When I look back on the year I have had, I have to think about how thankful I am. Last year saw me struggling after two major ankle injuries. I have more than turned that around this year. I think that the main factor in this success for 2017 has been my sheer will to prove what I was capable of, and not give up. There has been a lot of moments of doubt of course, but I have tried to silence these thoughts as much as possible and just get along with the job.
This year saw some potentially big setbacks when I was diagnosed with Melanoma, and for a few weeks I was all down on myself and all ready to give in the towel. Then I used this as a catalyst for propelling me towards my goals, and fighting for them. Luckily, the diagnosis was simple enough at the stage I had that it was a few weeks of interrupted training and follow up needed, so things could progress.
I started with my coach in August and since then I haven’t looked back. I have barely missed a session. Some days the task ahead along with everything else I do seems daunting, but I try not to let it overwhelm me and I just get it done to the best of my ability at the time.
This year has seen me run some huge runs. Six Foot track (45k) in March, Ultra Trail Australia 50k in May, Gold Coast Half Marathon (21.1k) in June, Centennial Park ultra team 50k (25k) in August, Running Wild’s Glenbrook Trail Marathon (42.2k) in August, Coastal Classic (29K) in September, ending the year on a high with 3rd place and a 48min PB at the Carcoar Cup (60k) Ultra in November recently.
Along with this of course comes the countless hours of training. Most weekends have seen me running at least 2 hours on a Sunday. The body is a little tired, but I need to keep pushing on to reach my big goal next year of the UTA100.
Things will ramp up soon, and I am enjoying a bit of maintenance for now for the rest of the year while working on my fitness and strength leading into 2017. As much as I struggle to find the time and the motivation to do strength work, I really need to make this a priority to see me not be broken leading into the big race. I am not strong right now.
I want to thank everyone who is coming along for this journey with me and send me messages of support through this year. I am truly grateful for the inspiration you bring to me through your support. I just love being surrounded by women who have the same passion, and go out and chase their dreams.
For now I will leave you with a little insight into my recent race, the Carcoar Cup 60k Ultra.
I had planned to end the year with the Carcoar Cup Ultra if all the stars aligned and things were looking good with my training. The main reason was that I wanted time on my feet to be extensive and I really needed a good long race to do that. I guess I also wanted the confidence leading into UTA100 that I could run long again like this. The last time I did Carcoar was 2014. I was 3rd female then in a field of only 4 females, and I was considerably slower and not as experienced as I am now. Back then it was my first ultra.
The thing I love about Carcoar Cup is that it is a small country race, and so all the bells and whistles, although not there, are more than made up with the camaraderie of the field, and the amazing volunteers that come out to support this fantastic event. The course is 60km of undulating terrain with a mix of bitumen road and dirt, mostly dirt road, and some of the most beautiful scenery you will see west of the Blue Mountains. Now, if you are going to run for 60km, you want to see a good view, so it is definitely worth the trip.
Andrew, the race director has left no stone unturned and the race always runs very smoothly. Although it is in November, the weather is typically cool, and on race day it started off around 8 degrees with a top of 18. Perfect running weather. What wasn’t perfect was that unfortunately this year came with a very windy day, and because of the exposure of the course, we battled headwinds for pretty much most of the race.
I started off with the crack of the whip from the starting guy, and we made our way out of the main street of town and up the first hill onto the country roads. My plan was to run strong the whole way and see if I could hold on, with only a few walk breaks if needed, and on the mountain. I wanted to maintain an average pace around 5.30/km which is generally an easy pace for me on a long run. I started off well and just took in the surrounds around me while trying to get into a rhythm. We ran up and down and around the countryside. It was cool and beautiful. I heard cows mooing and all sorts of things. I thought of my friend Lisa who I was running for as I ran.
When we came to the first turn onto the main highway I was sitting in second place around 300m behind first place, behind me was another girl who was around 300m behind. I had to keep her at bay, so I continued to run strong. As I ran along the road a while longer and towards the next turnoff to the dirt road my right ankle became a little niggly. I was trying to adjust my stride and make sure my form was right, but it just kept niggling. I pushed on around the dirt road with third place still close behind. I was starting to actually worry about the ankle when it began to not only niggle, but hurt a little, but I tried to ignore it and push on as strong as I could.
When we entered the town of Neville around the 20k mark you do a loop. Third was still behind me but gaining slightly as my ankle was slowing me down and I could tell I was compensating. As I came around the bend back through town I saw RMA Peta who was supporting another RMA and I mentioned to her my ankle was playing up. As much as I didn’t want to, I decided at the aid station to stop and try to stretch the ankle out. It felt like it was locking up on me. When I did it really hurt, but felt a bit better afterwards, however at this point the girl in third ran past me.
I knew that this would be an issue, but I was hoping that I could still catch her. I mean we still had 40k to go in this race. As I ran out of Neville, I decided I didn’t want my 1st coke until the next time we came through, so I threw it next to a pole ready for when I returned.
The next 20km is another loop where you meet up with the second aid station in the race and loop around to Neville again. Typically this can be a hard thing mentally, and there is a really long stretch to get to that aid station with nothing much to see. It was here that things slowed down quite a bit and saw me stopping to stretch the ankle and walk bits as it was really messing with me. I was getting myself quite upset thinking about how I may not be able to finish if this keeps on being an issue, and in hindsight this was doing myself no favours mentally.
I decided to take a voltaren, which I would normally not recommend, however I didn’t see that I had much other options. I was hoping at best it would take the niggle away from my thoughts. At this stage I had lost sight of second place. I was hoping I could maintain and run strong enough to catch her. The headwinds by this stage were ridiculous too, which wasn’t helping things. Sometimes you were almost forced to the other side of the road.
I ran the second loop, the ankle slightly niggly, but bearable and came back through Neville again. To my dismay my coke which I had left was gone when I got there! I asked the aid station if they had seen it or thrown it and they said no, so I conclude that someone must had taken it. No worries, so I took a gel and was on my way. I ran past RMA friend Laura, who was a little emotional running her first marathon, but I encouraged her to run strong. As I came back through Neville I saw Peta again who kindly gave me a swig of coke and I made my way out of town.
The next section of the race is all quite long and flat and you can see at least a kilometre in front of you. There was no sign of second place, but I was feeling amazing. It was like a switch was flicked. I had heaps of energy. I could hardly believe I felt like this at 45km. I told myself that I could catch her, perhaps on the mountain and I should run as strong as I can. So from this point this is what I did. When I got to the next aid station around 45k, once again my coke was gone, so luckily I had lots of gels on me. I pushed on knowing that my sister and her family would be at the next aid station.
As 50k drew near I could make out my sister and her family. I ran to greet them. It was so nice seeing people, as most of the time you are on your own. Another runner I know Brett was manning the aid station, and I was excited to be on the home stretch. I stopped briefly to refill my bottle and then gave my brother inlaw my belt which I felt was weighing me down, then I pushed on towards the Mount Macquarie climb with 10k to go.
My plan on the mountain was to run strong and hike when I needed to in steep bits. I surprised myself when most of the time I was hike/running most of the hills and managed to catch up to quite a few marathon runners. I encouraged them as I ran past, until I came to fellow RMA who I coach, Laura again who was running her first marathon and was looking great. As I passed I told her to catch the woman in front to spur her on, and I kept pushing to try and catch second place. Still no sign of her. As I finally reached the highest point I took a really quick picture of the view and thanked God for getting me this far, and prayed for my friend Lisa. Then I threw myself literally down the mountain. I was feeling fabulous and my legs felt amazing. I ran as fast as I could maintain down that mountain, passing people along the way from the marathon, hoping to catch second place towards the finish line.
As I ran towards town and over the bridge I could hear RMA Fiona screaming for me. I was so excited to be not only finishing, but finishing strong an feeling so good too! I turned the corner into town and everyone was cheering. I floored it home, as I crossed the line I noticed my hubby and daughter Naomi had come to see me finish. I immediately burst into tears. This meant so much to me. I gave Naomi the biggest hug, then hubby and lost it in the emotion of the moment. This run meant so much to me. I had done it for me, but also for my friend Lisa, who had suffered a stroke a few months ago, and raised $3000 for her.
I was so thrilled with my time for this event. I had managed to knock 48 minutes off my previous time and finished 3rd in just 6hours and 3 minutes, 19 seconds only TWO MINUTES behind second place. I couldn’t be happier, as I showed that I could make up considerable time in the last half of the race. Something I hadn’t been able to do before.
This run gave me so much confidence in my ability and what I can do next year. What an adventure…..until next time…….