Race day was here….. I have been banging on about the importance of sleep and unfortunately we were up multiple times in the night with Jake the night before. Although I was glad to feed him and drain my boobs to get down to race weight!
Cole drove me to the start over in Kawerau and I was feeling pretty relaxed about the whole thing. Doing a race with no time expectation was pretty novel for me – it was an “experience” not a “race”! There must have been a few nervous people around as the toilet queue was like nothing I had ever seen before. However, this was Cole’s opportunity to show me a montage of good luck videos by family and friends, from both NZ and the UK. This was a total surprise and I was extremely emotional watching them – I think you are supposed to cry mid race and not on the start line. As the lady in front of me in the toilet queue said “you have such lovely friends, but you better finish the race after that” which summed up exactly how I was feeling!
The first 30k of the race I felt pretty sluggish. I was forcing myself to run slow, which meant that my running felt completely off with low cadence, labored running. Once, I got into more of the single track and let myself open up a bit, my legs finally seemed to join the party. The trails were simply stunning and I was having a pretty awesome time, chatting to some lovely people and soaking up the atmosphere (and the aid stations!).
Then I got to 58k and saw Cole, Jake and my mum. 58k is a long way to not see a support crew, but so good for the head space as by the time I saw them I was over half way. Cole was force feeding me and I was trying hard not to punch him as he shoved bacon pie in my mouth (but thank you – my good eating certainly kept my legs strong).
Then into the big climb over Okataina and suddenly my tummy started to feel not so happy. Since meeting Stacy Sims, my fueling has been using real food (sandwiches, muesli bars etc) and generally this works really, really well for me. I think probably my gut wasn’t used to eating or exercising this much and certainly I have lots to learn still, although gut issues does appear to be a common theme in the ultra community. Luckily I was on my own at this point and darted off into the bush. Unluckily, I had no toilet paper. When Cole asked at the start line had a packed toilet paper, I just nodded and thought to myself “toilet paper, I won’t need that!”. Oh how wrong I was!!! After a quick bush toilet stop, I was feeling much better and made it to the next aid station where I only had about 30k to go.
This last section was very familiar territory, the Blue lake, through the Redwoods and towards the finish. I have to say, I was feeling remarkably good. My legs were moving well and I was running strong up the hills and overtaking lots of people. The only down side was the regular toilet stops and I became quite nervous about eating anything. Had I eaten less or differently, perhaps my tummy would have felt better, but then my legs may have felt worse? Again, all part of the fun of learning a new discipline.
I also had lots of supporters by this stage, which made it so exciting to get to the next aid station and see the crew shouting “Go Go Go”. Then the last 7k I got to run with my friend Jess and my mum. Having my Mum part of the last few k’s was certainly one of the highlights. Cole joined for the last 1k and I made the finish!! Sub 13 hours and 16th female in a strong elite field – I was STOKED!
I had listened to lots of Podcasts about ultras, mindset and psychology and had thought about what I might do if I got into a dark patch. However, not once did I need to dip into this. Whether it was a pre-race relaxed mindset, good training, an easy first half or just a lucky day, I’m not sure.
As I reflect back on the experience as a whole, I am certainly very proud of what I achieved. I am also relieved that it went well, so that I can put “big goals” to bed for a while. I hightly recommend it as a race – beautiful scenery, very well organised and lots of amazing and inspirational people!
My biggest learning from the whole ultra experience is, whilst running used to be where I got my sense of achievement and fulfillment that I needed for my overall well-being, I now get this to a greater extent from my family life. And whilst running is important and will always be important to me, it now comes a little further down the list.
Peace out ✌ – this might have to be my new tag line!