Last month I had the good fortune to experience the Blue Mountains of New South Wales in all its autumn glory.
I was there to run the North Face 50k. The idea had been planted by a friend and before I knew it I was hooked on the challenge and keen to take up the training demands. The absolute bonus is that my daughter agreed to take on the challenge as well.
Preparation led me to undertaking runs I would never have envisaged before. I got up at 3am to do a 30k several times; I did the local club run at tempo then ran home; I research nutrition and took on trails. It also led to the excitement of getting new kit. The 50k involves 24k without aid or water stops; it also has the threat of being lost and injured in an isolated and difficult to access spot. Therefore there is a mandatory equipment list from safety vests, survival blankets, whistle and compass, to additional clothing as well as food and water.
To summarise my race report, the run was brutal. The first stage of approximately 11k introduced the steps designed to wear all but the toughest down by the end of the race. They were hard but doable, however the early aid station was a welcome sight. The next stage involved descent into a deep valley and ascent back to the summit on a dirt road. The downhills created black toenails, the uphills were walked (as was expected). I was tired, very tired, as I came into the aid station at 35k but it did not help for a spectator to say to her companion “she looks as if she is struggling”. I made a joke of it at the time but the comment was a blow to my morale. However a coffee and noodle soup perked up my spirits and I set off for the final 15k. That was when it really became brutal. Early in the stage I slipped crossing a creek and was unable to spring up to make way for others behind me as my calf chose to cramp up and incapacitate me as I lay helpless in the mud. Soon after the evening set in and the steps began. In the dark I was either running down or stepping up series of steps after series of steps. Those that had a railing were prayed for so I could haul myself up rather than crawl up feeling like Sisyphus condemned to be lost in the dark on an endless path Eventually I reached the road leading back to the finish and met up with a fellow curser of the course and completed the run with her. The run WAS brutal. It took me just under eleven hours (my daughter did it in just under seven and a half), yet the seed had taken root. Since the run I have read three books on ultra running and signed up for the Tarawera Ultra Marathon in NZ in March next year. I can’t wait.