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.
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!)
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.
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!)
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!”
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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!