Northburn 100 mile

“What a F#@king Horrible race!!”

But…buttttt on reflection, I’d 100% go and do it all again!  

I could have written a report of epic sunsets, frolicking in crystal clear streams, unicorns and rainbows, the reality though was this race was largely a sufferfest for me.  Read on if you want to hear the whole sorry tale.

This was one of those races where so many things went wrong and an easy, dream race was not to be.

Four days before the race I couldn’t walk due to pain in my foot, an injury flaring in the final weekend pre-race.  Rest and painkillers got me to the start line, but 25km into the first loop the pre-race injury threw up the most frustrating of roadblocks, flaring another old injury.  As soon as the niggle started I knew I was going to be in for a long painful race as every flex of my foot caused pain.  Of course, I’ve been here before, running a miler with this injury. The last time I had it it caused me to walk in the last two laps of Naseby – so I knew I could do it, I also knew it was going to hurt.

Other than the flare of the injury the first loop was amazing.  The scenery was stunning, the terrain so much fun to move through.  The sun came out and I bathed in the streams to keep cool…it was too early in the race to risk the heat causing problems.  So with stream-wet clothing I forged on, sounds up, the first lap hadn’t been so bad.  A quick pitstop with my amazing crew, food in, gear replenished, I was sent off with two ice blocks…ready for the aptly named ‘death climb’!

Loop two, the loop of mounting frustrations and a complete breakdown in my mental game as I let it all get me down.

They were little things that added up, gear malfunctions, an upset gut due to the painkillers (a calculated cost I knew I’d have to pay), making half the loop a hunt for suitable rocks to hide behind, getting cold adding layers, then getting too hot and having to remove layers…and then,  thoughts of when the hell will this climb end and my downhill begin, quickly turning to when can I start climbing again because downhilling hurts!

All the while and maybe exacerbating these issues for me was the great big clock in my head that was ticking. A noise that got even louder every time I had to stop to deal with one problem or another or as I gingerly approached the downhills rather than throwing myself down with my usual abandon…I realised my goal time was slipping from my grasp. 

At some stage in this loop I questioned the stupidity of running milers, I questioned why I would ever want to run one again, vowing I was done with such a futile, stupid endeavour.  I enjoyed the sunset and then ridiculed myself…because I could have seen an amazing sunset without running for 14 odd hours.  I could have just driven somewhere and enjoyed a beautiful sunset. Curse, moan, groan.  

90km in, two loops nearly down, the last 20km doing my head in with the never ending ups and downs.  I could see why some people don’t go out for the third and final loop.  I tried unsuccessfully to nap between loops, having convinced myself that the only way I would make it through another 8+ hours of this hell was to recharge first.  But my wired body would not relax, so it was food down, replenish gear, ingest large quantities of caffeine (Revvies), and off into the early morning. 

Loop three.  So, it was stop, breath, regroup and go.

The sun came up, the sunrise was beautiful and I stopped hating milers, instead just focusing on getting the final kilometers done and trying to enjoy where I was.  Up down, up down.  At times, the pain got too much and pulled me to a walk – but the mental arithmetic of walk vs run had me pulling back into a run where I could – lest I spend all day finishing this final loop.

9km to go, the pain in my foot was too much. Limp, walk, limp, walk – how was I going to make it another 9km, it hurt so much.  I stopped on the side of the track utterly defeated, thinking that I can’t be done so close to end . I was exhausted.  The previous 3 hours had been full of the most intense hallucinations.  Everything I looked at, rock, plant…sheep poo(!) appeared to be something other than it was.  

The rest of course is history, we know I finished. I found the resolve to keep going, putting one foot in front of the other, even running in the last kilometers, to cross the finish line into the arms of friends and family.  This race was without a doubt the hardest I have done mentally, and I want to tell you I loved it all, but I didn’t!  I could bang on about lessons learnt, there were many, and how this was exactly the experience I was meant to have, which I truly believe it was. Mainly though, I share so that when you see the smiling photos you can know that it wasn’t all sunshine and alpine flowers, and that sometimes it’s just hard and you have to accept it and just forge onto the finish line in spite of the hardship.

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