100 miles/162.8km on the Hume and Hovell Track
I had serious FOMO after volunteering at GNW this year, so the quest to find a 100 miler to enter was underway. At first I thought I’d go Feral Pig (163kms on the Bibbulmun track in WA). But then I saw a Facey post from Hume & Hovell announcing that they were worth 6 UTMB points. Looked good, so I sent a few messages to people who’d done the race in previous years to get a sense of what the trail and race are like and all I heard back were good things (apart from the flooding last year), and being in a location that I’d never raced before and on an actual hiking track, I was sold!
The race was very very well organised, a fully marked course with tape every few hundred metres and reflective strips for the night. Plus the Hume & Hovell walking track signs with their direction arrows. The directions leading up to the race were great, locations were made clear enough even for someone not from the area and we scoped out a couple of the aid stations early on, just to make sure mum (support crew) was headed for the right spots. Pre-race dinner with a talk from Aaron Knight - plus bonus Laspo shirts, a race briefing and then it was onto race day.
The race started at first light, just after 6am from Henry Angel Campground with the 100km & 100mile runners taking off in a mass start. I set off at a decent pace trying to warm up as the track followed alongside the creek/river/stream, easy running on single trail, over a few stiles, and the mini swinging bridge. An easy climb up the first hill to the aid station on top of Mt Garland (12.8km). After initial takeoff, I’d backed off the pace and following my coaches advice I’d been “walking more then I would be comfortable with” which translated to, mostly hiking the climbs… Except for the runnable ones ;)
With no need to stop at the aid station I bombed the other side of the hill and found a few 100k runners wandering around a cow paddock after missing one of the signs… Then it was down to Mannus Lake, and past a concerned herd of cows, watching, watching all of us!…. The lake was still covered in early morning fog so there wasn’t a whole lot to see, but I did see all of mums cardboard signs along the dirt road as we ran past our next checkpoint (to be visited on the way back). The course travelled along an undulating dirt road beside the lake with the 100k runners turning around, then 2km later at the end of the dirt road the 100 mile runners turned around. Back along the dirt road I could feel my Plantar Fasciitis playing up a little with this harder surface, but not enough to slow me down, just enough that it was noticeable. I also passed then next girl in the 100 miler, on her way out giving me about a 3.5km lead.
Into the Mannus Lake aid station (27km) where mum refilled my water supply, I switched out my food bags, and fixed my shoes which weren’t quite sitting right. Then it was back onto the course and back towards Henry Angel. The trip back was still cruisy, I was moving comfortably and chatted to a few other runners along the way (including the lead female in the 100k). There were some really cool encouragement signs on the climb up to the Mt Garland aid station (31.2km). But again I didn’t need to stop. Then I hit the 50k runners in the opposite direction which made for some excitement. As I was following the course back alongside the creek/river/stream not far out from Henry Angel something flew straight over my head, and I turned around to see a Magpie banking for it’s next attack. So I took off. That must have been a seriously distressed Maggie with all those runners. Fortunately It didn’t make it’s second swoop, I was out of there, and also warned the next 50k runner that I saw.
Into Henry Angel (44km) for water, food, sunscreen, ginger beer, mandatory gear & some photos then onto the next (tougher) leg of the race. By now the day was really warming up as we followed the track alongside the river/creek/stream past the old gold panning and mining sites, through the cow paddocks (no cows in site), and then onto this open farmland where it got really really really hot. I started to struggle a bit at this stage, my heart rate was high and I couldn’t seem to get it down in the heat. Also, being down in the valley there was no breeze, nor shade, just sunlight and heat. It was also at this stage that I considered maybe I wouldn’t be able to complete this race, after all I was only 50k into a 162k race. So I switched my focus to instead climbing the next mountain where I really really hoped it would be like Buffalo and be cold up top. I checked my arm to see when the next aid station was and focused exclusively on that.
Into the Coffee Pot checkpoint (65.7km) where the last of the Coke was currently being drunk, admittedly the runner did offer me the last cup, but he was also busy drinking it… So a disappointing aid station. I pushed on with the climb. Surprisingly there was a lake up the top of the mountain, not what I was expecting, but pleasant enough to run around and I got to see some of the Brumbies off in the distance, being off in the distance was probably for the best. The final k’s into The Pine Checkpoint (75.7km) were tough. Mentally I was struggling with the race, the whole “not even halfway there”, but I will say that my Plantar Fasciitis had completely stopped hurting, or as I suspect, the rest of my legs muscles just hurt so much more that I couldn’t tell. So I was relieved when I made it in. Refill with water, food, ayup, ginger beer. Mum was doing a great job. Then off to the falls.
I caught up to Patty (I later found out his name, at the time I was calling him “Young Physio Guy”, So I’ll refer to him as YPG) at the Buddong Falls Checkpoint (87.2k) where they’d just finished cooking sausages. I ran away with one of those delicious sausages. YPG who was a fairly recent vegetarian even cracked and ate one the sausages. Delicious! Then it was the steep decent past the completely spectacular falls. So much water! These were like falls at home after weeks worth of rain, only bigger! The track itself stuck to the cliff edge and the falls were kind of behind me so I had to keep stopping to turn around and get a better look. I was also disappointed when our track stuck to the cliff edge rather than following the track to the “Lower Falls”. YPG overtook me during the decent (never my strongest sections) as we crossed a bridge and headed into the bush, past a weird cabin. And more descending to the farmland turnaround. I caught up to YPG at the turnaround (93.8km) as he was chatting to the volunteers there and I got out my headlamp, then we hiked back up most of the way together. I really regretted not getting my poles at the last aid station. The sticks were alright, but poles would have been better.
The sun set as we were climbing so there were no more views of the waterfalls and I did most of the climb chatting to YPG which worked great as a distraction. I also passed the next girl (Jade) up towards the top of the falls, which meant that I’d increased my lead. Through Buddong Falls Checkpoint (100.4km) again, with a quick stop for a cup of Coke (Coke was working great for me at that stage). I left YPG at this aid station as I continued now in complete darkness back to The Pines.
Running in the dark was completely fine for me and in some ways even easier than daytime, I’m used to running in the dark, that’s when I do most of my training and with a 700 lumen Ayup and reflective strips marking the course I could see several markers ahead. After the steep climb my adductors, quads and glutes were all fairly sore, so I wasn’t moving quite as fast as I would have liked, but I was still running. And happily running along when I stepped on a stick that flicked up and impaled my right leg as it was passing through. I stopped to check the damage and touched what I thought was a loose flap of skin, it was wood. There was a giant splinter in my right knee. I pulled it out, it started bleeding, but I was relieved that there was no longer a splinter in my knee, also that the blood wasn’t running into my sock so I decided to ignore it.
The volunteers, spectators and support crew at The Pines saw my headlamp in the bush from a long way off, then mum started wooting… she was really wooting, and she expected me to reply. She’d also “acquired” a Laspo cow bell somewhere…. She was excited. I got into The Pines Checkpoint (111.9km) and sat down for a few spoonfuls of 2 minute noodles (delicious!) some Coke & Ginger Beer, got my knee cleaned up, more water, food, headlamp batteries, a long sleeve shirt & gloves for the cold. Plus my sorely missed poles and I was out of there.
The next 20kms was “boring” it was like running around Ourimbah State Forest in the dark, not much to see, firetrail, and the top of Granite Mountain was a total let down, I thought there’d be views… No views, just dark trees. The turnaround (121.5km) was at a campsite just over the peak of the mountain. Then it was back along the same uninteresting firetrail back to The Pines. I passed Jade who was in 2nd place not far out from the aid station so I calculated that I had about a 17km lead. Into The Pines checkpoint (131.1km) for 2 minute noodles, coke, a resupply of food, water and batteries and then it was time to get off the mountain.
This next section was hard, I walked more than I ran, which was not good. It was taking too long, but at the same time everything hurt so much. I was so relieved when I made it into the Cokeless Coffee Pot aid station (141.1km) that I just sat on their seat near the fire and was horrified to find that I’d been running around with my bag unzipped. Fortunately nothing had been lost. I nibbled on some of my food while I switched out headlamp batteries, then told myself to suck it up and get out of there.
This next section was the hardest of the whole race. I was sick of running, I wanted to stop running but I also wouldn’t let myself stop running. This culminated in me chucking a tantrum at myself in pitch-black in the middle of the bush “I don’t want to run anymore!!”, “You have no choice, keep running!”. I made myself run, I really wanted to walk, but when I started walking it was harder to start running again so I banned myself from walking. Which surprisingly worked, I mean my running was pretty messy, but at least I was moving faster than walking.
Sometime around sunrise the hallucinations started. Nothing totally crazy, I thought I saw a campfire, but it was sunrise through the trees. Then for a few k’s I was completely convinced that there was another runner and their pacer behind me, I could hear them talking. But I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t see them when I turned around. Then the aid stations started appearing. I really really wanted to get to the next aid station so I started to see them. I’d hear and see people or cars in amongst the trees up ahead. Or entire buildings… I was sure I was almost at that aid station. I could see it, couldn’t I??? Looking back I know what it was. The voices were the birds, babbling brooks, or the wind in the trees. As for the people and things it was just like looking at a tree stump and thinking it looks like a person, and as you get closer the details become clearer and it’s clearly a tree stump. Only multiply that feeling. I mean I was convinced I was coming into an aid station and then was so confused when I didn’t find it there.
After a lot of mirage aid stations I did eventually make it into Junction Campsite aid station (156.3km). Where the two lovely ladies there let me sit on their seat by the fire for a few minutes while I had a drink of coke (all I could stomach at that point). And then it was onto the insurmountable final 6kms….
I made myself run again, apart from getting over the styles. I wasn’t sure if running poles can conduct electricity, but I really didn’t want to find out as I carefully lifted them up and over each fence. So far I’d been going well. My next paddock presented a bit of a problem. There were 3 cows on the track! I couldn’t really run around them because there were more cows and I’d still have to go near them. So I decided I’d make myself look big and scary by banging my running poles together above my head, then waving them around like one of those inflatable wavy arm men. It kind of worked. The first cow looked confused, then concerned, then kind of got off the track. The next cows seeing this also looked confused. I don’t think I so much scared them off the track, more confused them enough that they didn’t really want to go near the crazy thing.
Along the track through that paddock I kept watch on the cows in case they changed their minds and charged me. Then it was over the style and into a cow free paddock. I heard the signs of people before i saw the finish line, admittedly I wasn’t sure if they were real. But then I really did see people. So knew the end was near. There were cheers when I was first sighted, which died down as I struggled my way over the last style. But once I was over and headed for the finish line they started up again. I had one focus. Cross that finish line and stop running. Just cross the line and I could stop. I would never have to run again. I could just stop. I focused on only the line and as soon as I was across I dropped to my knees and refused to move. No more moving. It felt great. I didn’t have to run anymore.
I came 1st Female in 26:06:22, 5th overall.