1 Couple, 3 Ultra Marathons, 5 Weeks.
Mark and I have been running ultras together for the past 2 and ½ years now. It is wonderful to be able to share a favourite past time with someone close to you.
We knew September & October were going to be huge for us as we took on our first 100mile event at Glasshouse, backing that up 2 weeks later with a 56km run through the Adelaide Hills along the Yurebilla trail, and then finally 3 weeks later GOW100. I for one was really looking forward to the challenge, but I’m not so sure Mark was as keen as I was! My running buddy Cathy Maguire had convinced me to attempt Glasshouse 100miler and so I dragged a reluctant Mark along too.
We landed in Queensland to a cold, wet, wintry day, we could have been forgiven for thinking that we hadn’t left Melbourne. A 5.30am start meant that the alarm went off at 3.45am! So with anti chafing applied, blister shield in the socks, garmins charged and camelbacks stacked with food and water, we set off for the start, happy to see that the day had dawned clear and cool.
The first 10k was nice undulating track and we were soon back at the start/first checkpoint. Setting off from here we headed straight up the concrete path to the top of Mt Beerburrum, a nasty little climb indeed….but a fun downhill. The next section saw us running along gravel roads, along pine plantations and fire trails with small undulations before we ran into CP5 and the most amazing spread of food I’ve ever seen at a checkpoint. We had heard how good the checkpoints were at this event, but I didn’t believe it until I saw it.
Off we went again on more forestry roads until we hit the “goat track” a narrow, steep single track leading to an uphill climb to CP6.
Leaving CP6 we knew we were heading for the infamous “Powerline” section. Then as we crested a hill we could see the powerlines running in a straight line down and back up again. Apparently this section can get quite hot, and as the sun was already warm we made sure we had plenty of water on board. What a blast this section was, deeply rutted from all the 4WD vehicles, it was challenging but great fun running some steep downhill’s and short sharp uphill’s, and fortunately not any where near as hot as we expected. As we reached the top of the final climb we turned onto a nice forestry road and made our way to CP8. It was along this road that we came across a massive 5ft snake sunning itself across the track. Cathy was happy to get close up and personal to take some photos, I just wanted to get out of there. We did find out later it was probably a harmless python.
At CP8 we had to weigh in, fortunately we had all maintained our weight and we were good to go. Cathy and I were feeling good, but Mark unfortunately was starting to feel a little ill. We set off on the first of 2 loops from this checkpoint. The first 10k loop saw us running along an old railway track surrounded by beautiful purple flowers before we climbed back to CP8 again. The second loop was a little shorter with undulations and it was along here that we picked up a fourth member of our little band, Kieron.
We headed along some roads and trails to CP7. Mark was still feeling ordinary but running well despite that. The 4k loop from here along pine plantations was flat and pleasant and as we returned to CP7 it was just beginning to get dark. Out came the head torches and headed along some forestry roads to CP6 and from here we found ourselves on a tough section that was sandy in places with some nasty little ups and downs, we were all very glad to see CP5 come into view, and even happier to realize we had all run a trail 100k PB to get to this point.
From here we returned to the start, having completed the 110k western section of the course. Mark and Kieron were both feeling unwell at this stage. I tried to convince Mark to stop there as he had been unable to eat much for the last 50k and he looked pale and unwell, however he was having nothing of it and so we convinced Kieron to continue on too and off we went onto the Eastern Section.
Along gravel roads and forestry roads through a pine plantation we made our way to CP9 and the much talked about Wildhorse Mountain. We set off up the hill only to be pleasantly surprised when we reached the lookout at the top in not time at all. Back down again to the CP and it was at this stage Mark suggested that since Cathy and I were feeling so good and that the boys were sufferening a little, that we were to continue on at our pace and leave them to follow us. I was very reluctant to leave them as we had always stuck together. After tears and hugs we finally agreed to part ways and Cathy and I started off for CP10. A 4.5km section that was at times difficult to run as it was very sandy in places but we eventually reached the checkpoint only for the boys to trot in less than 2 minutes behind us stating they were feeling a little better. From here we had 2 loops to do. The first loop was mostly fire trail through the pine plantation and very runnable, Cathy and I had soon put a lot of distance between us and the boys and found ourselves back at CP10 in no time at all. The sky was just starting to lighten as we left the checkpoint heading out on the second loop. Suddenly we heard a shout from behind and turned to see the boys just arriving at the checkpoint. We waited for them and we were soon on our way again, however once again we had soon drifted far ahead. This part of the course was along gravel roads again and at one stage we were running straight ahead looking at the sun as it rose in front of us, lovely.
Eventually we made our way back to CP9 and the second climb up Wildhorse, a little harder than the first time up. Returning to the CP9 we knew we only had 12k to go. Mark and Kieron came into the checkpoint as we were leaving, so once again we said our goodbyes and headed off. Back along fire trails, more pine plantations and finally the trail along the road. It was along here that Kieron came flying past us like he had only just started running, amazing. By this time we were struggling a little ourselves, it was starting to get very warm and I had run out of water. Fortunately we didn’t have far to go and we were ecstatic to cross the finish line hand in hand in 28hrs 29mins!
I waited anxiously for Mark to come in and was very proud to see him finish in 29hrs 19mins, a superb effort given how unwell he was. As we sat pondering our blisters and aching legs, we knew we’d be back again next year!