We made it to about 96km (of an estimated 102km) before we put the headlights on. By now, we would be only about 45-50 minutes from the end. So close!

Probably around the 100k mark, with 13.5 hours looking good, Gary (who had all along been looking behind to see if any potential rivals were gaining on us) informed me that there were 2 people rapidly approaching. I told him I had no capacity to increase the pace! As devastating as it would be to be passed so close to the finish, if someone passed me now, there was no way I was going to be able to chase them down. Whoever it was, was FLYING! 

They passed us… I was excited to see that it was my old mate George and his buddy Beck! They were both looking SO strong for this late in the race!

Gary got a bit dejected, thinking Beck was overtaking me into 3rd place, before I quickly told him no, it’s all good, she’s a buddy, she’s not in the race! All was good again! Beck estimated there was only a couple of kilometres to go!

As we approached the finish I made sure Gary was on my left as we were going to cross the line hand in hand and my right hand was my ‘snot hand’ – the one I had been using to wipe my nose all day! (That was because I wear my watch on my left hand and am always paranoid I’ll accidentally stop my watch while wiping my nose!)

Eventually Gary announced that we were nearly there! What a rush, crossing that finish line in 13:26:46 – almost 40 minutes better than last year! Ben put the finisher medal around my neck and handed me the prized 3rd place trophy! AMAZING!

We did it! Now where are those donuts…

Gary’s wife Christine was there to capture the moment and help me get my shoes and socks off (we gave up trying to get my calf sleeves off – they were there to stay) and get my drop bag to put some warmer clothes on. Gary and I enjoyed our donuts – I doubt I’ve ever had a better tasting donut in my life, despite it being a day old! 

Best. Donut. Ever.

We had a chat to other runners – Leon had done well, and Marc’s buddy Arwen had told me Marc had had a great run too. Then it was time to go before we got too cold! Gary’s car was also at the finish line – Maurice had asked him if he could borrow it earlier in the day so he didn’t have to get his wife to pick him up, which worked out really well as we didn’t have to go back to CP3, we could go straight home! I got a lift with Christine and was home by 10! Took me a while to get my calf sleeves and tape off, shower and eat everything in sight! Possibly the biggest miracle of the day though was the fact that I managed to get my compression tights on!

Once again, SUCH a great day. Incredibly challenging but so rewarding! An extremely well supported event and very achievable if you’re thinking about tackling 100k for the first time. And there’s always 57 and 35 if you don’t fancy ‘the big one’ (those two options are looking mighty appealing to me now!)

I’d like to finish by thanking some of the people who played a big part in my day. Apologies if I forgot anyone, there were just so many!

To Ben Hockings for putting on yet another brilliant event. So many hours of work went into this. I don’t think he sleeps. Ever! And his hard work has paid off with numbers growing steadily by the year!

To Gary, my amazing buddy runner. He was everything a buddy runner should be. Encouraging, competitive and entertaining! I could not have done this without him!

To Christine, for letting me borrow your husband, for helping me get my shoes and socks off at the finish line, and for driving me home!

To Riesje for picking me up so I could leave my car (and importantly car KEY) at home! And to Louise and Jimmy for driving us to the start.

To Kelly and George for the company in the first half of the race (and in George’s case, right near the end too!

To all the course markers – having marked part of the course myself I have a new appreciation for what an important (and at times challenging) job it is! Having run the course I think I got an easy section to mark and I can only imagine how challenging that last section would have been to mark!

And of course to all the wonderful, wonderful volunteers along the way. Always willing to help out with getting drop bags, filling up bottles and generally doing anything that was needed. Events like this just could not happen without them!

Reckon I might have a few quiet weeks now! I’ve already told my Tuesday running buddies to slap me if I turn up to run on Tuesday!