Heysen 105
Can I complete 105km? My longest run to date was a flat 65km in 6 hours and I also completed Yurrebilla recently which is a hilly 56km, but 105 hilly km’s? This was really going to test me.
I have always been determined and I like to push myself. When I find something I am passionate about, I give it 100%, whether that is work, a hobby, my family. If I am passionate, I don’t like to do things half-hearted. I also like a challenge... my husband didn’t think I would complete the Heysen 105 or at least that was what he told me.  I wasn’t sure at the time if he was playing mind games with me as he knows I am a stubborn arse and that telling me I wouldn’t do it was like a red rag to a bull!! He seemed quite genuine though and he thought I would get to around 80km (afterwards he said he was waiting for the phonecall throughout the day to say I hadn’t completed it so it seems he genuinely didn’t think I would complete it – take that back now Gareth Teale!!)
It took me about 3 weeks to get over YUM – I was tired mentally more than anything and so it wasn’t until the weekend before Heysen that I finally started to get excited. I had been concerned because without the drive to do the event, it would have been extremely difficult to get my head around the task ahead. Anyway, the week before the event the excitement built each day, no nerves, just excitement, until the day before the race when the nerves started to show themselves in affecting my appetite. I still managed to force down the carbs though, the sugary ones were easier!
My taper had gone well, despite an easy session with Bazza turning into a sprint session as it normally does – we have way too much fun out there egging each other along – I think we need to stay apart the week before events ;-) That’s not going to happen! I think I have finally learnt to trust the coach when it comes to taper – not that I ever had any doubt but I found taper very difficult in the lead up to previous events, however, it has worked for me and so I can now relax and follow the plan – as always thanks Ben – I love your work!
I was a little concerned about the temperatures that were forecast for the day, 32 degrees in the city so probably 30 down South which is where the event was held. Oh well, all I could do was prepare myself with hydration, clothing, bodyglide, sunscreen, etc. and get on with it. At least I wasn’t out there on my own.
On the Thursday before the event (which was on the Saturday) I had a really good sleep which I was very grateful for as I knew that sleep the night before the event would be unlikely! Then on the Friday it was time to organise the drop bags. This was a mammoth task! It was my first 100km event, I hadn’t run in those temps and I hadn’t run for the length of time that means you need to eat rather than surviving on gels and drinks...
Each drop bag had a wide selection of food and drink as I had no idea what I would want, I just know that when I am running I don’t want to eat so I tried to make the selection as inviting and nutritionally wise as I could. Each drop bag had malt loaf, flapjacks, marshmallows, mandarin, peanut butter on white bread, chips (crisps if you’re reading from the UK!!), energy bars, gels, perpetuem, electrolyte/carb drink and water/ice for pouring over my head. I also had clothes at various checkpoints that I might need along the way and my mandatory items.
Race morning, the alarm was set for 3.20am, I think I had about 5 hours sleep so not bad pre-race but the first thought when I opened my eyes was ‘what am I doing?!’. I got on with my list of things to do – I always have to make lists otherwise I can’t get to sleep worrying about whether I have forgotten something! I managed a coffee but couldn’t eat a thing so I decided to take my breakfast with me in the car as I had plenty of time before the race start to get some food down me and maybe by 5am I might want to eat.
When I arrived to the finish point where the bus was picking us up, it will still pitch black outside and everyone had their headlamps on so it was hard to make out who was who but I felt better being surrounded by other crazy people and finally managed to eat some malt loaf, and down some grape juice.
It was a tight squeeze on the bus as the bus was full and everyone had their drop bags but the atmosphere was good and everyone was chatty – the toilet stop was amusing, it is the first time I have seen the blokes queue longer than the ladies and once the ladies had finished, the blokes then went across to the ladies.
When we arrived at the start we had half an hour to spare, it was a bit chilly and I thought the time would drag but it went really fast – I had just enough time to eat an energy bar, catch up with a few people and down some electrolyte drink before getting my gear on ready to start.
When people asked how I felt, Paul Greenwood came up with the best response and that was ‘numb’ – perfect response for how I was feeling at that moment in time!
The start line was great, spirits were high and everyone was raring to go. 7am and we’re off!
At this stage in the day, the weather was lovely, there was a beautiful breeze and we were heading into glorious countryside – I couldn’t help but smile to myself as we all set off chattering away. I soon found myself running alone, I could see people up ahead and hear people behind me but I was running my own race and if someone was running at my pace then great, if not, then just concentrate on being comfortable.
I could see Barry up ahead, he had a bright yellow T-shirt on so it was great to spot him. I so wanted to catch Bazza and run some of the race with him, but I just kept telling myself to run slow and then go slower – I had a lot of distance to cover and if I was out of breath I was going too fast so I just settled into my own pace and remained comfortable.
The km’s were ticking over quite nicely and before I knew it, we were at CP1. I knew that there were not too many people up ahead of me but I had no idea how many and who they were and it wasn’t really a concern of mine. This race was about reaching 105km not about racing anyone – though it was nice to know that there were others ahead of me to scare the snakes away from the path – yikes!
I arrived at CP1 about 50 metres behind Bazza, however, I decided to take a quick toilet break here as there were no other toilets on the course until 85km so Bazza left well before me. There were no drop bags at CP1, however, I had given a small bag to Barry’s wife Bev who was crewing for him that day so I topped up my gel supply to get me through to CP2.
I was consuming gels every 45/50 mins at this stage as I can stomach them early on so I wanted to keep my levels topped up with things that go down easily – I knew I would eventually tire of gels but for now they were good. Reme Angus took control of my backpack whilst I ran to the toilet – thank you Reme, I came back and she had re-filled the water and helped me sort my gels and then I was off.
About half way through the section from the start to CP1, I met a new friend called Oliver who was also running his first 100km event. It was nice to have some company and we chatted as we went along. We left CP1 together and his friend who was also running in the event joined us at this stage, this was Rurik. Rurik’s brother had come out to crew for them and everytime I saw him on the course throughout the day he was pipping his horn, cheering everyone along and was very  upbeat – it was fantastic – he deserves the prize for the loudest most vibrant supporter of the day, that’s for sure. 
We stayed together until the top of Sugarloaf Hill and then I went up ahead as I could see Bazza. Sugarloaf Hill is difficult. It is the steepest hill on the course so I am relieved that it is relatively early in the event. It almost feels like a vertical climb and has log steps built into the hillside to assist the climb. The grass was also quite long so I was conscious that there would be snakes around – that kept me moving forward at a good pace!
After the climb up Sugarloaf Hill, you start the descent through Myponga Conservation Park. It was here that I found Barry walking on a section of the course that he usually eats! This concerned me greatly as that meant that things were not going well for him. It turns out that Barry was cramping in his calves and so was walking it out. We exchanged a few words, I could sense his frustration and quite rightly so! I tried to stay positive and then he ushered me on telling me he didn’t want to see me again until the finish (in the nicest possible way!) I knew he would catch me later in the race once he had come good (I was not wrong).
The descent through Myponga before getting to the open field was very hard on my knees which was concerning me as I still had a lot of distance to cover. Oh well, I told myself to accept the pain, try not to focus on it and move on... (sound familiar Barry?) Once I got onto the country lanes leading up to CP2 the knees felt better but I had a lot more downhill to do – it is a rare occasion when you look forward to the inclines!
I also did my good deed for the day at Myponga, I saw another runner take two wrong turns ahead of me and shouted as loud as I could for him to turn around – I went ahead of him at this point and just hoped that he would find his way okay for the rest of the course. I later found out this was Bernd 
It feels like quite a long stretch on these lanes and it was getting hot. Rurik’s brother was pulled over assisting runners by walking a stretch with them and holding an ice pack on the back of their necks. How awesome was he!!!
Running along this section I just started to feel that my backpack was starting to rub my back and I suspected that it had started chaffing. Not long after I saw Bev and Cam McBride. Bev and Cam were like guardian angels throughout the whole day appearing at regular intervals with refreshments and fluids and also water for pouring and keeping us cool. Thank you guys – I always looked forward to turning a corner and seeing you guys there  Bev helped put some bodyglide on my back that I had in my backpack – this helped me get to CP2 but the chaffing had gone too far for the bodyglide to work long term so I had to get the first aid support to patch me up.
At CP2, I refilled my fuel bottles and the wonderful volunteers assisted with everything, ice in the backpack with the water, oranges to eat whilst I re-applied sunscreen. These guys were fantastic.
Whilst I was stopped here, which was quite a while as I needed to get patched up, sunscreen, fuel, etc. Howard and Bazza and Ryan were also all here – Ryan had been ahead of me but Bazza and Howard had caught up and I was so pleased to see them. Howard muttered a few expletives about wanting to go home but was in good spirits and it was the last time I saw him until the finish as he found a second wind that lasted the rest of the day and had a great race – well done Howard.
I am not sure where Ryan went, I don’t remember seeing him leave the checkpoint and I didn’t see him again until after he pulled out of the race before CP3 – he had been having numerous niggles along the way that meant it wasn’t worth him persisting and going on without causing bigger problems for himself – wise decision.
Bazza left the checkpoint before me but I raced down the road to catch up for a few minutes. I left Bazza here who was doing better but still having a few cramping issues and off I ventured into Yulte.
The first part of section 2  to 3 I had not covered before and so did not know what to expect – this was probably for the best... it was a steep, dry incline in the mid day heat. I was alone, on a single track in the middle of a conservation park with lots of twitches in the bushes – I was not enjoying this, the heat and my fear of snakes made for an unpleasant experience and I just wanted to get out of this and onto the fields. It seemed to take forever and I came across my very first snake in the 4 ½ years I have been in Australia. It was a fairly young brown snake that was wriggling off the path to get away from me – I managed to grit my teeth and just get on with it – had it been a BIG brown snake or a big black, things may have been different but thankfully that was the only one I saw that day!
Once out of Yulte and onto Lawless Lane I knew I had a long section of open trails coming up – just before I left Lawless Lane, Stephanie Mitchell was there and shared some lovely cool water over my head – just what I needed before hitting this next section where there was no shelter from the sun for several km’s. It was on this section that I caught Alex. Alex looked like he was struggling a little which was fully understandable – we ran together for a short while before I headed off when he stopped to take a picture of a goat – photo bomb opportunity  I also saw Wendy and Ryan on the fields just before the road that takes you to CP3. Wendy was out at various points throughout the day taking pictures and offering support – thank you Wendy.
Upon arriving at CP3, I was feeling good but needed fuel – I couldn’t stomach solids but needed juicy fruit – I ate my mandarin and Lee cut up some orange for me. Again the volunteers were amazing, Sue, Ana, Danni, Lee and anyone else I have missed – thankyou for your assistance – I was up and out of here in no time thanks to the volunteers but I almost forgot to phone my buddy runner so Sadie took her number and phoned Bec for me to let her know where I was and when I would be at the next checkpoint. It was here that Sadie told me I was currently the first placed woman – up until this point I wasn’t sure where I was at – I knew I was running strong but I was 6th overall and first lady – awesome, that was great motivation. I ran out of the checkpoint with that knowledge and off to the fields, thanks Sadie!
I was still feeling good after 60km and then I hit a field that had been full of very long grass/grain of some form in the training runs weeks before. There had been a path made right through it which was easy to run on but now the field had been ploughed. OMG that was so damn hard – I had to run/jump over mounds of grass to get across this field – that really zapped my energy – it was very hard! I knew I didn’t have any steep hills until Stoneford Road (I think that’s what it is called) so I told myself that I had to keep running until this point as I had no excuse not to. I saw Bev and Cam again when coming off the sandy section and I stopped for some watermelon and poured some water over my head – thank you Bev and Cam – stopping for a couple of seconds made me realise that I was starting to feel it now – keep going don’t stop! I could also feel that my skin was hot and so despite the sunscreen I had a red glow, especially on the back of my neck – I was glad that the sun was going down soon as my forehead also felt very hot and the last thing I needed now was a headache.
I was doing okay and knew I wasn’t too far away from CP4 – counting down the CP’s was keeping me focused – I was starting to lose the ability to enjoy the surroundings as the day progressed and the struggle began which although expected, it was disappointing as this really is a beautiful course and I love being out in the country.
Finniss Conservation Park has a bit of a climb before heading downhill and through the long ferns to CP 4 – long ferns – snake alert – get through this as fast as you are able!! Here I caught up with another runner who looked to be struggling – however, he soon picked up and we ran to CP 4 together.
It was such a relief to reach CP 4 as my buddy runner Bec was there – she ran to meet me with an ice cold cloth that she draped around my neck and then went and got another for my head – she was amazing – then she scurried around making sure I had everything I needed, headlight, backup light, etc. Maurice was also here but it took me a while to realise... it was then I found out that he had pulled out due to a groin injury and that is why he was volunteering at CP4 – good on ya Maurice!
Bec asked if I wanted her to meet me at CP5 or whether she should  run with me from CP4 – I had no doubt in my mind that I would need her to get me through the rest of this race – I needed the company. I was not familiar with the next section so again did not know what to expect – I had done it the previous year in training but I could not remember what it entailed. I now know that it has a mean hill to begin with but then some lovely forest trails to get you to CP5. I coped through this section, shuffling along by this time but it was good to have Bec with me and we also ran most of it with the same runner who I picked up just before CP4 – we left CP4 together.
I was so very happy to see CP5 but I also knew the last section very well as I had run it a couple of times over the last few months and once just a couple of weeks ago so I knew that despite there not being a great big hill to tackle, there were some rolling hills, sandy sections and bitumen to cover. I was struggling now but at CP5 I managed to get some fruit juice down, a tiny piece of watermelon and a mouthful of coke. This lasted me a short while but I soon ran out of fuel and slowed considerably, feeling nauseous and dizzy. The small inclines were very taxing on the legs which were now stiffening up and not wanting to move, even the flats were hard work. Bec kept me going – she knew just what to do with encouragement, talk when needed and silence when not – she was awesome, I couldn’t have asked for more.
 On one of the sandy sections I saw that someone was approaching behind us – I couldn’t make out who it was but I could make out yellow – I thought it was Bazza. I was so emotional at this point, I was struggling and I so wanted to see Barry. They were gaining ground on us and I had tears in my eyes thinking that I was going to be so close to the finish with my running buddy Bazza. It turns out that it wasn’t Bazza, it was Alex and whilst I was so happy that he had come good after seeing him struggle earlier, it was also deflated after getting my hopes up that it was Bazza. Alex over took us and went off towards the finish. Go Alex!
I knew that we were going to hit the bitumen soon and I was not looking forward to this – my mind was weakening and even though it was a step closer to the finish, the thought of hitting the bitumen was dampening my spirit to put it lightly! As soon as we got on the road I began to walk, I had, had enough now, it was about km 98 and I wanted it over – I didn’t want bitumen, I wanted my forest back!
Then I saw Bev and Cam – I was in a world of pain but seeing them made me think that Bazza mustn’t be too far away – hooray! Cam noticed I didn’t have a high vis vest on so he gave me one thankfully as I had left mine at CP3 – I kept trying to get some fluids down as I knew the dizziness was down to lack of fluid and sugar but I was struggling and felt like I was going to be sick. Each time I did take a sip though, I got a little burst of energy and managed to shuffle along but it was always short lived.
I so wanted to get in Bev’s car at this point but Bec urged me on and told me that I needed to keep moving or Bazza was going to catch us  and he did not long after, it was so lovely to see him. He could see how much pain I was in and I was struggling to catch my breath – I was very stiff and moving in a John Wayne fashion! I was running, though I termed it shuffling at this point in the day, as much as I could and then having a walk break when it hurt too much – though when walking I did managed to keep marching so as not to slow down too much. Shuffle/march/shuffle/march all the way to the finish from here.
I was also keeping an eye on the time as I had promised my daughter that I would call her before she went to bed which was around 8.30pm – could I get to the finish before I needed to call her as I didn’t really want to call her in the state I was in – I was getting emotional thinking about her as she had gotten upset about me being out all day and also all evening – I so wanted to keep my promise and call her soon.
Bazza and Bec kept my mind occupied, Barry insisted on staying with me so that we could cross the finish line together – I told him to go on as I could see he was stronger than me and that he could push for a sub 13.30 if he left me but he wouldn’t go and I am very grateful for that. Between them, Bec and Barry got me through the last few km’s. We did high fives when the watch hit 100km and that was such a great feeling – 100km!!!! Not long to go now, I could cope with this and I picked up the pace after almost dying at km 98. As soon as we got off the bitumen I was so relieved as I knew that the finish was just around the corner and I was back in the glorious forest.
Soon after Paul Rogers met us in the lead up to the finish line, by this point I was walking and I demanded to know where the finish lights were as I wanted to run those last few meters. I could see them and I could hear the people – OMG it felt awesome to be so close. Bec, Barry and myself all held hands across the finish line – it’s the stuff you read in books or watch on films – I was so happy and so emotional – the tears flowed as Ben handed out the medals and gave us great big hugs.
That feeling was so powerful – I had made it and not only had I made it – I was the first woman across the line and joint 6th overall with Bazza – I had to pinch myself.
Then I phoned my husband and daughter, it was just after 8.35pm as we finished in 13.35hrs and I knew my husband would be letting her wait up for the call. I was still in tears but happy tears and it was so good to hear her voice.
The finish was great, I got into some dry clothes, had some food and drink, Bec was awesome, she brought everything to me as I was struggling to get up and down out of the chair. Maurice cooked sausage and bacon, Karen fetched blankets, Paul presented me with my wine and we just sat taking it all in and hoping that others would soon be crossing the line. I thought about all the friends still out on the course and wondered where they were and how they were doing. I found out at the finish that lots of people had pulled out due to injury and the conditions and also that Toby, who had won the race, had required medical help at the finish which was quite worrying.
I had intended to have a sleep before driving home, but the fire ban meant that there was no camping allowed so I had a rest for a couple of hours and then drove home before I got too tired. Thank goodness I have an automatic!!!
So will I run Heysen again – of course I will. It was painful at times, I could have quit somewhere around 98km but I can’t wait until next year!!
It was a good learning curve for me – I struggled with nutrition and nausea which then impacted my performance later in the race but I took a lot away in terms of what I would do better next time. Firstly I will patch up my back to save chaffing from the word go and I will also make sure I have plenty of fruit available in my drops bags as this was the only thing I could stomach in the heat and I would have probably had more but I hadn’t thought of this beforehand and putting the mandarin’s into the drop bags was a last minute decision. Fruit juice at CP5 was also great – thank you!
I also learnt that I can do 100km – I had no expectations going into the race, I only hoped that I would finish. Expectations can play havoc with your mind whether they are expectations you put on yourself or that you feel from others. A saying I try to keep in mind is that ‘It is not the fact, it is how you react’ and I often have to remind myself of this and will continue to in the future.
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