101 hours 58 minutes.
Approx 7 hours sleep
Too many blisters to count
One sore knee
One dirty knee brace thrown away at the end
So many amazing views
One full meltdown/panic attack
Many moderate meltdowns
Many small meltdowns
Too many tears to count
I would hate to know how many swear words and grunts going down hill
3kg lost over the few days
0 times I brushed my hair or teeth
25 packets of baby food
6 cups of noddles
1 cup of the best soup of my life
1 amazing baked potato (considering I don’t like potato this is amazing!)
1 pair of shoes
1 amazing adjustment in Denmark
1 amazing crew
2 amazing pacers
So many new friends and experiences (some that can be mentioned, some that can’t!)
That is what happened when I took on the Delirious W.E.S.T. 200 mile event in South West WA (Northcliffe to Albany along the Bibbulmun Track).
It all started Tuesday night in Northcliffe. Check in, race briefing and dinner. This is when I knew I was more nervous that I thought I was, as I really didn’t even want to eat. Then it was home for sleep, which I actually managed amazingly which was fabulous!
Wednesday morning I was off to the start line. I made the error of not drinking enough water before I started running and paid for it at the first aid station. The first leg I don’t really remember much off, which means it cant have been that bad, maybe? I do remember playing tag team with a few different runners. It was already hot and I was ready to get out of my tights and into shorts. So that’s what I did at the first aid station. Nowhere to change meant I made some men a little uncomfortable stripping down and putting on shorts, but sorry guys, not sorry! A girl has to do what a girl has to do!
I left the aid station a bit flat and not feeling right. I should have stayed longer, but was keen to get going. The next leg was focused on drinking water and regrouping myself, which I manage to do. The next aid station was at Chesapeak Rd East. Ben (my hubby and chief crew) had it all set up ready to drink and eat and cool down before heading out again, except I had my first little (aka big) meltdown. My watch was on charge and it decided to stop the run. So now I wouldn’t have the whole 350km in one lot. It caused a meltdown and a few choice words. But again, a few kms in and I got over it. Head down, bum up, and get to the next aid station.
11.7km to Dog Rd. I really enjoyed this section. I dont remember much else, other than I enjoyed it. Music was on, legs were moving well. Coming into the aid station I saw Ben running down to meet me to find out what I needed, so it was all there ready to go. A toilet here would have been fab…but hey, cant have it all, right? Mentally I came into this checkpoint, and out of it, feeling amazing. A quick stop, and back out. I wouldn’t see Ben at the next aid station…it killed me a little bit to think he was going off for a good dinner and a beer!
18km to Pingerup Rd. According to my notes this was a long hot exposed section. Lucky I was going slow so it was late arvo, into the evening when I got there so it wasn’t too bad. Definitely better than I expected. Feet and legs were still feeling good. Music on. Power along. A few brief chats with runners along the way, we were all getting it done! The aim was to get into the next aid station before dark. Mission accomplished. This aid was the best! It had the best people manning it, the most amazing array of food. Lights and high vis was put on and I headed out into the night with another runner, Charmaine. It was a fast hike to the next aid station, some chats, some silence, but it was a good section. It was my first night “run” after running all day and I was still feeling ok. Tired, but ok.
Into Broke Inlet, coffee, biscuits, chats with Ben, and I was ready to go again. I was tired, but really wanted to push to Walpole before a sleep. I headed back out with another runner. Again, it was a hike through a very overgrown part of the course. So many branches and bushes in our way. I was so grateful that Dave offered to go in the front most of the way! We also collected another runner who had gone for a little trot off course, and he joined up for the last bit into Mandalay Beach Rd checkpoint.
I got here and I was honestly exhausted. There was a lot of ups and downs heading into the checkpoint. It seemed like it took forever to get there. And then it was the one aid station of the whole race that Ben wasn’t ready for me. But everyone chipped in. Sams crew started taking care of my feet as I got my first blisters on that leg. They also got me a coffee. Ash was checking into make sure we had what we needed while he waited for his runner. It was such an amazing atmosphere. I headed out of there refreshed but exhausted. This next section was going to be killer. The aid station crew did say that I was leaving at the perfect time to get the sunrise over the dunes…and while I was dubious that they said this just to perk me up, the sunrise was AMAZING! It definitely gave me some more get up and go! Sand dunes. Heat. Long. And a massive mountain at the end. Oh, also a suspension bridge over the river thrown in there. For me, that was terrifying in itself! But I was motivated by the thought of sleep and meeting my pacers.
Coming into the Deep River Crossing aid station I saw a rubber duck on the ground and thought to myself that is so odd, why would that be there, someone must have dropped it. It wasn’t until I saw a few more that I realised it was leading into the checkpoint. Clearly tired! Ben made me eat, drink and refuel. Chats with a few different crews were had, and I was feeling good and ready to go. The next leg had to be easier than that one, which was brutal! And this one led into Walpole which meant sleep and pacers! This is where the wheels fell off. 134km in to the race, 4 km into this leg my knee went. I don’t know what exactly happened. I was heading down a hill, then sharp pain, and I knew it wasn’t good. I turned my Phone on for the first time in the whole race to let the team know that I would be longer than expected. Over the next 6 km a random hiker came up behind me and said I wasn’t moving very well and should get that looked at. I agreed, holding back tears. I hobbled into Walpole, dirty, exhausted, and in tears. Eve and Michelle (my pacers, and fellow running mums!) were welcome faces to see, and I am sure they wondered what the hell they had gotten themselves in for at this point! A shower and a sleep. I just needed a shower and a sleep. A quick nap, blisters done, knee brace on, poles in hand and off Eve and I went. A quick leg to the giant tingle tree aid station. And yes Eve – Tingle is a type of tree, its not just because they give you tingles haha! We also stopped to take in an amazing view at this point…..boy, were we unprepared for all the amazing views we would see after this!
We made it into the next checkpoint in good time. More amazing noodles and refreshments and Michelle and I were off for a night run all the way to the Tree Top Walk. I had had some pain killers so I managed to run a bit in this section, but it was pretty much going to be the last bit of running I would do for the whole race. We were 150km in at the start of the leg, and by the next aid station we would be half way. I loved this leg. Maybe because it was cooler and night. Lots of downhill, lots of fun. Maybe I remember it fondly as it really was the last good, fun, running, good head space, leg. We arrived into the tree top walk. I wanted a 30min nap but decided to do the Tree Top Walk first. To put it into perspective, I hate heights. Like hate standing on a chair, hate heights. So I literally go on this tree top walk, and walked. And screamed. And swore. And panicked. The whole way around. Thanks Eve for having my back the whole way round, and Michelle for filming my panic. Then it was in for a 30min rest, noodles, soup, coffee and back off into the night with Eve.
I left this aid hoping my knee would allow me to run. No deal. No deal at all. More pain killers and I could move without screaming and without sharp pain but that is as good as it got. I honestly don’t remember much about this leg. I do however remember getting into the checkpoint, and having a quick nap on the front seat of the car which was amazing. And also eating the best baked potato I have ever had. Putting it into perspective….I don’t like baked potato normally, but this one was AMAZING! Now I was heading out along the beach for an absolutely stunning sunrise over the cliffs. Ocean and water on both sides. Cliffs. Dunes. It really made all the hurt worthwhile. The pressure was on now to make decent time into Peaceful Bay so I could shower and sleep before we had to be out at the 11am cut off. I had wanted a 3 hours sleep here and it was becoming evident that I wasn’t going to get it. I really should have not showered, and slept more, but hey lesson learnt along the way! Bens cooking and omelette skills here were so good, so I went to sleep semi-clean and with a full belly.
Up and at them now for the longest stretch without crew. It was 34km with one aid stop, 23.4km with a kayak across the inlet (which I was terrified of falling out the whole time), and then a long, hot and exposed sandy section of ups and downs, a beach section or three, and then a very welcome extra water drop and hug from Shaun. Tears were flowing, exhaustion was real and I was hurting. Lets just say I was a bit of a mess. I went into meltdown about 800m out from the checkpoint, when I could see it but it seemed so far away. I walked into the aid a complete teary mess, and of course it was an aid station with about 8 people sitting at there. I layed down for 20 minutes, ate noodles, had some coke…..and life was good again. We saw an absolutely stunning sunset and we were off. This is where the wheels fell off again. You could call this a full on panic attack. That I wouldn’t make cut off. That I wouldn’t finish. You see, when I run normally, I occupy my brain by calculating when I will finish if I go X speed, what time I will get to X if I go X pace. And trying to do that, severely sleep deprived and in pain, set of a not so fabulous chain of events.
Eve did amazing to get me in to Parrys beach. I will always remember the random lady who spoke to me from the shower as I was in the toilet. She wanted to know why there was no hot water. I was way more polite in my answer than I felt like being! I slept, my team calculated, I ate, drank and off I went again…..along the beach…..into the bugs, never ending bugs attacking our headlamps. Michelle somehow put up with it all so I could turn mine off and go bug free. I will be forever grateful. Thats all I remember of that leg; the big climb, and the bugs. Oh and the hallucinations! Every foot print had a face in it. From clowns, to old men, to babies, I saw it all!
Another aid station. Another quick nap in the car. A cheeseburger. And off we went to attack Monkey Rock. So grateful for flagging. So grateful for daylight. It was hard and slow. Then we started to hit civilization and the next cut off point for Denmark. This was also where Stu came running past doing a park run in the middle of a 350km race. I mean seriously? I again went into calculation mode (sorry team!) and again panicked that I was short of time. My planned several hours sleep in Denmark would not happen. I also gave up a shower to get 1.25 hours sleep. Then its was up, fed, feet, get the most amazing chiropractic adjustment of my life from Matt, and make the 12noon ferry. A pep talk from Georgia here also got the tears flowing again. I was in such a world of hurt and exhaustion, but I had been through so much at this point, there was no option but to make it to the end. Stopping was not an option. It wasn’t just about me at this point, it was about everyone else as well.
The ferry ride was 4 women, exhausted, emotional, in pain, but so determined and strong. I will never forget those 10 minutes. The next leg was flat and short. A good moral booster. A fast aid stop and then next leg was underway, on to lowlands beach. To be honest, I lost it again on this leg. Started to calculate. I knew that I had to stop doing it, but I just couldn’t. It was a long and painful leg (as they all seemed to be at this point). Tears from both myself and Eve. Frustration. Exhaustion. Apologies. Slow going. Disappointment that we could see the lights to the aid but still had so far down hill (which was what was really causing me pain). But we made it. And Sams crew were cooking hash browns. AMAZING, thanks guys!!
I shut my eyes for a few minutes, re grouped, lathered in fisiocream, and got ready for the next leg. It was going to be overnight with a section of very steep downhill. I honestly felt that if anything was going to break me, this bit would be the section. But I also never let that thought into my head for longer than a second. I would do it. There was no other option. It was as bad as I thought. I honestly don’t know how Michelle got me though, I screamed, grunted, swore, down every single step. I described that pain of every step as worse than childbirth. I stand by that statement! There was about 5 other runners all close that we kept swapping positions with. I felt sorry for them having to listen to me, but it did give me hope. I felt like I was going so ridiculously slow, so having others around me, gave me hope that I could still do this – and we made it. Just. It was about an extra 1km than we thought with a massive down hill to end. It was a fast aid stop. I knew we had to push at this point. The last aid Ben and I had a conversation that from here on in, there is not going to be alot of sleep. It was head down, be strong, find that next level of grit and stubborness and get the job done. I knew I had to, I needed to for me, but I also needed to for my team. I had put them all through so much, and I needed to finish for them, as much as I needed to finish for me.
Next stop was Cosy corner. It was a shortish leg, and I started fast and feeling fab. Then I got a headache and felt dizzy. It honestly was the only point in the whole thing that I was concerned that I would be pulled from the event and wouldn’t make it. We slowed down, had a drink and something to eat. I saw a skeleton on the side of the path that was actually a flower, complained that Glens notes said it was downhill into the aid station and it seemed we were going uphill. We made it. A 20min nap in the chair, waking to the most amazing soup. I was patched up, fisiocreamed up, and sent out on my way along the beach. Michelle and I joked that it would be amazing if this was a shorter leg that we expected, as most of them had been longer than the figure we were given. And turns out there is a God! It was a few km shorter than expected. The best feeling ever, and, no bugs!!
This quick leg allowed me to have another quick 20 min kip in the chair before a quick outfit change and heading out for the last two legs. It was now that I was actually starting to allow myself to think that I would finish. Whilst I knew that I would, there was never a doubt in my mind, it was the first time I actually let myself believe and imagine crossing the finish line. It was also amazing to know that the small group of runners that I had been with for most of the time, were also all on track to finish from here on in. I wanted them all to finish as much as I wanted to finish.
The second last leg started well, good spirits. Then a blister played up, badly. So we had to stop and patch it. It was still stinging with every step, not fun. Then we thought we were off course a little, not fun. Lots of swearing. Lots of pain. Lots of “how far?” and “ how long?” and “am I still on track to finish?”. Lots of tears. A couple of runners went past. One ran. I knew he was in pain, but he was still running. That almost broke me. We were both in pain but he could run, where as I honestly felt like I was fighting for every single step. I was so happy for him, and so heartbroken for me. At this point I then thought I was coming dead last. And honestly that didn’t actually bother me. I started to plan blog post titles around the day I came last. I also knew that it was going to be a pretty cool learning experience for my kids, that you can come last (or third last as the case actually turned out to be), and still be cheered in and have so many people there to support you, and that it is ok not to win. That it really is about rolling with the punches and just doing your best.
It was a long and painful leg, but we made it. That last aid station. Someone had a maccas cheeseburger there for me. Honestly – amazing! I don’t remember who you were (sorry!) but if you read this – thank you! I sat down, found out I wasn’t last, refuelled, chatted and got ready to do the last leg. At this aid station, it is customary to drink a beer. I passed. And I am so glad that I did. The last leg was an absolute killer. I was under prepared for the heat. I knew I was so close to the finish, but also knew it was hours away. My head was in the worst place for these 11 km than it had been the whole time. Hot, exposed, sandy. Exhausted, stubborn, digging deep, crying, swearing and screaming. Pretty sure that sums it up. Those steps. Those down hill steps, shattered me. I am pretty sure that I almost shattered Michelle too! It was a hell of few hours. I don’t want to know how many times I asked her to check in on the other runners – the ones I had been with the whole time who were crossing the finish, and also the two behind us, I was egging them in to the finish so hard. We got through. Walking along the water seeing my kids and family I thought I’d be a blubbering mess. But I think I was too exhausted. I knew that I had made it, with just over 2 hours to spare.
Crossing the line is such a blur.
Sitting, getting my feet unpacked and cleaned, I fell asleep, with one of my kids sleeping on my lap. dirt all over my face. Hair everywhere. Unbrushed teeth since Wednesday morning. Stinking so bad. Exhausted beyond belief. But so proud that I did it. That we did it. I couldn’t have done it without my team. Hubby, Ben, you were so perfect. Everything I could have asked for in a crew and more. Calm. Collected. Nothing was too much. You worked with Michelle and Eve so well. Communication was amazing so when I got into aids I just had to sit or sleep or do what I needed to do. Michelle and Eve, Thank you for being the best pacers and photographers that a runner could ask for. Thank you for believing in me, for pushing me, for putting up with me. Without you three, the absolute dream team, I would no have gotten across the line. No words will ever be enough. I said before the event that once it got to race day, I had the easy job. One foot in front of the other. The team had the hard job of making sure I had what I needed, making sure I was on time, doing it all, whilst they were sleep deprived and tired as well! I stand by that too, I do think I had it easier than them in alot of ways.
So what did I learn out of all of this?
That your body really will go where your mind will go. It is your mind that stops you not your body. Maybe I was stupid to keep going from Walpole, injured. Maybe it was idiotic. Maybe I have done more of an injury by keeping going. Maybe I am selfish for putting my team through that and seeing me in that much pain. Maybe I am too stubborn for my own good. Or maybe, just maybe, I am stronger than I knew physically and mentally. Maybe, just maybe, I needed to do it for all those people who cant. So many people want to have crazy adventures, or just walk, or run, and they cant. So I did it for them. Maybe, we are the lucky ones. We got to experience something amazing. Once in a lifetime stuff. Right now I am still processing it all, still working out exactly what I learnt. Still dealing with blisters and knee pain. So much still to process.
But right now I know this….never again. Not as a runner anyway. I would crew and pace. But I would never do it as a runner again. Been there, done that. Highly recommend it to anyone (and remember I only started training for this in June so anything is possible if you believe it!), but for me, once is enough as a runner!
Thanks Delirious – Thanks for the highest of highest and lowest of lows. The tears, love, laughter and hugs. Thanks for the blisters and sore knees. For the new friends for life. Thanks for the life lessons that I haven’t quite figured out what they are yet. Thanks for coming along on the journey with me. Thanks for making me realise that I really can do anything. Thanks for letting me be me, and discover a little bit more about who I actually am. For now, and always, I will be a 200 miler. And that sounds pretty damn good!
Aimee Brown – 200miler – Mum of three (Archer 7, Ivy 5, Nina 3)