I have been back in Melbourne for less than 48hours after a whirlwind trip to the States and New Zealand. Despite the short trip it feels bizarre to be suited back into corporate attire and sitting behind a computer. The two reasons for my trip were to attend the Juice Plus+ Leadership conference in Long Beach and to provide assistance to Lisa Tamati in the inaugural Northburn100 event, in which I also planned to run the 100km course.
1. Juice Plus+ conference in Long Beach
It is quite difficult to explain the experience of the Juice Plus+ Leadership conference. It was certainly sensory overload but in a very positive, motivational and eye opening sense. I was there apart of the Desert Runners team and together we were guest speakers to an enthusiastic crowd of close to 5000 people. Filmmaker Jennifer Steinman created a 25minute Desert Runners video on the RacingThePlanet’s Four Deserts Grand Slam challenge, which will be turned into a full-length movie in the next 10-12 months. The response from the crowd was unbelievable and it really confirmed in my mind that the lessons learnt through ultra racing are completely transferrable to the achievement of any goal. The conference also re-enforced how important the role Juice Plus+ plays in allowing me to sustain my busy lifestyle filled with study, running and invariably levels of stress at times.
A highlight for me was listening to Bear Grylls talk about his summit to Everest when he was 23 years old. The entire audience was captivated by his story and I had shivers run down my back when he talked about his two friends who died whilst attempting the challenge. It reminded me that the line between the achievement of an extreme challenge and fatality can often be a very thin line. Although La Ultra, The High does not go to this level of altitude there are definite risks and preparation will be absolutely crucial to our survival and success in completing the 222kms. Much appreciation to Shay O’Brien for introducing me after his talk!!
Big thanks also to Juice Plus+ for their continued support in my ultra racing pursuits and to the whole Juice Plus+ community for embracing the story and my next big challenge La Ultra, The High in the Himalayas.
This in my opinion should be on every ultra runners race list for 2012. It was a phenomenally beautiful, challenging and well-organised event – and it can only get better the second time around. I flew with Lisa Tamati into Queenstown on the 22nd of March and shortly after we drove to the small town of Cromwell we were
on the Northburn Station marking sections of the course. I very quickly discovered this was going to be a brutal course as the ascents and descents were long, steep and rocky. It is a course that will truly test each runners focus and mental determination as well as their attention to nutrition and gear selection. The course is held on Northburn Station which is a 12,000 hectare high country merino sheep station that has diversified from the traditional grazing operation to establish a vineyard and winery restaurant. Daniel and I have already sipped the delights of their Pinot and we are big fans.
Having nestled into the organisational side of the event in the few days prior to race day I was impressed by Terry Davis as race director, Tom Pinckney who designed the course & owns Northburn Station, Glen Christiansen who manages the Golden Gate Lodge and worked tirelessly marking the course and helping competitors along the way, Emma Lawton in the logistics role and of course Lisa Tamati. Their dedication to make this course tough but safe was their priority and there were between 80-100 marshalls on the course, which is impressive considering the field of competitors, was at 50. I just saw Terry’s tweet that they plan to hold the event at a similar time in March next year and the course would remain unchanged. I personally look forward to giving the 100miler course a crack next year and hope to run with fellow New Zealander Fiona Wright Hayvice who I met during the Gobi March last year (she’s such a dominator and it would be fab to do the run with her, hint hint Fi).
Just had word from Terry the race director that if you enter before OCTOBER 2011 the 100mile rego is $320, the 100km rego is $270 and the 50km event is $130.
3. Northburn100 – my race
So despite the hectic month leading up to the Northburn my plan was to use the 100km event as a tough (VERY TOUGH) training run for the NF100 and La Ultra, The High (222kms). Having exerted quite a bit of energy marking the course in the few days beforehand I had no ambition to race it & had the goal to complete the distance with no injuries. The gun went off and away the 100kms and 100mile competitors went. I ran the first 8kms or so with my speedy boyfriend before he whisked his way up the hill where I was then accompanied for a few more kms by my Sahara buddy Malcolm Brown. All was going great and despite the technically difficult course I was enjoying the company of the other competitors as we expressed our delight in the scenery between heavy panting My butt learnt a mighty lesson when I was ducking between the spiky plants, slippery rocks and steep incline around the 15km mark. I attempted to give way to a competitor behind me when I lost my footing and took a fall. I quickly jolted up immediately realising that I had done some damage to my nether region. I plodded through until the end of the 50km mark where I had radioed through to the marshalls that I would need someone to see me at the transition point.
Word got out that I had pulled my hammy and Tom the owner of Northburn drove out to me and asked if I wanted a lift in – I declined his tempting offer, still under the thought that I may be able to continue. As I did my final stretch Lisa came running out to me and put her arms around me saying “Daniel and I really think you should stop”. Lis knew better than anyone this was a training run for me and as the doctor’s on site started poking around with my hammy I knew the smart decision would be to stop here. It’s never nice to DNF in a race; regardless of whether it is a training run or not, but the potential of exacerbating the injury was a risk I wasn’t willing to take. I shifted my focus into supporting Daniel and my other mates in the 100 miler and paced my amazing boyfriend in for his last 22kms. Being able to do that let me know that I hadn’t torn the tendon from the bone as initially thought but probably just a sever strain.
I have never completed a 100mile course before and being apart of Daniel’s journey was a pretty special experience. I was lucky to get a lift up the mountain with two marshalls who were taking over the morning shift. It was a dark and rocky ride and the drive took over an hour to get to the marshall point. As the daylight broke you could see how heavy set the clouds were and the chance of a storm was very likely. Daniel was looking pretty good considering he had just covered 138kms of the course.He had picked up my poles in the final 50km loop and said it would have been near impossible to finish the event if he didn’t do this. He took a 10minute stop at this checkpoint and we rugged him up in blankets and I filled up with fluids and encouraged him to get some more food in. His nutritional plan was working a treat that consisted of Hammer Perpetuem and Ascend recovery products. And off we went….
Within 20minutes of heading to Leaning Rock the rain came down pretty strong and the chill factor was pretty intense. Daniel had lost one of his gloves and both of mine were already soaked so the fingers were pretty numb within a number of minutes. The next six hours were pretty tough going as the weather became even more intense and we got caught in a blizzard, which forced us to break into a communication shelter. We knew we had to be close to the final marshall point but the visibility was so poor we couldn’t even see that it was only 100metres away. I didn’t want to say anything to Daniel at the time but I could feel that I was potentially on the verge of becoming hypothermic. We were going at a pretty slow pace as Daniel’s shins were completely stuffed up from the downhill sections. Just before 3pm – 33 hours after Daniel started we saw the Northburn Shed and out of nowhere Daniel started flying his poles in the air and sprinted like a crazed madmen to the finish line. It was such a sight & it was lovely to have Amber, Malcolm, Emma and Phil at the finish line waiting for us.
4. Lessons Learnt
I have found that in every race I do I learn something that will hopefully turn me into a better runner. This race I have learnt I have a WEAK BUTT. Something that has probably weakened over the past year as my running style has transitioned more into a shuffle as opposed to a knee lifting/striding run. This style is more suited to energy conservation in ultra running especially when I have a backpack on, but the consequence is that the major muscle in my body is not being utilised and I am relying on my quads to do all of the work. So for the next few weeks I will be jumping back in the pool and embracing deep water running, getting some physio and really focusing on activating/strengthening the gluts and hamstring muscles. I also started my altitude training last night, with the first program going for 15 days.
All exciting stuff and I am even more pumped for this fantastic year of running challenges.