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GNW: Sydney to Newcastle FKT 2021

GNW100 - My First Ultra


I'd been pretty nervous in the days leading up to this race, not only was it my first ultra, but also a local race put on by Terrigal Trotters who I run with. The start line at Teralba was a well organised affair with the check-in, weigh-in, and pre-race briefing all running smoothly. I caught up with dad (who was volunteering at various points over the weekend) and a few other Trotters who I was glad to see were as nervous as me. With everyone sorted the final countdown was on and we were herded out onto the road, then we were off at a very slow pace. By far the slowest I've ever started any race... it was going to be long day.

I spent most of the climb to the motel running with another guy and just chatting. I had no idea if I was going out too hard, I just knew that there was at least one woman in front of me and I was going a lot easier than I did while training. Dad directed us across the road at the motel and I had Shona just behind me as we started the climb up to the communications tower, I remembered this quite well from training, it was a killer of a climb that never seemed to end it just changed from stairs, to steep slope, to more stairs and on it went. I was trying really hard not to push it in this section, I was going to need my legs later in the day. No pain, just keep moving.

Reaching the top I cruised down the fire-trail to Heaton's Lookout and then turned down into The Jungle, this section I had trained for, which was great, because it was even more confusing when everything is wet and there was fresh leaf litter. I started out with a guy who looked like he was struggling (I didn't catch his name, but I'd love to know if he finished... He'd raced past me early and now he was showing it), I lost him somewhere in The Jungle (I assume he was still behind me), then I was on my own for a few k's before I caught up to Tiffany McClymont and a couple of guys who were negotiating a section that I'd managed to get lost in during training, I tagged on the end of their conga line and a few other runners caught up to us so we ended up with about half a dozen people the whole way to the hugging post. It was great seeing her run, I didn't really know what I was doing pace wise so I just matched her plus I got to see walking poles in action in a race. I'm still thinking I'll stick to my random sticks that I pick up on the side of the track because I can ditch them just as easy... But I liked seeing the benefits of a couple of good poles, although I did have to remember to stay a bit further back so I didn't get impaled.

Aid Station
Once the trail widened out just past the hugging post I started to pick up the pace and rolled along the fire-trails and easy to navigate single-trails, I could hear the noise from CP1 before I reached it. I didn't really know what to expect when I came around the corner and there were people, tents, noise... and then checking in, and the support crew aka Mum with Charlie assisting helping me fill my bladder with tailwind and switch out supplies of sandwiches, gels, & salt tablets, then it was check out and back on the trail. CP1 was a great pick me up, suprisingly I'd hit it only a few minutes earlier then I'd calculated for my split times which was great, plus all the cheering and people and distractions from running. Back on the trail I was on my own for a while, I knew this next section was relatively easy so I set a comfortable pace and kept moving. I overtook Darren McClellan not long before Georges Rd, then did a long stretch with a guy named Pascall from New Caledonia who didn't speak much english but I learnt it was his second GNW attempt and he'd pulled out at CP2 the previous year. Past Barraba campsite and onto the descent to Congewai Valley. Smooth rolling the whole way down and onto the road.

Weigh in
Hitting the road I picked up the pace a bit, it was fairly flat easy running and I wasn't keen to spend too long out in the hot sun. This was the hottest part of the run, being in the bottom of the valley with no breeze, the midday sun, and running in a large hi-vis vest which covered most of me. Up to the school and CP2. This time the check-in was more complicated and I had to check-in, get weighed (I was a bit worried about this as I'd never seen what my weight is while I run and while I'd lost weight, it wasn't enough to be of concern... great!) Matt & Jarrad were there with Mum and they helped me restock my supplies and then it was off to the bag check where I was unlucky enough to get stuck in a queue, but it didn't really worry me, I unpacked my gear and got it ready for display. Graham Ridley stepped in and helped me sort it all out as they went through the manadatory stuff, all Good, I checked out. Matt & Jarrad ran down the school driveway with me yelling last minute instructions. I'd spent a bit longer then planned in the Checkpoint, but I'd come in earlier then I'd calculated so it was fine. Then it was back on the road, I passed Tiffany heading towards the school as I was turning into Glenara, she was looking good which had me worried.

The radio tower climb is hard, but it's not one that really worries me, there were a couple of other guys just ahead of me and I followed them up the first part, then overtook one guy and eventually overtook the other guy not far from the top. Reaching the top the next section is pretty easy, just rolling fire-trail. I yelled out to a group of horse riders that we (runners) were coming so we didn't startle the horses and that was the last I saw of any runners until The Basin turnoff. The next section was pretty easy as I ran comfortably and descended down to the muddy paddocks just before Mt Warrawalong. This next climb was the one I was worried about. It's crazy steep. Walking pace up most of the Mt Warrawalong climb and then a quick drink stop at the unmanned water station before I was onto the trail. Ups and downs, I knew there wasn't really anyone close in front of me because the amount of wildlife had increased, all sorts of birds and wallabies hoping away at the side of the track. There'd been a whole heap of recent track clearing in one section that momentarily confused me, but I pretty quickly realised where I was and all was good. Then about 6k's out from The Basin my bladder went dry. I didn't think this would actually happen, it had never happened during training (except for that time I got lost in Congewai). I was too far out to make it without water, so I stopped and fetched my emergency 600ml bottle out of the bottom of my bag. I was so glad I'd packed it. Guzzling some of that down I was good to push on. I hit the lead runners just past the turnoff sign to The Basin (Where I go straight and they turn up to the right). Mark Lee was looking good, and all the guys that I passed were pretty close together and looking strong. The track to The Basin was a slow affair, for such a short section it takes a lot longer to negotiate then I think it should. I heard the cow bells before I saw the check point, both Matt and Jarrad were cheering me on from the side of the track and yelling instructions of where I could find mum and my supplies. Then it was into CP3, I'd taken longer then planned on this section coming in about 9 minutes behind schedule so it was a quick refuel and grabbing whatever my stomach could handle at that stage, which was pretty much only gels and Tailwind. Back onto the track and heading towards the turnoff. I was surprised to see Shona only a k out of The Basin, she was moving fast, then I saw Tiffany just before I turned off to head back up the GNW. I had about 5ks on her and was about to start stepping it out, so I figured I should be fine, now I just wanted the record and I knew I could possibly hit it.

The Basin

I pushed it up the hill to Walkers Ridge Road where I was again greated by cow bells from Mum, Matt & Jarrad as they cheered me on. I'd pushed it pretty hard getting up the hill and was really starting to feel it, my legs were still ok, as in not cramping or injured, I was just exhausted. So tired, and the part I'd been dreading all day was rapidly approaching. They shouted encouragement and mum was happily taking photos and telling me to smile. Leaving them to negotiate their way to Yarramalong I enjoyed the last of the trails as much as possible as I sped downhill to the turnoff and descent to Cedar Brush Creek. The cheer squad were waiting for me at the Track Head as I headed over the stile and onto the road. I had no idea how I was going to do this part. 12kms of road running as fast as I can manage. The record was a possibility I just didn't know if I had that much left. But as soon as I hit that road and the slight downhill slope my legs took off. I was again the hi-vis turtle running like crazy along the road, and it hurt, it hurt so much. Dave passed me going the opposite way in his car at one stage and the best I could manage was a weak thumbs up as my legs kept on pounding the bitumen. My brain managed to shut off and all there was was running, and every so often the distraction of Matt and Jarrad cheering from the side of the road, I couldn't really care too much, I just wanted to finish and lay down. Laying down sounded so nice, maybe laying down in a pool. Really, I didn't care. Even the scarecrows weren't doing it for me.

Coming into the finish
I crested one of the last hills before hitting the centre of Yarramalong and rolled down the other side through the town centre, past the Bumble Hill turnoff where a 100miler was attempting to turn up before someone in a car yelled at him to keep going to the Checkpoint. I overtook the other runner and somehow managed to pick up speed between Linga Longa and the school then it was up the driveway and across the finish line. Where my legs decided they were no longer going to stand up and I was propped up for a while before laying on the grass to recover. I managed to come in 1st place female (4th overall) in 12:16, beating the previous female record of 12:36. I enjoyed some quality laying time in the grass before getting some food and watching a few of the other runners come in (they were a long way in between at that time). I have no idea how people managed to keep going for another 70kms after that point, but I have a year to figure it out!



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