When I started training for the North Face 50km trail ultra I didn’t realise it would ignite a passion hidden deep within. When I moved to Australia, the ocean did the same for my swimming.
I’m not a big runner, to say I love running would be a massive exaggeration. To say I have a love hate relationship would be closer. Road running leaves me cold, it formed the end hurdle to my passion for triathlon racing, the bit I had to do to get across the finish line. Then there was the marathon at the end of Ironman New Zealand, now THAT was a run I loved. Pouring with rain, hurting from the 180km bike and each sublime km brought me closer to my goal, to be an Ironwoman. Nothing was going to spoil that feeling and I smiled like a crazy woman for most of entire 42.2kms.
But… trail running. I have always had a bit of a passion for the dirt and the love affair was ignited again with my decision to run the NF50 in the Blue Mountains on 18 May 2013. Since then I haven’t stopped running, any excuse to get out there and hit the mud, rain, dirt and roots. Fast forward to now and in the last 5 weeks and I find myself having completed the North Face 50 (50km), Great Nosh Footrace (15.7km) and the Glow Worm Trail Marathon (42.2km). In my opinion it’s about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on, with a large sweaty dusty group of the most friendly people you will ever meet! Here’s a little write up of each race:
NORTH FACE 50
50km. Blue Mountains NSW. 18 May 2013
Organisers: AROC Sport
Starting and finishing at Leura’s Fairmont Resort, this is the first time the NF50 has been given it’s own race status alongside it’s uber big brother the NF100. The weather was perfect as we lined up on the start line in the crisp morning sunshine. The first 11km to CP1 is undulating with few cheeky sets of stairs to start getting the legs used to what was to come. I kept reminding myself to LOOK UP! Something you often forget to do when you trail run, the scenery is spectacular but the fear of falling on your face overrides the sight seeing. Still this caution didn’t stop me from tumbling to the ground at 6km in. Well, it wouldn’t be a trail run without me losing a bit of bark!
The next section included a 10km decent down the Kedumba Walls, with it’s ominous sandstone cliffs, to the bottom of the valley followed by at 15km climb back out including the lovely Furber Steps. The downhill took it’s toll, many runners were forced to slow up from the continual gradient pounding their joints. The uphill on the other side just left me begging to be allowed to run! We ran what we could and took to hands on knees marching up the rest. It seemed to never end and then.. yippee, the trail towards Katoomba Oval and the Furber Steps. My heart rate shot through the roof climbing the stairs, I felt sick and had to ease back on the run to CP2 at the aquatic centre as I was worried about not being able to eat, we still had 14km to go.
My tummy settled down, I took on more food and then was able to get back on track again. Hitting CP2 in 4hrs 30min gave me hope of finishing in under 6hrs and I was excited to be running again. We’d run the last leg in training and I knew it was fast, at least that would have been if we had actually run the correct course in training!
You would have heard me shouting “NOOOOOOOO” all the way back in Sydney as the arrows pointed us down the stairs towards Leura Cascades. But I just laughed and ran on. The falls were rather pretty after all and the coolness of the forest was welcome.
As we climbed the last set of stairs and ran the last few kms towards the finish line I actually found I didn’t want the run to end. Give me more trail! I crossed the line hand in hand with my running buddy and bestie Sheryl. The perfect way end to a perfect race. Many friends took part in the race to and it was amazing to watch the emotions as each of them crossed the line. Warriors each and every one of them.
Total Time : 6hrs 28mins. 18th female
THE GREATH NOSH FOOT RACE
15.7km. Lindfield to Seaforth. 2nd June 2013
Organisers: Bennelong Northside Orienteers
This event holds a special place in my heart as it was the first trail event I took part in when I arrived in Australia in April 2009. I was excited to run it again, fitter, stronger and much more in love with trails than I was 4 years ago.
The course had been altered slightly but this added to the fun with an additional challenge of a new hill to tackle. What did try to dampen spirits however, was the weather. It rained, and rained and just when you didn’t think the heavens had anything more to offer, it dumped it down. In total 29mm of rain fell over the duration of the race.
But in my opinion this just added to the fun. It reminded me of taking part in the OMM (Original Mountain Marathon) in 2008, when it got rained out due to gale force wins and so much rainfall that streams turned into white water rapids, we LOVED IT!!
“This is what it’s all about!!”, getting out there, feeling nature, feeling alive. Forget your treadmill!
I focussed on keeping light fast feet as I ran through water, knees deep in parts. Hugging the sides, following the person in front of me as they took a good line (unless they ended up waist deep, then avoid!). I had to remind myself that this was only 16km when I found myself taking it easy on stairs. The NF50 training of conserving energy on long hills and stairs wouldn’t serve me well here. Just run and keep on running until you cross the finish line.
This has to be the best trail run I’ve ever done. It was 15.7km of pure soggy heaven. The marshals were brilliant supporting in the rain, the race was well organised as always by the Bennelong Northside Orienteers, and the fellow runners were friendly (except the guy who took the opportunity to pass me when my foot got caught between rocks on the white water stream crossing, you were not nice my friend!)
A brilliant race and one that should be a regular on anyone’s trail running calendar.
Total Time : 94mins. 7th Female
THE GLOW WORM TRAIL MARATHON
42.2km. Newnes, Blue Mountains NSW. 16th June 2013
Organisers: Mountain Sports
And so onto the Glow Worm Trail Marathon. I should know after the NF50 to check the profile of a race before I entered it, but there just something about a race with the words ‘Glow Worm’ in the title. I mean, it sounds cute right?
We stayed in Lithgow the night before the race as I couldn’t face a night in a cold tent with disturbed sleep the night before a trail marathon. In hindsight I wish we had camped as the atmosphere created at race HQ but the Mountain Sports team was amazing. Many of our friends were there camping it up while we stayed tucked up in our cabin (we were nice and warm though!)
As we drove down into the Wolgan Valley towards Newnes at 6am, the views of the mist in the valley surround by towering sandstone cliffs took your breath away. I was so excited! It was going to be a good day on the trails.
People had arrived on Saturday to take part in the Ted English 6km Bolt, the kids treasure hunt and the Mystery Mountain Challenge. Along side the marathon on the Sunday there is also a half marathon. It was a weekend packed with trail adventure.
The first part of the marathon was brutal! Scrambling rather than running in parts and sliding down on my bum on the return leg of the out and back course. It wasn’t pretty but it was huge fun. For the first leg I tagged along with a lovely scottish man called Micheal and a chap wearing Tarahumara style Huarache sandals, they’d over take me on the downhill (my nemesis!) and then I’d catch then on the up. They were great pacers and good conversationalists to! Perfect company.
I came through race HQ on the way out to the second loop to lots to cheers, crossing the cooling creek and heading up the disused railway line for a steady 10km climb to the Glow Worm Tunnel. The climb took it out of your legs but I just kept on running and ticking off the ks. At this point you starting passing the back markers for the half marathon, which had started on this loop 2.5hours after we had begun. The support was brilliant and I gave each and everyone of them a well done as I passed.
Then the terrain changed, it all went from bush to rain forest and before you knew it we were at the Glow Worm Tunnel. I have to say I didn’t see any of the cute little miracles the race is named after, I was to busy trying not to trip up! The tunnel floor is rough. I’m not surprised that no running is allowed.
Out into the daylight again and a short uphill run brought us to the final stretch home. It started with a sharp decent, but once past the last aid station it evened into a steady drift down to the finish line. I took time to enjoy the scenery, tracing the holes blasted into the rocks to make way for the railway, finding the odd rotting sleeper on the trail and old bits of twisted metal machinery hidden in the undergrowth. Pressing on through the last creek crossing, and up past the quaint and wonderful Newnes Hotel to a warm welcome at the finish line. Another brilliant event, well organised, friendly and in one of the best locations you can find for an event hub.
Running knowing a group of friends were out there in the trails makes all the difference and there was much celebration, food eating and back slapping after the race. Thank you for all sticking around for me to finish!
Total Time: 5hrs 17mins. 8th female.
It’s been quite a journey over the last 5 weeks and long may it continue. I train to finish races, with a smile on my face (maybe not every km!) and create great memories along the way. Thank you to everyone who’s trained and run with me in training and racing, those I know and those who were just passing runners or runners being passed.
Sheryl, you ROCK! Kit, you’re a MACHINE! Warren, the most amazing husband, you’ve missed out on these races due to a bad fall in training back in March, but I’ve tested them all out for ya and they pass the Evans FUN-O-METRE!
If you ever need motivation to train, then each one of these races will have you itching to get out there and take to the hills. See you out on the trails, I’ll be the one dressed in the pink socks with a smile on my face and a yeehaaaa on the downhills.
– Sarah Anne