|A dusting of snow up on Mt Bogong a day after the race|
In order to give context to the race I need to start on the Wednesday and Thursday prior, where it snowed up at Falls Creek. It dumped around 10cm, which meant when I arrived on Friday there was a lot of speculation as to what the course would end up being. In the end Paul, the RD, decided to change the course so that it didn’t go up to the top of the mountains and made it into a loop of approx. 35km’s with around 700m of elevation.
|Elevation profile of laps 1 and 2|
This is in comparison to the original course that was one big 100km loop and had around 4000m of elevation. In the end, I think this was the right call to make as there was a lot of snow on the ground on Saturday morning and it only warmed up to a maximum of 7 degrees during the day. To do any other course apart from the one that we ran would have been, quite simply, dangerous. It still sucked though as I’d been training for hills over the past 8 weeks and instead the entire course (minus one small climb up Mt McKay) was runnable. After talking to a lot of other runners on the course though, everyone was in the same situation. And what was also unfortunate was that the afternoon before the race I wasn’t feeling very good. This meant I couldn’t eat much during the night and I ended up vomiting just before I went to bed. This is exactly what I wanted to happen the day before I attempted to run my first 100km race!
|The start line|
When the race started on Saturday morning, due to the night before, I was feeling lethargic and this meant I had to stop to walk a few times during the first 5km’s. The first 8km’s though were slow going as a lot of the trail was covered in snow, which meant walking didn’t lose me much time.
|Where's the trail? Photo credit: The Eventurers (https://www.facebook.com/thephotoeventurers/photos/pcb.638032909927951/638032849927957/?type=3&theater)|
Eventually though I was able to get some calories into me through my usual method of Trail Brew and by the time I saw my dad, who was crewing for me, at the first checkpoint 13km’s in I was starting to get a bit of my energy back. I also dropped off my poles as they definitely weren't needed. And for the next 15 kilometres or so everything went smoothly. I was able to continue to eat and drink calories without any stomach problems and the checkpoints were every 5km’s or so, which meant I was able to see my dad and quickly pick up or drop off stuff. I was also able to tag along with a good group of people who were running at my pace, which made the kays pass quickly. The only minor downside was the beginnings of a blister on my foot due to how wet the ground was.
In saying that though, I was glad to see Mt McKay around 28km in; being able to switch from running to walking was a welcome relief! Annoyingly on the way back down the hill the front of my right knee cap started to hurt, but since little niggles are a part of running a long distance, I didn’t worry too much about it.
|What a lot of the course was like, snow and flat. Photo credit: The Eventurers (https://www.facebook.com/thephotoeventurers/photos/pcb.639396773124898/639396486458260/?type=3&theater)|
Then it was a short run along some more snow covered trails and back down to Falls. After a change of socks and some sports tape to cover the blister on my foot, I went to head back out. This race was also the first time I had ever had a support crew, and having my dad help me at all the checkpoints was amazing. Unfortunately, there was a bit of miscommunication and he didn’t realise that due to the course change, each loop was in reverse to the one before it. So since the first lap was clockwise and the second lap counter-clockwise, he wasn’t able to help me until I saw him at the last checkpoint for that loop, and by then my race wasn’t going so well.
When I ran down Mt McKay for the second time during the 40th km the pain in my knee shifted to the outer-side but it still wasn’t troubling me too much, yet. 55 km in, however, was a different story. I had to do what I did at last year’s race and I adopted a long interval style of running where I walked 200m and ran 300m. But where earlier in the day I was able to do 6 minute kilometres along the same section of the course, I could now only do 8 minute kilometres. And since my knee was hurting I tried to compensate with my other leg, which meant as I made my way into the last aid station before Falls Creek I was seriously hurting. I also finally saw my dad after not seeing him for the last 22 km’s which meant I could stock up on nutrition.
The next 13 km’s back to Falls were really tough as the pain in my knee worsened, forcing me to stop running completely about 5km away from the start line. My first lap took me a bit over 3.5 hours, by the time I finally reached Falls Creek my second lap took me over 5.5 hours. When I arrived back the first thing I did was go and see the medic and hope that he could do something to help the pain in my knee. Unfortunately, he diagnosed the problem with what I thought it was, an inflamed ITB where it attaches to the outside of the knee (commonly called a ‘runners knee’). Unfortunately, this type of acute injury only gets worse as time goes on and the medic gave me 3 options: I could walk the entire last lap as that wouldn’t make the injury too much worse, I could take ibuprofen and run the last lap with the risk making the injury a lot worse or I could take the option that he recommended, drop-out. So I walked back to the start line to where my dad had all my nutrition laid out, munched on a bit of food, looked across to my mum (who was volunteering at the recording desk) and with my knee reminding me of how much it hurt, I dropped out.
Only 5 seconds later a few people who were standing around me started trying to convince me that I should go out for my final lap, and it worked. I asked my dad to give me my poles and I set off again. The first couple hundred metres of the lap were uphill and my knee didn’t like it, and then we had to go along a flat section for another few hundred metres and I tried to break into a jog and my knee really didn’t like that. Luckily, we had to cross the main road leading into Falls around 1km into the 3rd loop and I saw my dad waiting in the car at the crossing, and unbelievably for the 4th time this year I couldn’t finish a race.
After I got in the car we drove back to our accommodation and I jumped straight into a shower to try and warm up and clean all the dirt from my body. Instead I sank to the ground in defeat and stared blankly at the wall. In my mind then I just thought about how I failed. Not just for this race but for every single other race I entered this year as well. Never before in my life had I set so many goals, and missed. Running a long-distance last year was something I was good at, something I brought up in conversations if someone asked if I did anything interesting. Running long distances was something I liked doing, or so I thought. In that shower, with yet another DNF, I thought, ‘why am I wasting my time’. When you spend over 15 hours a week training and all you get to show for it are 3 letters, I thought, ‘what was the point?’
Since Saturday and after talking to so many people and getting so much support from everywhere, I’ll be honest, I still haven’t quite found the answer to that question. I have found answers but I’m not sure if I’ve quite found the answer I’m looking for just yet. But I do know I love the trail and ultra-running community and I know that I’ll be back attempting to do my next ultra, sooner rather than later.
With a lingering disappointment about the race that could’ve been, I now have an entirely blank racing calendar, which is great! I’m taking a forced recovery right now as I’m writing this, working long days at the Great Victorian Bike Ride which means I don’t have any time to train. By the time the bike ride is over it’ll have been one week on from the race and hopefully my ITB’s inflammation would’ve gone down and I can get back to the basics: run every day except Monday (the sacred rest day), hit the gym and eat healthy, nutritious food. By the time December is over hopefully I’ll have some goals for the new year.
As always, thanks to the volunteers and ASAR for making the day safe and as enjoyable as it could’ve been given the circumstances. And huge kudos to Paul for changing the course literally the night before the race so it was still able to go ahead! And I didn’t get lost this year, so that’s always a bonus! And thanks dad for crewing for me, I really appreciate you following me around for over 9 hours!