It’s Saturday and nearly a week has passed since I finished my first ultra marathon. I feel great! My legs were a bit stiff after the race and my head was in a cloud but that is understandable since I was out running for just over 9 and 1/2 hours..! I had a massage earlier in the week which was awesome for the legs and I have also had a a hair cut which was well over due…!
I was pretty nervous as we left Perth and made our way towards Northam on Saturday afternoon. Since I was only offered an entry two weeks before the race I didn’t do any of the recon runs so knew pretty much nothing about the course. Maybe it was better to get in to the race late as I certainly didn’t over train like so many other people. More than 35 runners pulled out before the race and I saw quite a few with physio tape in different angles across their legs in the morning of the race. I researched a range of different ultra marathon plans and it’s easy to see how you can get injured as they all require a lot of running. Don’t get me wrong, I have done a lot of training over the last 4.5 months but I would probably have had a slightly different approach if I knew I was going to run this race! I was aiming for Perth Marathon (15th June) so have only trained on flat roads, no trails.
We met a group of runners at the Pasta dinner party in Northam the night before the race and it was great to meet them and possibly get even more nervous as they all seemed so fit and experienced! We stayed in a ‘executive suit’ at Northam Motel which was anything but exclusive but hey it did the job and I had a good night’s sleep. I woke up before my alarm went off and decided to study the map of the race course to try to remember all the important notes where navigation could possibly get tricky.. Wow, very nervous now….. Anyway, had some breakfast and got myself ready for the big day ahead. At 6.15am we arrived at the start and it was a freezing 8 degrees.. I picked up my race bib, and showed them all the mandatory gear needed which was headlamp + spare batteries, yellow safety vest, whistle, mobile phone and at least 600ml of water. I went for a last last visit to the toilet before the start and at 7am 74 runners set off from Northam towards Mundaring. It is quite hilly out of Northam and my race strategy of running 25min and walking 5mins went out of the window straight away. But that’s ok, I decided to still walk moste of the hills and run the flats and downhills. The road between Northam and the first aid station Clackline at 19km was alright, not very scenic but it was nice to tick off one aid station and I was feeling good.
Mike was waiting at Clackline and it was nice to see a familiar face along the course. It was a bit crazy at this aid station with heaps of parked cars, dogs, kids and cheering people everywhere. The friendly volunteers filled up my water bladder and Mike gave me a banana to eat and a jam sandwich to bring on the road. I was faffing about with my bag and couldn’t close it, I wasn’t sure if I needed to ‘check in’ and it was all a bit crazy and quite overwhelming!
The next section was a 24km long and straight pea gravel road for most of the way to the second aid station, Wooroloo. I was running along fine but found the long gradual incline quite hard so did have regular walking breaks. I had a gel or some of my jam sandwich every 30-40 minutes and was feeling pretty good. I decided to listen to some music and forgot that I was holding on to my sandwich and dropped it somewhere around 28kms…! Because I was fiddling with my bag so much at the aid station I just grabbed the sandwich in a plastic zip lock bag in my hand and took off… Anyway I had to run back a couple of hundred meters to find it and luckily it wasn’t too far away.. But because I had to backtrack to find my sandwich I had by then lost the small group of runners that I ran with and was now running by myself. At around 30km I thought I was lost and had a short moment of panic… rang Mike nearly in tears but after talking to him and checking the gps on my mobile phone and realised that I was on the right track.. phew… Mike popped up a few times along the way taking photos and it was great to see him as I was still running on my own and hadn’t seen another runner for quite some time.
It was great to get to the 2nd aid station at Wooroloo which was at the 43km mark. I had a banana, filled up my water bladder and sports drink, grabbed another jam sandwich (but this time I packed it safely inside my bag) and off I went! I had by then caught up with a few of the other runners again and even though we weren’t running side by side it was nice to know they were around. The Kep track is quite easy to navigate but there were a few tricky spots and I am glad to have run those sections with other people. It’s difficult to think straight when you are tired.
I don’t remember much of the section between Wooroloo and Mt Helena (18km). I was listening to music, thinking about my brother, the finish line and concentrating on taking in fuel and water regularly, counting down the kilometers. But I do clearly remember coming in to aid station 3 at Mt Helena! I knew this before hand but before we could check in at that aid station we had to run 600m down the hill and back again and this was so frustrating.. I’m still not quite sure why we had to do this extra section as this would make the full race distance 76kms but hey, there we go. Getting to this aid station was a huge milestone for me! I wanted to get out of there before 3pm or I would have to carry a yellow safety vest and headlamp. I checked out at 2.45pm…. phew! Now I only had about 15km to go so the next 10kms I ran with a big smile on my face, I even had a cry if I remember right… At this stage I was still feeling good and I knew I was going to finish the race, even if I walked the last bit I was going to finish!!
The day before the race Mike and I drove to the area where I would finish the race and I couldn’t wait to get to that roundabout where the race notes said that we were to ‘ignore all markers’, turn left and run up a short 300m hill before the finish line.
This last section from Mt Helena to Mundaring was so pretty, single man trail surrounded by bush. Green and lush from all the rain we’ve had in Perth lately. I ran the last bit of the race with a really lovely English girl called Amanda. We ran together at the start and some other short sections of the race, it’s kind of nice to chat to people now and then but most of the race I ran by myself which was fine too. We chatted away and by this stage (around 70kms) I had quite stiff hips and my feet or mostly toes started to hurt too. My garmin watch died around this time as it only had 8 hours of battery life but I had runkeeper going on my phone so that was alright. We chatted away and before we knew it we crossed Mundaring Weir Road, ran along a small section along this road for a couple of hundred meters until we hit a ROUNDABOUT!!! Yes! Yes! Friggin Yeeees! There it is, THE roundabout!! Some Kep volunteers cheered us on, told us to safely cross the road and run up the hill towards the finish. We walked a little bit and then started to slowly jog towards the orange cones at the top of the hill. I saw a group of people and Mike was among them waving at me and taking photos. I cannot describe the feeling of turning right at the top of the hill, following the orange cones, hearing people clapping their hands cheering us on as we ran towards the finish line…!! It was EPIC and I’m nearly crying when writing this! It was so awesome….. Amanda and I ran across the finish line together, received our medals around our necks, had a big hug and smiled for more photos. I don’t know that many people in the ‘ultra world’ here in Perth but a few friendly faces were at the finish line and I was so happy to see them. Shirley, Ben, Cheryl, Chris – you guys rock! I can’t wait to share this experience with you all next year! A massive thanks to my amazing running friends Cheryl, Shirley, Sylvie and Leisha… for your invaluable advice and support but mostly for believing in me! A huge thanks to my husband Michael for spending the night in the most exclusive motel in Northam and for being my support crew throughout the whole race, I love you. To my mum in Sweden who could barely sleep and sent me 32 messages on Viber throughout the day! You are too funny and can’t wait to see you in a few weeks! Big thanks to Ian and Gwendy for looking after the kids! To friends and family all around the world for your support and kind messages, especially on Facebook where my finish line post has got more than 130 likes and over 100 messages – thanks! I still cannot believe that I have just ran 76kms in my first ultra marathon….
I ran this race in memory of my beautiful brother Samir. He was taken from us on the 1st January 2007 at only 25 years of age, we love him and miss him so much every day. It meant a lot to me to run this race for him, he was a very athletic and active person, and I know that he would be so proud of me. Physical pain is nothing
compared to the pain we all endured when he died and still feel every day.
Love you little brother, one day we’ll meet again.
Here are a few photos from the finish………… tears of joy…….. Epic!