Great North Walks 100 mile
“Australia’s toughest trail race”
(November 9th & 10th 2013)
Section 4: The Basin Campsite to Yarramalong Public School –
Our path was crossed by a Red Bellied Black snake in the first km, (back toward the steps of the re-entry point to the GNW route) Jules barely jumped at all. A first…
At this point I decided to finish it. Not just the 100km but the 100mile. This was gonna be the making of the run. Being able to overcome this would be my challenge.
(Turns out Dave Waugh pulled the pin at CP3. We’d missed him by getting there so late and had only been a half km in front of him when we took the wrong turn, damn….. It was a real pity for us as well as him. By now news was filtering through that the DNF rate was increasing rapidly. Veterans and first timers alike were dropping like flies)
As we began to climb, Jules began to discuss options for our situation. 4 or 5 of them?? I could tell by his tone they weren’t gonna be easy listening. He was looking strong, but most of them gave us ways we could get to the ‘100km’ finish line (CP4) and stop!! Start the drive home that night and be on the beach in the morning…
“noooo we’re doing this Jules, I‘ve put that behind us!! We can do this!”
Unlike me, this was one of his few negative moments.
The rest of this section I don’t recall, it was getting close to 11pm and we’d been on the move for close to 17 hours.
..except when we hit the bitumen road that went on and on and on….. 13km apparently.. we’d thought 5 or 6km and we were ready to get there…. Jules had a second dark patch here, the road was boring, and mentally tired we were finding it hard along here…. we kept moving.
Checked in and weighed again, we made our way over to the Ute and van, where now, not only Luke but his brother Levi and their mate Adam Kranz awaited. The back of the transit opened and the 2 of them emerged looking knackered. It was after midnight by now and they’d been sleeping on mattresses in the back. Seriously, these guys whom I barely know were prepared to turn up on a Saturday night, at this time and pace the final 75km for us. I couldn’t get over the selflessness of it.
We were later than they’d expected due to our detour, and the best thing to have done would have been to get out of there quick. But again I sat down and began to slump –physically and mentally this time. The success of reaching this point began to appeal as a satisfactory goal, and my previous assuredness about finishing the miler became irrelevant. I shook my head but every negative thought possible was rushing through my brain. 100km would do!! I had a lot going on at work. With an important interview coming up later in the week I began to fear the overall consequences of being mentally fried for the rest of the week and therefore sabotaging my own interview. I began rambling this dialogue to the other 4 who were looking seriously confused,
“what the f*** is he going on about” I heard Luke say, “just get your stuff together and get going”.
Looking over his shoulder I could see the mattresses in the back of the van and the option was clear.
“You’re not gonna like what I’m gonna say Jules but I think I’m done. I don’t need to finish this, I’m happy to have got here, this’ll do me”
(CP4 1st doubts)
Baring in mind Levi and Adam had turned up specifically for this point, it would have been pretty rude to have quit then. But man, I so could have. They casually refused to accept my assessment and just said well you’re not stopping now, let’s get moving. Jules was feeling refreshed, positive and keen to get going too. I objected a few times but there was no way they were having it.
So off we went. Back down the road we’d approached on, before hitting trail again and into the darkness and what would be a very long night.
(Completed: Checkpoint 4: In 12:28am – Out 1:09am : Leg time 3hr 41mins
Race time overall – 18h 28mins: Total distance 104km/ 65mi: Position47th )
Section 5: Yarramalong Public School to Somersby Public School – 29km/18mi
We learned that a massive number of the field had dropped out, including race leader and course record holder Brendan Davies. The heat had been a major factor; at this point it seemed that they’d be lucky to see 50% of the field finish in both races this year.
We climbed over a road barrier and re-joined the GNW track. We fell into single file and it wasn’t long before I realised I was moving slower or at least having to work to keep up with the boys. A few times they all waited at particular points. Gradually though, Jules and Levi were looking strong and Adam was having to slow down so that I didn’t lose touch. He worked well at trying to strike up conversation and to take my mind off whatever it was that was going on in my head.
I was tired.
It was after 1am now and we’d been on the go for over 18 hours. With the prospect of 74km of pretty steep and technical trail running, plus the fact I was finding it harder to refuel, was beginning to wear me down. Physically my legs and body were not really the worry. We’d avoided any mishaps – we’d seen evidence of falls on the grazed bodies of a couple of folk. But mentally I was buggered. I’d never run this distance before, and I hadn’t got around to doing any training session through the night in preparation.
I apologised later for my quietness, but I was struggling to focus and (unlike me) I just couldn’t find the chat.
The occasional light from Jules and Levi was becoming less frequent and after some time of decent I heard Jules give a loud ‘yeeeew’, it sounded a good way from us; we returned the call to let them know we were ok. They were running great. I was pleased they were now going to run their own race. This was why we’d been over the moon with having 2 pacers.
Adam Kranz is a local from the Newcastle area and has plenty experience on this course. I’d met him only once before, in Byron, when he’d visited for Luke’s wedding a few months earlier. We’d all gone for a trail run through the dunes and headland around the Bay one Sunday morning. Both he and Levi offered all sorts of tips on their GNW experiences and listened patiently to my numerous questions. The thought of them actually pacing for us had never crossed my mind. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t mentioned on the run, but a few days later Jules told me they’d offered to help us.
Patience, man! Adam should have got a medal. We were moving, but slowly. I was struggling to get fuel in. My stomach was cramping at the thought of any food at all and my pace was slow. We encountered a few other runners and ran past them. They were sitting resting. It couldn’t have been much later when we met them again. This time though, I was hands on knees, retching and puking onto the side of the single trail. They stopped to ask if I needed anything and then gave me a ginger chewy sweet, which would help with nausea. I exchanged a handful of salt and salt/caffeine capsules as one of them was suffering with cramps.
All the time Adam remained positive, “are you ok, let’s go!”
He began mixing a sports gel (‘Winners – Cadel Evans’, if I remember rightly) into a bottle of water. If we were going to get to the next checkpoint I needed to get some fuel into me, “Sip, this.”
As well as rehydrating, this would slowly drip feed me at least some energy. He checked his watch and then continued to say “drink” every 5 minutes. It worked, my stomach didn’t reject it and it wasn’t too long before I’d finished the bottle. Brilliant. He mixed another bottle and this was how we continued.
The rain hit us at maybe 4am. Like an afternoon monsoon, it chucked it down. My waterproof jacket was not as resistant as it claimed. It didn’t matter when we were running, but forced to walk down the steeper decent and accents, I began to get very cold. Some of this section was difficult technical trail and it was pitch black outside the narrowing beam of my dimming head lamp, which I’d worn since leaving CP3 with Jules. (I had spare batteries, but could not be arsed to take my pack off and find them).
The rain poured and I was shivering. I remember Adam saying it was mostly downhill, but figured, when after half an hour again we were climbing an endless assent, that he was managing my efforts on a step by step process. Deal with the hills when we get to them. And we did. Slowly, but forwards.
5 and half hours later we emerged from the trail onto a proper road and turned right. Checkpoint 5 at the Somersby Public School was only 1 – 1.5 km away. By this point I was beyond persuasion, this was the end of the race for me. I was done. I’d made up my mind that was it! I’d be pulling the pin here.
At this pace it would take forever. Unable to refuel as well as I would need, for the remaining 42km – yes, marathon still to go!! It would be torture for both me and Adam.
We ran for 10 mins before I laughed and said “Adam, where’s this f***ing school?”
“mm not sure, should be.. mm maybe it was left back there?”
By now it didn’t matter. I was finishing here anyhow, it would stop. Adam checked a map, but knew we needed to turn. The road was flat here and easy to run on. I did pick the pace up here a fair bit. Adam reckoned I was 4min/km-ing the last 2km. I definitely wanted to finish at least being out of breath, rather than just worn out. It felt like the end was in sight, CP5 at 132km, good job, goodnight!!
Luke spotted us from way off, and cheered us in. I was sprinting to my finish line, the ‘cut’, hand to the neck gesture, signalling my intention.
“no way buddy, you look great mate, you’re gonna finish this thing”
“No Luke, honest mate, I’m done. I’ve already decided, and told Adam. This is me like! Finished.”
“You looked great coming in there”
“Yeah coz I know that I don’t have to run out of this checkpoint”
I checked in to checkpoint 5 at 7.15am.
“theres no way you can stop here. You’re nearly there now”
I walked away behind a building, I was shattered. Head in hands, I began to get the feeling of relief that it was over. I’d had the most amazing experience and would never forget this event. Half laughing, half crying I walked back over to Adam and Luke and sat down.
“You’re not fucking stopping!”
“Seriously Luke, no”
“Yeah mate, you’re more than half way now” chipped in Adam
“75% done” corrected Luke
“Have you heard what you’re saying man. I’ve still got another marathon to go and on tough trail”
Luke replied “you’re head fucking yourself Simon, you can’t think like that… this next section’s easy, I promise. It’s totally ‘run-able’, you’ll love it.. 18k’s mate, how many times have you run 18k’s? ”
(The Magic Crew)
Others had become involve at this point. One man Kevin Andrews, President of Terrigal Trotters, and today Elvis styled gold suit and shades wearing volunteer, as well as runner and Ironman himself. He’d been at every CP, including registering us himself at the very start of the race.
Kev began muttering to Luke and Adam and they both burst into laughter (something to do with me being a vagina (pussy)). Between the three of them offering a finely tuned balance of rationales, support, hilarious gibes and calls to greatness, they had me laughing.
Graham Doke, a crew member for runner Roger Hanney, offered some massage / muscle release /torture/ relief?! Luke was quick with the video and recorded the ridiculous scene. Standing facing Graham, my arms over his shoulders he applied pressure to my hips and back. I looked up smiling, before screeching in pain, as Luke laughed. This was what he loved. Seeing me at this point is exactly what we’d signed up for. Captured for all to see!!
(The Golden Moments)
But gentlemen, I thank you!
It must be said; the organisation, enthusiasm, humour and kindness of the GNW volunteers and crews are completely amazing. The nature of the course, as well as the temperature challenges, can be brutal. These people made it possible for me to get off my arse.
“beware the chair”
Throughout the night they must have inspired many runners to dig deeper within themselves.
(I don’t believe I’m doing this)
Warm soup, caffeine, drinks and incredibly, 50 minutes later, we were out of there! I really could not believe I was checking out of CP5 feeling this good, positive even; this thing was going to get done.
(Completed: Checkpoint 5: In 7.15am – Out 8.09am : Leg time 6hr 5mins
Race time overall – 25h 14mins: Total distance 132 km/ 82mi: Position 25th )