1 year, a 1 year old & TNF50 – The Final Instalment!

At exactly this time last year I was sleep deprived, and dazed and confused from figuring out how to look after a new baby. My body had just finished the long process of growing a tiny human being and was recovering from the momentous physical feat that is actually having a baby. It was at exactly this point in time that I decided I would do The North Face 100, 50km event. In the space of the next 12 months, I would get myself from being able to run 0kms, to being able to complete an Ultra trail marathon.

I started by coaxing my unfamiliar post-baby body into a few km of shuffling. I recall thinking I must have had an injury because bits were moving that shouldn’t of been. I gradually shuffled longer and farther (not really faster) as the months went by, mostly with a pram and a baby. Over the year I have likened my running style to a zombie like shuffle, a pregnant bovine, and my personal favourite… a pigmy hippopotamus in a velour tracksuit. These days I prefer to call it avant garde – not efficient or graceful, and pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable.

The North Face 100 2015And on Saturday 15th May I lined up with just under 1,200 other lycra-clad crazies to take on Narrow Neck, Kedumba, Furber stairs and everything in between. Because of my non existent trail running pedigree, I had the honour of starting with the toughest and biggest bunch of all – Wave 4. I had done my research and knew that about 80 women were starting in the previous waves. So, if I stayed at the front of mega wave 4, and passed a mere 60 women en route, I would be close to a top 20 female finish. When I originally set out to do TNF it was just to participate, but the Olympian in me couldn’t help but want to compete.

By the 10km mark I had started to pass a lot of the tail end of the starters from earlier waves and was tallying up my pigtail hunt – about 35. By the 14km water station I was actually running faster than I had expected, spurred on by the great atmosphere, awesome trail and energetic spectators cheering along the course. At the 28km feed station I had passed over 60 women and was amazed to find myself arriving 15minutes earlier than my best expected target time! The vibe at the Queen Victoria check point was fantastic. It’s past half way which is a bonus, but with a boisterous cheering crowd and a quick hug from my bub Sol, things were going well. And then Kedumba happened…

One would think that running down hill for 5km or so is an opportunity to rest (Oh ye uneducated souls, may your paths always lead uphill!). I found the lengthy descent down Kedumba the most difficult part of the entire course, pulverizing on my quads and grinding on feet and ankles. My disc brake descending style allowed 8 of the females I had passed earlier to come whizzing by, and I could do nothing but grit my teeth and carry on plodding like a Labrador with arthritis.

Lucky for me, the only thing at the bottom of Kedumba is, well… up! So I flicked on my diesel after burners and began a steady chug past many of the daredevil descenders who had legged it past me on the way down. The wide fire trail section gave plenty of opportunity for camaraderie, and by the 41km point there was a huge sense of shared determination.

Just before the 45km mark the trail narrows and begins to snake its way towards the final ascent of Furbur stairs. Strangely, you can actually start to hear sounds from the finish line beckoning from above (or maybe I was delusional by then?). Checking my watch I realized I was going to come in well under my target time of 7 hours, even if I walked. So I did a little Leighton Hewitt style ‘C’mon’ and kept chugging away (In my mind I was running like Cathy Freeman, but I’ve seen the photos and it was far more Cliff Young).

The final, almost vertical, 900m up Furber stairs was my favourite part of the entire course. I knew I was going to beat my target time, I was definitely going to make it to the finish(in a matter of minutes, woo hoo!) and I was still passing people. A runner in front of me was actually on her hands and knees crawling up a section, I was exhausted and hurting but still upright! I got quite emotional just before the finishing straight. I expect it was the combination of 1 year, a 1 year old and TNF50.

6 hours 25 minutes doesn’t put me anywhere near the esteemed company of the fleet footed Emma Rilen who completed the 50km in a course record of 4 hours 59! (in fact, when Emma met me on the finish line she was already showered, changed and was strolling around like she had just popped out for a coffee). However, it did put me 35 minutes inside my goal time and in the top 10% of the field, so I am stoked!

I am still not going to call myself a runner. My earlier blogs highlighting stylistic comparisons to a zombie bovine have changed little. Except now I might add ‘diesel fueled’. But I’ve learned a great thing about trail running; You don’t really need to be a runner in the skinny-legged- shorts-with-built-in-undies-pippi–long-stocking-compression-socks sense. If you can keep chugging along you can get there, and be celebrating at the finish line just as genuinely as the guy who came first. Kudos to everyone who raced, participated, suffered, chugged, or tramped their way through this awesome event. Especially the other mums out there. See you next year!