Have you ever thought about attempting a 100km trail run?
Imagine doing it vision-impaired and having never trained on the course. A course full of very rocky riverbeds and rocky hill climbs.
Would you do it? Lisa Cundy did.
Hubert 100 2019 – Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park, South Australia
In late 2018, I had a compelling goal (well it felt more like a need than a goal), to attempt the infamous Hubert 100. I started running in early 2016 after a few personal challenges. I couldn’t even run a lap of my local footy oval, but I ran my first lap and my running journey just continued from there. I have run quite a few half marathons, more than 20 marathons, two ultras (56km and 58km), and so naturally the next step for me was a 100km event. The Hubert 100 appealed to me because it is local (well almost) and I’d never been to the Flinders Ranges. The Hubert 100 follows in Sir Hubert Wilkins’ footsteps as he walked his way over Wilpena Pound, across ancient lake beds, through rocky valleys and along the grassy trails of the Flinders Ranges.
Running has never come easy or naturally to me. I am not a tall, lean, graceful runner; I never will be; and just to add a little more difficulty – I’m legally blind. Whilst I am classed as legally blind, I can see fairly well if it’s in my tunnel of vision. It’s just that my tunnel isn’t very big (although I can read a bib number from a greater distance than the rest of my team!) and I also have significant depth perception issues. The visual field for the average person is 140-150 degrees, I am currently blessed with 18-19 degrees of visual field, and I say blessed because it could, and likely will, get far worse. But why let that stop me, why not let that be the perfect reason to do something that is already crazy, already super challenging, and take it to a whole new level.
I spoke to URSA Hubert 100 event organisers, Ben Hocking and Michelle Hanlin, about my vision impairment, how it impacts me, and if they could help me achieve my goal. Their response… “It’s a no brainer”, and supported me to have a team around me to help me achieve what I thought might be unachievable. For most participants at Hubert 100 they enter as individuals and might have a buddy runner join them at some stage of the 100km or 100mile run. I needed more than a buddy runner. I needed at least one ‘guide’ with me always, and at times two guides. So I got together the most amazing supportive team to help me achieve this goal – Rachel, Anita and Katie. I had only met Rachel Frearson a couple of times at previous events that we had done together. She knew her way around half of the Hubert having completed the 50km event previously and was an experienced trail runner from Alice Springs. Anita Rundle is a friend from home and has done plenty of trails in South Australia. Katie Mere coached me to Hubert and stayed with me for the whole 86km, her name speaks volumes and she is very experienced with Hubert. I was very fortunate to have Katie and Anita to train with around the Adelaide Hills in South Australia, with the rest of much of my training done on a treadmill at home. When I first told the girls about my goal of the Hubert 100 and asked them to be a part of it, at no time did I expect them or their husbands to agree so quickly but I am so thankful they did!
On May 4th my goal of attempting Hubert 100km commenced. From the first step I loved it! I loved the atmosphere, I loved the amazing support I received, I loved being at Ikara-Flinders Ranges and I loved being out of my comfort zone and challenging myself. Rachel, Katie and I completed the first 53km together – these two girls are amazing and guided me so well up and over St Mary’s Peak. I had heard a lot about St Mary’s Peak but at no time was I expecting the beauty, and the bum sliding that she brought. We were literally sliding down some of the rocks/boulders because they were so high, remember I said I wasn’t a tall lean runner! We made it to the Outside Track checkpoint to see the beautiful smiling faces of the crew who were ready to cater to our every need, we were 18km down. We then had approximately 14km to our next checkpoint, Wilcolo Track.
It was somewhere through this section that the hip/leg pain really started to settle in. My mind started to wander and went on a trip to the beach, I actually believed I was at there enjoying the sun, sand and sea, when I was actually very far from it. This was obviously my body’s attempt to try and avoid the pain cave!
We arrived at Wilcolo Track aid station, where we replenished supplies and I received treatment from ‘the lady in red’, Sue from First Aid, to try and loosen my lower back and take some pressure of my legs and hips. We headed out and got the tunes cranking to try a different type of distraction, Katie blessed us with the most eclectic range of genres possible, and I distinctly remember (or dreamt), some amazing singing, and a few dance moves, coming from the girls! We then had approximately 15km to Aroona Ruins where Rachel would get to take a well-earned rest and tag team with Anita. As we got closer, and crossed the 50km mark, my nerves really kicked in, the sun was about to set and I knew it was going to get really challenging for me mentally, as night vision is the first thing that goes with the eye condition I have and I basically can’t see anything at all. The crew at Aroona Ruins, otherwise known as ‘Temptation Station’ (for very good reason), were amazing and Rachel got to enjoy damper and honey, hot food, music, lights, couches, and a beautiful warm fire. This checkpoint was also where I got to see my beautiful daughter Maddy, and pit crew Lisa and Emily. It was so hard to leave the security and comfort of Temptation Station – but we had to keep moving.
From here Anita led the way and literally kept us on the track while Katie now became my eyes. Anxiety really kicked in for me as I couldn’t work out if what was in front of me was a shadow or a rock, I kept tripping over and kicking rocks and soon worked out what they were. The narrow single tracks were the worst for me as Katie couldn’t be by my side and even though she was barely a metre behind me there were times when I could feel the panic rising and I couldn’t calm myself down. The only way I could try and calm the panic was to close my eyes, yes I was literally running with my eyes closed, slow my breathing and listen to Katie and Anita. They were constantly telling me of overhead branches, keep left/right as there was a fair drop, and of course telling me to lift my feet for the dreaded rocks (my poor toes – they copped one helluva beating on this course!).
We made it to Trezona checkpoint with some time to spare. We had done 65km but by then the pain in my right hip/leg was quite intense and I don’t really remember being there, but I do remember having the best apricot jam and cheese sandwich! The next checkpoint was Wilcolo Track (again) and then there was another reasonable climb and a long stint in a dry creek bed which felt like it was never going to end. This leg of the race was also where I really came undone! I don’t remember a lot of the 17km, but it was here I started to hallucinate, ramble and develop hypothermia. Up until Trezona I hadn’t eaten or drunk a lot as the pain in my leg and hip was so intense. I was constantly nauseous and fighting not to vomit, and let’s just say I will never eat minestrone soup again because of it! Katie and Anita became quite concerned about my health in the creek bed and already knew we couldn’t continue past Wilcolo Track. Me on the other hand (in my mind) had my bathers on and was heading back to the beach! I had been on a few visits during the run – it totally seemed like a much better idea. At Wilcolo Track, the first aid team assessed me and my attempt at Hubert 100 was over, my body temp was less than 35 degrees, I was dehydrated, and I was in a world of pain…..Hubert 100 had eaten me up and spat me out but…
I have learnt a lot from the Hubert 100. I learned that I have the most supportive network around me that help me attempt and achieve my goals. I learned that I am not good at listening to my body when it hurts and I have learnt that I won’t let this beat me.
When I got back home, I had some x-rays and an MRI which returned some very surprising results. I went into the Hubert 100 with a stress fracture in my pelvis that I’d had for about 4-6 weeks, unbeknownst to me. As if that wasn’t enough – to add to that during the 86km of the Hubert I had gained another stress fracture in my femur, a tear to the vastus medialis oblique, and tendinosis to the glutes and iliopsoas. (No wonder my mind frequently wanted to go to the beach)
But the Hubert 100 didn’t beat me……. beware Hubert 100 I’m coming for you in 2020! If I can get another amazing support team around me, I’d love to give it another crack. I know that if I’m physically fit I can do it and I’ll do whatever it takes to get there.
I am forever grateful to Ben and Michelle from URSA for letting me participate when others may have seen me as too great a liability, thank you so much.
I am so very thankful to Katie Mere – my amazing coach and guide who stuck by me for the whole 86km. To Rachel Frearson – who travelled all the way from Alice Springs, and led the way from the start guiding and supporting me; and to Anita Rundle – who navigated and guided us for 30 odd kms in the dark and completed her longest distance ever. Thank you is never enough; these 3 girls were selfless and nothing short of amazing to agree to help me achieve what I so desperately wanted. They truly are earth’s angels…I just can’t believe they all agreed to this crazy adventure so quickly…but I am sure glad they did.